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This is the beginning of the end.
Chapter 10: Annihilation
As Aang and Katara closed in on the island, they saw that the ships were close. The young Avatar also noticed something else. "Hey, that's the Fire Nation school..."
Katara didn't even spare a glance at him. "We have to evacuate the school; they're right in the warpath."
Aang nodded, while at the same time hoping that their fight was over. "Appa, yip yip!"
All of the students, who were on break, looked up in awe at the sky bison that landed in their midst.
"Kuzon?" Shoji and On Ji walked up, but they stopped when they saw his tattoos.
Aang waved, half smiling. "Actually, you should probably know—."
Shoji grinned. "You're him! You're the Avatar; I knew it!"
"What is all this—!" The headmaster stopped, jaw to the floor when he saw Aang. "You...he...."
Hide stood directly behind him, a look of contempt plastered on his face. "Well if it isn't the Colony Trash. I never repaid you for our little encounter."
Shoji spoke up. "Leave him alone! Besides, he's the Avatar; he could beat you any day of the week."
Hide's eyes narrowed. "But you can't girlfriend stealer."
It was Aang's turn to be surprised, but Katara voiced his thoughts. "Girlfriend?"They both glanced at Shoji and On Ji, who each blushed slightly. Aang shook his head as smoke rose in the sky. There wasn't time for this.
"You are all in danger! Listen! Look at the sky! There is an invading Earth Kingdom force on its way. We have to get you out of here."
Hide was paying absolutely no attention. "I'm gonna squash you like a bug, Shoji."
"Hide, we can settle this later." Shoji grabbed On Ji's hand and began to move toward Aang, but Hide threw a fireball at his feet. The young student turned back to his rival, keeping himself between On Ji and Hide. "Or now..."
His opponent threw a sloppy fire haymaker while Shoji in-stepped and blocked his arm, redirecting the fire blast into the air. As Hide moved to throw another, Shoji caught his hand, spun around, and delivered an elbow strike to his spine, knocking Hide to the ground. Before he could get up, Aang trapped his hands in the earth.
Hide, beaten and humiliated, looked up at Shoji. "Where did you learn that? I used to always..."
Shoji smiled triumphantly. "I had a good teacher."
Katara coughed, and the entire assembly turned to look at them. "As Aang was saying, we need to move, now!"
Sokka, Toph, and Piandao worked tirelessly to bring the villagers into Piandao's castle, their safe haven. "How many do you think they'll send?" Sokka asked.
"More than I could handle alone." Piandao admitted. "Thank you both for staying to fight."
Toph shrugged. "It was nothing."
Sokka raised an eyebrow. "Why you? Why were you so keen on staying?"
Toph turned away as the heat rose to her cheeks. "I dunno..." She turned right back and punched him in the arm. "I guess someone has to watch your back." Oh, spirits, just let it go, Sokka!
"Okay, okay... whatever floats your boat..." He rubbed his arm as Toph inwardly blew a sigh of relief. He turned back to face Piandao. "Where's Fat?"
Piandao smiled. "He's out collecting a few important things we'll need in the upcoming fight."
Aang stood facing the oncoming strike force with Katara and several other Fire Nation soldiers by his side. "It's only a couple boats, so we may not have too much of a fight. But be ready."
Before one of the boats could even make it to port, Aang stopped it. His eyes glowed, and he lifted up his hands. A massive wave came up under the ship and froze, leaving it and its crew stranded. The other two vessels docked and immediately began launching soldiers. Aang, ignoring the pain, noted that the man leading the charge wore an admiral's uniform.
"Attack!" Aang yelled as the Fire Nation soldiers surged forward.
Zhuo Long knew he had made a mistake. It was midday, and the Firebenders were at their most powerful. Not to mention the fact that the Avatar had rendered one of his ships ineffective with merely a hand gesture. What I need now are Terra Tanks! But Yuan Chong had commissioned every single one to go toward the attack on the Capitol.
He ducked as one of his men went flying overhead, struck by a water whip; the girl was a problem.
Sokka and Toph sat enjoying tea with Piandao in the rock garden, each preparing mentally for the battle ahead. The residents of Shu Jing had immediately relocated to the swordmaster's spacious estate for safety, and it was a little crowded inside.
"We'll have to prevent them from destroying the port; that is sure to be their point of attack." Piandao explained.
Both young warriors nodded.
Zuko sat on his bed, waiting for news as to the evacuation's success. "I'm glad Uncle's here, at least." He said to himself. "He can lead the men in a way I can't."
He heard it in the back of his mind, his mother's voice reassuring him. "Don't look down on your own abilities, my son."
Zuko's eyes snapped open. That voice, the voice he'd replayed in his head so many times, was closer than he'd ever hoped. He dared not turn, for he feared it to be nothing. "Mom?""I'm here Zuko; look at me."
He turned and was in two parts relieved and overjoyed to see Ursa standing there. Tears streamed down his face as he ran to embrace his mother. "Mom, Mom I've missed you so much."
She stroked his hair. "It's alright, darling; I'm never going away again. I promise." She pulled back to get a good look at the man her son had become and became angry when she saw the scar. "How did this happen?"
Zuko could only smile, a grin that stretched from ear to ear. "That doesn't matter. All that matters is that you're here. Uncle will be so happy to see you; I know it."
She wrapped him in her loving embrace once more. "How has Iroh been? Oh, I have so much catching up to do."
Zuko suddenly remembered. "You need to get to safety."
Ursa cocked her head. "Why? What's wrong."
"The Earth Kingdom is going to be here any day to destroy the Capitol, and you need to stay safe."
She smiled as she held him close. "Zuko, I won't leave..."
He chuckled. "You're as bad as Mai."
Ursa grinned like a child opening birthday presents. "Mai? Zuko, we will exchange stories when this is over."
His chuckle turned into a full blown laugh. "Agreed!"
As soon as the third ship docked, Katara sent a huge wave to wipe out the walkway so that the troops couldn't reach solid ground. As a large group of men charged toward her, she launched a wave of water, pinning them to the nearby cliffside and freezing it.
Zhuo Long, who had tunneled beneath the fight, popped up behind her and launched a slab of rock. Katara pulled water up underneath her and propelled herself over the attack while simultaneously striking him with a fully developed water hammer. The impact sent him back a few feet, and he struggled to stand.
"We can't be beaten! We won't be—guaghpth!" His rant was cut short by another water blast to the face.
"Just stay quiet!" Katara rushed him with water whips covering both arms. He brought up an earth slab to deflect the attack, but she sliced clean through. He cried out as she wrapped around him with a whip and flung him into the cliff face. The admiral collapsed, unconscious.
Katara was breathing heavily. "Well, that was easy."
She saw the last ship pulling out, attempting to escape. "Oh, no you don't!" She lifted both her hands, pulling up the largest wave she had ever created, and dashed the ship against the rocks, puncturing it and ensuring that it could not escape. She collapsed onto one knee, exhausted from the exertion. Not bad, Sifu Katara, not bad.
It didn't take them long to finish with the rest of the force, and soon all of the captured Earthbenders, four hundred and twenty out of the initial force of five hundred, were imprisoned in metal cages. Commander Quan, the officer stationed on the island, came up and shook Aang's hand.
"It seems that we are in your debt, Avatar. Thank you."
Aang nodded, accepting the compliment. "What will you do with the prisoners?"
"We'll keep them locked up until this is over; then we'll figure it out from there."
Katara walked up. "Aang, we have to leave."
"Right." He turned back to the man. "You've got a handle on things here?"
Quan smiled. "Yeah, we can hold them. They're not going anywhere."
Gow and Zhiang Li stood on the bridge of the Executor, approaching Shu Jing. "Are you ready to do your duty, Gow?"
The other man nodded, a hungry look in his eyes; he wanted a fight. "I was born ready."
"Good, because Piandao will not fall easily."
The other soldier snorted. "What can he do against us? He's one man!"
The general glanced at Gow out of the corner of his eye. "You would do well to study your history. Piandao single-handedly defeated one-hundred Fire Nation soldiers in one of the most legendary battles in history."
"Well, we have slightly more than one hundred men." He looked back at the three Empire-Class ships, each carrying one thousand warriors.
Zhiang Li smiled. "That we do."
Ty Lee knocked on Mai's door, and was surprised to find her father standing there. "Ah, Ty Lee, nice to see you again."
She smiled. "Nice to see you too, sir."
He welcomed her in. "I was just heading to the palace, but Mai is in her room, if you wish to see her."
"Thank you very much," she replied as he left.
She climbed the stairs, each step harder to climb than the last. It's now or never. C'mon, Ty Lee, you can do this! She finally, after what seemed like hours, reached Mai's room. She knocked.
"Who's there?" Mai sounded like she'd rather be anywhere else.
"It's me; can I come in?"
The door opened. "Hey..." Mai said, a slight smile on her face. "Why aren't you out with Yun?"
Her heart began beating faster. "I have something to tell you..."
Mai's smile vanished. "What are you talking about?"
She sighed. It was time. "What happened at the lake...when Yun rescued me..."
"I almost did something horrible..." Tears welled up. "I almost killed Yun."
Mai's eyes widened, concern etched on her face. "Why?"
Ty Lee, what is oblivion?
Ty Lee walked past the threshold and sat on her friend's bed. "Long Feng brainwashed me; he made me forget everything..."
"Oh my—! Yun should have told me!" Mai imagined the talk they'd have later. It would not be pleasant.
The Kyoshi Warrior's head snapped up. "No! The only reason he didn't tell you was because I begged him not to!" She became distant. "I almost killed him..."
Mai embraced her friend. "What stopped you?"
I know you. Please, come back.
"Yun...he helped me remember. He broke through, and..." She blushed. "He said he loved me."
"Really?" Mai folded her arms. "Well, that is interesting."
"When we first met, he was interesting. He seemed so out of place on Kyoshi Island, and when he ignored me, it only made me more curious. It kinda hurt to have him hate me like he did, but when he apologized, I thought that maybe...maybe we could actually become friends. It wasn't until he told me about his...his parents that I understood. His aura had always confused me before that." She smiled. "He loves me, Mai, and I love him. I know it."
Mai sighed. Maybe she had been too hard on him.
- The part of this chapter with Shoji is a little nod to Keitonashita's fanon, , an excellent piece you should read if you get the chance.
- Don't get too excited, 'Tokka' shippers...
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