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|The Final Battle, Part 1: Old Friends|
About two weeks had passed since Team Avatar's battle with Long Feng and Hong Wu. The heroes were making great time. "Alright, now before we meet up with the others, I just want to clarify something," Aang spoke loudly for everyone to hear. "No matter what happens today, we are still going to fight together, as a team. We are going to take the Fire Nation back not as nine kids, a lemur, and a bison, but as a family."
"Right on, Twinkle Toes!" Toph said, showing her enthusiasm.
"Look, there is the White Lotus!" Katara said, pointing to the large camp below them.
"And there are the Earth King's soldiers," Sokka added, seeing the caterpillar tanks coming towards the encampment. Aang landed Appa and the team dismounted.
"Hello again, Team Avatar," said a voice belonging to an old man.
"Uncle, it's good to see you," Zuko greeted Iroh.
"Is everyone ready?" asked Ai.
"Yes, we have been waiting for you and a few others to arrive," replied Piandao.
"Hello again, Master Piandao," Sokka said, bowing respectfully towards his master, who walked off to join the rest of the group.
"Hey, guys," said a man with a typical Earth Kingdom beard.
"Omar, you're free!" Ai said, happily.
"How did you break out of prison?" Suki asked.
"The new Warden is not the brightest guy in the Fire Nation," said a man with long, rough hair and a mustache.
"This is my friend, Ping," Omar said, introducing his friend. The two walked away from Team Avatar and sat down with the main group.
"Hello again, friends!" said a happy voice.
"Hey, Gaizao!" Katara greeted their friend.
"Who is he?" Mai questioned.
"He is a guy we met when you two were on your own," replied Kato. One more person came over to visit her friends, "Hey, guys! It's good to see you all again!" Ty Lee said as she cartwheeled over to Team Avatar.
"Hey, Ty Lee!" said Mai, excited to see her old friend. "How are you?"
"I'm great! After I healed from the fight with that nasty guy with the knives, I've been helping the girls with their Chi Blocking lessons," Ty Lee said, happily.
"That's great. I'm glad you are happy," Mai said. Ty Lee then cartwheeled over to sit with everyone else. Aang searched the crowd for any more familiar faces. He saw Ty Lee and the other Kyoshi Warriors, the Foggy Swampbenders, Master Pakku, his old friend, King Bumi, Jeong Jeong, the Freedom Fighters, the Ba Sing Se Resistance members, and a woman who Iroh had told him and his friends about in his stories of imprisonment. Her name was Ming. There were also about one-hundred Earth Kingdom soldiers, along with General Danao, and there were about two-hundred Fire Nation soldiers present as well. The last people Aang noticed were the White Lotus members sitting in the front.
"So, Iroh, is everyone here?" Aang questioned the old man.
"No, we are expecting a few more," Iroh responded. Just like that, the Southern Water Tribe ships appeared from the fog and docked right on the beach near the encampment. After a few minutes, Chief Hakoda, Bato, and the other Southern Water Tribe warriors reached the camp.
"Dad!" Katara exclaimed, happily as she and her brother ran over to hug their father.
"Hello, Katara. Hello Sokka." Hakoda greeted his children.
"Now we are ready," Iroh announced. "Aang, they are all expecting you to make a speech."
Aang was taken off guard by this. "Knock 'em dead, buddy!" said Sokka, pushing Aang up towards the front of the crowd.
He accidentally bumped into a few Earth Kingdom soldiers. "Sorry," He apologized. The Air Nomad Airbent himself on top of a rock in front of the crowd. "Okay, everyone please lend me your attention," he started. The crowd fell silent. "Today, we take back the Fire Nation! I would like to thank everyone here for being strong, brave, and willing enough to take the risk of what is about to happen today. Not everyone will come back alive. It is my duty and my duty alone to deal with something like this, but we are not here because it is our responsibility, we are here because it's right! We are here because we will not let these people start another one-hundred-year war! We are here because-"
Aang was interrupted before he could finish. "Avatar Aang, we have received a message for you!" shouted a man in Fire Nation attire. Aang jumped down from the rock, went over to the man, and read the message aloud, 'Avatar, you have humiliated me for the final time. It is time we settle our conflict once and for all. Meet me in the Yinghua Mountains, ten miles from your resistance camp. Sincerely, Jun.' Aang pondered the letter for a moment and then decided. "I have to go."
"What? Aang, what happened to fighting as a family?" Katara reminded her boyfriend of what he had said earlier.
"I know what I said, Katara, but I have to face Jun." Aang stated. "You guys understand, right?"
"Of course we do," Ai spoke.
"Yes, you need to take care of him, Aang," Zuko agreed.
"Thanks, guys. But who will lead the mission?"
"I'll handle it," Zuko declared. "As Fire Lord, I will reclaim my nation from Banhen's tyranny. If you see my sister, make sure you finish her for me." Aang nodded in response. "Alright, everyone, listen up! We are moving out in exactly ten minutes, so get yourselves prepared!" Zuko ordered.
Team Avatar got together to say their final goodbyes. "I have some things to say to you guys in case I don't come back," Aang said. "Kato, I was not sure about letting you join us at first, but you have really proven yourself to be a true friend and have even risked your life to save one of us. You are a true friend,"
Kato smiled at Aang's statement.
"Ai, when we left Ba Sing Se after the liberation, I never thought we would see you again, much less as a member of our group. You have fought alongside us in many battles and I am proud to call you my friend as well,"
Ai blushed at Aang's words.
"Mai, when I first met you, I have to admit I thought we would always be enemies. However, you have proven otherwise. You are one of the best friends I have ever had,"
Mai was happy to hear this, as she had been feeling guilty lately about earning Aang's trust and then abandoning him for a while.
"Suki, you have always been a great help to us. Whether you were just tagging along, fighting as one of us, or stealing precious necklaces, you have always been an amazing friend,"
Suki was suddenly very happy she had not gone back to Kyoshi Island as she had planned to do before this whole conflict with Jun started.
"Zuko, I don't care what the Sons of Ozai say about you; you are the greatest Fire Lord I have ever known. And unlike your great-grandfather, you managed to maintain your friendship with an Avatar instead of being a horrible monster. I'm honored to have you as a friend,"
Zuko smiled and pondered Aang's words.
They really meant a lot. "Appa, Momo, you guys have been the greatest pets anyone could ask for. You have saved our necks several times before and I want to thank you for that."
Appa let out a low growl and Momo, a few chirps.
"Toph, even though you have put me through some pain in the past, you have always been one of the closest friends I have ever had. We may be total opposites, but I don't care, because under that hard, Earthbending exterior, you have a good heart."
"Thanks, Aang," Toph spoke, simply.
"Sokka, we may not have liked each other very much at first, but you have been with me ever since Katara found me in the iceberg and I am truly honored to be friends with the best warrior in the Southern Tribe," Aang said, although he was humoring Sokka about being the best Southern Tribe warrior.
"Katara, I-" Aang did not need to say anything more. He was silenced by Katara's lips meeting his. The two continued to share a kiss for a long time. "I love you," Aang said as they were finished.
"Please come back alive," Katara urged.
"I will." Aang twirled open his glider and flew away. The Avatar faded and faded until he was finally out of sight.
"Alright, everyone, let's go!" Zuko called out.
Aang continued soaring through the sky until he finally reached the Yinghua Mountains. He landed but saw no one around. "Avatar Aang!" Aang looked up and saw four figures high above him, standing on mountaintops. Jun leapt down and jet propelled the ground to slow himself. Azula and Zhao did the same thing while Long Feng slid down the mountainside. Aang and Jun looked each other directly in the eyes. "It is time to end this!!" Jun shouted, his voice echoing across the mountains.
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