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|The Capitol Part 4 - The True Heart|
25 February 2011
The Capitol Part 4 - The True Heart is the sixty first chapter of chapter in the 4 part finale.. It is the final chapter in the Guardian continuity, as well as the last
Zuko encounters Zhian for the final time, as the two decide to put an end to their struggle. Jiang attempts treason, though he is stopped by the last person on his mind.
The remaining Phoenix Warriors storm through the plaza gates, hoping to defeat the Avatar and his friends once and for all. To their surprise, however, the children were nowhere to be found. "Where'd they go?" the leader asks his men, who meet his question with complete unawareness.
"Sir!" a voice calls the officer's left. Turning, he sees a Warrior that is encased in rock and pinned to the plaza's wall.
"How did you get there soldier?" the leader asks.
"One of the Avatar's friends!" the defeated Firebender replies.
"Where did they go?"
"They began entering the ships, sir. They should be on the far one, the one with the Flying Bison." Just as the soldier had said, one ship's tower was hiding a large tail; the tail of the last Sky Bison.
"We're sinking that ship," the officer orders. The soldiers begin rolling out a massive catapult, the only one that survived the Invasion. Its three arms made it a deadly weapon, and the Phoenix Warriors were prepared to use it to its fullest. "Fire!" he orders. The catapult launches the fire balls, sending the flames through the air. Two blasts connect, rocking the boat but not placing it in immediate danger.
Within the ship, Team Avatar stumbles on their way to the surface. "What was that?" Katara asks while regaining her balance.
"Something hit the ship!" Toph replies.
"We need to get to the surface!" Aang adds, quickly running through the door. As he passes through the gateway, he sees fire balls flying through the sky. One fire ball is bound for the ship's tower, and Aang knows he must act. He leaps into the air, twirling his staff and dividing the blast in half. The fire diverts around the ship as Aang lands on the deck. "I'm going to distract them!" the Avatar calls to his friends. He opens his glider and takes off, soaring through the air and around all the blasts. As Aang diverts the attention of the Phoenix Warriors, Team Avatar leaves the ship.
"Fire!" the leader orders, pointing at the approaching group instead of Aang. The catapult lowers its arms, taking aim at the Avatar's friends.
Zuko sends a fire blast at the catapult, damaging one of the arms. The other two remain untouched, and launch their projectiles at Team Avatar. Toph reacts first, raising an earth wall between the team and the fire as Sokka runs past her. The fire hits the wall, crushing the blast and sending Sokka to the ground. Katara draws water from her pouch and runs forwards, hacking through the middle catapult's arm. The soldiers around the catapult try and attack Katara, though she blocks their fire blasts. Toph leaps onto the catapult, twisting the remaining metal into an armor. The blind Metalbender steps in front of Katara, blocking a fire blast and punching its creator. The attacking Phoenix Warrior is knocked into the rebel to his right. "Nice one," Katara says, congratulating her friend.
"Thanks," Toph says through her metal casing.
Aang rushes to the ground, folding his glider and deflecting an attack from a Warrior. When he reaches the ground, his impact sends a wave of earth at nearby Warriors, leaving few Warriors conscious. A Warrior approaches the Avatar from the rear, launching several fire balls as he nears. Aang turns while whirling his leg in the air, deflecting the fire blasts in several different directions. The Avatar's foot makes contact with the ground, encasing each Warrior in a sheet of stone.
Zuko was dueling both the commanding officer of the unit and another Phoenix Warrior. While ducking to avoid two simultaneous fire blasts, Zuko creates a horizontal arc of fire that knocks both off balance. "What's the matter, Fire Lord?" the officer taunts. "Homesick?"
"I'm a little sick of their attitudes," Zuko quietly retorts. The two launch blasts at each other, eventually working their way to just sending small jets of fire. Zuko rolls to the side to dodge a blast sent by the remaining Warrior and sees a silhouette behind the officer. He quickly diverts the jet sent by the leader and waits. The Warrior collapses to his knees and eventually lies helplessly on the ground.
"I'm just sick of you," Suki adds from behind the incapacitated Warrior.
The final Phoenix Warrior launches a blast at the Kyoshi Warrior, hoping to strike her while her back was turned. Toph stomps the ground and Suki is knocked out of the way. Zuko launches a fire blast that the Warrior is barely able to block, though the force of the impact sends him to the ground. Aang and Toph simultaneously encase the Warrior in a shell of earth, locking him to the ground.
"Looks like we're done here," Sokka announces, sheathing his sword and pulling Suki closer to his torso.
"Now we've just got the capital," Aang adds.
Zuko turns and looks at the capital dome and silently reflects upon its meaning. "Thank you for your help," the Fire Lord says while turning back to his friends. "You have helped me discover who I am and to reclaim my nation. The Fire Nation is in your debt."
"Not yet," Katara replies. "What are we waiting for?"
"We have a war to stop," Aang states, also turning to the capital. After a brief moment of silence, the Team sets off for the Capital.
Having set off from Ember Island, Zhentu augments the flames in the engine before closing the lid. When he reaches the wheel, Ty Lee had already directed the boat to head back towards the Capital. Both Zhentu and Ty Lee sit near Mai, who is giving Zhentu a small glare. "I guess I have some explaining to do," he mumbles.
"It would be nice," the Fire Lady replies sarcastically.
"A while ago, my village was attacked by a group of Waterbenders. Most of the town was slaughtered, and I lost my parents." Zhentu drops his head in sorrow, continuing his story while staring at the floor. "I was one of the few to escape the island. I found your husband and the Avatar on the next island over. They were looking for the group that attacked us, so I offered to help them liberate my village. When we got there, we freed the few villagers left and battled the Waterbenders. After we defeated them, the Avatar left. A few days later, I was approached by an old man who asked me what happened." Zhentu lifts his head and looks at the two nobles. "He offered me a chance to redeem my parents; to avenge their loss. I didn't know how, but I knew I had to do something."
"So you joined the Phoenix Warriors to avenge your parents?" Ty Lee asks, hoping for clarity.
"Yes, Jiang Rha twisted everything he told me. He said that all members of the Water Tribe would kill like that group, and that Earth Kingdom citizens are equally brutal. He lied the whole time, and I believed him. The biggest mistake of my life was agreeing to get on that boat."
"Don't worry Zhentu," Ty Lee cheerfully begins. "Everything will be all right," she says while sitting on his bench.
"Are you sure?" he replies, distraught and confused. Ty Lee responds by lightly kissing his cheek.
"I'm sure," Ty Lee says happily.
"Yep, this is going to be a long ride," Mai says listlessly. She rises and moves to the boat's helm and steers the boat to turn slightly.
Team Avatar runs up the winding path to the Capital. "The entrance is right up there," Zuko says, pointing around a corner. As they round the final bend, they see the massive stone gates that protect the entrance to the capital.
"Too easy," Toph mutters as the walks up to the gates. She thrusts her hands into the massive earthen barrier and pulls the gates open, grinning at the simplicity. "That was the easiest door I've had to open in a while," the blind Earthbender states as her friends rush past her. "You're welcome, Toph. No, don't worry about it, it's fine," she mumbles to herself as she takes off behind her friends.
After running past three street intersections, Katara is confused. "Where are we going, Zuko?"
"The entire city is abandoned. If there are any leaders, they would be at the palace," the Fire Lord says.
As Team Avatar sprints to the atrium in silence, Aang slowly reaches the front of the group. Upon reaching the open area, the team sees the two leaders, one old and one young, standing at the far side.
"So, you finally made it?" the young leader calls.
"What are you doing here?" Aang bellows across the hall.
"I'm the new Fire Lord. I am in control of the city. Now, kindly vacate my capital," taunts. He knew as well as Zuko did that neither would leave.
"Not a chance," Zuko calls back; clenching his fists and scowling. Aang assumes a ready stance, though Zuko places his arm between the two. Aang is initially surprised, but as Zuko steps forward realizes that this battle belongs to the Fire Lord. Zuko does not take his eye off Zhian, ignoring the confused glances of the rest of the Team.
"What are we waiting for?" Toph bluntly asks.
"This is Zuko's fight," Aang replies calmly. "This is his country and this is something he needs to do alone." The Avatar walks to his friend, placing his hand on his shoulder. "We'll be here for you," he says to Zuko, removing his hand and motioning for his friends to follow him.
"Yes, just you and me." Zhian yells from the far side of the atrium. "You are a pompous and illegitimate ruler, and today, I will put you in your place! I challenge you to an Agni Kai!"
Zuko walks a little to his right, aligning himself opposite Zhian. "I will not let you defile this nation anymore," Zuko coolly states.
"Likewise," Zhian snaps back. The Phoenix Warrior motions for Jiang Rha to fall back and assumes a stance, prepared for battle. Zuko prepares as well, glaring at his opponent. Zhian inhales and launches a massive fire blast towards Zuko, who counters with an equally powerful blast. As the flames collide, the Firebenders slide back while continuing their blasts. The two unintentionally conclude their initial attacks at the same time, both deciding to use smaller attacks in larger quantity. The miniscule fire balls collided in midair, canceling the effects of the blasts they connected with. "You seem a little different than last time," Zhian taunts.
"I've got a reason," Zuko responds while blocking the blast. "I know what I am fighting for." Zuko leaps into the air and swings his arms, bringing them down along with two fire arcs. As Zhian watches, the two blasts converge in front of him. The Phoenix Warrior inhales deeply and sends a counterattack into the depths of Zuko's inferno. As the two blasts collide, sparks fly in all directions. The onlookers are nearly blinded by the ferocity of the blasts, and all but Toph cover their eyes.
Cho's ship pulls into the Fire Nation harbor as its leader exits his quarters. As per his orders, the remainder of the soldiers went below deck to take their break. Cho paces onto the deck of the ship, his boots clicking on the metal decks. As he prepares to leave the ship, he hears stomping behind him. Spinning around to ascertain the source, he sees only a red blur with gray hair.
Cho is bent over with a knee thrust into his stomach. He is thrown towards the side of the boat, hitting his head on the side hull. As he loses consciousness, he sees the figure run off the boat, down into the plaza. Unsure what to make of this, his eyes close and his head falls to the floor.
As the young Firebenders battled, Jiang Rha unconsciously paced backwards in fear. He knew that he must prepare himself for the worst, but also have a plan for the best. He knew that the Fire Nation would not be his today, and knew he needed to plan for the sake of his movement. After exiting the palace area, Jiang broke into a sprint towards the shore. He would leave in the ship containing the Fire Lord's mother and use her as leverage.
Jiang made it out of the city, and began climbing out of the capital crater. As he looks over the capital plaza, he sees the unconscious and captured bodies of the Phoenix Warriors assigned to guard the capital city. He briefly pauses, though a light coming from the bottom of the crater catches his attention. Jiang deflects a fire blast, though the force of the attack knocks him off balance. As he stabilizes himself, he sees a figure that should be dead. "Iroh?" Jiang gasps as he examines the figure below.
"Yes, Rha, it's me!" Iroh screams back, frowning at the rebellious Admiral.
"I killed you!" Jiang replies, rubbing his eyes to try and clear his view.
"No, Rha. You failed. Your entire mission was bound to fail from the beginning!"
"How did you survive?" the Admiral stutters.
"The crew was loyal," the Dragon replies. "Before the ship went down they managed to make a raft for me. They made sure I survived. A ship managed to pass by, and I caught their attention. I was allowed to ride on the ship, and it ended up here." As Iroh concludes, Jiang Rha stares at his foe seething with rage.
"All of that planning was in vain?" the Phoenix Warrior cries in desperation, his anger growing.
"All of this was in vain! The world is restoring itself, and you are trying to defile it again! Don't you understand the futility of your battle?"
"I can't surrender now!" Jiang retorts, his dire situation worsening. "You won't stop me!"
"You can't win! You've lost all your men, and you can't escape on a ship alone!" Jiang could not come up with a response, so he launches a fire ball at the Dragon of the West. Iroh easily disperses the blast, though its initial force causes his beard to blow backwards. Jiang continues his barrage, launching several blasts that Iroh simply dodged, blocked or diffused. As the Admiral prepared a large blast, Iroh moves to strike. He inhales and sends a massive fire ball towards the rebellious officer. Jiang abandons his attack and divides Iroh's attack in two, sending each half around his body.
By the time Iroh's first attack had dissipated, he had resumed his offensive. Jiang stumbles back as he attempts to deflect the sheer volume of attacks launched from the former General. The Phoenix Warrior turns and runs back into the capital, hoping to seek refuge from Iroh's destructive potential.
Zhian and his opponent sent blast after blast at each other, with neither bender giving in. Each blast from one was met with a creative block or deflection from the other. Zuko leaps into the air and launches a jet towards Zhian, though the Phoenix parts the blast before it can cause its intended damage. "Is this the best you can do, Fire Lord?" the Colonel taunts. Zhian's insult was met with another large jet, though he propels himself over this attack.
From the air, Zhian launches several massive fire blasts towards Zuko, who realizes this is a chance to gain the upper hand. Zuko falls to his back and rotates his feet as the blasts approach, moving the fire in a circle over his head. As Zuko whirls back to his feet, he thrusts his arms towards Zhian, sending the flowing inferno back at its creator. Zhian leaps to the left, though Zuko curves the blast to follow him. As Zhian moves to try and block the first blast, Zuko launches a second at the Phoenix leader. The Warrior dodges and approaches the Fire Lord, launching a volley of fire balls. The constant effort of deflecting them all proves too great, as the impact slides Zuko back. Eventually, he jets above the volley, swiftly rising into the air. As he descends, he creates a vertical arc of fire aimed in front of Zhian. As the Warrior was about to step in that direction, Zhian stumbles back, barely catching himself before he fell to the ground. "Having some balance trouble?" Zuko taunts, attempting to rattle the cold Warrior.
"Balance?" Zhian begins furiously. "You want to talk to me about balance? You come from a family of people who have rightly believed that the Fire Nation is superior! Sozin wiped out the Air Nomads! Azulon nearly wiped out the Southern Water Tribe! Ozai was about to destroy the Earth Kingdom! What right do you have to speak of balance?"
Zuko's scowls at Zhian's ignorance, but quickly recomposes himself. "That is part of my legacy. I am from the lineage of Ozai and Sozin, but I'm also descended from Avatar Roku!" the Fire Lord retorts. "I have the power to restore balance! You're in my way, and I will not tolerate it anymore!" Zuko screams, reassuming his fighting stance. Zhian does the same, but Zuko's attack started too quick. The massive fire blast was all Zhian could see, and the orange glow nearly blinded him. He creates a sphere of fire around his body, and he vanishes into the blast.
When Zuko's attack subsides, Zhian lets the fire around his body form a ring around his feet. As he inhales, the fire enlarges, growing taller and spreading wider. Zhian pulls the fire in front of him, compressing the flames into a brighter ball of fire that he suspends between his hands. Zhian bends his elbows, bringing the fire closer to his body. As he inhales again, the fire glows slightly brighter. He thrusts his arms forward, launching the ball towards Zuko. Despite bombarding the fire ball with several fire blasts, the attack would not disperse in any way.
Zuko rolls out of the way, inching slightly closer to Zhian. As Zuko rises to his feet, the two Firebenders stare at each other. Moving closer, the two young masters began trading fire jabs. Each would somehow manage to dodge the attacks of his opponent, while still readying their own. Eventually, Zuko's sleeve caught fire. The Fire Lord pushed Zhian away with a solid kick to the chest and stopped the growing flame on his clothes. "Is this all a Fire Lord can do? When I am Fire Lord, weakness such as yours will not be tolerated!" Zhian taunts, glaring at Zuko.
Zuko glances towards Zhian, whose armor is singed from the close-range combat. "The Fire Lords before me put their own benefit before the needs of their nation. I will not allow my nation to follow that path under anyone. I'd sooner die here than let you start another war."
"So be it!" Zhian replies, whirling his leg into the air and sending the resulting fire arc towards Zuko. Zuko divides the fire and lets it pass over him and pulls it into his hands. Zuko swings his arms and brings them together in front of him, launching the fire at the Phoenix Warrior. Zhian blocks the flames, though he cannot see Zuko from behind the inferno.
When the blaze clears, Zhian resumes his attack. The two walk in circles, trading massive arcs of fire as they work their way around the courtyard. Zhian aims a blast at the ground nearby Zuko's feet, knocking the Fire Lord off balance. Seeing his new opportunity, he launches a blast aimed at Zuko's chest. Zuko creates a fire wall to deflect the blast, but his lack of balance caused him to be knocked into the pillar behind him. As Zuko slumps to the ground, Zhian's face has a dark grin. "It is done!" Zhian exclaims as Team Avatar watches in shock. "I am the new Fire Lord!"
Cho regains consciousness with his face against the cold metal of the ship's deck. As he rises, he catches a glimpse of the carnage on shore, with Phoenix Warriors bound all across the plaza. "Looks like we've already been here," he says to himself. As he prepares to stroll off towards the capital, he sees three figures running towards the capital, all of whom are clearly under twenty. "What do we have here?" he mutters aloud, his face darkening into a sneer. Breaking off into a sprint, he exits the deck and readies himself to attack.
As he approaches, he inhales deeply. He sends a jet of fire at the running youth. "Zhentu!" Ty Lee exclaims. The former Phoenix raises a fire wall and blocks the blast and then allows it to fade.
"Who are you?" Zhentu asks, keeping the girls behind him.
Starring at the two, Cho begins devising a plan. "I'm a soldier; a ship captain who was summoned to the capital."
"It's been taken over by rebels," Ty Lee adds, believing the Warrior's ruse.
"That would probably be why I was sent here. Have you lived here for a while?" Cho asks, feigning a concerned tone.
"I've lived here almost my whole life," Ty Lee replies.
"I think you need protection." Cho's plan was unfolding perfectly, as the girl was pulling the group into his trap. "Come with me," he says, motioning towards his ship.
"But you just attacked us," Mai interjects. "What's wrong with you?"
"I thought you were rebels," Cho says, trying to reconcile his story.
"But how did you know that when you were back on your ship?" Zhentu asks, dealing irreparable damage to Cho's hopes.
"I'll be frank," Cho says, giving up his hopes of an easy capture. "I came here to bring the Fire Nation down from the inside. It appears it's already been done. So, I'm going to take you three nobles away so you can be used as leverage." The three friends remain shocked as Cho continues his rant. "So, are you going to go easily, or do I have to convince you otherwise?"
"You and what army?" Mai sneers, taunting the aging soldier.
"This one!" Cho shouts while sending a fire blast at the Fire Lady. Zhentu quickly steps in front of the blast and bats it aside, protecting Mai while infuriating Cho.
"Agni Kai!" Zhentu announces, hoping to halt Cho's rampage. As Cho hears the words, he stops his attack and stands up straight.
"You dare to challenge me?"
"What's wrong, baldy?" Zhentu shouts, suddenly infuriated by Cho's attitude.
Cho's sarcastic and controlling demeanor vanished as Zhentu's words left his lips. "What did you just call me?"
"Did I stutter?" Zhentu asks. "Or has your age made you deaf too?"
"I'll be waiting in the center of the plaza," Cho says, his voice barely sane as his anger consumed him.
As Cho paced away, Ty Lee begins voicing her concerns. "Zhentu, what are you doing?"
"I'm distracting him. Just look around," Zhentu says, motioning to the captured Phoenix Warriors strewn about the plaza. "Most of the Phoenix Warriors are already captured! He's probably one of the last ones. We can't let him escape, so I needed him to stay here. I'll try and hold him off long enough for the Fire Lord to arrive."
"But-" Ty Lee begins.
"I have to. If I don't, he'll kill you two. I can't let that happen."
"But-" the Kyoshi Warrior stutters again. Zhentu stops her argument by pressing his lips against hers, silencing any opposition.
"Try and stay safe," Zhentu asks gently, looking to Mai to ensure her protection. Turning to Cho, Zhian approaches the makeshift battlefield.
"I hope you said good bye to your girlfriend," Cho says, grinning while assuming a ready stance. "Because you're never going to see her again."
"I did," Zhentu replies, starting to regain his sarcastic demeanor from earlier. "But I will see her again. I'm not going to let some bald rebel keep me from her." Cho's smirk vanished, replaced by fury.
Cho's reply comes in the form of fire, creating a blast between his hands and hurling it towards Zhentu. As it approaches, Zhentu takes control and sends it into the ground. Cho sends a second blast soon after, which Zhentu divides in half. As the two fire balls dissipate, Zhentu sends a jet of fire from his foot at the Warrior, who rolls out of the way. Zhentu points his fingers at the Warrior, sending a horizontal arc of fire towards Cho.
Cho leaps over the fire and sends small fire balls raining down on Zhentu. Zhentu stands his ground, forming a small fire wall to shield himself. Zhentu lets one hand down, unraveling the wall and forming it into a whip. Zhentu slashes the whip towards Cho, who manages to deflect the whip whenever it nears him.
"Is that all you've got?" Cho says as a smirk flashes across his face.
Before Cho can react, Zhentu launches a fire blast at Cho's chest. Being distracted, the Phoenix was unable to block the full force of the attack and is knocked backwards onto the ground. "Is that all you've got?" Zhentu replies.
Cho springs to his feet and sends a volley of fire balls towards Zhentu. "No, it's not!" he screams as Zhentu dodges. As he avoids the final attack, Zhentu begins scheming. Taking advantage of his opponent's preoccupation, Cho launches a horizontal arc of fire at his young foe. After leaping into the air to avoid the fire, forms a fire ball between his hands. As Zhentu descends, he brings his hands apart, sending two arcs of fire blazing towards his enemy.
Cho rolls out of the way, deflecting part of the arc that was approaching his legs. As Zhentu lands, Cho sweeps his leg out from under him. "Now stay," Cho orders, moving closer and assuming a stance that signaled his fatal intentions.
"Not a chance," Zhentu says, kicking Cho's leg and distracting the Warrior. Zhentu springs to his feet and sends a fire blast at his opponent. As the blast connects, Cho collapses to the ground, lying sprawled out on the plaza floor.
Zhentu's friends approach, happy that he made it through the battle unscathed. "That was impressive," Mai notes, patting Zhentu on the back while Ty Lee throws her arms around the victor.
"That was amazing!" the noble exclaims as he wraps his arms around her. "I knew you had it in you!"
"To beat him? He wasn't a master or anything," Zhentu says, undermining his accomplishment.
"No," she says. "To help people."
"Well," Mai begins. "We've got more people to help, and they're in the Capital." The group nods in agreement and run along the path they had blazed before their interruption.
Suddenly, Cho springs to his feet, launching a fire blast that approached the three friends. Zhentu, sensing the blast, turned and parted the blast, sending each half into the sky. Before Zhentu could counterattack, Mai hurls a dagger at the Warrior, stabbing the left side of his chest. Cho stops in his tracks, collapsing to first his knees, then falling on his torso and pushing the blade further into him.
As the other two look at Mai in shock, she decides to explain her reaction on the way to the Capital. "I did more than throw daggers at the wall when I was bored years ago. I found out that if someone violates the terms of an Agni Kai, they are to be sentenced to death," Mai explains, though no one had planned on asking.
"Oh, I guess you just saved someone the job," Zhentu mumbles as he slowly pulls ahead of the others.
Conquering the Phoenix
Iroh pursues his one-time assailant through the Capital. As Jiang turns a corner, he assumes a stance behind the building. Iroh turns as well, though he sees Jiang preparing to attack. "Why can't you accept the superiority of your nation?" Jiang asks the General.
"We're no better than they are," Iroh responds, still trying to get through to the delusional Warrior.
"They why must we lower ourselves to their level?" Jiang responds. "If they are our equal, they should have proven it a hundred years ago!"
"It is not that they are beneath us," Iroh retorts. "You have placed yourself above them!"
"They are all beneath us!" Jiang shouts while sending a jet of fire at Iroh. Iroh turns, letting the blast pass him while barely moving. Jiang creates an arc of fire that and sends it towards Iroh. The Dragon, however, stands his ground and allows the blast to flow around him. He sends the blast back to its creator with a powerful kick, having focused the flowing fire into a single stream. As Jiang ducks, the blast passes over his head and into the building behind him, creating a hole in the wall. Iroh inhales, a certain twinkle signaling Jiang's difficulty in dealing with the next attack. Iroh sends a powerful jet of fire from his mouth, aiming the blast at Jiang's head.
Jiang evades the attack, rolling to his right and swinging his fingers through the air. As Iroh stops the fire from his mouth, Jiang points his fingers at Iroh's heart, the lightning preparing to end one of the last of the Fire Nation royalty. As Jiang pointed his finger, Iroh smiled due to the simplicity of his victory. Iroh intercepts the lightning with the same fingers as the Admiral, passing the energy through his arm and to his stomach before following the same path out his opposite arm.
Jiang watches in astonishment as Iroh's arm begins shifting in his direction. Iroh points his finger to the ground in front of the Phoenix, sending the Warrior into the crater that had been made by his own fire moments before. Jiang struggled to move, though Iroh stood firm. "I didn't want to have to end it like this," Iroh says, regretting the fate of a former comrade.
Feeling sharp pains in his back and sides, Jiang's voice withered away to barely a whisper. "It's never over."
"It's over today!" a voice from a side ally calls. Zhentu runs up to the battle site, positioning himself between the Dragon and the Phoenix.
"You?" Jiang asked, furious that he had failed to eliminate two of his most hated enemies. "How?" he asks in a hiss.
"After you killed Ozai, I managed to escape your guards. I made it to the cargo hold, where I threw a box overboard to throw you off my trail. I switched ships when you were attacking an island, and I found the Fire Lady when you attacked the Capital." Zhentu was gaining confidence, empowered by his confrontation with the man who once controlled his fate.
"You are pathetic. Your family was killed by a Waterbender savage, and you now wish to call them your equals?" Jiang says, wincing as his verbal attack robs him of his breath.
"They were, but I'm not letting that change anything. Those Waterbenders were just like you, attempting to justify the slaughter of many for the gain of the few. I will not let you continue terrorizing the world!" Zhentu screams as Ty Lee and Mai arrive.
"You are denying yourself," Jiang wheezes. "You are their better! I pity you for your ignorance."
"No, I pity you. You truly believe that you are right. What you don't understand is that you've always been wrong. The Fire Nation was wrong for a hundred years. It may take us that long to make things right again, but it must happen," Zhentu sternly replies, pointing out the flaws in Jiang's way of life.
"I-" Jiang struggles to stand again, though the dire toll of his many battles caught up with him. His back lay pressed against the stone of the building and he was utterly incapable of motion. "This is not over. We will rise again," Jiang says between coughs.
"I won't let it continue," Zhentu says, closing his eyes and sending a blast of fire at Jiang's chest. The Admiral's shock remained on his face after his life ended, though he was clearly a shadow of his former self. "I'm sorry for you," Zhentu says to the body. "I wish you could have seen what was right and how you were wrong."
Iroh paces up to Zhentu, placing his hand on his shoulder. "He could not accept balance. His blind adherence to the beliefs forced upon him caused his ruin. He was a good leader, and could have helped the world."
"Anyone can help the world," Zhentu says. "But they must know where to start."
"What do we do now?" Ty Lee asks.
"We're going to find Zuko," Mai responds, taking charge of the group.
"We should try the palace first," Iroh suggests. "If there are any Phoenix Warriors left, they would make that their last line of defense." Leaving Jiang's body in its crater, the group runs towards the palace, lead by Iroh and Zhentu.
Zhian turns from Zuko's limp body and sees that Jiang had left. "I wonder what happened to that coward..." he mutters to himself. "I'll just banish him when I find him," Zhian concludes while turning to face Team Avatar. "And now, what should I do with you?"
"What did you do to him?" Katara snaps.
Zhian brushes off the severity of Katara's question, instead deciding to remain condescending. "I don't know, exactly. All that matters is that I have won. That excuse for Fire Lord will never plague this world again. I will also ask you to leave my capital," Zhian concludes.
Aang steps forward, calmly passing his friends. "I have been told that it is my job as Avatar to protect balance. I will not stand for any uprising like this." Before Aang can continue, Zhian decides to ask a question.
"Then how did I get here? If you 'will not stand for any uprising,' how did I manage to conquer the capital and defeat that imbecile?" Zhian queries, his voice descending to almost a hiss.
"Never mind that," Toph shouts, taking up for Aang, who knew he would not do so for himself. "You're not staying Fire Lord!" she announces.
"Do you want my title?" the Warrior asks. "Come and get it!" Toph responds with a pillar of earth aimed for his torso. Zhian easily sidesteps and sends a blazing arc at Team Avatar. Aang disperses the arc and charges forward, sending air jets at the Warrior. Zhian avoids each blast and sends small balls of fire at each member, who manages to avoid injury in one way or another. Aang leaps into the air and sends a jet of air that blocked a blast aimed for Sokka.
The Water Tribe Warrior throws his boomerang at the Phoenix, though Zhian sends a thin stream of fire that deflects it. Zhian sends a jet of fire towards Sokka, but Katara pulls him out of the way. Letting go of Sokka, Katara moves the water in three parallel blades towards Zhian. He moves a stream of fire in front of himself, watching as the blades approach. As they get within striking distance, Zhian causes the blast to explode, evaporating the liquid before it can cause harm.
"Is that all the other elements are capable of?" Zhian taunts as Team Avatar regroups. "And you dare to call yourselves my equals?"
"Yes, we do!" Toph replies, stomping the ground and twisting her arms. The ground erupts in front of her, creating several pillars that all converge at Zhian. The Colonel leaps into the air, but is blown off balance by an air blast. Forming a whip from Katara's water, Aang wraps Zhian's leg, pulling him from the air and thrusting him into the ground.
The Rightful Ruler
Zhentu leads Iroh, Ty Lee and Mai towards the Royal palace. The group arrives after a prolonged period of running, and everyone but Iroh was out of breath. Iroh enters the plaza, looking for a way to help. He sees Team Avatar battling someone, but also sees another body on the far side of the atrium. As he approaches, he notices that it is the body of his nephew, the Fire Lord. He lifts Zuko's unconscious body, propping him up against the pillar that had knocked him unconscious moments before. "Zuko," the General mumbles to his apprentice.
Zuko lets out a small groan as his eyes flutter open. "Uncle?"
"Yes, Zuko. It's me. From the looks of things, you may be needed," Iroh replies gently while glancing towards the battle. "You must end this yourself. This is an internal affair, and you must defeat him on your own." Zuko stands up, turning and hugging his uncle before running off to the battle.
Zhian remained pinned to the ground, surrounded by too many potential attackers to attempt an escape. "So this is the savagery that Sozin attempted to contain," Zhian sneers, shifting his view around to each of his opponents.
"And this is the savagery that must go!" Zuko adds from behind the team. Each member turns in shock to see Zuko walking up from behind them.
"Zuko?" Katara asks, her tone conveying the shock of everyone present.
"Yes. Thank you for your help," he says, "but this is something I have to do alone," he concludes as he paces past his friends to stand in front of Zhian.
"You again?" the Warrior states, seizing the opportunity to rise to his feet. "I guess I should have killed you when I had the chance. No matter, I've got another one already."
Team Avatar slowly retreats to Iroh's location, watching Zuko and Zhian stare at each other. "I won't let you cause any more mayhem," Zuko says sternly. "This ends today."
"Yes, yes it will." Zhian assumes his stance as Zuko does the same.
Zhian makes the first move, launching many blasts in rapid succession. Zuko deflects or diverts each without flinching. Zuko finally rolls out of the way of one blast, quickly regaining his footing and launching his counterattack. As Zhian dodges, Zuko begins moving his fingers through the air around him. The Phoenix looked at Zuko, who had successfully created lightning. "You can do that?" Zhian asks. "Why couldn't you last time?"
The Fire Lord's answer was the bolt the Colonel had been surprised he was able to create. "I know what I'm fighting for. I know what I have to do for the world. You won't stop me!" Zuko says, launching a fire blast at the rebellious officer. Zhian splits the blast and sends a strong blast at his foe's feet.
Zuko stumbles back and Zhian advances. While regaining his balance, Zuko glances towards Zhian's footing. With a smirk Zuko changes his direction, moving forward. A stunned Zhian barely has time to react to Zuko's sudden change in direction, but still launches a fire blast towards Zuko's face. As Zuko planned, he ducked and swept Zhian's feet from under him. While rising, Zuko launches a fire blast at the falling Warrior. Zhian watches the fire blast approach, but is too distraught to react. The blast connects, flipping his body face down as Zhian falls backwards towards the ground.
Leaving Zhian's corpse to be consumed by the flames around it, Zuko turns in the direction of his friends. While his gaze is panning around the plaza, he sees the figure of his wife entering the area. "Mai?" the Fire Lord whispers to himself, overcome with joy. He sprints to her, wrapping his arms around her and resting his head on hers. "How did you get here?"
"Zhentu powered the boat so we could get back here," Mai explains as Ty Lee and Zhentu appear from behind a wall.
"Fire Lord," Zhentu says, walking closer before falling to his knees. "Please forgive me for dishonoring you. I never meant to do anything to harm our nation. Your anger is justified and I will leave as soon as I can, but I had to bring your wife back to you. I had to make amends for my actions against the Fire Nation, and while they are enough to heal my conscience, I know they may not earn your acceptance."
Zuko leans forward and lifts Zhentu back to his feet. "After everything I said to you on Ember Island, you still risked your life to bring me something that I care for most. You risked your life to save your country. You restored your own honor, and I thank you, as a war hero, for your valiant service of the Fire Nation."
Zhentu bows again as a tear falls down his face. "Thank you," he says. "For everything." By the time Zhentu raises his head to look at the Fire Lord, his friends surrounded him.
"Well, everything is done now," Sokka says, patting Aang and Zuko on the back. "What do we do now?"
Glancing to Iroh, Zuko smiles. "Rest."
Iroh returns the grin, his face relaxing to a look of pure contentment. "A man needs his rest."
By the next morning, Zuko had already begun restoring the capitol. The military had been freed from their imprisonment, filling the emptied cells with the captured Phoenix Warriors. Ursa had been brought to the royal palace by Mai, Iroh and Zuko, who went out to the ship to retrieve her. Team Avatar relaxed in the palace, exhausted from the seemingly endless conflict they just ended. By mid-day, the large group had gathered in a single room, all sharing stories and relieving the burden they had felt for too long.
"And then, he tried to tell us a story about a man with a sword for a hand!" Toph finishes, making the entire room, save Sokka, laugh.
"It was going to be a good story! It would have been really scary!"
"I'm sure it would be," Suki says as Sokka mopes.
"What's taking Mom so long?" Zuko asks rhetorically. The Princess was the only person missing from the gathering, and the Fire Lord wanted her to be with him.
"I'll go check on her," Mai says, rising from her seat and giving Zuko a small kiss before exiting the room. The Fire Lady walks through the corridors, eventually finding Ursa's room.
"Princess Ursa?" Mai's dreary voice calls while knocking on the door.
"Yes, Fire Lady?" Ursa's soothing voice replies as she exits her room.
"I've already asked you not to call me that," Mai says, trying to downgrade her status.
"Don't worry about it. I never wanted to be Fire Lady. But I know you will do a good job, and treat Zuko right."
"I'll certainly try," Mai says with a grin.
"I could not have picked anyone better for him. You two will have a long, happy life together."
"I hope so."
"I've traveled around the world, Mai. I've seen a lot of things. What you have with Zuko is meant to be." As Mai smiles, Ursa wraps arms around her daughter-in-law. "And I know that anything you do for him, you would do out of love." As Mai blushes, Ursa lets her arms go back to her side. "Zuko is waiting for us. We should go." The two ladies walk back into the room, where Zuko stood in front of the group. The two take their seats and wait for Zuko to begin.
Zuko steps forward, letting out a small sigh before speaking. "Thank you all for what you have done. Each of you has helped me towards our goal of restoring balance to the world." The Fire Lord turns his head towards Aang, sending his friend a special message. "For some of you, it's your job; but regardless, it is done out of love and compassion. I know there is still work to be done, but since we all need our rest, I say we look back upon today proud of our accomplishments and humble for the future. Thank you all, and let us continue on the path to an era of peace."
As the room breaks out into applause, Katara motions for Aang to follow her outside. The Avatar complies, finding Katara standing alone watching the palace gardens. "Hey," Aang says to get her attention.
"Oh, hey." Aang walks up to her and kisses her cheek, pulling away to see the Waterbender smiling.
"We did it," Aang states.
"Did what?" Katara asks.
"We stopped everything. The world is at peace."
"There will always be war. Everything won't stay like this forever." Katara places her hands on the gates, leaning on the metal.
"I know. But I know that we'll always be able to make things right," he replies, placing his hand on hers.
Inside, Zhentu pulls Ty Lee out of the main group. "Ty Lee, uh, would you like to go on a date with me?" the Firebender awkwardly asks.
"That sounds excellent!" she exclaims, reacting much better than Zhentu had planned. "Where?"
"I hear that the Ember Island Players is performing 'Love Amongst the Dragons' for a limited engagement in a week. Does that sound okay?"
"I love that idea! I can't wait to go!" she says, throwing her arms around Zhentu, who hugs her in return. Having listened to this conversation, the entire room begins laughing.
"What?" Zhentu asks the room, who remain unable to tell him what is wrong.
"You'll find out," Aang says, looking at everyone who had seen a play put on by the group. Grabbing Katara's hand, he feels pure bliss. "Everything will be better from now on."
The idea for this chapter took on many different forms throughout the production of Avatar: Guardian. Several outcomes were considered, including Jeong Jeong killing Jiang Rha, Iroh killing Jiang Rha, Iroh killing Zhian and Zhentu killing Zhian. Each idea had its own failed plotline behind it, though each line subtly influenced the final outcome.
Following the introduction of both Zhian and Cho, The Bos knew he had to remove them as threats, as he already had finalized that Jiang Rha's defeat would be at Iroh's hands. He had already came up with the idea of a Zhentu-Ty Lee romance, so he needed to find something for the three to do while Team Avatar battled Zhian and Iroh dueled Jiang.
Since The Bos planned Iroh's duel with Jiang, he had to make sure that he ended up in the capital along with the other characters. After his apparent death, The Bos planned his path to the capital, planning Cho's takeover of the ship to allow for the confrontation to occur.
Many sections of this chapter were written during the production of the beginning of Book 3. The Bos had already planned Zhian's death, so he began writing scenes from the Agni Kai soon after the final detail was finalized. As The Bos wrote a line of dialogue, it quickly would sprout into several other lines, creating a conversation from every idea. In effect, this chapter was written around several scenes that had already been completed. During the production of the other finale chapters, The Bos began writing more scenes for this chapter, creating the specific scenarios that allowed the characters to meet for their final battles.
Reviews for 'The True Heart' were all positive. blog, praising the series and its accomplishments, and highlighted 'The True Heart' as monumental in Guardian's development as "a deep reflexive look into the monster that is human greed." Eventually, the series was voted into being the featured article in May of 2011, as Guardian's final featured article., a recently prominent user, gave The Bos a "thumbs up" for the chapter, before lamenting Azula's death in a prior chapter. was left speechless, refusing to believe that the series was finally finished. agreed, praising the "great ending." made a massive
- The idea of Zhentu meeting Jiang Rha before his death was suggested by .
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