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Back in Omashu
Chapter information
Series

Avatar: Beyond the Void

Book

1: Wood

Chapter

9

Written by

AdamantiumBladez

Editor(s)

AdamantiumBladez
SqueakyFoxAntelope

Release date

20th December 2013

Chronology
Last chapter

Autumn Equinox Part 2: Avatar Tzenno

Next chapter

The Two Faces of Ni

Katara

Water, Earth, Fire, Air.

For 100 years, the four nations 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.

Zuko

It took us over a week. One long week, not including the waits in between transports and even losing our original boat when the Unagi, sorry . . . Kisu, mistakenly destroyed when our boat. But we were here now and we were going to have an audience with King Bumi . . .

"Passports please." A guard stuck his hands in front of us, stopping us from proceeding any further.

I looked up to the guard. he wasn't that much taller than me, but he was still bigger. "Sorry?" I asked.

"New measures have been put into place. Ever since the war came to an end, too many people have been entering the city. Now we are monitoring everyone who enters, and we make sure that they are here for visits unless we have records of them living here."

It seemed a bit harsh. But it was an effectively system that seemed to work. "Very efficient."

Suki had a different opinion. "That's quite cruel though; telling people that they can't enter. Everyone has the right to visit great cities like Omashu."

The Guard stared down at her. From her angle it probably looked quite intimidating. "People may visit, but we want to make sure that they are not staying permanently. It's all part of the population security. Omashu is only big enough for a certain number of people."

"Fair enough" I replied.

"Right then. You first." He pointed at me and pulled me forward. "Passport."

I chuckled and held my hand up to chest height. "That really won't be necessary."

He stared at me. He then earthbent a rock and let it hovering over my head. "It will be necessary if you don't hand over your passport."

This guy was starting to infuriate me now. I was close to just firebending him. Ithar luckily had the right sense to step in and tell the guards who they were threatening. his tone sounded scared, but it was all for show. "Are you serious? No one is allowed to speak to the Firelord that way."

They stared back over to me. "Firelord?"

I pulled out the Firelord headpiece from my bag. the guards eyes widened so much I thought they would fall out of their eyelids. "Firelord Zuko! W-We had no idea . . ."

I put my head piece back into my bag. "King Bumi is expecting me and my party this afternoon. So if you would be kind enough to let us pass without further questions, we can be on our way."

"You may pass. Welcome to Omashu." I walked straight though to the guards as they opened the walls up and allowed me into Omashu. Ithar started walking, but a guard pushed him back. He kept the rock hovering above their heads without any sign of restraint.  "But I will still need to see some passports from the rest of the party." Well there was nothing I could do but wait. Ithar reached into his pockets, but he failed to pull anything out. He looked awkwardly at the guard before stepping back to let Suki forward. "Passport" the guard asked. Suki handed hers over and the guard asked her a question. "Place of Birth?"

"Kyoshi Island" she answered.

the guard looked over at her, smiled and handed her passport back. "Welcome to Omashu, miss." Ty Lee stepped forward as Suki came walking through the walls. "Passport." Ty Lee handed hers over. "Age?"

"16" she answered.

"Welcome to Omasu. miss." Ithar was the last person, but he was still struggling through his pockets. "Passport" the guard asked him.

"Um . . ."

"Passport." The rock above his head seemed to drop closer towards his head. He started panicking.

"Urhhh" He reached his hand further into his pocket. he then reacted like he grabbed something. the sudden change in his reaction alarmed me.

"Ithar?"

he looked over to us. "You guys go on. I'll think of something."

"Ithar?"

"Just go on. I'll catch up."

as much as we didn't want to leave him behind. He may never have gotten into Omashu, but we needed to get to our audience with King Bumi. We started walking when Ithar cam charging in towards us. 

"And I'm in."

we all stared at him. I looked over and the walls had just finished closing. "Ithar?"

"In the flesh."

"How did . . . Did you find your passport?"

"No. No. I left that back in my place."

"Then how did you get in?"

He smiled slightly. "I found a way."

"You broke in didn't you?"

"No. The guards let me in eventually."

"How on earth . . .?"

"They just did. Let's just get going to King Bumi."

He began walking ahead of all of us. It was strange and I still wondered how he got in.

Aang

We'd taken off from New Moon Island less than a few hours ago and we were already on our way to meet with the spirit. But I couldn't help but wonder what Tzenno meant clearly enough. He said the spirit was two faced, but seeing as it's a spirit, does he mean literally two faced. I've met several spirits that weren't exactly what you would expect to see, so this spirit most probably has two faces.

But the other hand could mean it's deceitful, but that's even more odd than having a second face.

"So where are we going again?" Toph asked.

"To Dao" I answered.

"Dao?" Katara asked.

"It's the largest island in the North West of the Earth Kingdom."

Sokka scratched his head. "Have we ever been to this island before?"

Hmm, I never really thought about that; we'd been all over the world but not once have we ever been to Dao. But then again, there's nothing fun to ride there so I wouldn't had been interested when we were travelling north the first time. "No."

"Huh. Seems like we really should have."

"So Katara, did you find out anything during your meditation?"

"I don't know really" she answered. "Oh! but I did see little Pakku."

Toph's ears pricked up. "Who . . . oh wait, never mind."

"By little, you mean . . . big fat baby cheeks?" Sokka asked, pursing his lips together to make his cute baby talk sounds.

"Yeah" Katara answered, doing the same thing. "He was so cute."

I didn't get it, it must have been a family thing. "Cute Pakku? Not two words I thought I'd hear together" I said. "Anything else?"

Katara pondered for a brief moment. "Well, I have no real idea. It seemed completely out of the blue to be perfectly honest. I have no idea what I saw it links to yours and Sokka's dreams. I don't know if the Northern Water Tribe has anything to do with it. Does a girl named Tulia mean anything to you Aang?

I shrugged my shoulders. "I've never been to the Northern Water Tribe before I went with you guys, and I've certainly never heard of anyone called that before."

"Why were you panicking Twinkletoes?"

I admit I panicked slightly. I chose my words carefully. I was truthful, I have really not heard of that name before. But I was worried I might say the wrong thing, and it would all end . . .

"Wait. Hey guys down there!" From the top of Appa's head I could see something big and metal floating in the water. It was breathing smoke and pumping it straight into the sky. A red flag bearing a black flame insignia was fluttering in the wind.

"Is that a Fire Nation ship?" Katara wondered.

"Meh" Sokka replied. "We see plenty of ships every time we pass the sea, and any ports on the shorelines. It's not a big deal."

I looked closer and noticed that there were people on top of the deck. "It's transporting something. It looks like a load of people dressed in green."

"That's strange. The Fire Nation wear red, brown, black and gold."

"No they are wearing gold, and black. And their faces are painted white . . . "

Sokka came shoving through and leaning over the edge of the saddle. "Really? It's the Kyoshi Warriors!" He started flapping his hand frantically. "Land Appa! Yip yip! Suki, we're coming!"

"Woah, who made you in charge of the bison?"

"You did when you spotted that boat." Great.

"Sokka we have places to go" Katara reminded him, while trying to pull him back before he fell over the side and down into the water.

"Cummon, we're on no schedule now. We can stop on the ship for a while." He was getting very agitated, I was worried he would burst no matter what answer I gave him.

"I hear that" Toph agreed. "Oh captain my captain."

"Really?" Sokka said. His reaction was confusing, I thought he didn't like his nickname.

"No."

His wide smile broke into a solid winced, while me and Katara tried to contain some small giggles generated from his reaction."Why do I even bother sometimes?"

Ithar

The doors opened up into the palace throne room. It wasn't like the throne room in the Fire Nation, there was a lot more open area without pillars sticking out of every in convenient place, but I suppose that if the Firelord was in a bad mood, you'd want somewhere to hide behind to escape the flames.

In Omashu, it was still dark, but at least it wasn't all lit by a wall of fire in front of the throne, in fact King Bumi's throne wasn't even elevated, it was on the same level as the rest of the floor. Apart from the new uniforms that guards were wearing it looked exactly the sa- . . . I've said too much.

The guards rushed us to get into some smart clothes, which was unlucky for me as I didn't have anything to change into; Zuko had his headpiece and some robes, which was the bare minimum he brought with him. Suki and Ty Lee got back into uniform, but didn't have time to apply their makeup. I have other clothes but I didn't have them on me, enough said.

"Your highness." The Guard at the door called out as we entered though, with Zuko leading, Suki and Ty Lee shoulder to shoulder behind and me walking at the back. "May I present to you; His benevolent majesty, Firelord Zuko, Ruler of the Fire Nation, Firebending Tutor of Avatar Aang, and Dragon." I had heard that any member of the Fire Nation who faced a dragon received the title of "Dragon", Iroh himself was called the "Dragon of the West".  "And his companions, Miss Suki of Kyoshi Island, Leader and Commander of the Kyoshi Warriors, Miss Ty Lee of the Fire Nation, Kyoshi Warrior, and . . . " the guard stopped in mid sentence. Darn it, he hadn't the foggiest to remember my name.

"Ithar" I whispered loudly.

". . . and Ithar of . . . of . . . "

Errrrh. "Shao Hui."

". . . and Ithar of Shao Hui." Finally I thought rolling my eyes. "And to our guests, I present his highness, King Bumi of Omashu, MWL."

"MWL?"

"Member of the White Lotus."

"Gotcha."

King Bumi was really old, that was obvious. Being 114 years of age really didn't seem to change him. he still sat hunched over like he was frail, when in actual fact he was still in his prime, so to speak. Easily untwisting his back and  clenching his fists, he was something of a one-man army on his own. "Well look who's here;" he declared, raising his hands in the air with a large smile on his face. "The Firelord has come for a visit. Have you gained weight?"

Zuko was momentarily stunned by his question. "Um, not that I am aware of."

"Hmm, well you can't be too careful these days; no war mean more people are just sitting on their backsides waiting for another. And seeing as your country lost the last one, I should think you all waiting for someone else's turn."

"Maybe he's right;" Suki blurted. "You have been doing little exercise since you found your mother. I don't even remember seeing you practise your bending forms."

"What about when we were attacked?" he protested. "All those times this last month."

"And you have been snacking in between meals . . . "

"Okay, quit it. I guess I've put a few pounds on, but I'm still in shape."

Bumi moved his eyes over the group. his eyes hovered all of us. I could help buy stare, then his yes locked on me. Focusing closely, I was worried he would give me away. He pulled a grin the pulled his focus away. "Hmm, well that's good because it's time for a feast. Hehe *snort*"

I exhaled, for now. But I knew it would be a matter of time before he blew the whistle.

The feast was immediately rolled in. The table was raised from under carpet and the food was brought in from the kitchens. There was a large varieties of foods all over the table; from arctic hen, komodo chicken, sea prune (*lurh*), seaweed noodles, fruit tarts, mangos, bananas, the lot. A lot of the cuisine was imported from other nations, and some of the foods had gone into rarity until recent years.

Zuko was sat directly opposite the other end to King Bumi, while I was seated to Zuko's right and the girls were to his left. Bumi tucked straight into some lettuce and komodo chicken, while we all were left staring. It's not that we weren't hungry, but we were kind of waiting for him to let us start. I don't know if he intentionally made us wait, but after swallowing down a leaf, he waved his hand and we pulled in what we could see.

"So" he said. "What brings all of you to Omashu."

A guard pulled in closer and spoke into the old king's ear. "You invited them, your highness."

His eyes widened. "Well nobody told me. Oh wait yes I did. hehehe"

"He's a bit crazy" Zuko whispered to me. "But he's one of the most powerful earthbenders in the world."

"I already know that, but thanks for reminding me . . ."

"It's rude to interrupt a king at his own feast."

I nearly jumped from my seat. Bumi was looking dead at us. Not too much at Zuko, but at me."My apologies" I replied.

He put his clenched hand to his bottom lip. "Don't I recognise you from somewhere?"

"No." I answered dead quickly, to avoid any hesitation. He's going to spill the beans I thought.

"You do don't you?" He pulled the same guard in for confirmation. "Doesn't remind you of someone, someone very old, very secretive, and very, very powerful?"

Lucky for me, I'd never seen that guard in my life, and he had never seen me. "I-I can't really say your highness" he replied.

"No, there is definitely something familiar about him. Like I have known him for a very long time. Like he's been here in Omashu before. Like he's been under my roof before. Like he was me." No no no. His eye kept fixating on me and I couldn't look away. Then all of a sudden . . ."Oh wait, It was me I was thinking of. Oh silly me." Thank fricking . . . *phew*.  Little did I know he was still focused on me. "So young man" he continued. "No one I have ever met has worn those colours before. deary me, very bland of you to be wearing grey and white together. Where do you come from?"

"The colonies, the former colonies in the Earth Kingdom."

"Hmm I thought as much. Well, I seem to be getting tired. You know how it gets at my age. I think I'll just - hyah!" He pulled a komodo chicken drumstick from his sleeve and threw it towards me. I sliced the air in hesitation, but nothing happened. Darn, forgot; no bending. Without a second to rethink about dodging, the leg hit me square o the forehead and knocked my balance. I fell straight to my left and on the floor.

"Ow."

"Did you just throw chicken at him?" I heard Zuko's asked. My head was throbbing from chicken meat being lobbed at it.

I couldn't see from my angle, but I guessed from Bumi's tone he was generally surprised. Like he wanted something to happen. "Strange, that usually works. Maybe my aim is getting a bit off."

"Need a hand?" Zuko offered, getting out of his chair to my side.

"No" I replied "I can-" *clinck* My third item fell from my pocket. it rolled straight under table on its rounded side and settled by King Bumi's feet.

"Oh wait! Something did come out" he remarked. he stomped the floor and catapulted the piece into his hand. he held it in a small grip of his thumb and index finger. Presenting it clearly in front of everyone. "And from the looks of it, it's very important. Does this belong to you?"

"Is that a Pianchou piece?" Suki wondered.

"The lotus tile!" Zuko realised. he was correct; it was the lotus piece that I had in my pocket. he then looked down at me. "Ithar?"

"I told you once before;" Bumi explained. He was now addressing everyone, but his attention was on me. he was just waiting to expose this the whole time. "All old people know each other, don't you remember. Hehehehehe *snort* hehe *snort*snort* hehehe."

Toph

I jumped off of Appa's back. The hull of the Fire Nation ship vibrated in all directions. I could feel twenty six warriors in similar outfits. three men in Fire Nation armour in the hull working the ship, one sky bison, two Water Tribe kids, and an Avatar with a flying lemur on his shoulders.

"She's not here."

Sokka walked up to me. "What do you mean. These are Kyoshi Warriors. She's the leader, she has to be here."

I slammed my feet on the deck several times to prove my point. "I've stomped my foot plenty of times and I know that she is not here. I know you're here, I know Aang's here, Katara's here, Appa and Momo are here, twenty six Kyoshi Warriors in total are here. But Suki is not here."

"She's right Sokka." I don't know who it was. I knew it was a Kyoshi Warrior. I recognised the voice, but I have no name to go with the voice.

"Told you" I gloated.

Sokka made several frustrating movements, but eventually calmed down and spoke back to the Kyoshi Warrior right next to us. "Okay, so who's in charge here then?"

"I am. My name's Daneya."

"Oh, well then could you tell me where is she? Is she still in the Fire Nation?"

"No, she and Ty Lee left with the Firelord and some other kid to find you guys actually."

"Wait" I interrupted. "Zuko's been chasing after us again."

"Good times. Good times." Sokka said.

"I miss the old days sometimes."

I then felt Aang's light baby steps walking towards us, with Katara walking with him. "What you guys talking about?"

"Zuko's trying to catch us" Sokka explained.

"Sokka, that was like five years ago" Katara pointed out to him.

"No, he's literally doing it again."

"What do they want?" Aang asked.

"I don't know, but Daneya does."

"What do they want?" Aang asked her.

"We're not sure, but this kid said you were in some sort of danger."

"Danger? From what."

"Yeah, what could you mean?" Sokka asked. "He's the Avatar. Nothing can beat him."

"We don't know, but all we know is that they are looking for you."

"Do you know where they are?" Katara asked.

"The last message we received said they were heading for Omashu. But we can't confirm if they are there or not. But that is where they are going at any rate."

"So what are you doing here then. Surely you should still be in the Fire Nation shouldn't you."

"No the message was from the Firelord. He said that if we wanted to leave we could. He said we could go home."

"So all of you are going? Is that what this is?"

"No, only twelve of us are actually making the trip home. But before we break off, we're all going to Pengji village."

"Why are you going there?"

"We got a message that there is a small disturbance in the area, and since some of us are going there on the route home, we thought we'd check it out."

"Do you need our help?" Katara offered. "We'd be more than happy to, and we can meet up with Zuko and the others later."

"And I am the Avatar. Helping people and keeping the world safe is part of the job."

"That won't be necessary. We can take care of this ourselves."

They all stared at each other, all unsure of their next move. "Then I guess we could just go straight to Zuko then" Sokka suggested.

"I like that plan" I agreed. "I would like to challenge King Bumi to a rematch." I punched my fist into my palm. "Greatest Earthbender Round 2."

"No" Katara protested.

They all stared at her. I did, but I didn't look right up at her face. "No?" Sokka asked. "What are you talking about?"

"Aang needs to see this spirit. As much as Zuko and Suki, and them all want to reach us. We need to complete our own mission first."

Aang sighed "Okay Katara. You're right."

They hugged each other, but I interrupted their lovey moment. "I'm still serious about the rematch. Couldn't we just-" *BWAM* the hull of the ship got knocked to the side. The ship started shaking and leaning closer towards the see on its left side. I stomped my foot and I could feel a ship lodged into the hull. It was strange, the front of it was made of metal while the rest was wooden. It was like it was built to ram.

"Woah what happened?" Sokka asked.

"We've been rammed. Something's hit us" Katara pointed out.

"It was a boat." I confirmed.

"Really? No kidding" Sokka said sarcastically. "We're in the middle of the water and a boat hits us. Fancy that happening."

I punched him in the arm.

He rubbed his arm. "Who's doing it?"

"I don't know."

"Pirates?"

"No the vessels are smaller."

"Vessels?"

"There are several of them. Six."

"Do you see that?"

"No, but lets say for a minute I could, what's so remarkable about it?"

"There's a moon over an ocean on the sails. The ships are Water Tribe."

". . . So."

"The South doesn't have ships like these. These are from the North."

A wave hit the side of the ship, but it let out vibrations of its own. "Look out!"

Ithar

Bumi was still holding my lotus tile. But he smiled and flicked it back to me like any normal piece of currency. I caught it in my right hand and swiftly attempted to put it into my pocket. But it was too late; Bumi all ready blew it all for me. He was only waiting for the right time to spill the beans.

"You're a White Lotus member?" Zuko asked for confirmation.

I sighed and just went with it. "How else did you think I got into the city without a passport?"

"How on earth did you get in with a Pai Sho piece? Any man with a Pai Sho set could just show them a tile and expect entry."

"If anyone could do it then no one would need a passport. I just told them the motto."

Suki raised an eyebrow and sat up fro the table. "There's a motto?"

"Who knocks at the guarded gate?"

"One who has eaten its fruit and tasted its mysteries" I replied. The sentence you spoke whenever you confirm that you're a member.

"Chaoyue Zhishì de Lianheguo Fen bu."

"For Knowledge that Transcends the Division of Nations."

"You're missing a few words." Ty Lee pointed out.

"Well we are trying to fit it all on a badge or something" Bumi answered. Unfortunately he wasn't even lying. that was the real reason. "We're still working on though."

"Did you know Uncle Iroh before you arrived?" Zuko asked me directly.

I was about to answer before Bumi cut me off from speaking. "Of course he did. He introduced him to the group."

"Wait, you brought him to the order?"

I swiped my hand horizontally. "Too much information Bumi" I said through my teeth.

"What? It's all in the past now, literally. Hehehehehe *snort* hehe. Why keep it a secret."

"That's the whole point of secrets; you tell anyone. Secrets are only secret when you don't tell people."

"Well what's the point of having secrets if you can't tell people? Telling people is fun. And its fun to mess with people."

I put my foot down. "It's not an option. My presence here is compromise enough. Too much information is changing too much. I cannot allow it."

His right eye grew wider as he focused on me even harder than he did before. It was really starting to creep me out even more than usual. "Are you sure you're Ithar?"

I raised an eyebrow. Oh haha, very funny is what I thought. But what I really said was "wh-what."

"Something's different. What's changed? You use to be so much fun."

"I grew up Bumi. I learnt the hard way. I "suffered before and I suffered again. I couldn't keep doing it anymore. I grew up, I matured."

He grew a large smile. "I don't believe you. In fact I think it's time." I stomped his foot and the floor beneath my feet grabbed hold of me. Before I could say 'what the?' the ground sank at a tremendous speed. Like I was sliding down the mail system from the steepest slide. The speed was unbearably quick that it became hard to hear:

"Ithar!" Zuko shouted down.

"Don't worry;" Bumi said. "He's a voidbender, he can just bend his way out of there. No problem."

"King Bumi, he lost his bending! That's why we're here!"

"Lost it?"

"He was bloodbent!" Suki explained. "He somehow lost it! He can't bend!"

"Oh. Well I suppose we have nothing to worry about. Now just follow me."

"Ithar!"

"Ithar!"

"Ithar!"

"Ithar!"

"Ithar!"

"Ithar!"

"Ithar!"

And just like that, there was silence. Silence and darkness. Wind continued rushing and I was still falling. Deep inside Omashu.

Katara

I raised up a wave to knock the boats out of our hull. The ships went hurtling into the open water. Toph used metalbending to seal in the hole as best she could, while Aang fixed the wholes quickly by freezing them together.

I was preparing to fight back in any form of counterattack. But as I looked out, the boats are starting to flee. They completely by passed our ship and just kept on sailing. It was like they weren't even occupied with us.

"They're leaving?" I said.

"Can we leave too?" Toph asked. Poor girl was greener then her clothes. Puffed cheeks and sweating, while clutching onto her stomach and covering her mouth. "All that rocking is making me sick. And I don't have a helmet this time."

"Alright team. Let's move out." Aang called out. He stopped and turned to Daneya. "We could use all the help we need. Will you or any other warrior like to join us?"

Daneya looked around, the reaction was mutual all round. It was a definite no. "I'm sorry but we have our orders. We have to reach the colonies."

"That's okay. We've got this."

We all started boarding Appa. First was Aang, landing immediately on his with Momo on his shoulder. I got on next into the saddle. Toph lifted herself using the deck as a lift to spring her into the saddle. Sokka started walking, but then he stopped dead in his tracks.

"Sokka come on!" I yelled back.

"Hold up guys" he replied.

"Sokka, we'll lose them!" Aang pointed out.

"I think I'll puke" Toph stated.

"Just a sec. Daneya, could you tell Suki something for me."

"Sure Sokka, anything for the commander."

"Could you tell her that . . . that: I still count those days, . . . till we lock eyes together, eyes sparkle . . . like stars."

Wow. My brother really knew how to make good use with words. It was quite a beautiful sentiment. And it came out of Sokka, biggest surprise. My brother was never good with words, but he really surprised me.

Even Daneya was tearing up. "I'll tell her. I'll tell her."

Sokka turned and started walking towards Appa, and then he had to turn around suddenly. "Oh! And also tell her that we'll meet them at the Northern Water Tribe."

Moment ruined. Suki still would have found it sweet, even if he spoiled something so beautiful, and coming from Sokka. He should have just left it there.

Sokka came on board and we flew off to make chase.

"Where are they going?"

"They're Northern Water Tribe ships" Toph reminded him "Where do you think?"

We chased for a while, me and Aang trying as best as we could they were going to get away. Appa was fast, but the waterbenders on that boat were making it difficult to follow by using mist to try and cover their escape. And the currents worked on their side, pushing and pulling them further and further ahead.

"Aang! Flash Freeze!"

Aang saluted the order with two fingers. "Got it Sifu Katara!"

We both stood up on either side of Appa's saddle. We held out our arms and slid them slowly backwards towards our hips. We then swung our arms outwards across the water. The ocean started freezing and eventually it caught the ships, subsequently grounding them in a barren wasteland in the middle of the water.

"Got them." Aang celebrated. "Okay team, let's board!"

Sokka raised his prized weapon into the sky. "With the power of Boomerang!" And he proceeded to jump over Appa and jumped onto the deck of the ship. He threw his boomerang and reached out for his club. He was easily subdues in several douses of water which promptly froze as he was stuck to the side of the ship.

Aang looked really skeptical. "Are you sure you two are related?" He asked me.

"I still wonder to this day" I replied.

His boomerang came back, and it lodged itself into the ice near his head. Too close to his neck. If it had been exposed that would have been fatal. The water benders started closing in, and that moment we followed my stupid brother's example and stupidly jumped down onto the deck to his aid. I pulled the ocean around my arms, Aang started swinging his staff, and Toph slammed her foot for whatever metal was available to her in the form of nails and hooks that she melded together into several solid pellet shapes.

As the waterbenders closed in to attack, we stood our ground and prepared for the incoming assault. Twelve vs. three, it seemed really unfair, for them.

Zuko

"Where is he gone?" I demanded. The hole was too dark to see the bottom, and the crazy king wasn't giving up any answers.

He pulled a creepily calm smile and turned to an empty wall. "Oh calm down. He's safe." He pressed his hands against the wall and shoved it to one side. The wall revealed a set of stairs that rolled downwards and spiraled round below the floor. "I always keep Flopsy in his enclosure. He's perfectly fine."

"I meant where is Ithar?" He continued walking down the stairs. He didn't even make any attempt to turn around. "Didn't you hear?"

"I did hear you the first time. Didn't you hear? Follow me kids. He's having a sleepover with Flopsy."

"Flopsy?" I asked. I had no idea who

"Enough talking. Everyone on to the stairs!"

As we stepped on we started to walk further down. But Bumi had other ideas. Slamming his foot and thrusting his arms out and dragging them back in; the stairs began to move themselves, and they started to descend us further down into the very center of Omashu. I nearly fell head first after the sudden feeling of imbalance.

"If I know Flopsy; he's probably giving our old friend a big hug right this moment. Or he could be sitting on him. Either way Flopsy will be smothering him in kisses."

"Oh that sounds adorable" Ty Lee commented. He held her hands together and pressed them against her cheek.

Suki shared a look with me that just explained itself as 'that's weird'. I had no idea what she was on about. "You do remember what Flopsy is?" Suki asked her.

"Of course I do; he's a gorilla goat." Wait! Did she say a gorilla goat?

"Adorable doesn't quite cut it."

"But he was such a sweetie the last time."

I raised an eyebrow. "Last time?" She's seen it before!

"Oh, when I visited Omashu last time. I saw him down on the wheel and I rolled down to say hi."

"Rolled down doesn't quite cut it."

This might have gone on for a long while if it wasn't for the stairs finally stopping. Bumi stepped off, while we all nearly fell forward after the sudden halt. he started walking forward and there was a couple of guards waiting by the edge of a hip height wall. They saluted him and he started peering over the edge with us following after.

"I admit that Flopsy does prefer the open air, but I have no where for him in the open city where he can run around. Your friend should have landed right in his arms, if we're lucky. If not, then I'm sure we've got nothing to worry about."

We all peered over the edge. I looked at this huge white beast of a creature sitting down on its hind legs and clutching on to something in its great trunks of arms. It rocked it side to side and tended to lick it at every given opportunity.

"Ah look there he is. Cuddling up with Flopsy." I looked closer and noticed his dark hair being licked till it was standing on its ends. "How are you doing down there?" Bumi called out to Ithar.

He couldn't say a word. It all came out in muffles that were unrecognizable as words. "MmmmMMmMmMmmMm!"

Flopsy continued to lick Ithar till his face was now half revealed. "That means he likes you."

One of the guards stepped forward towards King Bumi. "Your highness. Should we let him out?"

"And ruin Flopsy's snuggle time? You know he gets cranky if he doesn't get his snuggle before he takes his afternoon nap."

I was getting sick of his excuses. I pulled him over by his shoulder to look at me face to face. "King Bumi, could we please wrap this up. I don't think Ithar is enjoying being smothered by a your pet."

"How dare you. Flopsy is a part of the family."

I had enough. he was a great Earthbender, but he was being too childish. "Bumi!"

"I'm sorry but I can only be neutral jing."

"Sorry, what?"

He pulled that same calm creepy smile again. Shrugging shoulders while explaining that "All I can do is . . . nothing. Hehehehe"

"Can we do anything then?" I asked. "I don't think he can take it anymore."

"MMMmmmmmMmmMMmmmMMMM!" Ithar muffled. It was louder now that his head was half exposed, but it was still unrecognizable.

"All any of us can do is nothing" Bumi explained again.

"We can't do nothing, we need to do something."

"No that's it. Neutral jing. Do nothing. Ithar is conflicted between positive jing, attacking, and negative jing, retreating. Flopsy won't let go until he does nothing and wait till Flopsy goes to sleep."

I looked over and still saw Ithar struggling. King Bumi was right; he was flailing around to try and break away. I doubted what Bumi was saying, but he was the only one that really knew his pet well. "And it works?"

"Of course it will. Trust me." I didn't like how he said it. His eyes went tighter and his smile pulled itself tighter round the cheeks.

I didn't like it, but it was all we had. "Ithar!" I shouted out. "Do nothing."

"MMmmhh?" I guess he was saying 'what?'.

"Don't struggle. Do nothing." Suki encouraged.

"MmmMmmhhhMhMmm?" I couldn't for the life of me work out what he said . . .

"He asked how that would work" Bumi translated. He looked out to the enclosure and shouted out to Ithar "Flopsy likes a cuddle! If you relax he will get sleepy!"

Ithar stared straight at the old king and they locked their sights on each other for a whole half a minute before Ithar muffled back. "MMmmMmmhhh." I think it was 'ok'.

Ithar stopped struggling and just laid perfectly still. Flopsy still rocked him, but eventually got tired and slowly started loosening his grip. It was working.

Bumi placed his index finger and thumb in his mouth and whistled out. "Flopsy! Up here. Daddy wants a kiss."

At that moment, all our jaws dropped; Flopsy completely let go of Ithar and dropped him on the ground. He then proceeded to climbing the wall and lying on his back while Bumi tickled it for him.

There was only thing that could really be said. "That was it?"

He looked over back at us. Ithar struggled to climb up the sides of the wall, but Suki and Ty Lee helped him up by his arms. He fell straight onto the floor, but he was relieved he was out. "What?" was his only reply.

"You could have done it the whole time!"

"I was being strangled down there!" Ithar complained, wiping off even more saliva off of his cheeks and from his hair.

"No, Flopsy was only playing. And yes, I could have easily have called him up."

"Then why didn't you?" I asked.

"Because it's fun messing with people. Hehehe *snort* hehehehehehe *snort* he *snort*. Now where did I leave my gennamite. I'm hungry."

Sokka

Before you hear what Toph says: I didn't faint. Boomerang coming back didn't scare me into unconsciousness. The ice was making my eyes tired and I needed some sleep. Everyone knows I have had trouble sleeping lately. That's what happened. Nothing else.

It was such a good nap that I unfortunately missed all the action. But from what I heard they did it was as simple as: *whooow*splash*splash*thump*thump*thump"swoosh*swoosh*Airbending slice!*Waterbending slice!*Metalbending smash!*

I came to . . . I woke up and I saw that they had finished completely knocking out the entire crew. Entire crew, minus one.

"Eh, guys! Little help. Freezing my butt off over here."

I got him. Toph offered. "Wakey wakey snoozles." She slammed her foot and pulled up a piece of the deck and used it like a sword blade. She cut straight through the right side, then through left. She thrusted the edge into the bottom and slammed on it with her foot. She catapulted me over her head and I landed face first onto the deck.

"Ohh!" I hurt. But I was out of that ice.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Did I make you faint again?"

"I'm still awake, and I was having a nap."

"Yeah I can see that" she replied waving her hand across her face like she always did. "And I guess that also explains the wetness in your pants."

"It was the ice!"

"Sure it was." She patted my shoulder as she walked past. "Get up. We have a captive to interrogate."

I pushed myself off the ground and walked over to where Aang and Katara were pinning down a Northern Water Tribe Warrior. As I drew nearer, I recognized the face. There was no name to go with the face. But I knew the face all the same. He was part of that undercover squad that was supposed to infiltrate Admiral Zhao's flag ship and take him out before the invasion fleet could be docked.

"Who do you work for?" Aang demanded, he held him by his throat with the end of his staff.

The warrior was no more than a boy. He was young as us, well not as young, he had to be about seventeen at least, but he was still a kid. He was shaking, but he wasn't looking at any of us. He looked fixed at the staff, not the wielder. "Shh-Shhhh-Shhhehhh-Shhh." That was all he was saying the whole time he was staring at the staff.

"Spit it out" Katara yelled.

He looked up at Katara and his shaky expression was gone. He looked like he was alright again. But obviously he had no manners. "*pwut* No." as blunt as that he answered. Spitting on the ground at their feet.

"You are in no position to be rude" Katara reminded him. "Do you recognise the tattoo on his head?"

He looked over at Aang. Then his eyes grew wider and he began shaking again. Strangely kite didn't affect his speech like he did before. It just made it harder to understand.

"A marked one! But you're not the marked one. What does this mean? You'll attack the king who rules the flames. When seeing the marked one, speak the names." He was twisting his head violently as he spoke. It was like he was talking not as a single person, but as two people speaking on his behalf.

"We have no time for riddles" Aang informed him. Tell us where you were taking this ship?" "Don't bother fibbing" Toph added. "Lies don't work around me."

"Ni's Island!" He replied. "That's where the marked one told our commander to go. The commander speaks with Ni. Ni tells and Ni delivers."

"Well good, because we're actually going there as well" I blurted out. "You could show us around, maybe even take us to Ni seeing as we're looking for it."

He went from shaky to terrified as a sudden rapid escalation of fear rose in his body. "You're not serious? No one looks for Ni. Ni only needs to look at you, she tempts you, he shouts at you. You don't know what it's capable of. Who do you listen to? The voices in that place, they hide from you, drag you in, they let you escape, they whisper in your ear. These whispers are ideas they spew into your ear as truth. You believe them. They let you go. You leave, but you're no longer the same person you were when you entered.

She told the commander that he would be crowned; he yelled that the commander would die on the throne. The commander now he works for the marked one. The marked one tells him what to do and he follows. She told the commander that the marked one was her champion. He ordered that the commander would fulfill his fate following the marked one.

Not this marked one that stands before us, the other marked one. He is in charge. He calls the shots. He leads and we follow. The commander owes that much to him. The commander needs his help, just like the minister. The minister and the commander don't like each other. But they follow the marked one."

We were all creeped out by what he was saying. "He's speaking in mixed sentences" I pointed out. "Why is he alternating?"

"Who is the marked one?" Toph demanded, raising a metal frame from the hull underneath straight under him.

"He stands before us. Blue of arrow and orange of robed."

She raised it higher till it caught him in the back. "No, the other one. Your marked one."

"The marked one works for her. She told the marked one that he would hold the greatest cities at the ends of the world. The marked one listened and believed her. He then told the marked one that the masked one would be the marked one's obstacle. The masked one would do what anyone would do and attack."

"You haven't answered the question!"

"A-O-A!"

"What?" I asked.

"Ah-Oh-Ah"

"Ahohah? What is Ahohah?"

"A-O-A. A-O-A. A-O-A." He made a quick roll and jumped onto the edge of the ship.

"Stop!" I yelled.

He turned to look at us. His expression wasn't scared anymore. He was crazy. Smiling like he knew this was coming and that he was going to survive this. But it was madness that really showed, not any common sense. "You will float on water, until you stop" he cried out. "Only to drown, in a single drop. That's what she whispered to me. That's what he shouted at me. I will float before I will drown. So long, it will wait. It always expects, and it always knows." And he simply fell backwards into the water.

"Nooo!" we all yelled. We ran to the side of the ship. He wasn't out in the water. He wasn't clinging to the side of the ship. He wasn't even floating. All that we could see, was the ripples of when he fell in. But he wasn't there.

"What happened?" Toph asked. She couldn't see what happened, or even feel the splash as it was outside of the boat. "I heard a splash. Is he floating?"

"No, he was floating when he was on the boat. He dropped the moment he hit the water."

"I don't like the idea of seeing this spirit anymore" I said aloud. "I vote we go." "Second it" Toph answered.

"Third." I looked around, and it was Katara who answered. It was strange of her, she normally asked to see what Aang thought before she made her vote. "Seriously Katara?"

"Aang needs the answers, but looking at how twisted that person became inside his head. I don't think we can risk it. I really don't think we should seek that spirit's help."

I looked around and we were all clearly shaken by this experience. "Then I guess the vote is unanimous." I looked over to Aang, who had yet to make an answer. "Aang? Do you want to vote? Leave or Go? It's entirely up to you."

He continued to stare out into the water. The ripples were vanishing and there would almost be no trace that any dive was made from the side of this ship. He sighed and told us "I agree with all of you. We're a team and we've known each other for a long time."

"I don't think we can call three years long" I pointed out. "A hundred years is long on the other hand."

"Anyways, I agree completely with all of you; Ni doesn't seem to be a spirit we can trust. Like Katara said: That warrior went mad. He believed whatever Ni told him and he didn't think it through. I don't want that to happen to any of you."

"But . . ."

He looked over to me. "Sorry?"

"There is a 'but' in there somewhere Aang; you still think we should go anyways."

He nodded, but didn't seem to enthusiastic about it either. "Tzenno wouldn't have directed us to it if the spirit couldn't help us. Despite all we have heard and seen. Going is why we're here. We shouldn't be put off by this. It will be scary, but we need those answers, whether or not they are riddled or mixed."

"So that's three against one. However, the Avatar counts as four. Three against four is the final tally. So I guess it's decided; we're going to find Ni and we are going to get those answers."

Ithar

I still have trouble getting the small of saliva from my clothes. You'd think a diet of lettuce wouldn't stink as much as it could. Bumi was finishing the last of his gennamite in his throne room while we stood around and waited for him to speak again.

"*gulp*See everything turned out okay. And you've learnt something from your experience."

"Why do I have to learn something from being smothered by a gorilla goat?" I asked.

"What's the point of completing a challenge if you don't learn anything from it?"

"What could I have learnt? You have a trap hole under your floor?"

"No, The simplest answer was to do nothing. Struggling and fighting kept you locked in tight. Doing nothing got you out."

"I have done nothing for years. It's nothing new."

"You used to be so much more fun, then you come back all too stiff like a plank of wood. All you needed to do was relax."

"You know you could have killed me."

"Flopsy wouldn't hurt a fly" Bumi protested. "Except for spider flies, he hates spider flies, nuisances is what they are."

"I meant the fall."

"You should have said you lost your bending. How was I supposed to know?"

A guard walked over to him. "Your highness didn't the message mention this? I think information like that would have . . ."

"No, in fact it read that the Firelord requested assistance to the Eastern Air Temple to meet up the Avatar, nothing mentioning a bender who lost his bending. Which reminds me; that trip will no longer be possible I am afraid."

"What? Why?" Zuko asked.

"I have recently received a message sent from the Fire Nation, addressed to Zuko. So how about the Firelord takes it seeing as Zuko isn't around." He passed a scroll that a guard handed him over to Zuko who unfurled it and began reading. Bumi continued speaking to us. "As for the aid, I have instead secured you help getting to the Northern Water Tribe."

"Why the Northern Water Tribe?" I asked. "There is no indication he's going there. We have no reason to go there, let alone anything north of here."

"I beg the differ." He turned over to Zuko. "Isn't that right Firelord?"

We all looked over to Zuko, he finished reading and nodded towards us. "Zuko?" Suki asked.

"It's a message from Uncle Iroh" he explained.

"What does it say?"

"The Kyoshi Warriors are on the move."

"How many?"

"All of them."

Suki was really shocked. "They're all leaving?"

"No, they're not all going home. But they are all on the move."

"Where? Where are they going?"

"The former colonies on the western shore of the Earth Kingdom." He turned and looked towards Bumi. "North of here in fact."

"Told you," Bumi replied. He got up from his throne. "Winter is coming soon and for where you're going it's getting colder. I have taken the liberty of securing some appropriate weather clothing for each of you."

He waved his hand over and the guards brought in a thick coat designed in red and black, with gold trimmings round the edges.

"For the Firelord, All I can offer is this winter coat, trousers and boots that were secured from the Fire Nation Governor's own wardrobe. Apart from this, he had some bad taste in clothing."

Zuko seemed really uncomfortable wearing another man's coat. I had no idea why though. "For the Fire Nation Girl, the governesses coat was not found, but we do have their daughters in our possession. From the looks of it, it has never been worn."

"I've got Mai's coat!" Ty Lee shouted.

Bumi waved his hand and in it came. It was the same sort of make as Zuko's one, except that "It only comes in grey though."

"Yep, it's Mai's" Ty Lee responded.

"For the Kyoshi Warrior, one of Omashu's very own coats. Last one in stock, I hope it's in your size."

In came a very lovely, thinner green and yellow with white coat designed for lesser winters, but it would do nicely. "Thank you King Bumi" Suki responded.

"And for you my young old friend, I have unfortunately seemed to have misplaced the coat I was going to give you. So I hope that you will accept this. I believe you left it here the last time you came."

In came something I had forgotten in years. "80 year old Fire Nation armour chest and leg plates!" Zuko exclaimed.

This was worth more to me that lot of items I own. It looked almost brand new, but the old scratched in the metal were still there, while the velvet was sewn back up. "Not just any old pieces of metal stuck on velvet. Is it Ithar?" Bumi asked.

I reached out and touched it. It was just like how it was seventy years ago. "My father's armour" I exclaimed. I felt over the rest of the metal. "You fixed the dent in the shoulder." "It cost us the shoulder spikes, but it looks better without them."

I actually smiled at the sight of it. It felt just heart warming seeing it again. "Thank you."

I was about to turn, until "Oh yes and I almost forgot" Bumi interrupted my leave. "You left this with us last time as well."

I raised an eyebrow. "I didn't leave anything else."

He waved his hand and a box was brought out in front of me. He stared smiling at me. "I'm pretty sure you did."

I opened up the box. And it was there, it was less of a heart warmer than the armour. In fact I actually considered burying it or even throwing it away. The blood stain was out of the metal, but I can see the red on the tip and edges. "Is it another flute?" Suki asked.

"Wrong" I replied, pulling the weapon out of the box and showing them it. "It's a dagger. It just looks like a flute." It was green and black with golden frames around it in the shape of holes like it was a real instrument. But it was nothing but a false implement designed in appearance. The lines of metal blade was sharp to the edges as I left it.

"It was a gift that we made for you, you returned and said to keep it here. And we have for the last few years, decades. Use it well."

I put it back in the box. "I can't use this."

Bumi got up and picked up the weapon, placing it back in my hands. "Times are troubling and conflict is stirring. It's only a matter of time when we all must take up arms again. Don't be without yours."

I sighed. This blade was a bad memory, but he was right. "Okay Bumi."

He smiled as I clutched on it. "Now vamoose, all of you. You've got some travelling to do. Hehehehe *snort* heheheh."

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