Tag Archives: Ty Lee

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Epilogue

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Author’s note: In which most loose ends are tied, there is shipping you saw coming and shipping you probably did not see coming, reunions, parties and Sokka’s atrocious painting skills.

Previous chapter: link

***Epilogue***

It was not surprising that Azula woke up first the next morning. Opening her eyes slightly she saw Zuko still sleeping peacefully next to her. Katara had bandaged his wounds while they were out. The princess couldn’t help the prick of guilt that she felt. Hearing footsteps she sat up in alarm, not seeing the waterbender anywhere and still feeling too drained to firebend. The door opened quietly and Azula’s eyes widened when she saw the woman that stood in the threshold.

“Mother?” she whispered in disbelief. Ursa had hardly changed since she had last seen her, although she was dressed in plain red robes now. Without pausing to think of her tiredness the girl jumped off the bed and hurried towards her mother, pausing in front of her. Ursa hesitantly took a step closer, opening her arms to embrace her youngest. Azula didn’t need to be told twice. She threw herself into her mother’s arms, feeling the last piece click back into place in her mind.

“I’ve missed you, little one,” Ursa told her daughter tenderly.

“Zuko will be so glad to see you,” Azula murmured, throwing a glance at her brother’s sleeping form. She turned her eyes back to her mother. “I am too,” she added shyly. Ursa just smiled.

“Zula?” a sleepy voice came from the bed. The princess returned to her brother’s side, helping him to sit up.

“Look who’s here Zuzu!” she said excitedly. Zuko followed her gaze and his face split to the biggest grin Azula had ever seen.

“Mom!” he said elated. Ursa walked up to her son and pulled him to an embrace as well, content to be near her children at last.

 

Suddenly a yell came from outside.

“No, you can’t bother them!” Lia’s annoyed voice rang out clearly through the door. “They’re probably still sleeping,” Katara added, just as annoyed. She had been up all night worrying over the two firebenders. The early morning visitors wasn’t helping her temper much.

“But we need to tell Zuko the news!” Sokka whined. “And why won’t you have a look at my leg? You can heal it, why do I have to walk around with a crutch?”

“Because your sister is very tired,” Lia said sternly. She opened the door to see Zuko and Ursa giving her amused looks. Azula just seemed confused by the argument. Katara appeared next to the redhead.

“We didn’t wake you up, did we?” she asked worried. Zuko shook his head.

“Zula woke me,” he explained with a smile. “Not that I’m complaining.”

“Who’s Zula?” Sokka asked appearing behind his sister. His eyes doubled when he noticed the princess. “You!” he yelled in shock, struggling to jump in front of his sister. Katara rolled her eyes, pushed him back and looked at Azula apologetically.

“They just came and I haven’t had time to explain,” she said.

“Explain what?” Aang’s voice came from behind them as he and Toph joined the group.

“Why Azula is here,” Katara said. The Avatar and earthbender looked at her confused before turning towards the bed. The princess was sitting between her brother and mother, hiding her nervousness behind a calm look. There was silence for a moment before Aang’s face split in a huge smile.

“Well, if Lia lets you anywhere near Zuko we have to welcome you to the group,” he decided happily.

“I agree with Twinkle-Toes,” Toph added. “Everyone knows that Blazes is paranoid.” Lia raised an eyebrow.

“Since when do I have a nickname?” she asked. Toph shrugged.

“It’s about time if you ask me.”

Sokka remained silent, watching the rest of the gaang gathering around the bed to share stories of their separate battles. Suki joined them soon and pulled her boyfriend along. Before he knew it, the Water Tribe boy found himself recounting enthusiastically how he had destroyed the airship fleet, seemingly not noticing that most questions came from Azula.

 

Aang had left again in the afternoon to bring the members of the White Lotus to Sozin for the final formalities that followed the ending of the war. Zuko was declared Fire Lord after both Iroh and Azula had explicitly told the nobles that in no way they would step between him and the throne. The official coronation was scheduled in a week so that he could recover enough, not that that stopped Zuko from ordering the release of any prisoners of war that were still held.

 

The day of the coronation was sunny, and Zuko wondered if Agni was doing it on purpose to annoy Lia, silently approving the new Fire Lord. He turned his attention back to struggling to pull his official robes on. Despite the repeated healings by Katara, the lightning had done a lot of damage and he hadn’t had much chance to rest and recover. He winced when a clumsy move made pain shoot through his torso.

“You need some help with that?” an amused voice came from the doorway. The soon-to-be-Fire Lord turned with a huge smile.

“Katara!” he hadn’t seen her much in the last few days, other than during the brief healing sessions. He smiled sheepishly. “I guess some help wouldn’t hurt.” The waterbender helped him pull the stuffy outfit on.

“How do you feel?” she asked him, concerned.

“A little sore,” Zuko answered truthfully, knowing better than to lie to a master waterbender/healer. “And nervous,” he admitted in a more quiet tone. Katara smiled at him reassuringly.

“You’ll do fine,” she said, placing a hand on the side of his face. “We all believe in you and we know that you will make a wonderful Fire Lord.” She stood on her tiptoes to kiss him softly. “And if you ever have a hard time Lia, Azula and I can always deal with whoever is the issue.” Zuko couldn’t help but laugh at that.

 

Iroh came soon after to talk over some last-minute issues with Zuko. Sokka and Katara met up, determined to look for their father in the hundreds of people that had gathered for the coronation. Finally, after navigating through a swarm of swampbenders they found Hakoda and Bato talking to each other.

“Dad!” they exclaimed as they rushed to the man. Well, Katara did. Sokka was still limping around.

“I heard what you two did. I am the proudest father in the world,” Hakoda said embracing them. “And your mother would be proud too,” he added, more to Katara than Sokka. Sokka looked up to notice a group of girls dressed in forest-green approaching.

“There’re my favourite warriors! I have to admit, I kind of missed the face paint. How does it feel to be back in uniform again‌?” he asked his girlfriend smiling.

“It feels great!” Ty Lee said, jumping from behind Suki. Sokka had lost count of the times he had been shocked, but this definitely took the cake. He half-jumped in front of Suki, pointing his crutch in Ty Lee’s direction.

“Careful Suki! Ty Lee is pretending to be a Kyoshi Warrior again,” he said accusingly.

“It’s ok,” Suki chuckled. “She’s one of us now.”

“Yeah, the girls and I really bonded in prison,” the acrobat explained. “And after a few Chi-blocking lessons, they said I could join their group. We’re going to be best friends forever,” she exclaimed, smiling brightly.

 

Zuko paused before the doors that would lead him to the coronation ceremony and took a deep breath. Aang was standing next to him in his formal monk robes.

“I can’t believe a year ago my purpose in life was hunting you down, and now…” Zuko trailed off.

“And now we’re friends,” Aang completed the sentence peacefully.

“Yeah…we are friends.”

“I can’t believe a year ago I was still frozen in a block of ice,” Aang said lightly. “The world’s so different now.”  Zuko placed a hand on his pupil’s shoulder.

“And it’s gonna be even more different, when we build it together.”

 

Zuko stepped out and instantly thunderous applause rocked the full courtyard. On the plateau stood Ursa, Iroh and Azula dressed in ceremonial robes for the coronation. Zuko raised his hand.

“Please, the real hero is the Avatar,” he said, taking a step to the side and allowing Aang to take the centre. “Today, this war is finally over,” he continued to address the crowd. “I promised my uncle that I would restore the honour of the Fire Nation, and I will. The road ahead of us is challenging. A hundred years of fighting has left the world scarred and divided. But with the Avatar’s help, we can get it back on the right path, and begin a new era of love and peace.” Aang stepped back as Zuko knelt for the coronation. The head Fire Sage moved forward with the crown when the unexpected happened. He paused. From the shadows emerged the figure of a redheaded woman, dressed in an elaborate scarlet kimono with golden dragons stitched on it. The Sage bowed low to her and handed her the crown. With a proud smile Lia stood behind her adoptive brother.

“All hail Fire Lord Zuko!” she said in a loud voice as she placed the flame-shaped crown on his head. The entire courtyard knelt in front of the new Fire Lord as he stood up. He turned to the Spirit to see her bowing slightly as well, though not to the ground as the rest of the people did. They shared a smile as his family stood from their bows and gathered around him. Zuko could see that Lia was, for the first time in the last few months, at peace.

 

The early afternoon found Azula standing uncertainly in front of a door, a package held tightly in her hands. She couldn’t remember the last time she had felt so uncomfortable and suddenly wished that someone was with her. But her brother was busy signing papers with the guidance of their uncle and the newly-reappeared Jeong Jeong, whom Zuko had made a member of the Council of advisors, and her mother was overseeing the preparations for the ball to celebrate the end of the war and Zuzu’s coronation. Get a hold of yourself! Azula scolded herself. You have faced worse things than that.

 

So, taking a deep breath, the princess knocked and opened the door to Katara’s room. Just like she had imagined all four girls of team Avatar (as Sokka insisted more than ever on calling them) were there. Following Katara and Lia’s example the other two girls had welcomed her. Azula took a moment to survey the scene. Toph was lying on the bed, seemingly overlooking everything, while Suki, Lia and Katara were sprawled on the floor chatting. They smiled at her and Azula smiled back hesitantly.

“I thought you were preparing for the ball?” she asked, unsure of what the etiquette was for this occasion. Since her very first lessons at the Fire Nation Academy for Girls it had been drilled to her that a princess ought to always follow the proper etiquette.

“Oh we were,” Suki explained, standing up to help the other girl place her package on the floor. Azula followed her and sat between the Kyoshi Warrior and the Fire Spirit. “But given the fact that none of us knows what to wear we were trying to figure it out,” Suki concluded. Azula had thought of this.

“That’s why I’m here,” she explained, gaining courage. Becoming friends with Ty Lee and Mai had been so much simpler. “I thought you probably wouldn’t have anything appropriate with you so…” she paused after a snort from Toph. Had she offended them? She thought worried.

“Ignore Toph,” Lia said eyeing the box. Azula nodded. “So I had some dresses made for you,” She finished in one breath. Even Toph looked surprised at that.

“Wow Sugar Queen! I think you just found a competitor for the title,” she said jumping from the bed.

“Thanks Azula,” Katara smiled gratefully. Said girl glowed with happiness.

 

Opening the box she took out the first dress. Although its style was obviously Fire Nation, it was made out of icy blue silk with silver decorations. Katara looked at it speechless for a whole minute before blurting out “I love it!” Relaxing a little Azula pulled out the second dress. This one resembled the uniform of a Kyoshi warrior, forest green with golden decorations. Suki squealed and impulsively hugged Azula. The firebender looked a little shocked but nevertheless pulled out a smaller, simpler dress in pale green.

“This one is for Toph,” she explained. Not hearing a reaction the earthbender approached and ran her fingers across the fabric nervously.

“How does it look like?” she asked.

“Like Aang asking you out the moment he sees you wearing it,” Lia said finally. Toph blushed and snatched the dress.

“He’d better!” she muttered. Taking out the last dress, Azula handed it to Lia.

“What do you think?” she asked. The dress was scarlet with golden flames decorating it, leaving the left shoulder bare.

“Whoever made this dress,” Lia began slowly, “is a genius!” she concluded with a huge smile.

 

Suki and Katara talked Azula into staying with them for the rest of the evening and the princess found herself slowly loosening up at their company. When they were finally ready later that evening they walked out of the room to meet Zuko, Sokka and Aang, all dressed up for the occasion. They walked together to the ballroom of the palace, chatting carelessly along the way. Zuko and Katara entered first, followed by Aang and Toph, Sokka and Suki and finally Lia and Azula. As the entire Team Avatar walked in, another round of applause rocked the packed room. Mercifully, as Lia put it, there had been no great need for formalities and soon everyone was mingling, old friends meeting again and couples dancing the night away.

 

Much to Toph’s displeasure Aang had been whisked away after only one dance by a bunch of nobles who wanted to meet him. This left her, Azula and Lia standing together chatting quietly.

“May I have the honour of this dance fair lady?” A smooth voice said behind them. The three girls turned to see a black-haired young man dressed as Fire Nation nobility. Recognizing him Azula tensed but before she could say anything Lia cut in.

“I thought you promised not to interfere with the mortals,” she pointed out. Agni offered her a Fire Lily and a crooked smile.

“But you are not a mortal.” To Azula’s surprise Lia grudgingly took the offered flower.

“Just one dance and then you’ll disappear,” she warned as they made their way to the centre of the room.

 

“Care to tell me who this guy is?” Toph asked the princess. “His vibrations were weird.” Azula regained her speech.

“That was Agni,” she managed to say, her eyes never leaving the couple dancing gracefully and silently.

“Agni?” Toph raised an eyebrow. “As in the same Agni she tried to kill a few days ago?”

“That one.” Toph cackled.

“Well that explains her vibrations,” she grinned. “And by the looks of it he has quite the crush.”  Just in time the dance stopped. Agni whispered something in Lia’s ear before bowing and promptly disappearing through the crowd. The red-head made her way to her friends.

“So?” Azula asked curiously. “What did he say?”

“Nothing!” Lia said, her blush deepening. She had placed the Fire Lily in her hair.

“I can tell you’re lying…” Toph said in a sing-song voice. “So spill.” Lia muttered something under her breath. “What was that?” Toph insisted. “We couldn’t hear you.”

“He likes the dress,” Lia said louder.

“And?” Azula prompted.

“And he said I still owe him a kiss.”

 

It took two months, during which the gaang split to return to their respective nations and help the rebuilt effort, for Toph to stop teasing Lia. Now, with the excuse of a trade agreement, they had all gathered at Ba Sing Se again. Today the Jasmine Dragon remained closed to the public as Aang, Katara, Sokka, Suki, Toph, Zuko, Azula and Lia gathered for the evening. Iroh was playing the Tsungi horn on a corner, the melody he made up filling the air. At a table nearby Azula and Suki were playing Pai Sho with Katara and Lia observing them. Aang was playing with Momo and Zuko was going around bringing cups of tea to everyone.

“Zuko, stop moving!” Sokka suddenly yelled. Everyone’s eyes turned to him in surprise. He was holding a brush and had an annoyed expression. “I’m trying to capture the moment. I wanted to do a painting, so we always remember the good times together,” he explained in a softer tone.

“That’s very thoughtful of you Sokka,” Katara smiled at him as everyone walked around to see the picture. Her face fell. “Wait! Why did you give me Momo’s ears‌?” she asked.

“Those are your hair loopies!” Sokka explained. Zuko crossed his arms.

“At least you don’t look like a boarcupine. My hair’s not that spiky!”

“I look like a man,” Azula complained.

“And why did you paint me firebending‌?” Suki asked confused.

“I thought it looked more exciting that way,” Sokka shrugged. Momo jumped on the table and chirped. “Oh, you think you can do a better job, Momo‌?” Sokka asked the lemur annoyed. Iroh put the Tsungi horn down and came to see the offending picture.

“Hey, my belly’s not that big anymore, I’ve really trimmed down!” he said. Toph spread her arms in the air.

“Well, I think you all look perfect!” she said, making everyone burst out laughing.

 

The little earthbender stopped laughing when she felt Aang walk out. She had been in Ba Sing Se with Bumi and a few of her friends from the earthbending matches the last two months and before that she hadn’t managed to confront the flighty airbender about their argument on Ember Island. Determined, she following him outside.

 

Aang was leaning against the railing, his thoughts on his earthbending teacher. During his fight with Ozai he had been forced to finally let go of Katara, completely unlocking the Avatar State at last. Now, his thoughts and meditations often turned to a petite, blind earthbender. He turned to say something to her when Toph’s hand grabbed the front of his robes and brought his lips down to hers. Aang’s eyes widened before sliding shut and he kissed the girl back. Words could wait. The world was finally at peace and everything was as it should be.

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – The Boiling Rock (Part II)

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Author’s note: In which there is an actual, decent plan for a change, planned reunions and veiled deaths threats.

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***The Boiling Rock (Part II)***

The prisoners had been lined up at the courtyard by the time Sokka squeezed his way to the front lines of the guards, trying to steady his breath from having run the whole way. Suki and Zuko had left to sneak back to their cells. The warden was marching in front of the new-arrivals.

“Welcome to the Boiling Rock. I’m sure you’ve all heard the horrible rumours about our little island. Well I just want to tell you that they don’t have to be true. As long as you do everything I say.” He stopped in front of Hakoda who had been looking at the ground the whole time. “Look me in the eye when I’m talking to you.” The man looked at the side.

“No,” he said simply. The warden’s face turned red in anger.

“Oh, you’d rather look at my shoes‌? Then take a look!” he caught with his boot the chain connecting Hakoda’s shackles and forced him to the ground. “I know exactly who you are, Hakoda of the Water Tribe. So strong-willed. But don’t worry, we’ll get rid of that in time. Now look me in the eye.” Sokka felt as if Katara’s waterwhip had punched him in the gut as his father looked up slowly. “See‌? Isn’t that better? You will all do as I say or pay the price.” He turned to address the rest of the prisoners. “You will all…” his words where cut when Hakoda moved his hand, causing him to trip on the chain. Much to Sokka’s amusement the arrogant Fire Nation man fell flat on his face.

As the prisoners were led inside the building Sokka crept at the shadows, following his father and then waiting until all the guards left the corridor. Opening the door hastily, and once again forgetting to take off his helmet, he turned to Hakoda.

“Thank goodness you’re okay!” he said cheerfully. Hakoda leapt to his feet and thrust a fist into the “guard’s” face.

“If you take one step closer you’ll see just how okay I am,” he said threateningly. Sokka lifted his visor hastily. “Dad, it’s me!” Hakoda’s eyes widened.

“Sokka, my son!” He rushed forward to hug the boy. As they parted he smiled. “You know Sokka, you should be more careful with that guard outfit on. I almost punched you in the gut.”

“Yeah,” Sokka said sheepishly. “I ran into that problem earlier.” He turned hastily to check the corridor before slumping to the ground next to his father.

“So where’s Bato‌?” he asked. “Where’s everyone else from the invasion‌?”

“The others are being held at a prison near the Fire Nation palace. They singled me out as their leader and sent me here.” Hakoda gave his son a wry look. “But before I left I met some young women who said they knew you. The Yoshinama Fighters‌?”

“You mean the Kyoshi Warriors‌?” Sokka asked confused.

“That’s right,” the chief said.

“Their leader Suki is here and she’s gonna escape with us,” Sokka explained.

“Good, we’ll need all the help we can get.”

Sokka wondered whether now might be a good time to break some more news to his father. It wasn’t easy, but it would be better for him to know in advance, instead of walking in to his daughter kissing the Fire Nation prince…

“And you remember Zuko?” he asked hesitantly.

“Of course!” his father replied surprised. “I hope he caught up with you.” Sokka nodded.

“He did. And he’s here with me now. I wouldn’t have found you if it wasn’t for him.”

“That’s good,” Hakoda said, remembering the young man fighting.

“And dad…” Sokka tried again. “I don’t know how to break this to you, but he and Katara…” he took a deep breath, “they’re together.” Hakoda looked at his son blankly for a moment and then it sank in.

“WHAT?” he asked, refusing to believe Sokka.

“I know,” Sokka shrugged. “I had the same reaction.”

 

It took a few minutes for Hakoda to calm down and return to the matter at hand.

“So, do you have a plan‌?” he asked his son expectantly.

“We had one,” Sokka said regrettably, “but some of the other prisoners got involved and ruined it. I don’t know if there’s another way off this island.” Hakoda patted his son’s shoulder.

“Sokka, there’s no prison in the world that can hold two Water Tribe geniuses.” Sokka looked down dejectedly.

“Then we’d better find two,” he muttered. Hakoda burst out laughing.
Sokka’s next stop was at Zuko’s cell.

“Zuko, are you there‌?” he called silently.

“I’m here,” came the whispered reply.

“I just got done talking to my dad. We came up with an escape plan together,” Sokka explained.

“What are you doing here?” a voice came from the corridor. Sokka jumped to see two guards standing suspiciously behind him.
“I was just telling this dirty lowlife what I think of him!” he stammered hastily.

“Well, you’ll have to do that later, he’s coming with us,” the guard said impatiently. Sokka looked at them and back at the door.

“Why?” he asked confused.
“Because we have orders straight from the warden. That’s why,” the other guard said.

“Could I just get ten more seconds to rough him up a bit‌?” Sokka asked, with a little whine in his voice.

“Fine, ten seconds,” the guard agreed, rolling her eyes.
Sokka rushed inside and grabbed the mattress, hastily passing it to Zuko. As soon as the prince was holding it, giving Sokka a clueless look in the process, Sokka started punching.

“Take that! And this!” he yelled. Catching on Zuko made a few pained sounds. “We have a new plan but it’s gonna need a big distraction. Be in the yard in one hour,” he explained in a quieter voice. Hearing the door opening he grabbed his friend and put him on a chokehold.

“Alright, that’s enough,” the guard said.

 

The two guards dragged Zuko to a room a few levels higher wordlessly.

“What are you doing‌? Where are you taking me‌?” the boy asked confused. They couldn’t have known of his plotting with Sokka. Without answering his questions, the guards threw him inside the room.

“I didn’t do anything wrong!” he called after them annoyed.

“Come on Zuko,” a cold, emotionless voice was heard behind him. “We all know that’s a lie.” Zuko spun to meet the source of the voice, eyes zeroing to a tall, pale girl with an annoyed expression. His eyes widened. “Mai?” he asked incredulous. “How did you know I was here?” The girl rolled her eyes.

“Because I know you so well?” she asked sarcastically. At Zuko’s clueless look she reached at her dress and took out a familiar pendant. “Surprised to see me little brother?” she said, her voice changing to the livelier tones Lia used. She pulled out a paper and began reading in an annoyed voice. “Need meat. Gone fishing.” She looked up at the sheepish boy. “Seriously Zuko? Where’s the other idiot?”

“Sokka’s still posing as a guard,” Zuko said, knowing better than argue with her characterisations. “Would you rather have him come here alone?”

“Why are you two here anyway?” Lia asked crossing her arms.

“Suki and chief Hakoda are here,” her brother explained simply. A look of understanding flashed through his sister’s eyes.

 

Suki hadn’t been sitting idle in her cell. She had finished practicing her high kicks when the door opened to reveal a grinning Sokka.

“Sokka, what’s going on?” she asked startled.

“I don’t have much time,” he said checking the door for any guards. “If I’m seen with you the guards might think something’s up. I just talked to my dad.”

“That’s great!” Suki said smiling.

“Yeah and we’re escaping today. On the gondola.” Suki gave him a confused look.

“What?” she asked.

“My dad and I came up with a plan together. We’re gonna commandeer the gondola and we’re gonna take a hostage with us so they won’t cut the lines.” Suki shook her head.

“We’ll never make it onto the gondola. There’s too many guards.”
“My dad already thought of that. He said we’ll need a distraction. That’s why we’re gonna start a prison riot.”
“Okay. Let’s say by some miracle this all works and we make it on the gondola. The warden will still just cut the lines, even if we have a captive.” Sokka gave her a mischievous smile.

“Not if the warden is the captive,” he said triumphantly. A noise was heard at the end of the corridor. “I have to go. I’ll find you before we start the riot.”
Before he had a chance to sneak away the two guards from earlier caught up with him.

“Hey you!” one of them called. “The warden wants to see you!”

“Why?” Sokka asked innocently.

“I don’t know. I didn’t ask.”

“Maybe I could schedule another time with him‌? How’s tomorrow‌?” Sokka tried to walk away but two heavy sets of arms stopped him.

“He wants to see you, now,” the guard stressed, pushing him to the right direction.
The warden looked at them when they came out to the courtyard.

“Put him in the line-up,” he ordered coldly before turning to face everyone. “One of you is an imposter who thought he could fool me. But now that person is going to be in a lot of trouble. Who is it‌?” he asked as Chit Sang was brought forward. Sokka paled. Now he was truly doomed.

“That’s him, warden.” Chit Sang said, pointing at another guard. “He’s the imposter.”

“What!” the man said outraged. “I am not. He’s lying! He’s a liar!” No one paid him any attention, least of all Sokka who was busy calming his heart-rate down.
As soon as they were released he rushed to the control panel. To his relief only one person was there.

“Hey, I just got orders. Let the prisoners out into the yard,” he said officially.

“But we’re in the middle of lockdown,” The guard said suspiciously. Sokka shrugged.

“Oh, okay. I’ll just go tell the warden you said that. I’m sure he’ll be glad to hear about you undermining his authority.” He turned nonchalantly to the frightened man. “What’s your name again?”
“Wait!” the man called. “Don’t tell the warden, I… I’m just a little confused.”
“Hey, I’m confused too.” Sokka walked back at the man, talking as persuasively as he could. “But the warden’s in a bad mood and irrational. So if you ask me, it’s best not to question it and just do what he says.” The man nodded nervously.
“Yeah, you’re right.” He pulled down a few levers and door began to open. “We’re letting them out.”
Sokka met up with his father and Suki at the yard not long before it was filled with the prisoners.

“This is it. We have to start a riot,” he told them, trying to catch his breath. Suki looked at him confused.

“Okay, but how do we do that?” she asked. Hakoda took a look around, looking for inspiration and smiled at the teens.

“I’ll show you how,” he said and ran up to a burly man that was standing a little ways. He shoved him abruptly. The man turned hurt.

“Hey, why did you do that for? That hurt my feelings,” he said.

“Aren’t you mad at me‌?” Hakoda asked surprised. The prisoner shrugged.

“Uhh, well normally I would be, but I’ve been working to control my anger.”

“This isn’t working!” Sokka groaned when a heavy hand landed on her.

“Hey you!” Chit Sang told the startled boy. “You’re lucky I didn’t rat you out. But my generosity comes with a price. I know you’re planning another escape attempt and I want in.” Sokka sighed before looking up to the man.

“Actually, we’re trying to escape right now. But we need a riot. You wouldn’t happen to know how to start one would you‌?”

“A prison riot?” Chit Sang scoffed. “Please!” He walked up to where most of the prisoners had gathered. “Hey!” he called. “Riot!” In a second all hell broke loose. Hakoda, Sokka and Suki looked shocked.

“Impressive!” the chief muttered.
The sirens were deafening inside the building. Zuko and Lia were standing next to each other inside the cell waiting for a guard to appear.

“Ma’am,” one of them called, entering the cell, “there’s a riot going on. I’m here to protect you.” Lia, still in Mai’s form, turned annoyed.

“I don’t need any protection!” she snapped. Zuko chuckled.

“Believe me, she doesn’t.” Nevertheless the guard came closer.

“I’m sorry, but I’m under direct orders from your uncle to make sure nothing happens.” Twin fireblades met him.

“Like I said,” Lia said as they exited and locked the door, “I don’t need any protection.” She turned to Zuko. “I’ll take care of the guards, you find the others.” He nodded and ran.

 

Outside the chaos made him pause and stare. Just what exactly had Sokka done? A guard tried to grab a hold of him as he rushed towards his team. Zuko knocked him over without even bothering to turn.

“Zuko, good. We’re all here. Now all we need to do is grab the warden and get to the gondolas.” Sokka said satisfied.

“And how do we do that?” Zuko asked, only to receive a blank look.

“I’m not sure,” Sokka admitted.

“I thought you thought this through!” Zuko told him exasperated.

“I thought you told me it’s okay not to think everything through!”

“Maybe not everything. But this is kind of important.” Zuko glared at the sheepish boy.

“Hey, uhh, fellas. I think your girlfriend’s taking care of it,” Chit Sang broke the argument, his eyes trained on Suki.

 

The girl rushed to the wall and climbed up to the level where the warden was standing in outrage. A few firebending guards came up against her but she dodged them, throwing a few of them to the waiting prisoners. The warden tried to fight himself, but her speed was too much for him.

“You wouldn’t dare!” he managed to growl before she tied him up like salami.

“Sorry warden, you’re my prisoner now.” Suki greened cheekily and slammed the man to the wall. Hearing the others coming up the stairs, she turned her attention to them. “We’ve got the warden, now let’s get out of here.”

“That’s some girl!” Hakoda manage to say while trying to catch his breath.

“Tell me about it!” Sokka wheezed.

 

They rushed to the upper courtyard, where the gondolas where. Chit Sang had shouldered the warden and took great pleasure in bumping him against any wall corner or railing him could.

“We’re almost there!” Suki called from the front. A group of guards was positioned in front of the gondolas and they took their stances immediately.

“Back off, we’ve got the warden,” Zuko said calmly. The men loosened their stances uneasily. “Let’s go.” Without anyone lowering their guard, the group walked up to the gondola and rushed in. Zuko stayed last to start up the contraption. As soon as it was moving he started kicking the lever until it broke. Only then he rushed after the gondola. Sokka caught him mid-leap and pulled him inside.

“What are you doing‌?” he asked torn between annoyance and concern.

“I’m making it so they can’t stop us,” the prince explained.

“Way to think ahead,” Sokka said impressed.

“We’re on our way,” Suki said, her eyes trained to the other side. Hakoda looked back at the prison.

“Wait,” he said. “Who’s that?” Everyone turned to see two very familiar girls.

“That’s a problem,” Zuko said. “It’s my sister and her friend.”

 

Azula measured the distance between the place she was standing and the slowly moving gondola. Grabbing a pair of handcuffs from a nearby guard she propelled herself to the line and locked the handcuff there. Using twin jets of fire she stated moving towards the gondola, with Ty Lee following her. As they came closer, Suki’s eyes narrowed.

“This is a rematch I’ve been waiting for,” she said. Zuko nodded next to her.

“Me too.”
The three teens climbed at the roof of the gondola and turned to face their opponents, Zuko and Sokka against Azula and Suki against Ty Lee. Azula’s eyes narrowed in annoyance as she was forced to dodge both her brother’s fire and the Water Tribe boy’s sword, leaving her no time to land any strikes of her own. A quick glance behind them told her that Ty Lee wasn’t faring any better against the Kyoshi Warrior. She wondered briefly where Mai had disappeared to. She had gone to see her uncle when they had arrived and had yet to appear again.

 

With everyone on the gondola focused on the on-going battle, no one noticed that the warden had managed to loosen his bonds. The old man jumped to his feet and pulled the tie from his mouth. Leaning from a window he called back at the guards.

“Cut the line!” Chit Sang knocked him unconscious but it was too late.

“He wants us to cut the line,” a guard said in disbelief, lowering his binoculars.

“But if we cut the line, there’s no way he’ll survive.”

“He knows that,” their superior said grimly and ordered for the gondola line to be stopped.

 

The teens lost their balance as the vehicle wobbled in place and Sokka nearly fell off before Zuko caught him. Ty Lee looked back at the prison.

“They’re about to cut the line!” she called alarmed. Azula looked up and took notice of another gondola approaching from the opposite direction.

“Then it’s time to leave,” she said, jumping to it, followed by Ty Lee. “Goodbye Zuko,” she called over her shoulder. Zuko, Sokka and Suki jumped back inside the gondola.

“They’re cutting the line. The gondola’s about to go!” Zuko explained grimly.

“I hope this thing floats.” Hakoda looked around at the metal surrounding them. This wouldn’t be pretty.
The line was cut almost halfway through when a barrage of stilettos pinned the guards away from it.

“What are you doing?” one of them asked confused the pale girl that had suddenly appeared on the courtyard. A pair of ferocious eyes met him.

“Saving my brother,” Lia, still in Mai’s form, answered before launching a new wave of weapons to the rest of the guards. Before more of them had a chance to attack her she rushed to the machine controlling the line and with a sharp kick she made it start again.

 

Back on the gondola everyone stumbled – Suki fell conveniently into Sokka’s arms – as the gondola started moving again. The Water Tribe teen looked out of the window.

“Who is that?” he asked confused. Zuko rushed to the window too and his eyes widened in shock as the pendant hidden under his clothes heated up a little.

“It’s Lia,” he explained shocked. Azula was sharing his sentiments as she stared at the girl she thought her friend.

“What is she doing?” she asked furiously. Next to her Ty Lee just shrugged. She knew that this girl wasn’t their friend. Her aura was far too bright to be Mai or any other human as a matter of fact.

 

The gondola came into a halt on the edge of the crater and everyone rushed outside.

“Sorry warden, your record is officially broken,” Hakoda called smugly at the man that was still out cold inside the gondola.

“Well, we made it out. Now what‌?” Zuko asked. Sokka stopped to think and noticed Zuko still staring at the Boiling Rock.

“Zuko, what are you doing‌?” he asked.

“My sister was on that island,” was all the answer he got.

“Yeah and she’s probably right behind us. So let’s not stop.” Sokka tried to make him snap out of it. The prince shook his head.

“What I mean is she must have come here somehow,” he explained and rushed to the other side of the cliff. “There!” he said pointing at a zeppelin that was docked near the shore. “That’s our way out of here.”
Back at the courtyard Lia had stopped fighting as soon as the gondola had reached safety and was now calmly facing Azula. Ty Lee was standing on the side, her eyes moving from one girl to the other nervously.

“Leave us,” Azula ordered the guards coldly. They were happy to obey. The killing intent was literally radiating from the princess. “I never expected this from you,” she addressed “Mai”. “The thing I don’t understand is why‌? Why would you do it‌? You know the consequences.” A bitterly smiling Lia suddenly took the place of Mai as she stared at the shocked girl coldly.

“I guess you just don’t know people as well as you think you do. You miscalculated. I love my brother more than I fear you,” she hissed the last word, addressing the presence that lurked inside the princess. Azula’s eyes widened in fury.

“No, you miscalculated! You should have feared me more!” she moved to firebend but before she or Lia had a chance to do anything Ty Lee attacked. She hit her friend and watched as she fell to the ground paralysed before turning to Lia.

“Please don’t her hurt her, Spirit!” she pleaded, standing in front of the fallen girl. Lia’s expression was unreadable for a few moments before she bowed her head.

“She should be thankful to have a friend like you,” she said softly before disappearing.

 

Their return to the Western Air Temple was by no means short of drama. Aang and Katara had nearly torn the zeppelin apart with their bending, before they noticed Lia flying next to it. Zuko and Sokka were the first to walk out.

“What are you doing in this thing‌? What happened to the war balloon‌?” Katara asked the two boys confused.

“It kind of got destroyed,” Zuko explained sheepishly.

“Sounds like a crazy fishing trip,” Aang said smiling.

“Did you at least get some good meat‌?” Toph asked eagerly. She was by no means whatsoever passing one more day on a fruit diet.

“I did,” Sokka said. “The best meat of all. The meat of friendship and fatherhood.” Suki, Hakoda and Chit Sang walked out of the zeppelin as well.

“I’m new. What’s up everybody‌?” Chit Sang asked, waving. Katara’s eyes widened.

“Dad!” she ran to her father elated.

“Hi, Katara,” the man said softly as the girl threw herself at him. The waterbender turned to her brother.

“How are you here?‌ What is going on?‌ Where did you go‌?” she asked in pleasant confusion.

“We… kind of went to a Fire Nation prison,” Sokka explained. Both he and Zuko were immediately tackled by Katara in a hug. Then Toph decided to break the moment.

“Seriously, you guys didn’t find any meat‌?” she asked exasperated. Lia and Aang laughed at that before the Fire Spirit walked up to the Water Tribe chief.

“Give him a chance,” she told the man looking at the still embracing Zuko and Katara. “He makes her happy and he truly loves her.”

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – The Crossroads of Destiny

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Author’s note: In which tensions run high, there is an epic showdown and any chance the canon had of rearing its ugly face ever is offered as tribute to Koh the Face Stealer (because he was cool and deserved more screen time!).

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***The Crossroads of Destiny***

Aang had flown to Chameleon Bay as fast as Appa could. There he didn’t even have to say a word. His worried expression spoke miles and Sokka followed him without questions. They had flown all night at a frantic pace and now they were able to make out Ba Sing Se’s walls at the horizon.

“So, what kind of trouble is Katara in‌?” Sokka finally asked, sounding more curious than worried.

“I don’t know,” Aang admitted. “In my vision, I just knew she needed help.” Sokka sighed.

“It would be nice if your Avatar powers could be just a little more specific from time to time,” he said frustrated. Suddenly a rumble was heard from the ground below them. “What is that‌?” Sokka exclaimed.

 

They leaned over the edge of Appa’s head to see a cloud of dust moving fast towards the wall. Every now and then a flash of green appeared through it. Aang brought Appa down, near the ground. From there they could make out now Toph clearly through the dust.

“Need a ride‌?” Sokka called to her. Toph was startled out of her concentration, stumbled and fell to the ground. Aang and Sokka winced.
Meanwhile, inside the city, Zuko and Iroh had arrived at the palace. They made their way towards the entrance.

“Many times, I imagined myself here, at the threshold of the palace. But I always thought I would be here as a conqueror…instead, we are the Earth Kings personal guests, here to serve him tea. Destiny is a funny thing,” Iroh chuckled. Zuko laughed back. For once he appreciated his uncle’s proverbs.

“It sure is uncle.”

 

After Toph had appropriately punched Sokka for startling her, she sat next to Aang, holding on him tightly as they flew.

“So how did it go with the Guru‌? Did you master the Avatar State‌?” she asked him curious. Aang hesitated and then smiled nervously.

“Yes! It went great with the Guru. I completely mastered the Avatar State!” he finally said and prayed that no one detected his lie.

 

The two firebenders were led to a small antechamber near the actual throne room. Iroh had set everything up and now was pouring himself a cup of tea, seemingly content. Zuko on the other hand felt on edge. Something didn’t feel right.

“What’s taking so long‌?” he finally asked

“Maybe the Earth King overslept,” his uncle guessed.

 

Suddenly several Dai Li walked into the room and circled them.

“Something’s not right,” Zuko whispered.

“It’s tea time,” Azula’s arrogant voice travelled inside the room. Zuko sprung to his feet at the sound of it. “Have you met the Dai Li‌? They’re earthbenders, but they have a killer instinct that is so firebender, I just love it!” she continued. Iroh stood calmly next to his nephew, the full cup still in his hands.

“Did I ever tell you how I got the nickname the ‘Dragon of the West’‌?” he asked his niece.

“I’m not interested in a lengthy anecdote, uncle,” she answered disinterested.

“It’s more of a demonstration really.” Iroh raised the cup to his lips and took a long sip. Zuko next to him saw his movements and smirked. Suddenly he ducked behind the older man’s back, right as Iroh exhaled a torrent of fire at the Dai Li.

 

Zuko blasted a hole in the wall and they ran away, Iroh still breathing fire at the Dai Li. Two agents tried to stop them with their rock gloves and missed. As they reached a dead end Iroh shot a bolt of lightning and jumped out of the hole, to land in a bush shaped like a bear. He looked up to see Zuko standing at the opening.

“Come on. You’ll be fine,” he called. Zuko didn’t move.

“No. I’m tired of running. It’s time I faced Azula!” he called back before disappearing. Iroh facepalmed in frustration.

 

Zuko turned to see the corridor blocked by the Dai Li and his sister.

“You’re so dramatic,” Azula remarked. “What, are you going to do, challenge me to an Agni Kai‌?”

“Yes! I challenge you!” Zuko shot back.

“No thanks!” she answered sweetly. Zuko raised his hands, making an impressive amount of fire to appear and sent it towards Azula. She didn’t make a move to block the attack, as two Dai Li made a shield out of the floor, before launching two stone gloves against him. Zuko stumbled and placed a hand to the floor to steady himself. It turned out to be a bad idea. A second later it was also trapped to the floor and he was struggling in vain to free himself. Azula smirked. Her older brother was always so predictable…

 

Katara had lost track of how long she had been wondering in circles inside the catacombs, under the palace. At first she had tried to find an exit, but it seemed like this place was an endless maze. Thankfully she had discovered a cave with an underground river so she wasn’t completely defenceless. Suddenly a rumble was heard from above. She looked up to see three shadowed figures standing at an opening.

“You’ve got company,” one of them, obviously a Dai Li, said as the third person went tumbling down to the cave. As the entrance sealed again the boy got to his knees and looked up at her surprised. Katara felt her jaw hit the floor.

“Zuko?”

 

The King had told Sokka, Aang and Toph that Katara was with the Kyoshi Warriors, so they had decided to check on their apartment first. Appa landed in front of it and they ran inside. The moment they opened the door, Momo ran to meet them, chattering as he climbed to Aang’s shoulder.

“Momo!” the boy exclaimed happy.

“There’s no one else here,” Toph said suspiciously.

“Katara is in trouble! I knew it!” Aang told Sokka.

“Oh, no!” Sokka said, remembering all the times Katara had been alone and got herself in trouble.

“Wait, someone’s at the door,” Toph said right before a knock was heard. She smiled. “I know who it is. It’s an old friend.” She opened the door to reveal Iroh. “Glad to see you again.”

“I need your help,” Iroh explained.

 

Aang felt his head was ready to burst. What on earth was going on?

“Iroh, what are you doing here?” he finally managed to ask.

“Princess Azula is here in Ba Sing Se,” Iroh explained entering the house. If possible, Aang’s eyes widened even more.

“She must have Katara,” he exclaimed worried.

“She has captured my nephew as well,” Iroh added. Aang frowned and crossed his arms.

“Then we’ll work together to fight Azula, and save Katara and Zuko.”

“Whoa there!” Sokka finally said. “You lost me at, ‘Zuko’.”

“Then we’ll work together to fight Azula, and save Katara and Zuko.”

“Whoa there!” Sokka finally said. “You lost me at, ‘Zuko’.”

“I know how you must feel about my nephew. But believe me when I tell you there is good inside him,” Iroh smiled pleadingly.

“Good inside of him isn’t enough. Why don’t you come back when it’s outside him too, okay‌?” Sokka said stubbornly. Toph raised an eyebrow.

“What’s your problem Snoozles? Zuko travelled with us. He’s part of the group,” she pointed out.

“Toph is right Sokka,” Aang said, speaking over the older boys protests. “Katara is in trouble. All of Ba Sing Se is in trouble. Working together is our best chance.” Said boy sighed. He hated when the others were right.

“I brought someone along who might be able to help us,” Iroh said satisfied.
Outside, a bound and gagged Dai Li was waiting. Toph trapped him between two boulders and Iroh pulled out the gag.

“Azula and Long Feng are plotting a coup,” he said immediately. “They’re going to overthrow the Earth King.”

“My sister!” Sokka said pointing his machete at his face angrily. “Where are they keeping Katara?”

“In the crystal catacombs of old Ba Sing Se, deep beneath the palace.” They didn’t need to hear anything else and they took off for the palace.

 

Zuko leaned against an overgrown crystal while Katara paced around getting more frustrated by the second.

“Why did they throw us in here‌? Oh wait. Let me guess. It’s a trap. So when Aang shows up to rescue us, your sister can finally have him in her little Fire Nation clutches.” She made claws with her fingers. Zuko sighed but said nothing. There was no point in trying to reason with her right now. When Katara didn’t get an answer she continued ranting. “Your sister’s a terrible person, you know that‌? Following us, hunting the Avatar, trying to capture the world’s last hope for peace! But what would she care?‌ She’s the Fire Lord’s daughter. Spreading war and violence and hatred runs in the family.” Zuko’s expression darkened.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” he snapped before he could stop himself. Katara’s face reddened.

“I don’t‌! How dare you! You have no idea what this war has put me through. Me personally.” She turned her back to him, not wanting to let Zuko see her cry. “The Fire Nation took my mother away from me.”

 

Zuko snapped his eyes from the ground to the trembling form of the waterbender. She had never told him that before. Walking to her he placed his arms on her shoulders.

“I’m sorry,” he said earnestly. He hadn’t meant to bring back painful memories. “That’s something we have in common,” he admitted. Katara stopped crying, surprised from what she had heard. He has never told me that before.

 

Several levels above them Toph raised an eyebrow impressed. She had expected the Dai Li to be lying.

“Well whaddya know. There is an ancient city down there, but it’s deep.” She motioned to the others to stand back and earthbended a small crater in the ground. Sokka looked thoughtful.

“We should split up,” he said. “Aang, you go with Iroh to look for Katara and the angry jerk…no offence,” he added hurriedly remembering that Iroh was indeed the jerk’s uncle.

“None taken,” Iroh assured him.

“And I’ll go with Toph to warn the Earth King about Azula’s coup,” Sokka concluded.

 

The two teams split and went on their ways. As they travelled further underground Aang kept stealing hesitant glance at the old man at his side. Iroh was known for his wisdom. Maybe he could ask him for advice regarding the whole Avatar State problem.

“So, Toph thinks you give pretty good advice. And great tea,” he said to the old man awkwardly.

“The key to both is proper aging. What’s on your mind‌?” Iroh asked him. Aang paused to deepen the tunnel they were in.

“Well, I met with this Guru who was supposed to help me master the Avatar State, and control this great power. But to do it, I had to let go of someone I love, and I just couldn’t,” he admitted a little shamefully.

“Perfection and power are overrated. I think you were very wise to choose happiness and love,” Iroh said calmly. He knew that the young Avatar would eventually have to come to terms with his destiny, but it couldn’t hurt to ease the child’s insecurity for a little while. Aang didn’t seem convinced.

“What happens if we can’t save everyone and beat Azula?‌ Without the Avatar State, what if I am not powerful enough‌?” he asked.

“I don’t know the answer,” Iroh admitted. “Sometimes life is like this dark tunnel. You can’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel, but if you just keep moving…” he paused as they entered the beautiful catacombs. “…You will come to a better place,” he concluded.

 

Sokka and Toph entered the throne room running. The coup had already begun, but thankfully the Dai Li hadn’t reached it yet.

“Thank goodness we’re in time!” he said urgently.

“In time for what?” the Earth King asked.

“Yeah, what are you in time for… cutie‌?” Ty Lee asked innocently, somersaulting in front of Sokka.

“Uh, I’m kinda involved with Suki,” he said awkwardly. Ty Lee raised an eyebrow.

“Who?” she asked

 

Toph blew her bangs annoyed and earthbended Ty Lee to the air. The Fire Nation girl yelped and landed on a badger mole statue.

“They’re not the real Kyoshi Warriors!” she explained. The Earth King gasped and Mai smiled grimly.

“Sorry to disappoint you.” She flung three knives at Toph, who created a shield of earth. She then kicked the shield towards Mai, but the knife-thrower jumped out of the way. Once she landed Toph knocked her down, shifting the earth under her feet.

 

Meanwhile Ty Lee snuck up at Sokka, giggling. The Water Tribe warrior heard her and ducked in time to avoid being paralysed. Ty Lee continued to chase him around the room, still laughing.

“Ooo, it’s like we’re dancing together,” she giggle excitedly.

“This fight is over,” Azula suddenly said. She had entered the room unseen and taken the Earth King captive.

 

Sokka and Toph raised their hands in surrender, frowning. Ty Lee jumped between them and disabled them. Momo tried to fly away, but a Dai Li saw him and trapped him in a stone glove. Azula pushed the Earth King away.

“Get them all out of my sight,” she ordered.

 

Katara had calmed down considerably, now that she had vented her bottled-up frustration out.

“I’m sorry I yelled at you before,” she said a little shamefully.

“It doesn’t matter,” Zuko assured her softly. But Katara wanted to explain.

“It’s just that for so long now, whenever I would imagine the face of the enemy, it was your face, and now I realise that Azula’s would be much more suitable.” Zuko drew away from her, a hand covering self-consciously his scar.

“My face. I see,” he murmured. Katara’s eyes widened in realisation.

“No, no, that’s not what I meant,” She said hastily.

“It’s ok,” Zuko said in a flat voice. “I used to think this scar marked me. The mark of the banished prince, cursed to chase the Avatar forever. But lately, you’ve helped me realize that I’m free to determine my own destiny, even if I’ll never be free of my mark.” A thought crossed Katara’s mind.

“Maybe you could be free of it,” she said hesitantly.

 

Zuko spun to meet her eyes.

“What‌?” he asked hopefully.

“I have healing abilities,” the waterbender reminded him. He shook his head.

“It’s a scar,” He said bitterly. “It can’t be healed.” Katara reached and took out the vial her waterbending master had given her before she had left the Northern Water Tribe.

“This is water from the Spirit Oasis at the North Pole,” she explained. “It has special properties, so I have been saving it for something important. I don’t know if it would work, but…” She stepped closer to him, a hand lightly touching the scar. Zuko exhaled softly, before searching her eyes.

“Would you waste it on me?” he asked her.

“I don’t consider it a waste,” Katara said, as if reprimanding him. “But yes, if you want, we can give it a try.”

 

Zuko was torn. To be rid of his scar would be a dream come true. But Azula was here and it was only a matter of time before a battle broke out. A vial of magic water would be of greater use if someone was wounded. So he shook his head.

“Maybe it would be better if you kept it for now, just in case,” he told her. Katara smiled at him. She couldn’t help but feel proud for her boyfriend right now. She hid the vial again.

“Just so you know,” She told him. “I think you look more handsome with the scar.” Zuko smiled back.

“You’re certainly the first,” he told her, leaning in.

“I’m obviously the only girl around using her eyes.” She stood on her tiptoes, in anticipation for the kiss. A kiss that soon grew passionate, as Zuko pulled her body close to his own, his hand playing with her hair.

 

Then an explosion was heard near them. Katara curled instinctively against Zuko, as he embraced her even more tightly. Out of the dust Aang and Iroh appeared, both looking a little bit shocked on finding the two teens wrapped around each other, blushing.

“Aang!” Katara exclaimed, quickly moving away from her boyfriend.  She hurried to the Avatar’s side and hugged him briefly. Iroh was doing the same to Zuko, but the prince was only aware of the airbender glaring at him.

“Aang, I knew you would come,” Katara said smiling to her friend as she drew away.

“Someone had to save you,” he told her smiling proudly. Zuko snorted, but his uncle’s warning glance silenced him.

“Zuko, it’s time we talked,” he said sternly before turning to Katara and Aang. “Go help your other friends. We’ll catch up with you.” Aang hurried back to the tunnel, and Katara followed slowly. At the entrance she turned to look longingly to Zuko. He caught her eyes for a few moments, before turning to his uncle.

 

Iroh seemed to be measuring him, a look Zuko realised he had seen before, whenever an important decision would follow.

“Why uncle?” he asked hurt. Why do you still not trust me?

“You are not the man you used to be, Zuko. You are stronger and wiser and freer than you have ever been. And now you have come to the crossroads of your destiny. It’s time for you to choose. It’s time for you to choose good!” Iroh said. Zuko closed his eyes. There was no decision to be made now. He had made his decision a long time ago. Before he could tell his uncle that, the crystals erupted, trapping the old man. Zuko turned to a fighting position, as Azula and two agents approached.

“I expected this kind of treachery from uncle, but Zuko, prince Zuko…you’re a lot of things, but you’re not a traitor, are you‌?” she said plainly.

“Release him immediately!” he demanded angrily. Azula continued ignoring her brother’s words.

“It’s not too late for you Zuko. You can still redeem yourself.”

“The kind of redemption she offers is not for you,” Iroh interrupted.

“Why don’t you let him decide, uncle?” Azula said annoyed. She could definitely do without his interruptions.‌ “I need you Zuko,” she continued on a softer voice. “I’ve plotted every move of this day. This glorious day in Fire Nation history. And the only way we win is together. At the end of this day, you will have your honour back. You will have your father’s love. You will have everything you want.”

“Zuko, I am begging you, look into your heart and see what it is that you truly want,” Iroh said quietly. Azula waved the agents away and moved towards the tunnel Aang and Katara had disappeared into.

“You’re free to choose,” she called over her shoulder.
As soon as she was out of earshot Zuko turned to his uncle, his face resolute. He conjured a flame in his hand and moved closer to the crystal. With a look of deep concentration he began melting it. Noticing Iroh’s pleasantly surprised expression he smiled grimly.

“You really thought I would betray Katara?” he asked. Before Iroh had a chance to answer, another voice was heard.

“I for one didn’t.” Lia stepped out of the shadows. She had arrived right on time to listen to the confrontation between the two royal siblings. She moved near the two men, motioning to Zuko to step back.

“This is going to take a while,” she said pointing at the half melted crystal.

“You need to go and help the others. I’ll take it from here.” Zuko nodded and hurried after his sister. Right before he disappeared at the tunnel he thought he heard his uncle’s voice.

“I’m really proud of him.”

“Me too,” Lia said,

 

Aang and Katara were running franticly towards the waterfall. They had to stop Azula and the Dai Li before it was too late.

“We’ve got to find Sokka and Toph,” Katara said worried to Aang. Before he could answer blue fire erupted in front of them, forcing them to an abrupt halt. Aang caught most of the impact and was knocked back. Katara called a wave from the river and sent it against Azula. The princess deflected it, but Katara attacked again, this time with a wave that Azula evaporated. Steam covered the battlefield for a few moments.

 

Suddenly two balls of blue fire came from one of the largest crystals. Aang and Katara bended a shield of water. Azula jumped and landed to another rock. Aang sent a shockwave on it, causing the princess to lose her balance. Paling a little, Azula jumped and landed between the waterbender and the Avatar. Taking a defensive stance she waited nervously for their next move.

 

Before anyone had a chance to move a blast of red fire landed between Aang and Azula. They both turned to see Zuko in a firebending stance. He was in the simple clothes he wore under his robe. His gaze slipped from his sister to Aang and finally Katara. The waterbender seemed the only one to have guessed which side he was taking. Ending the standstill, Zuko sent another steam of fire against his shocked sister.

 

At the prison Sokka watched suspiciously through the small window of the cell he, Toph, Momo and the Earth King were in. The corridor was empty.

“See any Dai Li agents nearby‌?” Toph asked.

“Nope,” he answered. “All clear.”

Toph moved from the wall she had been leaning in. She cracked her knuckles once and then metalbended the door, tearing it from its hinges. She ran out, followed by Momo while Sokka dragged the Earth King.

“I’m not leaving without Bosco!” the king cried as they ran.

 

Zuko continued shooting fire at his sister and she continued blocking each shot. Katara noticed Azula standing on some water. She gathered it with a sharp movement, causing the princess to trip and lose her balance. Zuko stole an impatient glance towards the tunnel. Where were Iroh and Lia?

“We need to get out of here!” Aang said nervously. The other two nodded and started to slowly back towards the waterfall.

 

Before they had a chance to move much the ground erupted under their feet. Katara was flung to the crystals behind them and knocked out cold. Zuko made a movement to attack his sister, but Aang stopped him.

“No! Go check on Katara!” Zuko opened his mouth to retort and promptly closed it as they were forced to duck another attack from the Dai Li that had just arrived. Without another comment he raced on Katara’s side. Aang focused again on Azula.

 

The princess smiled smugly and launched another attack to the Avatar. Aang airbended himself out of danger and landed behind her. He tried to surprise Azula with a waterwhip, but she dodged with her fire and attacked again. Aang made the crystals in front of him rise and shielded himself. Stealing a glance he saw Zuko standing in front of Katara, blasting away the rocks Dai Li sent against them.

 

Katara came back to consciousness and immediately called water to her forming a ring of watery tendrils around her and Zuko. He studied her stance for a few seconds before turning his back on her and mimicking. A second ring with eight fiery tentacles joined the one made of water forcing the Dai Li to back away a few steps. However they kept coming and the teens were tiring quickly.

“There’s too many,” Aang whispered desperately. Suddenly Guru Pathik’s words rang to his ears. The only way, is to let her go. The Avatar closed his eyes sadly.

“I’m sorry Katara.”

Turning his back to everyone and bended a small tent of crystals around him. He sat down and started mediating. Outside the battle came once again to a standstill. Azula took involuntary a step back as the small crystal tent began to glow. Katara smiled relieved as Aang hovered in the Avatar State. It was a short-lived relief. A flash of lightning shined and Aang writhed in pain as Azula’s shot hit him in the back.

Katara felt the tears run freely down her face as she watched her friend fall helplessly. She gathered all her water in a massive wave and holding Zuko tightly by the arm she sped towards the rapidly falling boy. Zuko caught Aang mid-air and passed him hurriedly to Katara as he stood between them and his sister and agents.

 

Before Azula had a chance to move a fireblast landed in front of her as Iroh and Lia appeared in the cave.

“You’ve got to get out of here! I’ll hold them off as long as I can!” Iroh called at the teenagers before attacking the Dai Li. Lia was already fighting with Azula. Deflecting a blast she looked inside the younger girl’s eyes searching for something, anything that would prove her theory wrong. Fierce gold glared back at her.

“You hope to stare me to defeat?” Azula smiled grimly. Lia blinked twice. She had been concentrating so hard she had forgotten she was actually fighting. Steadily she pushed the Fire princess away from the waterfall where Katara and Zuko were struggling to get Aang.

“No,” she said coldly to the other girl. “I’m giving you a warning. Don’t you dare come near my brother again.” A flash passed from Azula’s eyes and for a moment Lia saw a pair of much more ruthless and ancient golden eyes glare back at her.

“Your brother…” the princess whispered in strange voice. But before anything else could happen Lia had raced to the other end of the cave (in a speed that would challenge even Aang) and was flying after her friends. She gave one last look behind her shoulder to see Iroh surrendering.

 

They had stopped for as little time as possible to their apartments to gather some basic necessities. Zuko had nearly raced back to the catacombs when he realised that his uncle had been captured. It had taken Lia, Toph and a Katara close to tears to dissuade him from going. All of them where now on Appa, leaving the fallen city of Ba Sing Se behind them. Katara laid Aang gently on Appa’s back and took out the vial with the Spirit water. She sent a small guilty look at Zuko next to her who was sitting at the front, steering Appa. He had declined her offer fearing something like that would have happened. Sighing she reached and placed the small amount of water on Aang’s wound. It shone brighter than she had ever seen before as the healing took effect. Aang’s tattoos glowed and he opened his eyes for a few seconds. Katara smiled down at him, relieved he was still with them. As Aang fell back to unconsciousness she shifted him so he could safely rest, his head on her lap, while rested against Zuko. The firebender wrapped an arm around her, pulling her closer to him. The last thing Katara heard before sleep claimed her too was the Earth King’s words.

“The Earth Kingdom…has fallen.”

***End of Book 2 – Earth***

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – The Guru

Standard

Author’s note: In which there is calm before the inevitable storm, someone is in denial, Toph is even more awesome than usual and someone ominous makes a comeback.

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***The Guru***

The next morning Katara shifted contently under the blanket. She had had a good night’s sleep and for some reason her bed was pleasantly warmer than usual. Opening her eyes she smiled, seeing Zuko asleep next to her. Zuko! Her eyes widened as the memories of the previous night kicked in. They must have fallen asleep next to each other. She blushed crimson. Iroh and Lia would tease them to their deaths…She frowned. Where exactly was that Spirit? Knowing her she wouldn’t have moved from Zuko’s side if she was in the city. Zuko shifted next to her and she lay completely still, afraid she might wake him. When he settled back into his slumber, Katara stood and straightened her clothing. She left the room to look for Iroh, determined to get some answers.

 

The old man was making tea in the kitchen. He looked up from his pot when he heard Katara entering.

“Ah, good morning my dear!” he welcomed her, smiling brightly.

“Good morning Iroh,” she answered a little awkwardly. He seemed to understand.

“When I came to check on you and Zuko you were sleeping so peacefully, I didn’t have the heart to wake you,” Iroh explained. “Would you stay for breakfast?”

“I would love to,” Katara smiled. Iroh rubbed his hands excitedly.

“Great! I wanted to try this new recipe and now I have an excuse to do so!”

 

Soon enough the overly sweet smell of whatever Iroh was making drew Zuko out of his room. Rubbing his eyes groggily he asked:

“What’s that smell?”  Iroh looked at him hesitantly.

“It’s jook,” he explained. “I’m sure you wouldn’t like it.” Zuko leaned over the pot and took a deep breath.

“Actually, it smells delicious. I’d love a bowl, uncle.” He smiled and filled a bowl. Turning to the table he saw Katara studying him and his smile only widened. He placed the bowl in front of her, before serving one more for himself.

“Thank you Your Highness,” Katara said, smiling too. She had never seen this side of Zuko before and she really liked it. She liked it even better when he kissed her on the cheek. Iroh looked at all this with a raised eyebrow.

“Now that your fever is gone, you seem different somehow,” he said suspiciously. Zuko shrugged.

“It’s a new day. We’ve got a new apartment, new furniture, and in a few days it’s the grand opening of your new tea shop. Things are looking up uncle.” Besides, he added in his head, Katara and I made up!

 

A few days later Katara found herself wondering, for the umpteenth time, why Sokka would even consider staying in Ba Sing Se when he could go to Chameleon Bay. The war meetings she had to attend in his stead were long and boring, making her feel all stiff when she finally left the room. Besides, her only contribution was to help read some of her brother’s almost incomprehensible notes. Most of the time she could just watch as the generals discussed amongst themselves the strategy. Allowing herself to daydream, she thought of her life the last few days. She had all but moved into Zuko’s and Iroh’s place, being there most of the time. Much to the two teens’ glee Iroh had been hustling and bustling at the teashop, adding the finishing touches and left them to their own devices.

 

-Flashback:-

“I have to go down to the teashop children,” Iroh said, “When I’m back I’d like to find everything the way I left it.” He winked at the blushing teens. Not that he didn’t trust them, but you can never be too cautious.

“Of course uncle,” Zuko assured him glaring. What did he think they would be doing? As soon as the door closed both he and Katara breathed a sigh of relief.

“What does he imagine we’d do?” Zuko muttered, still glaring at the door. “Burn the whole building?” Katara giggled. She seemed to be laughing all the time lately.

“We could always go out you know,” she said cheerfully. “It’s a lovely day.” Zuko shrugged.

“As long as it doesn’t involve tea,” he mumbled before taking his girlfriend’s hand. “You know this place better than I do,”hHe told her. “Got any good suggestions?”

-End Flashback-

 

Katara smiled fondly at the memory. They had found a small quiet park and spent the day there, walking through the paths and just enjoying each other’s company. She was pulled out of her musings by General Hao’s voice.

“General Fong’s base will serve as the launching point of the attack,” he was explaining. “In exactly two months, the army and navy will invade the Fire Nation on the Day of Black Sun.” To illustrate his point he earthbended a few unit markers across the table, placing them directly in front of the Fire Nation capital. Momo decided that he didn’t like the arrangement and jumped on the map, scattering pieces all over the place.

“Or we could send in Momo to do some damage,” Katara chuckled as the lemur continued shuffling around the table. “Cause the…” she trailed off when she noticed the expressions on the generals’ faces. She sobered quickly. “Sorry.”

 

Hao snapped the pieces back in place wordlessly. Momo shrieked frightened and raced back to Katara’s shoulder.

“All we need is the Earth King’s seal in order to execute the plan.” He earthbended the scrolls with the plans towards Katara’s side of the table. The waterbender took them and stood up.

“I’ll get these scrolls to him right away. Thank you, General Hao.” She bowed before leaving the room with a quiet sigh of relief.

***

While Katara was having Ba Sing Se all to herself, Aang had just reached the Eastern Air Temple. Once upon a time this was the most populated of the Air Temples. But now… He spotted the figure of an ascetic, old man and guessing that was the guru he landed Appa nearby. He climbed the stairs to the small balcony the old man was apparently meditating on.

“Um, hello?” he called uncertainly. “You’re guru Pathik, right? The person who attached the note to Appa’s horn?”

“Indeed. I was a spiritual brother of your people, and a personal friend of monk Gyatso,” guru Pathik said without opening his eyes. Aang sat in front of him.

“In your note, you said you could teach me to gain control of the Avatar State. How?” he asked.

“You must gain balance within yourself before you can bring balance to the world. And the first step to gaining balance begins with this,” guru Pathik explained holding out a simple, wooden cup. “Drink up!” Aang took it hesitantly and took a long swallow. He spitted it out immediately.

“It tastes like onion and banana juice!” he exclaimed disgusted.

“That’s because it is,” Pathik said cheerfully. Aang sighed again. This was going to be a long week.

***

Aang was not the only one in an awkward situation. In a crossroads somewhere outside Ba Sing Se a strange carriage had been stilled for at least half an hour.

“I believe we need to go right!” Master Yu insisted for the thousandth time.

“What are you talking about?” Xin Fu scoffed. “The Bei Fong Estate’s this way.”

“I’m quite certain you’re mistaken.” Before Master Yu had time to add anything else, a loud banging was heard from the metal box they had been carrying.

“Hey! Can you two old ladies quit your bickering for a second? I gotta go to the bathroom!” Toph called urgently. Master Yu looked uneasy.

“Oh. Okay, but make it quick.” He stood and turned to open the cage. Xin Fu grabbed his arm.

“What’s wrong with you?” he asked frustrated. Master Yu’s eyes widened in realisation.

“Oh very sneaky Toph! Nice try, but you can’t trick me.” He bragged sitting down again.

“Let me out of here, so I can kick both your butts!” Toph screamed angrily. Xin Fu punched the wall of the box.

“Quit your banging! You might think you’re the greatest earthbender in the world, but even you can’t bend metal.” He called as the wagon began again. Inside the box Toph frowned.

Is that what you think?

***

The teashop had come out nicely, Zuko decided. Knowing his uncle’s love for curious, useless things he had been kind of worried, but the outcome was definitely better than he had dared to hope. Iroh, standing next to him, suddenly spoke:

“Who thought when we came to this city as refugees that I’d end up owning my own tea shop. Follow your passion Zuko, and life will reward you,” he advised. Zuko smiled cheerfully.

“Congratulations uncle,” he said. The last few days he had been on a ridiculously good mood, as Lia would have said. He felt a slight pang of loss at her absence, but suppressed it.

“I’m very thankful,” Iroh said.

“You deserve it,” Zuko said, a hint of his old bossiness in his voice. “The Jasmine Dragon will be the best tea shop in the city.” Iroh shook his head.

“No, I’m thankful because you decided to share this special day with me,” he said putting a hand on Zuko’s shoulder. “It means more than you know.” Zuko hugged him. Life was good at last.

“Now let’s make these people some tea,” he said enthusiastically, although inwardly he was wincing. Might as well do what he wants me to do for once.

“Yes! Let’s make some tea!” his uncle practically skipped to the kitchen to begin brewing.

***

Guru Pathik had guided Aang through unlocking the first three chakras successfully. Aang was beginning to wonder what the difficulty on the whole thing was. During the pep talk the older man had given him he had thought the whole process would be next to impossible. They were now inside a partially destroyed shrine, sitting under the watchful gaze of an Air Nun.

“The fourth chakra is located in the heart. It deals with love, and is blocked by grief. Lay all your grief out in front of you,” guru Pathik instructed him. Aang closed his eyes and his mind was transported to an endless plain covered with fog. Opening his eyes he saw Monk Gyatso and the rest of the Air Nomads appearing in front of him. Aang had barely time to smile at the vision before they disappeared in to thin air.

“You have indeed felt a great loss. But love is a form of energy, and it swirls all around us. The Air Nomads love for you has not left this world. It is still inside of your heart, and is reborn in the form of new love,” he heard Pathik’s voice. The cloud that used to be the Air Nomads took the form of Katara and Toph, dressed up for Earth King’s party. “Let the pain flow away,” Pathik said softly. Watching the young airbender’s face relax he smiled. “Very good!” he praised him.

“Can I have some onion banana juice please?” Aang asked wiping a few tears away.

***

Toph had been testing her idea for a few hours now with no success. She could feel the tiny pieces of Earth in the metal, but couldn’t get them to respond to her orders. Taking a deep breath, she stomped her foot against the whole once again.

“Come on metal…. budge,” she ordered through her teeth. Punching the wall again she managed to create a huge dent on the wall. Feeling her achievement she smirked triumphantly. “Whoo! Toph, you rule!” she praised herself before attacking her prison once again.

***

Katara loved her freedom as she walked through the streets of the Upper Ring, putting as much distance between the building where the generals were and herself as possible. As she passed in front of the Jasmine Dragon she paused.

“What do you say Momo? A cup of tea before we get back to the king?” she wondered aloud. Stepping inside she smiled at the waitress at the door. “Table for two please,” she said politely, while looking around for her boyfriend.

 

Zuko was standing near another table, obviously taking orders. He turned to his uncle’s general direction and called:

“Uncle, I need two jasmine, one green and one lychee.”

“I’m brewing as fast as I can!” Iroh called back cheerfully. Katara took a seat on a table near the counter, waiting for someone to come and take her order. Zuko saw her as he poured the freshly brewed tea on a pot and flashed her a grin. She smiled back as he hurriedly served his customers and came at her table.

“What would you like?” he asked in his most fake-polite voice. Katara stifled a giggle.

“A cup of today’s special for me and a few leechee nuts for my little friend.” Momo jumped on Zuko’s arms at the mention of his favourite treat. The boy laughed and petted the lemur.

“Sorry Momo, you’ll have to wait,” he said, handing him back to Katara. “I’ll be right back,” he told her.

 

Indeed, five minutes later they were sharing a pot of tea, since Iroh had decided to give his nephew a small break. Katara was describing how Momo had messed the generals’ map and how these men just seemed so unemotional to her.

“I mean honestly, they didn’t even say anything! They just glared,” she said. “Do they ever do anything else?”

“Aside from plotting? No,” Zuko told her, remembering the one war meeting he had attended. His expression darkened a bit and Katara looked at him surprised. He seemed fine a moment ago.

“Do you want to talk about it?” she asked tentatively. Zuko shook his head a few times and shook his head.

“Maybe some other time, when no one can overhear us,” he said and managed a smile. “You shouldn’t be talking about top secret meetings in teashops though.”

“I know I can trust you, to keep them secret,” Katara answered clamly, taking a sip of her tea.

***

Aang leaned back to admire the night sky over his head. Away from Ba Sing Se’s lights the stars could be seen clearly. He focused his attention again to the old man in front of him.

“This is the last chakra isn’t it?” he asked.

“Yes. Once you open this chakra, you will be able go in and out of the Avatar State at will. And when you are in the Avatar State, you will have complete control and awareness of all your actions.” Aang smiled in anticipation.

“Let’s do this.”

“The thought chakra is located at the crown of the head. It deals with pure cosmic energy and is blocked by earthly attachment. Meditate on what attaches you to this world.”

 

Aang closed his eyes and in his mind Katara appeared immediately. She smiled at him as Pathik continued talking.

“Now, let all of those attachments go. Let them flow down the river. Forgotten.”

Aang opened his eyes shocked.

“What? Why would I let go of Katara? I….I….I love her.” The moment the words left his mouth they felt wooden. Nevertheless he didn’t think over it.

“Learn to let her go, or you cannot let the pure cosmic energy flow in from the universe,” the Guru explained. Aang frowned.

“Why would I choose cosmic energy over Katara? How could it be a bad thing that I feel an attachment to her? Three chakras ago, that was a good thing.”

“You must learn to let go,” Pathik insisted firmly. Aang opened his mouth to retort, but the Guru raised his hand. “Let me tell you a story: Years ago a young Spirit came to this temple. A hard decision lay ahead of her.”

“What kind of decision?” Aang asked curiously.

“She had to decide between her attachment to her world and what she felt was right to do. We had some long discussions before she came to her decision.”

“And what did she decide?” Pathik looked at the young Avatar sternly.

“To do the right thing and let go.” Aang looked away, deep in thought.

***

Katara entered the throne room cheerfully. The newly arrived Kyoshi Warriors guarded the now-empty throne.

“Hi girls!” she greeted them cheerfully. “Once you are done with your shift, you should really go try that new teashop, “The Jasmine Dragon”. Suki, you must remember Zuko, he and his uncle are running it. Once the rest of the gang is back, maybe we could do a gathering there.” She looked around. “Where is the Earth King? We need to tell him that the orders for the invasion are ready.” The three girls stood up.

“Oh, don’t worry. I’ll be sure to let him know.” Katara’s eyes widened, recognizing the voice of the Fire Nation princess. Before she had a chance to react, Ty Lee jumped behind her and paralyzed her. Katara fell helpless to the ground. She could only hear in horror as Azula said:

“So, Zu Zu’s in the city too. I think it’s time for a family reunion.”

***

Aang looked up resolute.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t let go of Katara.” Guru Pathik shook his head.

“Aang, to master the Avatar State, you must open all the chakras. Surrender yourself.” The Avatar bit his lip, torn. Then he took a deep breath. He knew he had at least to try.

“Okay, I’ll try,” he said hesitantly.

 

A vision of a starry sky appeared in front of his eyes. The stars were moving around him at blurring speeds as the image of Katara appeared smiling and glided away. The stars stood on their position.

“Let the pure cosmic energy flow,” Pathik advised.

In front of Aang the Avatar Spirit appeared, along with trail of light connected him with his current incarnation. As Aang started walking towards him, his tattoos began to glow. He entered a sphere the Spirit created out of the spiritual energy surrounding them.

 

Suddenly another vision crossed his eyes. Katara was locked up in a small room, crying for help. Determined Aang leapt out of the sphere and ran to her. Thus he broke the connection and snapped rapidly out of his trance.

“Katara is in danger!” he cried, jumping to his feet. “I have to go.”

“No Aang!” Guru Pathik called alarmed. “By choosing attachment, you have locked the chakra!” Aang froze shocked. “If you leave now you won’t be able to go into the Avatar State at all!” Aang stood for a moment and then he ran to Appa, never once looking back. Pathik watched him go mournfully.

“You were right,” he whispered. “He wasn’t ready.”

“I wish I was able to be of more help,” a feminine voice said from his side. “I still haven’t repaid you for your guidance.” The old man turned to the Spirit.

“It was an honour to assist you,” he said humbly. “But why you came back here? It certainly wasn’t to warn me about the Avatar’s immaturity.” She shook her head.

“No,” she admitted. “The tranquillity of this place had always helped me to clear my thoughts. I learned lately some really interesting facts that seem to tie together in a rather unexpected way. Just by breathing the air here my thoughts now are clearer.”  She walked to end of the plateau. “But I need to return to Ba Sing Se too. I fear I’ve been gone for too long.” Guru Pathik shook his head in understanding.

“I hope I will see you again child.” She bowed in respect to the old man.

“I hope so too.” Then she disappeared.

***

Xin Fu was finding his patience unravelling rapidly. The brat’s whining had stopped, but it had given itself to a pounding that began and ended several times. Suddenly a loud clang was heard and the whole wagon shook. He stopped abruptly, waking his fellow traveller and they rushed to the back of the wagon.

“It’s another one of her tricks!” Master Yu said as they gaped to the empty cage.

“There’s a giant hole in the box. How’s that a trick?” Xin Fu retorted annoyed.

“It’s not!” Toph was heard behind them. “It’s the real deal!”

 

The two men turned to see the petite form of the earthbender standing a little away. With a few earthbending moves she threw them inside the cage, before bending it shut. Jumping on the roof of it she stomped her foot.

“I am the greatest earthbender in the world! Don’t you two dunderheads ever forget it!” Diving to the ground again she started running back to the direction of Ba Sing Se, the ground also moving to give her extra speed.

***

The teashop had closed for the day, so Zuko was surprised to hear feet approaching the front door as he cleaned up. A well-dressed man appeared and walked towards Iroh.

“A message from the royal palace.” He said respectfully. Worried Iroh scanned through the lines, paused and then read it again.

“I…I can’t believe it,” he managed to say.

“What is it uncle?” Zuko asked him worried too.

“Great news! We’ve been invited to serve tea to the Earth King!” he practically skipped back to the kitchen triumphantly. Zuko watched him go with a slight smile. He didn’t remember seeing his uncle so happy since the Siege of Ba Sing Se. It was definitely a wonderful turn of events they had come to this city.