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Transcript:The Promise Part 1

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Real-world


The novel opens with still images representative of the opening sequence from the television series, beginning with four images exhibiting each of the respective elements being bent.
Katara [Voice-over.] Water. Earth. Fire. Air.

Gurihiru - In order to capture this scene accurately, we watched the opening sequence of Avatar again and again in slow motion.

The next series of images displays an angled view of the map of the Avatar World, followed by a line of Fire Nation soldiers unleashing simultaneous firebending attacks and an image of a silhouetted Roku standing atop a pillar of rock with the sun in the background. The succeeding set of images reveals Aang frozen in an iceberg as Katara and Sokka gape in amazement from a nearby fragment of ice. The following image features a smiling Aang as he is riding his air scooter and subsequently crashes into a stone statue.
Katara [Voice-over.] Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them. But when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years passed and my brother Sokka and I discovered the new Avatar, an airbender named Aang. Although his airbending skills were great, he had a lot to learn before he was ready to save anyone.
Aang Oof!
The next image showcases Aang with his back to the reader standing on a stone pillar while holding his glider.
Katara [Voice-over.] But from the day I first met him, I believed Aang would save the world. And you know what?

Gene Luen Yang - The original show's opening sequence makes my heart skip a beat every time I watch it. It's so great!

Aang is seen standing before a defeated Ozai, who is lying on the ground, followed by an image of the recently-crowned Fire Lord Zuko addressing the people of different nations.
Katara [Voice-over.] I was right. With the help of his friends, Aang defeated Fire Lord Ozai and ended the Hundred Year War. Zuko, Ozai's son and our ally, became the new Fire Lord. Together with Earth King Kuei, Aang and Zuko promised to restore the four nations to harmony.
Aang's hand is shown pointing to a map that marks the locations of each of the Fire Nation colonies in the Earth Kingdom.
Aang I never realized the Fire Nation had built so many colonies in the Earth Kingdom.
A broader view reveals Team Avatar, King Kuei, and Bosco in the throne room of the Earth Kingdom Royal Palace. Everyone is directing their attention toward the map and Aang, save for Momo, whose gaze remains fixated on Bosco's hat.
Kuei Yes. For the earth people, they're a constant reminder of the War, like an old scar. Oh, I ... I – Fire Lord Zuko, I meant nothing personal!
King Kuei turns toward Zuko as he addresses him. Zuko is seen looking toward the map.
Zuko No, Earth King Kuei. You're right. After all the pain my father has caused, it's my duty to bring healing to the world. I'll remove those colonies. I'll do whatever it takes.
Aang now turns to Zuko as well, while Momo jumps off of Bosco's head and takes his hat in the background.
Aang But removing the colonies won't be easy. A lot of people's lives are gonna be disrupted. We need someone to oversee everything, to make sure it all goes peacefully. Someone like me!
Zuko and Aang smile at one another as Bosco glares at Momo, who is now wearing the former's hat.
Zuko Really? You'd want to do that?
Aang Yeah, I'm the Avatar! Making stuff go peacefully is kind of my thing!
A shot of everyone reveals Katara and Sokka addition to the conversation, while Toph stands quietly next to an excited Kuei. In the background, Bosco angrily swipes his hat back from Momo.
Kuei Wonderful! The Avatar's personal involvement will give the entire process an air of hope!
Katara Sokka and I can help!
Sokka Aw. I was gonna visit Kyoshi Island.
Kuei is shown deep in thought as Sokka pops in behind him.
Kuei It'll be a movement – a movement towards harmony! We'll call it ... We'll call it ...
Sokka The Harmony Restoration Movement!
Kuei smiles in approval and Toph enters to scene facing toward Sokka, who has a large grin on his face.
Kuei Yes! The Harmony Restoration Movement! I like it!
Toph What's with you and your goofy names for everything?
Sokka It's a gift.
Team Avatar and Uncle Iroh are gathered around a table inside the Jasmine Dragon watching Sokka paint, save for Aang who is making his way outside.
Katara [Voice-over.] Earth King Kuei planned a celebration where he would announce the Harmony Restoration Movement. Before the festivities began, we decided to visit the Jasmine Dragon, a tea shop owned by Zuko's uncle Iroh.
Iroh Hey, my belly's not that big anymore. I've really trimmed down.
Toph Well, I think you all look perfect.

Gene - The Harmony Restoration Movement was inspired by various movements that China went through in the 1800s and early 1900s. After suffering humiliating military losses at the hands of foreign powers, the Chinese tried to get their country back on track with different programs. The Self-Strengthening Movement is one example; the May Fourth Movement is another. At the beginning of The Promise, the Earth Kingdom is in a position similar to that of late 1800s China.

Aang and Katara share an intimate kiss.
Katara [Voice-over.] There, Aang and I ... We figured out what we meant to each other. Or we were about to, anyway, before my stupid brother interrupted.
Sokka approaches while his sister and Aang are still kissing, much to his own surprise.
Sokka Hey guys – Ah!!!
The scene shows Katara angered by her brother's unforeseen entrance with Aang in the background exhibiting an embarrassed expression, waving his hands and trying to dismiss the situation.
Aang Nothing! We're not doing anything out here!
Katara Haven't you ever heard of knocking, Sokka?!
Sokka stands disgusted with his tongue out as an enraged Katara points her finger in his face while yelling.
Sokka First of all, you're supposed to knock before you go inside, not before you go outside! And second, as my sister, you really shouldn't be kissing anyone in front of me! It's your sisterly duty to avoid giving me the oogies!
Katara "Oogies"?! Aargh! You are so immature sometimes! What about you and Suki?!
Sokka and Katara are seen shouting at one another at close proximity while Aang sighs in the background.
Sokka !!!!!
Katara !!!!!
The scene features Aang with an uneasy look on his face and his hand slightly raised as he interrupts the siblings' argument.
Aang Uh, Sokka? Sokka!
Sokka places his hand in front of a still visibly angry Katara, signaling her to pause while he responds to Aang, who is standing in the background.
Sokka [To Katara.] Time out. [To Aang.] Yeah, Aang?
A shot from behind Aang reveals a portion of his face with Sokka looking at him pointing his finger while speaking.
Aang What'd you come out here to tell us?
Sokka Oh! Right! We're about to head out.
Sokka walks over in front of Appa, who is seen in the background while Aang watches the former with a slightly puzzled look on his face.
Aang But the Earth King's celebration doesn't start for a couple more hours!
Sokka I know. We wanted to take Appa out for a ride first!
The scene shows Aang flying Appa vertically downward grasping the reins tightly while Momo clenches Aang's robe to avoid flying off with the rest of Team Avatar riding in Appa's saddle. Toph and Zuko are hanging onto the sides while Sokka, Suki, and Katara have their hands raised in the air. The next shot shows Aang with an excited expression on his face as a rather frightened Momo hangs onto his owner's head. In the background, Suki is looking to the side and points in the distance with a large smile.
Aang Ha ha! Let's go again!
Suki Wait, guys! The fireworks are starting!
An upward shot of Appa reveals Toph, Zuko, Katara, and Aang riding the bison, leaning over the side, and watching fireworks explode above them in an assortment of colors.
Katara Wow. The view is amazing!
Aang It is! [To Appa.] Thanks, buddy!
Appa Raaar!
There are Earth Kingdom commoners shown gathered together cheering as Appa is seen against a night sky that is lit up with fireworks.
Earth Kingdom commoners Woohoo! Yeeeah!

Gene - I loved how the original show referenced American coming-of-age milestones. "The Beach" features a high-school house party. In "Nightmares and Daydreams," Aang suffers that familiar nightmare of being pantless at your final exam. Aang's final confrontation with Ozai is his final exam, and Zuko's coronation is their graduation ceremony. So what happens on this page? Partying on grad night!

Aang Sounds like the Earth King just announced the Harmony Restoration Movement!
Toph [To Sokka.] Hey, wanna know what fireworks are like for me? Close your eyes. BOOOOM!
Sokka Aah!
Katara Oh, Toph! Don't be such a grump! You're out with friends on a beautiful night, celebrating the fact that we saved the world!
Toph True.
Sokka Ouch.
Aang You, too, Your new Majesty Fire Lord Zuko sir! Turn that frown upside down! It's happy time! Zuko ...?
Zuko I visited my father in prison the other day ... I've been meaning to ask you for a favor, Aang.
Aang Sure. Anything.

Gene - Avatar: The Last Airbender never shied away from difficult moral issues. In the final episodes, Aang wrestles with the idea of killing Ozai. Aang's identities as Avatar and airbender conflict with one another.

For The Promise, we wanted to introduce another facet to the discussion: How does the idea of consent affect things? We already know that Aang won't murder – he won't kill without the victim's consent. What if the victim actively requests it?

In Buddhism (upon which airbender philosophy is based), consent changes the conversation. Murder is wrong, but killing with the victim's consent is referred to as voluntary euthanasia. A person can ask you to kill them if they're in tremendous pain or if they think they're a danger to others. (In Zuko's case, both of these are in play.) Here, there's debate within Buddhism.

Zuko If you ever see me turning into my father, I want you to ... I want you to end me.
Aang What?!
Zuko Even now, after everything that's happened, my family's legacy is still a part of me. That's why it's my duty to heal the scars that the Fire Nation has left on the world. But the Fire Lord's throne comes with a lot of pressures. And if I'm honest with myself ... I need a safety net. The world needs a safety net. That's what I need you to be, Aang. The safety net.
Aang Zuko, you're not your dad! And you're my friend! How can you expect me –
Zuko As your friend, I'm asking you – if you ever see me go bad, end me. Promise me, Aang.
Aang ... Fine. I promise.

Gene - Throughout the show, we saw that Aang's weakness was his friends. Often, he would choose his friends over his principles. In "The Guru," he abandoned his spiritual development to save a friend. In "The Runaway," he agreed to scam people because he wanted to have fun with his friends. And he lost his calm when his friend Appa was kidnapped.

The Promise pushes this a bit further. What happens if a friend makes that kind of a request? What happens when Aang's identities as Avatar, airbender, and friend conflict with one another?

One Year Later. The Royal Palace, Fire Nation capital
Zuko [Gasp!] Who's there?! [To guard 1.] Someone's here! I can feel it! Someone's trying to assassinate me!
Guard 1 Fire Lord, please. Go back to sleep. We're in the most secure tower in the entire palace!
Guard 2 No one will get to you tonight, I assure you!
Guard 1 Just like no one got to you last night, or the night before that, or the night before that ...
Zuko Do not mock me! There have already been five attempts on my life since I took the throne!
Guard 1 And that's why we moved you here! Please, you have to trust–
Zuko ?! Show yourself!

Gurihiru - This is where we first drew firebending. It did not have enough "firepower" at first, so we revised it to make the flame bigger and brighter.

Kori Morishita Down with the traitor! Down with the Fire Lord who betrays his own people!
Zuko Convince me not to take your life!
Kori Go ahead! My family has been loyal to yours for generations! By getting rid of me, you would simply complete your betrayal!
Zuko Your family?
Kori My father is the mayor of Yu Dao!
Zuko Yu Dao ... the first of the Fire Nation colonies.
Kori Yes, my home! And now you and the Avatar are going to destroy it with your precious Harmony Restoration Movement!
The city of Yu Dao, Earth Kingdom
Mayor Morishita Stop! Stop! Kori!! Where have you been?! Your mother and I were worried sick! Wait – who are these men?! What are these chains?!
Kori I went to go see someone about our problem, father.
Morishita Who?
Kori Him.

Gurihiru - Yu Dao is a mixture of Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom culture, so determining how to reflect that in the color scheme of the city was not simple.

Gene - "Yu Dao" is one of the few names that I first thought of in Chinese and then translated to English. In Chinese it's 玉島. Two reasons:

First, I referenced the color green to explicitly tie the city to its Earth Kingdom roots. Yu () means "jade," which is often green.

Second, I looked into the history of Qingdao (青島), a Chinese city that had been occupied by both the Germans and the Japanese. In fact, the city's most famous export still betrays its German influence: Tsingtao Beer. I took the last character of the city's name ().

Morishita F-Fire Lord Zuko!
Zuko You must be Mayor Morishita. Your daughter snuck into my home and tried to kill me!
Morishita Kori?!
Kori Someone had to do something!
Morishita My sincerest apologies for my daughter's rash behavior, Fire Lord! Have mercy!
Zuko I should have this whole place burned down!
Kori Why bother? The Harmony Restoration Movement will accomplish the same thing without you having to lift a finger!
Zuko Why can't you colonials get it through your thick skulls?! The Harmony Restoration Movement is a means to peace!
Morishita P-peace?! Peace for whom?! With all due respect, Your Majesty, my family has lived on this land for generations! This city was built on our blood and sweat! We have as much a right to be here as anyone else!
Zuko You're Fire Nation citizens! You should live in the Fire Nation!
Morishita You're right, Fire Lord! We are Fire Nation citizens! And I'll tell you this – your father would never have let the Avatar and the Earth King bully him into something so obviously bad for his own nation's citizens!
Zuko My father ...?
Flashback.
Ozai I should count myself lucky. The new Fire Lord has graced me with his presence in my lowly prison cell.
Zuko You should count yourself lucky that the Avatar chose to spare you. Banishing me was the best thing you could have done for my life. Maybe your time in here can do the same for you.
Ozai Why are you really here?
Zuko Because you're going to tell me something. Where is my mother?!

Gene - Like every other Airbender fan, I freaked out when I watched this scene. I think I jumped up off my couch and said a bad word. Kind of weird that I got to continue it in the comic.

Ozai You ought to bring me some tea, Zuko. We'll talk while sipping from steaming little cups, much like you did with my traitorous brother. I'll give you advice on how to be a good Fire Lord. Wouldn't that be nice? Perhaps even the subject of your mother will come up.
Zuko I don't need this.

Gurihiru - For flashbacks, we color normally first, then go back and limit the hues. It can be difficult to balance the colors in such a limited spectrum.

Ozai Do you think being Fire Lord is easy?! The throne comes with many pressures, and those pressures will change you! but if you can stand the heat, you'll become something more. Of all the people in the world, I have the wisdom you need, the wisdom of experience! Be honest with yourself, Zuko – Do you really believe you can handle it all on your own? You'll be back. And I'll be here waiting for you. Son.
Zuko comes out of his flashback with a blast of fire and lunges at Mayor Morishita with a fire dagger at the ready in his right hand and his left arm used to pin the mayor against the wall behind him.
Zuko I'm not my father!
Morishita No, young man. You're not. Fire Lord Ozai had many faults, but he was never a coward. He was never a traitor.
Off the coast of the Fire Nation
Aang Don't worry, Mayor Nishi! My team and I have helped dozens of Fire Nation colonies move back to your homeland already. They've all loved coming back!
Mayor Nishi Those colonies were young. Their people had no roots in the Earth Kingdom.
Aang Things are different in the Fire Nation now, you'll see! Fire Lord Zuko's reintroducing classic Fire Nation culture to his people. You'll learn so much about your past by living here. And you'll have fun, too! Check it out – this is a Fire Nation dance from over a hundred years ago! How fun is this?
Fire Nation guard Stop! Stop unloading! You're colonials?
Nishi Yes.
Fire Nation guard Return to the Earth Kingdom, by order of the Fire Lord!
Aang What?!
Fire Nation guard Fire Lord Zuko has officially withdrawn his support of the Harmony Restoration Movement!
Beifong Metalbending Academy, Earth Kingdom.
Penga Come look! There's a crowd at the city's gates below!
Crowd below shouting at Yu Dao's gates.
Penga [Penga points in the direction of Yu Dao.] I wanna know what's happening!
Ho Tun Whatever it is, it's bad! Bad! The city is probably doomed! We're probably doomed!
The Dark One I hate doom.
Toph stomps and earthbends her students away from the window.
Toph's students Aaah!
Toph How are you lily livers going to learn metalbending by staring out a window?! Get back to practice!
Ho Tun Sifu Toph!
Penga Something's happening in Yu Dao, and I wanna know what!
Ho Tun It's bad! So bad! I'm too young for doom!
The Dark One I hate being young.
Penga My parents live down there! Who's gonna buy me new shoes if anything happens to them?!
Ho Tun All our parents live in Yu Dao! And they're all doomed!
Toph [Staring out the window.] Huh, you lily livers are right. Something is happening in Yu Dao. I can hear it.
Appa Raaaar!
Toph Appa! [To her students.] I'll be back soon! Stay put and do your forms! If you don't, you're really gonna get it when I come back!
Penga I wanna go with you!
Ho Tun I just don't wanna be doomed!
The Dark One I hate you guys.

Gurihiru - In the original layouts, panel 1 was a high-angle shot, looking down on the scene, but during penciling we changed it to a low-angle shot, looking up at the scene, so that Toph's face can be seen clearly.

Appa Raaar!
Toph launches herself onto Appa using earthbending and lands on the group's pack on Appa's back.

Gene - Man, I love Toph, even more so now that I've gotten to write her. Of the five main characters, she was the easiest to write. Her voice is so clear.

Toph Hey, guys!
Katara and Sokka [Katara puts her arms out to hug Toph.] Toph! [Katara to Toph.] I can't believe how long it's been!
Toph I missed you, too!
Sokka Hey, I heard you started a metalbending school!
Toph The Beifong Metalbending Academy! You guys just flew over it! I heard Appa, so I had to come say hi!
Sokka Wow! Your own school! How's that going?
Toph Meh.
Katara I'm so glad you're here, Toph. Aang needs all the support he can get right now, because of what he might have to--
Toph Hey, where is Twinkle Toes, anyway? [Discovers Aang on Appa's head.] Oh. There he is.
Katara Zuko's changed his mind on the Harmony Restoration Movement.
Toph You're kidding.
Sokka He's holed himself up in Yu Dao with a bunch of his soldiers. He won't let anyone in or out. That's where we're headed.
Toph So that's what's going on! The lily livers--I mean, my students were talking about it. Zuko started to act like his old man Ozai then.
Sokka No. We don't know that yet.
Katara But Aang's meditating on what he might have to do--
Scene shifts to Aang's cosmic energy talking to Avatar Roku.
Katara "--because of the promise he made."
Roku You've done your duty. The war is over. And yet the world is still not at peace.

Gene - Here's how I imagine Aang's prayer beads work: He meditates through the beads, one after the other. When he gets to a medallion with a certain nation's emblem, his corresponding previous life will appear, if that Avatar has some relevant wisdom to impart.

Roku I'm sorry, Aang. You are still dealing with the consequences of my own indecisiveness.
Aang [He sighs to Roku.] Avatar Roku, I never should've made that promise to Zuko. I mean I didn't even kill Ozai, and he was evil all the way through. How am I supposed to kill my firebending teacher? My friend? What kind of person would I be?
Roku A person who keeps his promises. Zuko was in his clearest moment when he asked you for that promise. He knew what was at stake. All those lives that have been lost in the last hundred years ... I could have saved them. I had so many chances. Sozin almost never had his guard up when he was with me.
Aang Wait, what are you saying? You regret not ... ending Fire Lord Sozin?
Roku Yes.
Aang But he was your friend!
Roku More than a friend. He was like a brother to me. But because of him, the world burned.

Gurihiru - Aang's meeting with Roku was easy to draw because we didn't have to worry about the background.

Gene - In an earlier draft, this conversation occurs between Aang and Avatar Kyoshi. I've always liked Kyoshi and wanted to find out more about her. Plus, I thought she would make a good advocate for Earth Kingdom independence.

Mike and Bryan thought that replacing Kyoshi with Roku would make the scene fit better with what had already been established. Since Roku is Aang's immediate mentor, Aang would more likely turn to him than Kyoshi. Also, setting the conflict between two characters who deeply care for one another would make it more intimate, more intense. They were right, of course.

Roku When you are in a position of power, you must put the needs of the world above your own. Zuko, at one time at least, understood this.
Aang I will go to Yu Dao and find Zuko. Then we'll sit down and talk.
Roku Remember the wisdom I offered you, Aang--You must be decisive. A promise is a promise.
Aang Because that's what friends do. We talk.
Scene shifts to the group arriving outside the gates of Yu Dao. A large gathering of people with protest signs has amassed.
Smellerbee Fire Nation out!
Freedom Fighters Harmony now!
Katara [Aang and Toph hug each other behind her.] Isn't that Smellerbee?
Sokka Yeah, he's with the Freedom Fighters!

Gene - The Freedom Fighters are such great characters. In an earlier draft, I had Jet here alongside Smellerbee, Longshot, and Sneers. I thought his fate was ambiguous enough that he could be brought back. (And Sokka agrees with me. Take a look at "The Ember Island Players.") Nope. The world of Avatar is not the Marvel universe. Here, dead means dead.

Gurihiru - Because he only appears in one episode, when we looked at his character design reference, we thought Sneers was a girl at first, which is why he looks a bit feminine.

Katara "She", you mean. She's with the Freedom Fighters.
Sokka That's what I said. She's with the Freedom Fighters.
Smellerbee Look, everybody! It's the Avatar!
The crowd Yeeeah! Avatar Aang! Avatar Aang!
Smellerbee Aang! We were hoping you would come! So what's the plan of attack? The Freedom Fighters are at your service!
Aang I appreciate your confidence, Smellerbee, but I just really want to talk to Zuko.
Smellerbee What?! The time for talking was over as soon as the Fire Lord broke with the Harmony Restoration Movement! Besides, you're not getting into that city without a fight! Fire Nation troops are everywhere!
Sneers We'll break open a new gate for you! Just give us the word!
Aang That won't be necessary, Sneers. We'll find a way in. [Aang talks to Katara.] You ready, sweetie?
Katara I'm ready, sweetie.

Gene - It took me a while to figure out a suitable pet name for Aang and Katara to use in their budding romance. In The Promise, their fun, somewhat goofy new love transforms into something deeper. "Sweetie" is used in both animated series. In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Katara's mother calls Katara "sweetie" in "The Southern Raiders." In The Legend of Korra, Asami refers to Mako as "sweetie" while they're dating.

Katara and Aang fly over the gates of Yu Dao using Aang's glider.
Fire Nation soldier What --?!
Everyone else looks in surprise.
Toph "Sweetie"? Seriously?
Sokka I know right? Sooo oogie.
Aang and Katara make it to the other side of Yu Dao's gate.
Aang [To the Fire Nation soldiers in Yu Dao.] Flamio, Hotmen!
Guard This city is under the protection of the Fire Lord himself! No one may enter without his express permission, not even the Avatar! Leave now.
Aang Please, I'd like to talk to Fire Lord Zuko. That's all.
Guard [Raises hand.] You were warned.
The guard shoots a column of fire at Aang, who leaps over the attack. When he lands, he ducks as the guard kicks flames at him. Aang's foot lands on the ground with a stomp. He raises an arm, and the earth traps the guard's foot, ensnaring him.
Aang I don't want to fight!
The rest of the guards look at the scene in shock.
Guard [To the other guards.] What are you dolts waiting for?! Attack!
A guard shoots flames at Aang, who leaps in surprise. Another guard summons flames, followed by another, but Aang dodges both.
Katara Aang!
Aang [Avoiding flames.] Don't worry, sweetie! I can handle them! Just give me a sec!
Aang ducks as a guard kicks flames at him before leaping over two guards shooting bursts of flames. When he lands, another guard attempts to kick him with fire, but Aang ducks underneath the attack. Three guards snarl in annoyance. They each kick columns of flames, but Aang leaps over them. His shirt catches on fire.
Katara Aang! You're on fire!
Aang What'd you say?
Katara Your clothes! They're on -- [Summons a stream of water to douse the singe.] Oh, for crying out loud!
Aang Oh! Thanks!
Katara [Bending water out of a nearby fountain.] That's it! Stop [Shoots the stream at two guards who retreat in fright.] trying [Freezes two guards against a wall.] to [Wills the water to other guards.] set [Freezes the legs of two guards.] my [Sends the water after another guard.] boyfriend [The water turns into snow on the guard's face.] on [The guard falls.] fire!

Gurihiru - We talked over and over about how to express bending water: Capturing a sense of fluidity and motion in a static illustration was a significant challenge.

The panel depicts the guard and Aang behind Katara looking at Katara's handiwork.
Aang Whoa.

Gene - I enjoyed watching Katara's waterbending progress in the original series, especially when she surpassed Aang in "The Siege of the North Part 2." Persistence trumps talent!

Katara Aang, you're okay?
Aang I'm fine.
Fire Nation guard [Appears behind Aang, a fist sprouting fire raised.] Aaah!
Katara [Turning puddles from her attack into icicles.] Can't you people give it a rest?! He just wants to talk!
Fire Nation guard [Terrified.] Aah ...?
A hand grabs Katara's arm.
Zuko [Holding Katara, and stopping the icicles.] Katara! Stop!
Katara Let go, Zuko! You're hurting me! Don't make me hurt you back!
Zuko I'm hurting you?! What are you doing to my soldiers?! My people?!
Aang [The Fire Nation guard flees behind him.] Let go of her, Zuko! She said you're hurting her!
Zuko First, she has to agree to stop attacking my people!
Aang Your soldiers attacked first! Let her go now!
Zuko I am the Fire Lord! I have to protect the citizens of the Fire Nation!
Aang takes a deep breath. In the next page, he releases a burst of wind that knocks Zuko back, thus breaking his hold on Katara. Zuko lands on the floor, but he quickly recovers and shoots bursts of flames at Aang.
Aang [Using water as a shield to extinguish Zuko's attacks.] I came here to talk to you, Zuko! As a friend! But you've changed! You've forgotten what we fought for! [Enters the Avatar State.] Maybe Avatar Roku is right. Maybe a promise is a promise.
Zuko appears terrified.
Katara [As Aang shields himself in a ball of air, raising violent winds.] Aang! Stop! If you enter the Avatar State in such an emotional way, you won't be able to control yourself! [Grabs Aang's cheeks.] You have to calm down. Please, sweetie. For me.
Aang exits the Avatar State, returning the weather to normal. He braces himself on Katara's shoulder.
Aang I can't believe it. I might've done something terrible without even thinking it through. Zuko, I'm so--
Zuko [Raising hand in a calming way.] Katara's right. We both need to calm down. And talk.
Aang [Dumbfounded.] Are you kidding me?! [Shouting, causing Zuko to turn away and Katara to watch in shock.] That's what I wanted in the first place!
Zuko leads Aang and Katara through the streets of Yu Dao.
Zuko Did you know that Yu Dao is the oldest of all the colonies? Many of the Fire Nation families here immigrated over a hundred years ago, when Yu Dao was just a tiny village at the bottom of a valley. [Stopping in front a blacksmith.] Together with the Earth Kingdom people who were already here, they built all this. Yu Dao now makes the finest metalwork ever produced, using both Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom expertise.

Gurihiru - For the architecture of Yu Dao, we used Chinese cities with a touch of Japanese design for reference.

Gene - When I was a kid, my parents sent me to Chinese school every Saturday. They told me to pay attention and learn; otherwise I would regret it as an adult. I had to ask my mom for help with all the signage in the scene.

Aang watches as an Earth Kingdom young adult receives tutelage from an elder Fire Nation blacksmith.
Zuko [Continuing with the tour.] That's why this is one of the richest cities in the world.
Katara spots an Earth Kingdom citizen cleaning a Fire Nation nobleman's shoes.
Katara It doesn't seem like the Fire Nation citizens and the Earth Kingdom citizens share equally in that wealth.
Zuko It's not perfect, Katara, but all the city's people, including the Earth Kingdom people, are better off now than they were a hundred years ago.
Aang The history lesson is great and all, but none of it matters! By betraying the Harmony Restoration Movement, you're going to start another war!
Zuko Look, Aang, when I came here a week ago, I had planned to personally enforce the removal of Yu Dao from the Earth Kingdom! But then ...
Flashback.
Mayor Morishita Fire Lord Ozai had many faults, but he was never a coward. He was never a traitor.
Zuko You're gonna regret saying that, old man! [Pointing at Mayor Morishita.] Guards, seize him!
A wall of earth erupts in front of the guards, separating them from Mayor Morishita.
Zuko [Glancing behind to see a woman in a bending stance.] Who--?!
Mrs. Morishita Fire Lord, please! Forgive my husband's foolishness! I've told him time and time again to control his tongue, but he never does!
Zuko [Shocked.] You're Mayor Morishita's wife?! An earthbender ...?!
Mrs. Morishita Yes, I'm an earthbender. As is our daughter.
A stalagmite erupts from the ground, breaking the chain on Kori's handcuffs. She bends her meteor hammer back to her side.
Kori I may be an earthbender, but through my father's bloodline I am a Fire Nation citizen! My father taught me to always be loyal to the Fire Nation, to my people. Something you obviously never learned from your father.
Mrs. Morishita Would your majesty be willing to stay in Yu Dao for a few days? It would be an honor for us to show the Fire Lord our way of life.

Gene - Mixed-nation families feature prominently in the diverse world of The Legend of Korra. We foreshadow that here with Kori Morishita, an earthbender who is also a Fire Nation citizen.

End flashback.
Zuko So I stayed. I saw what my people created here. I saw what the Harmony Restoration Movement would destroy. I changed my mind. Ever since my coronation, I've been having trouble finding peace. Now, I think I've finally figured out why. I'd forgotten about my people. I know you defeated the Fire Nation, Aang, but my people still deserve respect!
Aang I defeated the Fire Nation?! You mean we defeated the Fire Lord!
Zuko It'd be disrespectful to take from them a life they spent generations building! I won't let you do it!
Aang Harmony requires four separate nations to balance each other out! You can't have balance if one nation occupies another!
Katara looks back to see Mayor Morishita, Kori, and Mrs. Morishita staring intently at them.
Katara [Whispering.] Maybe Yu Dao can be an exception.
Aang [Shocked.] What?!
Katara It's just a thought.
Zuko Exceptions should be made for all the remaining colonies! Most of them have been around for well over a century. They're older than you, Aang!
Aang You have got to be joking. That would make peace impossible!
Katara Well, regardless, the Earth King needs to be a part of whatever happens next. If Aang and I can arrange a meeting, will you be there, Zuko?
Zuko I'll be there.
Aang Talking's good. I guess.
Outside the city walls.
Protester 1 What's taking the Avatar so long?
Protester 2 The Fire Lord's probably captured him!
Protester 3 We have to go in and save the Avatar from those ash makers!
Sokka Everybody calm down! Avatar Aang can handle himself! The best thing for us to do right now is wait!
Protester 4 [Off-panel as Sokka is hit by a rock.] Outta our way, you Water Tribe savage!
Toph [Raising herself on an earthen pillar.] That's it! Don't you dunderheads know who I am?! I'm Toph Beifong, the greatest earthbender of all time! When my friend tells you to calm down, you calm down! [Bends a rock out of the pillar and raises it into the air.] Next person to throw anything – or say anything – gets a boulder straight in the noggin'! Got it?! [The protesters watch in fear.] Now that's more like it.
Sokka [Holding boomerang.] Good thing you listened to her, folks! I was about to bust out Mr. Boomerang! Wack-a-pow!
Protester 5 Ooooh! "Mr. Boomerang"! Soooo scary! [He suddenly falls when hit by the boomerang.]
Momo appears behind the legs of several people as Aang and Katara arrive on Aang's glider.
Sokka So what happened?
Toph Did you have to ... do it?
Smellerbee Do what? You killed the Fire Lord?
Aang [Momo jumps onto his shoulder.] No, no!
Smellerbee So what's going on, then? What are we supposed to do now?
Aang Katara and I are gonna visit the Earth King to try to arrange a meeting. Can you please tell the protesters to go home? We need more time to figure out a solution, Smellerbee. All this shouting won't help.
Smellerbee The Earth Kingdom has waited for over a hundred years to be rid of those ash-makers. We'll give you three days, Avatar Aang. After that, the Freedom Fighters will figure out a solution of our own.
Appa flies through the sky with Sokka, Toph, Katara, and Aang on his saddle.
Toph I don't totally get why you two need to talk to the Earth King. Zuko knows he's wrong, doesn't he? The Fire Nation colonies have got to go!
Katara It's complicated, Toph. There are ... a lot of issues involved.
Aang Plus, talking's always good. Right? [Team Avatar sit in silence for a moment.] Sweetie, when we were back there ... thank you for not letting me do something I'd regret.

Gurihiru - Originally, this background was a sunset, but when it was pointed out to us that this scene takes place at noon, we fixed it.

Katara If you ever have to ... you know ... fulfill your promise ... you can't let it happen like that. You have to be calm enough to know you're making the right decision. [Aang and Katara hug.] I just hate seeing you get like that, sweetie.
Sokka Um, Aang? Katara? You're giving me the oogies over here!
Katara Aargh! I am so sick of hearing about your stupid "oogies", Sokka! I don't even know what that means!
Toph I can explain. Give me your hand. [Licks Katara's hand.] Gaaah ...
Katara Oogie!
The Royal Palace, Fire Nation Capital. Zuko is walking down the throne room.
Mai So the Fire Lord has returned.
Zuko Mai! The mob outside Yu Dao is gone. For now, at least, the Fire Nation citizens there are safe.
Mai You left without saying anything to me! I had to find out where you were from official edicts your soldiers posted around the capital!
Zuko ...
Mai You're doing it again, Zuko. If you're having problems, you're supposed to talk to me. I'm your girlfriend.
Zuko You're right. I'm sorry. It won't happen again.
Mai [Placing a hand on Zuko's cheek.] You've been having trouble sleeping.
Zuko How ...?
Mai Have you looked in the mirror lately? Your bodyguards are a bunch of incompetent idiots. You're the Fire Lord now. You need real security. [The Kyoshi Warriors are revealed.] So I asked some friends to come help.
That night, Suki and Ty Lee are standing outside Zuko's bedroom. The Fire Lord strains in his sleep before waking up with a gasp.
Zuko [At his doorway.] Did you hear anything?
Suki No, Zuko. It's been quiet all night.
Ty Lee Honest to goodness! There hasn't been a peep!
Zuko checks the hallways.
Zuko I'm sorry. It's not that I don't trust you. I know the Kyoshi Warriors are the best guardsmen in the world.
Ty Lee Guardswomen, you mean!
Suki Go back to sleep. You have to at least try.
Zuko No. I'm going to get a drink of water.
Suki Do you need someone to escort you?
Zuko [Walking away.] I'll be fine. The walk will do me some good.
In a series of panels, Zuko visits the Capital City Prison. He walks down the hallways with a tray of tea and enters a cell. He sits in front of the inmate and hands him a cup of tea through the bars.

Gurihiru - We wanted the meeting between Zuko and Ozai to feel quiet, so we avoided complicated panel layouts.

Zuko ... I need your advice ... father.
The last panel depicts the smirk on Ozai's face as he holds the teacup.

Gene - Zuko's relationship with Ozai is something we - Mike, Bryan, Dark Horse, Nickelodeon, and I - talked about extensively when we first started working together. There's this strange thing that happens to people in power: The pressures of power often blur the lines between enemies. That's part of what happens to Zuko here. Ozai is the only one who knows what it's like to be Fire Lord, the only one who has the "wisdom of experience."

I also looked at my own life. I used to clash with my dad quite a bit when I was a teenager: However; as I grew up and found myself in roles that he used to have, I began to understand more and more of his decisions. My father isn't thoroughly evil, of course, but I imagine Zuko feels a little of the same pull.

To Be Continued!

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