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Chapter 16: The Procession
The child ran for Central Hall; he had to see him. He had to see his grandfather. The night air whipped by as his lungs burned.
When all else fails, look for me at Central Hall.
He would find him. And soon, because the building now loomed before him.
The shattering of glass drew his attention upwards, and what he saw caused his heart to beat faster. "Grandfather!!"
Kiryu Iran was hanging by one arm, and the Airbender was leaning over him. The child's eyes widened as the bender knelt down, and for a moment the boy thought he was reaching to save him.
A smile came to the child's face as Kiryu Iran glanced down at him, but his heart dropped as his grandfather did the same. He looked on in horror as his only remaining family plummeted to his death.
He hit the ground with a sickening thud, and the child felt the bile rise in his stomach.
Team Avatar sprinted through the already broken metal door. Aang grimaced. I only hope I'm not too late!
Chikyuu and Fiora had run into them, rambling about Iran's grandson having gone missing and the other four having gone to "finish the fight".
The idea of their children in mortal danger spurred them to reach the Central Hall in record time, and all felt momentary relief upon seeing Kyani, San, Pema, and Lu Ten alive.
When their eyes wandered, however...that was a different matter.
"Such carnage..." Aang noticed. "They shouldn't have had to see this so young..."
Charred remains were scattered about, and the Avatar and his allies took particular note of Solf Koruhagi's corpse lying against the wall, blood soaking the ground beneath it.
Sokka, in particular, paled when he noticed Kyani's shotos resting in the body. He breathed a sigh of semi-relief when he saw that Kyani looked untouched, physically anyways.
"My son...did you...?"
Kyani looked away as San put a steadying hand on his shoulder. "No...I didn't kill him, but I wanted to."
The Grand Lotus raised an eyebrow. "What are you—?"
"I would have...but they stopped me." Tears fell from his eyes. "They stopped me from becoming a monster."
"We promised that we'd stand by you, no matter what." Sanaki lifted him to his feet, and Yun smiled. They had raised her well. "And we all intend to keep that promise."
Meanwhile, Zuko gripped his son's shoulders. "Are you hurt?"
"No, Dad, I'm fine." The Crown Prince's tone was a mix of gratitude and confusion. "We beat them."
The next words to come out of his mouth never actually made it as the air was crushed out of him by his father's embrace.
Weird... He thought as he returned the gesture.
The Avatar made his way over to Pema. "Where is my son?"
She glanced toward the lift. "He went up to confront Iran."
Aang's eyes widened. "By himself!?" I'm so sorry, Katara...
He pressed the button to call the lift, praying that he wouldn't be too late. "I'm going up after him!" He said to no one in particular.
"I'm coming, too." Pema replied.
He shook his head. "Out of the question."
She narrowed her eyes and moved closer to the Airbender. "I'm going!"
Aang almost shuddered. He knew that look.
The night wind blew through the shattered window, and Tenzin stood stunned. Kiryu Iran had just killed himself!
"Why...?" He couldn't help but feel somewhat responsible, at least for a moment. He shook the guilt away. He made his choice.
"Tenzin!" The young Airbender whirled around as his father rushed into the office and wrapped his arms around his son. "I am so glad you're safe!"
Tenzin closed his eyes. "Sorry, Dad..."
Aang gripped his shoulders. "What are you—?"
"Tenzin..." Pema glanced around the room, noting the destruction. "Where's Kiryu Iran?"
He frowned. "He took his own life. I offered him my hand, and he chose to fall. I don't understand..."
"That doesn't matter." She smiled. "You proved yourself the better man."
The Air Nomad walked toward the door. "I don't feel like it."
The child knelt over the body of his grandfather, and he was confused. Why had this happened? Why had his grandfather died? The tears flowed heavily; he was now truly alone.
"It is a pity that a visionary like Kiryu Iran had to die..."
The boy spun around to face the unexpected voice. "Who...who are you?"
The man chuckled. "I apologize...I should've introduced myself. My name is Lin Quei, and I was one of your grandfather's associates. He instructed me to take you in if anything were to happen to him."
The boy sniffled. "Why? Why did he have to die?"
Lin Quei shook his head. "I'm not sure why, but I am sure that he would want you to carry on his legacy, with a little help of course." He removed the mask from Kiryu Iran's face and handed it to the child. "We are going to look for someone very special."
The boy took it and nodded slowly. "And you'll help me? I don't know what any of this is, and I don't know what he wanted."
The man smiled warmly. "Of course. I will be beside you every step of the way."
They were all dressed in their best, but the occasion was a somber one. Katara had arrived a day earlier, and Aang and his wife found comfort in each other.
Tenzin knew what was coming, but was surprised when the tears came anew at Sora's funeral. The service was a beautiful one, yet it still drove spikes of pain into the hearts of all present. Lu Ten and Fiora stood and bowed respectfully, as Fire Nations nobles, and Chikyuu found solace in her mother's arms. Zheng put his arm on Tenzin's shoulder, and the brothers mourned together.
Kyani, meanwhile, simply sat, eyes to the ground. He couldn't bring himself to even look at the casket. I lost it...I...I couldn't even honor her memory...
Yun Zhen held his wife's hand while San stood beside them, glancing around at her friends. Her gaze fell on Kyani, and she winced, remembering his rage, his hatred.
She stood and turned to her mother. "Mom, I have to—."
Ty Lee nodded. "I know. Go."
As San approached her friend, the swordsman turned away.
He had no response.
"Please, talk to me..." She gripped his shoulder, but he jerked away.
"I don't deserve your friendship, your kindness." He couldn't even look her in the eyes. "I am a monster, worse than Koruhagi!"
Crack! The slap echoed throughout Central Hall, causing every head to turn.
"No! You are NOT Koruhagi! Not even close!!" Tears gathered in her eyes. "Kyani, you are a good man..."
His eyes were wide as she exited the hall. "San...I..."
The eyes of the Crown Prince narrowed for a moment, closing as he realized the extent of the situation. He stood and made his way over to the swordsman, bypassing Sokka, who was still in too much of a shock to act.
When he stood above Kyani, the Firebender saw the tears hit the floor anew. "You know what you have to do."
Tenzin watched the spectacle unfold, saddened by his cousin's inability to find himself. A smile played at the edges of his mouth; he was no stranger to that feeling. Now though, now he had a plan.
His heart sank when his mother released herself from Aang's grasp to glance at the casket. Even though his guilt had lessened, the Airbender couldn't help a twinge of it returning. Zheng noticed his brother's discomfort and laid a hand on his shoulder.
"This too shall pass, little brother."
The chuckle that came next was devoid of mirth. "You make it sound easy."
"Perhaps...but it's all in how you view things." Zheng inhaled. "We'll see her again."
Tenzin smiled once more. "That I do know."
Kyani found San not in the hallway, but out in the courtyard where she rested her head against the wall.
Both warriors awkwardly occupied these close quarters until Kyani could finally muster the courage to speak.
"Kyani." The reply was cold, and a sick feeling grew in his stomach.
"For what?" She didn't even look in his direction.
A gasp escaped Sanaki as Kyani gripped her shoulders and turned her around, pressing his forehead against hers. "For forcing you to pull me back..." Silent sobs wracked his body, and the Firebender's eyes shut as she embraced her friend.
"Kyani..." She pulled away so that they could meet face-to-face. "You have to stop this. You are not a monster, alright?"
"You know what I wanted."
"No, I only saw someone trying to honor Sora's memory."
"I am so lost."
Sanaki smiled. "So let's work on finding you again."
Here we go... Lu Ten nodded to Fiora, and both siblings made a beeline for their father, who was having a conversation with Iroh.
"Dad, we have to talk." They stood ready, one in purpose.
"Not now, I—."
"Dad. Now." Fiora interrupted, causing Iroh to smile and step back, and Zuko's eyes to widen.
"Uh...yeah, sure, Sweetie..."
The three Fire Nation nobles stepped off to the side.
"What did you two want to talk about?" He nearly sighed as Yun Zhen's rebuke came to the forefront of his mind.
"Father," Lu Ten began with formalities. "We think you are...well...it seems like you..."
"You don't give us the time of day." The princess finished when her brother stumbled over his words.
That wasn't quite how Lu Ten would've put it, but it was the truth.
"Well, that's not exactly—!"
"You've put your job as Fire Lord above your duty as a father!"
Zuko gritted his teeth. "Now, Fiora—!"
"She's right! You don't have time for us anymore!" The Crown Prince looked away. "I know your other responsibilities are important, but you have been ignoring us for years!"
The Fire Lord opened his mouth, but no suitable reply could be found.
Yun was right...I have failed my children.
"Don't you have anything to say!?" Fiora cried. "Anything at all!?"
"Yes..." Zuko pulled both of his children close. "I'm so sorry."
"I guess this is it." Aang and Zuko embraced as the airship powered up behind them. "I'll be sure to bring Katara and the boys to visit once in a while."
A chuckle escaped Zuko. "You know they aren't children anymore, although I think Tenzin might just to escape the South Pole."
"What exactly would I do?" The Airbender landed off to the side and closed his glider.
"Well, we won't have to worry about the South Pole." Aang smiled. "Your mother and I agreed on a...'summer home'...here in Republic City."
Tenzin's eyes widened. "Really? What brought that on?"
The Fire Lord waved his goodbye. "And on that note..." He added with a smile. "Goodbye, my friend."
"See you later, Zuko."
"So, Dad..." Aang's son tapped him on the shoulder. "What's this about a summer home?!"
"I'm glad you asked." He pointed to a piece of land out on the water. "See that? That'll be our home away from home: Air Temple Island. Pema will be welcome to stay with us in the South Pole until we can find other arrangements for her."
Tenzin grinned. "Awesome."
"It is. And your father was very generous with his offer for the island." Katara sidled up to her husband. "The boy couldn't contain his excitement when he was offered 250,000 yuans for the property."
The Avatar smiled. "Yes, I believe young Mr. Sato will make something of himself yet."
"Whatever you say, Dad; I'm gonna take Teela out for a ride. It'll give us both some fresh air, and I'll have a chance to meditate."
Aang raised an eyebrow as his son hopped onto the Sky Bison's back. "You? Meditate? Since when?"
Another grin was his only reply.
San, Fiora, and Lu Ten looked on as the airship powered up. It was almost time for them to leave.
"Are you three ready to go?" Zuko strode up and put his arms around his children. "When we get back, we'll get some R&R on Ember Island, and we'll talk about the future." The smiles that met the Fire Lord once again reaffirmed that he had made the right choice. They all had.
"Yeah, let's go home."
The three nobles made their way up the ramp, but Lu Ten turned around momentarily. "You coming, San?"
"No, I'm going to wait for my parents. We'll meet you inside."
He shrugged and entered the airship.
"You're staying, then?" Aang and Katara stood with Toph and Chikyuu.
"Yeah, I need to make sure that there aren't any more Equalists left, and Chikyuu has decided that she wants to begin Metalbending."
Katara smiled warmly. "She's a very powerful bender by all accounts; you must be very proud." The Waterbender glanced at Chikyuu, who grinned widely.
The Blind Bandit returned the smile with a grin. "Yeah, she takes after her mother."
They all shared a laugh as they embraced, old friends together again.
"Well...I am tired, and I think we can all agree that we need our time." Aang smiled sadly. "Katara, the boys, and I will be heading back to the South Pole to...finish pulling ourselves together, and then we'll be back."
"I am looking forward to that day, Twinkle Toes."
Kyani sat on the edge of the water, with the wind rolling over him. So much had happened within the past week.
Hell, within the past month. He had grown apart, it seemed, from his parents.
"So...I hear that you're going with Tenzin and his family..." The bookworm sat down next to him, a contented smile on her face. "You'll visit us, right?"
He sighed. "I need this time away, but, yes, once I return home, I'll make plans to visit you guys."
"Kyani...look at me..."
He did, and, to his surprise, she was grinning. "What are you staring at?!"
"How'd your parents react to the singed hair?" She indicated the blackened strands on his head.
Despite his best efforts, a chuckle escaped him. "That wasn't necessary, y'know! The slap woke me up plenty, and now I had to tell them that you beat me in a training session!"
Her expression grew serious. "I told you; we'd find you together. I still intend to keep that promise."
"Well, then..." He brought himself to his feet and offered San his hand. "You'll just have to wait 'til I get back; won't you?"
She took it. "I guess I will."
A final gurgle signaled the Equalist's demise, and Doma couldn't deny that it made him feel powerful. After weeks of study and preparation, the answer to the Waterbender girl's power had come to him, almost as if someone had revealed it.
And he had used it. Any Equalist caught in his path fell. And now...
Bam! Bam! The Waterbender's heart stopped; that knock meant trouble. This couldn't be happening now!
Crash! The door caved in, and he came through the door, flanked by his lackeys.
"Doma...Doma...Doma...tsk..." His sneer grew, and the Waterbender backed away. "You owe me a great deal of money, and I've come to collect."
"Yakone...please...give me more time. I can—!"
The man snapped his fingers, causing his flunkies to rush at the flustered bender. Doma didn't have time to think, only react. Stretching out his hands, he easily ensnared the two, as well as Yakone.
"Hurk! Wha...what is this?!"
"Your reckoning, you fool!" His eyes began to take on a red tinge. "Your crime boss ways will no longer hurt anyone!"
Yakone felt the fiery pain inch up his body as it contorted, and he watched his men die as their bones snapped. At the same time, though, he could feel his bodily fluid as the source.
Could it be...?
He had to try. He reached inward and pushed back, quickly standing erect once more.
Doma's eyes widened. "What?! Impossible!"
"No, I wouldn't say impossible." The gangster smirked, reveling in what he had discovered. "I thank you, Doma." He snapped his hands forward, causing his opponent to drop to his knees gasping. "You've given me the means to be unstoppable." He loved it! He could train; he could use this. "You've repaid your debt in full."
The wind whipped around their heads as Teela soared above Republic City, and Tenzin loved it. This is what he needed...pure, uninterrupted peace.
"So, I see you've taken to meditation." Sora chuckled. "That's one step closer to being an Air Nomad, y'know."
"One step at a time, Sis. Besides, I'm only doing it to keep in touch with you." Tenzin laughed. "It still feels like you're here."
"Well, I am...sort of..." She stood and stretched. "Have you told Mom, like you promised?"
He nodded. "Yeah, Bloodbending has been declared illegal, so you don't have to worry."
She exhaled. "Good. I was worried about that. I can't believe I almost became what Susanowo wanted..."
The Airbender cocked his head. "Susanowo? What are you—?"
"Not your concern, Little Brother...forget I mentioned it."
"We used to tell each other everything."
Sora smiled sadly. "It is not a matter mortals should concern themselves with. Trust me; you're better off not knowing."
"It's all going to change; isn't it?"
"Who's to say it can't be for the better?"
Tenzin inhaled, once again feeling the freedom. "No one. I'm making my own path now."
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