"Benders aren't any better than us normal folk," the man said, spitting derisively at Korra's feet. She clenched her hands into fists.
"I know that," she said through locked teeth. She took a deep breath, then tried to settle her first ever Avatar dispute. "Benders and non-benders are a source of balance for the world. The spirituality
stuff. I suppose."
The crowd laughed in her face, and Tenzin sighed heavily.
"Okay, I could have done better," she snapped at him. "Look, I'm trying my best, alright?"
"Come back when you got a handle on that, honey," the man said, and they all laughed.
Korra turned on him and fell into her favorite waterbending stance. The crowd took a collective step back, and Korra gave the daring man a hard smile.
"Come on, if you're so tough," she sneered.
"Korra," Tenzin snapped. "Stop this."
"Trying," she replied, not taking her eyes off her new opponent. He hesitated, then shrugged.
"What's the use?" he asked. "You're going to freeze me or burn me or crush me, or
whatever it is Airbenders do to the folks they don't like."
"Smile," Tenzin supplied. Korra would have rolled her eyes if she wasn't trying to break the man with her stare.
"Alright, honey," she mocked. "If mama doesn't bend, will you be willing to quit being such a possum-chicken and fight?"
The man looked like he bit into something nasty. He glanced around at the crowd, hesitant to fight a bender, not trusting her promise to keep her power out of it. Korra glared.
"Come on," she jeered. "Are you going to insult me and leave? Real tough, aren't you challenging a teenaged girl then walking off."
He ground his teeth, then ran at her.
She reached to block what she thought was going to be a punch, but he surprised her by launching into the air and kicking. Pain shot up her arm, but she managed to block the extra two or three kicks he was able to get in before he dropped back to the ground.
She turned to build up a decent swing, and struck a downward block on his punch. She slid one foot forward to hook around his ankle. She yanked, then gave his ducked head a push. He stumbled back in awkward surprise, rubbing his face and giving her a confused stare. She swept her hands through the air, miming one of her katas.
"Water," she told him. Leaping forward, she landed some hard hits on his chest, then planted her feet and struck him with both fists. He fell into the crowd, coughing and red-faced.
"Earth," she explained.
"Korra, watch it!" Tenzin called. Korra saw a flash of steel out of the corner of her eye, then turned.
She watched as a man soared toward her with a sword raised. She barely managed to duck away, turning and aiming a kick at his chest. She barely grazed him, and he kept coming at her. She leapt out of his path, evading and sweeping just out of his reach for a tense few seconds.
"Air," she ground out. He either didn't hear or ignored her. She finally got around behind him, but was too close to the ground to use her fists. Instead, she rolled onto her hands and swung her feet in a quick, dangerous circle in the air. Her foot caught his hand first, knocking his sword away, then his face. He flipped back and landed on his stomach, groaning.
Korra twisted onto her feet. "Fire."
She turned to the crowd, who flinched and shuffled back. She held out her empty hands. She hesitated for a moment, wondering how to turn this into a speech on acceptance and
whatever else Tenzin wanted. Her eyes caught a small girl in front, and Korra focused on her. She smiled, and after a moment, the girl smiled back shyly. Korra drew on her Water Tribe protective instincts, then set to comforting the crowd through this little girl.
"I know some of you are frightened by the forces around you," she called, nodding at the girl. She looked around the crowd. "I know that it seems unfair that some people are given powers and others aren't. But you aren't any more or less because you can't fling elements around. You're part of the balance of the world, just as important as anyone and anything else."
A few went to pick up her attackers, and many were nodding contemplatively. Korra took that as a good sign. She bowed to the crowd, and many bowed back. She turned and walked to Tenzin's side. He was frowning severely at her, but she ignored it.
"Pretty good for my first real Avatar challenge," she enthused. "A fight that only took five seconds and a little speech. Not too hard, huh?"
Tenzin gave her a withering look, then turned and walked away. "Nine seconds."
"Oh, come on!"