Izumi stared up at the light. She saw Tenna falling, could sense it happening with her powers. A part of her reacted in the same way she did when Iroh and Zarah were children. She instructively reached out a hand to catch Tenna. But this wasn’t like when her children tripped on a loose rug or tumbled over the first stair up to the balcony. This was a huge fall–a deadly one unless Izumi did something about it. She didn’t give it a second thought. She focused her bloodbending, wrapping her energy around Tenna’s body, pulling it under her control.
Fall slower, she thought. Fall slower. Tenna did. She was breathing like crazy, but slowed when her feet touched solid ground as she realized she wasn’t plummeting to her doom.
Once she’d shaken off the shock, she narrowed her eyes at Izumi. “There’s cameras around. You shouldn’t have done that.”
“Don’t question where I put my priorities,” Izumi shot back. “Now, come on. We have to get the kids out of here.”
Fear flickered in Tenna’s eyes. A mother’s fear.
Izumi watched her glance about scouting for another (preferably more stable) place to stand. Her eyes settled on the roof of a nearby record shop. “I need to get to higher ground,” she said. “If I can distract that thing long enough, it will give the kids a chance to get to saf–”
She didn’t get the chance to finish her sentence. Izumi flicked her fingers, moving Tenna into a crouch and then into a flying leap up that she really shouldn’t have been able to make. She somehow succeeded in grabbing just the very edge of the roofing.
Tenna hoisted herself up, stopping only for a second to catch the breath that Izumi had startled out of her. Izumi felt a little guilty for that. Still, Tenna was where she needed to be and wasted no time shouting at Mica to “get over here this instant!”
A guard took Izumi’s elbow, coaxing her along towards a line of vehicles. She was quite sure not even Republic City’s spirits could outrun that.
“Hang on!” Mica yelled as loud as she could, which wasn’t very loud since Shyu was practically crushing the air out of her. She veered hard, dodging the dragon by inches. It was one of the most enormous dragons Mica had ever seen. It was nearly as tall as Varrick Industries, which was the tallest building in Republic City. Odd, it hadn’t seemed quite as big back in the shadows. Maybe it was just the plants making it look big.
Whatever the case, it didn’t matter. Huge or not, she wasn’t about to be its next meal. It lunged again but too late.
“Not today, beastie!” Mica spat over her shoulder as they plunged into the portal’s blinding light. She closed her eyes, feeling the strange pull of energy on her body. It was invigorating and frightening at the same time.
Then she caught her first whiff of city air.
Someone screamed. Mica’s eyes flew open as her tires connected with solid ground once again. She was still racing at top speed, only instead of zooming through an open valley, she was spinning out into a narrow street filled with people.
The coronation. They were barreling straight into it. And they weren’t alone. A roar echoed, making Mica’s heart pound even harder. No. No way!
Had it followed them? Mica risked a glance over her shoulder, catching a sight of the huge dragon as it emerged from the spirit wilds.
“Look out!” Shyu yelled. Too late. Mica gasped as a spirit vine latched onto her arm. The momentum snapped her backwards clear off her bike and would have pulled out her shoulder had Shyu not managed to singe the vine away just in time.
Strange. Hadn’t she heard somewhere that Shyu couldn’t bend that well?
They toppled together, Shyu taking the brunt of the fall, Mica landing in heap on top of him, Mica saw her bike was still airborne. It careened out of control into the speaking podium just as a shocked Firelord Iroh leapt out of the way, shoving down the old Fire Sage with him.
Mica was on her feet a second later, one hand calling up rock shields to deflect more vines, the other helping hoist a winded Shyu back to his feet.
“Geeze, are you okay?” Mica asked.
“Yeah,” he wheezed, hastily brushing himself off. “I don’t know what this stuff is, but I think it’s immortal.”
Through a few jagged tears in his outfit, Mica saw the distinct silvery weave of Varri-fiber.
Good old Uncle Varrick does it again. As soon as they were out of mortal danger, she was going to run up and hug the man. But first things first…
“Run!” Mica yelled. Not that she was giving Shyu much choice. She bolted forward, dragging him by the wrist. She called up rock shields with her other hand, deflecting attacking vines and fleeting spirits away from Shyu until the two of them came within a safe lobbing distance of his family–all taking cover behind a wall of guards and some police vehicles yards off from the stage. Mica shifted stances and shoved Shyu roughly ahead of her. “Time to fly!”
“What do you mea–” Shyu gasped just as Mica slammed down with one foot. A platform of earth rose up at her command, catapulting Shyu over several rows of chairs and straight into three shocked guards. They toppled like dominoes. But soon more guards were there, helping Shyu to his feet.
Not the best throw (or landing) in Fire Nation history, but at least Shyu was safe. And now that he was safe…
Mica slowed and turned, breaths ragged and eyes wild. She could feel the dragon creature’s massive footsteps ripple through the earth and through her bare feet. It was emerging from the portal and racing straight in her direction. Trying to finish what it started. Well, it was in for an explosive surprise.
Mica felt rage course through her, replacing her fear. She may not have been able to fight in the spirit world, but they were on her turf now. And Mica didn’t fear dragons in this world. Her great-grandmother, Ren, raised hatchlings for a living. Her grandmother, Sien, sparred one-on-one with dragons to learn her firebending. Her mother, Tenna, helped Firelord Izumi tame her temperamental blue scale, Flare. Mica was from a family of dragon tamers. And out of the shadows, without its tricks and illusions, that’s all this creature really was.
She jammed in her reverse hearing aids blocking out screams and…was that her mother yelling at her? No matter. Fury coursed in her blood now. She wasn’t backing down out of this one. She stomped, calling up an array of rocks and circling them around her.
“Hey, ugly!” she taunted, projecting her voice loud enough to be heard over the screaming crowd and her mom’s explosions.”You want a piece of me?” The dragon creature lowered its massive head towards her until its muzzle was less than a foot from her. Then it opened gaping jaws, big enough to swallow a car whole, and roared full in her face. Mica outstretched one arm, splaying her fingers. With the other she spun her rock ring until each stone brushed her fingertips and received a charge. Then she stepped back, hard, and sent the entire ring of glowing explosives into the creatures face all at once. “Well, come and get it!”
So far, to Iroh, being the Firelord felt very much like being a United Forces general. A lot of chaos and a lot of fighting. Kiki attempted to shoot a few lightning bolts at some weird bat-like creature that was headed her way, but she didn’t have much success. Iroh gave the thing a good fire blast, which sent it fluttering and screeching into the night. Kiki hid her face in his robes, and his chest felt tight. He couldn’t run off if there were still Fire Nation citizens in danger. He was the Firelord, and it was his job to protect them. But he was also Kiki’s father. And Kaja’s. And (even though he was ready to unleash a Firelord’s full wrath on the boy) Shyu’s.
He shot a glance at his middle child. Shyu was trying to squirm away from Yuki, who in her relief to see her son, insisted on smoothing his hair and coddling him like he was four years old.
“Mom, I’m fine, really!” Shyu insisted. He was at that. His clothes were tattered and his glasses broken, but aside from a few minor bruises, he seemed unharmed. Kiki ran to her mother when Iroh approached.
He gestured to the nearest guard. “Take my family to safety,” he ordered. “I’m going to stay and help with the evacuation.”
The guard looked stricken. “But Firelord Iroh…I cannot–”
“He’s right, Iroh. Let the police handle this.” It was Mako.
Iroh glared. The guards being overprotective he could understand. Protecting the Firelord had been drilled into them from day one. But Mako? Mako and he had fought side-by-side to reclaim Republic City. He knew Iroh was no stranger to fighting. But now, a whole two minutes into his reign as Firelord, and suddenly Mako just expected him to act helpless and flee like some terrified civilian?
“Those are my citizens out there! Not to mention my sister and the servants who–” He took a step forward, but Mako blocked his path.
“Sorry, sir, but I’m afraid I must insist. Princess Zarah has already been safely escorted from the area, along with the palace staff and many of the citizens. My officers can handle the rest,” Mako promised. “But that dragon seems to be focused on this spot. We need to get you out of here and quickly.”
Iroh narrowed his eyes, and Mako narrowed his right back. This wasn’t going to end pretty.
Fortunately, Avatar Korra chose that exact moment to come over and intervene. “I’ll take care of this, your highness,” she said, winking at him. “This is Avatar stuff. You get your family to safety.”
Iroh looked over his shoulder and took in the worried faces of his wife and kids. “Very well,” he said at last with resignation.
Mako also seemed satisfied with this plan. He turned to his brother next. “Bolin, I want you to go with them. Get Tenna and Mica out of there.”
Bolin nodded. Though the man was normally not the commanding type, Iroh could see a brave focus his eyes. He charged out of cover, calling to Tenna as he ran passed her sniping perch. He projected his voice pretty loudly, actually. Loud enough even to be heard over his wife’s explosions. Probably a skill he picked up in his mover career. “Tenna! Come on! We’re leaving!”
Tenna paused, painting from effort, and made a frantic pointing motion.
“I’ll get Mica!” Bolin assured. “Just go!”
Tenna went, sliding down the roof before jumping. She landed, tucked and rolled, and was up again. His mother grasped Tenna’s shoulder as she joined them, pale, sweating, and out of breath.
Bolin, meanwhile, was still yelling at his daughter. But she was either ignoring him or couldn’t seem to hear. Both a possibility, considering what he had seen.
To think she actually dragged his son into this. Iroh fumed. He was going to have a little chat with her parents later.
When yelling failed to work, Bolin assumed a bending stance and opened a gaping pit of lava between Mica and her dragon foe. Mica skied to a halt, dropping the rock (or was it a grenade?) she was about to fling and glared daggers at her father. She looked as exhausted as her mother. Maybe even more so.
Bolin stomped his foot, gesturing dramatically as he commanded. “Young lady, car! Now!”
Mica stomped her foot right back but finally took pause when Avatar Korra swept in riding a cyclone. Not even she could compete with that, it seemed.
With the Avatar providing a helpful distraction, Iroh, Bolin, and both their families all gathered on a piece of road that seemed slightly less overrun with translucent beasts out to murder them. With an eerie sense of timing, there was a squeal of tires and the pungent smell of burning rubber. Asami had pulled up in a long, slick-looking black convertible.”Get in!” she yelled.
Yuki didn’t need to be asked twice. She jumped into the passengers’ seat, clutching a shivering Kiki on her lap.
“You can fit ten people in this thing?” Iroh asked. Asami grinned and punched down on a conspicuous red button. There was a loud buzz, and a compartment opened up in the back of the car to reveal an additional row of seats. Probably not big enough for three extra adults, but certainly workable for three teens. Shyu and Mica jumped in right away. Iroh was not happy about this, seeing what had happened the last two had been alone together, but there wasn’t time to argue, either.
Glaring at his son with what he hoped would fully convey how much trouble he would be in if the two so much as looked at each other the wrong way, Iroh climbed into the seat, squeezing in next to his mother and Tenna. Bolin scrunched himself up on the car’s floor. Kaja joined Shyu in the back, which made Iroh feel at least a little better about the seating arrangement.
“Where to?” Asami asked.
Before Iroh could answer, something came sailing through the air and smacked him on the forehead. It plinked onto the side of the road, where Iroh stared at it in surprise. It was an old tin can.
“That’s right! Run, coward!” yelled some hysterical lady in Fire Nation garb. A few more people came up alongside her to yell, and a few more random objects flew. Despite his position leaving very little of his body exposed, Bolin somehow managed to get smacked in the face with a rotten cabbage.
“I said keep moving, people!” Mako yelled, coming up behind the forming crowd. He glared at Asami. “Why are you still here? Go!”
She glared right back at him but slammed on the gas rather than trying to concoct a good retort. The blast of exhaust behind them made Mako cough.
“So, your highness?” Asami asked. “Where are we driving?”
Iroh had trouble forming an answer. His brain was still attempting to process the fact that his citizens clearly hated him. But he couldn’t focus on that now. He had to get his family to safety.
“My home,” he finally answered Asami. “It’s far enough away from the portal and the high security will keep out the press. I’ll give you directions.”
“You got it!” Asami shifted gears and gave the gas another good push. The acceleration flung Iroh backwards, and he smacked his head on the side of the car.
First day as Firelord, he thought. My son drags a bunch of angry spirits through Republic City, and my citizens throw trash at me. He’d been telling himself all day that no matter what happened at his coronation, he couldn’t possibly go over worse than Prince Wu’s had. Now he was having serious doubts about that.