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|Tales of Republic City|
The Tale of Suki and Miki
Feng raced through the mountains that overlooked Republic City. Atop his back were the three Kyoshi Warriors, Suki, Miki, and Ning. The three of them remained silent while they whisked through the mountainous forest, in search of Hong Shu's newest base. Rumor had it that he had established a fortress somewhere close to Republic City, but Suki did not believe her nemesis was that foolish. She pulled on Feng's reigns and the eel hound came to a stop.
"I think we're out far enough to start searching on foot," said Suki. "If it's out here, it can't be too far away from where we are now."
The other two nodded and all three dismounted the great beast. Before Suki could issue any orders, Miki spoke up. "Ning, why don't you go on ahead in that direction," she said, pointing east. "We'll go the other way."
Ning said nothing, but looked to Suki for her approval. The lead warrior nodded and Ning was off on her way.
Sensing something was amiss, Suki quizzically eyed her teammate. "Is everything alright?" she asked.
"Why do ask?" Miki inquired.
"Ever since I got engaged, you've been kind of quiet," Suki replied. "I just wanted to know if everything was alright."
Miki sat down and turned her back towards her leader. "You might want to sit down for this," she said.
Suki kneeled down next to her friend and put her hand on her shoulder. "What is it?" she asked.
"The reason I've been quiet since you announced the engagement is, well-" Miki was struggling to say it.
"Miki, it's alright, you can tell me," Suki assured her friend.
"The reason is, because... I love you."
That simple statement blindsided Suki like a komodo rhino. She paused a moment to process what she had just been told, letting the raw feelings float in the air, before speaking again. "Oh, wow, um," is all she managed to get out at first. "How long have you felt this way?" she asked.
"Since we were kids back on Kyoshi Island," Miki replied.
"Why didn't you ever say anything?" asked Suki.
"I was afraid to," Miki said. "I knew you'd shoot me down. I've spent every day of my life cursing myself for not having the courage to tell you. I'm a disgrace to the Kyoshi Warriors. Courage is one of our core values and I've failed to show it my whole life."
Suki got in front of her friend and locked eyes with her. "Miki, listen to me, you are not a disgrace to the Kyoshi Warriors. Don't you ever think that. You are one of the best warriors this organization has ever known."
Miki began tearing up. She turned away from Suki, unable to look at her. "Spirits' sake, I can't even look at you. Just seeing your hair blowing in the wind and looking at your face, it just kills me inside."
Suki sat down next to her friend and looked over at her. "Miki, look, I know it can be tough when you love someone, but they love someone else, but you have to let it go. It's bad for your health. If you keep clinging on to these feelings, then they'll turn into an obsession."
"And what's going to happen once you two get married?" Miki questioned. "Are the two of you gonna run off to the South Pole and start a new wife there as the Chief and Chieftess?"
Suki was taken aback by Miki's knowledge of the situation. "How did you-"
"I'm not an idiot, Suki," Miki said. "Why else would Hakoda visit so early before the wedding? You're going to leave me and Ning and all of the others!"
"Miki, I promise I'm not going to leave you!" Suki protested. "Sokka and I don't even want to go to the South Pole!"
Miki sat silently, having nothing else to say.
"Look, Miki, I love you, too, but as a sister. The same goes for Ning," Suki said. "I will do everything in my power to make sure that we stay together as a team for as long as possible."
Miki looked up at her friend and found it hard to resist her smiling face.
"And I know it upsets you, but I am marrying Sokka. He's my soul mate and I love him. I don't want that to come between us. So, will you work on getting rid of your feelings?"
With much reluctance, Miki nodded. "I'll try."
The two of them stood up and Suki embraced Miki in a hug just before they saw Ning return.
"It doesn't look like there's anything out here," said Ning. "Did you guys find anything?"
"Nope," said Suki. "Nothing at all."
The three of them hopped on Feng's back and left.
The Tale of Ai
It was a lovely day. The only sound Ai heard as she walked was the birds chirping overhead. She liked it. She enjoyed the quiet the day brought. It made everything she was doing feel more important in some way. Even without the threat of the Light Clan, Republic City was never quiet. That was why she savored moments like this.
As she made her way through the park, she looked around and saw some pigeon doves flying overhead and the leaves beginning to fall from the trees. Autumn was her favorite time of year. She loved many of the things it brought with it; the crisp breeze, the colorful leaves, and the air itself seemed more serene.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a voice. "Hey, I know you!" said a man she suddenly noticed was standing next to her. "You're one of the members of Team Avatar!"
Ai chuckled, flattered that the man recognized her. It wasn't often that this happened. "Yes, I am," she replied.
"Yeah, you're Ai! You've been one of the members for over a decade!" said the man. "Oh, wow, I can't believe I'm talking to you right now! You know, I always felt you were a very underrated member of the team," The fan rambled on and on.
"It's nice for someone to appreciate all of the things I've done for the team," Ai said. "Sometimes I feel like none of them even know I'm there." She made herself remember what Aang had promised in her nightmare: that he and the others would appreciate her more. So far, they had done a fair job keeping that promise, but she couldn't help, but feel that only Bo was really trying.
"Well, it's an honor meeting you," said the fan. "Keep up the good work!"
Ai smiled as she walked away, tickled to the bone that she was admired by others. That the things she did mattered to other people. Before she could even think about anything else, the screams of a woman filled her ears. She turned her head to see a man clinging to the statue of Aang that stood in the park. She saw a ladder that the man had obviously been standing on, but had now fallen over to the ground. She rushed over to the statue, hoping to reach it before the man lost his grip, but it was too late.
As he plummeted towards the ground, Ai quickly bent the water in her pouch into an ice slide and caught the man before he met his end.
The man ran over to his wife and embraced her, happy to still be alive. He then turned and looked at Ai. "Thank you," he said. "You saved my life."
"It was no problem," Ai said.
"Hey, you look familiar," said the man. "Have I seen you from somewhere before?"
"Perhaps you have," Ai replied, waiting for him to figure out who she was.
The man pondered it for a few moments and then snapped his fingers, the light bulb having gone off in his head. "Yeah, yeah, I remember you! You saved my shop from some thugs a while back! I remember you fought all of them off all by yourself with your waterbending!"
Ai recalled the incident and chuckled. "I guess I did. I forgot all about that."
"Well, if I didn't get the chance to say thank you then, then let me say thank you now. You keep doing what you're doing. You're a real hero!" the man said.
"Why don't we offer her something to eat back at our place?" asked his wife.
"Yeah, yeah, that's a good idea!" said the man. "Would you like to have lunch with us?"
"Oh, no, I don't think so. I have to be on my way," said Ai.
"Aw, come on, we owe it to you," said the woman.
"I'm sorry, but I can't," Ai replied. "Maybe some other time. I have somewhere very important I have to be."
The couple nodded. "Alright, then," said the man. "I guess we'll have you over the next time you save us." Both of them then walked away.
The smile on Ai's face widened as they went on their way. She leaned down and picked up the box she had dropped while trying to save them. She looked inside and breathed a sigh of relief that the contents inside the box were not damaged.
The smile changed from a happy smile to a bittersweet one as she finally reached her destination. She approached a graveyard, with tombstones all around, and stopped in front of two. She then opened the box and took out two red roses. She placed one in front of each tombstone and a tear welled up in her eye.
"I know it's been a long time, but I still haven't forgotten either of you," she said. "Before I joined Team Avatar, you guys were my family. We went through so much together and I loved you both so much. No matter what, you guys appreciated me for who I am and what I've done." Ai found herself becoming more and more distraught by the second, but forced herself to keep her composure. "Sometimes I feel like it's my fault you're gone. My failure to see the wolf among our herd of sheep lead to your death," she said about one of them, "And my weakness lead to yours," she said about the other. "Happy birthday, Omar. Happy anniversary, Cheng."
The tears now uncontrollably flowed down Ai's face as she walked away.
The Tale of Sokka and Bo
Sokka sat relaxed, his feet up on the couch, and had finished cleaning his boomerang when he heard a knock on the door. "It's open," he said.
The door opened and Bo stepped into the house, taking notice of Sokka's unusually calm behavior. "Hey, Sokka," he greeted. "You seem a lot more relaxed than you have been lately."
"I am relaxed," said Sokka, getting to his feet. "For the first time since I proposed, I'm feeling completely care-free. I've got the vows, the cake, the tuxedo, the band, everything is in order and I can just kick back and relax."
"Well, it's nice to see you taking it easy," said Bo.
"Yep," said Sokka. "Nothing could possibly go wrong now."
Just then, Katara came bursting into the room. "Sokka, something's gone wrong!"
The two Water Tribe warriors fell to the floor, startled by Katara's sudden entrance. "What is it, Katara?" asked Sokka.
"Suki asked me to meet her for lunch and bring her betrothal necklace with me, but I can't find it!" Katara explained.
Sokka's expression shifted to a comically large frown. Any sense of calmness within him had been vanquished. "The universe just can't let me have one moment of joyfulness, can it?"
"I guess not," said Bo, holding back his laughter.
"Well, I guess this means we'll have to look for it," Sokka said.
"Whoa, what do you mean, 'we'?" asked Bo.
"Oh, come on, you have to help me! I can't look for it all by myself!" Sokka insisted, throwing his hands into the air.
"Alright, fine," Bo groaned.
"Great, I'll tell Suki you're working on it," Katara replied. She made her way out the door before either of the men could ask her to help.
"You know what this calls for, don't you?" asked Sokka.
"A super awesome detective hat and pipe?" asked Bo, finishing Sokka's thought.
"I like the way you think," Sokka said. He pulled out both the hat and pipe out of his bag, which was lying over on the couch, and placed the hat on top of Bo's head, keeping the pipe to himself.
"Alright, so, where are some places that Suki could have dropped her betrothal necklace?" Bo inquired.
Sokka pondered this for a moment, blowing bubbles out of his pipe as he did so. "She could have left it anywhere in the city," he said. "Since the last time I saw it, she's been out to lunch, to the cleaners, up to the mountains, down to the docks, over to Air Temple Island-" Sokka rambled on and on about the places his fiancée had been to, causing Bo to grow more and more stressed by the second.
"So, basically, what you're saying is we're going to spend all day and probably all night looking for this necklace," Bo said.
"If I didn't know any better, I'd say someone stole it!" Sokka said. "That this whole thing is one big necklace heist!"
"I'll take that as a 'yes'," Bo sighed.
The Water Tribe duo searched all over town for that necklace. They disrupted many people's lunches by stopping at a restaurant, demanding to scour the place for the necklace, and nearly getting into a fight with one of the servers for telling them to leave.
They were literally kicked out of Hui's Cleaners for attempting to search through all of the clothes and had to sit on a bench for a good half hour before continuing their search.
They intruded upon one of Aang's lightbending lessons on Air Temple Island, searching all over the island for the necklace.
They even looked down at the docks, but were chased away by a group of angry fisherman.
By the end of the day, the pair was exhausted. They slowly made their way back to Sokka's house and collapsed after opening the door. They were approached by Katara and Suki, who looked somewhat amused. "Are you guys okay?" asked Katara.
"We're sorry, Suki," Sokka wheezed. "We tried... to find... your necklace."
"Yeah, but we couldn't," said Bo. "We looked everywhere."
"That's alright, guys, I found it after Katara and I got back from lunch," Suki said. "I should have told you guys you didn't have to search for it. I have a lot of experience in finding necklaces."
She and Katara walked away, leaving the duo to moan from frustration on the floor.
The Tale of Ling and Yukio
It was dusk. Ling was walking back to his apartment with his groceries, eager to have a good meal. Getting back together with Rong was the best thing that had happened to him. It felt so good to start regaining his old perspective on life. A part of him was still clinging to the depressed, pessimistic viewpoint he had held on to for so many years now, but he just told himself that it would go away eventually.
As he approached his apartment building, he heard the cries of someone near him. He turned to see a couple getting mugged right in front of the building next to his.
Without even thinking about it, he earthbent a pillar into the mugger's back, tossing him a great many yards away. The mugger got up, looked back, and ran away, having decided that it was not worth it.
Ling approached the couple and helped up the man who had been knocked to the ground by the mugger. "Are you alright?" he asked.
"Yes, we're fine," said the woman. "Thank you for your help."
"No problem," Ling replied. He proceeded to enter his building and make his way up the stairs. As he walked, he found himself in a much more depressed state than he had been in just minutes ago. It was things like this that led to him becoming a pessimist in the first place. Why did there have to be so many evil people in the world?
He walked into his apartment and placed his groceries in the cupboards where they belonged, but he had lost his appetite. A great sadness was dominating him and it's hold was getting stronger. He got to his feet and decided to go see one of his friends in the hopes that would cheer him up.
He made his way down the many flights of stairs within his building and went out to the street. By some extreme coincidence, one of his friends was walking right past his building. "Hey, Yukio!" he called out.
Yukio stopped and looked in his direction. "Oh, hello, Ling!" she called out.
"Nice night, isn't it?" Ling asked, walking over to her.
"I suppose it is," Yukio replied.
"What are you doing out?"
"Well, one night a week, I make it my mission to walk around a different area of this city and observe what it is like," said Yukio.
"And what do you think so far?" Ling asked.
"I have now lived in this city for nine months and I still cannot believe my eyes every time I walk around," Yukio replied. The world has changed so much over the years. I have witnessed countless civilizations rise and fall, including my own, and I never in my wildest dreams imagined a place like this. It is just simply unbelievable."
"Yukio, let me ask you something," said Ling. "You've been around for a while, right?"
"Yes, indeed, I have been alive for nearly ten thousand years," Yukio replied.
"Did you ever just take a look at all of the evil in the world, all of the hideousness that surrounded you and think about surrendering?" Ling questioned. "Was there ever a time when you just couldn't believe that the world could be so damn crazy and just think that the only possible thing you could do is just shut yourself away from it?"
Yukio stared at Ling, understanding now more than ever the pain he felt. "Yes, there were times when I thought that," Yukio said. "The first time was right after the Dark Society destroyed my people. The Light Clan was a strong and peaceful nation until Jun and his army of monsters destroyed it. I thought about how something so evil could possibly happen."
Ling nodded in understanding.
"The next time was about one hundred years after I was given my immortality. I wondered why I was cursed to such a fate and how such evil could exist in the world, but do you know what I realized?"
Ling shook his head.
"Life goes on," said Yukio. "How we spend the time during which we live is up to us. Some people say life is too short. They are wrong. Life is too long. We live too long to spend every moment feeling miserable. We only live once, so it is up to us to make sure that every second we live is filled with happiness."
A smile spread across Ling's face. All feelings of sadness and depression were gone. He embraced his lightbending friend and looked her in the eye. "Thank you," he said. "You've given me hope again. The world needs more people like you."
Yukio smiled and the two walked off together.
The Tale of Toph
It was just another ordinary day at the Metalbending Police Headquarters. Officers buzzed about the station, escorting criminals or carrying paperwork or whatever it was that a metalbender cop did on a day like this.
Toph was going through a great deal of paperwork in her office, nearly bored to tears by how much of the dreadful stuff was in front of her, when she heard something over the radio that caught her ear.
"Attention, all units in the area, this is patrol carriage 1717 reporting that we have a runner in the area. Repeat, we have someone running away here. Please respond."
Toph leaped at the chance to leave her office and immediately contacted the officers. "This is Chief Beifong, I've got this one, guys," she stated.
"Copy that, Chief Beifong," said the patrolman.
Toph could not have left the office faster. Her eagerness to get out of the station and do something was eating her up.
She left the station and latched a metal cable to a power line, whisking herself onto it and sliding away. She zoomed through the bustling city faster than some of the carriages on the ground, wasting no time in getting to the neighborhood the patrolman was reporting from: the Dragon Flats borough.
Toph thought about how the Dragon Flats had become recently. In the last year, the area had become a breeding ground for thugs calling themselves triads. The police had taken quite a few of them into custody. This runner was most likely an escaped triad member trying to make it back to his hideout.
It didn't take her long to reach the borough. As she moved along the power lines, she used her seismic sense to feel for a lone person running away. Most people were in their homes at this hour, meaning she shouldn't have too much difficulty locating the runner.
As she went on and the minutes went by, she finally felt something. A person was running, but it was an unusually small person and she heard crying not too far away. She Toph leaped down from the cable and approached the child in the middle of the street. She could feel the person trembling. She then realized it was a child. "Hey, sweetie," she said, trying to sound nonthreatening. "What's your name?"
"Kiko," said the child, a little girl.
"And why are you running down the middle of the street by yourself?"
"I ran away," said Kiko.
The patrolman hadn't said that. Why would he leave out such a crucial piece of information? "And why did you do that?" Toph inquired. "Because I don't want to live there anymore," she said.
"Why?" asked Toph. "Are your parents too controlling?"
"No, they let me do stuff," said Kiko. "But they don't let me do everything I want!"
Having officially decided that this was a personal case, Toph placed her hand on the girl's shoulder. "Listen, Kiko," said Toph. "When I was little, just like you, I ran away from home."
"Really?" asked Kiko.
"Yeah," Toph said. "And then, when I was a few years older, I did it again and you know what? It was the best decision I ever made, but that was because my parents literally wanted me to be cared for twenty-four hours a day and never gave me any freedom. It doesn't sound like your parents are like that."
"Well, not really," said Kiko.
"Kiko, do you understand how much you've probably hurt them by running away?" Toph asked.
Kiko was silent. Her tiny brain tried to understand all of this. It had never occurred to her how much pain her running away had caused her parents.
"Look, kid, if your parents really do love you, then you shouldn't run away from them," said Toph. "Now can I trust you to go back home?"
Kiko nodded. She then grabbed Toph's legs, hugging them tightly. "Thank you, Miss Police Chief Lady," she said. She then took off in the other direction, running back towards her home.
"Yeah, I'd day today was a good day," Toph said.
The Tale of Zuko and Rong
Zuko always felt it was always a delight to visit Republic City. As he walked along the sidewalk of the bustling streets, a small part of him couldn't help, but be proud of what he had created along with Aang. It really was something to behold.
"It's nice having you back in the city after so long," Rong said, walking right next to her friend.
"It's nice to be back," said Zuko. "And it's nice to hear about you and Ling. I'm glad you guys made it work after so long."
"Yeah, so are we," Rong replied.
"And you can generate lightning now, too," Zuko added. "That's pretty amazing."
"Thanks, Zuko," Rong said.
"Now if I can only learn to redirect it, you'll be more powerful than me," Zuko joked.
"Well, I'd say I'm already more powerful than you," Rong quipped.
Zuko's laughter faded to a chuckle as he wondered whether or not she was serious. "You're kidding, right?" he asked.
"Uh, not really," Rong replied.
Zuko's chuckle had now faded to silence. "You don't actually think you're more powerful than me, do you?" he asked.
"Well, I can firebend and generate lightning, so, yeah, I think so," Rong answered.
"How could you think that?" asked Zuko. "I'm obviously more powerful than you are!"
"Oh, you think just because you're the Fire Lord means you're the strongest firebender in the world?" asked Rong.
"I know I'm the strongest, because I've earned the right to be the strongest!" Zuko retorted.
"Well, how about we have a little contest, then?" Rong suggested.
"What kind of contest?" asked Zuko.
"We both compete to see who has the most skills."
"Alright, you're on," Zuko replied. "Where should we do it?"
"Air Temple Island," said Rong.
"Alright, let's go."
Zuko and Rong stood opposite each other in the Air Temple Island sparring center with Aang, Katara, Appa, and Momo watching them. "Ready?" Aang asked.
The two firebenders nodded.
Zuko went first, shooting several fireballs into the bay. Then, with a series of hand motions, he created a whirling tunnel of fire and sent it skyrocketing into the air.
Rong was next, creating three large fire rings and rotating them around her, sending them hurling into the bay moments later.
Rong decided to take her next turn first, waving her arms around and generating a bolt of lightning, sending it into the bay.
Zuko extended his arm and spoke, "Shoot another one at me."
Zuko's request made Rong nervous. "Uh, Zuko, I don't think I should-"
"I can take it," Zuko assured her. "Hit me!"
Rong charged up another bolt of lightning and shot it at Zuko, who redirected it with ease and sent it into the sky.
Rong then grabbed something off of her back, which Zuko realized was a bow and arrow. He hadn't noticed she had been carrying that with her. She shot the arrow into an apple hanging in a nearby tree with masterful precision and repeated the process with two more.
Zuko, dumbfounded at this, listened to her explain.
"My parents sent me to the Yuyan Academy for Girls before I ran away," she said.
Trying to decided how to counter this, Zuko unsheathed the swords on his back and demonstrated his skill with them, swing them every which way until he had proved his point.
Rong then created a large fire wall between them and, as quickly as she made it, it disappeared.
Zuko then demonstrated his knowledge of the Dancing Dragon by performing all of the steps.
This went on for nearly an hour, with the others watching as they grew wearier. By the time the two finally had no energy left, they both collapsed to the floor. "Tie?" asked Rong.
"Tie," Zuko agreed.
The Tale of Iroh
Written by: Ruler of the Bisons97
The waters churned underneath the boat as it pulled into the dock at Yue Bay. The sun touched the sea, cascading the water with a purplish hue. The gray, dull buildings of Republic City were given a hint of color, beautifying them to Iroh's content. The tea shop owner was the last off the boat. Not because he wanted to stay in the lifeless vehicle longer, but because he dreaded walking the streets of Republic City again. It had only been a few days since his departure at Ba Sing Se, but he missed the (mostly) impenetrable city – and the Jasmine Dragon – greatly. His hair and beard had grown out greatly, touching the centers of his gut and back. He was dressed in a Fire Nation royal red cloak over his green robes and walked briskly down the dock with an air of feigned enthusiasm.
As he touched the port, Iroh studied his surroundings. He felt like a foreigner, someone who shouldn't belong. The sky was dotted with police blimps and the streets were cluttered with carriages. Compared to the skyscrapers, he felt like a spider-fly breathing in the smog-filled air. But, Iroh had promised to give the city a chance for his nephew, Prince – no, Lord Zuko.
"General Iroh." A Metalbending Police Officer said. He saluted the retired general with an unreadable expression on his face. His muscular body was forced into the standard metallic uniform, clearly too small on him. He had brown eyes, reddish-brown hair as dark as rust, and appeared to be in his mid-thirties. "Officer Hanbao reporting for duty."
Iroh shook his head in embarrassment for the officer. He reached out and lowered the man's arm, returning it to its rightful place at the man's side. "There's no need for that, officer. I'm a retired general."
"Yes, sir." Hanbao responded uncomfortably. Clearly, he wasn't used to being told what not to do. His hand immediately transformed into a salute as if it was the only proper police procedure he could perform. "I've been given orders from Chief Beifong to personally escort you around Republic City to view a location for your new tea shop."
"Your hospitality is appreciated, but unneeded." Iroh bowed to Hanbao, if only to get him to drop the salute. "I am sure to find my own way around the city."
"I suppose I should be clearer about my assignment. My job isn't to escort you, per say, but to protect you from the underground criminals. They've been sprouting like weeds, and Chief Beifong is worried that one of them may take the chance to use you as leverage to get to the Fire Lord," Hanbao explained. His uneven stance indicated that he was unsure how to proceed. Does he go against the orders of the chief or the retired general who led the six-hundred day siege on Ba Sing Se?
I suppose I can't ask you to neglect your duties. If you insist, then you can escort me to the finest tea shop in the city. Can you believe that none of the ship's staff knew how to brew tea?" Iroh said. "I'd get that looked into if I was you. Such treason should not be forgiven easily."
"Sir?" Hanbao asked.
The finest tea shop in Republic City, Republic Brew, was a mockery of the noble traditions of tea. Their ginseng tea was too cold and their lychee tea had an overabundance of lychee berries, resulting in a bitter taste. Iroh suspected that fellow brewers would benefit from his tea-making berries, but, they had instead escorted him out in an effort to mend their insulted pride.
Hanbao was a good guide. He kept pointing at various architectures as they walked and described why it was significant to Republic City. Most of the answers had to do with the Avatar, Lord Zuko, or their group of friends. A statue of Toph was erected at the Metalbending Police Station and a statue of Sokka was on display at the Southern Water Tribe Cultural Center.
The city was loud and populous unlike Ba Sing Se. The impenetrable city was devoid of silence and the symphony of music and serene silence was a benefit enjoyed by all. Arguments scattered in every location, and the zipping (from the metalbending) and the stepping was too much for Iroh to take. He needed another way to travel around the city. One that didn't include the noise.
"Noise, sir?" Hanbao responded cautiously, stealing glances at the police blimps. "Every place in Republic City is bustling with noise. I don't know if there is a place without sound. I guess we could try Central City Station, sir."
The walk there was filled with more wires and steps. The station was dull and gray with the whistling of trains piercing the other noises into silence. Crowds hustled as fast as they could into the cramped compartments. Hanbao bowed to Iroh. "I'll purchase the tickets, sir." He took off before Iroh could tell him to stop calling him sir.
Iroh walked across the station. He couldn't believe what he saw. When the Avatar and Fire Lord Zuko designed the city, he imagined that everyone would be living in mansions (or at the very least, apartments). Beggars and vagabonds littered the station, holding up tin cups which shook with little change. One passerby scowled in disgust at the less fortunate and doubled back, preferring to take the long route than deal with the riffraff. Another had strolled up in a fancy car and was extorting the local shopkeepers for money. Iroh didn't feel anger. Instead, he felt sad. Sad for the people unable to perform one small gesture. He checked his robes for any yuans Lord Zuko had given him and distributed them to the shopkeepers whose many had been stolen, and the vagabonds.
"Thank you," A woman, carrying a small baby boy, managed to say. Her hair was messily tied to a bun and her face was coated in dust and grime. Her clothes were ragged and torn and she coughed every few seconds. Her skinny frame made it obvious that all the money she gathered would be used to feed her baby boy. Iroh couldn't estimate how long the woman had gone without food.
"I wish I could do more." Iroh responded gently. "What a beautiful baby boy."
The woman coughed. "Thank you."
"General Iroh," Hanbao interrupted. "Our tickets." He held out the two train tickets and handed one to Iroh. The tea maker took it hesitantly and stole one last look at the woman before Hanbao escorted him onto the train. As the station began pulling out, Iroh looked back at the statue of Lord Zuko, standing tall among the vagabonds. Did his nephew know of the poverty?
The last time he was here, Iroh had performed a wedding ceremony for the Avatar and his girlfriend. The reception had only lasted a few days and was mostly in and out. He didn't recall leaving his quarters to explore – except for visiting the Republic City Park. How many of the people there were homeless and hungry? He felt guilty for complaining about the tea.
Iroh approached the warehouse. Hastily swept dust and dirt were clumped to the side. Cobwebs hung off the ceiling. There were no windows and no view – except for a small glance at the setting sun on Yue Bay. It wasn't nearly as beautiful as the sunsets at Ba Sing Se or the view he had at the bustling central city. Hanbao unlocked the doors with his officer keys.
"Would you care to inspect the warehouse, sir?" Hanbao asked.
Iroh entered the building. Grime settled on the floors and planks of wood were rested by the walls. He could imagine the evenly spaced and centered tables. The smell of steaming tea in the air. The giddy laughter and simultaneous sips of tea. The green draperies and the shift of emerald green to a kaleidoscope of colors from the setting sun.
"Chief Beifong said you were planning on transforming this warehouse into another Jasmine Dragon," Hanbao spoke without remorse. Iroh noticed it was the first time he didn't address him formally. "I can't allow that to happen. We can't allow that to happen." "This is our home. Why should we make room for a fancy dandy tea shop that we can't afford? To make room for the rich? To be dragged to the workhouses, prisons, and the streets for a simple beverage. They can have mansions, personal security, and abuse us just because they have bending. All we need is a safe house." Hanbao raised his trembling fists. Iroh raised an eyebrow. The man was an earthbender, and he was scared to fight. His ideology would get him killed in the process, and what would that accomplish?
Iroh spoke calmly. "I know you are upset, Hanbao. But, there is a better way than force. You may have disguised yourself as an officer to trick me, but know that you stand at the crossroads of your own destiny. You can make a decision to better their life. Admit mistakes when they occur and seek to restore honor." He didn't know what Iroh actually saw when he glanced at the warehouse. With each imagination came a vision of what he saw in Central City Station. What he saw on the train ride past Dragon Flats borough. The emptiness of streets, the clutters of people gaining warmth at ash-cans, and the need for shelter and health care ... not tea-shops. He bowed to Hanbao. "I have made the mistake of thinking the city needed a tea shop more than shelter. For that, forgive me." He straightened his position and walked to the door.
Hanbao's brown eyes flashed with concern as he loosened his stance. "You're just going to walk away from me?"
Iroh smiled as he neared the exit. He had made his decision before he even stepped off the train. "I have played my part in the war against poverty. Now, you are left to decide. What do you see for the future of vagabonds such as yourself? This city was built based on the concept of change. It holds many layers, but, if navigated correctly, you can achieve a deeper understanding. The city was designed to be a symbol of peace and unity between not only the four nations, but for the people residing in them as well. What is the solution?"
Hanbao turned to speak, but Iroh was already gone.
Iroh was on the next ship back to Ba Sing Se. He couldn't stay in Republic City. Lord Zuko had asked for him to relocate and help him with the foundations for the city until his and the Avatar's dreams of utopia were achieved. But, as Iroh had discovered, this city or any place on Earth could not reach their high expectations. And, without a decent tea shop in the city, well, how could he stay?
Iroh stared wistfully at the city - a beacon of peace and prosperity for the changes of the world. Iroh closed his eyes and sang to the blue-tinted waters. "Leaves from the vine, falling so slow. Like fragile, tiny shells, drifting in the foam. Little soldier boy, come marching home. Brave soldier boy, comes marching home."
The Tale of Aang and Katara
Cold. Dark. Lifeless. That was what Aang's life was like one hundred years before her. While the world around him grew, he remained the same within a block of ice, unable to move or speak or save the war-torn world that needed his help. It was this day, twelve years ago, that he was freed by his best friend and soul mate and was able to resume living his life.
Dull. Boring. Restricted. That was Katara's life for what felt like one hundred years before him. She lived in a tiny village and was never able to learn how to use her waterbending gifts that she so desperately wanted to use. It was this day, twelve years ago, when she accidentally freed her best friend and soul mate and was able to finally have a life.
They completed each other. They had stood beside each other as teammates, as friends, as lovers, and soon they would stand beside each other as parents. Katara was due any day now and the couple could not have been more ecstatic about raising a child.
Aang was flying over Republic City, trying to make it back to Air Temple Island as quickly as he could with Katara's anniversary present, when he saw someone waving to him on the ground and calling out to him. He knew he would get back later if he stopped, but he knew it would be rude to ignore the man calling him. He landed and saw it was someone he knew. "What is it, Detective Pong?" asked Aang.
"Sorry to bother you, Aang," Pong said. "I just wanted to apologize for mistaking you for that fake Avatar. I should've known better."
"Oh, that's okay, Detective," Aang replied. "No hard feelings." Without giving the detective a chance to say anything more, Aang twirled open his glider and flew off.
Now that there were no interruptions, he could finally make it back to his house and celebrate his anniversary. Or so he thought until he heard someone else calling him from below. With a frustrated sigh, he landed and acknowledged the group of people that had called him down. "Yes?" he asked.
"Hello, Avatar Aang," spoke the head of the group. "I'm Shofu, President of the LOSBP."
"The what now?" Aang asked.
"The League of Sky Bison Preservation," the leader explained. "What is your response to rumors of a new breed of sky bison living somewhere near the air temples?"
Blindsided and pressed for time, Aang responded as quickly as he could. "It sounds like a crazy rumor, but I'll look into it just to be sure. Okay, goodbye!" He once again twirled open his glider and flew away.
He picked up the pace so that he could not be stopped again, but sure enough, another person was calling him down. He landed and saw that it was someone he definitely knew. "What is it, Iroh?" he asked.
"Nothing," Iroh replied. "Just wanted to say hi."
Losing his patience, Aang twirled open his glider and spoke quickly as he left. "Hi! I'll see you at the wedding!" He flew away once more, groaning as he did. "I wonder if Katara is having the same luck I am."
Katara was walking through the crowded streets of Republic City, nearly pushing people out of the way just to make it through. She had to hurry back to Air Temple Island with Aang's anniversary present. "It's days like this when I wish I could fly!" she said to no one in particular. "Or at least run!" She had to walk due to her now nine-month-pregnant belly.
As she made her way down the sidewalk, she stopped and noticed a woman sitting up against a window and crying. "What's the matter?" Katara asked.
The woman looked up at her, unsure of why this woman was talking to her, but decided to confide in her anyway. "Today is me and my husband's anniversary and I can't afford to buy him anything," she said.
Katara immediately felt sorry for this woman. "Oh, my gosh, I'm so sorry," she said. "I wish there was something I could-" There was something she could do and she knew it, but how could she? How could she possibly give away her anniversary gift for Aang? What would she say when he got her something amazing and she had nothing at all? But Aang was the Avatar. If there was anything he understood, it was helping people. And he knew the woman he married. He knew that she would never turn her back on people.
She took the gift out of the bag and handed it to the woman, who looked at her with immense gratitude. "What is this?" she asked.
"It's a pan flute," she said. "It plays really beautiful music."
"Are you sure you want to give me this?" asked the woman.
"Yes, I am," Katara said. "Happy anniversary to you and your husband."
The woman leaped off of the ground and hugged Katara. "Oh, thank you so much!" she said. "I can't thank you enough for this! May the spirits bless you!" She ran off down the street, excited as could be about her gift for her husband.
Realizing she was pressed for time, Katara took off in the opposite direction.
Aang and Katara arrived on Air Temple Island at about the same time. Katara could only assume this was because Aang had left much later than she had. But they were both there and that was all that mattered.
"Hi, Katara," Aang said. "So, are you ready to exchange gifts?" asked Aang.
"Uh, yeah," Katara nervously replied.
Aang handed her his bag and Katara took out the contents inside. She held in her hands a snow globe. Inside the snow globe were tiny figurines of her and Aang standing in front of an iceberg and holding hands.
"Look on the bottom," Aang said.
Katara looked on the bottom of the snow globe and saw something inscribed. Thirteen years ago, the iceberg wasn't the only thing that you melted. You melted my heart as well.
"Oh, my gosh, Aang, I don't know what to say," Katara said.
"I know it's kind of cheesy," Aang said. "But it's true."
"Thank you so much, Aang," Katara said. "I, um, I don't know how to say this, but I don't really have a gift for you."
"What?" Aang asked.
"There was this woman on the street who didn't have enough money to buy her husband something for her anniversary and I gave it to her and, oh, I'm so sorry, Aang."
Aang moved closer to Katara, shortening the space between them, and kissed her dead on the lips. "The only gift you can get me as great as our child is your love," Aang said. "That's all I want."
Katara smiled and engaged in a passionate kiss with her husband, blocking out all else but their love for each other.
This chapter is released in honor of the three-year-anniversary of the Slash Trilogy. Thanks for keeping it going this long, guys and gals!
For the collective works of the author, go here.