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|Honour: The Comet|
11th July 2015
Zuko woke in a cold, dark room. A man taunted him through the bars. "So this is how they treat the Fire Nation prince? What, are you going to rule from prison? Or will your baby sister rule in your place? You sicken me! You could have been Fire Lord, ruler of the greatest nation in the world. And yet, you turned it down to protect a few rock tossers."
Zuko was beaten and bruised but was still defiant. "What did you call them?"
"Tossers," the man replied, "they are rock tossers."
Zuko lunged forward and grabbed hold of his bars. "Do not talk about them like that," he shouted, "they are noble warriors!"
"Do you know what tomorrow is?" the man taunted.
"No. What?" Zuko knew well what he was talking about, yet still wished to defy his tormentor.
"It is the day of the comet. With that power," he elaborated, "we shall destroy your precious Earth Kingdom, and I shall take pleasure in frying you."
The two engaged in a shouting match until a woman opened the metal door and broke up the fight. "Guys," she said, "it's okay. The warden has gone for the night and the other guards are leaving. So are we doing this or not?"
Zuko's tormentor removed his helmet. "Yes, Ming." He reached behind his back and removed a shiny black sword. Carefully, he slashed away at the bolt and then the bolt in the door. "There," he said, "after we've left, you can just open the door and walk out. We'll leave last and keep the door unlocked."
Zuko grinned. "Thanks, Sokka. And thank you, Ming, for helping us out."
"No problem," the woman replied, "just promise me you will bring peace when you become Fire Lord. Be warned, the military will oppose your rule, but the governors and lords are growing weary of this war."
After they left, Zuko followed their path of open doors. He spent the night in a friendly house. The Fire Nation had always hoped to destroy the Earth Kingdom, but the people of the Fire Nation had no such desire. The Avatar's return brought hope to the Earth Kingdom and Water Tribes, but Zuko's return brought hope to the Fire Nation. Many people, even nobles, were willing to let Zuko stay in their humble dwellings. In the morning, Zuko left a small hut and waved to the family. "Thank you so much! I promise to repay your kindness in excess!"
Zuko smiled as he departed. He knew that somehow, he would win. Somehow, he would save the world and bring back balance. Before long, he reached the Palace courtyard. Azula kneeled on the ground as numerous Fire Sages stood by her. "I now crown you," the high sage started.
"Stop!" Zuko commanded. "Sorry, Azula. You shall not become Fire Lord today. I will!"
Azula laughed sarcastically, then chaotically. After she finished her crazed cackling, she challenged him to an Agni Kai. Zuko accepted, and the two shed their robes.
Zuko took a deep breath and extended his arms, tucking in his elbows. Azula did the same. Only now was the true extent of her insanity revealed. Her hair was a mess, and she was standing rather crooked, warped as her young mind. Azula kicked off the first few strikes, throwing large balls of blue fire.
Zuko parried a few of them but didn't bother with the rest. Her aim was far off the mark. Zuko returned fire, throwing precise and controlled attacks. Azula broke them with her fists and cackled. "Is that all you got, Zuzu?" she taunted.
Zuko jumped into the air and kicked a large, curved stream of fire. Azula swerved to the side, wasting much movement. She too jumped. She kicked and punched into the air many times, throwing a hailstorm of fire at Zuko. Zuko covered himself with a blanket of fire to protect himself. He swirled the fire around many times and threw it at Azula.
The fire broke apart and a raging blue inferno rushed to Zuko. The whites of his eyes reflected the terrifying glow. Zuko spread his arms like a dragon's wings and dispersed the inferno. He took a deep breath, feeling the energy bubble within his body. He looked to the dark red sky. A large comet scraped through the atmosphere, fleeing a plume of fire. Zuko and Azula simultaneously punched, creating conflicting infernos. They met in the middle and exploded. Azula cackled. Her stream of fire grew larger and less controlled. It forced back Zuko's. Zuko leapt into the air and flew like a rocket. He became a human flame-thrower, raining death upon Azula from his elevated position. She also elevated herself on a platform of fire, similar to how Korra would learn to do with water, and Roku did with air.
They constantly circled each other, forming a peculiar figure eight. They exchanged balls of fire, with hardly anyone hitting their target.
Zuko's fire tornado exploded, knocking Azula off her perch. Zuko landed on his feet, but Azula fell with a thud.
"No lightning today?" Zuko taunted. "What's the matter? Afraid I'll redirect it?"
Zuko took a deep breath and stood with his flank facing Azula.
"You want lightning?" Azula screamed. "I'll show you lightning!"
Azula charged up the fiercest lightning strike imaginable. Entire bolts radiated from her fingers, bolts that would put the most disastrous of storms to shame. When she released her strike, the entire palace lit up an electric blue. Zuko caught it with the tips of his fingers and shifted it through his body. Out it came through his other hand.
Azula's face was covered in the blue glow. The lightning travelled towards her at light speed, but it seemed so much slower to her. She stepped to the side. The lightning struck her in the chest. She lurched in pain as her entire body glowed, and her skeleton became visible, as if she was having an X-ray. She collapsed to the ground and twitched. Zuko picked up his fallen sister and carried her into his palace. He frowned as he realised the cost of his victory. He frowned further when he realised that she would not think twice about killing him.
Sozin's Comet disappeared from the sky, and the smoky red haze gave way to a clear blue sky. The destroyed scenery soon gave way to a large festival. Zuko knelt on an elevated platform as the sages crowned him the Fire Lord. Men and women clad in robes of red, blue and green cheered for their saviour. "All hail Fire Lord Zuko," they cried in joy.
Zuko smiled but waved to them. "Please. Your praise should all go to the Avatar. He is the true hero of today. But there are plenty of other heroes. My uncle and his friends liberated Ba Sing Se. The Avatar's friends stopped the airship fleet from destroying the Earth Kingdom. Our victory cannot be attributed to one man."
Zuko stepped down from his platform and bowed. Among the crowd, he noticed a familiar bald head. He made his way through the crowd and reached them. Katara and Sokka embraced a tall man, while Toph and Aang stood by.
"Zuko!" Sokka shouted happily.
Katara said to Zuko, "This is my father, Hakoda."
Zuko extended his arm and shook Hakoda's hand. "I hope you're proud. Your children just saved the world."
Hakoda nodded. "I am very proud, Fire Lord."
"Please," Zuko shook his head, "call me Zuko."
"Zuko!" a voice cried.
Zuko's jaw dropped in shock. What a familiar voice. A young woman in green robe-like rags ran to Zuko and embraced him.
Iroh approached them and laughed. "Zuko, you'll never believe who I found hiding in our old tea shop in Ba Sing Se!"
Zuko smiled, and his war battered face softened. "Jin? I thought I wouldn't see you again! Wait, did you call me Zuko?"
Jin rubbed his face. "Your uncle told me everything on the way back."
Zuko looked to his uncle who shrugged and smiled with an innocent expression.
"Uncle," Zuko said, "could you make Jin the nicest tea you have? Take her to the dining room."
Zuko turned to Jin. "You should get used to the palace. I don't expect you to be leaving. I'll be with you soon, I just need to talk with the Avatar."
Zuko and Aang walked away from the crowds. "Avatar," Zuko did not sound very sure about himself, "I've been thinking..."
"Yes?" Aang didn't sound sure either.
Zuko turned his back to Aang, folded his arms behind his back and paced. "Fire Lord Sozin, my great grandfather, had this discussion with our great grandfather Roku 112 years ago."
"I don't like where this is going," Aang said cautiously.
"The Fire Nation is the richest, most powerful and most advanced nation on the planet. We need to spread our greatness. All the nations must work together as one," Zuko said.
"Zuko, what are you thinking?"
Zuko reassured Aang and placed his hand on the Avatar's shoulder. "If this war has taught us anything, it's that the nations can no longer exist separately. We need one nation, a united nation. All the nations will simply be states of one larger nation."
Aang looked at Zuko with suspicion. "And who shall lead this larger nation?"
Zuko smiled. "Who better to rule over all the nations than the master of the elements? Now, if you excuse me, I don't want to keep Jin waiting. She's waited far too long already."
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