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Escape from Capital City
Chapter information
Series

Avatar: Beyond the Void

Book

2: Metal

Chapter

4

Written by

AdamantiumBladez

Editor(s)

AdamantiumBladez

Release date

29th July 2014

Chronology
Last chapter

The New Ozai Society

Next chapter

Ba Sing Se's Second Tales

Katara

Water, Earth, Fire, Air, Void.

For 100 years, the four nations were at war and only the Avatar, master of all four elements could stop them, but he vanished. 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.

But now a new threat has arisen and a fifth element has been awoken. A voidbender named Ithar came with a warning that we were all in danger. An lost past and earlier tale have caught us up, and Aang may not be ready to face it. But I believe, Aang can save us all.

Sokka

"Did they spot us?" I said, as we peaked around the corners. I ducked back as I saw Shen and his legion follow behind him, black robes with tainted waterbending symbols embellished on their blue steel armours. The sight of which sickened me.

I knew that in our present states that we couldn't take them all, especially while were still dripping from landing in the water. Not the sea, very conveniently placed bodies of water located just within the insides of the city. Zuko was still dry, having the ability to use jet propulsion stopped him from getting soaked.

Zuko had the right idea pulling me back before I could stick my saber at his neck. "If they did, we'd know" he assured us, as the patrol stopped and took very good looks around before continuing their jolly way.

"I sure hope he spots us." I reached into my back in one quick swoop "I really want to go a second round with him. Boomerang is happy to take another swing at him."

I swung Boomerang, but inadvertently knocked at the wall. Zuko quickly gagged me as we all pressed up closer against the wall. "Sshhhhh!"

The patrol moved on and he moved his hand away. "What? It's true." I pulled Boomerang out of the wall, and was about to move out when more footsteps came following out frm in front of us, as I quickly reversed up.

"Well it looks like we're stuck here until we can get to the port."

Impossible" Zuko replied bluntly. His mind was still clearly focused on the situation we had ourselves in earlier. "Unless Daika is truly stark raving mad, the port will be on full lock down and Azulon's gates locked up and guarded at this point."

"Well we can't stay here, they'll kill us on sight."

I was about to open my mouth, but then I felt two big bulking arms grab me from be hind, one of which gagged me. It had been less than a minute. it's like the universe doesn't want me talking. "Gahh! Mmmmm!" was all I could really muster from underneath.

"Will ya' keep it down." A voice from behind told me. "Thera' soldiers everywhere."

Zuko and Suki immediately tuned around, but both stopped as they stared up. "Chit Sang?" Suki replied.

"Whhhh?" I replied as I was dropped and I turned around, rejoining the group. And in fact, it was him. Except not wearing prison clothes for one thing, just normal civilian clothing. He got his freedom along with most other people after Zuko took the throne. All the Fire Nation prisoners received royal pardons, while all POW's were released.

"In tha' flesh" he answered, looking behind him. "Follow me."

"It's a good thing it was you and not one of them patrols" I replied with relief.

"You scared Sokka half to death" Zuko, unjustly might I add, . . . added.

"I wasn't" I protested.

"You was. But we wouldn't be here if we still had our airship."

"I have ta' ask;" Chit Sang said. "If you were on an airship, how'd ya' let your self get caught out of tha' sky?"

Me and Zuko just looked at each other. He believed that it was my fault, but I was distracted by him. Neither of us were going to own up, so I just replied "It's complicated.

Twenty Minutes Earlier

WHOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMB!!!!!!!

"Not That On-!"

FWWWWOOOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSHHHHHHHH-!!! BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMM!!!!!

"What Happened!"

"You Blew The Horn. Now Everyone In The City Heard Us! They're Attacking Us Now!"

FWWWOSSSSHHH-!!! BBBBBBBBBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!

"Why Do You Have A Horn On An Airship?"

"Why Do You Think? So People Can Hear Us When We Are Coming!"

"Well Why Is It Put-!"

FWWWWOOOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSHHHHHHHH-!!! BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMM!!!!! FWWWWOOOOOOSHHHH-!!! BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!! FWOSHHHH-!!! BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!

"Stop Arguing And Start Moving, Both Of You! This Thing Is Falling Fast!"

"I Was Distracted By You Having To Mention That You Were Going To Find Your Crazy Sis-!"

"Move Sokka!"

Present Time

"Very complicated" Zuko agreed. "But why are you here? In fact, where did you go after we escaped the Western Air Temple?"

"I still owe ya' for busting me out of tha' Boiling Rock. So, I guess that means that I should help ya' out. Follow me.

"Where are we going?

"Just trust me will ya'. I know a place, but then I'll have to scram. Them black robed guys are everywhere and I really don't fancy another trip to jail.

The whole time we were at the prison, right up to the point in which we started actually co-operating with each other. there was always something that bugged me; "What did you do?"

He stopped, which presumed was because of the question, but then he carried on around the corner before he gave his answer. "Excuse me?"

"You were in prison for a reason" I said to him.

"And considering it was the Boiling Rock, that had to have been a very heavy crime" Zuko pointed out.

We reached another alley, and there we waited, as a patrol was going past. Still waterbenders though. Well, we're near the port so I guess that it made sense to keep them all posted where they can get an unlimited supply of the stuff they use as weapons.

When the coast was clear and we started moving again, he answered "Desertion.

"Desertion? From the army?"

"From recruitment" he corrected, "conscription." He was now talking directly at Zuko at this point, it was obvious when he opened with "I'd seen how ya' dad treated his civilians when they ain't worshippin' 'i'm like a god. An' them lackeys of his they called soldiers who picked on anyone who stepped in their way. Well I wasn't gonna join them, so I deserted conscription. I lasted a while, started a few skirmishes whenever possible, just showin' how much chaos can be caused when ya' don't agree with them."

"Then what?"

He turned around bluntly as he came to a halt. "I got caught, and I was thrown into the Boiling Rock for desertion, among other things." He held out his arm. "We're here."

We stopped and looked up. It looked no different to all the other houses on this street. Which I guess in a hiding sense is the perfect disguise since they are all indistinguishable. Until I noticed one crucial difference when I looked into the windows. "A flower shop?"

"Yeah" was his only reply. "The lady that owns it is a sweet old thing, so she'll treat ya' real nice."

It was getting dark, and with very little option, I must say that this looked like a good place to crash. But I still questioned about staying over in a flower shop. But We didn't have any alternatives. "Thanks Chit Sang."

"Now we're even" is all he replied as he ran off down the streets. I presumed that he was trying to get ahead before any patrols.

Suki chuckled to herself. "He reminds me a little of Ithar."

"Agreed" Zuko replied.

I was now actually feeling left out of this conversation, it made no sense. "Wait, what are you guys talking about?"

"Nothing" they both said as they entered the shop. I would have protested, but looking at how fast Chit Sang had run, I thought that getting into the shop would have been the better option.

As soon as we entered, we were immediately greeted by a very sweet lady, with grey hair tied into a bun at the top. She dressed in long grey robes and her shop was filled to the brim with all shades of colours, though mostly ranging in typical Fire Nation colours like red and orange and yellow. "Hello there, how may I-" she stopped as she looked up at Zuko. It's the scar to be honest. It's not like there are many people who have a left eye that is completely burnt. "Firelord Zuko! This is an honour to have you visit my shop. But it is such awkward times indeed."

Zuko stepped forwards and clasped his fist into his flat palm and took a bow, which we all ended up following to make this a less awkward moment that it already was. "I'm sorry to come on these terms, but a friend brought us here in hopes of-."

"Zuko?"

We all looked up. Not just Zuko. At the back of the store, behind the counter, the most awkward person to be in the same room with, was there. Awkward for Zuko, as he stepped further forward towards his ex-girlfriend. "Mai!"

The only thought that rolled through my mind, was awkward.

Toph

Morning rose, half a day ago, and all I was doing was training. Joy.

It was fun in the first years; breaking in the victims (I'm not correcting myself anymore, or even trying to cover it up, you get the idea by now), hitting them with metal discs, . . . that was it actually. But it was exciting and something new to do after all the fighting was stopped.

But now, it wasn't fun. Maybe if I could see their faces . . . oh wait. I can't; They just complain. And complain. And complain. And complain. And complain. And complain. They are making my ears bleed and my feet sore from how much they whine to me. When I wanted to start a school for metalbending, I wanted an army who would do what I say, and all I got are a bunch yellow bellied babies who can't take a hit. Let alone throw one;

"Attack!" The metal lifted and it awkwardly spun around before landing three feet in front of the target. "I Said Attack, You Lily Livers!"

Pinjin was panting and his hands were leaning against his knees. I'd pushed him the mostly because he could barely pick his disc up. So what if it weighed 50lbs, that's no excuse. All my students had caught up to this, even Qin the Younger was moving it at the target. "Sifu!"

I stomped my foot, no one gets special treatment in my school. "Attack!"

That push forced him punch the air, the metal disc shot off the ground and bounced off the wall. The force kept ricocheting off all the walls, and all the students ducked as suit came their way. Then the disc came flying at me, last angle tipped me off. I reached down for the wire around my waist. I flicked it out and grabbed the disc, then smacked it to the floor. The ground gave way and the disc was stopped.

His eyes should have been wide, as his mouth was quivering to answer, as well as cuffed over by both his hands. "Oh! I'm sorry Sifu Toph."

I flicked out my wire and reattached it around my waist. "Don't be. That was the best metalbending I've seen all day."

"Really?"

I raised my hand. There was something outside. The earth was shaking, I could feel it in my soles. It was getting louder. "What's with the racket outside?"

"I don't know-"

"It was rhetorical!" I shouted. I rolled my eyes afterwards. I didn't have time to do it before cutting him off.

"Sorry."

I had to know who that was. If it was new meat or old, I needed the entertainment. "You stay here and continue work. I'll sort it out."

"But-"

"Now!"

I stepped out of the halls, just as they went straight back to work. At least they listen and do as they are told when I say it. But when I got outside, I found my entertainment.

Ithar

"Here it is guys" Katara called out as Appa flew over the first set of walls to the capital city of the Earth Kingdom. "Ba Sing Se."

Aang dropped his arms and sighed with relief. "Finally. I can stop meditating. Good job boy!"

"RAAAAAWR!"

"Well nice to know your taking in what I'm saying at least" I replied

He pulled his head away form the side of the saddle and turned towards me. "I listened about all the stuff about not separating anything."

"After you kept describing every tree and rock you saw in your head."

The upper ring flew right under us and we could see all rich areas of the city. I'd been here before, and it was safe to say that noting changed. I literally mean nothing, all the shops were the same, the structures, well actually the tea shop, the Jasmine Dragon, that was new here. Right where the old Leaves of Green used to be. I wonder if they make better tea or not?

The palace hadn't changed either. I can't really describe if any stone had changed or not considering that the streets were cleaned by the easiest method possible; flipping the ground over. I am not joking, I have seen it happen the many time I have been to this city. In some way it was nice that nothing really changed in this city. It sort of reminds me of how the world could have still looked when I was young . . . (er).

As we landed, however, there was something very unsettling about the company that was there to greet us; To anyone who was obvious enough to have either lived or been to the city before. Dai Li agents were the best known feature of the city besides its walls. Their creepy almost monotone voices were the most unsettling feature;

"Avatar Aang, the Earth King has invited you to Lake Laogi." As soon as those words left his mouth, both Aang and Katara freaked out. I couldn't blame them from their last encounter. Those words that haunt the minds of every citizen in the city since Long Feng became the Regent from Kuei's infancy. The last things they hear before their minds go blank. "Are you okay?" He asked, as his face stopped being solid and actually showed concern.

Aang's eyes were wide, and his breathing heavy. But as soon as he was asked, he relaxed, a micrometer, as he stood himself back up leaning on his staff. "Yes. Yes, I think we're okay. I accept his invitation."

The agents bowed and started walking, as we all departed with him. Appa followed close behind, and I doubted that Aang would leave him alone after what happened the last time he was in the city. Momo clambered onto my shoulders, and wrapped himself around the back of my neck.

"That was weird" Katara whispered to Aang, trying to avoid being heard.

"Tell me about it" he replied, "for a minute I thought we were all in trouble."

"Lake Laogi sounds like a weird place to invite someone" I added curiously.

"You don't know the half of it."

"I do. Weird stuff beneath those waters" I replied, shaking my head.

About a rock plate's worth of travelling and a trip on the private monorail, all decorated in gold nonetheless, later, we were at Lake Laogi's banks, where the sand was being ruffed up by the waves. And where many secrets would surely stay hidden forever.

His pet bear was by his side, dressed in yellow and wearing a large hat to keep the sun off of his face

he turned his head and smiled at the sight of the by who saved the world and liberated his city and kingdom from war. "Avatar Aang! It is good to see you again."

Aang locked his hand in his palm and took a bow, as did Katara, and then me after I paid attention to the fine details. "Earth King Kuei. We are most welcome."

"Katara, Appa, Momo, and" he stopped when he saw me. I had met him before, but then he was still in his less casual clothing crawling through his father's halls. ". . . Someone new I see."

I chuckled to myself, but I was still paying half attention, and I hate to admit that I got a little carried away with myself as my mind wandered back to earlier times. "Kuei, the 52nd Earth King. You've really grown in . . . well, twenty years as it happens."

His expression went into confusion. "I don't quite understand what you are saying."

"I knew your father, the 51st Earth King. Youli was quite stubborn, quite like the earth he used to bend all through his halls" I replied, as I reached for an itch at the back of my head caused by the lemur nested on my back. "Always so agitated by every military action taken. Though not at all surprising since the 50th Earth King, Maode was always active in his campaigns, especially in his youth. Clashed several times with the young Crown Prince Azulon. They always said the Magma Campaign was very heated between the two of them- ow!" For no reason I got nudged by Aang's staff, like I was some adolescent. He may be older, but I am more mature. "What?"

Kuie turned to Aang a little confused by my encyclopedic knowledge. "Is this some form of humour I'm unfamiliar with?"

"Forgive him Kuei. Ithar here has been around for nearly as long as I have, except he lived it all." Aang then licked his lips, as he tried to then explain the reason I appeared to have faults in accordance to my appearance. "He looks like a fifteen, but he's over eighty years old."

The Earth King looked all over me. He seemed really unconvinced. "Are you sure?"

I then took over. there was no point it had to drag on. "I'm very sure. I'm a voidbender you see you highness." I didn't want to leave anything to looks, so I just gave out a quick burst to my right side; placing my hands together and I pushed out, and a wall of golden light shot forth and burst like a bubble.

The sight of gold probably was enough to get him excited, let alone the fact that it was an exclusive bending art that hasn't been seen by a monarch in over 500 years"Marvelous. This is so, intriguing." his bear roared next to him, in what appeared to be happiness, or hunger. I don't speak bear. They're weird creatures. "Bosco seems to agree. Could you show us more? How did you stay so young? How did you learn to voidbend?"

"Ahem" I deliberately coughed, "I believe that we actually had some business here. Aang."

Aang stepped forward, as I stood back from the unwanted attention I now seemed to have. "Earth King Kuei, we have urgent business we need to discuss with you; it concerns the events of what happened while we were at the Northern Water Tribe."

Kuei turned to Aang and went to immediately sit down after all the excitement. "I absolutely understand, but I think this would be better discussed with my war council." And with that, the Earth King snapped his fingers and his agents left to find the generals. "Now . . . could you tell me why your bending is gold? Can I do that?"

Suki

"This is a very nice shop you own here" I said to Mura. The room was decorated in all these lovely species of flowers, so many it was hard to count. Zuko had left after Mai, so Sokka and I were waiting in the main shop with Mura. Sokka couldn't help himself but touch every flower petal he could.

Mura was a nice woman as Chit Sang had said, and she wasn't at all bothered by Sokka's itchy fingers. "I have all types of plants that I collected from all over the Fire Nation lands in the war times, and in recent years, I started procuring plants from the north and southern poles, and even from the gardens of Ba Sing Se itself."

She allowed us to look around, and I was amazed at what she had in her shop; "Panda lilies, White lotus', Fire lilies."

"Ahhhh" Sokka said as he started at one particular flower in white with red and yellow inside the petals, "Whiiiite dragon bushhhh."

He proceeded to feel the petals as Mura tried to tell him. "Um, White jade bush actually."

Sokka's eyes widened as he flinched his hand back and started rubbing it violently against his shirt to wipe it off his fingers. "Yaah!"

Mura chuckled to herself as she watched him with "Don't worry, the plant is only poisonous if consumed. But I would recommend washing your hands before eating anything, or picking your mouth. And for those curious children, I also sell a bag of bacui berries with each of them."

Just at that moment, Mai's younger brother Tom-Tom came stumbling in. He'd grown up since the last time I'd saw him. Mura picked him up under both arms and lifted him to her chest. "And for those little rascals who have a taste of plants like these, he has his feet eaten off, doesn't he?"

Tom-Tom laughed as Mura reached for his bare foot and pretended to eat it.

"So how long have Mai and this little guy been here" I asked.

I wished I didn't ask it now, as her smile faded to a more concerned look. "A year or two. Their parents weren't exactly too happy with the change in the crown, and that lead my brother to come estranged from them. He was just upset that he was no longer a governor. my brother was very ambitious. The Firelord offered him a position in the palace, but my brother wasn't happy to have lost his claim to Ne- Omashu."

I heard some chomping in the background and turned to see Sokka cleaning his way through a bowl full of bright pink berries. He had eaten so many that his lips were stained in juice. He stopped as we both looked over at him. "Well, who wouldn't want to have their own city" he answered with his mouth full.

"Sokka don't eat those!" I protested as he dived back in.

"What? There's plenty of these bacui berries."

"Sokka, she already said that you're not poisoned by touching it."

"But they taste soooo good." His eyes rolled during the so part of his sentence.

Again, Mura tried to protest, but it was a little too late for her to have stopped him. "That's because they're not bacui berries. Those are maka'ole berries, and they cause blindness when ingested."

Sokka stopped and he leapt back. He ran for the sink and started to spit out what juice he could from his mouth. He probably would have started trying to reach for the berries in his stomach through his mouth. She sighed as she walked towards the door to the backroom. "Don't worry though, I have some ointment for that. In the mean time, I would wipe down your eyes with a wet cloth over a steaming bowl to sweat it from your head and away from your eyes."

"Sorry about this" I apologized as I grabbed for the sink and started pouring water into a pot and lighting a fire.

"Not a problem" she replied. "There are a lot of people who do this sort of thing. But mostly they are still adolescent and they are unable to reach for the bowel. That was also why there was a lid on it in the first place."

"Why do you keep it on the counter if they're not edible?"

"Mixing them with certain leaves neutralizes its poison and creates a sweet aroma for eight days in a single room. Now I'll get the ointment."

The water had boiled to an adequate temperature, and I started to wipe down his eyes, as he sat down on one of the tables. "What is up with you today?"

"I'm sorry."

"First you pulled the horn, now you're eating whatever you find on the shelves."

"She said there were bacui berries."

"So you thought that it was okay to start eating your way through them?"

"Yeah . . . *sigh* no. No. You're right, that was rude of me."

"Have you at all been sleeping well?"

He raised an eyebrow. "How did-?"

"You really haven't been sleeping very well since after the coup ended."

He sighed. "I know, it's the burning in my back, it's really uncomfortable."

"But, we already looked over it, with every healer in the tribe. Some of the best, even Katara, and they all said there was nothing there."

"Well I don't know. Maybe it's like phantom pain. But anyways that's not the weirdest part."

Apart from his fascination for touching plants and enormous appetite, I didn't think it could get weirder. "What is then, apart from an appetite for toxic fruit?"

"You remember when we all told you, me, Aang and Katara, about all the weird dreams that we'd been having. Well, I think mine are coming back."

"Which part of your life were you seeing?"

His started moving his eyes weirdly, I started to worry as the poison could start taking its effect. "That's the strangest thing; it's not like what I had been seeing before, it wasn't my memories altered. It felt like something more what Aang or Katara were experiencing. I didn't see my life. I saw Ithar's."

I stopped wiping his eyes, pausing for a while, and I dipped it back in, then rang it out. "Tell me what happened."

Zuko

I stood outside her door. The story of my life. What could I say that would make this any less awkward than it already was. Should I even tell her that her father was now a full-time villain? I thought that I should at least give her the courtesy to know.

I knocked three times and called out. "May I come in?"

"It's your country" she replied, "you make the rules on whether or not you can do anything. Yes?"

I opened her door, but her back was turned from me. I could hear scrapping, and I knew that she was sharpening her blades. She didn't bother turning her head, and since she ended it, I couldn't really blame her for not wanting to see me.

I sat down on the opposite side, and I kept my back as well. I didn't want to be talking to her back all through this conversation, and I really couldn't face her if I turned around now. "Is it okay for me to, talk."

"Do you want me to repeat myself."

"I would like a straight answer."

She huffed. "I never got any" she replied, making a deliberately violent scrape.

"This shouldn't-, Can you please answer my question."

"You already answered it yourself."

"Can we please just talk about it."

She stopped her sharpening and sighed. I heard her throw the knife, and was prepared to duck, but I was lucky enough that she threw it at the wall the opposite side of her room. It was a fairly simple room, but very white and blank which I found quite odd; The walls being clean was no surprise, but I didn't think that she liked white. Dark grey would have been more of her colour. "What is there to talk about. It's all over."

"I never wanted it to be."

She shuffled like she was crossing her arms. "You clearly did."

"I didn't."

He pushed both her hands back to the bed. I started turning around at this point. "Then why with the secrets, Zuko."

"I just didn't want-. It's complicated."

She huffed again. "It's not complicated. You just can't think of an excuse for not telling me."

I raised my voice at this point while hers remained at the same tone it always is. "I'm trying to say sorry here."

"Then just say it."

"I'm sorry, okay." I said it. My eyes started watering slightly. "I'm sorry, I was keeping secrets from you. Please don't pin me to the wall."

She looked like she was going to crack a smile, but she withheld the urge to. "I'm not going to throw knives at you."

"Keeping secrets wouldn't hurt as much as being pinned to wall."

"It wasn't that you were keeping secrets Zuko. People always have secrets, that not everyone needs to know. It was the fact that you were hiding it from me. I was walking around the palace every day and I could hear people whispering things I wasn't aware of. Stuff about you seeing your father in prison. All the war talk. I didn't know why I was the last one to hear about your life."

I saw her head go down. "I'm sorry."

"It's too late for sorrys. It's been two years."

I turned back around. "I know."

"You could have at least done me the kindness of sharing what you were doing with me, then letting me find out from the maids, the guards, the messengers."

I sighed, she was right. "I know." Okay, if I was going to tell her. It had to be now. She had the right to know. No more secrets. "Mai. You said you wanted to at least share stuff with you. Well, here's a start; The invaders, one of the commanders, is your father."

"I know."

I turned back around. "You know?"

"A years after we broke up, I found out my dad was leading an underground movement. He called it "The New Ozai Society". He wanted our country to go back to wartime. Not the war, but how the society was."

"They want my father back in power."

"They don't."

I raised an eyebrow as I shuffled back round. "I beg the differ, he's free."

She now actually turned around. I hadn't seen that face in years, but I could see shiny trails that had come across her cheeks. She wiped them off. "Seriously?"

I pointed to my left eye. "I saw him with my own one scarred eye."

She shook her head like it didn't make sense. "That is only a means to an end."

"Are you sure?"

"No, I just happened to have misheard what my father said when he told me the entire plans he had for the society and the future of the Fire Nation. It's sort of like this:"

Katara

By the time the afternoon approached, Kuei was still not ready for the meeting to take place; The five generals of his council were still not here, some were still over seeing the city and some of the surrounding places past the outer walls. The cities were becoming more populated as trade flourished with all the nations and travel was common to and from the city.

It was good to see the city become a reflection of the world in whole, but this was taking a bit long. I mean it took us less than five minutes to fly from the outer walls over to the palace. The winds were favorable and Appa is incredibly fast, but still, over three hours shouldn't have been the situation we are now in.

Aang was meditating in the courtyard, you did hear me right. Despite all the complaining he did to Ithar earlier into our journey, he was really focused this time. Maybe it was the frustrations related to Ithar's constant reluctance to teaching what Aang and most everyone would consider "proper" voidbending. He was so peaceful now, but his eyes were really tightly squeezed like he was forcing his concentration.

"Aang" I said as I approached him. He opened his eyes and looked up at me. "Are you okay, sweetie?"

He sighed and replied "No."

I sat down next to him as Momo started climbing over between our shoulders. "I didn't think that you were interested in meditating, especially with all the fuss you were giving Ithar throughout the trip."

"I'm not meditating for him. I'm trying to talk to Roku."

I raised an eyebrow. "Roku? Why?"

"Because I can't."

Can't? No that can't be right. He's talked to him before. "Well, why not?"

Her sighed. "I don't know. I could only talk to them during special times of the year."

I looked around. Aang was still just sitting there meditating. "What about now?"

"Nothing, just nothing."

"How about Kyoshi, Kuruk, Yangchen, Tzenno?"

"No one Katara, I can't hear them."

I thought back to all those times that he has spoken to them. I didn't fully understand the Eastern Air Temple incident, but if Yangchen's spirit was stronger there, then maybe it could have been a special event tied to her, like a birthday. Tzenno was also born in the Autumn Equinox, so that was explained. Kuruk . . ., well the start of the full moon cycle was a special time for all waterbenders.

I thought then occurred to me. "Have you tried to activate the Avatar State?"

"No" he answered bluntly, throwing his head back and laying on the ground.

"Well, maybe y-you should."

He shook his head. "I can't"

"Is that blocked too?"

"No, but after what happened. I can't let it happen again."

"You're not voidbending now you know. Maybe you should try."

"Not yet Katara" he cut me off quickly. "Not yet."

"What are you waiting for?"

He stood up no, and he looked up at the sky. "The last time I tried voidbending, my whole nation was being slaughtered before my eyes in fire." He clenched his fists and screwed his eyelids. "Until Ithar teaches me legitimate voidbending, I won't risk that again."

Then, an earthquake rocked the ground, and a large thunderous shout shook the palace. We both stood up immediately and rushed to the scene, which was closer than expected, just around the corner of the palace. But what we saw was no earthquake or thunder, but one of the generals that we had been waiting for. But his attention was not on the meeting, but focused on the person standing opposite him.

Ithar was standing there, but he wasn't straight faced, his face was smiling opposite the white bearded general dressed in all grey and green armour and his hair in a topknot. The general was also smiling, but cracking his knuckles on each hand as he looked over the voidbender.

"Look who's back in the city."

Aang

I walked up as soon as the rocks started sliding. Ithar was standing opposing towards one of the generals. The general was a

"Ithar. It's been a long time."

Something was now different in Ithar; he was more relaxed, he was limbering up and he was . . . enjoying himself. There was like a weird twinkle in his eye. "Zong. I see age agreed with you. How's the backside feeling. Has the years healed or is it still sore."

"Not as sore as it was losing to you. Sure you were helping me up, but it was more helpful to push me to be better than you."

"We were both fifteen. It was fair."

"No we weren't; I was fifteen" He slammed his foot and raised a rock and punched it, shattering into tiny pieces. "But I highly doubt you were even within ten years of that age."

That twinkle light up that moment. "What if all appearances are the true reflection of ones sight. For if all the world looked as if it was, then nothing would be a secret in the faces of men. What you see is the truth."

Zong smiled but shook him off. "Don't try and confuse me with your riddles. I want a rematch. Now."

This was getting ridiculous, there was no time for distractions, we had urgent business. "General" I called out, "you have a meeting to attend to."

He waved me off. . . He waved the Avatar off? No one's ever done that, except Toph, and Zuko, and Ithar. Okay, bad example, but seriously, no one has really done that. "This is more important" he replied, unclipping his cloak from his armour.

"I seriously doubt that."

"Let's make this happen" Ithar replied, pulling his dagger from his belt and throwing it to the ground.

"No smoke sight, no reverse, no sneaky treebending" the general told him as he took off his shoes.

Ithar nodded as he did the same. "Agreed. No digging."

"Is that all?"

Ithar held both his hand together and then moving to his side. "All I need."

The two stood on opposing sides, but the battle didn't take long to start; Ithar made the first move, attacking the general with a couple of quick blasts of void, nothing too impressive. The general then counter-struck the attack with a wall, pretty low on the moves. Then the wall was pushed at Ithar, but he

A volley of rocks were fired into the air and landed all around Ithar like a meteor shower that now entombed him in a minefield. The General had a lot of experience; using the rocks that are littered, he crumpled them into a dust field that cloaked Ithar, and made it hard for us to see.

But then there were glowing hands that died down. The General walked closer and started throwing more rocks into the dust field, only for Ithar to run straight out and leaping forward he came into close combat with the general. Zong and Ithar exchanged punches until Ithar blocked an attack with his open hand and pushed him backwards, using the weight of his attack against the earthbender.

"Hey, what was that?" Zong asked uncomfortably, as the weight of his own attack hit him back.

Ithar stood over him with his hands raised; one in from to the other and flat wide palmed. "Tessenjitsu, the fighting style of Kyoshi Island."

"Where did you learn that?"

"From Kisu."

Zong raised an eyebrow. "Who?"

"Who?" Me, Katara and the whole audience now was asking in unison.

Ithar swung his arms over his head, and his hands glowed gold again. "Tell you later."

Zong stood right up and charged. The rocks beneath his feet giving him extra lift, but Ithar just stood there. The climatic moment was among them, as the old general reached in the hit the voidbender, but that glow of gold that shrouded Ithar's hands was forced into a ball that expanded like a bubble until Ithar pushed it into the general's stomach, where the greater force exploded and Zong was thrown backwards and onto his back.

Ithar stood up and walked over him. "And down you go."

The General wiped the dirt from his armour and fixed his jaw as he looked up to the champion. "No fair. Your eighty years old, and you are still in the body of a fifteen year old. How was I going to win."

Ithar breathed him heavily and exhaled longer. "I prefer to think of it as being fifteen, with sixty five years of experience."

There was clapping from Kuei,l which was then followed by Bosco, and then all the generals were joining in. For polities sake, me and Katara also joined in. "Spectacular. I haven't seen anything quite so exciting. Don't you agree?" Bosco whistled in delight. "Bosco says yes."

"Need a hand."

The General looked at the hand in disgust, but then smiled and took it up. "Still the champ then."

"Like old times" Ithar replied as he smiled back.

"Ahem, could we please get back to the meeting that started seven minutes ago."

"Oh sorry. Of course. Let's meet inside."

The General and Ithar walked towards the hall, but just before I entered in, I saw the friendship between them had never really died for all those years. In some way, I saw what Gyatso might have seen in a way, or how it was with me and Bumi. We may not have seen eye to eye, me and Ithar, but I had seen what it was like through his eyes.

"I could have won" Zong said to him.

I just watched as Ithar smiled back at his old friend as they both walked into the hall. "I know."

Sokka

It took us many hours of waiting it out, but soon we found our get away; a delivery boat at the harbor. (Oh, and my eyes are fine, thanks for asking. Still a bit itchy though, and sore from all the itching.)

"I have a shipment of flowers that are going to the gardens of Gaoling." Mura told us, wearing a robe over her head, and with Tom-Tom in a sling over her chest. "Some of the most prestigious people in the Earth Kingdom are looking at my flowers. But I can allow you to hide among the shipment to allow you passage out of here. I have arranged for a detour to Kyoshi Island. I hope that I have done enough for you."

"Wow thanks" Zuko replied. "This is, a lot. We are really grateful."

I was still pondering over the whole situation though. It made no sense why we couldn't have left earlier. "But, I don't understand how you can get a shipment through. If every vessel in the capital was kept under lockdown, then how can a small shipment of flowers get through so easily."

"It's simple; Daika doesn't want to alert too many people, and when shipments don't arrive, people get curious and they'll start investigating. The best way to make the attack last like an illusion is to pretend that nothing happened."

"That actually made a lot of sense" I replied. I made no more protest and boarded the boat, there were three empty pots with a set of large flowers set on the tables behind them. They were arranged in a row which made it the perfect disguise.

I looked back and helped Suki onto the ship, but I noticed that Zuko had stopped in his tracks, halfway between the boat and the shore. "C'mon, Zuko" I called out.

Zuko started walking, but then stopped. I was going to protest, but I realized that there were something's that were needed to say. Zuko turned back around to speak back to Mai. The awkwardness was very high, but sometimes a man has to say something before he can leave it at that. "I still love you, you know."

We all looked at Mai, who just lowered her head. "Goodbye Zuko." Zuko sighed and walked. I looked back up and saw Mai mouth something. I hadn't really known her that well, but I could see what she was saying. "I love you too."

Zuko climbed aboard as the captain called out that we were departing, the boat started moving and we looked out into the water. Zuko then tapped the pots and stuck a leg in. "Inside the pots. We'll emerge when the opportunity is right."

I followed this example, and Suki did the same. I grabbed hold of the white plant with red and yellow areas on the petals, avoiding to tough the flowers itself, as I already had a bad telling between the Dragon and the Jade Bushes and getting poisoned now, in the dark would not have helped us any further.

I sat inside and covered my head, waiting until we were safe, and away from the Fire Nation.

Toph

"Keep it down! I'm trying to have a-" I stopped when one of threw rude intruders attempted to attack me with a pathetic excuse of a rock throw. It barely hit my feet and it took me little more than a step to avoid it.

There were at least three of them, a little short by seven in my opinion. They were definitely what Twinkle Toes and everyone else would have called the "bad guys"; the familiarity to their flapping robes they were wearing made them stand out even to someone who can't see their faces."We're here for you, metalbender. And your school, we want them to be a part of our armies. The Overlord will be pleased to see that he has a new army at his disposal."

I cracked my fingers and held them up. "Tough luck, you and your toy soldiers are gonna be a part of my morning routine now."

"A smart mouth on a blind girl." I could hear steel being drawn. Shame, I was hoping for benders, but these guys would do as an early snack. "You don't see that often."

I smiled and rubbed my right foot into a circle. "You'd be surprised what this blind girl can do."

They stepped forwards, and I slammed several rock walls into their faces. Two from the left came running forward, as I kicked a set of rocks to knocked them back in their stomachs. The right side stood up as I reached for my new belt and I grabbed one of them by the wrist and I picked him up and knocked him at the other guys by his side before letting the wire drop him on the leader.

The next guy actually came running at me, which I stopped in the instant with a good old fashion three finger pillar strike, the same move I used to beat the Boulder in my Rumble days as the Blind Bandit. I used my whip and grabbed him in mid flight and threw him at my feet. I stood on him as his coughed up the dirt from his mouth.

"What the heck are you" he replied in pain.

I cracked my neck and kicked a pillar to raise his upper body up as I grabbed for his robes around his neck. "I'm Toph Beifong, and you just got served." I felt some of the men start to run. let them run. "Your not going anywhere either." I stomped my foot and then came flying back and crashed into the roof.

That was when my students came running outside, to see what I had accomplished. "Sifu Toph, we heard a- " They stopped in front of the sight of groaning bodies and one with his robes grabbed in my fist.

"What just happened out here?"

I held my wire in my other hand as I flicked the air with it. "Just a small exercise."

"Where did they?"

I grabbed the other end and tied it back to my waist. I enjoyed that a little too much, and now I wanted more "bad guys" to bust. I also had a new lesson I needed to teach my students all through the colonies, and now I have the perfect excuse for some fun. "Not important. Time to pack up."

"What?"

"Could you repeat yourself, Sifu Toph. I don't think we heard you right."

"You heard me just fine!" I yelled back. It's good to be the boss. "Pack your things, after a new lesson. We're going to keep guys like these all tied up."

Production Notes

Series Continuity

Trivia

  • The release of the Rift Trilogy has began influencing certain ties in this series to make them better fit.

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