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Combustible
Chapter information
Series

Avatar: Beyond the Void

Book

1: Wood

Chapter

4

Written by

AdamantiumBladez

Editor(s)

AdamantiumBladez
SqueakyFoxAntelope

Release date

17th Nov 2013

Chronology
Last chapter

Air Acolytes

Next chapter

The Storyteller

Katara

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 tensions between the nations and further secret activity that Aang may not be able to stop. But I believe Aang can.

???

"That was an impressive little demonstration, don't you think?"

The bounty hunter stayed silent. I just breathed heavily. The night was high, but it would be morning soon. The moon was starting to lose its full form, slowly creep away back into the shadows. The cliff over looking the village was high enough to remain from view, but the village and the damage caused earlier in the day. It was a job well done.

I continued talking to my new friend. "Yes, I admit that my little chaos was just a small step. But your explosions were truly a masterpiece."

He stood there in silence as I continued looking outward to the scene.

"Oh no, I do realise that it completely undid the deceit I sewed in the colonials, but it sent a message at least. Besides, that's not the main job is it."

He was still silent. Why was that? Oh yeah.

"What's that? Oh yes, you can't talk. I know, even when you had a vocal chord, you chose not to speak. Then a again, actions speak louder than words don't they."

He took a step. The metal slammed into the rock, making a loud clang as it struck. He was growing restless. But I wasn't scared, I had one over him.

"I know that you demand high payment. But, that depends how much you think your life is really worth."

He stopped and pulled his leg back. Just as I wanted.

"I understand that I originally agreed to pay you, but I already paid your price, the cost of your other leg and arm, as well as your throat, right hip and an . . . upgrade to make it easier."

"You now have everything you need, your skills, your weapons, and your name that demonstrates your ability."

He exhaled heavily, mimicking a bull in a state before it charges.

"I know that it's not your name. But I must admit, it's catchy, and it's clear. It sends all the right messages. Fear, Power, Job Done."

I continued after a brief pause. "Your last attempts against them have been . . . poor. That is why we are going to use a new angle of handling this."

I turned to look him straight in the eyes this time. He may have been taller, but I was in charge and he knew it.

"Leave the Avatar for now, I have his demise planned out, but it requires another's to make this work accordingly. I have a new task for you; this one will be fatal." I smiled. I liked the way I sounded, so dark, but so clever. The perfect evil genius tone made me shiver slightly.

My new friend looked slightly worried for the moment. "Oh don't worry, I mean for them, and not you like the last time you were at an Air Temple."

I turned away and looked back out into the distance again. "I expected that fool Hama to have done the job, but I never expected him to come. Not what I wanted, but I expected the possibility."

I took a few steps towards the opposite direction, towards the Southern Air Temple. Yes, I was fully aware where my old 'acquaintance' and the target were. "Lucky for us, the one thing she did do right was take his bending. Now the game will become more interesting. This is where you will come in, to finish what she started. This is now your mission . . . The Combustion Man."

We began walking, but not for long, just enough to build momentum for a quick travel top our destination. I will explain about it in time. But all you need to know is . . . Now you saw us, now you didn't, in a flash.

Aang

The morning rose and we all awoke. Toph had gotten her students back to work on the school after giving them the night off. At least that's what she told us. I boarded Appa after feeding him a light breakfast of a bundle of hay, donated in appreciation by the villagers despite losing a good amount of their town centre.

Katara and Sokka immediately boarded and I called out "Right, we have to get going now."

"Are you sure you can't stay?" One of the villagers asked.

"Sorry, but we've got places to see."

"Do visit again sometime."

I kind of hoped not to, my face made that clear to see, but I covered it up by explaining "Oh, we hope we do."

"Are guys serious right now?" Sokka exclaimed, lounging on the back end of the saddle.

"Sokka!" Katara yelled.

"What? These people wanted to rip Aang apart only yesterday and now you want to make friends with them." We both just stared at him and he flapped his hands to the side and turned over to presumably sleep it off. "I don't get you guys sometimes."

I looked around and noticed that Toph didn't move at all. She was still standing there watching . . . er,  observing the construction site, with her arms crossed over. "Toph, are you ready?" I called out.

"You guys go ahead, I'm busy."

"What? But we've been planning this for months now."

"Toph, it won't be the same without you." Katara added.

"I'm flattered, but the thing is, the beauty of the Eastern Air Temple *sss* doesn't appeal to me. Besides, I've got a school to finish repairing."

She continued to just stand there. With her back to us as the school was still slowly rebuilding itself. "Toph? . . . "

At that moment Katara placed her hand on my shoulder and pulled me back before I was about to dismount. "Let me handle this sweetie." she explained.

She got off and walked over to her. I could barely hear what they were saying, bit from what I could make out, their conversation was something like this: "Katara, you can't change my mind."

"I know, and I completely understand. You have a duty to your students."

"Finally, something we can agree on."

"Yes, but I'm worried about Aang." Shucks, I blushed a little.

"Who isn't, he is the Avatar. If he were to die, then this whole place would be in chaos. Not that I have anything against it, but school repairs aren't cheap."

"Well, I think that he may be losing his touch with Earthbending."

Toph then turned around at that point. "Seriously?" Yeah, seriously?

"Well, he barely even uses it, and he couldn't use it to put out the fire without your help."

She smiled like she thought of it as a compliment. "I know."

"Well, I was thinking it over and it doesn't seem right if you let your first student continue to go on without a properly help him perfect earthbending."

Toph's ears pricked up, her whole tone changed at that instant to somewhat like she was just looking for an excuse. "You're right. What was I thinking, leaving my favourite student out in the open world without the fulfilling the rest of his training. What kind of a teacher would I be."

"So you're coming?"

"Don't need to be told twice, Sugar Queen. We have a temple to visit."

I sat up as Katara and Toph approached us. "Toph, you're coming?"

"Of course, Twinkle Toes. But I will expect you to resume your training the moment we land." she proclaimed proudly.

"What about your school?" Sokka pointed out, using a finger gesture which was wasted on her.

"Oh, that." *Stomp*Stomp*Stomp*Stomp* "It's fixed." The moment she slammed her feet on the ground. The earth underneath her school's original walls were raised to their original height. Her students and Sokka's jaws all dropped at that moment. I could perfectly relate, my eyes widening at what little time was spent on what was looking to be several days work.

"I'm not even going to ask." Sokka concluded, sinking back down.

Toph propelled herself onto Appa's back while Katara climbed on next to me. "Thanks sweetie." I thanked.

"No trouble sweetie." *smcch* I blushed again as she kissed my cheek, while hugging onto my right arm. Life couldn't be better than it was right now.

"Sifu Toph, what do we do now?" One of her students came running up to us.

"Make some windows. I don't see any on those walls." she answered back.

"Eh?" Another seeing pun, I know. They looked completely clueless.  " . . . Then what?"

"Then a door."

"Then what?"

"Eh, practise all your forms."

"Then what?"

"I don't know. Just keep practising till I get back. No slackers or your lunch will be several helpings of knuckle sandwiches." She didn't have to tell him twice, he was gone.

I looked back at the gang, announcing "Alright guys, next stop: Eastern Air Temple. Appa, Yip Yip!"

Ithar

The night was a bore. It was too long and it was unnecessary. We should have left off this suspended temple yesterday. "Right, we have to get going now." I made haste while everyone was taking their last look at the temple. The Acolytes were there to see us off.

"Are you sure you can't stay?" one asked.

"No." I immediately replied. It was rude, I know, but I at least showed courtesy in the form of a respectful bow, as I always did. "Thank you for your hospitality."

"Save the Avatar. He is the worlds only hope."

"There will still be a world with him gone." I looked round. Everybody was so . . . happy. They really enjoyed their time. I felt slightly ashamed that I had to be with them in this mood. But I wasn't going to show, I was determined and I had my duty. "Just . . . not as peaceful."

I continued to the balloon, Zuko and Suki came following by, but Ty Lee was still saying her good byes. "I had a really great time."

"Come back anytime you pass by. Your rooms will always be open to kind guests."

"We will tell Aang of our appreciation."

She boarded, but she wouldn't look at me, not once. I slunk to the other side of the balloon. I looked out, but closed my eyes immediately. They felt so sore. The sight wasn't doing me any favours anyways. It was so quiet. I could hear everything. Everything.

"Ithar?" said Zuko.

"Just get this balloon off the ground. We need to move, now." I replied. I felt the ground disappear as we elevated into the sky.

"Is he still cranky?" Suki asked.

"Barely slept."

"What? Why?"

"It wasn't pleasant; he was tossing all night. Crying, shaking. He was holding himself, but he . . ."

"What?"

"He had his hands placed in the spots that took his bending away."

"How awful."

"He spent the next hours in the centre of the courtyard."

"You mean, outside?"

"Right smack bang in the middle."

"Did you talk to him?"

"No. What could I say to him? I have tried to get through to him for as long as we've been traveling. But he won't open up, I managed to get responses from him, positive ones, but only when I could relate to what he was feeling. I cannot relate to having no bending, nor having it stripped from you."

"That still doesn't make any sense, only Aang possesses that kind of power."

"I'm aware, but somehow Hama found a new way."

"How is she holding up?" I presumed he was referring to Ty Lee, which is a no brainer.

"How do you mean? She's been having fun here."

"You know what I'm talking about."

"I don't know."

"Don't you talk all the time?"

"Where would you get that idea?"

"I thought girls shared everything."

"We don't." Ty Lee intercepted.

"Ty, I'm sorry." Zuko apologised

"You also forgot that if I can hear what you're saying, then he can as well."

"Urgh. Not again." I knew he was now going to talk to me. "Ithar."

I didn't want to repeat the results of the landing trip to our departing one. I thought at the time that I should pretend that I didn't hear a thing. "What?"

"I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"For what I said."

"When?"

"You didn't hear?"

"Hear what?"

"Oh, nothing."

I continued to keep my eyes closed. There was nothing to listen to, apart from the wind whistling, the others continuing to talk, and . . . a very long inhale. Nasal, and heavy, like someone was building up energy. I felt really uncomfortable, more than I felt the moment I first got on this balloon.

"What are you staring at?" Zuko asked. Not to me, I was still holding my eyes closed.

"You are blind sometimes." Suki replied.

"How . . ." *BOOM* A large explosion hit the side of the balloon. I shot my eyes straight open as the balloon began falling out of control. it started spinning frantically. The force was pushing us straight down the into the abyss.

"What happened?!" Zuko screamed

"The balloon has been hit!" I yelled out.

"What?!" My head was spinning too quickly to tell who asked. I think it might have been Suki more likely. 

"I repeat, the balloon has been hit!"

"We know that! We're falling!" Zuko bellowed

"We're going to crash!" Ty Lee screamed.

"Hold on to something!" I concluded.

Toph

Don't get me wrong, I actually wanted to come. Anything to get me away from babysitting all of them. It was hard enough teaching three babies to crawl, now I've got like fifty of them all sucking. It took half a year to get three of them to start metalbending, fifty was a nightmare that wouldn't even make a piece of metal vibrate slightly.

I had no idea where everyone was, I knew we were flying, again. I think Aang was still on Appa's head and I presumed Katara was with him. Sokka was riding in the saddle with me, but he was pretty quiet this trip, for once. I wondered if he was actually here, so I just said the first thing that came to my head: "So, hey."

"Hey." he replied. That was positive, he sounded less than positive. Maybe Aang and Katara were kissing again. What a baby.

"Did you once have a crush on me?" he asked.

I jumped slightly, it caught me straight off guard. I had no idea where that came from. "What? I mean, No, heh, what are you talking about?"

"Suki told me."

"Told you what?"

"That time when we at the Serpent's Pass." Darn. He knew. I felt so embarrassed now, I bet my cheeks were red now. "The first time."

"I knew which time you meant."

"Okay, so our first time at the serpents pass, she jumped in to save you from drowning. You mistook her for me."

"Because I heard you call out that you were going to jump in after me. Which you didn't."

"Sorry."

"Yeah, I thought she was you because you had to open your mouth and make me believe that you were coming to save me. I got pulled above the water and, thinking it was you, I gave you a kiss to say thank you. Then I heard Suki's voice and realised it wasn't you at all. Big mistake. Not something I like to hear being brought up again."

"I said I was sorry."

"I told her to let me drown I was so embarrassed."

"Yikes."

"How is she, by the way."

"I actually don't know. I don't really get a lot of time to see her these days." The tone in his voice said he wasn't lying. I didn't need seismic sense to know that. He was sincere.

"You broke up?"

"No nothing like that. No it's just that the only real time we see each other is when we meet up to further discuss the future of the Hu Xin Provinces. But she and the other Kyoshi Warriors seem to only really be guarding Zuko's palace these days."

"Wait, she's still in the Fire Nation?"

"Yep."

Perfect, time to get some payback. I was determined to even the score, he wouldn't know what hit him. "Don't you think . . . neh forget it."

"What" he asked.

"No, it's just nothing."

"Tell me."

"It was just a thought."

"Just tell me already."

"It will only annoy you."

"I can annoy you."

"Really? I already tolerate a lot of your annoyances already."

"I'm going to pretend that I didn't hear that."

"I pretend to actually hear a lot of what you say. I tend to ignore the rest, which is most of it."

"What were you going to say?"

"Oh I was just curious about why Suki is spending all this time at Zuko's palace."

"You know very well; she was asked to guard Zuko with the other warriors after an assassin broke into the palace."

"That was almost two years ago."

"Ehh . . . oh, right. Huh, I actually don't know then. Maybe it's a job that pays well. I'd wear a green dress again for a lot of gold pieces."

"Again?"

"Nothing."

"No really, what did you . . ."

"I said it was nothing. What was it you were thinking?"

"So I was thinking, what if she stays for another reason."

"I don't follow you Toph."

"Put two and two together and what do you get."

"Four. That's an easy one Toph."

"Obviously not. No I was talking about Suki staying there . . . because of Zuko." I think I did some and gestures to go with it, but I'm not used to what it actually looked like.

"Oh, OH! You mean Zuko's keeping her there."

"Yes. Took you long enough"

"I don't believe this. This is something that I would never expect; Zuko must have some serious guard issues to keep her on."

"Yea . . . What? No! I mean Zuko and Suki, Suki and Zuko. Two and two put together doofus."

He stopped talking. He was there in silence for about a few minutes before he uttered his confusion. "What? No! What? No!"

"Yep." I answered. Payback was sweet.

"Oh I can't believe it. Why?"

"Maybe it's because you're not around and that he's much more of, how you say, a higher breed."

"What's that suppose to mean?"

"He's the Fire Lord, the monarch of an entire nation. And you're . . . Sokka."

"Well I have something he doesn't."

"Like what?"

"A big collection of the best jokes around." I raised an eyebrow, his optimism was crushed in the realisation. "You're right. How am I suppose to compete with Zuko."

Ok, he suffered enough. "Relax. I was joking around."

"No you weren't."

"Yes I was."

"No, you're right."

Uh oh. I think I put too much into my performance. Time to bring in the big guns. "Sokka, I was kidding. Man, you take things so far that they're just not funny anymore."

"You mean it?"

"Of course. Suki wouldn't dump you, you're weird and she's weird."

"Suki's not weird!"

"She wears warrior make-up all the time. I call that weird."

"It's traditional. And how could you tell she wears make-up?"

"I repeat, it's weird. But the fact you both are weird is what makes you too good together. You compliment each other. And also, when I kissed her I tasted make-up. I've spent long enough in society to know what make-up is."

"Are you serious?"

"I'll take it back if you want."

"No, no. I believe you. Thanks Toph."

"Don't mention it. Actually, scratch that, mention it a lot."

"Deal."

Phew, close call. I don't think I'll try that again, it got too serious. But it did raise something digging in my brain; what were the Kyoshi Warriors still doing in the Fire Nation? This was going to be a long trip. I better make the most of it.

"So what was with you and the moon?"

"Don't even start."

"What?"

Zuko

The balloon crashed back into the side of a mountain. Our elevation had hooked us suspended on the peak. I had barely enough time to grapple my dao swords into the basket to keep me from falling. The blades cut through it easily, but I was lucky enough to dig it into a beam before ripping the entire basket in half.

Suki and Ty Lee were hanging onto the ropes that were attached to the deflated balloon. Not the same ones, but they had kept themselves from falling. And Ithar was . . . wait!

"Ithar!"

There was silence. I looked around, there wasn't anyone else hanging on a rope. Some had been cut off from impact and the balloon was holding us from above. I feared the worst for him. If he wasn't quick enough to grab something, then he had a long way down. Very long way.

"It's Combustion Man!" Suki informed us.

"That's not actually his name." I replied.

"Does it matter?"

"No, just saying."

"Enough saying. He's firing."

"He'll blast us of the cliff."

"I threw a few fire balls at his direction, but his aim was so much better than mine, in addition he was far out of my reach."

"Suki can you do anything?"

"'Fraid not."

"Ty Lee?"

"Nope."

He blasted us again. The balloon continued to tear. The blast began to dig into the mountain top. A few more blasts would shift the balloon down to the abyss below.

I continuously tried to throw fire at him. But one hand wasn't powerful enough to reach him accurately enough. The blasts just continued to hit to area above or below him. Some rocks fell, but they were not nearly as the ones that came falling on us from time to time.

"We need to hit him in the head, it will daze him long enough to blow himself away."

"I got it." Suki replied. The next few loose rocks came falling. Suki positioned herself to swing around. She kicked herself from the basket and used a pendulum motion to kick a rock with great force into  . . .

. . . .Well before I go on, for the record his name is Lee. And now that I've said it, Combustion Man sounds better, especially with hundreds of Lee's everywhere in the Fire Nation. Just forget what I said . . .

. . . into Combustion Man's head. Suki was caught by Ty Lee before she could fall also into the There was a great *Twang*, which was confusing enough.

"That didn't sound good." Ty Lee commented.

He had finally had enough, he jumped down lower, and within range, our fault was realised; where his forehead was now a metal helm with a round piece of glass. I also noticed that his hands were now both hole less and metal, with the same glass disc in the centre.

He breathed in deeply through his nostrils, the energy building behind his forehead. The glow was growing in front of his head. He then placed his hands in front with space in between. The light from the forehead erupted into a beam that shot into his left hand, the energy was caught and began to slowly build into the disc. It then erupted again, but bigger, into the disc in his right hand. The blast would be strong enough to cut straight through the mountain, with us on it.

He was ready to fire, but the footing he was on broke behind him. His balance was thrown off and the beam sliced through the mountain peak, barely inches from cutting though the balloon. Rocks can crumbling towards us, as the balloon and basket were swinging on what was left of the peak.

"Look out!"

We all clutched tightly to whatever we were hanging onto. The rocks barely missed us. One rock hit the side and broke straight through the bottom. Smaller rocks followed through, falling straight down into the pit.

"Ow!"

I looked over at Suki and Ty Lee. They were fine, both had heard it as well, looking at each other and back at me. Neither of them knew where that sound came from. Unless . . .

"What the . . . Oh MY GGG-G!"

I looked down at the crack in the basket. I noticed a rope that had suddenly started rocking like a pendulum through the crack. There was something tied to the bottom. The rope was hooked around someone's ankle.

I couldn't believe it. "Ithar!"

"Don't Look Down! Don't Look Down!"

"Ithar!"

"Zuko?"

"Are you okay?"

"Not the kind of thing you expect to find yourself in after a rock hits you in the head." His tone was shaking. I couldn't blame him for being terrified, suspended in the air by a rope that is also hanging from what was left of a mountain.

I looked back up, Combustion man was getting ready to fire again. His breathing was much more quick, like he was growing impatient. We were out of time.

"Ithar! Hang on there."

He was still swinging. "Zuko, how long has he been blasting for?"

"I don't know, a while now. Why?"

"How stable is his footing?"

"Very unstable, but what does it matter!"

"And how stable are we?

"We will fall!"

"Hang on to something!"

"Wait, what are you doing?"

I couldn't see from my angle what he was doing. I had no time to watch him. Combustion Man was building up for a final beam.

The silence was broken. But not from Combustion Man, there was some form of music suddenly echoing across the peaks. It was familiar. I heard it from somewhere. Combustion Man knew it as well, he was distracted enough to discontinue his assault. I recognised it; it was a Fire Nation Battle Cry, seventy years ago. The March of the Dragon, one of the most patriotic tunes ever composed. Fire Lord Azulon's personal regiment played it whenever they approached a battlefield as a sign of alerting the enemy that he was approaching.

It continued to roam through the mountains. The tunes echoing was so loud it felt like the mountain sides were shaking. Though as I continued listening, the balloon ripped further, the basket fell further, ropes started snapping. At any moment we would fall, and this time there would be nothing to catch us this time.

"Ithar, the mountain won't hold us any longer."

I know." I saw his face for the first time since the incident, it wasn't clear but he I could see him holding on to his flute.

"What?" I yelled back.

"Just hang on!"

He blew on his flute one more time. It was the end of the song. A long high note. The pitch echoed and the mountains shook to their cores. Both mountains crumbled and I watched as Combustion Man's footing gave way. He began falling down into the mists. But not before letting out a final beam. And down we went after.

Katara

"Why are we dropping?" asked Toph.

"We need to stop for the night." Aang yelled back. The wind was rushing quickly past our ears as we descended back towards the ground. I was clinging to Aang's arm as he held the reins.

"You do realise haven't even left the colonies yet." Sokka pointed out.

"How do you know?" I asked him.

"The same village is literally just over there." He pointed to the valley which the village, or at least what was left of it was standing. The dam and the academy were also in plain view.

"Appa flew across the continent in one night, you have to give him sometime." Aang clarified.

"Then why didn't we just wait at the academy?" I actually questioned. I only really just thought about it, but it would have been a lot easier seeing as they probably wouldn't have minded paying some hospitality to us.

"No offence, I'm sure they are all really nice. But those people were freaking me out a bit." Sokka answered.

"Second that." Toph added.

Aang looked at me "Third."

Appa landed smoothly on the edge of a hill overlooking the valley. A sign post nearby pointed towards a town about two miles away.

Sokka immediately dismounted at the sight of a different settlement. To tell the truth, I did not blame him. "Well, seeing as it's still light, I'm going to get some grub and supplies."

Toph dismounted also, digging her feet back into the ground like it was soft beneath her feet. "I'll come too. I have literally been no where else in months." It didn't take them long before the both of them started walking off. I looked over at Aang, he was curled up while sitting. He immediately dismounted and walked over to the edge, looking down at the valley.

"Aang, are you okay?"

"Katara, can I ask you something?"

I knew straight off what he was going to ask, but I felt it best to let him ease into it. "Sure, anything on your mind?"

He looked up at the sky. "If you were the last of a kind and you believed that for a long time, then someone tells you that there was another person exactly like you alive, how would you react?

"Well, there is only that instance with . . .  with Hama, before we found out she was a monster. I actually felt that there was someone I could relate to, someone who actually understood me better than I could.

"Oh, right." He looked down.  Not the example I hoped to use, but it was the only one I had that I could relate to him with.

"Is this about the sightings and the doppleganger the villagers mentioned?"

"Yes."

Oh boy. *sigh* "Aang, even if that was possible. How can it? You are the last airbender, and as hard as it is, you alone are the survivor."

He turned around to face me. He was slightly angry now. "But what if I wasn't Katara? What if there is right now someone else who can airbend? He might not be a Nomad, but he can airbend. I can airbend. We're the same and I want to find him."

"Aang . . ."

He sat straight down and buried his face in his arms. "This isn't the same with you; There are a million waterbenders in the Northern Tribe and the Foggy Swamp. I am the last and he may be the penultimate. We are the last two in the whole world. There might even be more. There . . . might be more."

I knelt down next to him and held him close. I rested my head on his and he reached out and held onto me. His tears ran down his cheeks and soaked my shoulder. "It's okay sweetie. It's okay." I reassured him.

Ithar

Just like that. All it was took a single note for everything to come crumbling down. The balloon would have ripped itself, but the entire mountain top suffered greatly from the last beam attack. The man in metal went falling down, down, down into the abyss below. I heard no sound, and saw nothing for that matter, I kept my eyes firmly shut the whole time. I remember feeling the balloon falling, then the leg getting tugged sharply as we just stopped.

From above I could hear them all.

"Ithar!" Ty Lee shouted.

"Pull!" Zuko ordered. I felt them pulling on the rope around my leg, trying to hoist me up the side of the mountain. But I only moved a few centimeters before being dropped again.

"We can't." Suki declared. I then heard the balloon scrap across the rocks. "The balloon's falling!" I squeezed my eyes tighter. This was it. With no bending, I'd fall like a rock in the water. Down, down, down, like the other guy did.

I heard an ignition sound and then the metal of the basket scraped across the side. I was prepared for the worst, the end. But I did not move, even as the balloon rushed past my ears. I was still here.

"Now heave!" Zuko ordered again. I heard them all struggle, and I felt a long tug and I felt my back being dragged back up the mountain.

"Ithar, wake up!"

I opened my eyes straight open. "What?" *pant*pant*pant*

"Ithar."

I looked around, they were all staring at me, while I was flat on the ground. "Are we all dead?" I asked.

"No, we are alive. Thanks to you." Suki revealed.

"Nice thinking." thanked Zuko.

"I'm sorry what?" The blood was still rushing in my head, it was hard to concentrate.

"You, playing your flute and all, and . . ."

"My flute!" I looked around frantically. Not good for the blood in my head.  "Where . . . ?"

"Take it easy." Suki replied, holding me back with one hand and showing me it in her other hand. "You held onto it hard."

She offered it back to me, and I took it immediately. It was a sight for sore eyes. "Thank you, thank you. I owe you all two."

"Uh, the phrase is I owe you one, not two." Ty Lee

"No, I mean what I say. I owe you two, for saving me and for saving my flute."

"You're going to owe us one, for saving that flute?" Zuko questioned.

"It . . . means a lot to me." and I wasn't lying. It was the last thing I had of a different life. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." Suki replied.

"What do we do now then?" I asked.

"If we're lucky, the Acolytes shouldn't be too far away to have missed the explosions. So I think that we should wait here for the time being."

"Okay." I replied.

"In the mean time. I would like to call in one of those favours." Zuko asked

I chuckled slightly, it was an uncomfortable chuckle, but he was right. "I did say that I would, and I will honour it. Ask away."

They sat and talked it over for a while. Not long enough for the sun to move partially across the sky, but it felt like forever, and I should know first hand.

"Okay then. We know that you know a lot about us, all of us. But we know very little about you."

"Okay."

"You once told us that you were not a bender" Suki reminded me. "We want to know your life, before you became a bender. And I mean everything."

"Everything?

"Everything."

"Right, okay, um."

"Are you alright?"

"Yes-yes, I'm okay."

"If you don't want to, then maybe we could . . ."

"No, no I'm fine. You asked, and I will answer." I wiped over my face "*sigh* It seems so long ago, but I remember every detail of all those days. I was born 46 years after Sozin's Comet, in a small village in the Hu Xin Provinces."

"The Fire Nation colonies." Zuko asserted.

"Yes. The village was called Shao Hui. it wasn't big, it didn't even have a large natural source of income base. But it was a vital important part of the trade route from places like Yu Dao to Omashu and Ba Sing Se. We relied heavily on travelers and we paid them the greatest of respect. My mother was an Earth Kingdom villager called Nela, and my father's name was Benki. He was a soldier. He fought in the army. When I was born, there were tensions in region, the Fire Nation was slowly advancing throughout the whole north west of the continent and the Earth Kingdom was throwing everything at them to repel them. With the Water Tribes hiding at the poles, showing no evident signs of joining, the War ravaged endlessly on the continent. So my father was away all the time. Fighting. It seemed the only career that he could do. I rarely saw him."

"How sad." Suki replied.

"But starting from the age of five, whenever he would come back. he would attempt to teach me bending. We would practise for days on end. Every form in the book, you name it, we practised. But I just wasn't a bender, I couldn't bend a single element. I still don't know why he was so fixated on me being a bender, but we continued despite no avail. I felt that I really let him down."

"I know how you feel." Zuko attempted to assure me.

"You don't. Your dad was critical against you, he pulled out your flaws and punished you for them. No offence meant."

"None taken."

"My dad was different. Despite the fact that I failed to produce any bending never changed his opinion against me. He still treated me like he would always treat his son. I wasn't going to be a bender, but I was always his son. Then one day, one late day when he came home."

Mum!  He's back!

He said he would, right.

Yeah. Dad! Dad!

Ithar!

Dad! Hahahaha

Hahahaha

"I had no idea it would be the last time. Just as quickly as he arrived, so did our villages destruction; The sky turned black as ash and lightning tore through the clouds. The village and everyone in it were swallowed in fire. My father told me to run. I hesitated, but he just told me to run. And I ran. I just ran and ran and ran. I ran until I stopped a realised that I was alone. I looked around and there was nobody there."

"What did you do?" Suki asked.

"I did what anyone did. I ran back. But . . . when I reached there, it was all gone; the houses, the walls, the . . . people. "

"And your parents?"

I shook my head. "No."

"We had no idea." Zuko replied.

"I was alone for the first time in my life. No family, no friends, no home. At nine years old, I had nothing, not even any bending. I wandered though miles of ash that once stood my village. I found nothing except charred wood, burnt rope, my father's helmet with a dent in the helm and melted side, my mother's necklace, melted and misshapen, losing all the details in it, but the colours were still there, just runny and loose." I pulled from my pocket that same necklace, or at least the metal that had once been hung on a strap. "And that was it. I was alone with nothing." I stopped. I was in so much pain that I didn't want to finish. I put the necklace back in my pocket.

"My." Ty Lee expressed.

"We're sorry Ithar." Suki patted me on the shoulder.

"It's all in the past now though. And I have done other things after that . . . not stuff I want to remember as well. After that day. I spent the next weeks walking, nowhere in particular, but I couldn't follow the roads as travelers did. The Fire Nation occupied the next settlements down and up the road in any direction I went, and any Earth Kingdom settlement free was under siege. I instead went north. Just north. And . . ." I stopped at the sights of people riding gliders came soaring towards our direction. Everyone turned at the sight of them swinging round the mountain ranges.

"They're here." Suki announced. Thank you captain obvious, I completely called it by pausing, but okay.

Zuko however wasn't finished listening "Hang on you were . . ."

I cut him off. "I will finish it later. I promise." I gulped down those last words. I felt that I would regret saying it again.

Sokka

"Sokka, put the bag down." We were finishing up our shopping, the stalls were filled with a lot of food, especially meats. So many varieties of meat. And with the war over, everything was cheaper now. I got two chicken legs for two copper pieces. A bargain, right?

"What bag?" I replied. There was a bag, but I wasn't going to tell her.

She struck out her arm at full extent in my direction. "The one you are holding."

I hid it behind my back. "I'm not holding anything. I don't know what you're talking about." I was going to add that she should get her eyes check. But I learned my lesson, it took me a while, but I'm learning.

She stomped her foot on the ground and a pillar erupted behind me and knocked the bag from my hands. "Your heart is racing and your tone is higher than usual. You're lying. You are holding a bag. Put it down."

"Fine." I muttered. "I'm not even holding it"

"Keep up. We need to get back before it really gets dark."

"How do you know every time?"

"Talent."

"So what's with this other guy."

"What other guy."

"The airbending guy."

"Oh him."

"So it's a him. Interesting."

She raised an eyebrow. "Are you going to be like this the whole trip?"

"No."

"Good." She continued walking, with me trailing behind.

"So this, airbender."

"Yes, an airbender. It was an airbender."

"You do realise that they are near extinct."

"I am aware of your claim and that remains true."

"Right, so there shouldn't be any others."

"That would be true."

"Exactly."

"But it isn't because Aang is an airbender."

"Well that is the anomaly."

". . . and there is a second one."

"Nooo."

". . . and he blew up my school."

"Nooooo."

"Oh, and he told me to give you all a message."

"N- what?"

"Oh, I never mentioned, he wanted to give you all a message."

I stopped dead in my tracks, putting the supplies down on the ground. "All of us?"

"No, actually just Aang."

"And you were going to tell us, when?"

"When it mattered."

"Like now."

"Nope. Now it doesn't matter."

"It kinda matters after a freak tears down a village and burns it to the ground."

"Don't be over dramatic. It wasn't that bad."

"What was the message?"

Toph thought for a second, literally less than that. "Let me think. He told me 'Blah-blah-blah tell Aang blah-blah-blah only one airbender blah-blah-blah it won't be him left blah-blah something about death'."

"Seriously."

"Actually he never used death. But he said a very emotionally soppy speech about revenge."

"Revenge."

"I dunno."

"That actually makes a lot of sense. Your interpretation, not revenge thing. If this guy, who you say is an airbender. Revenge doesn't sound right.

"It makes perfect sense actually; Aang left and the Fire Nation wiped out the airbenders. If this guy is a descendant of a few survivors, then Aang is to blame for abandoning them in this guys mind.

"How did you get to philosophical?"

"Talent."

"Do you just have talent as your excuse?"

"What can I say."

"Let me guess: Talent?"

"100 points to Sokka." We both laughed a little, I picked up our supplies and started walking down the road.

"I missed this." I declared.

"Yeah." she agreed.

She then hit me, again. "Ow!"

I missed this." Toph declared cheerfully. I was less than pleased.

"I don't miss that though." and we both exited the village and headed back to Appa.

Suki

The acolytes brought over a few gliders with them, well no spares, we had to share them with the acolytes. I admit it was fun. I almost felt like laughing. Ty Lee actually did. Zuko simply smiled, which was fair game. Ithar . . . he had his eyes closed the whole time. I think that he might have a fear of flying. That could explain his reaction every time we've been flying. Well we're not technically flying, more like gliding.

"Ithar! Are you scared of flying?" I called out.

"No, I just don't like the idea of plummeting thousands of feet to my death."

Ok, he might and he might not. I am still going to say yes. We flew . . . glided for about an hour before we got back to the temple. It was a good thing the gliders were small enough to cut through the short cuts and crannies in between the mountains.

We glided back to the temple landing straight into the same courtyard we took off from.

"Thank you for picking us up." I thanked them.

"We understand that you won't be able to reach the Eastern Air Temple by your balloon anymore, but we would appreciate it if you reconsidered our offer while we attempt to find you alternative transport."

"Really, that's really kind of you."

"Anything for friends of the Avatar."

Ithar opened his eyes after letting go of the glider. I straightened himself out and basically reverted to a more comfortable state in a matter of seconds. "Thank you for your hospitality. I apologise for any rudeness I displayed on our last visit."

They looked at each other with disbelief, but then politely turned back to him. "We accept your unnecessary apology."

Ithar bowed. "Thank you."

"Your rooms have been left the same as you left them."

"Considering we only really left a few hours ago." Zuko pointed out. "Okay, we'll meet you guys later. Me and Ithar will got to our rooms."

"And we'll do the same." I replied.

"Meet you at dinner."

"Gotcha."

We departed our separate ways. I looked back at them leaving. Zuko and Ithar were now talking to each other, maybe even joking a little. I could hear that much from them.

"Lucky us, huh." Ty Lee suddenly said out of the blue. I looked at her as we continued walking.

"Yeah. Very lucky."

"I mean, it was lucky that they found us or we would have been stuck on that cliff."

"But we were even luckier when Ithar saved us from Combustion Man."

She paused for a minute, but carried on with a slightly less comfortable tone. "I wouldn't say that."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I mean. He played his flute and . . . *poof* he was gone."

"Not exactly like that, but I mean it was quick thinking to use music to . . ."

"It wasn't that good." she outburst. She stared at me, covering her mouth, the turning rapidly and rushed to our room. I walked in after her.

"Are you okay?"

"No, I'm not."

"What is it?"

"Ithar."

"I don't understand."

"I can't look at him the same."

I decided to stay back and give her some space. "I know he went a little crazy, but he opened up, not to mention he saved us. I think that we can all afford to give him the benefit of the doubt."

"I know, *sniff* but I just can't." She sounded like she was crying now.

"Why?"

"Whenever I look at him I just remember those eyes, those wide blood shot eyes."

"Ty Lee."

She turned herself. She looked straight at me. "I know he's better now, he's not crazy. But I can't do it. Those same I eyes I see. Whenever I see him, I see them, and when I see them, I see Azula and her big bloodshot eyes. I'm scared Suki, Kyoshi Warriors are not afraid of anything, but I am. She scares me, her eyes scare me, his eyes scare me, and . . . I am starting to think that he might scare me."

Production Notes

Series Continuity

  • Combustion Man physically reappears after last attacking Team Avatar in "The Western Air Temple".
  • Ithar begins handing out important information in exchange for favours, as he said he would in "Air Acolytes".
  • Ithar's fear of heights is later picked up on from "Air Acolytes".

Trivia

  • In real life continuity, Combustion Man was confirmed to be deceased by Mike and Bryan at New York Comic-Con 2008.
  • The tune of March of the Dragon, the song played by Ithar, is heavily based and inspired by a music video made by Studio Ghost on YouTube.com, from the video of the same name.
  • The Current Rota of Team Avatar; Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Toph, is the longest excluding temporary alliances with future members, having spanned from "The Blind Bandit" to the "The Western Air Temple", a total of 26 episodes.
  • The Main Antagonist is the only non-member of Team Avatar to have a POV chapter.
  • Shao Hui, the name of Ithar's village, means 'burnt down' in Chinese.

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