Kuruk was tired.
Spirits, was he so tired.
Tired of fighting, tired of secrets, tired of being the avatar.
Oh, how far he had come from the confident, optimistic, sixteen year old boy he had been when they had named him the avatar. To think that boy would one day become who he is now, weighed down by his mistakes and regret. And it had only been seventeen years.
Seventeen years and what had he accomplished? Nothing the public knew of other than being good at Pai Sho, being good at bending, and ignoring his duties to the world. As for his private life, the damage he caused between the spirits and humanity would scar both worlds for generations. He felt bad for whatever poor earthbender ended up being his successor and had to clean up his mess. Yangchen would be ashamed of how he left the world.
Perhaps Avatar Kuruk’s greatest regret was how he drifted from his friends. He assumed it was his fault. Once a family as close-knit as could be, they all had started to drift apart once Kuruk started keeping secrets from them, about where he was going when he suddenly disappeared and why he always turned up sick and pale and afraid. He couldn’t bear to tell them, and after years the lies became second nature. They didn’t know, they never could. He was the Avatar, and what he did was his business, after all. Getting his friends involved only would’ve made it worse. He couldn’t risk loosing them, either to the spirits themselves, the sickness that plagued him afterwards, or the damage to his reputation, both among men and spirits, that had befallen him during his avatarhood. He would carry the burden for his friends, and for the world. And what a heavy burden it had been.
It wasn’t all dark, was it? He had met Nyahitha, the only other person who knew his secrets. In a sense, they carried the burden together. It had been reliving to find a new companion after everyone had drifted apart, even one of whom the others disapproved of.
And he met Ummi. But thinking of her only made his heart ache. She had been the only light in his life for only a brief moment, until the world stole her away like everything else it had given to him. It was his fault, like everything else had been.
Kuruk sighed, looking up at the small ceiling of his quarters. He was back home in the north, but unable to enjoy it. He had been bedridden the entire trip, stuck in his room, majestic as it was. He was fairly certain that this trip back home would be his last.
“Avatar, your friends are here.” One of the healers said, peeking her head through the door. There were so many talented healers in the north, but none of them were able to help him. Eventually he had lost hope.
“You can bring them in.” Kuruk answered, trying to prop himself up, at least a bit, so he didn’t look so pitiful.
The healer nodded, then left the room for a bit. She came back with his three original companions, Jianzhu, Kelsang and Hei-Ran, who had joined him in the north this trip. They all knew why, but nobody wanted to say it.
Kelsang was the first to come to his bedside, gently helping him up. “You shouldn’t over-exert yourself.” he chided. It was almost ironic, the Avatar of all people being too weak to even sit up.
Kuruk took a look at his friends, who had all lined up around his bedside. They all had graying hair and wrinkles under their eyes, signs of age and the time that had gone by. Kuruk suspected he did too, it had been a while since he looked in a mirror. They were barely recognizable from the younger versions of themselves he met in the early days of his avatarhood. So much time had gone by, so much had happened.
Jianzhu and Hei-Ran started to talk about something, whatever it was didn’t matter. At long last, after so many years, Kuruk’s friends, his family, were together once again. He started to say something, but was interrupted by a cough.
Jianzhu rushed to his aid, placing a pale hand on his forehead, then his cold hands. “Are you alright?”
Kuruk looked at his friend’s eyes, green, bronze, gray, all looking at him. He understood why they had left him, but it meant the world that they had gathered here to spend one last moment with him.
“When I’m gone” Kuruk said, his voice weaker than he expected it to be. “I want you to find the next avatar, and do right by them.” He trusted his friends, and he trusted his future incarnation. Whoever they were, they could fix the mess he made.
Noone responded to his words. They looked at him, and each other.
Kuruk closed his eyes and leaned back, regretful for what he had done but content that he could finally rest.
He was vaguely aware of his friends leaving the room, being ushered out by a healer, as light and warmth left his body. The water avatar could almost hear a newborn baby’s cry as he breathed his final breath.