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|Come Marching Home|
Prologue: Come Marching Home
The Fire Nation captain stood before Earth King Kuei, hoping his plan would work out. It had to.
"Yun Zhen," Kuei smiled. "You are without a doubt one of the strangest people I've ever met, a man of two worlds, if you don't mind my saying so. And now..."
Here goes nothing.
"...Now you want to visit the catacombs? It is an odd request for the Fire Nation to ask."
Yun shook his head. "This isn't a sanctioned request, Sire." He smiled to himself. "It's a personal one."
The Earth King grinned. "I think I understand, Yun, and I grant your request."
Yun bowed. Yes! He turned to leave, but remembered his manners. "Speaking of which, congratulations, Your Majesty."
"Thank you, Captain."
The crystals glowed in various greens and blues, allowing Yun to marvel at their natural beauty. He reached into his pouch and pulled out the red Fire Jewel, its shape reminiscent of the Fire Nation symbol.
Almost there...man, I hope I'm up to this. He glanced around at the protruding gems and selected one of the thinner ones. He spread his feet apart slightly and chopped downward, slicing off the very top of a bright green crystal. He looked at the fragment in his hand; it was perfect. Now all that he needed to do was form it, and then the difficult part would come.
Jin wiped down the bar; it was midday and no customers had come. But perhaps that was natural. Sho busied herself by sweeping, and both of them wished that something interesting would happen.
Jin exhaled. "Sho, I think—!"
The Kyoshi Warrior was stopped mid-sentence as a completely bald man with a goatee strode in wearing a Fire Navy uniform. He glanced at Jin. "Get me something to drink."
She cocked her head, put off by his demand. "Sure, what'll it be?"
He waved her off. "Strongest liquor you got. And hurry it up! I haven't got all day!" Some more soldiers had just entered the tavern, immediately expressing resignation at their comrade's behavior.
Jin rolled her eyes. "With that attitude, I wonder if you'll even last the day."
The man glared at her. "What was that?!" As he began to stand, several of the others tried to hold him back, only to be shoved aside.
The warrior folded her arms. "You heard."
The table was quickly thrown to the side as the Fire Nation soldier charged at Jin in a blind rage. Jin, for her part, simply smiled and sidestepped her lumbering opponent. As he whirled to catch her with a haymaker, she crescent-kicked the punch into the ground, following up by grabbing him under the chin and flipping over his body. The Kyoshi Warrior completed the maneuver by using her momentum to pull him over and slam him into the counter.
"Ugh...why...huh..." He struggled to stand, clutching his side as he picked himself up. "Why you—!"
"That is enough, Ensign!" A shadow fell over the defeated man's form as a Fire Nation captain stepped into the tavern. The men who had entered immediately fell into line and saluted.
The captain smiled. "As you were, gentlemen." He walked up to Jin, knelt, and kissed her hand. "My apologies; it appears that some of my men have yet to learn manners and what it means to challenge a Kyoshi Warrior."
Jin blushed and grinned. "You're late, Yun Zhen."
He smiled warmly as he stood. "It appears I am." He turned to the men and indicated the bald one. "Take him back to the ship; I'll see to his education personally. For now, I have other matters to attend to."
Yun took a sip of water as he waited. It didn't calm his nerves. All of his fears and insecurities were overshadowed, though, when Ty Lee walked through the door. The Kyoshi Warrior uniform, he noticed, had been updated for her style of fighting and now featured, as opposed to a kimono, a waist-skirt that wrapped around only partway and long pants. The chest plate remained the same, but the increased mobility likely complimented her acrobatic fighting style.
Ty Lee narrowed her eyes when she saw him, a few locks of hair hanging down in front of her face. "Yun Zhen!" She ran up to him and glared. "You've been gone for three months! I've been worried sick!"
Yun's grin widened. "I'm sorry, Ty Lee." The obsidian rocks that made up his ceremonial earth gauntlets slid back, exposing his hand, with which he stroked her cheek. "I had important business to attend to in addition to my other duties."
A smile played at the edges of her mouth. "More important than seeing me?"
Yun thought about that statement for a second. "Equally as important." He pulled her in and kissed her on the lips. "I really am sorry, Ty Lee; I'll make it up to you. How about dinner? My treat."
She laughed, unable to maintain her façade. "Yeah! That'd be great!" They held each other, soaking up the precious time. "I missed you, Captain..."
Kyoshi Island had grown in recent years, as evidenced by the coming together of the villages in order to make something of themselves. Many of the amenities and advancements of the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation had made their way to the small island, which itself had been artificially enlarged via the construction of wooden piers off the coast. One such pier was home to a variety of shops and restaurants, of which none was more famous than Garden on the Sea.
Yun sat across from his love, Ty Lee, and both were adorned in their best. The Kyoshi Warrior wore a strapless forest green dress, along with the bracelet Yun had given her six years prior, and her hair was pulled back with a long braid that reached her waist. Yun wore a crisp black shirt with dark red sleeves, along with black pants and obsidian earth boots.
Yun had pulled out all the stops for this occasion, getting a table away from the main dining room out on the balcony. The best food and drink was brought to them, and Yun silently thanked his parents for providing for him, even so many years after their deaths.
"So," Ty Lee began between bites of Roasted Turkey Duck, "Where have you been these past three months?"
Yun smiled. "Well...I've been helping with the relief effort in the Earth Kingdom, and right before I came here, I stopped off in Ba Sing Se."
Ty Lee raised an eyebrow. "Ba Sing Se? What were you doing there?"
Yun glanced away as a platter was brought toward them. "I've been thinking about something, Ty Lee, for a long time."
"What are you talking about?" As the platter arrived, Yun stood and took the cover off, revealing an elaborate choker. It was a green circle with a red stylized flame in the middle.
"Ty Lee..." He retrieved the choker from the plate. "Over the years, I've realized that...that I don't want to...that I can't...live without you in my life. You helped me through a period in my life when I wasn't sure whether I was Earth Kingdom or Fire Nation, and even more, you stood by me when I made a decision that might've torn us apart. I love you, Ty Lee...and...I need you."
Tears began streaming down the Kyoshi Warrior's face. "Yun..."
"Now...I am asking you to take a huge step with me..." He knelt and presented the gift to her. "Ty Lee, will you marry me?"
Yun could sense what was coming, but he still had the breath knocked out of him when Ty Lee jumped forward and wrapped her arms around him. "Yes, yes, oh spirits, yes!"
The newlywed couple walked down the plaza in Capitol City, simply enjoying each other's company. They stopped about midway to the Royal Palace and just soaked in the peaceful atmosphere.
Ty Lee leaned her head on Yun's shoulder. "Everything is changing..."
He grinned. "Yeah, it is, but I wouldn't have it any other way."
His beautiful wife chuckled. "Neither would I."
They walked along, stopping in front of one of the smaller houses. It was relative to the others, though, as the house was several stories tall and actually quite large.
Yun took a deep breath; it felt right to be home. He opened the door and ushered his new bride inside. He began to laugh uncontrollably.
"What's so funny?"
He shook his head. "We're home..."
She smiled and embraced him. "Yes we are."
"Welcome home, Ty Lee..."
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