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|Shien Kai, Pt. 4- One Republic|
Chapter 15: Shien Kai, Pt. 4- One Republic Edit
Yun Zhen stared in disbelief at General Yung. “What?”
The Earthbender turned away. “It took everything I had to reason away Bumi’s death, and now I am expected to kill two children? No, I can’t do this anymore…”
Yun nodded. “I’ll make sure you get a fair trial.” He turned and embraced Ty Lee. “Never scare me like that again…” The rebuke was softened by a grin.
She smiled back. “You stole my line, Yun Zhen.”
Sokka noted that the Earthbenders did not fight long, especially when the Yu Yan Archers began picking them apart. Soon it’ll all be over. The death of their king crushed their unity, and they could no longer hold together. One by one they surrendered, or they died.
Zuko looked toward the Water Tribe warrior and nodded, but their collective calm was broken when Zuko noticed something.
“Where’s Uncle?” He whirled, looking around for his mentor, his father.
“Last I saw,” Piandao ripped his blade from the gut of an unfortunate adversary. “He was fighting Ri—!”
An explosion shook the plaza, and Zuko saw tongues of fire come up above one of the houses. “Uncle…”
Iroh whirled away from the oncoming boulder and launched an open palmed fire blast, and Ri Wu blocked it with a hastily made earth glove. The Dragon of the West transitioned into several close-fisted blasts that Ri Wu had to dodge and followed that by beginning fluid motion with his arms.
“And now you seek to do a dance?” The Earthbender laughed. “How you ever broke through the wall is beyond—!”
The general was cut off as a lightning bolt sizzled past his head. “Me…” He stared at Iroh open-mouthed.
The old master smiled and motioned Ri Wu forward in a mock salute. His eyes widened and his nostrils flared as he yelled a battle cry and charged the Grand Lotus. However, his attack was stopped short when he had to dodge another lightning blast.
“Is that all you can do? I’m unimpressed.” He made an arm shield out of his gauntlet and brought it up to block the next lightning strike, but he vastly underestimated its sheer power. The blast tore through the thick layer of rock and burned his arm.
“Augh!!” Ri Wu clutched his now useless and smoking left arm, the pain bringing tears to his eyes.
Iroh lunged forward and brought both hands together for a charged fire blast, and the Earthbender brought up a massive earth slab to block. Unfortunately for him, the wall did not hold, and the fire ripped through. Ri Wu slid backwards and tried to bring up another earth shield, but that attempt met with a similar result. The Dragon got in close and struck, palm to gut, followed by an elbow strike to the chest. This drove the already exhausted Earthbender past his limit, and he could only watch as Iroh launched three separate fire waves.
The first came from his right foot, quickly followed by one slightly higher with a left footed crescent kick. The final wave tailed immediately after the second, coming from his right hand. The end result of the attack was made evident when Ri Wu fell to the ground in four separate, smoking pieces, not even given time to speak.
Koh attempted, futilely, to break free from his earthen prison, but Aang didn’t even give him a chance to move. He quickly placed both hands, thumb and forefinger like before, on Koh’s face. This time, however, he knew it would be different.
I have to go deep, deeper into him than anyone has ever been. And it will kill him. Aang turned his face away for a moment, but he quickly snapped it back. No amount of guilt would stop him from getting Katara back. Nothing would stop him.
It was a brutal act. He tore through layer after layer of Koh’s psyche and spirit, and even when the light went from blue to pure white, he still did not stop. Not even Koh’s primal screams of pain and fear slowed him down.
No guilt. No fear. Katara’s all that matters to me.
He finally latched onto her spirit; it was her. He ripped back through all of the other layers yet again, this time with Katara in tow. With one final pull, her spirit was torn from Koh’s, and she was free.
Aang smiled as the glowing blue ball took the shape of his, he knew it now, his future wife. “I’m so sorry, Katara…”
She smiled back and stroked away the tears that had begun falling from his face. “Aang…thank you…”
He began to laugh, knowing it would all be okay. “Shouldn’t you get back to your body?”
Her eyes widened. “Oh, right! I almost forgot!” She resumed the form of a ball of light and flew off.
The Avatar turned back toward Koh, who was still screaming. “It’s over.”
It was as if the spirit hadn’t heard him at all. Koh screamed as his shell began to turn black and crack open, and he was still screaming when his own spirit leaked through and poured from his disintegrating body.
Aang closed his eyes. “I’m sorry it had to end this way…”
Iroh staggered into the main plaza area, still exhausted from the fight. He marveled at the fact that it had taken them both so far away from the action, but that didn’t really matter. Lu Ten had been avenged.
“Uncle!” Zuko ran up to him and embraced him. “I’m so glad you’re okay!”
“Yes, it seems all this is finally at an end…”
Zuko scanned the plaza, looking at all the dead and wounded. “Not quite…” He turned to General Shinu. “Call the troops together and begin cleanup. We have to make sure that this gets straightened out.”
“Of course, Fire Lord Zuko.” Shinu bowed.
Zuko smiled as his servants brought his robe to him and draped it over his shoulders. He felt around for it, the one thing he couldn’t lose. He breathed a sigh of relief when it was exactly where he had left it, but his knees grew weak as he realized the gravity of the step he would soon take.
Sokka let go of the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding when Katara’s expression returned to normal and her breathing began.
She sat up and propped her head in her hand groggily. “Where’s Aang?”
Sokka shrugged. “I don’t know. He left to follow the group of masked people when they ran off. I think he thought that they had something to do with your condition.”
She shook off the feeling as soon as it had come. “They…it did…”
Sokka plopped down beside her. “How?”
“It called itself Koh…it was a spirit. And I wasn’t the only one it took; there were others.”
“That doesn’t matter.” Aang walked up behind Sokka. “He’ll never hurt anyone again.”
“What do you mean, Twinkle Toes?” Toph strolled over and sat down. Sokka glanced at her but could get nothing from her expression.
“Koh is dead; I made sure of that…” Aang closed his eyes and bowed his head.
“Wait—you killed someone?” Sokka raised an eyebrow.
Katara wrapped her arms around the Airbender. “Aang did what he had to do.” It’s going to be okay.
Toph glanced at the two of them before blowing her hair out of her eyes, and Sokka heard her mumbling under her breath. “At least those two have their priorities straight…” The young Earthbender stood and stormed off.
For the first time that day, Sokka saw some of Aang return to normal when he raised his eyebrow. “What’s eating her?”
The Water Tribe swordmaster sighed and followed after the Blind Bandit.
As General Yung was led away to a holding cell, Yun sat cross-legged on the ground with Ty Lee beside him. “What’s wrong, Ty Lee?”
She turned away for a moment before responding. “What are we going to do? I love you, Yun Zhen, but our paths are totally different. We won’t be able to see each other!” She blinked away tears, but Yun could tell she was hiding something.
“What’s going on? What happened?”
She blinked the tears away. “I…I killed someone…”
Oh…that’s what happened. Yun embraced her and said the only words that wouldn’t be hollow. “I’m sorry.”
“I didn’t want to, but…I had no choice…” Tiny, silent sobs wracked her body as Yun held her.
“I know, Ty Lee; I know…” He didn’t say anything else as they stared into nothingness.
Sokka found the blind Earthbender sitting away from the rest of the group, and he was determined to end the misunderstanding as soon as possible. “Hey, Toph?”
“Can we talk?” He sat down beside her.
“I’m an idiot, Sokka. I know. I’m an immature idiot.”
Sokka sighed. “No, you’re not. You’re just…”
A slight grin came to her face. “Immature?”
“Right…” The swordmaster rubbed the back of his head. “Just not an idiot.” Sokka raised an eyebrow. “Wait…”
Toph laughed. “It’s okay, Sokka; I get it. You and Suki. I understand. And to be honest…I guess I always got it. I just…just…”
“Wanted to believe that ‘us’ might be possible?”
Sokka took a deep breath. “Look, Toph…you’re my friend, one of my best, but…it can’t work. I’m sorry.”
Tears shone at the edges of her eyes. “I guess I saw this coming.” She blinked them away. Wow, the Blind Bandit, crying? I’ve sunk to a new low.
Haru limped over, bruised and unkempt, but he offered both of his friends a smile. Suki and the other Kyoshi Warriors were not far behind. “So what’s new, guys?”
Toph grinned as Sokka began to tell Haru an exaggerated tale of their fight on Shu Jing. She shook her head, the tiniest grin returning to her face. Same old Sokka.
Zuko ensured the safety of the prisoners as they were rounded up. He of all people knew of the consequences of vengeance, and he breathed a sigh of relief as the cleanup got under way. He looked around for the others and saw them all congregated off to the side of the plaza. He smiled as they exchanged smiles and claps on the back.
“Looks like it’ll all get back to normal.” His own smile ceased as nervousness took its place. Normal…am I ever gonna see it again?
Mai glanced over and smiled at him, and he returned with a grin.
The young Fire Lord whirled around, only to see Ursa smiling at him. “Getting cold feet?”
He exhaled sharply. “Mom….”
Ursa raised her hands in defense. “Okay, okay, I’ll stay out of it.”
Zuko grinned, his adrenaline pumping. “I was actually going to wait for you anyway.”
“It’s a good thing you did.”
Zuko rolled his eyes as he walked toward Mai. His legs grew heavier with each step, and he found himself doubting. He wiped those thoughts away, however, and strode forward with a sense of purpose. As he neared his girlfriend, she turned and went to meet him.
“Don’t ever scare me like that again!” She jabbed her finger into his chest.
For the first time in what had seemed like ages, Zuko laughed. “I hope I won’t have to. But I do have something important to ask you.”
No one saw Iroh’s grin, but Ty Lee’s eyes widened in realization nonetheless. “What, Zuko?” Mai’s eyebrow was raised.
“Mai…” The Fire Lord got down on one knee. “All of this…I’ve realized that I…I can’t live without you. And I don’t want to.” Man, this is so stupid! Say something clever!
But what he had started would not be stopped. Zuko pressed on. “Mai, I love you with every fiber of my being…” He produced the box, opening it to reveal a ring. The ring was gold with a red Fire Jewel, shaped like the symbol of the Fire Nation, embedded in it.
The noblewoman could no longer hold back her emotions; tears of pure joy poured down her face. “Zuko…”
“Mai…will you…will you marry me?"
She closed her eyes before smiling and pulling Zuko in for a kiss. “Yes, yes! Of course I will!”
Zuko knelt and slipped the ring on her finger, blushing as applause and cheering erupted from the crowd.
6 Months Later
Fire Sage Shyu scanned the crowd, nervousness piercing his veil of inner calm. He took a deep breath and stepped out into the courtyard. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered to witness the union of Fire Lord Zuko and Lady Mai!”
Zuko smiled at his future bride, who stood facing him wearing a dark red dress and an opaque white veil. I can’t believe this day has actually come! It is a bright point in a world where darkness was present for so long.
He remembered the funerals; the endless funerals for friends and loved ones who fell during Yuan Chong’s rampage. Not the least of which had been for Bumi and Arnook, two great leaders who fell defending the precarious unity of the four nations.
Now, he thought, now I am here standing at the altar with Mai. This is the greatest moment of my life.
Shyu then spoke the words Zuko longed to hear, to respond to. “Do you, Fire Lord Zuko, take Lady Mai to be your wife, your constant companion for the remainder of your days?”
For the first time in his life, Zuko beamed. “I do.”
“And do you, Lady Mai, take Fire Lord Zuko to be your husband, to love and support for the remainder of your days?”
“Then…” Shyu motioned to Zuko. “You may pull back the veil and kiss your bride.”
Zuko did just that, and he knew that this was true happiness.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Fire Lord Zuko and Fire Lady Mai!”
The crowd erupted in ecstatic cheers and applause.
Team Avatar and King Kuei were the guests of honor at Zuko’s wedding reception, and as such all got to sit at the table with him and Mai. They enjoyed each other’s company, catching up and laughing together like they used to. After Zuko lit his and Mai’s marriage torch, they began to mingle with the rest of the partygoers.
Yun Zhen stood beside Ty Lee, dressed in new Fire Nation military attire which consisted of an obsidian colored chest piece with a red trim, a bright red cape, an ornate belt with the Fire Nation insignia, and gray-black pants.
“So…” The Kyoshi Warrior began. “You’re a Captain now…”
Yun smiled. “For the Earth Kingdom cleanup, yeah. I’m kinda excited.” I’m following in the my father’s footsteps…sort of. He glanced over at Ty Lee, who was in full Kyoshi Warrior garb for the occasion, and noticed her discomfort. “I’m sorry about this, Ty Lee; I really am.” He embraced her. “I promise; I will visit as often as I can. You have my word.”
She grinned. “I guess that’ll have to do. If you forget, I can just have Zuko send you to Kyoshi Island.”
He looked her in the eye. “I won’t forget.”
“Just remember, Yun Zhen, my friend’s happiness is a priority.” Mai was leaning against the wall, a smile barely working its way to the corners of her mouth.
Yun bowed. “Of course, Fire Lady. And may I offer my sincere congratulations.”
Ty Lee’s ever-present grin widened. “Yeah, Mai! I’m so happy for you!” The two friends embraced.
As Mai continued her rounds, Yun’s eyes widened. “Oh! I almost forgot!” He reached into a pouch on his belt and pulled out a box. “This is for you.”
Ty Lee beamed as opening the box revealed a bracelet with a green Fire Jewel embedded in it. “Oh my gosh…” She looked up at him. “How did you…?”
The Fire Nation Army captain shrugged. “I saw it in the market a couple months ago when we went to the square with Mai.” He gave a mischievous grin. “More importantly, I saw that you wanted it. So I got it for you.”
The Kyoshi Warrior closed her eyes, a contented smile on her face as she slid the bracelet on her wrist. “Thanks so much, Yun.”
He pointed at it. “That represents my word to you. I will not forget.”
Zuko, Kuei, Iroh, Ursa, and Mai, and the higher members of the Order of the White Lotus all sat around the map in the War Room, awaiting one crucial member of the group. “Where’s Aang?” Zuko began pacing back and forth.
“He will be here Fire Lord Zuko. Have patience.” Iroh replied.
Kuei was slightly aloof, not himself. “What’s wrong, Earth King?” Iroh leaned forward.
“My father,” He shook his head. “My father nearly destroyed everything we’ve worked to build. I swore that I would maintain peace, and I failed. You, Fire Lord, you did what I could not. But now we have to work twice as hard to rebuild.” Zuko looked toward the doorway.
“Sorry I’m late.” Aang walked in, glider in one hand and a scroll in the other. “I had to pick something up from my room.”
Zuko nodded. “I guess now you guys are starting to wonder why I called you here. To put it simply, the world needs unity now more than ever, and Aang, King Kuei, and I came up with a plan.” He pointed at the Pohuai Strait. “We decided that it’s time to have a place for people of any and all nations to gather in harmony. Friends, we are going to build a city for the Four Nations at site of the Battle of Pohuai Strait, where the navies of the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation worked together to fight off Yuan Chong.” He glanced at Aang. “Did you get what I asked for?”
Aang smiled. “Sure did!” He pulled out the scroll and handed it to Zuko. “The Mechanist was intrigued, to say the least.”
Zuko looked at the scroll and smiled. I’ll say he was! He laid it out on the map. “Friends, together we will build this magnificent example of unity. I give you the United Republic!”
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