|By Agent Slash||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from Agent Slash||Action/Adventure, Drama||PG-13||Positive||N/A|
|With a Little Help From My Friends|
Aang had remained silent on the day-long journey to Omashu. He had a lot to occupy his mind since departing from Republic City. While Zuko and Toph chatted in the back, he remained atop Appa's head, steering the bison towards their destination.
Finally, after a few hours, Zuko posed the inevitable question. "Hey, Aang, are you doing alright?"
"Yeah, you haven't said anything since we left the city," Toph added.
Aang breathed a heavy sigh of frustration. "I just can't stop thinking about what I did to Yukio," he said.
Neither Toph nor Zuko said anything, because, truthfully, they had not yet made up their minds about whether what Aang did was right or not.
Their silence, however, didn't stop the Avatar from going on. "I've always made it my number one rule to never take a life," he said. "I never thought I'd have to think the same way about doing the opposite. It's made me question my whole belief system."
"That's gotta be rough, buddy," was all Zuko managed to say.
"Yeah, I'm sure your infinite Avatar wisdom will help you figure it out pretty soon," Toph said, trying to help as well.
"Look," Aang said. "I get that you guys don't know what to think about it either, but when you do decide, promise you won't hate me for this."
"We promise, Twinkle Toes," Toph replied.
"I'll only promise if you promise this will go a lot better than the last promise we had between us," Zuko joked.
This made Aang smile. "I promise," he said, chuckling to himself.
"Then so do I," said Zuko.
Then it appeared before them in all of its glory. "There it is," Aang said. "The Earth Kingdom City of Omashu."
"You don't need to say the whole title," said Toph.
"Sorry, I just feel like it's tradition to say the full name every time we come here," Aang replied.
The Avatar landed his sky bison in front of the gates and the two guards standing their post. "State your business," one of them said.
"I'm the Avatar," Aang explained. "And these are my friends. We're here to see King Bumi."
The Avatar was slightly shocked to see the guards, who were the same ones that had been stationed here since his visit with Katara and Sokka back when they were kids, let them in without any trouble.
"That's it?" he asked. "You're just gonna let us in?"
"Eh, I don't care," said the other guard. "We've only got two more days until retirement."
"Alright," Aang said. "Thanks."
Appa marched into the city with the three heroes still on his back. Once they made it in, they all dismounted and walked in front of the great beast.
"This place never ceases to amaze me," said Aang. "Every time I visit, I'm just fascinated by all of these mail chutes."
"We can sightsee later," said Toph. "We have to see King Bumi now."
"Toph is right," said Zuko.
"Alright, alright, we can go," Aang said, feeling slightly pressured.
An explosion nearby drew their focus away from their task and the group saw two bandits running out of a store with bags stuffed with jewelry. The threesome took their fighting stances and prepared to fight the criminals off, but an airbending slice from above knocked one of them flat on his back.
"Whoa," Zuko said. "How did you do that, Aang?"
"I didn't do anything," said Aang, just as puzzled as Zuko and Toph.
Before any of them could start to guess, a man who looked exactly like Aang, except for a scar running down his face, dropped down and apprehended the criminal.
"Huong!" Aang exclaimed, taking his fighting stance once more.
"Whoa!" Huong exclaimed. "Take it easy, Avatar," he said. "I'm not your enemy anymore."
"Why should we believe you?" Toph inquired.
"I swear, I've turned over a new leaf," Huong insisted. "I met this couple who showed me my past and I learned who I really am. I've been living in Omashu ever since."
"Well, good job catching this guy, but the other one is getting away," said Zuko, referring to the criminal's partner. "No he's not," Huong stated.
As the other criminal ran away from the heroes, she was sunk into the ground by some unseen earthbender. The man who stopped her stepped out from the store he had been hiding in and showed himself. "Another one bites the dust. Isn't that right-" he stopped upon seeing Toph.
The blind earthbender felt him before, but his voice confirmed who he was. "Wu Li?" she asked in disbelief.
"Toph?" Wu Li asked. "Hey! It's so great to see you again!"
"Yeah, it's really great," Toph said, a sarcastic edge in her voice. "The last time I saw you, you were leaping into the trees telling me you didn't want to see me anymore after leading me to believe you liked me."
"Hey, that was way back, like, a year ago," said Wu Li. "Probably even longer than that."
"So, what are you and Huong crime-fighting partners or something?" asked Toph.
"You got it!" said Wu Li, approaching the group. "And, hey, good to see you again, Grumpy McScarface!" he said to Zuko.
"Stop calling me that!" Zuko yelled.
"Okay, okay, sheesh, lighten up," said Wu Li. "Over a year later and this guy still has a stick up his ass the size of a platypus bear."
"Well, it's been nice to meet you, Wu Li," said Aang. "And it's been nice getting reacquainted with you, Huong, but we have a very important meeting with King Bumi."
"Wait a minute," said Wu Li. "Huong, this guy looks just like you. Is he... no way... he's..." After finally putting the pieces together, Wu Li shrieked like a child at the realization he had come to. "This guy is the Avatar! That is so cool!"
"Thanks, I'm flattered," Aang said, trying to be polite. "Now, if you'll excuse us-"
"Oh, we have to go with you!" Wu Li said.
"Oh, no you don't," said Zuko. "Not this time."
"The Avatar is here in Omashu and I'm just supposed to go about my day and act like it never happened? I don't think so! I'm going with you!" said Wu Li.
"Alright, fine," Aang conceded. "Just come on."
The group of five was being escorted through the long halls of the palace by one of Bumi's guards. Aang, Zuko, and Huong tried as best as they could to pretend not to be listening to Toph and Wu Li's conversation.
"You could've come with us," said Toph.
"Yeah, but I didn't know that then," Wu Li replied.
"That still doesn't make it right," Toph shot back.
"I admit I was stupid back then," said Wu Li. "And I actually wanted to go to Republic City to find you. I set out to do it, but once I stopped by Omashu and I met Huong, I just couldn't help, but stay."
"What do you mean, 'you couldn't help, but stay'?"
"This city is like a siren. It lures you in and makes you want to stay."
"This is nothing," Toph scoffed. "Have you ever been to Ba Sing Se?"
"No," said Wu Li.
"You should try it sometime," said Toph. "They'll make sure you never leave. It's like the city is one big trap."
"Look, I can't go with you back to Republic City even if I wanted to," Wu Li explained. "Huong is an outlaw there."
"Not anymore," Toph rebutted. "Mayor Qian is in jail."
Huong turned back to face her immediately upon hearing this. "He's in prison?" he asked.
"Yeah," said Toph. "He tried to start an insurrection."
"Then I can finally go back!" Huong said, ecstatically.
"So I guess I can go with you," Wu Li said.
"Who says I want you to come with me anymore?" Toph asked, coldly.
"Aw, come on, Toph," Wu Li persisted. "Are you telling me that you don't even want me around just a little bit?"
"Convince me you won't do something stupid again," said Toph.
Wu Li grabbed Toph and pulled her in closer, embracing her in a kiss.
The men in the group all stopped in their tracks at the sight of this, most of them worried Wu Li was about to get pummeled.
They were proven right seconds later when Toph earthbent the wily earthbender into a wall.
"Who do you think you are?!" Toph asked. "You can't just do that to me!"
"I've gotta admit, I'm surprised," Wu Li chuckled. "That always worked on every other girl I tried that on."
"I'm not just one of your girls!" Toph shot back. "Now grow up and follow us to the throne room!" She marched ahead in front of the rest of her friends, making sure not to look back.
They finally made their way to the throne room and entered to see the elderly King Bumi sitting on his throne.
"Aang!" he said, greeting his old friend. "How good to see you again." He then saw Huong and his head darted back and forth, viewing the two of them over and over again. "Uh, did you know there are two of you now?" he whispered.
"It's good to see you haven't changed a bit, Bumi," Aang said. "This is Huong. He looks just like me."
"I'll say," Bumi said, pulling out a piece of rock candy. "I wonder if he's got that scar you got when we were kids and you fell into the prickle tree." He took a sharp bite out of the jennamite and chewed it rather loudly.
"Uh, Bumi, we came, because we have to talk to you about something important," Aang said, trying to change the subject.
"And what might that be, young bald one?" Bumi queried.
"I'm sure you've heard about the tensions between the Earth Kingdom and the Water Tribes and I even heard you weren't happy with the Earth King," Aang started.
"You're right! I'm not happy with the Earth King!" Bumi said. "He said I have no sense of fashion! Look at these robes!" he said, pointing them out to Zuko. "Aren't these the most magnificent robes you've ever seen?"
"Uh, yeah, I guess," Zuko replied, uncomfortably.
"That's going in the record book!" Bumi declared. "The Fire Lord thinks I have a great fashion sense. Anyway, you were saying, Aang?" "What I was saying was I wanted to try to convince you to better your relationship with the other world leaders," Aang explained. "There's talk that all of the nations are going to war," Toph added. "We want to avoid that at all costs."
Bumi let out a snorting guffaw at the sound of this, amused by his friends' reasons for visiting him. "My good friends, I'm not going to war! I haven't got the time for such things."
"Oh, well, that's a relief," said Aang.
"So I guess that means we can go now," said Zuko.
"Good," said Toph. "The sooner the better."
As the earthbender made her way to the door, the two guards standing their posts closed it shut.
"Hey, what are you doing?" she asked. "Let us out!"
"I'm sorry," said one of the guards. "But you're never going to leave this room alive."
Before everyone's eyes, every single guard in the room became engulfed in a bright, flashing light and changed their appearances, each of them sporting Light Clan attire.
"They're Light Clan!" Aang shouted. "You've been infiltrated, Bumi!"
The two lightbenders at the door sent two streams of light at Toph, who raised an earth shield to protect herself. She then broke off a piece of the earth shield and shot it at the guard to her right, knocking him out cold.
Wu Li raised an earth pillar out of the ground and pinned the other one against the door.
Meanwhile, Bumi had disrobed and was on his feet fighting off the four guards that stood by his throne. He incapacitated each of them with ease, sinking them into the ground so that only their heads stuck out. "Geez, you think you know people," he said to himself.
Zuko walked over to one of them and knelt down closer to his level. "Where is Bai Lung?!" he demanded. "Is he here?!"
"I'm not going to tell you anything, Fire Nation filth," spat the lightbender.
"You will if you want to keep your life," said Zuko.
"I'll see you in Koh's lair," said the lightbender.
"Watch out, Zuko!" Toph called out.
The other lightbender was already in midair, having leaped down from the ceiling.
A small vortex of air from Huong sent him crashing into the wall. He slid down and hit the ground with a loud thud.
"Now that that's taken care of," said Zuko. "Tell me where Bai Lung is."
"You're all such fools," the lightbender said. "This entire thing was a set up."
"Don't tell them anything, Ryo!" one of the other lightbenders hollered.
"I want them to know," said Ryo. "If only to see the looks on their faces once they realize how stupid they've been."
"What are you talking about?" asked Aang.
"Months ago, Bai Lung dispatched lightbenders all around the world to each of the nations to infiltrate the government and spread rumors about the leaders," Ryo started. "Then as time went by, word spread to all of the nations that all of the nations' leaders were badmouthing each other. Bai Lung knew that you fools would try to work it out, so we were ordered to kill you once you got here."
"Where is Bai Lung now?" asked Toph.
"Right now? He's probably on his way to Republic City," said Ryo. "Once we lured you away from the city, scattering you to different parts of the globe, the plan was for him to strike Republic City with no resistance."
Everyone's eyes widened at this revelation. No one thought for one second about anything other than racing back home. And it was a race. It was a race between them and Bai Lung.
Without even saying goodbye, Aang dashed out of the room, followed by Toph, Zuko, Wu Li, and Huong.
They sprinted all the way back outside to where they left Appa and climbed atop his back.
"What do you think you're doing?" asked Toph. "You're not coming with us!"
"Yes, we are," said Huong. "Republic City is in danger and we want to help."
"Yip, yip," Aang commanded before Toph could further argue.
"What are you doing?" Toph questioned. "We're actually taking them with us?"
"We don't have a second to waste," said Aang. "Plus, they are valuable to us. The more help we have, the better."
And like that, they were off in the opposite direction they came in.
No one spoke for a while at first. Aang wasn't the only one with a lot on his mind anymore. Everyone had something to think about. The only noise was the whooshing of the wind.
Finally, Aang broke the silence. "I know now what I did wasn't right," he said. "I know now that if what someone truly wants is to die, then it's not my place to stop them."
"You know, I'm really looking forward to meeting the rest of your group," said Wu Li, ruining the serious moment Aang had created.
"Shut up," said Toph. "Just shut up. I don't want to hear another word from you until we get back home."
For the first time in his life, Wu Li listened when someone told him to shut up.
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