"Whenever righteousness wanes and unrighteousness increases I send myself forth. For the protection of the good and for the destruction of evil, and for the establishment of righteousness, I come into being age after age." — Bhagavad Gita 4:7–8
MANY centuries before the birth of Avatar Yangchen, there was an Avatar who had been born in Ba Sing Se and had achieved great deeds. One day, however, without any explanation, the Avatar disappeared, and was lost from all knowledge. After a long period of silence, representatives from the four great nations convened, and were reluctantly forced to declare the death of the Avatar, and the birth of a new one. However, though they awaited the new Avatar's appearance, none were manifest. Many more years passed, and with the absence of any successor, the world was gradually thrown into chaos. Governments became unbalanced, spiritual and natural disasters spread, and war sprang everywhere.
Had the cycle been broken?
Would anybody even know?
In the wake of this unprecedented crisis, Fire Lord Kuni reasoned that, since the previous Avatar had been born an earth-bender, the new one must be somewhere in the vast Fire Nation. In spite of arguments from the other three powers, Kuni declared that he would assemble a party to search for this Avatar, and held a grand tournament of skill, for benders and non-benders alike, to determine who would be given this honor. From all across the Fire Nation, and many countries and states beyond it, thousands flocked to demonstrate their abilities before the sovereign, hoping to take part in this historical event…
The Celestial Sailors
BOOK ONE: CHAOS
1: Tournament at the Fire Nation
Applause erupted as Prince Asanuma laid his opponent flat on the floor, sparks bursting and flickering in cadence with the crowd's roar. The official counted ten, and another victory was notched on the young man's belt. Asanuma was more than stunned at this unexpected development, and rather than revel in his victory, he stood dumbfounded, the smoke still trailing from the fiery impact. He barely stirred even when the announcer took hold of his arm and raised it for the crowd.
"Wow! Chalk another one up for our prince! That's four in a row in case you've lost count, folks! He's just got two more to go before he wins Fire Lord Kuni's prize! Our prince is not one to court favoritism, my friends! Oh no: rather than let our lord hand-pick him, he gets down here and proves he's got what it takes! How about another cheer for him, huh?" As the crowd willingly complied, one voice among them was mysteriously silent. Oh, she was ecstatic, all right—happy for the little guy—but Princess Kotono couldn't help but feel that some of those words had been directed at her.
Fire Lord Kuni had already chosen her as leader of the team. And she didn't have to lift a finger.
"Fine, rub it in, why don't you?" Half remorseful and half proud over her little brother's accomplishments, Kotono leaned forward, smiled forlornly, then leaned back, sighing. She didn't even bat an eye as the crowd roared again for the next victory. Not only did she honestly not care, but she knew who would be winning this tournament. Even if he hadn't been born Prince of the Fire Nation, young lord Asanuma was a prodigy, with talent and skill beyond his years. At one point, people suspected he might even be the Avatar; Kotono recalled the apocryphal story of him igniting the candles in his bedroom mere weeks after his birth.
She, however, to her everlasting consternation, couldn't so much as light a match. Not that anybody outside of the family knew of such a shameful secret.
She glanced forward again as several of the kingdom's non-benders took to the arena. One was a royal guardsman she fancied, who wielded a spear in an unorthodox but effective manner. Another was a fan-dancer she had heard about at market. There was a street performer who used acrobatics and agility, a martial artist she sparred with on occasion, a large storehouse guard, a chi-user, a juggler, an animal trainer, a farmer who was deadly effective with a sickle, a cavalrywoman who used a mace…
Rather than study her potential teammates, Kotono looked over at the only other person sitting in the royal family box seats, or at least the only one her age. Her neighbor was staring at the procession with as much disinterest as the princess, eyes dim and glassy, posture relaxed, her fan motionless. Kotono's lip curled in the laziest smile.
"Which of us is more unfortunate?" she said rhetorically. "The princess who can't fire-bend or the priestess who can't marry? The lady who gets everything handed to her or the girl who doesn't need to prove anything? She who serves her people or she who serves their spirits?"
"Hmm?" The other girl drew away from her listlessness. "What?" Kotono snickered.
"He-llo! Not paying attention?"
"Not really," she said hesitantly. Kotono laughed louder.
"And why would you? It's not like you've got any stake in this."
"Oh, sorry. I was just thinking about something." She pretended to look at the fighters, but soon lapsed into her daze again. Kotono arched her brow. Now what, she wondered with a touch of irony, could a fire temple priestess be thinking about—especially now, with the state of the world as it was, an Avatar long missing, and her own family soon to be off on what would likely be a fruitless quest to find them?
Fire Lord Kuni's closest advisor was his cousin, Takashi, and Takashi's child was the young lady seated next to the princess: her second cousin, Rei. Technically it was old man Hikawa who was head priest at the temple, but everyone and their crow-dog knew who really ran the show. Rei's skills as a bender had more potential than practice, but nobody questioned her spiritual finesse. She had accompanied her grandfather to the grand meeting of nations several years ago, child though she was, and was something of a celebrity for it. People said that she could see visions—of the past, the present, even the future—and had a way of communing with spirits that only Avatars usually enjoyed. Her duties had forbidden her from the tournament; otherwise, she and her cousins would certainly be working together.
So had that been on her mind? Kotono wasn't usually one to pry, and she and Rei had never been close in any case. There was something about the unusual situation that lent the princess openness—or maybe just simple feminine curiosity.
"What were you thinking about?"
If Kotono seldom pried, Rei seldom revealed. "Just things, this and that." She looked over, seeing Kotono intent for once. "I think we're both pretty unfortunate. It's gotta be a tie."
"No real winners here, eh?"
"Just the ones down there." Right on cue, the audience groaned: someone had been hit hard, and a victory was won. That odd-looking street juggler had knocked down a lumbering woodcutter, and appeared just as surprised as the crowd. The top three fire-benders would be placed with the top three non-benders, with Kotono as their chosen leader. So far it was all but fated that her brother would be in that group.
"They're down there and I'm up here," the princess observed. "So what does that make me?" Rei offered a cheeky smile.
"My grandfather would say, 'only you can answer that'. But I'm having a hard time doing that myself."
"Sounds like we're both whiners," Kotono grunted as she rose. "I'm gonna go grab a snack. You want anything?"
"You could ask one of your servants to get it."
"Ugh, no thanks, I need to stretch my legs anyway. Besides, I like to see the expressions on the vendors' faces when the princess herself graces their humble stalls." Rei wasn't hungry, so Kotono left her to her thoughts. She hadn't even come close to revealing what was on her mind, but it had always been difficult talking to Kotono, even in the best of times. Oh, they got along well enough, but they were more like strangers than family.
Whether born priestess or princess, Rei would have been raised to be obedient, dutiful, and above all, selfless. The will and well-being of the people was what mattered most, and any desire she might have must be for that purpose. For many years, she had been content with that, and certainly it brought its own rewards. Wasn't she already beloved by the masses, much as her cousins were? Wasn't she seen as a "great woman", someone who could "go places" or "make things better"? Certainly it was an enviable life, too, for she was never in need or even want. She had food, a room of her own, some personal possessions (the priests very rarely went full-on ascetic), not a small amount of influence, even a few friends.
No cause for complaint at all. Kotono was right: to think otherwise would just be "whining".
But Rei had been living for the needs and desires of everyone else for so long that she started to wonder if she ever had any of her own. What was it that she wanted? To help people, to heal them, to advise and guide, to draw light into a dark world. Very noble. But were those really her desires, or what had merely been drilled into her since birth? Did Rei want anything else? But what could she want? Didn't she already have everything any sane person could desire? Would wanting more simply be greedy? Heaven forbid Rei turn to avarice! But was it so bad to want something all for her own pleasure? To have desires apart from those implemented in her already?
Rather than be stricken by serendipitous wisdom, she slipped into her previous contemplative stare, focusing inward rather than out—not for the first time in her life, but perhaps the strongest instance so far. While she and her cousins were occupied, the press booth was quickly making account of the day's events. This was history, after all, no matter how one looked at it, and the people had a right to know what was happening, and what would happen once everything was said and done. Indistinguishable from the other reporters was a wartime correspondent whose practice had profited greatly from the recent upheaval. This tournament was a mere footnote for his ledgers, and he found himself making only the briefest notes. His wife and two children were there with him—not only for business or pleasure, but because they were a family of drifters, and moved wherever the conflicts took them.
"That was cool!" his son exclaimed. The boy leaned as close as he could to see the action, cheering and yelling at whatever interested him. A fire-bender about his age had just defeated a much older opponent, and only had one more fight to go before he was declared ultimate victor. Next up, though, were two non-benders, a martial artist and a farmer. The odds seemed to favor the fighter, but the farmer was tough and clever, so in the end they were fairly matched. The boy's older sister had eyes on the royal guard and the animal-trainer, each of whom used very unusual tactics. They were also, coincidentally, very easy on the eyes.
"Mom, which one do you like?" she said, nudging her mother. The older woman didn't really have a favorite; sports weren't very appealing to her.
"Oh, I think they're all pretty good, though that young boy is a surprise. Did they say he was the prince?"
"Yeah, Prince Asanuma," her husband said.
"Right. Well, you'd think someone like him wouldn't be allowed to do this kind of thing. He's so young…"
"But really powerful!" her son grinned. He swung his fists in time with the warriors while his sister sighed.
"That's not what I meant. That animal trainer's really…ah, but the guard's so…" She blushed, sighing dreamily. Maybe her father would get an interview with them…and then she'd get to meet them…and maybe…
The crowd moaned loudly as the trainer knocked the royal guard over, dislodging his helmet in the process. The young lady didn't know whether to squeal or groan; she had liked them both. The farmer finally fell as the martial artist plucked her off the ground and flung her aside, but not without a few cuts and bruises herself. She was a terrifying mountain of a woman, build solid as a tree with dark skin and wild hair. Her face was innocent and carefree, though, even in the face of the farmer's cursing.
"Yeowch, rough," the boy grumbled. He looked to his sister. "I guess next up are those two, the juggler and that old lady with the club."
"She's not old, she looks younger than mom." The cavalrywoman was actually younger than that, but the scars on her face and her dusty grey hair suggested otherwise. Her turn to fight would come soon; now the next contendors took to the arena. There were only seven left, counting prince Asanuma, who was the youngest of the group by at least fifteen years. First off were the twins, Kartti and Keya, whose shared style was so similar that victory could only come down to minute subtlety. There was old Oboro, who had been a legend in a different age, and had personally fought alongside the previous Avatar; next was a petite woman who called herself Salamander, the only participant who had survived the entire tournament completely unscathed. An unknown man from an unknown city was fighting Asanuma, and although the crowd was on the prince's side, the unknown had the young savant outclassed, and defeated him fairly—amidst deafening boos, curses, and threats.
"Oh, too bad." The mother stared crestfallen for a moment before coming back to herself. "Kenji, honey, I need to make a little trip."
"Now would be a good time for a break," the father agreed. The next match wouldn't start for ten more minutes—a crew had to be called in to clean the arena—so the whole family split up to take a break, save for the young lady. She took a moment to absorb what had just happened before diverting her gaze over to the royal family box. She could only just make out the profiles of three people: the Fire Lord was unmistakable, his wife Iku was seated next to him (doubtless inconsolable over her son's loss), but was that the princess seated a few chairs away? It was possible; the young woman had never seen the princess before. In all honesty, she had never even set foot in the Fire Nation.
The next match started earlier than planned, but she seemed to be the only interested member of her family. Wishing she had something to snack on, the young lady eased into her seat when a throbbing bell sounded. Everyone froze in surprise; even the Fire Lord stood upright to see what the matter was. It was an alarm. Before anybody fully understood its meaning, great missiles hurled down from the sky, smashing the structure and anybody unfortunate enough to be underneath. Panic erupted and all sense of propriety was abandoned. Those on the ground floor rushing to get out found themselves blocked off by a rapidly rising river; the arena was ankle-deep in water within a matter of seconds.
The attack had been very sudden, successfully catching everyone off guard, but Fire Lord Kuni composed himself and ordered his captains to herd the masses away while a retaliation force was assembled. While he was giving orders, a troupe of people swooped in from behind, breaking down the royal box office with powerful blasts of wind. Kuni stared in awe as he met the air-benders, but scarcely had time to blink before their combined energies swept him from the box and sent him hurling to the ground below.
"KUNI!" His wife helplessly watched him crash below; whether he was dead or alive, there was no telling. With no sign of her son or daughter, and only a handful of honor guards and Rei to protect her, she faced the air-benders bravely, her eyes red and bloody. Without a word she retaliated, casting a wall of flame between herself and her enemies, then lunged her fists out, shooting great orbs. The air-benders dissipated the flames with their blasts, but they were outnumbered, and were soon repulsed. Three of the guards pursued them while the others remained to care for their queen.
"Milady, are you all right?"
"I…" Her mind was momentarily lost; she didn't know whether to surrender herself to grief or rage. Rei quickly stepped in, taking her arm before taking command.
"Three of you stay with her! Two of you, see to the Fire Lord's safety! The rest of you, come with me. I'm going to find Kotono and Asanuma." She looked into the face of the older woman for a moment, finding nothing but confusion, then raced off to the concessions stands. Numerous missiles continued to strike the arena—massive stones, she observed, flung from a great Earth Kingdom army—and the flood waters rose further and further. A flurry of ice crystals pierced Rei as she turned a corner; she threw a feeble wall of hot flames a second too late. Water Tribe warriors were everywhere, drawing in more of their mother element. The arena was relatively close to the sea, so it was no wonder to see the place flooded so quickly…but why? Earth-benders and water-benders were working together…and air-benders as well? Had the fragile coexistence of the nations broken in the Avatar's absence?
Right now survival was all that mattered; answers were a luxury. She lit small fires to melt the ice and cauterize her wounds—they weren't bad but would need better medical care than she could provide—and wound her way through the terrified masses to the concessions stand. She hurled herself behind a pillar just as three air-benders swept in, thrusting torrential gales in her direction, and retaliated clumsily, more to drive them away than defend herself. She struck part of the ceiling, causing it to collapse and temporarily scatter the benders, then darted away amidst the dust. Rei sent a few parting shots as she ran but received a powerful buffet for her troubles.
Rounding a corner, she saw that most of the concession booths were destroyed, and whatever was left had been abandoned. That had been her only clue in locating her cousin; now there was no telling where Kotono was. Escorting her people somewhere safe, no doubt, or else looking for Asanuma. Rei gnashed her teeth in frustration: she wished she knew! She found a small band of people fighting unsuccessfully against several water-benders, and leaped in to even the odds. She tossed three fireballs to distract her enemies and threw up a great wall of fire to shield them as they escaped. The entire world seemed to shudder as a particularly powerful earth-bender snuck up from behind and rent the ground from her feet; a second willed the ceiling to collapse. She quickly shot powerful bursts from her hands, propelling herself forward and ramming into the astonished benders. She was just about to grab one and interrogate him when she heard someone calling for help.
Jerking over, she saw a young lady her age with long golden pigtails trying to pull a trapped man out from a mass of rubble. A water-bender was running towards her; the girl screamed for mercy, but was thrown away by a gush. Rei's fury ignited and she threw several tiny fireballs all at once, pummeling the bender. She bent down to see if the other girl was all right, but she was more concerned with the man.
"I'm fine, just wet! You gotta help me move this!" Rei put her legs into it and together the two girls managed to pry enough rubble away. The man wheezed his thanks, but the arena trembled again before he could utter another word: this time it seemed the entire building would collapse. By now all the lower levels had flooded completely, and people were forced to evacuate by boat. Rei glared desperately at her new companion.
"We have to leave now! Did you see anybody else?"
"No, uh…my family! I lost track of them!" Rei's face darkened. She took hold of the girl's arm.
"If we don't hurry now, we'll either drown or be buried."
"My family's missing, too," she said, stressing the very painful point. "But right now, we have to keep moving. We need to survive so we can find them later." It took a few moments for the other girl to fully comprehend this rather harsh wisdom, but she eventually nodded her head, tears bubbling in her eyes. Still clutching her arm, Rei retraced her steps, encountering very little resistance. In spite of all the chaos, the security forces were doing a splendid job of keeping the attackers busy, and many of the tournament's fighters had volunteered to fight alongside them. Rei recognized one of them, fighting off three earth-benders at once, and was about to step in and help, but the opportunity was lost. The fighter, one of the twins (Kartti or Keya, she couldn't tell), was bloody and bruised as she forced the benders into a retreat. She fell to one knee, gasping for air, and glanced quickly as Rei drew near. Amidst all her injuries she grinned and raised her thumb in victory.
"Are you all right?" Rei pressed. The warrior shrugged.
"Nothing a hot bath…and a good meal couldn't fix. Have you seen my…sister, priestess?"
"No, I've been running full tilt ever since all this began. What about you?"
"I saved a couple of people…here and there, but got…split off from my group. There were a few…other people I was fighting with… Who's your companion?"
"Just someone I ran into. I was looking for the prince and princess, but…we need to keep moving, and you need to see a doctor!"
"You think the clinic's open?" she said, joking through clenched teeth. Rei and the girl supported her arms and helped carry her, but the going was slow.
"There's bound to be a medical boat at the harbor," Rei said. "We just have to hang on until then. What's your name?"
"Keya. I think I know you, priestess, but I don't…nnnggh…have the honor of your friend's name." The golden-haired girl was about to introduce herself when the arena shook again, this time throwing them all to the ground. A huge pillar toppled over, and the girl only had a fraction of an instant to yank Rei out of the way. Before the dust could even settle, four air-benders appeared from behind the pillar, arms outstretched in attack. The girl acted without thought, picking up one of the dislodged stones and hurling it with all her strength. The benders were more disciplined, and deflected the blow, but the distraction gave Rei the opportunity for her own attack. The benders were not harmed but their clothes had been all but singed away; they flew off with a huge gust to dissuade any retaliation. Without losing a beat, the girl knelt down and helped Keya stand.
"Hey, not too bad."
"Yeah, I guess I don't know my own strength." They barely made it around another corner before they were attacked again, this time by seven earth-benders. Keya could only defend against one before she fell; Rei fought off two, but was soon overwhelmed. That left the girl to stand her ground; she rolled as a stone was hurled her way, but came to an abrupt stop as the ground beneath her shot up and wrapped around her. The benders didn't have time to savor their victory, however, as a group of royal guards stormed them, clearing the path.
"Priestess, follow us!" There was no time to argue or ask questions; the arena was flooding fast—or what was left of it, anyway. The guards escorted the trio out of the arena, but they were no better off there as swarms of water-benders had invaded the docks, cutting off their escape. As earth-benders stayed behind to wreck the arena, and air-benders flitted about picking off the survivors, it was all they could do to press on. The guards held off any attacks they could, leaving the three women the slimmest of openings for escape. Keya was drawn into a medical boat, promising to give Rei and the other girl any news of their families, leaving them to be forced onto a small schooner, bound for goodness knows where.
For a very long time they were both silent. The pandemonium they had left behind was too engrossing to turn away from. It seemed like the entire ocean had risen and was overtaking the arena, which had now completely crumbled to bits. Anybody lucky enough to escape on a boat was taken prisoner by the water-benders; Rei observed with disgust as one of the medical boats was brought into their custody. Keya had not gotten away, but the water-benders could not catch everybody, and a handful were fortunate enough to leave the tournament with their lives and freedom intact. The boats were scattering everywhere and contact between them soon became impossible—and then Rei saw the ruined arena dip beneath the horizon, the fires fading and the horrible noise of screams turn to silence.
With that silence came a sickening relief. The helmsman of their boat, who had not spoken this whole time, bowed his head reverently. Rei deflated, sighing, utterly spent. Her companion was still staring off into the distance, even where there was nothing to look at but endless sky and endless sea. Whatever the future may hold, they must confront it together. Introductions must be made.
"Hey, come here," Rei gestured, speaking as softly as she could. She offered a pale smile as their eyes met. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I…I guess. Still really shaken. I probably won't be able to sleep anytime soon."
"Can't say I blame you. What about eating? Are you hungry?" The other girl shook her head.
"Just thirsty." Rei looked around and noticed a rations bin. The supplies were good for two days at a stretch; she had no doubt they'd find another port before then. She took out a canteen and handed it to the young lady.
"Drink it slowly, we've got to make it last. Umm…I'm Rei, by the way. Sorry I didn't get a chance to introduce myself." The girl nodded shakily. Her tribulation had parched her, and she foolishly consumed half the canteen. Perhaps just this once, though, she could be afforded the comforts. Goodness knows they both needed it.
They smiled at each other. Usagi stared into the distance, an endless gulf of blue and green lapping underneath a slowly blushing sky. Darkness would be enveloping them soon.
"Any idea where this thing is taking us?"
"As far away from danger as it can," the helmsman replied, "but probably Wu Song. It's the closest port town from here. I'd say we'll reach it just in time for lunch tomorrow."
"And after that?" Usagi pressed. He shook his head. Priestess training had never prepared Rei for this kind of calamity.
"The other nations of the world attacked us," he said, "so it looks like we don't have any foreign friends. The Fire Nation will probably suffer further attacks, so there won't be any safe place for us at home, either. Not until we figure all of this out."
"How long will that take?" Rei's voice was soft, hollow, a weariness beyond mere exhaustion. She leaned back, overcome by her own fatigue.
"I have my theories," the boatsman said, "but there's really no telling. You'd better get some rest while you still can. I'll keep watch." Rei nodded, and drifted off easily. Usagi, too, despite her doubts, soon found herself slipping through that veil of uncertainty which separates the waking world from emptiness.
The end of "Tournament at the Fire Nation"
Next time: "Wu Song and Beyond"
In case it hasn't become obvious, this is "Sailor Moon" set in the world of "Avatar". The idea came to me after seeing the work of Deviantart user Exiled Chaos. I do not classify this as a crossover, since (as you may have noticed) Rei and Usagi are just now meeting each other, and will subsequently meet (for the "first" time) the other Sailors. If anything, it's a reimagining.
Kotono and Asanuma are taken from actual characters in the Sailor Moon world, but I have changed them in the interest of the story (they are originally friends of the Sailors in the Black Moon story arc). Kuni and Iku are original, but named after Kunihiku Ikuhara, the director of the original anime. Several other familiar characters will make appearances (besides Usagi's family), so keep an eye out.
Just like in The Last Airbender, there will be three "Books", but like Legend of Korra, they will only have loose connections, with a singular story arc for each. Although I will do my best in terms of accuracy and detail, if I get anything wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. Finally, as this is a Sailor Moon story, it would be a disservice to the series (and the world of Avatar) not to include same-sex relationships. If this bothers you, I urge you to keep reading so you can be bothered even more. If not, then sit back and enjoy the ride.