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|Under the Si Wong Sun|
The sun was not showing any mercy as it ruthlessly beat down it's rays onto those who were traveling through it. Suki and her companions were on the brink of exhaustion as they trekked through the Si Wong Desert.
"Why can't we just get on Feng and ride out of here?" Bo asked.
"Because we can't," Suki replied. "Feng is tired too."
"Oh, so he can run across a continent in about a day and a half, but he can't take just a little heat?" Ling chimed in.
"Look, we are all tired, but look on the bright side. We are one step closer to Ba Sing Se," said Rong. "That is one thing the Zhimings don't have on their side."
"Finally we have reached the halfway point of the Si Wong Desert," Tai Kun said, gazing out at the wide, barren landscape.
Yanshu took one look at the desert and grunted in displeasure. "The sooner we get out of here the better," he remarked.
"Yes, I am tired of looking at sand everywhere I go," Kang Dae agreed.
"Patience, my friends; we shall leave this place soon enough," Tai Kun assured his underlings. "But until we reach Full Moon Bay, I do not want to hear any more of your complaining!" he said.
"Yes, my lord," all of the Zhimings said at once.
Suki and her friends continued to trek through the desert. As everyone miserably walked along, they spotted something in the distance.
"Hey, what is that?" Rong asked.
Ren and Kuong approached the object that was sitting alone in the desert and identified it immediately. "It is a cactus," Ren answered.
"A cactus?!" Ling shouted in joy. "Oh, yes! Finally, something to drink!" he said. He ran towards the plant, but was stopped by Gahno.
"Whoa, there!" he said, blocking Ling's path. "I don't think it is a good idea to go eating a random plant you just found in the middle of a desert," he warned.
"Oh, come on! What is the worst that could happen?" Ling retorted.
"He is right, Ling," Suki said. "I have heard about these plants. Once you drink them you fall into a delusional state for at least twenty-four hours."
"Aw, come on!" Ling whined.
"Come on, buddy. Let's keep moving," Bo said, grabbing a hold of Ling's arm. The Earthbender pulled his arm away and ran back towards the cactus.
"Just one little sip!" he said. Before he could break the cactus open, he was knocked down onto his back.
Before anyone else could help him up, a barrage of sand came flying their way. When the sand cleared, Suki was alarmed by what she saw. Several sand sailors had appeared out of nowhere and had surrounded her and the others. Riding them were about two dozen Sandbenders. "Well, well, well, what have we here?" one of them asked.
"It looks to me like we got ourselves some travelers," the leader said. "You know, it isn't very often that I thank you," she continued. "If it weren't for suckers like you, we would not have so many nice souvenirs."
"Listen, we do not mean you any harm!" Suki explained. "Just let us pass; we have nothing of value to you!"
"I don't know about that. You have a nice sword there," the leader responded. "And I could always make some money off of your pets," she added, motioning to Feng and Wen. The two beasts growled at the Sandbenders.
"Take out the travelers and tie up those monsters!" the leader ordered.
The other Sandbenders hopped off of their sailors and advanced towards Suki and her friends. Without hesitation, Gahno slammed his fist into one of the Sandbenders' face, knocking him out. Ren knocked out two more with an uppercut to one of their faces and a right hook to another's. With new energy, Rong created a fire whip in her right hand and lashed out at four other Sandbenders, taking them all out at once. Suki had already gone for the head sand sailor. She slammed her left fan into one of the Sandbenders' stomachs and took another one out on her right with a side kick. Two more came at her, but she dealt them a few quick jabs and had them paralyzed. Finally, Suki leapt onto the main sailor, unsheathed her katana and pointed it right in front of the leader's neck. "Call. It. Off." She demanded.
The Sandbender looked at Suki's katana with fear in her eyes and brought his hand up, signaling the others to retreat. Suki lowered her sword and backed off of the sailor as the other Sandbenders got back on theirs and retreated.
"Alright, let's stop and make camp for the night," Suki suggested.
After a few hours, everything was much calmer. The sun had set and everyone was refreshed after having something to drink. "So, are we going to go now or what?" Ty Lee asked.
"There is no need," Otaka replied. "Even though Feng and Wen could make the trip, the best plan is to stay here and rest."
"Well, I guess so," Ty Lee agreed.
Lying outside her tent, Suki was gazing up into the sky, thinking about what she would have to do in order to stop Tai Kun. One thing was for sure, it would not be simple. She would have to track him down and then fight. Then another thought crossed Suki's mind: Tai Kun was a master Earthbender! He would have a very serious advantage, but Suki knew she could pull it off either way. He may have strength, but she had been trained for years in the ways of a Kyoshi Warrior. Suddenly, her thoughts were interrupted by someone.
"Hey, are you planning on getting any sleep tonight?" Bo asked.
"Yeah, I just thought I should lay out here and unwind first," Suki replied. She made her way back to her tent and Bo made his way back to his.
"Hurry up, you fools!" Tai Kun yelled. "We have to make sure those brats don't get to Full Moon Bay before we do!"
"My apologies for Shun's inability to keep up, Master," Hong Wu remarked.
Shun blew the knife-thrower a few feet away with a blast of air in response. "Be quiet, you little vermin!" she shouted. "I have little tolerance for you right now!" The Air Nomad was still slightly injured from the injuries she sustained during her previous battle.
"As do I," said Tai Kun. The Zhimings continued walking until they got to the top of a sand hill. Then Tai Kun spotted something.
"Master, can we please set up camp?" Shuang pleaded. It was not often he said 'please', but he feared and respected Tai Kun enough to use it when addressing him.
"Look over there," his master said. The Zhimings looked on and saw a small encampment at the bottom of the hill. Although several of them were unsure of what to think, they were quickly informed by Shun of whose camp it was.
"Look! Suki's pet eel hound!" said the Airbender.
"Indeed," Tai Kun noted. "Now, shall we pay them a visit?" he asked, a devious smile spreading across his face. The Zhimings made their way down the dune and proceeded over to the tent.
Hong Wu grabbed his sharpest knife and walked up to the tent which Feng was sleeping right outside of. Hong Wu raised the knife and prepared to strike, but was struck down by something. Feng's tail came at Hong Wu like lightning, but the knife-thrower had learned from his previous mistake. He turned around just before the tail struck him and took a blow to his backside. Hong Wu screamed in pain as he clutched the spot where he had been struck with one of his own knives over two years ago. The sound woke Team Suki.
Tai Kun glared at Hong Wu with a furious expression and gritted teeth. "You idiot!" he roared.
Suki emerged from her tent, fans in hand. "You know, I was just beginning to think about how close you were to Full Moon Bay," she said. The Kyoshi Warrior lashed out at Hong Wu, kicking him face down and then running after Tai Kun. The latter bent the sand beneath Suki, pulling her down.
As Suki slipped down, Hong Wu got up and grabbed his knife. "This time I will make sure you die!" he yelled. He swung his arm downwards, sending the knife towards Suki's heart, but just a split second before it made impact with her, Hong Wu was blasted with a stream of water from behind. As Bo moved over to finish off Hong Wu, Ling tried as hard as he could to Sandbend Suki out of the ground. In a matter of seconds, Ling achieved his goal and Suki was freed. The two faced Tai Kun and prepared to battle.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the camp, Rong and Kang Dae locked eyes. "Kang Dae, listen to me!" Rong shouted. "You don't have to serve this man! Please come with us! We can finish Tai Kun here and now and then we can go back to the Fire Nation to see mom and dad again!"
Kang Dae let out a fit of laughter. "Are you insane? Do you really think I would EVER go back there?!" he shouted.
"Kang Dae, what happened was your fault!" Rong shouted. "But you can fix it by helping us end this and starting anew!"
Kang Dae growled at his little sister's words. "Enough! I grow weary of your endless prattle!" he shouted. He formed a fire dagger in each hand and ran at his sibling.
Rong responded by firing several fireballs at her older brother, the latter dodging every one.
"That is it? You are only going to shoot me with fireballs?! Your affection for me makes me sick!" Kang Dae yelled. He swung his fire daggers near his sister's face, but missed every time.
Elsewhere, Ling has split off from Suki to fight Shun. Ling Sandbent a whirlpool beneath his opponent, but Shun countered by leaping into the air, avoiding the attack. She landed just a few feet in front of Ling and blew him backwards with an air stream. Ling got back on his feet and came at Shun, bending a sand stream out of the ground.
In the midst of the chaos, Ty Lee was occupied with Yanshu. She dodged his arrows with ease and then came at the archer with several quick jabs, all of which he was able to avoid. He fired more arrows at the chi-blocker, but was amazed at how quickly and skillfully she dodged them. Whoever this new addition to Suki's team was, she had obviously spent much time learning acrobatics. Yanshu thought. Finally, Ty Lee caught him and jabbed all of his pressure points within moments. The Zhiming Archer fell back in defeat as Ty Lee unleashed her trademark smile on him. "Did you really think you could pin me down?" she asked. "Did you really think I was trying?" Yanshu asked, a grin on his face.
Before Ty Lee could question what Yanshu meant, she felt a sharp pain in her back. Ty Lee let out a horrible cry as she felt something stab into her backside. "Nighty night, sweetheart," Shuang said, quietly as he pulled the ice dagger out of Ty Lee's back.
Battling with Tai Kun, Suki heard the cry and looked over at where Ty Lee had just dropped to the ground. "NO!!!" she screamed in horror. Tai Kun took advantage of the moment and knocked Suki down to the ground. As he was about to deliver the final blow, Suki unsheathed her katana and thrust it towards Tai Kun's face. The Earthbender barely avoided the attack, but fell backwards in the process. Suki leapt up faster than a mongoose dragon and swung her sword at Tai Kun's face once again. The Zhiming leader defended himself by sending a wave of sand at Suki, blinding her. By the time she could see again, all of the Zhiming Assassins were gone. Without even bothering to check around to find them, Suki ran over to her wounded friend.
Just then, Gahno and the others emerged from their tents. "What happened?" he asked in alarm.
"How could you guys have slept through that whole thing?!" Bo yelled.
"We are what you call heavy sleepers," Ren answered. Ignoring Ren, Bo ran over to join his friends to see if Ty Lee was okay. Suki was on her knees, looking Ty Lee directly in the eyes. "Come on, Ty Lee! Come on! You can make it!" she shouted. "How bad is it?!" she demanded.
Rong flipped Ty Lee halfway over and looked at her back. "Bad. Very bad," she replied. "She has lost a lot of blood; it is a serious injury too."
"Ty Lee, you can make it!" Suki repeated herself.
"I'm really sorry, Suki, but I don't think I can," Ty Lee said, weakly.
"YOU HAVE TO!!!" Suki screamed. "I am not going to lose another friend, much less a fellow Kyoshi Warrior!"
"Look, Suki, I don't want you to let this affect your mission. Don't worry about me." Ty Lee was sounding weaker by the second. By this point, all of the Si Guan Lian members had come over to the scene. "Oh, no!" Otaka said in shock.
"I want you to do what you were born to do: to be a great, strong warrior and save the world."
Suki nodded in response. Tears were forming in her eyes by this point.
"Pinky promise?" Ty Lee asked, extending her pinky.
Suki took Ty Lee's pinky with her own. "I promise."
Ty Lee cast her trademark smile as she died in the sand. Suki took her left hand and brought it down over her deceased friend's eyes, closing them forever. "Goodbye, Ty Lee." Everyone present was especially downcast. Ling and Rong embraced each other in a hug, while Bo hung his head down in sadness. At the same time, a tear ran down Suki's cheek. In moments, many more ran down her cheeks and the Kyoshi Warrior began to sob. Bo, feeling terrible, went over to her and put his hand on her shoulder, trying to comfort her. Suki turned around and embraced Bo in a hug, sobbing into the night.
"You imbecile!" Tai Kun roared, back-handing Hong Wu in the face. The knife-thrower fell to the ground and looked up in fear at his master. "If you had been more careful we could have killed every last one of them!" He kicked Hong Wu in the chest, causing him to wince in pain. "But instead we only killed one of them and gave them another motive to battle us at full power!"
"Please, master! Give me another chance!" Hong Wu begged.
"No, Hong Wu. I have given you far too many chances! Now you shall learn first-hand what happens when you fail me enough times!" Hong Wu pulled out a knife and attempted to stab Tai Kun, but the Earthbender kicked Hong Wu's wrist, causing him to drop the knife. Tai Kun reached down and grabbed Hong Wu by the throat, lifting him up for everyone to see.
"No! No! NOOOOOO!!!" Hong Wu screamed, seconds before Tai Kun snapped his neck. Tai Kun dropped the lifeless body of Hong Wu to the ground, leaving him dead in the sand. The other Zhimings' mouths were wide open with shock.
"Let that be a lesson to anyone who thinks incompetence or failure is an option when serving me!" Tai Kun yelled.
The next morning, everyone was gathered around a newly placed tomb stone in the middle of the sand. There was a moment of silence before anyone spoke. "Ty Lee will always be remembered for who she was," Suki spoke. "She will be remembered as someone who was hardly ever distraught by the things that so many of us are troubled with in life. She was always so upbeat and cheerful. It was one of the things everyone loved about her. If someone called her a circus freak, she would not see it as an insult; she would take it as a compliment. She had such a wonderful and friendly personality too and she passed it along to a lot of the other Kyoshi Warriors. And even though she made some bad choices in her life, they were certainly outweighed by the good choices she made. She died fighting to stop those monsters who will not be named at this time from spreading their evil tyranny all over this world that has already seen enough tyranny and war and suffering." She paused for a moment before finishing. "Goodbye, Ty Lee. And thank you for being such a great person and friend to us all." As everyone walked away, the tomb stone stood in the sand—buried beneath it was one of the kindest, sweetest people the world had even known.
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