Learning The CurveThe earth shook with each step, and what remained of the town with it.
An Avatar/Korra fanfic
(Note: Takes place after the first season, but before the... Thing. You know the thing.)
An Avatar/Korra fanfic
(Note: Takes place after the first season, but before the... Thing. You know the thing.)
There was no fire, no smoke, no ashes. There was no need. This was a creature born before fire itself, and thus itself was all it needed.
In hindsight, proooobably not the best of spirits for a fledgling Avatar to cut her teeth on. But then again Korra was never the type to back off from a challenge. Holding her breath to stay as silent as possible, she peeked out from behind the half-standing hut she had taken cover behind and gave it another once over.
The spirit looked huma- well, humanoid at least. No man could be literally mistaken for a mountain. Towering over the township, a craggy form plodded across streets and houses interchangeably, buildings slowing it no more than a stiff breeze. One would be likely to label it a primal elemental - something which wreaked havoc without thinking, like a thunderstorm or wildfire - if not for a crucial detail: The huge swaths of metal plating reinforcing it's body, complete with a helmet sculpted to sport a fierce grimace.
Armor. No mindless force of nature ever made itself that.
Korra had been told the name of this thing before. What was it? Rusty Pete? Old Man Iron? Gold Fool? Something along those lines at the very least.
Whatever, didn't matter. What did was putting this tin can down.
With a shout of "Hey, Leadfoot!" Korra put on a brave face, stepped out from behind her cover, and gave Old Iron a gout of blistering flame to his old iron back.
This seemed to annoy him.
Methodically, the spirit turned to regard his quarry. Unheeding of the fire now crashing against his breastplate, it began to close the gap between them step by massive step, and while doing so a thunderous voice rang out from within his mask's perpetual scowl.
"You humans did not deserve Lady Tenhai."
Cratering footfall after cratering footfall, crushing all in it's way to the gnat of an Avatar. Said gnat has apparently given up on fire - instead blasting him with a gout of chilled water from the nearby shore - but if anything that managed less than the first attempt.
"You did not deserve life."
Closer and closer, now blotting out the moon's ghostly glow with his literally titanic bulk. With a twinge of dark satisfaction it noted that this supposedly noble emissary of humanity was clearly panicking now; Alternating as fast as she could between blasts of fire and water, despite how effortlessly they rolled off his armor.
"It is about time..." Old Iron finished, leaning down to smash the pest with a thumb like the ant it was. "...To remedy tha-"
Here's a crash course science lesson: Metal warps under extreme temperatures, lowering it's overall integrity. If constantly subjugated to rapid changes of internal temperature it becomes brittle, eventually cracking and breaking apart all on it's own.
While Korra didn't have the time enough for that she did have enough to set things up.
For what, one may ask?
For a ballistic missile of chosen one right through the chest of course!
With a roaring battlecry the Avatar flung her hands behind her, and a quick hop set her feet in front of her before she let off twin gouts of flame to blast her upwards like a missile achieving liftoff. Extending one leg forward and tucking the other underneath herself, she braced as much as she could as she crashed into the spirit's chestplate...
...plowed through the weakened, yielding armor...
tunneled through both the rocky carapace and massive body underneath...
...and emerged clean out the other side, the giant's back blowing open akin to an erupting volcano!
"Hooo, yeah!" Korra couldn't help but hot as she touched down, not even bothering to try to wipe the dust and grime off of herself before she turned to watch the titan keel over. "That's what you get!" she shouted at it with hands cupped around her mouth. "Messing with the Avata-"
It was a bit startling how fast everything snapped back into place. True, she could have watched the scene play out passively for a while past that point akin to an out-of-body experience, but why? She beat the baddie, that was good enough for her.
Exhaling, feeling the tension flow out of her body, Korra opened her eyes. She was seated cross-legged in the spirit world, her latest and greatest to - er - teaching ground. Although she technically didn't leave it to fight that big guy, either.
It was all thanks to her current 'Teacher', seated across from her on what passed for the floor on the spiritual plane: Yangchen, a previous incarnation of herself.
"So..." the Airbender woman spoke up, her tone soft yet authoritative. "Did my dealings with Old Iron teach you the value of negotiation?"
Korra had been learning so many things since her spiritual link with the previous Avatars had been reawakened. She now had generations of generations of built up wisdom she could draw from whenever she wanted, a lineage of ancestors completely willing to pass on all they know. But, unbeknownst to them, she had discovered a nugget of information that at the moment interested her far greater than anything they would offer themselves.
All of her previous incarnations could summon up moments of their lives for her. A perfect simulation, but a simulation nonetheless. The only difference would be that she would be in the place of the ancestor, perceiving things from their perspective and treated by others as if she were them.
These spiritual bookworms considered this a great method of enlightenment, the most hands-on way one could be exposed to the same revelations they had been in their lifetimes.
But for Korra?
This was the best fight club EVER.
All the conflicts the previous Avatars had went through, all their enemies, ripe for sparring. And there was no downside at all! If she lost it didn't actually hurt her any, she could repeat the exact same scenarios with different attack strategies until she found something that worked. And best of all? Her ancestors seemingly couldn't actually see what was happening in the flashbacks; Assuming that she was learning about moderation and humility, while she was actually perfecting the best way to roundhouse kick Earthbender kings.
Being the Avatar ruled!
"Yeah." Korra finally replied, tilting her head down to better obscure the wry grin she was trying her best to hold back. "I see what you mean. Thank you for the lesson, ancestor Yanchen."
"It really is amazing to see you take so well to this."
Korra appreciated the compliment - especially coming from the Avatar she was measured up to the most, Airbender Aang - but let the remark pass by uncommented on. She was far too busy combing his memories for good... lessons. There was Ozai for sure, no doubt about that, but what else had chrome dome been up t-
Finally Korra opened her eyes and looked over to her 'Teacher', befuddlement falling over her features.
"That's... Would that even be possible?"
"What is it?" Aang replied, scooting closer from his own seated position at the query. Guess even after he got the beard there was still a good bit of kid left in him.
"I saw memories of you going to face off against the fire lord..." Korra began to explain, trying to make the most sense of it herself in the process. "But also memories of... you... going to the fire kingdom? With your scarred pal? They seem to happen at the same time..."
A pause, for a moment of thought.
"You aren't holding out on some cloning power, are you? Because if this is another pile of you're-not-ready-yet schlock-"
"No!" Aang interjected much sharper than he apparently meant to, before softening back into his normal tone. "No. I think I know what has happened here."
The Airbender let out a small sigh and a shake of the head before continuing. "I never shared this with anyone, but I suppose no secret is safer than with yourself."
"Oh?" Korra crowed, leaning forward to make sure she heard all the juicy details.
"To make a long story short..." Aang began, turning his gaze downwards and scratching the back of his head. "...You know that Katara is capable of bloodbending, correct? She has always despised the practice, but she can do it if she wanted. And, for the most part, that's where the cart stopped. But as we grew older, we... well, grew older. For me in particular old wounds started acting up, while other things just plain broke down. To help me cope with that, Katara finally decided to try out some experimental techniques... and well..."
The Airbender looked up from the floor, locking eyes with her successor.
"...I believe a result of this was that my blood... my bloodline... was, ah compromised. You saw my memories of my confrontation with Ozai. But you also saw Katara's memories of helping Zuko confront his sister Azula. I carried fragments of her with me for a portion of my life, and because of that you will find fragments of her experiences aside mine."
Katara took a few seconds to soak the information in, drumming her fingers against her knees.
"That... is so cool! So you're like two memory banks in one to me, huh? Lessee what she was up to..."
"Wai-" Aang began, but by then he was already fading away alongside the rest of the spiritual world. Or rather he was being replaced, superseded by the memory Korra had just pulled up to try out.
While she remembered being told in passing about this 'sister' of Zuko's, she never got as much elaboration as big bad Ozai. Nicknamed 'The Dragon', right? Seemed like prime material for a firebending warmup.
As 'reality' finished remaking itself and settled in, Korra glanced around for a crash course in Katar - pardon - her current situation. She seemed to be in a courtyard of some sort. Probably of Fire nation make judging by the architecture.
...Alright, alright, judging by the fact that everything was on fire.
Off in the distance lay a boy surrounded by a ring of flames. That was most assuredly the future Fire Lord Zuko in one of his less glamorous moments. Which meant that his sister shouldn't be far at all from...
"I'd really have our family physician look after little Zuzu, if you don't mind!"
Where was that coming fr - oooooooh
If it wasn't for the opening taunt, it would have been the fastest fight-to-execution turnaround in bending history. But even then it was close; As Korra leapt to the side, she could feel her ponytails sway with static electricity as a bolt of lightning scarred the earth where moments ago she just stood. And before her hearing could even recover from the thundercrack a torrent of blue flames rained down through the dust cloud, close enough to make her skin crawl from the heat as she rushed and dove behind a set of pillars.
"Zuzu, you don't look so good!"
Geez, again with the yapping. And not even at her either. "Are you gonna catch up with your bro all day..." Korra shouted up to... wherever that brat was. "...or are you planning to come down some time for your royal beati-"
It was the burst of heat that tipped her off first. Craning her head back around, the Avatar found herself face to face with her new 'sparring partner'. Silhouetted against a background of blazing blue, her own fire surging her forward to bullrush her quarry from a flank.
Azula couldn't help but giggle to herself as she dove in for the kill. True, she'd been having trouble with that regardless today, but now it was for good reason. her one true competitor for the throne lay smoldering a scant dozen feet away, and for a cherry on top she would get to slay one of that annoying Avatar's crew. Oh, these last few moments would be something to relish; The snow peasant pressing herself back against the stone pillar in fear, fingers raking across it as she realized there was nowhere else to go...
...And then... the hands... sunk into it?
With increasing bewilderment, Azula watched as the 'Waterbender' she was bearing down on tore chunks of stone out of the support, coating her own fists to create crude concrete boxing gloves. How did... what in...
Then a new fire was kindled; Dancing across her vision as one granite fist came in to meet her headfirst lunge.
It was interesting, seeing 'The Dragon' in person. While Korra had been told stories of this tenacious tactician, she was not nearly covered as well as her big bad daddy was. On top of that there were no actual photographs of the girl - only paintings and murals filtered through various levels of artistic liberty and/or nationalistic propaganda - so this was the very first time the new Avatar had a real idea of what she truly looked like.
The final verdict was... confused.
Was this the supposed tactical genius, that nearly brought down her previous incarnation time and time again? Or a vagabond which broke into the royal chambers and stole a ceremonial uniform? Wild, shaky eyes twitched over a lopsided grin, loose and asymmetrical hair flowing wildly behind her as she lunged in cackling. It was all so conflicting with the regal attire-- and most of all with the lovingly applied makeup perfectly accenting those mad features.
All in all, it kind of reminded Korra of hey boyfriend's old flame Asami. If she went off the deep end.
Which added an additional tinge of personal satisfaction to what she was going to do next.
The first blow hit home with no resistance, the would-be queen clearly not expecting an earthen cross counter from what she knew up until this point to be a waterbender. For a moment Azula's face warped against the blow, spittle flying from her open mouth while rock-coated knuckles sunk into her cheek, and down she headed with a twirling drop. But then a knee to the midsection met her halfway, popping the royal up with a meaty WHUMP to be seized by the collar with both hands. The gloves had dissipated in order to do so; Now providing a thing veneer of stone all across her form in order to protect... as well as add a little more oomph to additional followups
With a smile Korra reared back, ready to slam her armored forehead right between those two hazy yellow eyes...
...Which suddenly widened and sharpened, their owner apparently coming to once more.
"Yo- you DARE!"
Up came the firebender's own two hands, palms dancing with azure flame. And with twin shoves forward they slammed against Korra; first the palms themselves, then the geysers of fire immediately summoned thereafter. Back Azula was launched by the force of her own emissions, collar of her uniform tearing away to remain with her opponent now concealed in a raging firestorm.
The princess landed ungracefully at first, but managed to correct herself after a few rounds of tumbling, eventually sliding to a crouched halt on shaky feet. Rubbing her aching jaw she rose back up to full height, and watched with amazement as the smoke cleared to reveal a 'Waterbender' no worse for wear. The only difference now was a thin layer of glowing rock peeling away from her body to collect at her feet, it's purpose fufilled and now discarded.
"How are you..." Azula growled, words still slightly slurred by the residuals of her taken haymaker. "It's not possible that you..."
And then it all clicked.
To a degree.
For the moment Korra merely watched her 'sparring partner' break down with mild amusement. It had not occurred to her before diving into this scenario but yeah, this would throw anyone for a loop. Being the first memory she had entered where she was not filling the shoes of an Avatar, to the replica opponents it would have seemed as if 'Katara' had spontaneously learned every other element. Quite a shock, to say the least.
Maybe a bit too much for the pretty princess, considering how she was now holding her own face and chuckling.
"...Are you okay?" she finally asked, genuinely curious at this point. "I came here for a fight, if you need a moment to lie down and compose yoursel-"
"It was you all along!"
One of the Dragon's hands shot out, a red-nailed finger pointing accusingly at Korra.
"I almost can't believe it!" Azula continued, her words almost melding together into a seamless stream due to her haste to get them out. "The facts are right in front of me, and yet it's still so hard to swallow! That little Airbender was a decoy, a meat shield to draw my fire. All this time the real Avatar was not the boy out in front, but the unassuming urchin of a girl which was always right behind him.
"...Yeah." Korra slowly answered back as she eased into a defensive stance; Not sure exactly how much she should feed into this particular story, but eager to get it out of the way and resume the brawl. "Let's go with that."
Azula let out a little titter, and ran her free hand through her hair. When she once more locked eyes with the Avatar there was something present in them which wasn't there before. A bladelike sharpness. An unsettling curiosity. It appeared that the shock of this 'Revelation' did more than throw Azula off guard, it also settled her back into her old analytical self.
To an extent, anyway.
"And here I believed father was doing me a disservice by leaving me here." the Dragon mused; Starting to pace to the side of her opponent, leaving a trail of blue plumes with each footstep. "But lo, on this day I will get to slay my traitorous brother and the genuine Avatar. Truly, I was always destined for greatness."
Korra tensed up and waited for the inevitable attack.
It soon became apparent that Azula was not planning to kick things off any time soon. Or rather, not in any way Korra recognized. The girl merely continued to pace around her, leaving nothing but smoldering steps as she paced with hands casually clasped behind.
Well... whatever. Fortune favors the bold.
With a forward stomp Korra popped up a hunk of ground, and with a follow up shoulder sent the boulder hurtling towards her foe.
Azula merely bent backwards for the fraction of a second it took to dodge the missile, gaze still locked on her opponent.
Alright, that didn't work. Let's try fighting fire with fire.
Harnessing a nearby lantern the Avatar shot a gout of flame, it's trailing image akin to an ethereal snake striking out at it's prey.
Or it would have been if Azula had not blown a quick puff of her own blue fire right before impact, dissipating the attack as if shooing off a fly.
Alright. Alright. this was getting dumb.
"You wanna be like that, blowhard?" the Avatar jeered, winds picking up around her as she concentrated for take three. "Try this on for size!"
In lunged Korra, closing the distance between them much faster than she had any right to. Under her own power, at least. But now the very air was on her side, the wind at her back in a very real sense. Every step, every punch, every elbow knee and kick, now helped along by gusts of wind behind at the exact right places and times.
But still Azula avoided them, not even so much as unclasping her hands as she bobbed and weaved between attempted blows.
Roundhouses ducked under. Haymakers sidestepped. Sweeps hopped over. As attack after attack whiffed Korra only grew more and more frustrated, summoning additional elemental aid to the point that all other sound was lost amidst the whirling winds. Their clothing fluttered, their hair billowed, and amidst it all Azula kept her steady composure as Korra screamed into the maelstrom with every enraging whiff...
...Until the Dragon seemed to misjudge a step, tripping over a pothole and falling down onto her back.
"NO MORE CAT AND MOUSE NOW!" Korra roared triumphantly, as loud and hard as she could in order to be heard over her own localized storm. "TRY DODGING THI..."
As she reared back a leg to punt Azula's smug smile halfway to Ba Sing Se, an odd detail struck her. Namely that said smile was still there. In addition, the princess seemed to be pointing downwards.
Absolutely sure that she wouldn't like what this was going to lead to, but at the same time unable to ignore it, Korra followed Azula's gesture to... the circle of fire-tracks Azula had made before the fight. The ones she had fallen outside of, while Korra remained hemmed in by.
A minor detail, not really one to mull over. At least until Azula's hand whipped around, and with a clench of the fist caused each and every one of them to surge upwards like mountain range of erupting volcanoes.
Even as it stood, the ring of fire would not have done much on it's own. Korra was inside the circle, not straddling it, so at the worst she would have had her eyebrows singed a little.
Well... If she wasn't at the center of a self-made windstorm, that is.
The air itself was enhancing her every move; Molding to them, pushing and pulling as needed. Her body had the wind at it's beck and call, drawn in to pulse around her until the time was right.
Which meant that now, from every direction, she was essentially on the wrong side of a backdraft.
To her credit, Korra realized what was happening to avoid complete incineration. But still, this did not mean she would come out unscathed. In an instant her skin seared and her clothes caught flame, rapidly being eaten away to mere fluttering cinders. Her fur half-skirt simply vanished, alongside her armband. The wristbands fared slightly better, being made well out of simple material as per Waterbender traditions, but hungry flame still ate until they were a mere spiderweb of smoking threads. Her boots fell apart where she stood, the stitchwork evaporating while the soles bubbled and melted to adhere themselves against the floor. And her legs peeked through numerous holes in what were formerly her baggy pants, while the upper and lower sections of her shirt were sheared away until it was more akin to a tank top than anything else.
All of this, as distressing as it was, was mere inconvenience, however. A few more seconds and it would all be coppers compared to charred skin and melted eyes.
In a panic Korra focused as much energy as she could and then flung her hands outwards; Blowing all the wind circling around her away, with enough pure force to snuff out the fires they contained. This left her safe but exhausted; wavering on her feet, trying her best to get her breath back amidst the smoke...
...Until a hand jutted out from the inky haze, wrapping around her throat and drawing her in to face a set of yellow eyes all but glowing in the artificial darkness.
"My turn, Avatar."
The first strikes Azula made were not actually so much strikes as rakes; Perfectly manicured nails tore across Korra's face twice, once in each direction. And in this case they were not just red because of their paint either, Azula had heated the tips specifically to sear as well as slice while they travelled. Following up with that was a twist to the left, to cause the Avatar to stumble a few steps, followed by a boot to the side which sent her lurching back against another stone support.
True, Korra had used one of these to her advantage earlier, but Azula was not going to give her the time to try a similar trick again. Instead almost as soon as the Avatar hit she was jackknifing against a shoulder to the gut, courtesy of a fire propelled lunge.
"HHHHG! NGH! PFFF!"
Then came the flurry of blows, unrelenting as the sun itself. Elbows, fists, knees, all flowing from one into the other to sink into Korra's midsection and chest.
"HURF... Ha... Hng..."
The final blow came in the form of a spinning kick, foot lodging deep into the Avatar as she was finally allowed to crumple and slide down with a trailing whine.
"I do admit..." Azula crowed on as she pinned her seated opponent to the pillar via a foot to the throat. "...You are tougher than I thought you would be."
A pause, to blow an errant hair away from her eyes.
"But then again, I didn't think you could fight at all."
That said, her foot drew back... Only to snap across the Avatar's temple, sending her tumbling aside.
Korra writhed and moaned, the world swimming before her eyes.
It actually was, wasn't it?
When the upstart Avatar's senses rushed back to her, she found herself face down on a grate. Below it rushed a steady stream of water. An underground canal of some sort?
Could be useful. But first, she'd have to stop getting her ass kicked.
She realized now why she had almost always heard this lady referred to as a 'Tactician'. The 'Dragon' nickname was still a bit fuzzy, but she was definitely an analytical type of fighter.
And, as a boot to the side forced Korra to roll over, she had to admit the girl was no physical pushover either.
"How did you manage to hide all this from me?" Azula wondered aloud leaning over her ailing foe with a smirk. "Not even the Avatar thing; I recall you being... softer."
Down one hand crept, fingertips dancing across Korra's bruised stomach. After all the punishment she had been through, even these light caresses caused her breath to catch in her throat. At least, that's what she told herself.
"Look at this." the princess continued unabated. "All muscle. Like an ox. Even as the Avatar, how did a snow peasant like you... Ah well."
The teasing fingers drew back, much to Korra's relief... only to lead to a gasp of surprise escaping her when it arced down again for a backhand against her chest.
"Some parts of you are still soft."
"Don't..." Korra slowly managed to grunt out, eyes squeezed shut as her face flushed beet red. "...press... your luck."
"Oh?" the 'Dragon' all but cooed, leaning further down with a chuckle. "Try me."
For what seemed like an eternity Korra did not reply, the only sound being the Avatar taking deep breaths with a slower and slower rhythm. Then, finally, the water bender's eyes opened once more.
To reveal twin shining lights, the Avatar state fully awoken.
Azula stepped away as the Avatar rose, covering her face with her arms as she did so for protection as the building around them began to warp and disintegrate. As if there was an invisible hand clearing the board the area around them was stripped bare; pulses of wind sweeping up whatever simply did not roll or burn away. Soon only the two of them remained... standing over the metal grating.
"Y... you think this scares me?" Azula shot over once she regained her composure, a slight waver in her voice. "Avatar or not, everything burns!"
The last word was punctuated by a mighty WHOOSH, a cyan supernova summoned and surged towards the floating and glowing form. With a devastating Ka-THOOM the blast hit home, coating the battlefield in a thick cloud of...
And out of which walked the Avatar, none worse for wear. Better than ever actually. Thanks to the constant supply of water siphoned out of the canal and spread across her body, the cremating blast did not so much as ruffle her (now rather soggy) hair.
After a beat or two - letting the situation in - the Avatar flashed Azula a smile and took a step.
"You..." the princess gasped.
"You can't be..." she continued, panicking as she threw more and more flame at the advancing Avatar with no effect.
"...You can't be..."
Now the Avatar was all but upon her, clearly chuckling to herself underneath that layer of insulation.
A chuckle Azula couldn't help joining in on as well.
Then with a twist Azula brought her other hand to bear, crackling with lightning, and with a sneer thrown into shadow by the arcing light launched it straight into her soaked foe.
Even through the thunderclap, Korra's scream was heard. An agonizing, trailing cry as all the lightning one of it's first pioneers could muster coursed through her, on the very day where the power was at it's zenith. As she lost her focus the shield of water dropped and flowed away, but by then the damage had already been done. Her body jerked and shook, wracked with unbearable agony, and he flung her gaze skywards as if pleading with the comet which allowed this.
But there would be no mercy today. Her 'Sparring partner' would make sure of it.
Azula took her time, enjoying the moment as the Avatar writhed and cried, but eventually had to cut off the connection. Now freed Korra slumped down to a kneel, and would have fallen flat onto her face and passed out right there... if a friend wasn't present to keep her upright.
Korra could feel a hand cup her left breast, and a soothing voice whisper into her ear
"Stay with me."
Right before another jolt of lightning brought her back to full consciousness. To her... dismay... she found it was Azula holding her, and the realization opened a floodgate of emotions. Anger... despair... humiliation... and others she could not - would not - name.
"Why wo-" Korra began, before being cut off by another surge of electricity straight to her heart via the cupping hand set her teeth chattering.
"You'd no longer be in the Avatar state if you passed out, silly." Azula purred, her free hand petting Korra's head like a beloved pet. "Not going to let this slip away after taking all the trouble to goad it out of you."
Korra could do little but gape dumbly at her 'Opponent', the realization sinking in. She'd been duped! Azula wanted her to go into the Avatar state, dying while like this was the only way to... To...
"Y... you..." Korra pleaded weakly, tears leaking from the edges of her pure white eyes to run down her glistening cheeks. "You... can't..."
"Thank you for being so... cooperative." Azula continued without heed, burning yellow eyes searing into hers with their intensity. "Have a going away present, courtesy of the new Fire Lord."
A pull against her back ponytail elicited a gasp from Korra... that was quickly muffled as she was taken in a full kiss.
At first Korra simply could not parse what was happening. This couldn't be right. She was not being made out with by this crazy fire lady, especially after it was made clear exactly what she intended to do.
Despite all she had been through Korra found a hidden reservoir of energy, one last struggle against this final indignity. But that was all it was worth: A struggle. She was far too weak at this point to do more than paw weakly at Azula's ruined garb, and the Firebender herself paid it no heed as she dove deeper and deeper into the kiss.
Azula's tongue had her way; pushing around Korra's with little resistance, somehow transcending the art of bullying to even this act of supposed love. But as time went on the Avatar began to wonder...
...Was it really that bad? Those pillowy lips, that commanding stare, that forceful tongue... It seemed to kindle something deep within her. Even the woman's smell, that of makeup powder and sweat, reminded her of... someone she knew, surely. It was getting so hard to think straight... with this...
Slowly, steadily, the Avatar's struggles ground to a halt, arms falling to her side as she merely moaned softly...
...Until the 'Dragon' proved why she had such a nickname, breathing a plume of concentrated fire straight down the Avatar's yielding throat.
The deed was done before Korra even realized, meaning that the cry of pain was cut off before it even began. After all, how could one shriek without any lungs? Her glowing eyes widened though, and her body started to spasm in response.
It would not be a quick death, though. Azula was never the merciful sort.
With a muffled moan the Firebender finally broke the kiss, drawing back to gaze down at her victim's face. It was undoubtedly contorted in agony, white eyes wide and gaping mouth releasing a trail of smoke. But at the same time, those flushed cheeks... and the red lipstick smeared around the Waterbender's mouth...
She had been claimed by Azula. Her trophy. Her kill. Her legend.
With a huff if satisfaction Azula pushed against Korra's forehead, allowing her to topple back and have her last death throes for the new Fire Lord's amusement.
Korra's hands came up to clutch at her throat, and her mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water, but no words came though. Only a low, wet rattle as she slowly drowned in her own blood. She thrashed against the ground, hoping against hope that something could swoop in and save the day, but all she saw as she dumbly gaped skywards was the very same comet her executioner had used to end her. The Avatar kicked her bare feet and arced her back, thrashing left in right as she begged for breath, but none came and soon the struggles started to wane.
Korra's legs slowed, her hands fell to her sides, and with a pitiful whump her body dropped limply to the floor. Blearily she could only stare upwards, her eyes slowly unfocusing...
...But not before a familliar form moved to loom over her in victory.
"You are where you belong, snow peasant."
While it was getting harder and harder to make out, Korra could tell that a foot had drawn back, sparks of lightning arcing across it.
"Under my boot."
Then the foot came down, and as the sole blotted out what was left of her vision a thundercrack marked the end of her life.
Korra's body flopped once from the final blow; partially from the stomp itself, and partially from the surge which flowed through it. But while she continued to twitch for a few minutes more, with occasional charges of errant electricity arcing between her fingers and toes, it was clear at this point: The Avatar was no more.
What a rush.
What a rush
Azula cherished the moment, knowing this would be a crown jewel for her long and glorious rule to come. It was almost a shame, getting this out of the way so early. Oh well, for now she could just enjoy grinding her foot into the Avatar's face.
But even that had to pass eventually. When she felt she had her fill the princess stepped off, dipped down, and hoisted what remained of her foe up by the ponytail. The Avatar's eyes had returned to normal, the glow faded to reveal a forever vacant and uncomprehending stare. Her mouth hung slack, and her still flush face was streaked with both trails of tears and trickles of drool. One eyelid was half closed, while the other remained wide open, creating a rather goofy expression all things considered.
All in all, a fitting end for the Fire Nation's greatest foe.
Smiling, the princess pressed the tip of one finger against the former Avatar's lips, as if hushing her to tell an intimate secret.
"Come" she cooed softly. "We mustn't be late for my coronation. And your parade."
Silently the princess dipped in to give what was Korra a peck on the forehead, then let the body drop to drag behind her as she walked.
"After all..." Azula snidely called back to the body, "We must let everyone know what happened to the mighty Avatar..."
Korra watched the scene unfold, now merely a passive spectator, and thought hard about what just transpired. It was true that she was in no real harm in these memories, that they were all mere simulations.
And yet, boy, did all of that feel real going through it.
The searing of her skin, the lightning through her heart... The lips on her own...
She just didn't know what to make of it all. By all accounts she should have been furious, she came in here for a good brawl and got herself a whuppin' instead, but still... What was that mumbo jumbo one of the previous Avatars threw at her once? 'Defeat is merely the first step to victory'?
They thought she was learning life lessons from these memories, discovering the same revelations they did. She probably - no, definitely - was not... but was she still learning something here?
Yes. She was sure she was. She just didn't fully understand it yet.
Korra took one more glance at the prissy yet brutal woman that 'killed' her before leaving this memory behind, and felt a knot inside her soul. One that, while still firmly secured, had at least had a few ends now tugged here and there.
Korra knew she would be coming back to see this Dragon again. She was sure of it.