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|Autumn Equinox Part 1: Winter Comes|
7th December 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 tensions between the nations and further secret activity that Aang may not be able to stop. But I believe Aang can.
"Aang are you sure this is the way?" Katara asked.
"He has helped me before. I don't see why not now," At most I felt more optimistic than truthful. I still couldn't think of a good reason I should listen to him again, but it was a start.
She leaned over and we kissed. "Good luck sweetie," she whispered. I blushed slightly, we'd done it before, but I always felt excessively happy every time we were closer. Katara stepped back to give me some space.
I sat down, crossed my feet and locked my fists together. I closed my eyes and concentrated hard. I let all the pressures of the world flow out of me. I was becoming completely relaxed and weightless. I then felt my spirit leave my body. I was back in the Spirit World.
I looked round. It was the same mountain peak we first officially met on. And again he was there, waiting for me. The same way I remembered him; long red robes, long white hair and beard, and the small crown of the Fire Prince on top of his head, the gift he received from his friend all those years ago.
"Hello again, Aang," he greeted me. He tried to treat it like we were still on friendly terms. But I made it clear that I still wasn't ready to forgive and forget.
"Roku. I . . . didn't know who else to ask."
"Aang, I apologise for the way I spoke before."
"You wanted me to kill Zuko," I answered. I said it bluntly as I could. It wasn't as simply as explaining, there was no explaining. He said it like that and I was going to reply as such. "You wanted me to end your great-grandson, when he was acting not like his father, but like a leader. If I had listened then I wouldn't have just lost a friend, but also myself in the process."
He sighed, looking down ashamed of himself, which I felt he rightfully should have. "I understand your anger towards me. It was wrong of me to ask you to end your friend. But the last time the avatar let his friend live in a time of crisis, Sozin wiped out the Air Nomads after my passing. I couldn't do a thing about it, my biggest and only regret was not stopping him when I had the chance."
I actually felt a little sorry for him. I saw the days when he spared Fire Lord Sozin's life, and then when Sozin stabbed him in the back and left him to perish under the volcano's wrath. "I understand all that, but I wasn't you, I never want to kill anyone, and I never will. That isn't me, just like it wasn't you to kill your best friend."
"Roku, I need your help. I have some questions."
It was a better distraction from the conversation, and he was more than happy to help. "I am happy to help you any way I can."
"I need to know something I don't even know how to describe. I heard some voice that said we could make it across the continent in a day. I don't know where to look on that."
He thought for a minute, but he came up clueless. "In all my years as the Avatar. I have heard of such a moment of confusion as this one."
I did my best not to answer as if I was ungrateful, it sounded so, but my tone was more disappointed than sarcastic. "Well that helps."
"Aang, let's look back at that day."
I raised an eyebrow. "How?"
"Just as you saw my life, you can show us both yours," He placed his hand on my forehead. The landscape shifted, we were now floating mid air as a giant sky bison started flying alongside us. We were all on there. We were really there. Appa was flying above the ocean. We approached the collection of islands that used to belong to the Southern Air Nomads.
"That's us on Appa," I was still stunned it worked.
"Wait," I pointed out, I could easily hear my snoring, it was the second loudest in the world, next to Appa's. "I'm asleep. When did . . . Oh, yeah that's right," The first night of the nightmares.
We watched as they continued flying. But then across the horizon was a large rings of golden light or something that came hurtling towards us. it covered our entire pat selves and evolved into a long tunnel.
"Hang on, what's this?" Just as I asked that it disappeared. I looked at Roku, who was just as confused as I was, but in more of a wise spiritual sort of way, I guess. "Roku did you see it?"
"I did, but I have no idea what this is," he replied. I looked back down. The islands were gone now. They vanished into thin air in about ten seconds.
"Look, it's gone, the land, it wasn't there a while ago. Wait, we're in the north now. We only passed the Islands in the south earlier. That must be what took us up that far."
Roku turned to me, happy I made that revelation myself, rather than asking him. "You have your answer."
But it wasn't true. I didn't have my answer. "But what is it Roku? . . . Roku?"
I looked around, Roky had vanished, and so did the whole memory. It all disappeared. I was now at the entrance of the temple. It was quiet and deserted like it would have been after the genocide. Not a trace of a person in sight.
I looked over as a figure then emerged from the doorway into the temple. It was a nun, wearing all traditional Air Nomad clothes. The top front of her hair was shaved, revealing the arrow tattoo of an Airbending master. I looked closer and realised Toph was right, she did look like me.
"Hello young Avatar," she greeted me.
"What are we doing here?" I asked.
"You are in my home, meditating beneath my statue. My spiritual presence is stronger here than in any other place in the world. How may I be of service to you?"
"Avatar Yangchen, I need to know what that phenomenon was. Do you have any idea what it was?"
Unfortunately, she came to the same conclusion as Roku did. "I am afraid I do not have the answers you seek. But I remember stories about what you witnessed, that has happened before young Avatar. To my predecessor."
"Okay, thank you," I bowed politely, and sat down to try to meditate towards his spirit.
Yangchen picked me straight up. "Aang, you cannot simply speak to him."
"Why not? I can speak to you, and Roku, Kyoshi and Kuruk. I'm the Avatar, speaking to my past lives is a part of the learning curve."
"An Avatar only has a strong spiritual connection with his previous four lives. I am your fourth life before you. I am afraid that you will not be able to speak to Tzenno."
I slapped my forehead. "Monkey Feathers. Well that doesn't help us."
"There is a way though young Avatar; just as you spoke with Roku, Tzenno has his own temple in the Fire Nation. He will speak to you there."
"But it's impossible; we're almost halfway between solstices, it will take forever before we'll be able to speak to him."
"Aang, did you know that Avatar Tzenno was born on the Equinox."
I raised my eyebrow. I had no idea what she was talking about. "The Equinox?" I asked.
"The time of year when the night and the day are equally long," she explained. "There are only two times this occur, once in the spring and another in the autumn. The next equinox is in less than two weeks from now. But you must be cautious when you return to your body. You will be fighting for the day. Watch your friends and watch yourself."
Her form started to fade away along with the world around us. "Good luck young Avatar," she concluded, before she vanished completely.
I returned in my body as Katara was yelling at me and shaking me around like I had been asleep. "Aang! Aang. Get up, we're under attack. Cummon."
"What?" I asked.
"Earthbenders are attacking the temple, we need to help Sokka and Toph now!"
I got up after writing my letter and walked over to the hawk coops, ready to send it off. I had given in it very clear instructions to Uncle about what should happen next and just a brief summary of where we are and where we are going. It read;
我發一個消息給所有孝子勇士隊駐紮在首都. 如果他們想回到自己的虛子島的家園, 那麼他們有我的允許了這個消息到達您的時間這樣做. 如果有任何選擇了留在後面我會深深的謙卑, 他們選擇留下來, 感謝他們給了自己機會。但是, 如果做任何選擇離開, 請提供足夠的運輸和旅途感謝他們所有的大公已經做了近一年的規定.
我們自己的孝子島我傳這條短信給你的時候. 我們都是安全的, 但是我們失去了我們的氣球, 現在行駛在腳和海運. 沒有必要擔心對我們來說, 我們都是安全的, 對我們的方式來 奥瑪舒城 之前, 我們離開了東方航空寺.
I am issuing a message to all Kyoshi Warriors stationed in Capital City. If they wish to return to their homes in Kyoshi Island, then they have my permission to do so by the time this message reaches you. If any chose to remain behind I will be deeply humble that they have chosen to stay and thank them for giving up their opportunity. But if any do chose to leave, please provide enough transport and provisions for the journey to thank them for all they have done for the past year.
We ourselves are on Kyoshi Island when I have sent this message to you. We are all safe, however we have lost our balloon and are now travelling on foot and by sea. There is no need to worry for us, we are all safe and are on our way to Omashu before we leave to the Eastern Air Temple.
"Are you sure about this?" Suki asked as I took a hawk out from its cage "You know they will stay if you need them to," Suki was still dressed up in her Kyoshi Warrior uniform as she had been the previous day.
"I am very much aware, and I am very grateful to all of their help, but he was right; Kyoshi Island needs its warriors back. If they wish to stay then they have every right to. But I shouldn't keep them away from home if they want to return," I attached the message to a hawk and let it fly off west. In a week or so it should reach the Fire Nation. I just hoped that he got it. I turned to Suki and asked "Have you made up your mind yet?"
Her reaction told me immediately that she was indecisive; she looked down shaking her head. "I still want to come. But I feel I need to stay here. So I don't know."
I sighed. Three years ago, I was given the choice to remain where I was or be allowed to go home. I chose to go home, but I did it for the wrong reasons. I let everyone down, I betrayed the people who would eventually accept me as a friend, but that stain lasted longer than all the good I did up to then. If I was given that same choice, I would have said no, but I wonder if everything would have been worse than it is now by changing my decision. It wasn't the same thing for Suki, but it was slightly relatable, if not near enough the same problem. "I'm not trying to make your decision for you, but what if . . . you came along with us, finish the mission, just till we reach Aang. Then after that you are free to go home."
She looked directly at me. "Zuko."
"We accepted this mission, to help Ithar, to save Aang, we owe them as much to carry on as far as we can go. Kyoshi Island will still be here tomorrow, and it will be here for another few months. Will you at least consider it as your third choice, please?"
She hesitated to answer, still indecisive on the matter. I stepped back, expecting to give her some more time to think. But we both looked around to the sound of panting. Oyaji was running in our direction all the way up hill. "Suki! Firelord! We need your help!" He tripped as he reached the top, falling face first into the dirt. Suki and I rushed to help him back to his feet.
"What happened?" I asked him, as we both tried brushing off the dust from his clothes.
"The beach, *pant* we're under attack!"
"What?" Suki cried.
"Who?" I asked.
"*pant* We don't know, but they're *pant* waterbenders."
Suki and I both looked at each other, equally confused. "That's impossible; the Water Tribes have no cause to attack Kyoshi Island" I pointed out.
"Which tribe?" Suki asked. I knew what she had to be thinking. Our friends were from the Southern Water Tribe. It was unlikely, but we didn't want it to be real even if kit was.
"*pant*pant* We don't know. *pant* But their bending style *pant* is not the Southern."
That was all we needed. "Northern Water Tribe men," I declared "But that still doesn't answer their cause for invasion. We've wasted enough time, let's go!" Suki nodded.
"You kids go on without me, I'll only slow you all down."
"Oyaji," Suki said concernedly.
"I'll be fine child. You have your responsibility." Suki nodded and let go of him, and started running
"Firelord," I turned round at him, "please save my village."
I nodded to him before running the rest of the way down. We ran straight past the dojo and halfway through the village before we met conflict ahead.
"Look out!" I yelled to the villagers who were running in panic from jets of water slithering behind their every step like a predatory serpent. I punched and propelled fire into a group of at least twelve waterbenders. The blast evaporated through a stream before it could constrict a helpless villager. The dozen turned to face us. I saw no sign of Ithar or Ty Lee, but we had bigger problems to deal with.
Suki opened up her shield and pulled her katana out. I unsheathed my dao swords and ignited them. The. Waterbenders were covered head to toe in black clothing, which was really unsuitable for the day. If they waited for a few hours it would have started getting dark.
"Who sent you!" I demanded. None of them took any notice of my question. One stepped forward pushing water in our direction. I countered by slicing through it, soaking halfway up both my arms, then retaliating with a few slices of fire from my swords in his direction. He jumped back to avoid the first and his friends saved him from the second by dousing it with what water they had on them.
I turned to Suki. "I'll hold them here, you take the high ground and try and get closer. I'll block any hits coming your way."
She nodded. "Got it," I blasted a few more fire waves in their direction as Suki ran into one of the alleys to get onto the roof. I kept up the attack, trying to push them back or at least keep there attention on me while Suki got in closer. I continued my bombards of fire, attacking and defending. They tried to knock me down with water and ice, but I always managed to keep them down to the minimum.
I caught sight of Suki in the corner of my eye, but I lost my footing as a coil of water grabbed my leg and pulled me down. I cut the water with my searing hot swords, and tried to defend myself from a volley of icicles.
Suki made a leap and kicked down one of the benders, cut through a water stream and butted another bender with her shield. Spears started prodding us in every direction and water tried to throw us off our feet, but we continued to fight on through the wet and sharp of the battle.
"Two to your left!" Sokka turned and threw his boomerang to his left knocking down a couple of earthbenders in the process. He ducked rocks and whacked another person with his club. For someone with no bending he was doing well, with help from me of course. Without me he wouldn't last a second. "Three on the right!" He was too slow to react. I raised rocks to block theirs and threw them straight at them.
"Heads up!" I yelled out.
Sokka turned in my direction. "What for?"
"No, heads up!" He looked up, but again I had to save him. Two benders jumped from the roof, I simply pushed the front of the wall next of them to butt them out of the way.
"Thanks for saving my life Toph."
"Hey, no problem Sokka."
I smashed some benders with rocks. "Where are they coming from?" asked Sokka, slamming another guy on the head with his club and catching back his boomerang.
I slammed back a fool who thought running at me across a stony floor was a good idea. Showed him wrong by raising a wall right in front of him. I rearranged his face and he never looked better. "Everywhere! Don't let your guard down Captain Boomerang!"
"Not a problem right now!" He threw his boomerang again and clobbered another few guys again.
I felt Aang and Katara approaching. Both were fighting off some benders with water and earth. Some of them were thrown around like rag dolls with air. I didn't realise it till the breezes kept rushing past my ears.
"Toph!" Aang asked. "How many?"
"I don't know, I lost count at about - how the heck should I know Twinkle Toes? They are literally everywhere. Two behind!"
"Where's Pathik?" Katara asked.
Sokka and I both just stood there. We kept knocking the earthbenders back, but we were now asking that same question. "Huh," Sokka answered "You would have thought a man over a hundred would be easy to see, but . . ."
"We lost him. Kinda," I added. "Three above!" I warned them. Katara created an ice slope that made them slip over their heads and onto the ground. I then pummeled them with rock pillars, sending them flying. One of them whacked a tree. I felt his vibrations move both up and down it. But there was something tied to the tree. "Hang on, is that . . .?" We looked up, well they looked up. I slammed my foot and followed vibrations that went up an edge, through the same tree and followed down a rope. It felt like a very skinny man was hanging upside down by his feet.
"Um, hello there," I recognised the voice.
"Pathik?" Aang shouted up. "How did you . . . ?"
"You know I really do not have a clue," I felt the rope move like he was moving his body position. It was more close together now.
"What are you doing?" Aang asked, slamming another bender away with earth.
"I am simply Meditating."
"Are you kidding, right now?" Sokka shouted. He hit himself in the head with his own returning boomerang. It hit the floor and Sokka threw it away in frustration. I couldn't wait for it to come back.
"With all this blood rushing to my head like a stampeding Komodo Rhino, I must make the most of every opportunity I have to connect with the cosmic energies all around us."
I continued to try and hold them off. Throwing whatever I could feel at them. But they just seemed to keep coming back. Sokka caught his boomerang. Shame. And we kept on hitting them back. I won't bore you with too much details.
It was really getting old. It was almost like they didn't want us to stop them. They were putting very little effort into this. I thought we could use this time to have a chat.
I slammed a few more benders, blocking their shots and hitting them with a few of my own. "So Aang, did your lives tell you anything interesting?"
"I found out . . . " He blew a few more guys away with his staff. " . . . I found out how we got to your academy in less than a day."
"That's great, but I wanted to know if you're going crazy with voices in your head and all."
"Hey! That was my joke, I told you that literally a few minutes ago. You can't just use it."
"Too late. So about that voice . . ."
"I got nothing on that. This is much more important; that night we passed through a gold ring."
"A ring?" Sokka wondered.
"What was it like?" I asked
"I dunno. I was asleep."
"I meant what was it made of?"
"I don't know that either."
"Did your previous lives tell you anything? Did they tell you where it came from?"
"What it does?"
"Not really, just that it was what made us travel so far."
"How about what the voice was."
"It . . . never came up."
"Are you serious!" Sokka complained.
"They at least told you what to do next didn't they?" Katara added.
"Yes, I have to see Avatar Tzenno."
"So why haven't youuuuuu!" Sokka got caught on some rope and was now hanging upside down along with the old guy.
"It's not that easy . . ."
"Sure it is," He interrupted "You know, you glow it up and do your Avatar thing. And he tells you." I could feel Sokka trying to cut through the rope with his club. Boomerang wasn't back yet.
"It's not as simple as that. Tzenno . . . " Smacked a bender with a rock to the face " . . . was before Yangchen, and I can only connect . . ." blew another down the side of the temple ". . .with my previous four. Tzenno is five."
"So what now?" Katara asked, whipping three in a row like a domino set.
"Well, we're busy now. But I guess we have to go somewhere else now," Sokka said, still struggling to cut through the rope. Boomerang came back, but was now fifteen feet below Sokka. "Come here boomerang."
I slammed my foot and knocked his boomerang into his hands.
"Thanks," He cut through almost immediately and landed head first on the ground.
"Yangchen told me that at the Equinox, I would be able to speak with him."
"The what now?" I asked.
"The Equinox, it the only time of day when the day and night are exactly twelve hours each."
"So, basically the anti-solstice?" Sokka said.
"Do we need to go anywhere in particular?" Katara asked.
" . . . " Aang was not saying anything.
"I didn't think to ask that. All I know is that he has a temple. I presume that it's in the Fire Nation."
"How long?" I asked.
"Less than two weeks."
"Plenty of time. Five behind!"
I was holding my own. At the least I wasn't getting hit by too many water shots to the head, or any where else for that matter.
No bending was making this battle last too long. I could have easily have used voidbending to counter their attacks and even suck them in and thrown them somewhere else.
This style I learnt from Kisu was working the best to my advantage; its use of open hands made great for blocking attacks. But the slow movements could have been used better if I wasn't being attacked every second. They easily outnumbered me and I was fighting up against at least seven waterbenders. All were benders, I was at the disadvantage; getting smacked with water in every direction unless I was quick enough to block it before I could get splashed.
I tried several times to make an advance against them. Defending was doing me no good. I stood out like a sitting turtle duck. I had too much trouble trying to walk forward without either slipping in the wet sands or getting hammered by headshots.
This is getting ridiculous I thought to myself. I got back up, but was hit in the face with a stream that just kept coming. I could barely think with all the water rushing to my head. I blocked most of it with my palms, but it was hard to breath with all that water. It wasn't even fresh water. They were pulling it straight out of the bay. The bay?
Ty Lee had a much easier time, chi blocking and acrobatics made her part of the fight easier for her. She'd jump and somersault behind them and hit them in a serious of points and soon, no more bending. And they stayed down as well. She was making me look bad too. She even started taking out the ones that were hitting me when she ran out of people to chi block.
Zuko and Suki managed to fight their way to the beach. I was so relieved. At least the odds were now a little more in our favour. Zuko easily knocked a few guys by blasting them with a few shots of fire at their feet. Suki came in leaping and easily took them on in hand to hand. In that range, they stood no chance even if they tried to bend quick enough. They immediately joined us in battle. "Took you long enough," I said sarcastically, think I'm getting the hang of it now. "What kept you?"
"Ran into trouble. Doesn't look like you're doing any better," Zuko pointed out, striking out a few more benders with his flaming swords.
"It's much harder when you have a complete lack of skills."
"You don't need skills to knock down a bender."
"You have it easy, being a bender is much easier than a nonbender."
Zuko cut down a couple more. "Ty Lee looks like she's doing well. Unlike you."
Suki smacked down a few benders with her fans. "Don't tease him Zuko."
"Thank you Suki," I replied, blocking a shot at my chest before it could hit me.
"He's just sore he's been beaten by a girl," I winced at her direction.
We shouldn't have been joking around. Things went from serious, to way too real and wrong.
They started employing ice into their attacks. The first volley caught both my feet and locked me firmly on the ground. The next wave cut past my cheek and the rest caught everyone else's hands.
The third wave focused primarily on Zuko: they froze his feet, and then caught his chest, knocking him straight down. Zuko tried to melt the ice quickly by channeling his fire through his nostrils, till they doused him in his face.
Ty Lee and Suki were both struck afterwards with ice pinning them down against the freshly frozen ground. I was the only one left standing, but only by being planted into the ground against my own will.
"I'm not hoping to last any longer. Can any of you get up?"
"No," Suki answered, trying desperately to free her hands.
"Nope," Ty Lee confirmed. She was stuck in what I would have described as a very uncomfortable position. He hands were behind her feet and her whole body was crouched over with her arms pulled back behind her legs.
"That's a negative," Zuko explained. He had the worst, he was simply frozen neck to toe in one big block of ice. This is really bad. There is no way I can fight them off. It wouldn't be so bad if they weren't taking so much out of the bay . . . Wait a minute!
"I have an idea," I yelled out. I reached for my pocket and pulled my flute out.
They all looked at me. They were not really expecting me to play a song at a time like this. "Are you serious. we don't have time for flute playing," Zuko shouted from flat on his back.
"You'll thank me later. But I've got a huge fan to call," I pressed my mouth to the flute and blew into it. Kisu, please hear me. We need your help.
We continued the fight for what seemed like forever. I fought with the water I had in my pouch, using its available uses to my advantage at every possible point. I used various whips and swings at the earthbenders.
The earthbenders continued on coming back. But they never put much effort in every attack. I have faced many earthbenders and I knew straight off they weren't trying to win; their technique and attack style wasn't preplanned or even organised. It seemed strange, but the adrenaline from fighting was keeping our attention on fending them off.
After a while, Aang called out "They're retreating," The benders started running and jumping off the sides of the temple
"No they're not," Toph said confidently, cracking her knuckles and running to the edge. "Come on Sokka, we can catch them."
"What?" Sokka replied.
"Wait guys," I stopped them. "They weren't putting 100% effort into this assault. Do we really want to provoke them?"
I waited for and answer, but Toph just replied "Can't hear you sugar queen, too busy imagining smashing some more earthbenders." She punched her fists together and jumped over the edge after them.
Sokka held out his boomerang in the air. "Right, let's do this."
"Sokka, why are you going?" I asked.
"It will be just like watching Earth Rumble VI all over again. Except Toph could basically just thrash them around. It . . . will . . . be . . . AWESOME!" He ran to the edge, then stopped immediately before he could fall off. He looked round either side and eventually went down by the stairs.
Aang unfurled his glider. "Katara, I need you to protect Pathik."
"I cannot accept protection," Pathik answered. I turned around and he was still hanging upside down from his rope. We offered to free him earlier, but he refused it. He looked at me, focusing directly at me. "Not from her."
I hit my breaking point. I had had it with him looking at me in that way. If he had a problem I was going to give him a problem. I was done being civil. "Well that's good then, because I wasn't going to say yes anyways."
He simply closed his eyes like he was concentrating. "I never suspected that you wouldn't. I would rather be left hanging here thank you."
"Grr, I cannot believe . . ."
"Please both of you!" Aang shouted, separating us by cutting in front of me. "They will come back and I want to keep you both safe." He looked at me directly. "Katara, I am trusting you to keep him safe."
I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms, but I agreed. "Alright Aang. For you, I will keep him safe."
"Thanks sweetie," He kissed me on the forehead and took his glider with him over the edge. I watched as he disappeared into the clouds and the shrubbery below. I walked back over and sat by the wall. I absolutely refused to look at Pathik, let alone acknowledge his existence. I was still so angry at the way he had been giving me the look, like he thought I shouldn't be here at all. I hated the way he was making me feel. I didn't deserve it and I didn't deserve being treated like such.
I continued waiting around. No sound was muttered and no news came back from Aang or the others. I don't usually go with the stuff those three like, but it was always more fun than doing nothing. Especially with the old man staring at the back of your head the whole wait.
"Well this silence is unpleasant," he commented.
"I am not speaking to you," I asserted. I still didn't look at him when I spoke.
"No you are simply misunderstanding."
"I haven't misunderstood anything; you don't like me. Aang chose me over unlocking his chakras. You made him choose between all the cosmic energy in the universe, and love."
"It was necessary to unlock the chakra for the Avatar to gain control of the Avatar state."
I stood up and looked him in the eyes. "I was never necessary! Aang and I are happy together, and he can still go in and out without losing control! Your ideas of chakras is flawed and obviously doesn't work!"
"That was never the point of the exercise. That is what you have deeply misunderstood."
"Oh, well why don't you enlighten me then," I replied sarcastically, "What did I obviously miss that was so important?"
Guru Pathik closed both his eyes as if he was blinking for ten whole seconds, inhaling deeply before opening them and answering. "The Thought Chakra must be opened by letting go of Earthly Attachments. When I spoke of this to Aang, he mistook that as you have that I was demanding him to completely forget of love and family.
"Avatars before Aang have had loves and have kept the balance of the world: Avatar Kyoshi had a daughter; Kuruk was engaged to be married, and the lineage of Avatar's Tzenno and Roku flow through the veins of the current Firelord.
"To give up your Earthly Attachment is not about forgetting love; love is what allows the Air Chakra to flow so easily. Giving up your attachments shows that you are ready to put the needs of the world before anyone else. That is the role of the Avatar; putting the needs of the world before his own.
"I told Aang to allow himself free of putting you before the world, as is his duty; never once did I say that he had to stop loving you. Despite the resentment I have shown towards you, it is not because Aang chose you over my training, but because he put the whole world at risk by not allowing himself control over the Avatar State by making a rash decision."
My anger was draining. He made it seem so understandable and strangely relaxing. "Then why? Why don't you want my help?"
"Your brother and the Avatar have both been inflicted with dreams that I feel are messages from the spirits. Aang is seeing a dream from a memory. Something in that memory is telling him something from his past, something that may concern his life. Sokka your brother has likewise seen his most scary moments being changed for the worse. While I believe it is more to do with an inner turmoil. I fear there is a spiritual presence that is echoing a metaphor in relation to what Aang is also seeing.
"And what is that to do with me?"
"The only person in the world that strongly links Aang and Sokka is you, Katara. I wasn't sure at first, but I feel that sometime in the future, you will find the link between the historical memory and the alternate memory. At some point, I would ask that you meditate as Aang has done. Only then will you find the answer to both of their questions. I also think you may find some other answers for others you know."
When listening to March of the Dragon, it really shows you what good composition Crown Prince Azulon had in mind when he wanted announce his entrance into the battlefield; The sound was so magnificent and triumphant, but it was something that installed fear and terror at its might. Even just playing his flute, you could easily imagine the horns, soukens, kanuns and drums all silencing the noises of the battlefield. If I had been on the opposing side to the army playing this tune, I would feel fear opposing that army. That was the true power of the Fire Nation, installing fear and power in demonstrating their might.
That wasn't the thought running through my head though; what I saw was seven waterbenders trying to strike a fifteen year old Earth Kingdom colonial playing the flute. And seeing as he was the only one who was capable of defending us, not just me, but all of us were thinking What are you doing Ithar?
"What are you doing?" I asked. He didn't reply, he just kept playing.
"I don't suppose you have any loose rocks anywhere near here?" Zuko asked, still flat on his back, though he managed to unfreeze the area around his neck. He could barely lift his head up.
I shook my head. I tried to tug my arms and legs out of the ice, but it hadn't thawed out yet. I looked into the lake, and noticed it was starting to bubble.
"Ithar . . . " I shouted out to him. He didn't move, he just continued playing.
"Ithar!" He didn't move a muscle. The benders didn't move at all, they stood there in confusion. They too looked at the lake, they saw the bubbles, they looked straight at Ithar, just playing there, doing nothing.
"Ithar! Look in the water!" He looked and continued playing, the corners of his mouth twitched upwards.
"Ithar! It's coming! The Unagi is coming!" He turned round and looked straight towards us. I saw something I hadn't seen in a while. That twinkle in his eye was back.
I hope you realise what you're doing
Then, as I knew would happen, the Unagi burst through the water at break neck speed. The sound of crashing water burst across the beach like thunder. The fish beast snarled as it made his presence known. I stared into those great green eyes and I was afraid. Stuck in the ice, I was a sitting target.
"Unagi!" I cried. There was a reason we never stayed near the beaches. And this was it. I looked over and Ithar was . . . happy? Did he get hit in the head too many times? Why would you smile in the face of certain doom like that? He was pleased it was here.
"Kisu!" Ithar called out to the beast "Show them what real waterbending looks like!" He placed his mouth back to the flute and played the song again. But this time felt different; the tune was the same, but now I wasn't feeling afraid, it wasn't terrifying, nor did I feel like the Fire Nation wanted to crush me. I was afraid, but being on the side playing that tune made me feel like we could achieve victory on any day. That must have been how the troops felt when they marched with Azulon into battle.
The Unagi was terrifying, but what shocked me was that he actually listened to Ithar. Once he hit the chorus, the strong tone in the sound translated into twin jets of water that spewed straight from the Unagi's mouth, blasting down the benders and knocked them down. The burst streams scattered the beaches as the March of the Dragon began to reach its conclusion. The benders started fleeing in panic, but when they tried fleeing. Ithar stopped.
"Kisu! Don't let them escape!" He played on and the Unagi roared. Lifting up its tail and smashed through the ships. The song ended and the Unagi swam back into the deep.
Ithar then tucked his flute into his pocket and stood in stance with both his hands close to his head and chest, palms flat out like he had fans, extensions to his own arm. He struck the ice at his feet and walked in slowly towards the benders. They picked up water and tried attacking again, but this time was different.
Ithar didn't take the hits, instead he swatted them aside and continued to come in closer. As he did, he whistled March of the Dragon as he advanced forward. The benders grew hesitant and mistakenly ceased bending and foolishly went hand to hand against Ithar. I couldn't believe how much he improved. The stances, the blocks, the strikes and the counters were all spot on; one bender came in and Ithar pulled him in then struck him back out, sending him flat on his backside. The next tried a behind strike, but was struck in the gut and rolled over his shoulder. The movements were just so well organised.
He dealt with them within minutes and knocked them in their places. Ithar came back around, stopped whistling and helped get us out of the ice. It took a good few minutes to get me and Ty Lee free. Then the three of us helped free up Zuko's hands so that he could help himself with firebending.
"That was amazing," Zuko complimented to Ithar.
"I couldn't agree more," I added.
"It was just so great," Ty Lee expressed joyfully. "The way you played your flute and the Unagi coming in as well. Then you managed to fight all. I have never seen something so amazing."
"Thanks, but the Unagi was the one who did most of the work, and I have Kisu to thank for the . . ."
"Wait," I asked interrupting. "Kisu?"
"Yes, that's his name," he replied.
I looked straight at him. There was no twinkle, he wasn't lying or speaking riddles of any sort. He was serious. "The Unagi," I pointed out.
"Yes," he added.
"It's an Unagi. It's a very large fish beast that lives in the bottom of the lake and attacks ships and people swimming in it."
"It save your life, my life, our lives. He has a name," Ithar continued protesting.
"You're right. It did save our lives. And so did that flute of yours, again."
"The pen is mightier than the sword," he insisted. "But a flute will do the job just as fine."
We had a little laugh and chill out for a few seconds. Just relieved that it was now all over. But I still had to ask: "You named it Kisu," I couldn't stress that enough. The word meant kiss, very odd and not something you name a monster that attacks anything swimming in the water. "That's just . . . a weird name to give to a giant eel that can shoot water. It's a weird name to think of."
"I agree. That's . . .weird, really weird," Zuko added.
"I think it's rather sweet," Ty Lee commented.
Zuko was pondering over the name choice further. He came to a black and white conclusion that asked, "You do know what it . . ."
"I have lived a little and I've lived a lot," Ithar interrupted. "I know what Kisu means. But it's respect. I learned to fight by adapting what Suki taught me and watched him move. I copied its movements and . . . well, you saw the rest."
"How on earth did you get it to not eat you whole?" I asked.
"You'd never believe me," Ithar replied, pulling his flute out from his pocket and trying to twirl it between his right hand fingers. "It just happened to be a music lover," The twinkle was back, and Ithar was actually smiling for himself.
We all turned to the captured benders. "What do we do with them?" Ithar asked.
We all turned to Zuko for the answer. He answered immediately. "Take them into the dojo, we need to hold them until we get some answers from any of them."
"Club-a-pow! Yeah, another one bites the dust," We caught them and we were having the best of fun chasing them off. My club was work easy when they got close, and boomerang went after the ones that ran.
Toph barely raised her fingers. She just sat down and flicked every time she wanted to send a bender over the edge with pillars shooting straight from the ground, striking them in their behinds and sending them flying.
"Sayonara. Don't forget to write," she said laughing as she did it.
I smacked another on the head as he began fleeing. Boomerang came back, but I thought I'd let him get away this time. I walked over to Toph who had basically made herself a chair with a foot rest out of earth. "How many are you at Toph. I just beat my record. I'm at twelve benders down."
Toph flicked her fingers. Another bender went down screaming. "Is that it?"
I winced. "Hey, it's a personal best for me."
She spat out onto the ground. "The last time I beat up that many people, I was like eight." She snapped her fingers, another one really did bite the dust, leaving with cheeks full of dirt.
I looked at her skeptical. She didn't, she had to be bluffing. "When did you beat up twelve people at eight years old?"
She crossed her arms behind her head and cracker her knuckles. "Why do think the Blind Bandit was champion for four years running?"
"No. Just born with it."
We, I mean me, looked up and saw Aang soaring through the sky on his glider. He was circling around looking for us. I started waving my arms around above my head. "Aang, down here!" I yelled up to him.
He descended down to us, furled up his glider and "Did you catch them?"
"Who do you think, the earthbenders. Did you catch them?"
I looked at him. "Wait, we were suppose to capture them?"
Aang rolled his eyes. "Why did you think we were chasing them?"
"I looked over to Toph, who was actually looking at my direction, just not at me at me. "To, you know, swoosh swoosh Boomerang slice!" I followed through with hand actions demonstrating the various forms of slicing involved.
"You guys realise that we should have captured them," He yelled angrily. I was worried his head might glow up and we'd be blown up.
"And why would we want to do that, when beating them is much more fun?" I stared round at Toph. She had some real guts to be talking to Aang. His face was the same one he made when that Wolf Spirit made him look that way. Then again, she couldn't see what his face looked like, nor what it looked like then, especially since she wasn't there to begin with.
Aang threw his arm in the direction they were running. "Someone sent them here to attack us. None of us know why. But at least one of them will. If you guys had focused less on attacking you would have caught them."
Toph walked up, stood side by side next to him, but facing the opposite. "Chillax Twinkle Toes. After the beating we gave them, they won't come back again."
My mouth was open so wide I could barely feel like it would close again. "Uh, Toph. Aang actually wants them to come back. You know, the whole catching them and getting answers plan."
"Urgh, make up your mind then. We got rid of them and now you want them still here. Honestly."
Aang shut his eyes, breathed deeply, then he looked at both of us. "*sigh* It's fine. Let's just get back to Katara and Pathik, then we'll make plans to where we go from there."
"To see this Tzenno guy?"
"He's not just a guy he's a . . ."
"Yes, yes, the Avatar, or at least he was until like five lifetimes later, that is."
"Let's just get moving."
"Hey Aang, can I ask you a question?"
"Sure thing Sokka."
"Thanks." He fell for it. Yep I still got it.
He turned to me and said confusingly ". . . Wait, what?"
"Your ride will arrive tomorrow morning, it will take you to a fishing port on the outskirts of General Fong's training grounds and from there you will follow the road to the east heading to Omashu. There King Bumi has agreed to supply you with efficient transport and supplies."
I puffed at the news. King Bumi of Omashu was king since I was a kid. "He's still alive. Man he is . . . really old."
Oyaji stared right at me. "Do I need to remind you that Avatar Kyoshi lived to 230 years old. The longest living Avatar in history. King Bumi of Omashu is barely 114, the same chronological age as the current Avatar."
I felt really embarrassed for not remembering that fact. "Oh yeah," I answered, brushing the back of my head with my left hand.
Thankfully Zuko was there to break the tension off of me. "Thank you for everything," he said, bowing with the rest of us. To be honest, I was slow on joining, still preoccupied on the embarrassment I created.
"And thank you all," Oyaji thanked.
"I have sent the message to my Uncle Iroh. You can expect to see some, if not all, of the Kyoshi Warriors returning home by the end of the month."
"Thank you, Firelord Zuko. Kyoshi saw what you have done for this island, coming to its defence and returning its protégée home to us. She has forgiven you for your past mistake as we all have."
"That means a lot to hear you say that."
"Suki, do what you must do. But don't forget your home is always here."
"Ty Lee. The Fire Nation is your home, but you are always welcomed back here. As I told Suki, this place is your home too."
"I won't either. Thank you so much."
He then came towards me. His tone changed on a more serious note. "Ithar . . ." He paused and then turned to the rest of them. "Will you lot make your way to the boat?"
They all looked over with confusion. Suki was the only one to speak up. "Oyaji?"
"Just give us a minute, just make your way to the boat, if you'd please," It didn't take them long, but they eventually complied, leaving me alone with the Mayor of Kyoshi Island.
"Ithar," He looked right at me. "Don't give away too much information."
I looked at him; he generally looked concerned. "I know the risks," I told him. "But I wouldn't be here if the risks weren't high."
He placed his hand on my shoulder. "Just, keep some confidentiality."
"I will," I could feel my hand reaching towards my pocket. But I still restrained myself. I bowed and walked hastily to catch up with the rest of them.
"What did he ask you?" Zuko asked. I could see all their faces turning to my direction. They all wanted that same answer.
I looked at them, and reached into my pockets. I felt the three object in my pocket; the flute, the old wooden flute. Its shaft still warm where I clung to it during the attack. My mother's necklace piece, the metal still deformed and jagged at the edges. And the third . . . "Nothing," I answered, pulling a false smile. "Just wanted to make sure I knew what we were doing."
I walked up to Appa to get his saddle back on. He'd rather been enjoying the time eating hay and fruit. I patted his head. "Sorry buddy. But we need to get moving now."
"RAWRR," He was getting exhausted of all the hassle and time limits. Luckily we would have less of that. We had plenty of time this time.
"I know, bit we only have a few weeks before the Equinox. Don't worry, you can make it."
Katara came following on, with Sokka and Toph following behind. Sokka asked, "Tell me again, who is this guy again exactly? Except for the fact that Aang used to be him."
"Avatar Tzenno was the Avatar before Yangchen," Katara explained to him "He was Fire Nation . . ."
"Not just Fire Nation," I added "he was the Firelord."
Sokka raised an eyebrow. "I thought Avatar's couldn't hold state titles. Coz, you know, the Avatar was suppose to be stateless."
I was actually confused myself. "I'm not sure, but that's what everyone told me about him."
"Did they say anything else?" Katara asked "Like maybe if what Yangchen told you was true or not. Maybe he does have the answers."
"No. All I knew before hand was his name, nation and title."
"Could we maybe just walk?" Toph suggested, dragging her feet through the dirt, trying to shovel at much onto her soles before she'd have to leave it again.
She walked over placed her hand on Appa's head. "No offence to you personally Appa, but flying is still not the most appealing form of travel for me."
Toph sighed, she clearly knew she couldn't argue with a ten tonne magical monster. Sokka's words, not mine. "Fine, let's go."
"Hey guys," I looked over and Sokka was having difficulty getting onto Appa's back. "Eh, a little help here."
"I got it!" Toph and I both shouted in unison, jumping on the ground at the same time, rapidly slamming twice the amount of force into a single column that sent Sokka flying. He screamed as he was catapulted through the sky, before landing roughly straight onto Appa's saddle.
"Thanks," he groaned, muffled words as his face was buried in the saddle.
We laughed for a good half a minute before we boarded Appa.
"Alright, everyone," I called back as I set myself up on Appa's head with the reins in my hands. "Next stop: Avatar Tzenno's temple, Fire Nation." I flicked the reins and called to Appa "Yip yip." And off we flew.
- The Unnamed fire Avatar was last seen in The Avatar State, and several recreations of him in the line up with the other Avatar's were seen in The Crossroads of Destiny and Sozin's Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang.
- Aang's confliction with Roku's help originated from their last talk in The Promise Part 3.
- Yangchen talks to Aang, like she did previously in Sozin's Comet, Part 2: The Old Masters.
- I named the Fire Avatar Tzenno based on the Japanese word Tennō, which means "Emperor", based on how he was the ancestor of the Firelords. I also coupled in the Tz, giving it a silent 'T' from Chairman Mao Tse-tung.
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