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|The Boy With the Swords|
The heroes of Team Avatar were all devastated by their defeat at the Fire Nation capital, especially Zuko. They had been flying for about an hour, but no one except Aang had been paying attention to where they were going. Iroh then peered over the side of Appa's saddle and noticed they were nearing the village of Shu Jing. "Why are we landing in that village?" The old man asked.
"Because there is someone down there who can help us through this," Aang replied. Everyone else saw where they were landing. They saw an enormous castle in front of them.
"Who lives here?" Ai asked.
"Master Piandao, the greatest swordsman in Fire Nation history," Sokka answered. Team Avatar approached the castle. Sokka went up to the door and slammed the lion turtle door handles repeatedly until an old man with a gray top-knot opened the door.
"Ah, Sokka and friends," The man greeted them. "Right this way." He motioned for the heroes to follow him into the castle's main room. Everyone entered the room and saw Piandao facing the window while writing calligraphy.
"Piandao," Aang spoke the man's name.
The swordsman turned around to see the Avatar and his friends. "My friends, this is an unexpected pleasure," he said, smiling.
"How have you been?" Sokka asked. Although he knew this was off topic, Sokka wanted to know how his master was doing.
"Well, I got into some trouble with the Southern Water Tribe recently but everything is okay, now," Piandao responded. Sokka noticed Suki looking away from Piandao and rubbing the back of her neck, nervously. The looks on the heroes' faces made Piandao aware that something was wrong. "Is everything alright?" He asked.
"The Rebels have taken control of the Fire Nation," Zuko informed him. Piandao's eyes widened.
"I decided to come here because I know you have connections in the Order of the White Lotus," Aang explained.
"I see. You thought you would come here and ask me to help you rally the White Lotus to take back the Fire Nation capital," Piandao assumed.
"Your wisdom never ceases to amaze me, old friend," Iroh spoke.
"So will you help us?" Katara questioned.
"Of course I will help you," Piandao answered.
Omar felt humiliated. He was on a gondola, being shipped to the most terrible place in the world. He felt nothing but sadness and depression. The gondola stopped, and the door opened. All of the other men stepped out of the gondola, single-file but when his turn came he did not move. "Hey, you, Get off of that gondola!" A guard yelled. Omar stepped off of the gondola and joined the other prisoners.
"Welcome to the Boiling Rock. I'm sure you have heard the horrible rumors about our little island. Well, I just want to tell you that they don't have to be true. As long as you do everything I say. You got that, Resistance punk?" Former General Mung asked. He snickered after Omar said nothing in response. "Phoenix King Banhen has appointed me as the Warden of this prison so forget what the old Warden was like because we are going by my rules now," he said menacingly.
"So it is decided, we will go to Ba Sing Se and convince the Earth King to give us whatever military power he has left to invade the Fire Nation," Aang said.
"Yes and the White Lotus will meet you in a month once you have accomplished that task and have reached the Fire Nation where we will already be," Piandao added.
"I will stay behind and help Piandao," Iroh volunteered.
"Are you sure, Iroh?" Katara asked.
"You don't need me; you will all be fine on your own," the wise, old man replied.
"Alright, we respect your decision," Aang acknowledged.
"Hey, where is Zuko?" Sokka wondered aloud.
"He and Mai left about fifteen minutes ago. Didn't you see them?" Suki asked her boyfriend.
"Zuko, are you sure we should do this?" Mai asked.
"Yes," Zuko simply stated.
"But what will the others think?" Mai shot back another question.
"Look, I have made up my mind. Now are you with me or not?" The Fire Lord inquired.
Mai stared at Zuko intently; trying to decide what he was asking was right.
Finally she came to a decision. "Of course I am with you," she told him.
The rest of the Team was inside saying their goodbyes to Iroh and Piandao when suddenly, an explosion shook the castle. Everyone could see by looking out of the large windows that someone was Firebending at them. With the windows shattered, Aang shot out of the castle and landed on a cliff just outside the castle's boundaries. Jun and Azula were both clearly enraged. Azula rapidly shot several bolts of lightning at her enemy, with a deranged expression on her face. Aang was taken off guard as he had never seen anyone generate lightning so quickly. He threw himself on his back to avoid the blasts of lightning and manipulated the air with his feet to quickly get back up. Aang unleashed a mini air tornado that grew and grew until it was an intimidating size. Jun propelled himself around it and fired several blazing arcs at the Avatar who shielded himself with Airbending. "Fight, you coward! FIGHT!!" He yelled.
Aang smiled. "Okay, if that is what you want." He released a large fire stream from his right hand and foot in Jun's direction forcing him to neutralize Aang's attack. Aang had forgotten about Azula. She struck him in the stomach and the Avatar fell down with a pained groan. Jun approached Aang and prepared to Energybend knowing that this time there would be no distractions when Azula was then knocked off her feet by an earth pillar. Jun saw Toph sliding in his direction on the earth underneath her. Jun lashed out with a fire whip but Toph quickly countered by covering herself in rock armor. She then discarded the armor and slammed her fist into the earth, sending Jun spiraling backwards out of sight. Azula got back on her feet and noticed that Jun was not there. She decided to retreat herself.
"It looks like they are still pretty steamed," Toph commented.
"Thanks, Toph," Aang said.
"This is getting a bit old, twinkle-toes. That's three you owe me now," Toph replied.
"Wow that was great," a voice remarked. Aang and Toph gazed over and saw a boy who looked about fifteen. He had brown hair and he was pretty fit for his age. "Hi, my name is Kato. That was some impressive bending back there," the boy said.
"Thanks," Aang took the boy's compliment.
"You are the Avatar aren't you?" Kato asked. Aang nodded. "Look, just hear me out. I am a loner; my parents died when I was only six years old and I have had nobody for so long. You and your friends have always inspired me. I have always dreamed that someday I could join with you and help bring justice to the world," Kato elaborated.
Aang did not know what to say. "Look, Kato this is kind of sudden; I just met you. I know you have gone through a lot but you can bring justice to the world by doing something good every day," Aang said.
"Maybe he could help Iroh and Piandao," Toph suggested.
"You guys don't understand," Kato said. "I can't bend but I am incredibly skilled with swords," Kato rebutled. "And by the way, Toph, you were always my favorite," Kato said.
Toph blew her hair and turned away but when her face was out of sight, she blushed at Kato's statement.
"I guess you can come with us if you don't get in our way," the blind Earthbender said, slyly.
Kato looked to Aang for his answer. "Okay, Kato," The Avatar agreed. "If you prove your worth while with us we will let you officially join."
"Oh, yes!" Kato yelled, happily. "I promise you will not regret your decision! I will not let you down!"
The rest of Team Avatar as well as Piandao were waiting inside the castle. Aang, Toph, and Kato entered the room. "I'm so glad you are okay," Katara said with relief.
"Who did you bring back with you?" Sokka questioned.
"Everyone, this is Kato," Aang introduced him. "Kato, this is-"
"Katara, Sokka, Zuko, Suki, Momo, Mai, Ai, Iroh, and Piandao. It is nice to meet all of you!" Kato finished Aang's sentence.
"Aang, you cannot be serious," Sokka uttered.
"Come on, Sokka. What is wrong with it?" Ai asked.
"He is just going to slow us down," Sokka replied.
"Let him come along," Toph spoke.
"Fine," Sokka muttered.
Team Avatar exited Piandao's castle. "Good luck, Aang," Iroh said.
"You too." Aang replied. Everyone climbed up on Appa and sat on his back. "Yip, yip, Appa!" Aang said. Appa roared and left the ground at once.
Several hours later, the team had come to the Wulong Forest. "Hey, Aang, can we land. Mai and I need to stretch our legs." Zuko requested.
"Okay, sure," Aang said back. He landed Appa at Zuko's request.
Zuko and Mai hopped off of the bison and walked a short distance away. "Yip, yip." Zuko said. Appa took off once again with everyone else still on it. The expressions on everyone's faces were all shocked. Team Avatar flew away speechless, still staring down at Zuko and Mai, and with two less people with them.
"Do you think they will understand?" Mai asked, a bit saddened at leaving her friends.
"I have to find my mother, Mai. Banhen said they were somewhere in the Earth Kingdom so we will search until we find her," Zuko responded. "They will understand," he assured Mai.
"Aren't we going to go back for them?" Kato asked.
"No, we are not." Aang replied, quietly.
- When Piandao mentions getting in trouble with the Southern Water Tribe, it is a reference to The Necklace Heist
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