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Chapter Ninety-Nine: Solitude
He lies there in bed, tapping the blanket with his finger. Why can't they understand?
"I think I understand why being a secret bothers you so much." She puts her hand comfortingly on his shoulder, but he doesn't acknowledge her presence. "You don't want people to think you failed."
He turns to look at her, and he can see the lack of understanding on her face. "You're right, I don't," he growls, aware of how much anger and pain his voice brought out. "But the problem is . . ." He lowers his gaze in shame. "I did fail."
"Aang, that's not true."
"It is true."
He shakily stands from the bed, and his left foot cries out in pain, but he ignores the agony. "I was in Ba Sing Se . . . I was there, but I lost," he whispers loudly, his fury at his mistakes rising and cloaking every other emotion he possesses. "And now, the Earth Kingdom has fallen for good."
The storm boiling within him threatens to explode, and he can feel the pain of the Avatar Spirit rising, rising, filling him as if he were a bloated waterskin, filled with so much water that it is nearly circular, ready to rupture but unable to do so. The energy courses through him painfully, each cycle more agonizing than the last, and he feels the need to enter the Avatar State—but he can't. He physically can't.
It is no longer his choice.
He is alone.
Truly and utterly alone.
Not even the Avatar Spirit can help him now.
Not even she can help him.
She doesn't understand.
None of them understand.
"It's not for good! Remember," she murmurs comfortingly, "there's a still a plan. The Invasion."
The storm within him detonates with resounding force. "And I hate the invasion plan, too! I don't want you or anyone else risking your lives to fix my mistakes!" He notices the Fire Nation emblem on the tapestry above his bed, and he grabs it.
His heart pounds.
It strains against him, threatening to burst from his chest, and the pain of the Avatar Spirit reaches a boiling point.
He rips the tapestry from the wall.
His staff clatters to the floor, only to be consumed by the red and black fabric.
Just as . . . just as his people were consumed by the Fire Nation.
His voice is hoarse, and he can hear how low and angry it is, but the smoldering coals of grief in his heart refuse to be put out. "I've always known that I would have to face the Fire Lord," he whispers hoarsely, "but now I know I need to do it alone."
With no one there to die for him.
"Aang . . ." she murmurs.
He cuts her off.
His heart beats.
One slow beat.
A single beat.
Ironically enough, he does face the Fire Lord alone.
"His staff clatters to the floor, only to be consumed by the red and black fabric.
"Just as . . . just as his people were consumed by the Fire Nation." -> Was I the only one to pick up on this symbolism?
When I saw the chapter title, I knew it. I was going to have to give you guys one more sob chapter before the happy chapter.
"His voice is hoarse, and he can hear how low and angry it is, but the smoldering coals of grief in his heart refuse to be put out. "I've always known that I would have to face the Fire Lord," he whispers hoarsely, "but now I know I need to do it alone."" -> The Department of Redundancy Department would like to speak to the ostrich horse.
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