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|Reunion and Discovery|
Previously on Energy Saga
Aang, Trinley, Vameira escape the island they were stranded on and arrive in Ba Sing Se, the capital of the Earth Kingdom. After discovering that Azula has some new, sinister plans for the future, she and Aang part ways, knowing that they will probably meet again before too long. On another note, Aang has reunited with all three of his children and most of his closest friends gather in the impenetrable city. Aang now has one thing on his mind: finding a way to put Katara back the way she was.
Chapter Thirty-Six: Reunion and Discovery
Ba Sing Se, 121 AG
The extravagant ballroom at the center of Earth King Kuei's palace was ordinarily a place where only upscale Inner Wall citizens dined – and proper etiquette was always observed for the occasion. Today, however, all formalities were dropped in the company of old friends. After Aang came to Ba Sing Se, a handful of his companions from around the world came to meet him, Trinley, and Vameira. Since the Earth King had an obvious large residence in the vicinity, it was a logical place for them to congregate for the evening.
Once they had gathered, Kuei made an announcement to the modest crowd before him. "Tonight is a great occasion. It has been far too long since many of us last saw each other. Welcome, Avatar Aang, and the rest of our honored guests. Friends of Aang are considered friends here as well, and always welcome. Even in times of peace, it's a very big world and someone somewhere always needs help. As the balance-keeper, Aang is the world's guardian day-in and day-out. I believe that Aang has a few words of his own, after which we will get to the food!"
"Thank you, Kuei," said Aang, rising to his feet in the chair beside the Earth King. In this atmosphere, everyone was on an equal first name basis, which was just the way Aang liked it. "I trust by now you've all heard of the misfortune regarding Katara. I'm grateful for your presence here now. Katara would also be – after all, you're her friends, too. I've finally come to terms with the part that I played in the mess and in the coming days I hope to find a way to make things right. It's my mistake, but I can't change the past, only the future." At the end of this monologue, Aang saw Sokka a few chairs down, crossing his arms and nodding silently.
As Aang rested himself in a seat by the head of the table, next to Kuei, the cabbage-wrapped pastry appetizers were slowly making their way around the room. "Thanks again for inviting us all here tonight," the Avatar said to the hospitable monarch.
"My pleasure, Aang," said the Earth King as he loaded his plate.
"Listen," said Aang, concerned. "I've heard that you have some domestic trouble on your hands. Perhaps I can help with that while I'm here."
"Bah!" said Kuei, scoffing. "Some like to say we're on the 'brink of revolution,' but that's a heavy exaggeration from radical extremists. I assure you, my government and I have everything under control."
"All the same," Aang said, "those extremists might cause some trouble. Trinley and I heard troubling talk before we came to the palace."
Kuei raised a finger. "Well, we to have reason to believe that they have a certain something planned, but it's nothing that can't be handled. I'm working on a plan for counter-action with How and the rest of the Council for when the time comes. I know that you intend to focus on fixing your wife and I don't want to burden you with this."
"With all due respect," said Aang. "I'm the Avatar. It's my job to be burdened with things like this."
"I appreciate your initiative, Aang," responded Kuei. "But the uprising won't happen today or tomorrow, so we have a fair amount of time to prepare. Let's put this from our mind for now and focus on our evening with the rest of the guests."
"Alright," said Aang, nodding, though still unsure. "Speaking of which, I wonder where my son is. Tenzin said he was meeting someone, but he should've come back by now."
"I still don't get why we have to keep the secret from everybody," Neinei said to Tenzin. Tenzin had shown his invitation to the guards, convincing them that it included a "plus one," and now the two of them were standing at the door to the ballroom. Neinei wore the same red cloak that she had disguised herself with up until this point, positioned so that the hood hung over her head at an angle, concealing her burn marks.
"We have to take every precaution we can for now," said Tenzin.
"I guess," said Neinei, trailing off. "But you and I know most of the people in there. We've met them before – they're trusted friends of our parents!"
"There's too many people around to be sure it's safe," Tenzin answered her. "Think of it as practice for later – a chance to test your new disguise."
"Alright, fine," said Neinei with a roll of her eyes.
"I knew you'd see it my way," said Tenzin, grinning as he pushed open the gigantic, fancy doors to the ballroom. As soon as they entered, Tenzin caught sight of his father, who had just finished conversing with Earth King Kuei.
After returning his glimpse, the Avatar strolled over to his young budding airbending master. "Tenzin! You're really making a habit of disappearing on us. You missed the speeches!"
"In other words, I missed the boring part," Tenzin jabbed with a smirk. "Dad, I want you to meet somebody. This is Rouyu. We're together!"
Neinei stared awkwardly from side to side. "Well, not together together, more like friends."
Tenzin lifted both his eyebrows. "Of-of course, that's what I meant," he added, his face turning red.
"It's nice to meet you, Rouyu," said the Avatar, bowing to her with a smile. He then took a closer look at her face. "Have we met before?"
"No sir," replied Neinei simply. "I would've remembered meeting the Avatar."
"Well, welcome," said Aang modestly. "There's plenty of food to go round and people to talk to, so make yourselves comfortable. I'll see you two around later." However, the Avatar did not encounter either of them again that evening. Rouyu was curt and chose not to speak with anyone individually for very long. Tenzin, likewise, behaved quieter than normal after that. He seemed in a poor mood about something.
Instead, Aang spent some time reconnecting with the Freedom Fighters. Longshot and Smellerbee had married and had two children. "Our children decided to give themselves nicknames after us," Smellerbee explained to Aang, still sporting her trademark facepaint and bandana. Her husband had not changed much, either. He had even worn his quiver to dinner, though his face, like that of his wife, was noticeably more mature with experience. He kept silent and let his wife do the talking. "Our daughter, Longbee, has already shown to be a natural leader. She's trying to get her friends to form a new generation of Freedom Fighters. Our son Smellershot is as good with a bow-and-arrow as his father was at his age, but like his father he has a...compulsion."
"You mean he also doesn't like to talk much?" asked Aang, who got a sharp look, but not a verbal response, from Longshot.
"No," said Smellerbee with dullness. "He doesn't like to shower much."
"Ah," said Aang. "I get it. So...what are their real names? Come to think about it, what are your real names?"
"Oh, Longshot – look – the boarcupine pork is ready!" announced Smellerbee with an eager point of her finger to the farther corner of the room. "We'd best grab some of that while it's still fresh. It's good to see you again, Aang."
After his reunion with the Freedom Fighters, Aang mingled with another old friend from the Earth Kingdom, who sported a thick, bushy, well-groomed mustache. "It wasn't much hassle for me to come to Ba Sing Se," Haru told him. "I was going to come up to visit my father soon, anyway. I do so every so often, him being on the Council of Five and all. I came by myself, though. I didn't want my family coming here given the turmoil Ba Sing Se has been through, so my two sons are still at home with their mother Jin."
Apart from Haru and the Freedom Fighters, Aang was pleasantly surprised to find that Hope had come as well. She knew the city well, and was no longer entertaining soldiers. With her was her fiancé Tom-Tom, ambassador from the Fire Nation and their token representative at the event. Also from the Fire Nation was Piandao, the last of old masters of the Order of the White Lotus during the famed Sozin's Comet Liberation of Ba Sing Se at the close of the Hundred Year War. Sokka and Hinko both looked up to Piandao, aspiring to someday be honored in the Vault like him.
After saying hello to most of the people who had come, Aang found himself lounging in a corner with a handful of his closer friends. Toph, Sokka, Suki and Trinley had stuffed their bellies to bursting point and nestled themselves into a set of adjacent chairs.
"I noticed that Migo isn't here," Toph said aloud, half to the others, half to herself.
Suki soothingly placed her hand on Toph's shoulder. "I'm sure that wherever he is right now, he's thinking about you."
"Whoa, what idea are you getting?" asked Toph, surprised. "I just said that I noticed he wasn't here, nothing else." The others shared a laugh at these words of hers.
Trinley, however, was not laughing, his arms gloomily crossed. The airbender's mind was elsewhere. "Zuko's not here, either."
"We know," stated Aang simply.
Trinley remained stiff. "I don't see the point in coming here tonight when we know what we'll be facing soon. The royal family and War Minister Chan are nowhere to be found. There's precious little to stop the Phoenix Army from overrunning the country and attacking the other nations."
"I refuse to believe that Zuko's really gone," said Aang firmly, although he sounded like he was also trying to convince himself as well. Likewise, he was not looking forward to his eventual reunion with Azula.
"Yeah," said Sokka. "Zuko chased us all the way from the South Pole to the North Pole. He's not one to go down so easily."
"And we were on Appa most of the time," added Aang.
Sokka nodded solemnly. "I wish I could've been with Appa one more time. I shared many memories with him."
Aang looked straight into Sokka's eyes. "We all miss him. He fell valiantly. It's been hard for all of us. At least it's good to be back here in Ba Sing Se with you all again."
"Well said, Twinkle Toes!" said Toph, leaning back and putting her legs up.
Aang turned to Toph, slightly peeved. "Aren't we getting a little old for you to still be calling me that?"
"A good joke never gets old," said Toph, laughing. "You of all people should know that!"
"Actually it does," Aang retorted. "Everything does eventually."
"Sheesh, when did you become such a downer?" Toph questioned him.
Aang sighed. "I'm sorry. I'm just really stressed out thinking of what to do about Katara..."
"Do you have a plan?" Toph asked.
Aang nodded slowly. "Obviously there's no energybenders around who would know how to put Katara right in a time like this. Avatars possess the ability to energybend by default, but I'm one of the few incarnations of the Avatar who has ever actually used energybending. In fact, as far as I know, I'm the only one. However, one of my past lives – Avatar Doru Kun – somehow came face-to-face with an energybender when he was alive. I think I'll pay a visit to Ba Sing Se's libraries and temples and browse through the sections on past Avatars to uncover what I can."
Sokka gawked at him. "Are you kidding me, Aang – libraries? That's lame! After inviting us all here, you've got to do something more drastic than that!"
"Don't you have a scroll about the ancient energybenders?" asked Suki.
"The Scroll of Forbidden Knowledge that I got from Jeong Jeong was filled with vague clues and hints, but at this point I'm not sure what else I can get out of it," Aang answered. "Besides, it reads more like a narrative than a set of instructions for energybending."
"Can you try going to the Spirit World again?" Trinley chimed in.
Aang shook his head. "That would be a wasted trip. Yue already told me that she wouldn't talk to me about energybending anymore – and any spirit who's old enough to remember energybenders knows better than to talk to humans about it again. Yue herself was contacted by a powerful spirit who forbade her from revealing any more to me about energybending."
"I see," said Sokka grumpily.
"I'm sorry," said Aang, downtrodden. "It just seems like a dead end from where I am now. All I have to go off of is Doru Kun's reference to the art. I just don't know what to do..."
"Let me get this straight," stated Toph casually. "You think Doru Kun might've known something about how to fix Katara?"
"Yeah," Aang responded.
Toph shrugged. "Ask him."
Aang was astonished. "What?"
"Just talk to him," Toph clarified. "Like when you go to the Spirit World. Ask him about energybending and how you might be able to fix Katara."
Aang scoffed. "That's impossible," he said flatly.
"Why? I don't see what the problem is," said Toph simply. "If you can talk to Roku, you can talk to this dude."
"No," said Aang, shaking his head. "It doesn't work like that."
"How do you know?" asked Toph, smirking. "Have you tried it?"
"No," said Aang, peeved by Toph's smugness about her idea. "Since I learned the elements I can contact my most immediate past lives as need be, but it gets much harder with each new past life. Roku and Kyoshi have become a cinch to get in touch with, but Kuruk or Yangchen are a challenge for me – even now. I remember being told somewhere that Avatars either can't – or aren't supposed to – contact more than four reincarnations prior to them this way. For me, that's Yangchen."
"Hah!" said Toph. "You pick now to start doing what you're told? You never did what you were told about not energybending..."
"Why are you bringing that up now?" asked Aang, now very aggravated at her. "This is different, Toph. It can't be done!"
"Just like using energybending to bestow airbending can't be done? Don't say that something's impossible if you've never tried it," Toph told him.
Aang calmly thought to himself for a moment. He felt like he was breaking a strong taboo by trying to contact beyond one Avatar Cycle, but he was running out of other options. Perhaps Toph had a point. Nevertheless, if he could barely contact Yangchen, how was he supposed to contact Doru Kun? Yangchen lived a few hundred years ago, but Doru Kun died well over two thousand years ago. It was a ludicrous proposal. However, saving Katara might be all the more straightforward if this absurd plan came to fruition.
Great Earth Temple
Several hours passed by and the golden beams of the creeping dawn sun radiated and skimmed the tops of the countless buildings in the Earth Kingdom's greatest metropolis. The morning after the extravagant reunion event, the Avatar had approached Kuei and asked permission to venture to the prime spiritual spot in the whole of Ba Sing Se. This location was within walking distance – indeed, it was within the perimeters of the Earth King's vast palace. Kuei went as far as to take it upon himself to escort Aang there on foot, also accompanied by Sokka and Toph.
The Great Earth Temple was one of many buildings that were formally considered to be part of the Earth Kingdom Royalty's official residence. Being one of the frontal structures, it was accessible from the main street leading up to the palace, where a clique of lower nobles and advisors to the king made themselves at home. The temple, however, was far older than any of the houses nearby. One had to climb a fair number of steps to reach the doors at the entrance, which appeared as relatively miniature versions of the doors to the Earth King's throne room. Above the giant archway crowning the doors was a smooth, half-sphere bulging outward, with an even square whole at the center – the seal of the Earth King and the symbol of the Earth Kingdom.
As Kuei pushed open the doors and beckoned the Avatar to follow, Aang and the others beheld a spacious chamber lined with various historical artifacts, and a mural portrait of the previous four Avatars from the Earth Kingdom behind the ornate altar opposite them. The grand view was intimidating to look at, especially after climbing all the stairs before. Of course, this was a special location that a mere privileged few view or enter.
Aang looked quizzical as Kuei walked behind the altar, bending over and setting his eyes on the wall beneath the picture of the Earth Avatars as though he had dropped something. His motive was disclosed when he tilted a knob on the brick stony wall and the image split in the center, with the wall pushing apart, opening up a small doorway, which they walked through, to find a smaller room, with a cushion and meditation mat facing a smaller version of the mural in the greater chamber, this one with mini-figurines of Kyoshi and the other three most recent Avatars hailing from the Earth Kingdom.
"This is where I come to consult the spirits and conduct my regular prayers, as have generations of Earth Kings before me for a thousand years," explained Kuei. "Since Doru Kun was also an Earth Kingdom Avatar, this seems the most logical place to contact him."
"Great," said Aang, examining the area. He felt spiritually-attuned here, but did not take lightly the task before him, as Doru Kun was over twice as old as the temple was, and was not among the three Avatars that he saw accompanying Kyoshi.
"Take these," directed Kuei, handing the Avatar a set of antique prayer beads. They were like marbles, opaque and teal-colored, with the four elemental symbols carved into thick, square slabs in separate parts of the necklace. "They were blessed by renowned holy men from each of the four nations when they belonged to Avatar Kyoshi long ago. She used them in this temple around the time that she founded the Dai Li."
Aang gratefully received the sacred artifact. "Thank you, Kuei."
Seeing Aang prepare himself, Sokka managed a weak smile. "Are you ready to find out how to fix my sister? Do you need anything else?"
Aang humbly shook his head. "I think I'm as ready for this as I can ever be. If it can be done, the time is now. Leave me in peace and quiet. I can't have any distractions when I'm attempting something this immense. Even the slightest interruption could ruin it."
"I understand," said Sokka.
"Good luck, Twinkle Toes!" said Toph jubilantly.
"Thanks." With that, Aang sat himself down cross-legged in front of the inner altar, taking his stance and entering into deep meditation.
Migo had been to Ba Sing Se once before, when he was training to serve in General Fong's battalion for the Earth Kingdom intervention in the Fire Nation Civil War. Months later, his ears were still ringing with the accusation that his mother whom he never knew, but always looked up to, had betrayed her country. Although he had not seen much of the city on that visit, the unshakable memory made it so he could not forget the view of the massive city from above – a city of walls and rules, as Toph always described it.
Migo had boarded the Ba Sing Se-bound airship the moment he arrived at the Omashu Royal Palace and, to his distress, found that Toph had already left. After his confrontation with Brawki, he was anxious to see Toph again as soon as he could. However, as he gazed outside, he noticed that the ground was closer and they had begun their descent prematurely. Migo knew where airships went to land in the heart of the Middle Ring, but the craft was lowering itself to a drawn-down section of the lower ring. Migo's immediate conclusion was that the airship had suffered technical malfunctions and was forced to land early. But then he noticed that they were near a crowded square lined with soldiers – and that a mob of artisans and other Lower Ring workers were attacking them.
As the airship touched down, the bewildered passengers panicked and ran down the ramp out into the open air, pushing and shoving each other and being pushed and shoved again by the people greeting them from the outside. The chaotic crowd swarmed into the airship, looking to plunder and salvage anything they could worth taking. Moments later, the captain of the airship was seen being dragged from his post, unconscious.
Attempting to remain calm, Migo ducked down, pushing himself through the crowd, trying to find someone reliable he could talk to. At last, he came across a heavyset man with a brown-green shirt on, who, unlike those around him, seemed to be in control of himself. He appeared to be scanning the area, sizing individual people up.
"Excuse me, what's going on?" Migo inquired.
Instead of answering Migo's question, he posed one of his own. "Are you an earthbender?"
"Yes, I am," said Migo loudly. "What does that have to do with anything?"
"Go on ahead!" the man directed him. "We'll need you up front."
"What's this for?" asked Migo, still not realizing what was going on.
"We're marching on the Earth King's palace. Down with the old government!" Migo gulped, feeling as if he was swallowing a fruit pie whole.
Earth Kingdom Royal Palace
While their other friends had taken the morning to go and explore the downtown area, Sokka, Suki, Toph, Trinley, Tenzin, Kaddo, Vameira, Hinko, Sakema and the girl known as "Rouyu" congregated in Kuei's throne room, awaiting the results of Aang's spiritual voyage to communicate with his past life Doru Kun. Tenzin was moving a compressed air sphere up-and-down in front of Momo.
"I'm bored," said Kaddo, squatting on the floor with his hand closed over his face. "Would it be totally insensitive if I left now and came back to find out how it went later?"
"Yes, it would!" snapped Vameira. "This is our mother we're talking about."
"All the same, we're not doing her any good by sitting around here, are we?"
Before anyone else could respond, the enormous, fancy set of doors at the front of the chamber burst open and General How frantically rushed in to join them, bowing when he was right opposite Kuei's throne. "Your Majesty, I apologize for the interruption!"
"What is it?" asked Kuei, his face very serious now, given the ineloquent manner of his highest general's entrance.
Almost out of breath, How gave his news. "A-a revolt has started in the Lower Ring. It's far bigger than any of the demonstrations we've seen before. This time it's the real deal."
"Are you sure?!" asked Kuei in alarm. "How could this have happened so unexpectedly?"
"It appears we underestimated them," said How simply. "At least we have the Avatar in town now to help, though."
"No," said Sokka firmly. "Aang is busy at the moment."
"What could he be busy with anything besides this?" asked How, bewildered.
"He's in meditation trying to contact past lives," informed Toph.
"He's finding a way to save my sister," further explained Sokka.
"Aang's also going to ask about a vision he got from the Lion Turtle," said Trinley. "It has to do with the balance and saving the world. I don't know the how or when of that, but we should not interfere."
"We can help with the revolt if need be, until he's done. He just needs some time," Queen Toph reassured.
"I'm not sure how much time there is," said How with a scowl.
"Well, this was just perfect timing," remarked Sokka sarcastically.
The revolt had nearly reached the towering wall which separated the Lower Ring from the Middle Ring. Migo found himself almost at the front of the angry crowd, which had already overrun the guards and law enforcers of their area. Although he wanted no part in this uprising, he felt his only option for the time being was to march with the rest of the persons around him. Now that they were advancing so quickly, however, Migo decided that he had to break ranks as soon as possible.
An opportunity presented itself as the tide of revolutionaries marched down a main street with a small alley leading off to the side, between a government office and a butcher shop. In a swift motion, Migo broke off from the crowd and ran down the alleyway, hoping nobody noticed him.
That hope did not last long. "Hey where are you going?!" yelled the same large man he had encountered earlier.
"He must be a bourgeois spy," shouted another angry voice behind Migo. "Get him! He's probably going to inform the Earth King of our movements!"
As Migo ran down the narrow tributary of the main road, he found that three others from the earthbender column came after him through his seismic sense and the sound of their thundering footsteps. In unison, the three of them slammed their right feet down and lifted rock spheres – each one foot in diameter – from the earth, then jabbed their arms forward, punching the rocks at Migo. Migo turned sharply around, kicking his right leg high into the air and shattering one rock, while dodging the other two. Despite being hit by the dusty remains of the projectile he had smashed to pieces, Migo swiftly recovered and levitated a similar rock of his own into the air, before sharply round-kicking it with his left leg and hitting one of his adversaries in the chest, knocking him back.
"Submerge him!" yelled one of his opponents. "Sink him beneath the earth and suffocate him underground!"
"I can't, he's too agile to get enough of a hold of him," the other shouted back.
Migo inhaled a deep breath and held his legs in firm stance before punching his two fists together and erecting a thin rock wall between himself and them. This wall was shattered about ten seconds later by three flying rocks, with the earthbender Migo hit in the chest before having recovered from that early blow. However, Migo was nowhere to be seen.
"Where did he go?" asked one of them, astonished.
"He must've run around the corner while his wall was up. Let's chase after him. He can't have gotten far!" With that, the three of them ran to the opposite end of the ally, past some storage crates and out the other end. Unbeknownst to them, Migo was hiding by a large basket just to the left of where he stood previously, having partially submerged himself with an earth sinking move. When the coast was clear, he reemerged.
Great Earth Temple
Just like the other times Aang meditated and reached out to his previous incarnations, he caught a trance-like glimpse of the former Avatars, beginning with Roku, as he brandished the fire emblem on his beaded necklace. For a second, Aang wanted to stop and talk to him – to apologize. However, as much as Aang owed that to Roku, it could not be his priority today.
Kyoshi came next, after Aang switched to the earth emblem. Like with Roku, Aang had been through one of her experiences through her own eyes – when she was killing Chin the Conqueror and creating her namesake island. Aang had later learned that seeing these past life memories was not fair to the past lives and that he had to avoid it – another unfortunate side effect of energybending.
After Kyoshi, was the self-described go-with-the-flow Kuruk. He had had a rude awakening of his own – and his bride-to-be, Ummi, had paid the price for Kuruk's missteps as Avatar. He had not lived true to his duty and so the spirit Koh took Ummi for him. The tale poured despair into Aang's meditative mind. He only hoped that he did not have to look for a method to make Katara right as long as Kuruk had yearned for a way to bring back Ummi.
Exactly one Avatar Cycle before Aang was Avatar Yangchen - and he could tell that she was displeased with him. Like Roku, Yangchen had warned Aang against descending into energybending – and he did not heed the warning. As Aang had predicted, he already felt himself growing tiresome in his meditative stance. Soon he would find out whether it was attainable for him to go back more than four Avatars. Aang felt as though he had hit a spiritual barrier. Raised as an airbender, he might have been inclined to accept it, but as the Avatar he was not of any one nation alone. As Toph had taught him, he confronted that barrier in his mind like a stubborn rock and refused to step aside or slow down.
At last, the moment of truth came. The Avatar snapped back to the fire symbol on the beads, not knowing whether he would go deeper into his past lives or merely catch a glimpse of Roku again. Aang felt pressured to exit the meditative stance at once, but he did not budge – and moments later – he caught a glimpse of the Fire Avatar before Yangchen. Aang had never met this man before and did not know much about him. But what was important was what he did know – that it was indeed possible to contact back more than four Avatars!
Still, that alone was far from enough for what he had to do today.
Earth Kingdom Royal Palace
"Death to the Earth King!" The sudden outburst made everyone in Kuei's throne room jump. Through the ajar door at the front of the chamber charged three men: one wielding a sword, one clutching a battleaxe and one who appeared to be an earthbender. The one in the center put his foot to the floor and caused an earth spike to rise up, then proceeded to levitate it up and send it toward Kuei's throne. Before it flew ten feet, it was blocked by a sturdy earth column, crafted by none other than Queen Toph Beifong. Then, one of Kuei's Royal Earthbender Guards kicked the ground and the assailant's legs were encased in coverings of earth.
Chief Sokka and his son Hinko both unsheathed their swords and clashed with the axe-holder, exchanging a few strokes before disarming him and rendering him weaponless. Suki, meanwhile, confronted the man with the sword. As he swung toward her, she drew one of her fans and blocked his attack, turning the strength of his attack against him. He subsequently fell back and dropped his sword.
Kuei promptly rose to his feet. "Take them prisoner," he instructed his two closest soldiers, clad in their traditional shaded-green armor. "They must've snuck in somehow. Send reinforcements back and secure all major points of entrance."
"So, let me get this straight," interjected Sokka. "The Fire Nation's plunged into civil war and ruin, the Air Nomads have plunged into civil war and ruin, and now this is happening in the capital of the Earth Kingdom? Man, it's a really good time to be from the Water Tribe, isn't it?"
"This is serious, Sokka!" snapped Suki impatiently.
"Hey, nothing wrong with making light of something when you're in control. We're all here in case any more lurkers are about," said Sokka. "I'd say all is well, for now."
"Of course," said Tenzin with enthusiasm. "We're ready for anything! Well, Vameira and I are at least."
"What's that supposed to mean?" asked Kaddo, raising an eyebrow.
"Well, over the past few months, Vameira and I have traveled the world, encountering dragons, rogue airbenders, Dai Li and numerous Phoenix Army men, not to mention Vameira's episode with the airship. Meanwhile, you've been hanging back quite comfortably at the South Pole, living in the village and going penguin sledding. Face it, Kaddo. You've seen no real action."
"I've seen action!" snapped Kaddo, irritated.
Tenzin shook his head. "Sorry, but healing an otter-penguin doesn't count."
"No, not that," replied Kaddo. "Dad and I ran into a mysterious attacker at the North Pole. He didn't use any bending, but he moved really fast and he was hard to keep up with. He also had a sword that lit on fire. At first, we thought he was an assassin, but later it seemed like he was trying to capture Dad alive."
Toph put her hand to her mouth frantically. "Twinkle Toes – he's in the temple all by himself!"
Sokka's smile vanished. "And he's not exactly in fighting mode right now."
'We must go to the temple and watch over Uncle Aang while he's meditating," said Hinko decisively.
"But what about the Earth King?" asked Suki.
"Go," said Kuei. "I have plenty of guards here, and they're well-trained in my protection."
Sokka nodded somberly. "Let's go, then!" They all ran to reach the temple quick as could be.
"Oh no," said Kaddo, distressed. "I forgot my water pouch!"
Sakema grabbed one of two miniature, light brown patches strapped to hang at her waist. "Here, Kaddo. I have an extra one you can use."
"Okay, great," said Kaddo, snatching the pouch full of his bending source from Sakema's hand.
Sakema stared at him as though waiting for him to say something else. "You're welcome," she added after a few seconds of silence. "Try to remember your own next time."
Kaddo grimaced irritably. "I just forgot it today because I didn't expect to need it. It's no big deal."
"No waterbender-in-training should ever be without one," Sakema berated him coolly.
"Fine, then. I'll remember it next time," said Kaddo reproachfully.
"Maybe I should just take that back and leave you to fend for yourself today," said Sakema, annoyed.
"Back off! Stop getting on my case!" snapped Kaddo, pulling the strapped pouch over his shoulder. Sakema scowled as the two waterbending cousins ran to keep up with the others.
Unlike the Earth King and his advisors, some in the Upper Ring were not at all surprised by the recent turn of events. The elder statesman Long Feng was standing across from Kuei's grand residence with sleek, graying hair and an arrogant smile spread across his face. He was flanked by about thirty Dai Li agents, standing to seriously sinister attention, and accompanied by Brother Memnon, Chao Feng and another couple dozen of their people, facing the palace in the same manner.
Long Feng's lips curled. "I must say, this revolution of ours was quite well-coordinated. I was skeptical that it would be strong enough to overwhelm Ba Sing Se at first. Brilliantly planned."
"Indeed," agreed Gitsu.
Brother Memnon nodded simply. "We had our contacts throughout the city, ready to incite rebellion at the right moment simultaneously. People are so easy to manipulate when they're desperate. All they need is a proper nudge in the right direction and chaos ensues. We waited for the Avatar to arrive to set our plans in motion."
"I've been hunting him a long time," said Chao Feng. "But now the search is over."
"You're lucky to be able to try again," Brother Memnon told him curtly, "after you nearly screwed up at the North Pole."
"I saw him enter the temple not too long ago," chimed in Gitsu.
"I've already sent some Dai Li agents in to retrieve him," said Long Feng confidently. "We'll fulfill our side of the bargain."
Great Earth Temple
As he entered the Great Earth Temple for the second time that day, Sokka saw that ten Dai Li agents had walked in mere seconds before him. They were halfway across the chamber and closing in on the altar – and the smaller room beyond where Aang was in meditation. Suddenly, a wall of earth stretching entirely across the width of the room sprung up, and the Dai Li halted in front of it, turning to face their adversaries with vigilance. Sokka hurled his boomerang across at them and knocked one of them in the head.
"Well done with the wall, Toph," congratulated Trinley, having been one of the first to reach the top of the steps to the temple with his airbending-enhanced speed.
"It was nothing," said Toph with a smirk. "I am the greatest earthbender of all time."
"Do you think the Earth King would approve of earthbending his sacred temple, though?" asked Trinley.
"Meh, who cares!" said Toph, waving her hand.
"I think we have more important stuff to think about," agreed Sokka.
Two of the Dai Li agents had started climbing the wall of earth with their rock-gloved hands, attempting to crawl over and reach Aang covertly. Toph would not allow them that chance, kicking a fissure through the floor and crushing the sections of the wall they were on, so they fell to the floor and lay unconsciously buried by stony shards. Meanwhile, Trinley flung forth an enormous air blast and sent three nearby Dai Li agents flying back, where they hit the wall with a harsh, discomforting thud.
Suki had picked a fight of her own. She lifted up her shield and swung her fan around hitting an agent in his rock-covered fist. He tried to throw his other glove at her face, but she batted it down with her fan and brought it back around to knock him out before he could retaliate. Hinko fought one of the Dai Li agents with his sword, as his father Sokka engaged another. Tenzin and Neinei – whom everyone else now called Rouyu – doubled up on one of the remaining agents. Tenzin pushed the agent's projectile-turned rock gloves aside and Neinei hit him in the chest with a few quick fire blasts. Kaddo bent water from the pouch that Sakema had given him and streamed it toward the Dai Li agent farthest from the door, dousing him with water, then freezing it in place, mimicking the move his father had begun to teach him.
With all the Dai Li agents present defeated, Toph raised both arms in the air and lowered the wall she had created earlier. "Everyone, let's gather at the rear of the chamber, close to where Aang is. Something tells me there'll be more of them."
Vameira peered through the secret door behind the altar. "Dad's still meditating. He looks quite peaceful right now."
"How can he have meditated through all that?" said Kaddo quizzically.
"Your father's in very deep concentration," explained Sokka. "He's trying to speak with Avatar Doru Kun. That's one of the most challenging things he's ever done. His concentration isn't broken yet, but let's not push our luck. We have to keep anyone who comes in here away from this area. More Dai Li agents might be about."
"Don't forget the revolutionaries," noted Hinko.
From lifetime, to lifetime, to lifetime, Aang felt deeper levels of his own self being pulled aside. Aang saw more Avatars – all different yet similar, as the cycle repeated the same nations. Some were men, some were women. They all lived to different ages – some being quite ancient, while others died young. Regardless, when exactly in life an Avatar appeared as a spirit remained a mystery. Some elder ones appeared as though young or middle-aged. Roku appearead as an old man, but he died far younger than Kyoshi, who appeared much younger as a spirit. With each new life, it was far harder to move back another one.
Following Yangchen, Aang had seen a Fire Avatar, then an Earth Avatar and another Air Avatar. After that, he set his eyes on a brave, determined female Avatar from the Fire Nation. Although young, she had experienced much. She must have had a lot to deal with in her time, but that made her strong. The Avatar before her was a young boy from the Earth Kingdom, sad in nature and lacking the same aura of the other incarnations. Aang soon realized why. He had died before he mastered all four elements and never became fully-realized – a lost generation of the endless cycle. The water Avatar before was similar. During this period, the world must have gone a long time without a proper Avatar. Aang saw a scarred Air Avatar next, and then another Fire Avatar, another Earth Avatar, another Water Avatar, and another Air Avatar.
And then another Fire Avatar, another Earth Avatar, another Water Avatar, another Air Avatar.
Long Feng smirked cruelly. "This is quite a coup. My thanks to you, Memnon, and the rest of your people. I will certainly recommend you if I have acquaintances who want something done."
"No," said Brother Memnon firmly. "You'll say you planned this yourself. I never existed. Don't say a thing about us, or you'll regret it. When this is all over, just deliver the Avatar to us, alive, and we'll be on our way."
To Memnon's annoyance, Long Feng laughed. "Okay, sounds like a plan."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Silence and one prisoner for the biggest city on the planet," stated Long Feng. "It sounds like a good deal to be. And I can't help but think I'm getting the better side of the bargain."
Brother Memnon glared at him. "Don't underestimate the Avatar, Long Feng. He's not a child like when you fought him last. He is a grown man who knows all the elements, controls the Avatar State and harnesses the power of energy."
"Maybe," said Long Feng. "But as I've heard, he's meditating. My agents can handle someone who's meditating."
"Then why haven't they got him, yet?" asked Brother Memnon. "They should've had long enough."
Long Feng pondered the situation. "Hmmm...Gitsu, it's time to end this."
Gitsu gave a modest bow to his leader. "Yes, Sir." And so, Gitsu went into the temple, taking the rest of the Dai Li agents with him.
Great Earth Temple
Just as was predicted, a second wave of Dai Li agents entered the temple. This time, Gitsu was leading them. There were no hidden ways to enter the temple, so the Dai Li were forced to take a direct, less covert, approach than they normally would. Toph took advantage of this by rising up a line of twisted earth columns and pushing forward with great muscular strength, propelling the columns forward. A handful of the agents were knocked out or wounded by the columns, but the majority of them were able to leap over and proceed to charge toward the altar, with Gitsu still at the forefront.
Hinko, Suki, Trinley, Sakema and Kaddo rushed forth and engaged them in hand-to-hand combat. Trinley evaded jabs left-and-right with his airbending agility and conjured a pair of small whirlwinds around each of his arms, dazing the Dai Li agents and rendering them woozy before striking with subsequent air blasts. Four or five agents were about to strike at Vameira and Neinei, but all of a sudden they were flung in the air by earth sledges emerging from the ground.
"Thanks, Queen Toph!" yelled Neinei gratefully.
"I didn't do that," stated Toph, raising an eyebrow above her blind eye.
"I did," said someone else who had entered the temple.
"Migo!" yelled Vameira excitedly.
"Nice of you to show up," said Toph with sarcasm.
"I got a little held up," said Migo, turning his head to Toph as he multitasked by levitating a couple more rocks and throwing them at oncoming Dai Li agents. "I wound up in the middle of the Lower Ring when a revolt broke out. I barely managed to sneak away and gradually made my way to the Upper Ring. I was going to warn you about it when I got here, but it looks like you guys already have your own problems."
"How'd you find us?" asked Toph, confused.
"When I got here, I saw a bunch of Dai Li agents running into this place, talking about capturing the Avatar," said Migo as he blocked an oncoming flying rock glove and sent it back into its owner's face. "I thought the Dai Li would be more discreet than that."
"They usually are," said Toph, sending an earth trench at a couple agents and knocking them in the ground.
It was then that Vameira looked around and noticed that Gitsu himself was nowhere to be seen among the combat. She turned around and gasped as she saw him walking through the secret door. He had entered the sacred room, his arm outstretched to seize his prize, when Vameira dashed in and sent a precise airblast to knock him off his balance, carefully aimed at him and not her father.
"I remember you kidnapped me last time I was in this city," said Vameira defiantly. "You're not taking my father!"
Outraged, Gitsu turned to face the young airbender. "You wanna play, little girl?" He shoved both his hands into the wall and drew them out with brand new rock gloves intact.
Vameira rotated her arms around and created a small ball of air, then sent it toward Gitsu's feet, tripping him and landing him on the ball, spinning with it and growing dizzier by the second until he fell on his bottom.
Migo rushed to the scene and lifted a column out of the ground, sending Gitsu out of the room, out of the chamber, and out of the temple. "You been practicing?" he asked Vameira with a smile.
"A little," she replied modestly with a giggle.
Back on the other side of the altar, Tenzin found himself seemingly cornered by four agents. He twisted his arms around to make an air ball, then enlarged it and made it into a spiraling circular cylinder, which he himself jumped into. He kept the air currents moving and rode the air wheel through the chamber sweeping every Dai Li agent he came across off their feet with enhanced air blasts and circular movements. At last, all the agents left standing ran out the front door, retreating from the Great Earth Temple. The famous Team Avatar and their new additions had proven too much for them.
"That's an impressive move you just did," Trinley commented on Tenzin's air wheel.
"Thanks. I invented it myself."
Earth Kingdom Royal Palace
"Sire, we're afraid the situation is only worsening," High General How informed Earth King Kuei remorsefully.
"How so?" questioned Kuei, still maintaining composure as he sat in his throne and heard the latest update.
"I'm afraid we've already lost control of the Lower Ring and much of the Middle Ring," stated General Tyro, who was standing beside How and two other veteran generals. The entire Council of Five had gathered in the throne room, minus General Fong. "I've ordered our men in certain areas to retreat so they could join with our forces at the center of the city and give us a stronger resistance."
Kuei nodded. "Yes, at this point, that's our best course of action."
"I never expected them to get this far when it began," admitted General How. "Unfortunately, we just weren't prepared for something on this scale so soon."
Great Earth Temple
Aang had now been stuck on a Fire Avatar for a long while and his meditation was nearly broken due to the extreme intensity he felt. It was taking every ounce of concentration he could muster to reach the Earth Avatar before him. Aang lost track of how many cycles he had gone through; but the next Avatar had to be Doru Kun – just had to be. Aang focused all his energy into the centers of his chi and inner-strength He gave it everything he had, so if it was possible at all for him to talk to the next Avatar, he would do it, but if it was doable, it was only barely so. Aang would not even have time to check who it was first before stopping and talking to them.
Through a tremendous effort, Aang broke down the last barrier in his way and brought himself to the Earth Avatar. Exhausted, Aang took a second to rest his spiritual energy the way one would catch their breath in the Spirit World, in awe of how many lives he had gone through to reach here. Then Aang looked up. In front of him sat a majestic, middle-aged man with a straight, pointed beard on his chin and donning a set of dark green plated armor, like something out of the Ba Sing Se museum, lined with symbols of all four elements – only fit for an Avatar. Aang paused. He had come a long way, but there was no mistaking it. This was not Doru Kun.
Aang stared in disbelief. The hope that was what kept him going on, living with himself, and getting out of bed in the morning, was gone. Having tried his best in the best possible conditions to contact Doru Kun, Aang now knew for sure that he had no chance of doing so. With all his hard efforts wasted, the bitter feeling of defeat sunk in like the piercing jaws of a saber-tooth moose lion. The Avatar could do nothing now, except fold his head in his arms. At the edge of his rope, Aang broke down and cried.
"Still no Avatar," said Brother Memnon with disciplined impatience.
Long Feng was considerably less confident than he had been earlier that day. "Look, we've tried everything we can for now to get him out alive. The uprising will reach the Upper Ring before too long, so we should shift our focus to consolidating power here. Then we can take the time to plan a new strategy to capture the Avatar. It's obviously much more difficult than we assumed, so we shouldn't rush it."
"Don't you dare try to shut us out, Long Feng," said Brother Memnon angrily. "The plan is only partially set in motion for today."
"What do you mean?"
"The lower classes have risen up, but will they accept you as your leader when all is said and done? That remains to be seen."
"Of course," said Long Feng, taken aback. "Why wouldn't they?"
"You're just another aristocrat, a former politician who served the Earth King," he explained. "By default, you're an enemy. Under the present circumstances, it's less likely that you'll be in charge than the city will simply degenerate into mob rule - and you'll go own with it."
"Is that really what you want for Ba Sing Se?" asked Long Feng in desperation. He had no idea why he was trying to appeal to this man's conscious of all things. Long Feng had only ever known stone-cold stubbornness from this fellow.
"We're indifferent to fate of the city as long as we get what we want," said Brother Memnon tersely. "I can pull the necessary strings for you to take charge, but only if you cooperate with us until we have no further use for you."
Gitsu returned to the scene, scarred and battered, followed by a handful of other Dai Li agents who made it back. He turned to face Long Feng. "Sir...we failed."
The former Grand Secretariat was not pleased. "Yes...you have. Captain Gitsu, I am relieving you of your rank!"
"You heard me. You have let us down on your mission in this hour of need. You are not fit for command!" Under the circumstances, Long Feng was happy to cast off the blame onto someone else.
"Apparently your agents weren't as able as you boasted. Chao Feng, show them how it's done," directed Brother Memnon.
"At once, Your Excellency," said Chao Feng, making his way toward the temple with twenty more of his organization in toe.
Great Earth Temple
"It sounds like the uprising is much closer to the Upper Ring than it was when we got here," said Toph, resting her bare foot on the floor and stretching out with her seismic sense.
"The danger is high, for all of us now," commented Sokka. "I think we need some extra help to get out of the city now."
"What are you saying?" asked Toph.
Sokka sighed. "I think we should fetch Aang."
Tenzin was shocked. "What?! We can't – he has to talk to Doru Kun and save our mother!"
"Yeah," said Vameira. "He sucked out her energy and now he's gonna put it back!"
"Our priority now should be escaping this place in one piece," said Sokka, determined. "We can fight off a few Dai Li agents, but not what's coming next. It's time to stop chasing after the unrealistic."
Kaddo, wide-eyed, stared into his uncles orbs in sheer disbelief. "You've lost hope that my mother can be saved!"
Sokka looked at all three of them in pity. "Look, I know this is difficult for you all to come to terms with, but the truth is, there was probably never much hope to begin with. Aang probably won't be able to reach Doru Kun, and even if he did, the chance of saving Katara – your mother – would still be pretty slim. We must accept the reality of it and evacuate with the Earth King and the rest of our friends. What's done is done, I'm willing to give Aang a second chance now, but we need him here. It's time to stop chasing after mad false hopes."
"Even Twinkle Toes said that he didn't think he could contact Doru Kun," said Toph. "He had doubts, too."
"Exactly," stated Sokka. "I'm sorry, kids, but I'm going to go wake up your father now."
"Wait," said Toph, changing her tune. "You didn't let me finish. He had doubts, but I don't think he would've tried it if he knew it was impossible. He thought this was worth at least trying, and I think we should honor that."
"Well said," agreed Trinley.
Sokka shifted his gaze from Toph to Trinley, then to Suki, then to Hinko. "Well...let's pray you're all right."
"No prayer will save any of you now," came a new voice from the giant entrance. Chao Feng, along with more than twenty of his comrades – dressed in their notable black garb with face-coverings – had entered the temple.
"One of you was the one who attacked me in my dressing room!" declared Toph, having the capability to recognize individuals through seismic sense.
Neinei assumed her fighting stance. "Whoever you are, I don't care. You're about to get fried!"
"Rouyu, no, don't!" Kaddo shouted as she punched a fire blast in the direction of them.
Chao Feng drew his katana and lifted it up to Neinei's fire blast, dousing it in the flame and allowing the fire to engulf his sword.
"What is it?" asked Neinei.
"Nevermind," said Kaddo, annoyed. "I was just going to tell you not to do what you just did!"
Clueless, Neinei turned and saw Chao Feng swinging his burning blade and charging at them. "Oh, I see...sorry," she said, showing her teeth with guilt.
With a murderous spark in his eye, Chao Feng ran toward the girl who had thrown fire at him. Before he could reach Neinei, however, Sakema sent a water whip his way, which did not touch him, but distracted him enough for the moment. Chao Feng switched his target and sliced his sword at Sakema, making a large cut out of her arm which began to burn. Sakema panicked and brought all the remaining water from her pouch and splashed it on her own arm. With nothing to hit her more-experienced opponent with, Sakema backed away in fear as Chao Feng raised up his sword, ready to strike her heart.
Hinko intervened and clashed Chao Feng's burning sword with his normal one. "Leave my sister alone!" Hinko's training had paid off well, and he exchanged stroke after stroke with Chao Feng, though he was constantly on the defensive. He managed to call out for a moment between clangs. "Kaddo, heal her, now!"
"Right," Kaddo called back. He knelt down by his cousin and bent some water from his pouch around his hands.
"We'll cover you," announced Tenzin. Along with Vameira and Neinei, he stood beside them and fended off attackers with sais and katanas. Everyone else in the chamber had their hands full. Sokka and Suki were worried about their daughter, but were themselves engaged in duels with other katana-wielding members of this group. Migo bended as much earth as he could, as quickly as he could, while Toph threw rocks left-and-right at the opponents. She managed to hit a few, but the rest were so competent at dodging that even she could not take them all on at once. Trinley, meanwhile, stood by the altar, whipped up a whizzing air shield and dodged sais as he guarded the entrance to the meditation section.
Aang sobbed, onto the ground opposite the nameless Avatar of the Earth Kingdom, having not said a word since he came out of his search. The Earth Avatar, dignified when he first appeared, now looked unsure of himself. "Is-is something the matter?" the man asked Aang.
"Yes," said Aang, teary-eyed. "I need to talk to Avatar Doru Kun, but I can't. It's impossible!"
"I see. I must say, it's been many centuries since I've spoken with a current Avatar. Is there maybe anything I can help you with?"
"No. No, it has to be him!"
"I see." This man from the ancient world spoke in a tone that was sympathetic mixed with being offended, though still mostly sympathetic. "Well, if you've come this far, you really must want to talk to him."
"Did you ever talk to Doru Kun?" questioned Aang.
"No," he responded. "I'd heard about him of course, but I never ventured to do that."
"Of course," said Aang. "I bet he was long ago for you, too."
"Yes," the Earth Avatar said regretfully. "He was an entire Avatar Cycle before me."
"What did you say!?" asked Aang, pausing mid-breath.
"I said I never spoke to Doru Kun
"He was an entire Avatar Cycle before me."
"So, you're saying Doru Kun is four Avatars before you?" Aang asked for clarification.
"Only four Avatars before you." Going back just one more Avatar, let alone four, would have been an impossible feat mere minutes ago, but now that Aang knew exactly how much further back it was, it seemed all the more attainable.
"Four Avatars is quite a jump, you know," the Earth Avatar told him. "Then again, you've already come much farther than that, so I guess that you're almost there. Well, you shouldn't give up now!"
"Would I have to start from the beginning again, though?" Aang asked, having somewhat regained himself.
"Usually you would, but if you go back into your meditation now, I reckon you can avoid that. Go back four more Avatars. I'll use my spiritual power to help you along."
"Thanks," said Aang, reinvigorated.
"You're welcome. I'm happy to do my part to help my reincarnation reach my past life."
Earth Kingdom Royal Palace
The mood in Kuei's throne room had become grim. "Your Highness, I'm afraid we have failed you," said Tyro solemnly. "We can no longer protect the Upper Ring from the insurgents. We must...evacuate the area on your airships. We can regroup in exile."
"How did this happen?" asked Kuei, more to himself, than to any of his advisers. "I've made some rash actions in the past, but I never expected to be retaliated against with something like this. Ever since I traveled the country with Bosco, I thought I had more connection with my people. I thought I understood them better. Maybe I didn't understand them like I thought."
The Head of the Council of Five interjected. "With all do respect, Your Majesty, you mustn't blame yourself. We've been analyzing the attack and this is far too calculated to be the sole work of an unplanned mob. There are unseen outside forces at work, for what purpose we don't yet know."
Great Earth Temple
By the time Kaddo had fully-healed Sakema, Hinko had sustained a small wound of his own. Kaddo offered to help, but Hinko resolved to carry on fighting with it, sweating profusely. They had all tired themselves out by this point, but their opponents held onto their stamina. Their agility, accuracy and persistence made up for the supposed bending gap.
Sokka and Hinko were now both fighting Chao Feng, while their friends and family stood guard by the altar, resolved not to allow anyone within that perimeter. Sokka and Hinko positioned themselves on either side of Chao Feng, careful not to get too close and come in contact with the flames that attached to his blade. They rotated themselves so they were both standing in front of him and tried to clash with him so the other would have more room to strike. However, Chao Feng seemed to recognize their strategy and blocked them both quickly. Also, his blade seemed much bigger with the fire.
Kaddo saw an opening from his position several feet away and brought a large bubble of water out of his pouch, which he streamed toward them, focusing his chi. He splashed it all upon Chao Feng's sword, which put out the fire around it at once. Chao Feng had not expected this, but carried on fighting with a flameless katana. From behind, Migo levitated a rock and punched it forward, hitting Chao Feng in the back so he stumbled forward. Chao Feng still managed to block Hinko's swing with his own sword, but Sokka's pierced him in the rib!
Chao Feng wailed and ran away from Sokka and Hinko, out of the temple and down the stairs. Sokka, Hinko, Migo and Kaddo exchanged triumphirate glances with each other, their morale boosted. However, they could not forget that almost twenty opponents were still in the temple, and that the way things were going, they would not all be gone in a hurry.
"Aang had better be speaking to Doru Kun right now!" yelled Sokka, swinging his space sword at another opponent and engaging him in a duel. "I'm not sure how much more we can take."
Chao Feng ran back, panting heavily and covering the wound in his chest with the whole of his right forearm.
"Sir, I-" Chao Feng's words were cut short as Brother Memnon raised his foot off the ground and kicked Chao Feng in the jaw, so he was thrown back several feet and landed on his backside upon the rough, unsympathetic pavement. As he recovered and lifted his head once again, a strain of blood creviced the area below his lower lip. Long Feng gasped, taken aback by Memnon's reaction.
"Honeslty, Chao Feng, what good are you?" asked Brother Memnon furiously. "Even if I can bring myself to understand how you didn't take the Avatar at the North Pole – the fact that you can't take him now when he's meditating in the temple like a sitting turtle duck is just unacceptable!"
"It's not just the Avatar himself," countered Chao Feng. "He has strong friends. They are also a force to be reckoned with."
"Save it, you pathetic swine!"
An expression formed on Chao Feng's face never seen there before. "Please, Sir, have mercy," said Chao Feng, trembling. "I just need one more chance."
"Mercy is a word of cowards," said Brother Memnon, looking down at his subordinate in disgust. "You have failed, Chao Feng, and as a failure, you're no use to anyone. It's as simple as that. There are no second chances, not with us."
Suddenly, a rumbling noise sounded from the not-so-far-off distance, and Long Feng turned his head uneasily. "They'll be here soon," the former Grand Secretariat announced. "Time is short."
"Then it's time to wrap things up," said Brother Memnon, flashing a deadly grimace as he turned his head away from Chao Feng and left the both of them behind.
"Where are you going?" Long Feng called out after him.
Brother Memnon ascended the steps to the Great Earth Temple. "If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself."
Great Earth Temple
Exiting meditation, Aang at last snapped Kyoshi's beads back to the earth symbol and opened his eyes. Aang remembered visiting the shrine with Katara what felt like an eternity ago, and he knew what his former incarnation looked like, having come across his statue at the Vault. Now, at long last, the spiritual outline of Avatar Doru Kun formed in front of him.
TO BE CONTINUED...
- Aang uses a special bead necklace in this chapter, which is fitting as talking to Avatar back more than one cycle is usually unheard of.
- This chapter was partially inspired by Winter Solstice Part 2: Avatar Roku, where Aang talked to Roku for the first time with hostile Fire Sages and Fire Nation soldiers waiting outside, and also by Sozin's Comet Part 2: The Old Masters, where Aang is meditating and talking to his past lives away from everyone else.
- "After that, he set his eyes on a headstrong young female Avatar from the Fire Nation. Although young, she had experienced much. She must have had a lot to deal with in her time, but that made her strong." This is a reference to Unnamed Fire Avatar. , which AvatarRokusGhost writes with . Miyuki is the Fire Avatar before the
- The "air wheel" which Tenzin uses is the same move seen in The Aftermath.
- Although this chapter came out on the same day as Out of the Past, Toph and Aang's exchange about "Twinkle Toes" had nothing to do with similar lines in the show. 'Twas coincidental.
For the collective works of the author, go here.