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|The Capitol Part 2 - The Final Journey|
25 February 2011
The Capitol Part 2 - The Final Journey is the fifty ninth chapter of.
The meeting of several groups produces drastic results.
Mai, Ty Lee and Zhentu run down the brightly lit tunnel. Zhentu moved around the girls and into the front of the line, making sure there wasn't any danger in front of the nobles. Zhentu stops in his tracks, making Ty Lee run into him and forcing him into a metal surface in front of him. "What's wrong?" Ty Lee asks, splitting herself up from Zhentu.
"It's a door," Zhentu replies, feeling the door. He runs his hands over it, and manages to see the image of a bearded man. "It's Fire Lord Sozin," Zhentu adds, continuing to run his hands over the surface of the door. He reaches Sozin's hand level and feels an indent in the wall. He puts his fingers into the hole, but quickly rescinds them. "There's something in there." After smelling his finger, he wipes them on the wall. "Blasting jelly," Zhentu concludes, grinning due to his discovery. He places his palm on Sozin's and exhales, igniting the blasting jelly within. Sozin's eyes and mouth blaze orange, and the door slides open, revealing a blinding light from the outside.
"Ow," Ty Lee mumbles, shielding her eyes from the outside light. Mai simply squints as she walks forward, passing the other two and stepping into the light.
"Hey guys, there's a boat here," Mai calls, turning and watching as the two stroll forward. The boat Mai mentioned was small and made of metal, designed for a few people to be able to get away from a siege quickly.
"What do you know?" Zhentu mutters, rubbing his eye before dropping his arms to his side. The three get into the minuscule boat, looking for the engine.
Mai was the one to find the engine, though she realized she had no way of starting it. "We need Firebending to move the boat," she says, her words drawing the others to the epicenter of the sound.
"Well it makes sense," Ty Lee chimes in, "All the Fire Lords are Firebenders, so they would be able to start the boat!"
"Then I guess we're in luck," Zhentu says, opening the hatch and momentarily glancing inside. He thrusts his open palm into the hole, sending a scorching arc of fire into the fuel. He closes the lid and can feel that the boat is ready to move.
Ty Lee runs to the steering wheel, beginning to move the boat forward, away from the small dock tethering it to the shore. "Where will we go?" Zhentu asks, following the nimble Kyoshi Warrior. Mai is close behind, her eyes wandering to the sky.
"I dunno," Ty Lee says, clearly preoccupied with steering the boat rather than its eventual destination.
"Well, since I have to keep this boat going by myself," Zhentu states, "I think it best that we pick where we're going."
"We can go find Lo and Li!" Ty Lee exclaims.
"Find who and who?" Zhentu asks, confused.
"They're these old ladies, who kind of smell, but are very nice!"
"That would be most old people," Zhentu awkwardly comments.
"So, we're going to Ember Island?" Ty Lee asks, diffusing the awkward atmosphere.
"Looks like it," Mai decides, sitting down on the metal bench nearby.
Appa soars through the air, carrying his usual load with an additional person tagging along. Zuko is staring over the horizon, watching the sun set and hoping for a glimpse of land. "Mai hated this shade of orange," Zuko mumbles.
"Zuko, Mai is safe. I can feel it," Katara says, putting her hand on the Fire Lord's shoulder.
"I hope you're right," he replies, continuing to gaze into the distance.
"Why are we heading to the Fire Nation again?" Suki asks.
"I just know that the Phoenix Warriors are going there." Zuko turns back to the team, his expression showing that he was fearing the worst. "I can't explain it, but I feel like something is wrong in the Capital."
"Then we'll go there," Katara decides.
"I don't think Appa can make it that far in one trip," Aang interjects.
"We'll stop on Ember Island, like last time," Zuko suggests. The group seems to mumble in agreement.
"As long as we don't have to go to any more plays!" Sokka exclaims. Zuko nods his head as Appa lets out a loud moan.
"You can rest soon, boy."
Jiang Rha limps to a door guarded by two Phoenix Warriors who were each standing on opposite sides of the hall, ready to attack if needed. His age had caught up with him, as had the injuries accumulated over the past few days, largely due to his lapsing He was unable trade blows like he used to. Jiang sighs as he slides through the curtain. An old Fire Nation man sits bound in a chair facing the far wall. Jiang decided to portray a ruse of authority. "What's your name?" Jiang asked, though he already knew the answer.
"Bujing," the man answers, his once menacing voice reduced to a cowardly whimper.
"Ah, the once great General Bujing. I understand you have had some problems over the past year... Troubles with the man you pledged to serve." Jiang continues to speak from behind the general, sounding more imposing than he actually was. "Why did you choose loyalty to the rebellious government of Fire Lord Zuko?"
"The Fire Lords, they're ruthless! Azulon would have had me imprisoned for the rest of my life! Ozai would have killed me! I had no idea what Zuko would do to the General who caused his banishment!"
"If you had supported the rightful Fire Lord, you wouldn't have had to worry about this teenager ruining your life."
"But, sir! I- I was uncertain as to the fate of Fire Lord Ozai. If I had known that he was planning to be restored to power, I would have followed!"
Jiang didn't buy the story, but decided to play along. "If you had known?" Something the teenage Fire Lord had done would be useful after all. "Really?"
"Yes, I had no way of knowing that the Fire Lord was freed!"
Jiang reaches into his robes and reveals a scroll. The top was torn, as if it had been ripped from off a wall. "That is very peculiar. I happened to come across a notice from Fire Lord Zuko. He is very candid about explaining the situation. He says that some people are rebelling against his government. Have you seen anything like that before?" Jiang can almost predict the General's response. From the many years he had spent in the Fire Lord's war room, he knew that if Bujing was afraid of being questioned this intently.
"No, I have never seen anything like that." Bujing was quick to dispel Jiang's accusation, but the Admiral had just pulled the General into his trap.
"That's actually very interesting. Zuko has ordered them to be put up all over the Fire Nation. In fact there are hundreds in the capital. I find it hard to believe that you haven't seen even one despite living here for an entire year."
The General remains silent, stunned. His eyes shifted to both sides, trying to understand his surroundings. "Who are you?" the General asks, his fear growing.
"I'm not the important one. I'm just someone who enforces the will of the Phoenix King. And you're someone who is hiding something." Jiang inches closer, almost breathing down Bujing's neck. "Are you scared?" Jiang whispers, his words slicing into Bujing's fragile psyche.
Bujing begins panting heavily, though he remains unable to answer the Admiral. Jiang decides to continue his interrogation, happy that he has gained some momentum. "So you did not follow Ozai out of fear?"
"Yes," Bujing barely manages to reply due to his staggering fear.
"That is all," Jiang decides, turning and exiting out the room. Regaining his composure to command the guards, he utters one word. "Useless." The soldiers salute the Admiral and walk into the room, the curtain rippling behind them.
From the sea
As night fell, Zhentu began lighting the lanterns scattered throughout the boat. He slowly paces back to the center, sitting on the bench and leaning his head back. "I don't know how much more Firebending I can do," the young Firebender mumbles.
"You shouldn't have to do much more," Ty Lee begins. "We should be there soon."
"Lo and Li's house is on what side of the island again?" Mai asks.
"Good question," Ty Lee responds, having not thought of this crucial detail.
"Well, I'm going to give the ship a bit more steam," Zhentu replies, realizing that his was the best thing he could do to help. He opened the latch, placing his hand in the opening and inhaling. Upon his exhale, the flames of the engine burn fiercely. Zhentu closes the lid, though he suddenly feels lightheaded. Letting out a small groan, Zhentu collapses to the floor of the ship.
"Zhentu?" Ty Lee screams from the helm of the ship. Mai quickly takes over as the noble teen runs towards their unconscious savior. "Are you okay?" She feels his breath and lets out a sigh of relief. "He's spent," she adds.
"What can we do about it?" Mai asks, unsure of what she can do.
"I don't know," Ty Lee says slowly, propping Zhentu up against the side of the boat.
"I say we go to the house Zuko was in that night," Mai suggests. "I at least remember where that is."
"Me too. We can find Lo and Li in the morning." By the time Ty Lee had finished talking, Mai can see Ember Island over the night time horizon.
"I think we found it," Mai says, unexcited by the milestone.
"Great!" Ty Lee replies. "We need to find him some help," she adds.
When the two locate Ozai's Beach House, Mai steers the ship towards the dock. Mai uses one of her daggers to pry off a wide board from the dock, lying it on the beach. The two girls manage to lift Zhentu's body, with each placing one arm over her shoulder. They lie Zhentu on the board, and drag the board to the house. They gently rest Zhentu on the ground as they try to open the door.
"It's locked!" Ty Lee exclaims.
Mai glances around, eventually locating a window on the second floor. Using the same dagger as before, she breaks the glass from afar. "Go through that," the Fire Lady instructs. Ty Lee nods in obedience, doing various acrobatic maneuvers that eventually allow her through the shattered glass.
The door opens from the inside, with Ty Lee smiling behind it. Mai motions towards Zhentu, and Ty Lee gets the signal. She assists in moving Zhentu to a room, laying him on a bed, and fetching water. "You're gonna make it," the noble mumbles as she sits down near his bed, slowly dozing off.
From the sky
Appa soars over the small town situated on Ember Island. Eventually, Zuko spots the mountain retreat and motions for Aang to have Appa descend. As the bison touches down, the group dismounts off the bison, looking for somewhere to sleep. Zuko kicks the door down, and the group paces into the house. "I think I hear something!" Toph whispers, alerting the group to the possibility of a threat.
Sokka strolls forward, largely underestimating the severity of Toph's warning. As he peers his head around a corner, he is met with a swift jab that strikes his forehead. "OW!" he exclaims as he stumbles back. The yell of pain is met with the sound of breaking china, and the group rushes to see what was on the other side of the corner.
"Ty Lee?" Suki exclaims. The two Kyoshi Warriors quickly hug each other, leaving the rest of the group dumbfounded. "What are you doing here?"
"I was getting some water. What are you doing here?" the other Warrior replies happily.
Having recovered from the initial shock of encountering his wife's best friend in his father's run-down beach house, Zuko does another double take. "Ty Lee?" Zuko asks again. "Why are you here?"
"Well, we had to leave the capital," Ty Lee says innocently, forgetting that her friends were unaware of the previous day's events.
"Why? What's wrong there?" Zuko asks loudly.
"I think Mai could explain it better," the bubbly Kyoshi Warrior decides, motioning for Team Avatar to follow her into a back hallway.
"Mai?" Zuko asks, again shocked by Ty Lee.
"Yeah, she's upstairs." Zuko doesn't pay any more attention to Ty Lee. Brushing the teenager aside, the Fire Lord sprints down the hall and up the stairs. He opens the door to a room, hoping to encounter his wife. The room is empty, and he moves on. After another wrong door, he finally finds the right path.
Opening the door, he sees Mai crouched over a teenager, wiping his forehead with a damp cloth. She glances up, and upon seeing him, slightly smiles. "Don't slam the door," the Fire Lady scolds. "You'll wake him."
Zuko takes a closer glance at the figure Mai is helping. "Zhentu?" Zuko asks in shock as the rest of Team Avatar files in behind him.
"You know him?" Mai asks dryly.
"We met him a while back. What are you all doing here?" the Fire Lord asks, more confused than he was able to handle.
"The Capital fell. Rebels captured it and we were forced to flee. Zhentu managed to power the boat enough to get us here," Mai adds, glancing at the unconscious body of her helper.
"The capital fell? Already?" Zuko's anger was evident, and increasing by the second. He had finally lost everything in his life; his mother, uncle, sister, and now his country.
"I'm sorry you had to hear it this way Zuko," Katara adds, moving to the front of the group and placing her hand on Zuko's shoulder.
"I had to hear it some time," Zuko says, accepting the bitter turn of events. "It won't remain that way for long."
Glancing past Zuko, Katara sees Zhentu lying in the bed. "Zhentu?" Mai nods, and Sokka interrupts his sister.
"Maybe he can give us some information!" the Water Tribe Warrior exclaims.
"He needs to be awake first," Katara interjects, stepping past the Fire Lord and drawing water from her pouch. Mai moves the cloth from Zhentu's head and Katara's water replaces it. The water glows faintly, humming as it restores the teenager's vitality.
Zhentu groans as he comes to. Propping himself up, he is shocked to see his surroundings. "What are you doing here?" he asks, looking from Mai to Team Avatar.
"It's my house," Zuko replies. "What were you doing in the Capitol?"
"I- I-" Zhentu stammers, unsure of what to say to the Fire Lord.
"How did you get off your home island?" Sokka asks.
"Soldiers arrived to help fix up and defend the village. They told me that everything would be alright if I cooperated. I got on their ship so I could give them information, and they sailed off with me on board."
"Who were these soldiers?" Zuko asks, curious as to Zhentu's story and angry at an official who would do this to someone so young.
"I didn't know initially, and I was confused. I'm sorry I listened to a word any of them said!" Zhentu says, with a tear streaming down his face.
"What were they like?" Aang asks, unaware that his innocent question would cause action.
"They were the rebels. The ones who attacked the island in the Earth Kingdom," Zhentu blurts out, unable to keep his secret anymore.
"You were a Phoenix Warrior?" Sokka asks, his voice echoing the shock the entire room felt.
"I didn't know what I was joining. I didn't feel right the entire time I was there, but after I saw Admiral Rha kill Ozai, I knew-"
"So he's dead too?" Zuko is looking out the bedroom's small window, refusing to even glance at Zhentu.
"I tried to stop him, but I was too late! I realized that I should never be a part of it, but-" Zhentu is again cut off, this time by Zuko's actions. Finally deciding to stare at the face of the traitor, Zuko bores into Zhentu's eyes, halting Zhentu's words.
"Get out," Zuko calmly orders. He manages to present what he hoped was a calm demeanor, but it came off as cold and infuriated, the very emotions he was hoping to hide. Zhentu sits up straighter in the bed, unsure of what Zuko really wanted him to do. "Get out," Zuko repeats louder, showing more of his anger.
"Leave!" Zuko orders. His anger augmented the fire in a lantern nearby Mai, shattering the glass before the flame died down. As Zhentu leaves the room, Zuko begins to sigh in relief, but he remains unable to hide the tear that falls from his right eye.
Departure in shame
Zhentu paces down the stairs, barely able to function due his shattered emotional state. His body was healed, but he remained devastated.
"What's wrong?" a soothing voice calls as he reaches the bottom of the staircase.
Zhentu looks up and sees Ty Lee, carrying a bucket of water and another towel. "I have to go," the distraught Firebender replies.
"Why? What's wrong?"
"It's complicated, but I think me leaving is best for everyone. I'm sorry."
Dropping the items in her possession, Ty Lee throws her arms around Zhentu. "Stay safe," the Kyoshi Warrior requests. As she loosens her grip on Zhentu, he realizes he has something else to do. Moving his head to his right, his lips land softly on her cheek, moving his arms around her for a final, brief hug before leaving the house.
Pacing on the beach, he watches his tracks fade away beneath the crashing waves. "What have I done?" the former Phoenix mutters to himself.
Zuko slumped against the wall, remaining silent after his vocal outburst against Zhentu. Team Avatar remained in the hall, awkwardly standing in the wake of Zuko's fury. It was a combination of shock at Zuko's reaction as well as Zhentu's changed allegiance. The entire group remained silent, though Mai placed her rag into the bucket of water she had been using to keep Zhentu's fever down. "Do you realize what you just did?" Mai exclaims, shooting her gaze towards her husband.
"I wanted him gone. I've had enough of traitors."
"Your stupid impulse just lost you a huge source of information! Do you have any idea what he may have known?" Mai's point cut deep; Zuko hadn't thought of the consequences of his actions.
"No, I don't," Zuko mumbles, turning his head away from the harsh words.
"He could have just told you how much power they have; who their leaders are!"
Zuko was left speechless. As his head drooped, Ty Lee entered the room, carrying an empty bucket. "Where'd Zhentu have to go?"
"Zuko decided it would be best if he left."
"What did he do?" Ty Lee asks, hoping to discover new information regarding his fate.
"He was a traitor," Zuko bitterly replies, getting to his feet and brushing past the members of Team Avatar. He enters another room and closes the door.
"What do we do now?" Katara asks, glancing around the room and hoping for suggestions.
"We wait," Aang replies, his voice reflecting his desire to help his friend.
As he closes the door, Zuko sinks his head in shame. Once again his furious outburst had cost him his nation. Lifting his head, he sits down on his bed, the bed he used when he was a child. He lies down, staring at the ceiling, though his legs are too long for the bed. He contemplates his predicament for hours, tossing from one side of his body to the other. Giving up, the Fire Lord rises from his bed and prepares to leave the room when a beam of light catches his eye.
Zuko moves to a corner of the room, where a small portrait of his family was placed upon a small table. Picking up the memento, he glances upon the faces he would never see again. "We were never meant to be happy," Zuko mutters to himself. He runs his finger along the picture, recalling the few joyous memories he could remember.
He is about to place the picture on the page when he hears a knock at the door. Before he can respond, his wife slips in. "Hey," Mai coolly says as she quietly shuts the door.
"What are you doing here?" Zuko asks, the picture still in his hand.
"I came to check on you," Mai replies. "It's kind of my job now," she adds with a hint of her famous cynicism.
Zuko's scowl lightened, ironically brightened by one who thrived in the dark. "You do a great job."
"What do you have there?"
"Memories. It's all I have left," Zuko replies, lifting the portrait closer to his face.
"Feeling sorry for yourself isn't going to bring them back, Zuko." Mai aloofly sits on the bed, watching Zuko's torment and unable to fix it.
"I know that, but what else can I do?" her husband responds, a tear falling down his cheek.
"All I know is that you are the Fire Lord. It's your duty to make sure that no one else in the Fire Nation has to suffer through what you have. It's your duty to stop these rebels before they destroy everything you have done," Mai says, rising from her seat on the bed. "Don't do it for you; do it for them," Mai concludes, walking to him and turning him to face her. She kisses him, brushing her hand across his face while pulling away. "You can fix this, I know you can. But when?" Mai adds as she walks away, exiting the room and leaving Zuko to ponder her challenge.
The next morning, Zuko emerges from the room. He enters the kitchen to find his friends eating breakfast, just like normal. "We're going to the capitol," Zuko boldly states, interrupting the multiple conversations that were being held.
Zhian walked up to the royal palace. The past few days had been marred with administration, making sure the Fire Nation soldiers were properly imprisoned and that the capital takeover was smooth. The Capital residents had been placed under house arrest, ensuring that the Capital was under Phoenix Warrior control. Now was his moment of triumph, when he would rise to the level of other past leaders and take his rightful place on the throne. He walks up to the door of the palace, violently kicking the doors down. Zhian enters the palace, noting that the lights are still on. He walks up to the royal gallery, where the portraits of past Fire Lords hang. "Hm, soon my face will be on that wall," he mutters to himself. He continues through the halls, eventually coming across the throne room.
Zhian parts the curtain and enters the darkened chamber. The usual fire that would light the room was out, as its usual occupant was absent. Zhian walks calmly around the room, taking in every detail of his new throne room. He finally walks up to the throne, though the floor is higher than he expected. He propels himself onto the level of the throne and paces to the Fire Lord's seat. Crossing his legs, he sits in the throne that no one else deserved. Zhian inhaled and exhaled repeatedly, eventually lighting the room with the fire that surrounded him. Zhian spends hours contemplating his new domain, inhaling and exhaling with the dancing glow of the fire.
An hour later, Zhian hears footsteps in the hall, though he can tell it is just one person. As the curtains part, Jiang Rha, still visibly weakened from the damage he received a few days prior, limps into the room. "Are you enjoying playing Fire Lord?" Jiang calls from the entrance.
"Customarily my subjects bow before greeting me. You're no exception," Zhian states, rising from his seat on the throne. The flames around him rise to his knees, brightening the room.
"You have no right to be on that throne. It belongs to me!" Jiang retorts fiercely, advancing a step forward.
"You have no right to be alive right now." Zhian takes a single step forward, glaring towards the Admiral. "You should consider me gracious to grant you such a privilege." Jiang is rendered speechless, unable to come up with a single combination of words that will justify his claim to power. "In fact, I'm beginning to question the pardon I gave to you the other day. You're brittle, Rha; I could break you at any moment. Count yourself lucky with every breath you take." Zhian parts the flames in front of him, jumping down from the elevated platform and onto Jiang's level.
"Who do you think you are," Jiang begins, "To talk to an Admiral that way?"
"You old fool... I am your better, whether you know it or not. Now, kindly vacate my chamber." Jiang snapped, the rage surging through his body numbing the pain he was put through. He launches a powerful fire blast from one arm, following it with an identical blast from his other hand. Zhian summons the flames from behind him, blocking the intense blasts with his newly created fire wall.
"Give up now Rha! You can't win!" Zhian calls from behind his defensive wall.
Jiang pours more energy into his attack, increasing the size and intensity of the blast. Zhian's wall holds firm, and Jiang's wounds begin to weaken him. The fire blast fades, and its creator collapses to his knees. Zhian paces closer, passing the Admiral who was trying to catch his breath. Jiang feels a tug on the back of his neck as Zhian pulls the Admiral out of the room. He is thrown against the wall, and slowly slumps to the ground. "Now, learn your place," Zhian orders, parting the curtain and heading back into the Fire Lord's chamber.
Having already written the previous chapter, The Bos began production of this chapter immediately following the completion of he second part of Clash of the Warriors. He first came up with the idea for the section 'Mine,' and wrote more tension between Zhian and Jiang. The chapter's many sections fell into place, actually giving The Bos more inspiration to continue writing.
References to the Original Series
- Zhian's line "Customarily my subjects bow before greeting me" is a direct quote from Sozin, and the addition of "You're no exception" is a reference to Sozin's saying that Roku was the exception to the rule.
For the collective works of the author, go here.