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Chapter Seventy-Three: I Can't
"Maybe you can avoid me, but she can't."
The soldiers turn, and their discs create a massive wall about her like an arrowhead. She whips around, panting, breathing heavily, staring at General Fong.
He watches from the balcony, eyes wide in disbelief.
She Waterbends, the liquid whip snapping towards General Fong, but the Earthbender merely raises the dirt, forming mud.
Tears, splattered onto the ground.
His knuckles grow white on the railing. His heart pounds like an ostrich horse maddened by exhaustion and thirst. He cannot breathe.
He cannot breathe.
General Fong jerks his arm.
The ground beneath her opens up, a great cavern asking to be fed.
She twirls around, but then she sinks, the earth coming to her knees. She screams. "I can't move!"
He can't help it; a cry escapes his throat. "Don't hurt her!" he commands, leaping from the railing and air-punching in Fong's direction, but his Airbending is stopped by a wall of stone; dropping it, the general glances towards her, smirking.
From the corner of his eyes, he watches Sokka, now mounted on an armored ostrich horse, run towards them.
"Katara! No!" But Sokka is knocked from the ostrich horse and sent flying into a disc.
He half-jumps and half-dashes towards General Fong; his hand clasps the Earthbender's arm. "Stop this!" he pleads, his throat constricting. "You have to let her go!"
General Fong glares at him, and in that instant, he knows what is to come.
"You could save her if you were in the Avatar State."
He shudders and concentrates. His hand clings to the general's arm, tighter, tighter, as if the arm was the one thing keeping her in the mortal world.
Tears form at the edges of his eyes until the world is nothing but a blur.
Except for her.
He can feel the Avatar Spirit, lurking just beneath the surface, taunting him. "I'm trying!" he cries, his heart wrenching itself apart as he tries to activate it. "I'm trying!"
"Aang, I'm sinking!"
The noise drowns out his thrumming heartbeat.
"I don't see glowing," snarls General Fong.
Her scream slices through him. "Please!"
You could save her if you were in the Avatar State.
He spasms, the tears flowing down his cheeks. The pain of the Avatar State. He pulls at the pain, but it settles deep within him and refuses to move.
"You don't need to do this!" The words rip themselves hoarsely from his throat, and he gasps in pain.
General Fong smirks.
The general's words drop like stones.
"Apparently, I do."
The fist closes.
She inhales her final breath.
The earth swallows her whole as the unagi swallows the fish.
He flies towards the ground where mere seconds before she lay.
His heart is torn, jagged edges down the middle, never to be whole again.
He shakes in his grief.
I should have listened to you.
Now . . .
This chapter underwent a lot of revisions. I think I rewrote it three or five times. I'm not sure.
General Fong needs to die. Painfully. [grabs Zhao] Throw him overboard, please?
"He can feel the Avatar Spirit, lurking just beneath the surface, taunting him." -> The one time he needs it . . . it's not there! =o
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