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Nero stared out at the Si Wong Desert, considering an alternate route to Omashu. He felt something push against his leg and reached down to pet his wolf, Sid. He heaved a heavy sigh as he turned for the nearest market, for if he was going to cross the largest desert on the planet he would need some supplies. While he bought his supplies a group of children seemed to be following him. As he was leaving the market he felt a tug at his leg. He turned and looked down at a small child who immediately began pestering him with questions. Nero just waited for the kid to finish, hoping that not responding would bore the child. The questions kept coming, however. Nero noticed the boy's eyes flicker and immediately reached behind him, grabbing the little wrist trying to take his money pack.
He gently pulled the small girl trying to rob him in front of him while grabbing the boy's shoulder. He held them there while glaring into their eyes. The children wanted to turn away but were unable to, seeing this Nero grinned a little bit. He held up one finger as he untied his money pack and handed it to them. Money wouldn't do him any good in a desert and they obviously needed it.
Nero walked slowly through the desert with Sid alongside him, enjoying the immensely open space. While walking he allowed his mind to wander. He began remembering his former life, an easy life, a happier one. He barely remembered his birth mother, all he knew is she was kind and gentle. He knew absolutely nothing about his birth father, he assumed he was killed in the war. He however had fond memories of his adoptive parents. They had been encouraging and caring to him, always helping when he needed it. Yet despite their kindness they were not spared from the cruelty of fate. Nero still heard their screams from time to time. Forcing himself away from those painful thoughts Nero was surprised to see that the sun was setting. Nero decided to stop for the night and dug a small fire pit, his black flames didn't help much when it came to light but it'll keep him warm in the cold desert night.
Before going to sleep, he ate a meal of dry bread and a sip of water. He gave Sid some meat and a little more water than he took. While he slept his dreams were occupied by memories of his ex-girlfriend. Specifically the day he left home, that "pleasant" memory kept replaying itself over and over again in his head. He still remembered the pleas he forced himself to ignore when she found him leaving the town. When Nero awoke Sid was dragging the body of a buzzard-wasp back to the camp. Nero cooked the creature and ate small portions of it, leaving the rest for Sid. The next few day's would repeat themselves until Nero and Sid finally came to the edge of the desert. Nero looked back at the desert he had just crossed and sighed, glad he didn't take that alternate route.
Finding the Blind Bandit Again
Aang and Zuko stood at the bow of the ship watching as the Earth Kingdom shore came into view. Zuko fidgeted nervously as they docked at a port.
"What's wrong?" Aang asked noticing Zuko shaking.
"I hope the people don't think this is another invasion." Zuko said as they walked down the ramp.
Aang laughed at how absurd the idea sounded, but stopped when he noticed Zuko's angry glare. Their first order of business was to see if anyone knew where to find Toph. Asking around every tavern in the city they finally find someone who claimed to have seen her in Omashu. After telling the captain to return home Zuko and Aang hopped on Appa and begin flying to Omashu. On their way there they talked about the "good ol' days". Mostly they talked about some of the more humorous moments of their adventures. After a few days of traveling they reach the city.
Once inside Omashu Aang and Zuko search the city finding no trace.
"We should probably split up." Zuko suggested while resting at a tea shop. "That way we can cover more ground."
"Sounds good to me." Aang said pulling out his glider. "I'll take the sky." With that Aang took off disappearing from site in moments.
"Guess I got the ground." Zuko said turning down a street. Zuko searched the lower levels of the city, but the whole time he had the feeling he was being followed. He turned down an alley and hid to try and throw off his pursuer. His suspicions were confirmed when two figures turned down the same alley. Once they were close enough Zuko leapt out of his hiding spot swinging his duel dao swords, only to stop halfway into it once he heard Sokka's screams. He stopped seeing a pale Sokka and Suki crouched into a battle position. "What are you guys doing here?"
"Being scared half to death by you!" Sokka yelled "Is this how you say hello in the Fire Nation these days!?!"
"Calm down you big baby." Suki said slapping Sokka on the back of his head. "So Zuko what are you doing here?"
"Aang and I are looking for Toph." Zuko explained "But we were coming for you guys next."
"Why?" Sokka and Suki asked at once.
"I'll explain once we find Aang and Toph." Zuko told them.
Aang flew to the higher levels of the city, looking for anything that could help him find Toph. As he flew he heard a loud and familiar scream coming from the lower levels of the city.
"Was that Sokka?" Aang asked himself as he landed on a roof. "What's he doing here?"
"Twinkle Toes is here to visit me ." Toph's voice echoed from the plaza just below him. Toph was laying back on a reclining chair, holding a cup of tea. "See Katara I told you he'd show up eventually." Aang looked around and saw Katara sitting in another chair holding a cup of tea as well, having difficulty not laughing. As Aang jumped down to them Katara and Toph both got up and hugged him... well Katara hugged him Toph punched him in his arm. "It's good to "see" you again Twinkle Toes."
"Very funny Toph." Aang said waving his hand in front of Toph's blind eyes. "Anyway, I unfortunately have some bad news."
Team Avatar's Return
When Zuko, Sokka, and Suki found the others, He and Aang told them all about the assassination of Ozai and Azula, as well as their confrontation with Nero. When they finished their tale the group was silent. Sokka ended it.
"So why would anyone want us dead?" He asked thoughtfully rubbing his chin, "I mean we saved the world, you'd think that everybody would love us."
"Apparently not." Toph said bluntly "Whoever this Nero is, he sounds like he doesn't like us that much."
"I don't even think it's him who doesn't like us." Katara cut in, "Assassins don't tend to care about who they're trying to kill."
"Yeah, take." Zuko said, agreeing with Katara.
"Who?" everyone else asked at once.
"I'm sorry, Combustion Man. With him chasing you guys became an issue of pride." Zuko continued. "Or with..."
"Or with you." Aang said finishing Zuko's thought. There was another awkward silence that lasted a full minute.
"Well what do we do now?" Suki asked.
"We find Nero and take him out before he takes us out." Zuko said taking a step forward.
- This was the first Chapter where Nero didn't kill anyone
- Zheng is my own personal name for Combustion Man
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