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9th Nov 2013
Water, Earth, Fire, Air.
For 100 years, the four nation were at war on the day the Fire Nation first attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements could stop them, but he vanished.
About three years ago, my brother and I discovered the new Avatar, an airbender named Aang. And after finding some allies and mastering all four elements, Aang defeated Fire Lord Ozai and put an end to the war. We all set about rebuilding the world, but there is still tension between the nations and further secret activity that Aang may not be able to stop. But I believe Aang can.
"Okay, so I have a small balloon prepared for the journey that will be able to get you to the Southern Air Temple safely." Zuko and I both exited the main entrance towards the war balloon. There were a few guards and Kyoshi Warriors setting up the balloon with supplies. a few small crates full of food. Zuko changed out of his Fire Lord robes into something less regal. He called it his traveling clothes, but I had no idea what he was talking about. I was very grateful for his help all the same though.
I put my fist into my flat palm and bowed to him. "Thank you Fire Lord Zuko, this will be a great help to me."
"Okay, so we're good to go." I heard Suki's voice from somewhere. I looked around, and both Suki and Ty Lee both came walking from behind the balloon. There was something different, both were no longer in their uniforms, not even their make up was on; Suki was in what I presumed was a traditional green Kyoshi Island clothing, while Ty Lee wore a pink coloured Fire Nation clothing that revealed her belly. It looked cute, and it was nice to see her without all that make up.
"I'm sorry what?" I swear that I should have really started putting two and two together sooner.
"We're all going together to find Aang."
I realised what they were implying. I sighed and turned towards the ship. I couldn't bear to say it to their faces, it seems like I was being a jerk, but I had seriously not done this since . . . ever really. Anyways, I turned away when I said it, I regret it now, but it happened and I said after a quick sigh. "I thank you, all of you, for everything, but this is my journey and I will take it alone."
"Wait, what?" said Ty Lee.
"You can't just leave after everything we've been through," said Zuko.
"Please we only want to help." explained Suki.
"I'm sorry. This is my mess, and I will fix it, farewell."
"Stop! Don't you . . ." I have no idea what cut Zuko off from finishing his sentence. I stood next to the balloon. I held my head down, my eyes closed and tearing.
"Journeys can be lonesome sometimes." It was Iroh's voice. I still didn't turn to meet him.
I wiped my eyes and pretended that I was checking to ropes or making it look like I was doing something. "I'm used to it."
"I expect you are, living in a place with no one to talk to, no one to be there in the good times and the bad."
"I had Shi." I answered quickly. "H-He was company."
"Oh no, I don't doubt that." Well I did "A speechless infinite spirit can be comforting, I suppose, in their own way."
I stopped pretending and sighed. "I know what you want me to say."
I actually looked around at him this time. He was showing general concern. But I still couldn't keep my head up for long. I didn't look up in case I would meet the other eyes and I was feeling ashamed of what I said earlier. "Yes. You want me to let them come with me."
"I am not trying to force you to anything, you need to come to that conclusion yourself."
I looked at him, directly. "I know they all mean well, but this is something I have to do alone."
"That is what friends are for, they help you do things that you think you need to do alone, and even if you are right, they are always there to support you through it."
"Friend is a strong word, isn't it."
"Only when you think it isn't appropriately used."
"I just met these people . . ."
"And you were willing to risk your life saving them, just as they tried saving you."
"I was repaying a favour, okay?"
"Friends can still repay favours from one another. They can be your friends, but only if you choose to accept them as such. Think of it as eating a piece of cake, but you never had a piece before. You may seem reluctant to try it at first but eventually you will realise that it is something that you can never have too much of, and if you ever need it, you don't have to look far for another piece.
I smiled, I didn't feel that bad anymore. "For a minute I thought you were going to use tea as part of your metaphor."
"Oh, tea can just be a influential. I get so many great ideas with a calming cup in my hands."
I was about to put my fist into my palm, but he instead pulled me in for a hug. It wasn't conventional, but it was comforting. I barely knew the guy, but I appreciated it. "Thank you Iroh."
He nodded and walked back to the group. I looked back at them, a little ashamed of the way I was acting towards them. I guess I never thought about it that clearly. I was always by myself, so I always got by alone that I never considered "Thanks Uncle." I heard him whisper.
"I did nothing." He looked back at me smiling "He came to his own conclusion."
I mustered up the courage to walk back up to them. It took a while and a few rubs on the back of my head, but I apologised to them. "I'm sorry."
"For what?" Suki asked.
"Well, um . . . I . . ." I breathed slowly, then answered. "I am new to this . . . having people around, and while this is something that I have never had for a long time and have done this alone for a long time. I would be grateful if you would come with me."
Ty Lee immediately leaped into my arms for a big hug. I was a little shocked, but I appreciated the gesture. I looked at the other two. Their next lines must have been mistaking the situation.
"I'm not hugging." Zuko proclaimed.
"I'm good too." Suki added.
I smirked a little. "Thanks guys. Cummon, we've got an Avatar to find." We all began walking to the balloon, together, and I was glad.
"Wake up guys, we're here!" Over the hills we caught sight of Toph's school. It was a distance down and mists that were rolling through the skies were clouding the sight of it. But it was clearly in sight. The grounds were filled with all of Toph's students. There had to be at least be sixty there now.
"Finally, I thought the night would never end." Sokka complained, like he had been doing the whole flight over.
"Sokka, were you up all night?" I asked
"No, he was up for only two hours." Katara pointed out.
"Well it felt like more like twelve, I'm just saying."
Just like old times. I could help but miss these moments, even if Katara and Sokka both got on each other's nerves, I missed these a lot. Katara got up. "Quit whining Sokka."
"Quit complaining about my whining, I'm tired and need sleep." Yep, classic Sokka.
Appa started losing height as we drew in closer to the main grounds. But it wasn't the sight that we had all imagined: The school wasn't in one piece. There were holes everywhere, and pieces of the walls seemed to have been completely ripped from their foundations. The hall wasn't even standing anymore, it was now a pile of rubble, with all the students attempting to rebuild it.
"Why are they moving it with their hands?" asked Sokka.
I winced in his direction "They're Metalbenders, Sokka, not Earthbenders."
"Same difference." I rolled my eyes. Yep, classic Sokka.
There in the middle of the court yard, Toph was giving them all orders, not specific, just bossing them about. Half the stuff she was telling them to do wasn't even possible. I jumped immediately from Appa and landed on the ground behind her. "Hey Toph, I . . . WOAHHH!" Without a word of warning, she earthbent the ground underneath me, and catapulted me into a tree.
I was left hanging on the branch of the tree, until I slipped off and landed bottom first. I saw Toph's eyes widen, like she hadn't realised what she had done. "Aang! Oh, I'm so sorry."
Appa finally landed, Katara, Sokka and Momo all disembarked from his back. They all saw what happened, and Sokka exclaimed "What in the world, Toph?"
"I'm sorry. I just thought you were the other one"
I raised an eyebrow. "What other one? And what happened to your school?"
"It's a long story . . ."
"Urrhh . . ." Sokka complained. Katara punched him in this right arm. "Oww!"
I got back up onto my feet. "Tell us everything."
Toph then started walking towards the hall as we followed. All the equipment was buried in mountains of rubble, the walls, as I mentioned earlier, were gone, it was basically like a raised arena with no real boundary to it. Toph gave us the short answer to what happened, much to Sokka's delight. "It happened just before sunset. I was finishing up the lesson and then this guy just walked straight in and blew this place apart." Yeah, it was that short of a long answer.
I questioned her use of wording. "Blew it?" I didn't understand the specifics involved in 'blew', it didn't make a lot of sense.
Sokka took the opportunity to make a ridiculous joke that he would make sound serious. "Was it the Unicorn Wolf? It is still around. Don't let it eat me."
Katara of course set him right. "Sokka, that's just a story. Unicorn wolves can't knock down buildings just by breathing."
"Not to the three pig rats it wasn't."
Toph had enough of being made a mockery of by another of Sokka's jokes. She really flipped out at him. "For your information, it wasn't make believe, this was real and it wasn't some wild animal, it was a person. To be more specific, it was an Airbender."
All our faces dropped in shock "What?"
We all just stood in silence, it was a few minutes before we dropped our faces and were just silent. Katara spoke up first, putting her hand on Toph's shoulder. "Toph, that's impossible. Aang was with us this whole time. We only just got here."
Toph violently shook Katara's hand from her shoulder. "I know it wasn't twinkle toes, this guy was bigger and he wasn't as light on his feet."
"But I thought Aang was the last airbender" Sokka pointed out "Are you sure that you didn't see som . . ."
He stopped when he realised what he said. It was a common problem when we forgot about Toph's blindness. She didn't appreciate it either. "I don't see. Remember."
"Look believe what you want. I didn't make this up, it was an airbender. You can ask anyone."
"Did any of your students see it?" I asked.
"Well no," She answered "The targets . . . the students were all sleep, till I woke them up."
I looked around. All of them were exhausted and were lacking the will to move every quickly in their work. "How long have they been up?" I asked.
Toph looked around, well she more like turned her head to make it look like she was looking round before shrugging her shoulders. "I dunno. Three, four, nnnine hours tops."
Sokka's jaw dropped completely. "Nine hours! How can they be working like this for nine hours?"
"Sifu Toph took the nails from our beds," said one of the students.
"She said that they won't go back in till the hall is fixed," explained another.
We all looked at Toph and just stared at her in silence. She was initially smiling, but she realised that we were not talking, which she knew straight away that we were staring at her. "What. It's motivational."
Sokka winced "Riiiiight."
I was still determined to get some answers. If there was another airbender, I needed to know more. "Who else could have seen this person then."
"Everyone in the nearby village."
"How can you tell?"
Toph pointed to the road behind us. "Because they're all coming this way. And they're pretty angry." We all turned around at the sight of an angry mob.
The last time I flew out on a balloon, I followed the Avatar to the Western Air Temple. Now I was following on his trail to the Southern Air Temple. The last time I went there, again I was looking for him. It's strange to think how these are all the same motives, but for different purposes.
We'd managed to get the balloon working with a much faster engine so the journey was shorter, courtesy of the Mechanic from the Northern Air Temple. While he said that Sokka provided the idea, I seriously doubted he produced more than a colourful child's drawing of the balloon with jet fires propelling a couple of happy stickmen on a basket carried by an egg.
I looked out into the sky. Things were so much different now that it was scary. I lived most of my life when we were at war. It seems almost like an illusion that we have peace. No more invasions, or people killing other people for land in offence and defence like wise. A lot of people I cared about suffered so much because of it; my great-grandfather Roku, my grandfather Azulon, uncle Iroh, cousin Lu Ten, my mother. I might even go as far to name Azula, my sister. My scheming, twisted, manipulative sister. Her sanity suffered from the war, she became bent on nothing but destruction. I heard from one of her nurses that she used to just sit in her room, rocking back and forth in front of her mirror. Just whispering to herself, saying 'Burn it all. Burn it all. Burn her. Burn her.' . . .
"Are you okay Zuko?" asked Suki.
I looked around back at her "Oh, eh. I'm fine." I looked over at Ithar, who was just looking out, rather much like I was. I felt a little worried about him. "What's with him?"
"I don't know. He was okay earlier, but now he's just been staring out there."
"For how long?
"Most of the journey."
I knew very well that it had to be deeper than just looking. "Well unless there's a cloud that has stuck around, I doubt he's sightseeing."
Ty Lee the interjected into our conversation. "Can I weigh in here."
"What is it?" I asked.
"Do both of you remember how close he is?"
"Yes." Suki answered.
"And that he can hear every word you're saying?"
My eyes widened. "Oh."
"I can, and I did." he answered. His tone was slightly deep and coarse, like we offended him by seemingly ignoring his existence.
"Ooh, sorry about that." I answered.
"Yeah, we're both sorry Ithar, we didn't take you into consideration." Suki added.
He turned around to face us. He looked down, refusing to meet our eyes. He sniffed, and I noticed that he had been crying. He wiped his face and looked at us with his blood shot eyes. "Apology accepted, and thanks, Ty Lee."
He turned back around and looked out into the sky. But he wasn't finished with us. "I may not be a bender, but I have ears and they hear very well. Please don't forget it next time you talk about me."
"We won't, we promise." I answered.
His head then raised. I had a bad feeling I just struck the wrong word. He set his blood shot eyes back at us. "Promise? You make a promise to me. That's a serious answer, one that is expected to be fulfilled. Can you live up to something you swore, even if at the cost of your own lives?"
We were now getting worried, that twinkle was back, but it was now sharp, and seemingly crazy. That same look Azula had on the night of our Agni Kai. "Ithar?" Suki said, but she was futile to try and stop him at that moment.
"Can You!?" he yelled
We were all now worried. I was just staring as was everyone. Ty Lee was getting upset at his mood swing, and I couldn't blame her. I stepped forward in front of him. "Calm down! Look we said we were sorry, what more do you want?"
His piercing eyes focused purely on me, widening and slowly closing till the lids were barely apart. "What do . . . I want? I agreed to have you lot along. I'm still new to having people who I can consider friends around. But don't expect me to suddenly change my attitude after a couple of hugs."
The mention of hugs in his distasteful tone was enough to send Ty Lee over the edge. She struck him quickly in his left arm. The muscles went limp and he looked straight at her. She was crying, not loudly, but it was plain to see. Her reaction was also enough to snap him out of his tantrum, the angry and crazy look was gone, until his eyes were just bloodshot, no trace of that dread we feared left.
"No, no, I didn't mean it like that." he tried explaining. He was too late to apologise as he clutched to his arm. He looked down, he knew very well what he had caused. "I mean it, I liked the hugs. I did. It was like . . . like a . . . " He looked back to her " . . . a dream."
She met his eyes, but looked away again. I couldn't blame her. Soft words were not going to fix the damage he caused. But at least he made a start. That was all he could do.
I looked out to the area around. I was grateful for the sight I witnessed. "Look, there it is. The Southern Air Temple"
Everyone looked around. It was truly a sight to behold.
"Wow, it's so majestic." Suki said.
"Beautiful." Ty Lee added.
Ithar looked out, but almost immediately turned away. "He's not here, let's go."
I turned to him. "What?"
"We just got here." Suki added.
"The Avatar's gone, he's not here."
He was making no sense. "We haven't even landed and looked. You can't be so certain of that." I asked.
"Yes I can."
I was getting mad at him. "If you looked in the future, then why did you waste our time?"
"I haven't, and I never will. Besides that's impossible seeing that I have no bending."
"Think about it, if the Avatar was here, don't you think he would have been flying around here, even immediately come out to see us if he was here? Not even his sky bison is here and those things are massive."
"Well, we don't have any leads, we might as well land and get some answers. These air acolytes will know where he went."
"Why? He probably went to the South Pole."
I raised an eyebrow. "Why?"
He rolled his eyes. "I'm sorry, how long have you known him. I haven't even met the guy and I feel I know him better than you guys. He's with that, um, Southern Water Tribe girl."
"Katara." Suki answered.
"Right. Now naturally if you were him and you were setting out , the first place you would go would be south in order to get her and her brother . . ."
"Sokka." Suki added.
"Right, didn't need his name, but okay."
I managed to pick up the flaw in his little plan. "But we don't know how long that could have been? It might have been weeks, maybe months."
"Yeah, and if we just follow him, we'll never catch him. Appa is faster than any airship the Fire Nation can muster. No mechanic can make anything to out fly Appa." Suki added.
"The least we can do is ask them." I concluded.
Ithar sighed. He knew he was beat. "Fine. Land the ship. It seems we have some questions to ask."
"There he is!"
"Bring him here!"
The angry mob came at us. All of them angry, so so angry. I stepped up to find out what they wanted. "Good people of the Earth Kingdom, what do you want."
"We want the Avatar now!"
Ok, that was very precise. Now it was time to smooth it in. "Can we get a rain check on that?"
Or maybe not. "Just checking."
"But why do you want Aang, we've only just got here." Katara attempted to explain, but they weren't buying it.
"We're not buying it." See "We were disturbed last night by a freak wind that was created by an airbender. And the only airbender is him."
I then had a great idea. Being the idea guy was a gift, but this was serious and I knew the solution. "Wow, hold it right there. Now seeing as we can't agree here, I propose something that will resolve everything."
After a few minutes, I set up a stand, several seats made from pieces of rubble, and even put my fake beard on. The only way that these people will let this go, was to do it the democratic way; a court case. Aang, Katara and Toph were all positioned on the left, the Earth Kingdom Mob on the right and I had the metalbenders on the far left, after fighting through some harsh words from Toph.
"I open this court to order. how does the defendant plead?" I announced in my beard voice, as I had done as the elusive Fire Nation Citizen, Pvt Wang Fire of the Colonies.
Aang however wasn't going to play along. He rolled his eyes at me from his seat. "Sokka you know very well."
I stoked my judge's beard. "Hmm, is that a guilty I hear?"
Aang got up, looking clearly annoyed. "No, not guilty."
I continued into my role, and further stroked my beard. "Hmm, interesting. Right now we will hear from the prosecution first."
The man was the leader of the mob, a middle aged man, maybe his late 40's. He wore typical green and brown Earth Kingdom clothing. His hair was tied into a little bun tied with a green band. In many ways he reminded me of the Boulder, except this man was less bulkier, and wearing a shirt, and didn't have a goatee. Oh and he didn't talk in third person either.
"Mr Earth Kingdom Man, you may start."
He winced at me. "It's Mr Zhui."
"Hmm, yes, of course, of course. Avatar Aang to the stands please." Aang got up from his seat and sat next to me on a smaller seat to make it appear I was higher up than he was. I turned to this Mr Zhui and said "You may begin."
He walked over to Aang and asked. "Can you airbend?"
Now I had to admit that that was a good question. Aang didn't. "What kind of question is that? I'm an Air Nomad, and the Avatar, of course I can."
That was all they were looking for. "There, see he admitted it. Guilty!"
The crowd began chanting "Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!"
Toph stood up, raised her leg and stomp so hard on the ground that one of the walls that the school was trying to rebuild came crumbling down quicker than it was built. The look on her students was of deep shock and awe. But at least it quieted them down.
"Order in the court." I declared "Now we will hear from the defence. Katara."
Katara got up and walked towards Aang. "Aang, where were you last night at midnight?"
"With you and Sokka, flying on Appa above the ocean."
"Okay, and how far would you say that is from here?"
"I don't know, miles?"
"And when did you arrive here."
"Half an hour ago."
"Right, so were you actually able to get there from the ocean where ever you were to the village within the night before sun rise."
"Of course not."
"Objection." Mr Zhui declared "He is the only one who could have done it. Only an airbender could generate enough wind to lay waste to our village."
I spoke up "Hmm, yes, I see your point there, Mr Earth Kingdom Man."
"It's still Zhui."
"Yes, quite so. Then I have no choice but to name the defendant, guilty!" I whacked my boomerang on a rock. It wasn't exactly the hard sound the mood required, it was more of a light high pitch metal sound. But it was all I had.
"Sokka!" Katara yelled at me.
My eyes widened. I panicked at that moment, my fake beard even fell off. I completely broke out of my role "Oh right! Uh hum." I was now met with hundred of angry faces. I put on a very large smile. "Eh heh, Not . . . Guilty!"
A woman from the crowd stood up, with his fist punching the air. "You're too late. He said guilty!"
"Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!"
At that point they all started standing up and walking towards Aang. Aang was left staring at a crowd that potentially wanted to tear him apart. He summed up his situation pretty well; "Monkey Feathers."
The mob was closing in to take Aang. This was so much similar to what had happened at Chin Village on Avatar Day about a year ago. But I had a feeling the Rough Rhinos weren't coming this time to provide an excuse to avoid punishment. I knew Aang, and if he was to blame, he would willingly accept his punishment. But Aang wasn't responsible and we all knew that, even Toph who wasn't with us knew the airbender wasn't Aang.
That doesn't help us figure out this other airbender, but we had bigger problems than it right now. We were all preparing to fight them off. Me with my water, Toph and her students with any piece of earth and metal, and Sokka with his . . . boomerang. Not as good as his sword was, but it has helped us in the past and I don't doubt Sokka's ability to use it.
The mob continued shouting "Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!" Their cries echoed in the valley. Then, everything changed when they were silenced by a large explosion. Fire rained across the village below in a direct straight line. Everyone turned to watch as part of the village began to fall into ashes.
"Our village!" many of them shouted and cried out.
Aang pulled out his glider. "Cummon guys."
We all nodded. "Got it." I answered.
"Right behind you twinkle toes."
"Yeah, roll out Team Avatar!"
"Hey wait! Stop him!" As soon as Aang started flying, the earthbenders and firebenders in the village hurling what ever they had at him. Fire and rocks alike went soaring straight towards him. Toph slammed her foot on the ground and raised a large stone wall to block their attacks. Aang was lucky enough to get away from the ungrateful folks while we held them back from following. I then brought out my water from my pouch and froze all their feet to prevent them chasing him.
"What's wrong with you, he's trying to help!" I tried to explain with such distaste in my tone. I couldn't believe how ungrateful they were to him for what he was trying to do for them.
"He attacked us. We all saw him."
"Did you?" I demanded.
"We saw an airbender, what more evidence is there you need."
"Yeah!" cried the mob in unison.
"Maybe you can remember the particular features about your assailant?" Sokka offered.
"He was an Air Nomad. He was wearing robes, and was bald, and had an orange tattoo on his head."
"Orange?" Sokka said.
"No, no, it was more of a red."
"Red?" Toph said.
"You are all mistaken. It was defiantly Vermillion."
"Oh now that is just being indecisive."
They continued arguing about the colour, all ranging from shades of red, orange, yellow, even white. I heard someone say black which everyone shrugged off a stupid answer considering there was no way they could have seen black in the middle of the night. We all started looking at each other, or at least me and Sokka did. Toph didn't usually look us straight in the eyes, considering she can't see them. "Are any of you lot following this?" Sokka asked. We both just shook our heads and shrugged our shoulders.
"Yes, It's . . ."
I finally put a stop to there arguing. "Villagers! You are all wrong if what you say is true. You describe an airbender that possesses a Aang's tattoo is blue, not red or orange or what ever. It's a pale sky blue
"Yeah, and in the shape of a clean arrow." Sokka added.
"Don't look at me, I have no idea what an arrow looks like or what colour it is." Toph added.
The villagers were all blank. They all knew they were wrong and we had the necessary proof now. "But, it . . ., he . . . he . . ."
"Is right now trying to save your village, which is what you should be doing rather than arguing about colours of arrows. Now let's get moving . . ."
Then there was another *BOOM* There was an another explosion, but this time, it was further away. Back the village, Aang was visibly fighting the fire, but about 4 miles away, the nearby dam had exploded and the wall was collapsing. Water was rushing from the cracks and forming a small river next to the villages edges, but it would be a matter of minutes before the river became a lake.
I turned to my brother, hoping he was quick enough for a plan that didn't involve him in a role playing exercise. "Sokka."
He nodded. He had a plan, thank goodness. "Toph, take your students and the firebenders to the dam. Try and plug that hole before it floods the village. Katara and I will go with the earthbenders and anyone who can carry a bucket to help Aang douse the fires. If we all survive and don't drown or burn, then we will have saved the village. Everyone, let's move out!"
Sokka raised his boomerang in the air, and stood there waiting for a cheer. The crowd remained silent. They all just stared as Sokka realised that he was speaking to himself at that point.
Toph called out to her students "Let's go lily livers, let's put our bending to the limits!" There was a loud cheer from the metalbenders, grabbing hold of any pieces of shrapnel nearby to use as a plug. Toph and her students started moving out towards the dam in complete military formation, with Toph at the head.
Sokka looked completely in awe that Toph got her students more motivated than he could with everyone. "Sometimes genius just isn't appreciated." he declared as he came to that conclusion. The villagers just remained silent, staring out at the destruction that had been created.
"If you want to save your village, then follow the plan!" I yelled. "Firebenders to the dam! Everyone else to the village! Now!" I started walking towards Appa dragging a shocked Sokka on board as we took off towards the village. Lucky enough, a few villagers peeled off from the mob and to the village, they were joined by a few more, and some more until at least half of them were making there way to their destinations the last time I looked.
I know it was uncalled for. All of it was. No one deserved what I was saying, no one. Not Zuko, not Suki, not Ty Lee, not anybody. I just needed to be alone. I basically stormed off as soon as we landed.
The Air Acolytes were walking up to us, but I basically just walked through them. I caught no word they were saying, more likely the first thing to come out after walking through a greeting would be the ask what the heck is the problem with a person that won't pay any attention to a hello. That was me. I didn't choose it, but it was. No, scrap that, I chose to ignore them, that was me.
I walked around the temple. It was a lot larger than the numbers of Acolytes required. But I remembered that it belonged to the Nomads before them. There were literally hundreds of paintings and statues of all these bald men and bald front women. Sky Bison and Flying Lemur Bats covered images of the air temple.
I came to a door. It was clearly meant to be opened with Airbending, but lucky for me, the last person to open it left the doors right open. I entered to find the hall with statues of every Avatar. But there was only one Avatar I was focusing on. I walked forward towards him. Past Tzenno, past Yangchen, past Kuruk, and past Kyoshi. "It's your fault." I said to the statue.
The statue just continued staring off into the distance above my head. Its stare was so emotionless
"It's your fault!" I shouted. But it continued to just stare. I could feel my fist clenching. My eyes watering at his presence.
"IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT! ALL YOUR FAULT! AVATAR ROKU! YOU LET ALL THIS HAPPEN! IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT!" I bellowed till my lungs were gasping, my throat was sore and there was a continuous echo in my ears.
It's all your fault all your fault all your fault your fault your fault fault fault
"I would appreciate it if you didn't yell at my great-grandfather like that."
I turned around and Zuko was there standing in the door way. I looked down at the ground. I still felt too uncomfortable to look them in the eyes. "I'm surprised you wanted to talk to me after the way I acted."
"I know what it's like."
"No. You don't."
"I do; I know what it's like being alone for so long. So focused on your mission that you forget about everything else that's really important. You get so frustrated that you just yell at everyone to get that anger out, but you unintentionally hurt the people who care about you because of it."
"You guys actually care about some kid you found a couple of days ago."
"If we didn't, why would we want to join you."
I looked at him in him in the eyes with a raised eyebrow and a somewhat joking smile. "To help your friend the Avatar."
He raised both his eyebrows. "Oh right. Well, that too, I guess."
I actually raised my head, but I still didn't look at him. "I know you all mean well. But I am not the greatest of company . . ."
"You can say that again."
"Yeah I know. It's just ever since I lost my bending I just feel . . ."
"Powerless, useless, a waste of space."
"It's true though. I feel just as I did before."
"Not what, when."
"Well before when then?"
I turned my head completely away and directly at the statue again. "I can't say."
"Of course you can. Just tell me."
I turned all the way around and towards him and started walking towards him. "When I owe you a favour and you ask again, only then will I tell you. But for now, it's not the time." I continued walking on, walking straight past him, but at least I could hold my head up this time.
"Wait, hang on." Zuko protested, but I was quick to change the subject. I didn't want to talk about it just yet.
"So where to?"
"You still didn't answer my question."
"And you're not answering mine."
He sighed. "I actually don't know. I went straight after you when you stormed off the balloon. Suki and Ty Lee are asking the Air Acolytes if they know anything."
I turned and finally faced him. I looked at him straight in the eyes and told him "Well then, let's not waste any time then."
"Metalbenders to the ready." We reached the dam after a long enough walk. Seriously, these guys weren't all motivated enough to run. I had to force them to move quicker with something I like to call a giant roller. It was easy when it went down into the valley. I still smile over the sound of their panic, it reminds me why I went into teaching.
They lined up into divisions through the water and started pulling together what metal they had into one big sheet. The water was rushing up to at least knee height before we could get ready for the plugging. "And raise." I heard the metal slam itself back into dam. The water died down pretty quickly, but it was still leaking.
"Hold it." The students we growing tired. The water behind it was growing stronger as more and more began building up.
"Hold it!" I continued to yell out.
"Sifu Toph, it's exhausting." one of them complained.
"We can't hold it." another whined.
I yelled back "Push harder!" I had not choice but to step in. I joined in after raising a few support pillars to help keep it in place. They were not kidding. This was heavy. But as if I was going to let them know it.
"Where are the firebenders?" They continued to complain.
"This is heavy."
The columns collapsed under the weight. It was becoming unbearable. But there was no way that I was going to give in like these wusses were. "Put your backs into it, lily livers. We will hold this until that dam is plugged."
"Even if we get hungry?"
"Even if we get famished, we will see through it."
I would have stared at him if I could stare. "No, I'm blind, I can't see." I've been their teacher for how long and someone still forgets. *sigh* "And you better remember that next time."
It was no good, most of them were too tired to hold it any longer. If this had been entirely earth then it wouldn't be a problem. The impurities in the metal were little and little could be held by all of us. More water was starting to leak out and I felt it rise higher up my legs.
"Hold!" It dropped further. "Hold! HOLD IT UP!" We managed to actually get it back into place, but I was very aware that we could not hold this forever. We were lucky to see the firebenders arrive. They let loose streams of fire around the edges, heating them to the point they went liquid. I finally let go. What a relief.
"About time you showed up." I said sarcastically to them. But I heard no answer from any of them.
Obviously they had no sense of humour. Typical Fire Nation, dry as a stone slab. "This village is dull. So where did Katara and Sokka get to?"
"*sigh* The Water Tribe people on the flying animal."
"Oh them. They went to the village."
"And how are they getting on?"
They turned to each other. I thought they were probably looking cluelessly. "We don't know." they answered.
I sighed. I knew they were going to answer this way. What can you expect I guess. "Just fix this hole. I'll find them."
"Wait. Do you need an escort?"
I stopped in my tracks. I'll let it slide, once. But I was not going to let them forget what they said. I turned slightly towards their direction and simply answered "No." And with that I stomped the ground to throw me into the air, and I was away.
We came back through the doors. Ithar was making it difficult for himself, deliberately walking fast and ahead to avoid any further conversation. I still won't know what he had against Avatar Roku, but whatever the issue, it had to be big, he looked as if he was going to punch the stone statue until he broke both his knuckles. Which to be honest would have been the first two punches, the stone they make the statues out of is nearly indestructible. It take professional earthbending stonemasons sixteen years to carve it into a perfect likeness of the Avatar.
We re-entered the court yard where Suki and Ty Lee were still talking to them. Or at least I thought they were till the Acolytes demonstrated their gliders they got from the Northern Air Temple, courtesy of the Mechanist and the Air Walkers.
I noticed near the edge a few of the Acolytes, and Ty Lee, were taking off. They started circling and gliding around the skies. They were laughing as their weightlessness carried them across the skies. It truly was as Aang described it was.
I noticed Ithar staring at them flying. He wasn't angry, at least not anymore. But he was rather sad, pulling a false smile to hide it. It wasn't too convincing, but I let it slide, for his sake at least.
I approached Suki, who hadn't realised that we had returned. "So do you know?" I asked.
She turned around. "Oh, Zuko. Sorry, didn't see you there." She looked over to Ithar. "Is he, you know, 'sane' again."
"I think so."
"Did you find out what's wrong?"
"He said that he had to owe us a favour before he would tell us."
"I guess so. But you still didn't answer my question."
"I, uh . . . we . . . actually haven't asked yet."
"Well why not? We need that information."
"We were, but . . . but they were so nice. We didn't wish to be rude."
Then an Acolyte flew down and stopped while cutting in between us. He attempted to swings his staff and fold the wings in, something Aang would normally do. But he forgot that his glider was built to hook him in rather than allow an easy fold away. After a few seconds of attempt he realised his mistake and just held it by his side. "Forgive my intrusion. But are you by chance looking for the Avatar?"
"Yes. That was our whole reason for coming here." Suki answered.
"Well, Avatar Aang left here perhaps a few days ago. He was heading to the Southern Water Tribe . . ."
"Told you all." Ithar shouted from away. He didn't make eye contact, he just yelled and continued staring.
". . . but then he said he would go to Hu Xin Provinces."
"To the Beifong Metalbending Academy." I said.
"They're getting Toph." Suki added.
"That's good. If they took an overnight flight, Appa would be too tired to fly for another few nights. We could gain ground on them and reach them by the next day." I evaluated.
"If we left now." Ithar actually turned to look at us. He wasn't bloodshot and crazy, but he was determined, but his determination was hopping over the line between determined and potentially crazy.
"We can't leave now. It's past midday." Suki protested.
"So." he answered bluntly.
"I'm not staying up all night fueling the balloon." I protested.
He rolled his eyes and turned around, using his arms to expand on his expression. "Then what do we do then. If we leave later he could be off before we even get to him." He turned to face the Acolyte, who was very confused on what he had intruded on. "Where is his next destination after Hu Xin?"
"The Avatar planned to show his friends the marvel of the Eastern Air Temple."
"That's on the other side of the Earth Kingdom."
"That would take . . . two weeks most."
"Actually more like nine days."
He screwed his eyes closer in and rolled them in the Acolytes direction. "Thank you I needed that," he replied, in an almost sarcastic tone
The Acolyte turned to me and said, "We would be honoured to let the Fire Lord and his friends stay with us for the night. We have plenty of accommodations. Boys to the right and girls to the left."
I bowed. "Thank you."
He then came in closer just as Ithar began walking away to the right. "Is he okay or is there something wrong with him?"
I looked back at him. His head was now down. His mood swings were worrying. I turned back to the Acolyte. "I don't know. I really don't know."
The fire was running wild. Monkey Feathers on top of Monkey Feathers, this whole village was going to combust at this rate, even if the dam does decide to burst. Katara and I using what little water we could use to douse it out and Sokka continuously going back and forth with the non-benders getting water from the overflowing stream running near the outskirts. I haven't seen any earthbenders around, but the sound of thundering rocks colliding was enough to clarify that they were helping too.
Katara was using her water whip to put out the flames, while continuing to use the same source of water. But the amount she had was very little and drying out fast. I could barely do much with airbending; the first few tries I just allowed the fire to spread further across the houses. I couldn't use waterbending either since Katara was using the only water available, the rest was being carried by the villagers to douse it out in other areas. Earthbending wasn't an option either, I still need to work on more advanced moves before I can use it for these situations. I'm not even going to comment on firebending.
"It's no good Aang. There isn't enough water to put all this out." Katara was right of course. At this rate, the fire would consume the town. But I couldn't afford to give up, not on anyone. I refused to give up.
"We can't give up. They're counting on me, Katara. They're counting on us." I answered.
Then, from out of nowhere something came crashing into the middle of the streets. My first reaction was to flinch at the possibility that it was a flaming projectile. But as the dust that had gathered quickly dispersed, it was something much more deadly:
"Toph!" I called out.
"It's still boiling around here, Twinkle Toes. I thought you guys had this under control."
"We could say the same as you." Katara commented.
Toph cracked her knuckles and replied "The Dam's blocked up and the Firebenders are melding it into place. No more leaks guaranteed."
"Already?" I answered
"That's pretty fast." Katara added.
"What can I say. I get the job done right."
"So what are you doing now?"
"Just taking in the view." Toph demonstrated by tucking both her hands behind her head. Which was fine until a piece of the roof came falling at her feet.
"Well, let's get this fire out first." I pointed out.
"Agreed. What do you need?" she asked.
I thought for a moment. I originally thought about a large trench, but that wouldn't stop it going over the . . "A wall, something to isolate the flames from spreading further. Something big and high to encase it in."
"Let's do this." She agreed.
I took Toph to the nearest edges of the fire. We then started earthbending up massive stone walls to keep the fire in and separating it from the few houses that were not on fire. It took both of us half a minute to raise one long wall on one side before we moved on around the next edge. All the villagers stopped watching and stared. What would have been good was if they actually continued helping rather than standing there watching. Lucky the earthbenders were actually paying attention, as they began to raise smaller walls to push the fire back through the streets.
Before long the fire was isolated in the town centre. the problem now was now the fire growing too large inside the centre. Lucky for us, Sokka was back on Appa with a lot of water and plenty of people with buckets.
"We're back with more water."
"Bring it down here." I called out.
"No need. Yip yip, Firefighting slice!"
I had to admit, Sokka knew what he was doing; he took what buckets he had on Appa and poured it down into the fiery buildings below. Katara and I went to work collecting it after it doused the buildings and reusing to tackle the rest. Toph raised a gutter system that picked up the buckets and directed the flow of their water into what ever direction she chose by feeling around for heat.
Though once we were all settled, Sokka was left doing nothing. So he chose to lighten the mood by his own choice.
"I know this is a terrible situation we're in here, but has anyone come up with a good joke to suit this atmosphere?"
"No, we've been trying to save this village. It kind of slipped our mind." Katara commented sarcastically.
"That's okay, it doesn't have to be fire related."
"Sokka, this really isn't the time." I replied.
"Cummon, we've put out plenty of fires . . . benders."
"We have" Toph pointed out. "You throw your boomerang and expect it to come back with a few benders knocked out."
"Don't you dare insult the boomerang. He has only nice things to say about you."
I gave in, I knew he wasn't going to let it go, so I fed him something to keep him occupied. "Well actually, Toph had a good joke."
And there was that excited smile on his face. "Alright, we're getting somewhere. Hit me." Katara walked up to him and literally hit him. I guess she thought that he was still being too ridiculous. "Ow, I meant Toph." Toph then did the same. "Ow, not like that either." I knew she was aware what he meant.
"You wouldn't think it's funny." she taunted.
"Are you kidding, I'm the funny guy. I laugh at all jokes. Bring it."
"It was kind of a moment thing."
His eyes shot wide open. "Wait, what?"
"It was just something that happened. It wasn't intentional or anything."
"Those are the best ones! And I missed it! Ohhh." He complained. "Can you at least give me the context."
Toph had enough playing around with him. "Okay. Well Aang asked me what I was doing, and then I said . . ."
The fire blazed too much near me that it was growing. "Toph, a little help over here."
- Slam* She flipped the whole street just by stomping her foot. "So I said I was just taking in the view."
Sokka stood there completely oblivious, bad move. "I don't get it."
Toph stared at him, placed her left hand on her hip and waved her right hand over her eyes. He then widened his eyes and put on a fake laugh. She didn't buy it.
"Sorry. I'll just go get more water. Good joke though. Very funny." and he zoomed off on Appa, to get away from Toph.
After a few hours, the fire was out. The ashes of the buildings that tragically fell collected in the streets like gravel. The walls were dropped back into the ground and the firebenders and metalbenders rejoined us in the remains of the town centre. The hostilities from the former mob was gone as everyone expressed their depression for the loss of their homes, and luckily, they also expressed their gratitude for us saving what remained.
Mr Zhui bowed slightly in front of me. "Thank you Avatar. I think that we may have been hasty to have judged you so harshly before. Can you please forgive us."
I blushed slightly. "Hey, everyone makes mistakes. It's part of life."
"If you hadn't arrived, the entire village would have been burnt to the ground. We thank you especially for that."
"But that's not all. We still don't know who started the fire . . ." I pointed out, I stared back at my friends, they suddenly came to the revelation as well. ". . . or why?"
- The Air Acolytes have settled in the Southern Air Temple as seen in " ".
- Toph has more metalbending students as previously mentioned in "The Search Part 1".
- Sokka puts on his "Wang Fire" Beard, which was last used in "Nightmares and Daydreams".
- The Earthbender and Firebender co-existence was kept after the events of "The Promise Part 3".
- Toph and Aang restart earthbending training in " ".
- A description of the main antagonist is first mentioned, having not been made in his previous appearance due to Toph's blindness.
For the collective works of the author, go here.