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Giving Up (Avatar: The Last Airbender)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Fulcon, Oct 7, 2019.

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  1. Threadmarks: A Stroke of Luck
    Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    The following is a fanbased work of fiction. Avatar the Last Airbender is the property of Viacom, Nickelodeon, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Koniezko. Please support the official release.

    ---

    Prince Zuko looked out from the ruins of the Southern Air Temple. The tall, spire-like mountains the Air Nomads had called home were still enough to give the prince in exile vertigo, but only just. A cold, stiff breeze rushed past his face, slapping him with the cold of the mountain air.

    Behind him, he could feel his Uncle Iroh, the short, portly general whose warm personality couldn’t be more grating at times when Zuko wanted nothing more than to focus on his mission. His quest and purpose.

    Zuko turned around from the view of the dizzying height below them. He saw his Uncle, waiting patiently but observing the massive temple with a contemplative smile, as if he were distracted. Again.

    Behind Iroh, however, were the men. A collection of low merit and disgraced soldiers and sailors who had been sent on this mission to be die and be forgotten. They were rough, they were undisciplined and unmotivated, but they were what Zuko had.

    Much to his endless frustration, when they inevitably failed to meet the prince in exile’s high expectations.

    “Listen up,” Zuko called in his best, most authoritative tone. Trying to command the respect of the crew. “We do this the same as the other temples. Look for any hint of the Avatar. Look for potential hiding places, sanctuaries that Firelord Sozin may have missed in the initial purge. Do not disturb any of the bodies you find, even if they are fire nation. Is that understood?”

    “Yes Prince Zuko,” The men chorused.

    At least they knew how to agree properly. “Dismissed.”

    It was not that Zuko wanted to leave the bodies of his countrymen without their proper rites. Far from it, that was one of the first things he had his crew do when they first arrived at the Western Air Temple. What he had quickly found was that the expedition on land was starting to run low on supplies before they had finished and they had to return to their ship nearly empty handed and had to make a second trip.

    The Air Nomads, for all their talk of peace and respect for life, had wiped out entire armies, even with the power of Sozin’s comet. Uncle Iroh had said that Fire needed air to live, just as the power of a Firebender came from the breath; an Airbender could take both away with ease, necessitating the use of Sozin’s comet so long ago.

    He had made a promise that those men’s funeral rites would come when he was Firelord, when he had taken his rightful place on the throne and had found his mother.

    “Prince Zuko,” Uncle Iroh began.

    “What is it, Uncle?” Zuko asked, pointedly ignoring an itch on his scar that developed whenever he got anxious. The itch reminded him how fortunate he was to still be able to see out of his eye following his lesson on respect.

    “We have been on the hunt for nearly a year now,” Uncle began, following his charge as he walked into the temple.

    “Yes, I know, Uncle,” Zuko replied, feeling his irritation spike. “What does it matter?”

    “I have noticed that the men have not been given any real shore-leave since we have started on your quest,” General Iroh continued, heedless of Zuko’s annoyance. “Perhaps, after our expedition here is finished, you might pull into Port at one of the Colonies and allow your crew some much needed rest and relaxation?”

    Zuko felt his hands curl into fists. “Uncle, they can have all the rest and relaxation they want once we have captured the Avatar.”

    “Prince Zuko,” Uncle Iroh began almost reproachfully. “A frayed rope snaps at the point of highest tension.”

    The prince growled to himself, coming to a halt and looking down at his boots on the cold stone walkways of the mountain. “Fine. Two-weeks shore leave after we’re done here. But I want a thorough search.”

    “The Lieutenant will be happy to hear it,” Iroh said with a cheerful smile.

    The temple, like the ones built in the east and the west, was built to be as open as possible. Nearly rail-less walkways would connect stone gazebo to stone gazebo. The paths and stairs that curled up the mountain had no railings. Once Zuko had gotten inside, he saw that the temple itself was perforated with windows to allow the monks of old to fly in and out on their glider staffs.

    Not for the first time, he wished he could see one in action, if only to prove that they actually worked and the history he had been taught of their armies wasn’t fiction. Though how they maintained any kind of army with how utterly undisciplined they were as a people was a mystery to him.

    Actually, given how they were wiped out by Sozin’s comet, perhaps the answer was self evident. Their army was a failure.

    Zuko found himself looking for just a brief moment at a cluster of skeletons beneath the mountain snow, a group of children hiding behind one of their elders. As he had trained himself to do, Zuko immediately turned away and walked forward with purpose.

    Just ignore them, Zuko thought to himself. Just ignore them. It was necessary, nothing to be done about it now. Just ignore them.

    “I wonder what an Air Nomads favorite tea would be,” Iroh mused behind him, undoubtedly stroking his beard like Zuko knew he would even though he couldn’t see him. “No, I remember, they liked Butter Tea. Butter from their flying bison! I still wonder what it tastes like...”

    Zuko remembered the scroll that his Uncle managed to find somehow. It was just sitting there in the corner of a library, having collected a thick layer of dust and still somehow legible. Uncle Iroh’s excitement and enthusiasm on the subject exotic airbender teas had gone on a week. A long, nigh-unbearable, week.

    The two stopped when they came to a massive door, tubes intricately spindling their way across it like overly long serpents, connected to three separate horns that looked like sea shells.

    With a deep breath, Zuko huffed in frustration. He had encountered doors like this at the other temples that he had been too, but they could only be opened by air-bending. There was no way inside other than through this door, so it was obviously a vault, but he had no idea how to open them. Firebending, by the ship engineer’s guess would prove useless given how the door was made of stone.

    “Maybe one day, we can see the Avatar Shrine the nomads had built,” Iroh said with a smile. “I have heard tales that it was quite a sight.”

    “What if there’s a map in there, Uncle?” Zuko asked, folding his arms and glaring up at the door impotently. “Something to show the Avatar where to go and hide while he mastered the four elements in case of emergency.”

    “We have found no records of any kind of map,” Iroh pointed out again, making this one for one on each vault door they had found. “Nor did the generals who lead the attacks find any mention of such a thing. If there were such a map, all those places it had marked would have been scoured and put to the flame.”

    Zuko’s glare got more focused and severe. He took a deep breath and turned to walk away. “I know.”

    In another life perhaps, Iroh might’ve found himself getting carried away with his explanation in an attempt to teach his nephew something, only to ignite his nephews short fuse and set his temper to a boil. However, he held his tongue this time.

    The search through the temple was going smoothly. Zuko passed by his men doing a thorough sweep of every hallway and every bedroom. It was a steady routine that had been set, each of the men would go in, check this graveyard as quickly and efficiently as possible to avoid agitating any spirits that lingered with a grudge against the Fire Nation.

    As what usually happened during this search, Zuko and Iroh found themselves searching the temple archives.

    Prince Zuko always made it a point to personally inspect the archives; if there was a place that would have information on the Avatar, it would be here. The archive shelves reached from the ceiling to the floor, built in diamond formation. Each little cubbyhole could hold one scroll. Directly across from them was a massive arch that led out to the mountains below them.

    Without fail, just as the previous temples had shown, their were almost no scrolls remaining. Zuko imagined that most of the scrolls these massive archives were supposed to hold contained information on Airbending itself. Which meant that the Fire Army had burnt them all in an attempt to stamp out Airbending and prevent future Avatar’s from learning it; especially if they missed the ‘Last Airbender’ as he was often spoken of and the Avatar was reincarnated as Water Tribe.

    What few scrolls remained however, concerning their history and the philosophy of the Air Nomads had rot and been eaten through by insects. They were completely illegible, which Zuko considered a shame; he needed to learn everything he could about his enemy if he wanted to stand a chance against him.

    Zuko pulled a scroll out and unrolled it; it crumbled to dust in his hands and he threw it away with a huff of irritation. Over by the stone wall of the library which was completely flush with the shelves, Iroh stood. He was not looking fruitlessly at the scrolls that had completely wasted away thanks to the cruel mistress of time, but he was looking at the wall.

    No, not simply looking at the wall. He was studying it. Rubbing his chin with his finger as he peered at the smooth, blank wall with narrowed eyes that seemed as if they were trying to divine the secrets of the universe through it’s staring.

    When Iroh hummed in fascination, Zuko couldn’t take it anymore. “Uncle? What’s so fascinating about that wall?”

    “Well, come here, Nephew,” Iroh told him, beckoning him to come forward. “Do you see it?”

    Zuko’s eyes narrowed as he tried to see whatever it was his Uncle was trying to show him. In another life, his temper might have already been set to a boil and he wouldn’t have had the patience to do as his Uncle requested. But here, he was able to persist just long enough to...see. “There’s a diamond cut into the wall.”

    Indeed there was. A diamond, but one that had been sealed with the same stone that had been cut out of it, sealed so tightly that the edges pressed almost completely against the walls around it and rendering it nearly invincible.

    “I suspect that it is a cubbyhole much like the shelves that surround us,” Iroh suggested. “Which means it might contain something valuable.”

    Zuko’s face lit up in shock and he whirled around and saw two of the marines he brought to shore standing and spoke. “You!”

    Both Marines turned and immediately bowed. “Yes, Prince Zuko?”

    “Go fetch us a pickax!” Zuko barked. “Uncle has found something!”

    They hurried off to follow their orders.

    ---

    One Hundred and Two Years Ago

    “Watch this!”

    Aang was a young monk, dressed up in the orange and yellow robes of his people. He was bald, but didn’t have the blue tattoos of those who had mastered their element. Next to him in the archives was Dorje, another monk that was a year older than him. Aang was, put politely, showing off while they had been told to fetch a scroll for Monk Samten.

    They were messing around with a solid, tight wooden basket that had been carved and given as a gift to one of the monks by a woodcarver. The fun part about this box was that the lid was just a tiny bit too large. Large enough that sometimes it was difficult to get the lid off if you put it on wrong.

    With the flowing, circular motion, Aang put the lid on wrong by pulling all of the air out of the basket and forcing the lid to squeeze shut. “Try to get it off!”

    Dorje, a taller and skinnier student than Aang tried to oblige by pulling. And pulling. And pulling. To no avail. “Why? Won’t? It? Come off?”

    Aang just shrugged and laughed. “I dunno. From some reason, you can’t open it while there’s no air in the basket.”

    Dorje set the basket on the ground. With one hand, he pulled on the handle. With the other, he pushed air down against the edge he was trying to pull up. After a few moments, he succeeded, the lid coming off with a loud pop. He fell to the floor and after some confusion, he started laughing too. “That’s wild! We should try some stuff with this!”

    “I know!” Aang answered. With a twirling motion, Aang jumped into the air and pulled the scroll he and Dorje had been sent to fetch from the top. He landed. “Alright, lets head back.”

    “Wait, Aang, you knocked something out of the wall.” Dorje said, pointing at the wall.

    “I did?” Aang asked, turning to look. “Oh yeah! Monk Giyatso told me that the Earth benders that helped build the temple were going to put in more shelves along the walls. They just barely got started before the Monks told them we had plenty. I guess they forgot to fill this one.”

    “I mean, they kind of started,” Dorje pointed out, squatting down and picking up a diamond-shaped tiled that fell out.

    Aang blinked in surprise. “That’s weird. Maybe we should tell the monks.”

    “Yeah, probably...wait,” Dorje started with a grin. “I got an idea. Let’s a put something inside and see if we can close it up.”

    Aang stopped for a moment before a similarly mischievous grin painted itself across his face. “That sounds like a great idea. They’ll never find it!”

    The two started laughing. Aang began looking through the shelves. “Okay, let’s grab one of the scrolls and see if it works.”

    “No, no,” Dorje shook his head. “You know what we should do? We should hide the big one.”

    Aang blinked. “The big one?”

    The big one. The complete compendium of Airbending penned by the first Airbenders as they learned from the Flying Bison. It was the scroll the Masters were using to teach all the students with as it had all the best teachings from all the masters rolled up into a great hole.

    “Yeah, the big one!” Dorje said again, his smile only getting bigger. “Come on, it’ll give us some time off from lessons while they try to find it.”

    “Well, I would like some time off,” Aang justified to himself. “Okay, where is it?”

    “Come on, I saw Monk Kelsang with it,” Dorje said with a huge grin.

    “We should probably get this scroll to Monk Samten though,” Aang suggested. “That way they don’t come looking for us later.”

    “Good point!”

    ---

    Several hours later, the two boys reunited at the Archives, filled to the brim with nervous energy.

    Aang, for his part, now looked a lot more nervous and doubtful than his partner in crime. “Are you sure about this?”

    “Positive,” Dorje beamed, holding the scroll. It was a really thick thing, looking more like a roll of fabric than a scroll, though it was wrapped in thick cloth to protect it. “We hide this in that compartment for a few days, get some time off while they look for it, and then we return it while no one’s looking and have a good laugh.”

    “Well, as long as we give it back,” Aang said.

    Dorje carefully slid the scroll into the shelf. Both boys became increasingly aware of how tight a fit it was as they heard the sound of fabric sliding against the smooth stone. Dorje was able to push the scroll in fairly far, though.

    “Okay,” Dorje said, turning to Aang. “Do your thing.”

    They placed the tile back in place and Aang pulled all of the air out of the cubbyhole and it sealed tight.

    “Alright, nice job!” Dorje complimented, pulling at the tile, his fingers finding no purchase. “Nice and secure, no ones getting at it now.”

    “Awesome!” Aang replied. “Let’s go.”

    ---

    “Come on Aang, this isn’t funny,” Dorje told his younger accomplice, sweating bullets.

    “I’m trying!” Aang said desperately, throwing streams of air at the tile. “I can’t get air in there!”

    But the tile would not let air in and there were no handles to grasp to give the boys leverage. The tile was stuck and the scroll was locked in there. Forever.

    “Here, let me try,” Dorje pushed Aang aside and started trying to force air into the compartment himself. But he was without success. “Great. Just great! I never should have let you talk me into this!”

    “What?” Aang asked in disbelief. “This was your idea and-!”

    “What’s going on here?”

    Aang’s heart stopped as Monk Giyatso rounded the corner of the shelf, the old monk’s white mustache moving from side to side as he twitched his mouth.

    “Uh...heh...hehe...” Aang rubbed the back of his head.

    They explained what had happened, for they were caught. None of the other masters were able to retrieve the scroll either, the compartment so tightly sealed no air could get inside. so they had decided to simply ask an Earth Bender to retrieve it the next time one visited the temple in a few years.

    For their punishment, Aang and Dorje were made to replace the scroll, writing each stance, form, kata and their explanation under the careful and watchful eye of one of the Airbender masters, forced to reference and read every single scroll of Airbending and Airbending Philosophy as they did so. Both of them produced a scroll.

    It was this learning experience that allowed Aang to invent his own Airbending technique, the air-scooter and gain his tattoos at the tender age of twelve, three years later.

    ---

    Present Day

    Zuko swung the pickax himself, breaking the tile with the steel tool. A violent hiss of air followed and the prince felt it flow past him in a violent current. With his fingers burning candlelight, he looked into the hole. “Uncle, there’s something in here!”

    “Can you reach it?” Iroh asked.

    “I think,” Zuko started, reaching into the hole and feeling his fingers brush fabric, he pulled at it. “I got it!”

    He pulled the fabric, bringing the parcel toward him and gingerly pulling it out of the hole. At his gesturing, the crew members that had gathered around gave the prince space as he set it down on the ground started unwrapping it.

    Zuko’s unscarred eye got as wide as a dinner plate as he looked at it. “It’s a scroll.”

    Iroh fell to one knee and reached forward, carefully and gently touching the paper. “It’s fresh.”

    Carefully, Zuko began to unroll the ancient scroll. On it, he saw forms. Movements. Stances. Katas and their explanation. He was able to skim the philosophy of each move-set.

    “It’s an Airbending scroll,” Zuko said, almost reverently. “Uncle, do you know what this means?”

    “That we can study another form of bending on the ship?” Uncle Iroh asked.

    “It means we have an advantage!” Zuko cried. “When we finally meet the Avatar, we’ll be better prepared to bring him down! Uncle, we actually have a chance!”

    “This is true, Prince Zuko,” Iroh replied with a thoughtful nod. “Understanding your enemy is the first step to defeating him.”

    Zuko could not, no matter how hard he tried, stop himself from smiling, joy lighting a blaze behind his eyes. “How has the search gone through the rest of the temple?”

    The Lieutenant took a step forward. “All men have reported their sweeps completed. They haven’t found anything.”

    Zuko didn’t have it in him to scowl in disappointment. “Secure this scroll and bring it back to the ship. If it’s damaged in anyway, I’ll have everyone’s head. Then, we’re heading to the colonies for two weeks shore-leave!”

    The halls of the temple echoed with the cheers of the Fire Nation.

    ---

    Author’s Note: This is a project and idea that’s been with me for a long time now. This idea of what would happen if Zuko simply, well, as the title says, give up. First, I got to lay the groundwork for Zuko’s decision because at this point in his life, him simply realizing it’s hopeless would be so totally and completely out of character that it would only work for a crackfic.

    My other projects, sadly, must be put on hold. I’m sick of the entire Self-Insert genre and, to be blunt, I’m out of my depth. I realized it when I wrote that last chapter of SHINOBI: The RPG that I am so completely, absolutely and utterly out of my depth that writing the thing wound up not being something I can do. I just have no experience with romance beyond what I’ve read in my self-help books and, well, there’s nothing like the real thing. That said, it will be finished and I will happily answer any questions to those who PM me about what I had planned moving forward in case the worst happened.

    I hope you guys enjoyed it!

    Shout out goes out too Melden V, Anders Kronquist, Ray Tony Song, Volkogluk, Aaron Bjornson, iolande, Martin Auguado, Julio, Jiopaba, Hackerham, Tim Collins-Squire, Maben00, Sultan Saltlick, Ventari, PbookR, Seij, ChristobalAlvarez, Aenor Knight, Apperatus, EPiCJB19, Seeking Raven and Handwran. You guys are awesome!

    Until the next time!

    ~Fulcon
     
  2. Warer

    Warer Shadowstep12 Sleep fucking is impoilte

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    Yay.
     
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  3. Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    I'm glad you liked it!

    Have a cookie. :D
     
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  4. Edifier

    Edifier To rectify be my cause, The Goddess be my purpose!

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    This looks to be a really awesome start!
     
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  5. drag_mage

    drag_mage Hrm

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    If your fanfiction is even half as good as Avatar itself this'll be superb. Looking forward to it.
     
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  6. Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    Thank you! Have a cookie.

    I mean, I can't speak for my work's quality, but I'll let it speak for itself. :)

    Welcome aboard, have a cookie.
     
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  7. Fencer

    Fencer Weaponized Randomness

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    Interesting :) watched!
     
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  8. Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    Hey, thank you!

    Welcome aboard, have a cookie.
     
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  9. Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    Progress Report: 1k words. Things are progressing nicely save for a small snag in returning the scroll to the ship. Thankfully, no one died.
     
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  10. High Lord Rokland

    High Lord Rokland Getting out there.

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    This is gonna be good!
     
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  11. Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    Thank you! Have a cookie.
     
  12. Threadmarks: Unexpected Information
    Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    The following is a fanbased work of fiction. Avatar the Last Airbender is the property of Viacom, Nickelodeon, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Koniezko. Please support the official release.

    ---

    The trip down the mountain strained Zuko’s nerves to their breaking point. While they belayed down the side of the mountain, they had secured the scroll in a metal box packed to the brim with fabric and cushioning to prevent it from being overly jostled. But every swing of the box in the wind, each time it lightly hit the side of the mountain gave Zuko a brand new heart attack before he could recover from the old one.

    Zuko’s fingers felt like they were starting to blister from how often he adjusted and readjusted his grip on the ropes. He could feel a cold sweat breaking out across his forehead, making the mountain air even colder than it already was.

    He kept pace with the box, slowly walking down beside it as the men above slowly lowered it with a winch above the, the rope tightly gripping the box around all four sides and tying in a thick knot right on the top.

    Just get to the bottom, Zuko pleaded with the box. Don’t break, don’t get damaged and most importantly, don’t fall.

    It was at that moment that Fate’s trademark cruelty made itself manifest as Zuko beheld the rope suspending the crate went unbearably slack for seemingly no reason at all before the crate started to fall.

    Zuko’s heart actually stopped, but luckily for him, his arm did not, quickly grasping the rope and feeling the sheer weight of the package causing the hand at the back to slam against his waist in a desperate attempt to stop himself from falling to his death.

    The rope he had grabbed bit into his hand and started to slide through his fingers, giving him a nasty case of rope burn. Zuko gripped the rope tighter and twisted his hand upward, stopping the crates descent.

    Off in the distance, he could see the rope attached to the crate still falling down and saw the winch they had drilled into the rock above at the end, with bits of rock still attached to the bolts. It was, put frankly, much heavier than the box that Zuko was holding onto for dear life.

    After a second, the rope became taught and Zuko felt something pop, sending red hot daggers into his shoulder. It was dislocated. From below, Zuko could hear the winch rapidly unwinding, the rope spinning and whipping around the device before it fell freely.

    “Zuko!” Iroh shouted from behind him. “Are you alright?”

    “Someone get the scroll to safety!” Zuko gasped out in pain. “I can’t hold on much longer!”

    Thankfully, a pair of of Zuko’s men were able to hop to his side, having secured their rope to their belts. They grabbed the scroll from the Prince, which he finally relinquished with a gasp. He groaned in pain as his dislocated arm simply hung in the air, he unable and unwilling to move it.

    “We need to get Zuko down,” Uncle Iroh declared, starting to give orders as Zuko’s own perception started to fail him.

    ---

    “What – urgh – happened?” Zuko asked, grunting and hissing through the pain.

    They were back at the ship. Zuko was lying down on an infirmary bed as the ships doctor bandaged his shoulder after popping it back into place and would bandage the prince’s hands once he was done with that, the skin having nearly been rubbed off.

    “According to the men, we had simply picked a bit of unstable ground to place the winch on,” Iroh answered with a shrug. “Merely a case of poor luck. Nevertheless, the Lieutenant has already reprimanded the men responsible.”

    “Their mistake almost cost us the scroll,” Zuko barked in anger as the doctor finished immobilizing Zuko’s arm, and started bandaging Zuko’s blistered and raw hands. “Where is it?”

    “I had it placed in the bridge for review,” Iroh replied.

    “Good,” Zuko breathed, already chafing beneath the bandages keeping his arm in place. “Good. How long will it take to recover?”

    “It should take two to three weeks for your arm to recover,” The Doctor replied as he finished wrapping Zuko’s hands in bandages. “You’re quite lucky that winch didn’t come down on your head.”

    Zuko muttered something about being lucky to be born underneath his breath.

    “Will that be all, Doctor?” Iroh asked.

    “Yes, General,” The Doctor replied with a bow. “Your highness.”

    “Then we will take our leave,” Zuko said, quickly standing and accidentally tweaking his arm. With a muffled grunt of pain, he held his elbow gingerly and left the infirmary.

    Iroh thanked the Doctor with a bow and walked to join his nephew.

    While his injuries certainly cast a dour rain-pour over the prince’s palanquin, he still felt fairly positive about the whole ordeal. As far as ways for the universe to screw him over and yank his prize away from him at the last possible second, that wasn’t too bad.

    Because he beat it.

    They walked into the bridge. The bridge was just a giant square with windows built into the front, just before the helm. At the table in the center was the scroll, unwrapped and ready for Zuko to devour its contents. The Helmsman was standing at the wheel, talking with the Lieutenant about something. They both came to attention.

    “Set course for the nearest colony port,” Zuko ordered, sitting at the table before the scroll. “We’re heading for two-weeks shore leave.”

    The Helmsman beamed and rapidly started prepping the ship’s engines.

    Zuko looked down at the scroll with excitement and trepidation. His first real break. Who knew what arcane secrets the Air Nomads had kept secreted away, what weapons of war they would bring to pass if they were still alive. The Fire Nation’s dreams of spreading progress would’ve been halted in the cradle, Zuko knew. He had seen the bodies to prove it.

    Fittingly, the Avatar, wherever he was, would be the final obstacle. Now in his hands, he had the ability to see and understand why Airbending was so deadly.

    With his good hand, Zuko reached forward and began to unfurl the scroll and began reading. His focus was absolute, his gaze unwavering. He would learn of these secrets and dissect them to find weaknesses in the Avatar’s bending and philosophy. Zuko’s best guess was that the Avatar would think he was invincible and not respect his opponent, especially since he was a master of a bending style no one had seen in over a hundred years.

    He could work with that.

    ---

    Iroh slowly leaned to look over Zuko’s shoulder. “Find anything interesting?”

    Zuko let out a breath of irritation. “None of this makes any sense.”

    “How so?” Iroh asked.

    “Detachment?” Zuko asked incredulously, gesturing to the scroll. “Peace? Separating yourself from the problems of the world means freedom? It sounds like they were trying to glorify laziness!”

    “The Airbenders were nomads, Prince Zuko,” Iroh reminded his nephew. “They had no reason to embed themselves in every conflict or issue they could find. Emphasizing detachment from the world around them enabled them to float from place to place with little difficulty.”

    Zuko groaned, studying the scroll before him. “It explains why the Avatar hasn’t come out of hiding even with the Fire Nation blazing a trail across the world; he doesn’t care.”

    “Do not mistake detachment from the world for apathy,” Iroh corrected. “A calm mind can often see what emotion cannot.”

    “So they had no emotions,” Zuko replied, still looking at the scroll. “Except that they say that this is the path to happiness, which is an emotion.”

    “The happiness they speak of is not the same euphoric high one receives when having fun or getting good news,” Iroh replied while reading over Zuko’s shoulder. “But rather the calm assurance of not being burdened by pains such as grief or anger.”

    “That’s stupid,” Zuko grumbled, still reading. His next few words were a muttered growl meant for himself. “What is someone without their pain?”

    “At peace,” Iroh replied with a smile.

    Zuko growled, but said nothing further, still reading. Iroh shrugged and said nothing further. When a yeoman brought a platter of hot tea, Iroh thanked him and grabbed a cup for himself.

    ---

    “That is enough.”

    Zuko lowered his guard, the deck abandoned as the crew was out on shore leave. He was panting heavily, bracing himself against his legs. His arm was still stiff from the dislocation, but thankfully it didn’t throb or ache anymore. The bandages had come off yesterday and now he had to get himself back into fighting shape.

    “You have not been doing the breathing exercises,” Iroh reprimanded from his perch, sipping from his cup of tea.

    “They weren’t helping,” Zuko barked back in anger.

    “Of course they weren’t helping,” Iroh replied sternly. “You weren’t doing them!”

    Zuko inhaled sharply through his nose and let out jets of flame through his nose. “I can breathe just fine, Uncle!”

    “Zuko, if you could breathe just fine, you would be able to go another hour or so before running out of steam,” Iroh corrected kindly. “Now come sit here, we will do them together.”

    “Fine,” Zuko hissed, stepping up to his Uncle’s mat and assuming a lotus stance beside him.

    “Now inhale,” Iroh instructed, and they began.

    You could really tell when you were truly, really breathing. With each breath you took, you could feel a tingling in the ends of your fingers and toes at the start. After a set of deep breathes, you exhaled and simply stopped breathing for however long you could stand it. Once you did that, you inhaled and held it before releasing it and repeating the whole process over again. With each repetition, the tingling feeling traveled from your fingers and toes up your arms and legs, growing more severe and pronounced until it felt like your whole body was strongly tingling.

    Zuko thought the feeling was like a million little candles being lit within his body. It was euphoric feeling, one that could make it very hard to be anything but mellow for a few minutes. It felt nice, but it wasn’t the roaring wildfire that he needed to consider it a benefit to his bending.

    Especially not when he could be doing something like drills.

    “Alright,” Iroh said after the final exhale. “We are finished.”

    “Thank you, Uncle,” Zuko stood up and bowed. Helpful or not, it still felt good.

    “Now hold on a moment, Nephew. I had an idea while we were breathing,” Iroh said, smiling and standing up himself. “I thought it might be a good idea to try out some of the katas. From the Airbending scroll?”

    Zuko blinked. “Why?”

    “It would help you understand the forms that you can expect from the Avatar when we meet him,” Iroh answered with a thoughtful smile. “Performing an action makes it much easier to understand that action.”

    “That...is a good point,” Zuko replied with some surprise.

    “Besides, I have been curious as to what a firebender can do with a greater knowledge of the other forms of bending,” Iroh confessed with a jolly expression.

    “Uncle,” Zuko started, looking confused and more than a little annoyed. “You can’t learn to firebend from a waterbender.”

    Iroh blinked in surprise, then smiled in a way that Zuko had never seen before; smugly. “No, you can’t. But you can learn tricks from them to turn the tide into your favor.”

    “Like what?” Zuko asked, exasperatedly.

    “The power to redirect lightning,” Iroh replied. “I learned that by observing Waterbenders.”

    “Uncle, lightning bending was rediscovered by Grandfather Azulon during the battle of Serpent Pass,” Zuko pointed out with irritation. “Against the Earth Kingdom. He didn’t get it from water benders.”

    Iroh looked more than a little disappointed. “That’s not what I said, Prince Zuko.”

    Zuko’s eyes narrowed, looking from side to side to figure out what in Agni’s name his Uncle was talking about. When it hit him, his eyes widened. “You can defend against lightning?”

    “Indeed I can,” Iroh replied, turning to walk in the direction of the bridge. “But that can come at a later time. For now, I want to practice these katas first hand.”

    Zuko huffed in irritation, but followed his uncle.

    ---

    The scroll had been brought to the bridge and set on the table, allowing Zuko and Iroh to look at the stances and movements with clarity. Each movement felt oddly uncomfortable as they forced his spiritual energy to move and go places it didn’t normally go.

    “Interesting!” Iroh seemed pleased with himself. “These movements almost feel soothing. What do you think, Prince Zuko?”

    “They’re very...” Zuko took a moment to complete the current movement before continuing. “Circular.”

    “Lots of negative jing,” Iroh noted. “Well suited for defense and evasion.”

    “We’ll need to watch and make sure the avatar doesn’t run when we find him,” Zuko realized blinking with the realization, stopping his movement, the kata complete “If these techniques are even half as effective as described, he might be impossible to pin down without careful planning.”

    “Or a lot of luck,” Iroh added, still going through the motions.

    “We can’t rely on luck.” Zuko sat down at the table to go over the scroll again, only to be distracted. “Uncle, are you seriously going through the kata again?”

    “Why yes, I am,” Iroh answered, going for a third time. “Honestly, I’m having fun.”

    Zuko grunted in annoyance and redoubled his focus, trying to pry more out of the scroll. Something he had missed in the past few weeks of study. Something offensive. Pulling the air out of someone’s lungs, extinguishing flames, shock waves, hurricanes, something. But he had missed nothing; there were no offensive techniques that weren’t taught with a defensive or utility purpose in mind.

    Detachment, Zuko thought, shaking his head in derision. You can’t live without a foot on the ground. Just shows you how useless their army was.

    “Yes,” Iroh said with an oddly contented sigh as he sat down besides Zuko. “That was most productive. We will be adding these katas to our training regimen. I think they will help you.”

    Zuko’s eye widened in anger. “Uncle, you can’t cut back my firebending training to shoehorn in airbending forms!”

    “Who said I was cutting back?” Iroh asked with a smirk. “Our training sessions just got longer.”

    Zuko pounded an angry fist on the table. “But that will cut into the rest of the day!”

    “Your time spent plotting our course and daydreaming about your return home can afford to be cut short,” Iroh replied. “We start tomorrow.”

    Zuko stood up and growled, stalking off to his room in anger. Iroh watched his retreating form while stroking his beard in thought and narrowed eyes. Then he shrugged and took a sip of tea as he started looking over the scroll.

    ---

    What the heck is that old tea-monkey thinking? Zuko thought in frustration.

    Zuko was in his room, laying down on his bed with his hands behind his head. The walls of his room were decorated with fire nation paraphernalia, such as a fire nation flag hung over his bed. On the desk was his journal, each day meticulously recorded so he could more easily cross-reference clues he came across during his hunt. The hope was that he’d have a series of eureka moments going over his journal that led him right to his quarry. The reality is that his first entry in months was from several weeks ago after they had successfully found that scroll in the Southern Air Temple.

    Adding airbending katas to our training regimen? Zuko continued to steam. Knowing the enemies moves isn’t going to help if I don’t even know my own! It’s not like they’re much of a threat anyway, all they do is run away from fights!

    Of course, that was a lie, and he quickly remembered the corpses of his countrymen having rotted to the bone up in the Air Temples. He grunted to himself and readjusted his position on his bed. That feels like a cruel joke; the army of the pacifist, peace loving Nomads killed more Fire Nation troops in a day than the Earth Kingdom has over the course of the whole war.

    That thought just made him angry, causing his eyes to narrow in frustration. Pacifist. Detached. Had their head in the clouds is more like it.

    How can anyone live like that? Zuko asked himself. Just completely separate themselves from the world and ignore all the bad stuff like nothing’s happening. They were like children.

    Zuko turned on his bed, moving to his side. Children so dangerous Sozin didn’t dare make a move on them without the comet. So clearly they weren’t as detached and respectful of life as they tried to say they were.

    At that moment, Zuko remembered the bodies of the fallen monks in the temple. Then again, who could be that detached when staring at deaths door? Who couldn’t try to defend themselves in the face of an attacker?

    He shook his head in frustration. That just proves how impractical their philosophy was; in the end it just got them killed.

    Besides, you can’t just detach yourself from real life, Zuko continued. If you don’t care if you go hungry and you don’t eat, what do you do? You starve.

    A part of him knew that he was being unfair and exaggerating what the scroll was trying to say. But that part was small and didn’t talk much, so the frustrated and angry prince ignored it. How is training their katas supposed to help? Find weaknesses in the Avatar’s bending? I don’t need to practice the kata to see he can’t attack for anything! Detach myself from my problems? I won’t be motivated to find the Avatar and restore my honor!

    Zuko breathed in sharply and caused the candles in his room to glow brighter on the exhale. Yet Uncle thinks its a good idea! It’s like he places feeling good over...wait, that’s exactly what it is.

    He rolled his eyes. Uncle, you’re supposed to be helping me not trying to get me to give up!

    The prince sat up. You know, maybe I’m just exaggerating. Uncle will probably see how it’s not helping and then we can cut our training sessions back to what they’re supposed to be so he can get back to his Tea and Pai Sho.

    ---

    Author’s Notes: I once met a Kung Fu master that tried to teach me the concept of being Neutral. A lot of Zuko’s complaints and objections about the Air Nomad’s focus on detachment and freedom mirror my own. Personally, I think after a lot of personal introspection, I understand what the man was trying to tell me; though I’m still not very good at it. Zuko, however, desperately needs to take a step back and really look at his situation, something I would like to show him doing in this fic.

    Trying to see how long I can pump these chapters out daily, and we’re on day two. I’d like to thank all of you for your positive response, it really brought a smile to my face knowing you guys really liked this. You guys are awesome and it’s a pleasure to write for you.

    Shout out goes out too Melden V, Anders Kronquist, Ray Tony Song, Volkogluk, Aaron Bjornson, iolande, Martin Auguado, Julio, Jiopaba, Hackerham, Tim Collins-Squire, Maben00, Sultan Saltlick, Ventari, PbookR, Seij, ChristobalAlvarez, Aenor Knight, Apperatus, EPiCJB19, Seeking Raven and Handwran. Your continued support helps make my writing possible.

    Until the next time!

    ~Fulcon
     
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  13. RichardWhereat

    RichardWhereat The Dawn Will Cum

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    I like to think that I could do the airbender philosophy if I were in that world, but I'm too hotheaded and passionate.

    Also, huh. I wonder what Zuko and BestUncle will learn from Airbending.

    Waterbending is moving with the water to make it move with you, so redirecting lightning is understandable.

    The key to airbending is flexibility and finding and following the path of least resistance. Airbending is notable for being almost purely defensive, as well as the most dynamic of the four bending arts. Airbenders can overwhelm many opponents at once with large and powerful attacks that could prove fatal.

    The key to earthbending is utilizing neutral jing, which involves waiting and listening for the right moment to strike and, when that moment comes, acting decisively. In other words, earthbenders generally endure their enemies' attacks until the right opportunity to counterattack reveals itself.

    So, I wonder what firebenders can learn from earth and airbenders, and what they can all learn from each other.

    Woah... from Toph, Iroh and Zuko might learn thermal vision, after seeing how she uses her seismic sense to 'see'.
     
  14. Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    Same, though personally it's because I'm too spiteful and vindictive...maybe that's why I'm drawn to firebending, to be honest...

    *stifles squee*

    I can't wait to show you. I think it's going to be awesome.

    That honestly feels like Zuko's getting smashed in the face with his exact opposite right now.

    Didn't plan it that way. You know, people saying the key to airbending is 'following the path of least resistance'...that's true to water too. And lightning. That's exactly what lightning is. Isn't it?

    *stupidly large grin*

    You'll have to wait and see...

    I actually didn't think of that, thank you.

    Incidentally, good to see you! Have a cookie.
     
  15. Fencer

    Fencer Weaponized Randomness

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    You know above all else I’m always most encouraged about a stories potential when I see the author get super excited like this :) that giddy little high of ‘this is going to be so cool and they’re never going to see it coming!’ Is just the best feeling isn’t it?
     
  16. Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    It is the best feeling.

    Like, in more ways than one.
     
  17. RichardWhereat

    RichardWhereat The Dawn Will Cum

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    Generating lightning involves a circular motion with the arms. Mentally, it involves a complete absence of emotion and peace of mind, and physically, it requires separating the energies of yin and yang, also interpreted as positive and negative electric potential respectively.​

    Ahh, so, combining firebending with Airbending philosophy and kata can teach lightning generation. Neat.

    Waterbending is still the most powerful though, with blood and spirit bending.
     
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  18. Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    That is neat!

    ...and strange!

    Thank you for pointing this out. Have a cookie!
     
  19. Threadmarks: Surprising Lessons
    Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    The following is a fanbased work of fiction. Avatar the Last Airbender is the property of Viacom, Nickelodeon, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Koniezko. Please support the official release.

    ---

    “And down again.”

    Zuko. Was. Angry.

    Their practice was supposed to be done for the day. It was supposed to be done for the day ten minutes ago for the past three weeks. But every time Zuko was ready to call it done, Iroh came off from his seat and joined him on the deck for Airbending forms.

    Airbending.

    The prince knew some members of the crew were giving them odd looks, even if they knew this was ostensibly to learn about the Avatar’s weaknesses. But there was nothing further to learn. Zuko had poured over every single kata, every blow and strike and cataloged every strength and weakness he could find.

    Don’t bunch up into groups, restrict his mobility and use weighted nets that he can’t just blow away to catch him.

    Continuing to practice these katas now just felt like a waste of time, busywork and it was starting to make him angry. Especially when the ship rocked on the waves and threw his form off so Uncle made him repeat the movement.

    “And rest,” Iroh said, bringing the kata to an end. “I feel like I’m learning something new every time we do this together.”

    “That makes one of us,” Zuko replied with a surly glare.

    Iroh hummed in curiosity. “Oh, I think you’ve learned plenty. You’ve been doing your breathing exercises!”

    “You said they helped,” Zuko grumbled. “What does breathing have to do with airbending?”

    Iroh adopted a cheeky grin. “Well, you breathe air, don’t you?”

    Zuko groaned with absolute irritation. “Uncle, I just realized that it helps a little. That’s all.”

    “And you started doing them faster than I expected you too,” Iroh replied, putting his hands in his sleeves. “Rather than stubbornly persisting in not doing them and finally relenting after two, maybe three more lectures.”

    “Thanks, Uncle.” Zuko’s shoulders hunched over to match his deadpan expression.

    “Do you at least understand why you’ve changed so quickly?” Iroh asked with a raised eyebrow.

    “Uncle, I just started doing the breathing exercises you demanded I do!” Zuko argued hotly. “Why’s that such a big deal?”

    Iroh let out a sigh and started to stroke his beard, contemplating his next few words. “Zuko, what is Air?”

    Zuko blinked in confusion. “What?”

    “What is air?” Iroh repeated.

    “I don’t...” Zuko began, then groaned in annoyance. “Air is what we breathe? Something fire needs to survive? The Element of Freedom?”

    “The Element of Freedom,” Iroh nodded in approval, causing Zuko to feel a little relieved that he had at least guessed the right answer. “Airbending stresses detachment from worldly care and problems as the way to peace and happiness.”

    “Right,” Zuko replied, rolling his eyes. “Because plugging your ears and repeating ‘I don’t care’ fixes everything.”

    Iroh resisted sighing in annoyance himself. “Zuko, when I told you that you needed to do your breathing exercises, you became upset. You were annoyed that I was getting after you for not consistently doing them. But after we started doing these katas, you were able to detach from your annoyance and start doing your breathing. And look, your firebending has improved dramatically!”

    Zuko blinked, considering this new information. “Thank you, Uncle.”

    “I am only speaking the truth,” Iroh said, placing a hand on Zuko’s shoulder.

    “I just worry,” Zuko said, looking down at the ship. “When I face the Avatar, I won’t be ready to fight him.”

    The two walked to the edge of the ship, looking over the waters of the ocean as they coursed down beneath them. Behind the ship, Zuko could see dolphin-sharks trailing after the ship, waiting for the cook to throw out rotten or otherwise undesirable food. There had been tails of Fire Nation sailors going overboard and quickly winding up as meals for the creatures, though Zuko was hoping he could go his entire journey without that happening to his crew once.

    “Why do you say that, Prince Zuko?” Iroh asked.

    “I haven’t even gotten past the basics,” Zuko muttered over the sound of the waves splashing against the ships hull. “How can I defeat someone who has had a hundred years to master all four elements if I can’t even do basic firebending right?”

    “There are no shortcuts to mastery,” Iroh replied with equal discretion. “There is merely the path. How fast you run along that path is up to you.”

    Zuko folded his arms. “Then I need to learn how to sprint.”

    “There is much to be said for wanting to run fast along the road to success,” Iroh stated. “But those who try to run faster than they have strength often trip and fall before they even catch sight of the destination.”

    Zuko groaned. “Why could I have been a prodigy like Azula? I’d be bending lighting by now.”

    “You have great talent for Fire Bending, Zuko,” Iroh replied. “Do not let your slow start discourage you.”

    “Oh really?” Zuko asked hotly. “Then why aren’t I throwing blue fire? Why aren’t I bending lightning? Why do I keep screwing up? What am I missing, Uncle? Tell me that!”

    It was at that moment that Iroh had an epiphany, getting a shocked and surprised look in his eyes as something occurred to him before. “Come with me. I think I may have the answer to your question."

    ---

    They were sitting in the bridge at the table. A Yeoman had brought Iroh paper and writing equipment.

    He placed the paper in front of Zuko. “Fire is the Element of power. Firebending is using overwhelming force tempered by unyielding will to accomplish tasks, desires and missions.”

    Iroh had drawn a fire symbol in the center of the paper. Then, he drew three lines going out from that fire and drew a circle at the edges. “Zuko, what does fire need to live?”

    In another life, Zuko might have protested a lesson very much like this, thinking that he already knew all of this and forcing this lesson to take too long to complete. As it was, the prince in exile frowned. “It needs fuel, heat and air.”

    “That’s right,” Iroh nodded, filling in the three sections that had drawn with illustrations. “A fire needs something to burn, needs heat to get started and air to breathe, much like a living person. Firebending is the same way. In Firebending, what is the fuel?”

    Zuko blinked. “Chi?”

    “That’s right,” Iroh nodded, writing the word chi next to the pile of coal he had crudely drawn. “And the air?”

    “Like you said, Uncle, the power of firebending comes from the breath,” Zuko pointed out, his brow furrowing in irritation.

    Uncle Iroh wrote ‘breath’ next to the symbol of the air nomads he had drawn. “What about heat?”

    “Anger. Rage. Hatred,” Zuko replied with absolute surety.

    “No.”

    Zuko looked up at his Uncle. “No?”

    “No,” Iroh repeated with a solemn nod. “That is not what allows firebending to survive.”

    “What?” Zuko barked, letting flames out of his nose in anger. “That doesn’t make any sense! I didn’t even start to get decent at firebending until after I learned to...to... to harness my anger!”

    “No, Prince Zuko,” Iroh shook his head. “You did not start to become better at Firebending until you were sent to capture the Avatar.”

    “What are you talking about?” Zuko asked with an angry, confused expression.

    “Being sent to capture the Avatar gave you a purpose in life,” Iroh explained. “It gave you direction. It gave you something to strive towards. It gave you drive.

    “Drive?” Zuko blinked.

    “That,” Iroh started, writing the word down next to the word heat on the diagram. “Is the heat of Firebending. Not anger or hatred. Drive. Desire. Goals you wish to achieve, things you want. That just leaves the question, Prince Zuko; what drives you?”

    Zuko stared at the diagram his Uncle drew, completely lost in his thoughts. Iroh put his hands in his sleeves and closed his eyes in meditation.

    In truth, there were a lot of things that drove Prince Zuko. “I want my honor back.”

    Iroh nodded. “What else?”

    “I want my father to recognize me as a worthy successor to the throne,” Zuko continued. “I want to find out what happened to my mother.”

    Zuko looked down at the table some more and Iroh went back to his meditation.

    “I want my home back.”

    With that, Iroh looked at him with a kind, sagely smile. “Good. When you firebend, when you are training and practicing, use that. Heat your flames with that desire. Let it drive you and push you forward.”

    It was at this very second that the ship violently rocked. The helmsman turned to Iroh. “Earth Kingdom raiders! We just took a boulder to the deck!”

    Zuko and Iroh stood up immediately.

    “Battle stations! Engage evasive maneuvers and try to get close enough for us to get a clear shot,” Zuko ordered, stomping forward to look at the enemy through the telescope on the outside desk.

    “Yes, Prince Zuko!” The helmsman yelled, executing his orders without delay.

    This is one of those times I wish we had more than one catapult, Zuko thought in dismay.

    “Now hear this, now hear this,” The Lieutenant started shouting into the voice pipe. “This is Lieutenant Jee. We have come under attack. Assume battle stations!”

    Jee threw the pipe shut just as the helmsman quickly turned the ship to avoid an oncoming boulder. Everyone on board nearly lost their balance but continued on their duties. Zuko ran out and looked through the telescope mounted to the outer railing.

    Looking through the glass, Zuko saw their enemy. He turned to Jee who had followed him out. “Earth Kingdom patrol ship at range forty-two. I want three pairs of benders on the deck to counter attack while we get close. Get that catapult manned! On the double!”

    “Yes, your highness!” Jee hurriedly ran back inside and opened the voice pipe to relay their orders.

    Zuko back into the bridge and ran for the stairs. “Come on, Uncle! We need to return fire!”

    The prince found himself nearly thrown from the steps when the ship was rocked violently by a loud impact that echoed through the steel corridors. I hope that wasn’t the mess hall.

    Zuko and Iroh ran out onto the deck and nodded to each other, moving into a synchronized kata.

    General Iroh had noted their catapult shortage early on in the journey and ensured that the crew was trained in long-range combat. Specifically, the long-range fireballs the Fire Navy had used before they started using catapults armed with boulders coated in burning oil.

    They were usually cast by teams of two, sometimes three, fire-benders, pooling together their chi to create a massive fireball capable to traversing long distances. The reason they had swapped to catapults was that catapults were usually capable of throwing larger, heavier and more damaging ordinance than was capable by the average firebender.

    Zuko and Iroh let loose their fireball, watching it fly through the air and miss the enemy ship, seemingly overshooting it.

    With a curse, Zuko and Iroh tried again, this time being joined by other pairs of fire benders who were launching their own flames at the ship.

    The prince looked up and saw a black spot in the sky that was rapidly getting larger. “Clear the deck!”

    The Fire Benders scrambled as the desk where Zuko had been standing was crushed beneath the weight of a boulder that had been flung at high speeds.

    Zuko was as emboldened by this as he was angered. “Return fire!”

    So it was. Boulders rained from the sky most sinking impotently into the ocean while the fire-bender's of the ship returned the favor with great balls of flame. Zuko noted, with glee, that he could tell his ship was getting closer to his target, even though they were obviously trying to stay out of their reach.

    After one final fire ball, Zuko and Iroh scored a direct hit, setting the top deck on fire and bringing the ship to a slow halt. Other balls of fire slammed into the side of the hull, causing the whole ship to burn. “Cease fire!”

    Zuko walked to the edge of the railing, watching the ship. He could see sailors jumping out of the ship, some on fire and into lifeboats. From the distance, Zuko thought he could hear their screams as they burned, earning just the smallest tinge of sympathy.

    “Your highness,” Lieutenant Jee came up behind him. “Give the order and we’ll finish this.”

    The prince narrowed his eyes. “No. They’re beaten, let them go. Set a course for the closest shipyard, I want this ship repaired as quickly as possible.”

    Lieutenant Jee didn’t seem happy about it, but he bowed. “Yes, your highness.”

    ---

    Zuko stared at the map he had mounted on the bridge. He was cupping his chin deep in thought. “Uncle, we’ve checked each of the Air Temples. Where do we go next?”

    Iroh took a massive gulp of tea. “There are many places that are associated with the Avatar that we could go. Kyoshi Island, for instance. Lovely place, and it’s nearby.”

    Zuko grumbled and turned to his Uncle. “I was hoping to avoid going into enemy territory unless we knew he was there.”

    “A fair point,” Iroh answered.

    “Where would he even be?” Zuko asked, looking back at the map. “If he were in Ba Sing Se, he would have fought against you when you breached it’s wall.”

    “Indeed,” Iroh replied. “Perhaps it would be better to ask the question of why he is hiding in the first place?”

    “I don’t know the answer to that,” Zuko replied with a glare. “Maybe he’s training and gaining enough power to wipe out the Fire Nation with a single blow. Maybe he’s waiting for Sozin’s Comet to come back around so he can destroy it and demoralize the entire Fire Nation.”

    “Maybe he’s sleeping,” Iroh joked with a smirk.

    Zuko rolled his eyes. “Uncle, this is serious.”

    Iroh let out a breath. “Well, since we don’t know where he can be and perhaps we should start thinking about how we begin looking.”

    “Do you have a suggestion, Uncle?” Zuko asked.

    “When we pull into neutral ports, you should start putting out feelers,” Iroh suggested. “Pay a few beggars here, a merchant there, get people looking for you.”

    “Uncle, most of the world won’t spy on the Avatar for the Fire Nation,” Zuko argued, eyes narrowing. “Especially not an exiled prince. They’d take our money and laugh after we left.”

    “True enough, I suppose,” Iroh replied with a shrug.

    “So we’re stuck doing this the hard way,” Zuko shook his head in frustration. “Searching the globe from the North Pole to the South Pole. Look for deserted islands, listen for rumors.”

    The prince took a deep breath. “This is going to take a while.”

    “Well, as long as you get to go home at the end, it’ll be worth it, right?” Iroh asked, trying to sound encouraging, but his eyes were somewhat distant.

    “Yeah,” Zuko replied, squinting at the map and slowly turning to sit at the table. He picked up the ships damage report, which was thankfully minimal. The only real damage that had been done to the ship was the mess hall, to the consternation of the entire crew. Thankfully, the ship’s cook was making due down in the boiler with some help from the engineer, but the crew had loved that mess hall. Morale was going to take a hit until it was fixed.

    “So what is it that you are looking forward to the most when we get home?” Iroh asked.

    Zuko didn’t answer immediately, simply taking a cup of tea from the serving tray. After a few sips, he finally answered. “I want to ask my father what happened to Mother.”

    “Ah,” Iroh slowly nodded in thought. In another life, perhaps, Iroh might not have thought it was a good idea to ask this question, lest his short-tempered and determined charge shut him out completely and send them all back to square one. But given recent events and Zuko’s listening more and more to his counsel, he decided to risk it.. “Do you believe he’ll tell you?”

    Zuko blinked in surprise, unable to speak for a moment. “He’d have too.”

    Iroh shook his head. “No, I’m afraid the Firelord doesn’t have to do anything.”

    “But I would’ve brought the Avatar home, restored my honor, proved myself a worthy heir,” Zuko argued rapidly. “He’d want to tell me, if I just asked.”

    Iroh took a deep sip of his tea and began to refill the cup. “Are you so sure about that?”

    “Yes!” Zuko argued defiantly.

    “And if he doesn’t?” Iroh asked.

    “Then I’ll find out what happened to her after I’ve ascended to the throne,” Zuko snapped. “It doesn’t matter if he won’t tell me! I’ll find her!”

    Iroh hummed.

    “What?” Zuko snapped.

    “It just occurred to me,” Iroh asked. “That perhaps it might be impossible to find the Avatar until he shows himself and if so, then perhaps we might be able to multi-task.”

    “You mean,” Zuko stopped short. “You mean look for Mother at the same time?”

    Iroh slowly nodded with a satisfied look in his eye.

    Zuko growled. “But what if Father killed her?”

    “Then he wouldn’t tell you unless he suspected you either agreed with his decision or couldn’t do anything about him,” Iroh replied. “And he would not risk making the Prince who defeated the Avatar his enemy, so he would lie and send you on a hopeless quest.”

    “My father wouldn’t lie,” Zuko sniffed.

    “Your father raised Azula,” Iroh pointed out flatly.

    Zuko started grinding his teeth together in anger. He stood up, and walked out of the bridge, slamming the steel door behind him.

    ---

    Author’s Notes: Here we are, changes starting to become more apparent. Zuko’s listening more to Iroh and thus, Iroh’s feels its a better and better idea to explain some of the more fundamental ideas that he had kept from Zuko until he felt like listening; such as the lessons on Firebending that Iroh learned when he found the Sun Monks and received instruction from Ran and Shaw. Just a little bit of that though.

    The Earth Kingdom ship fight was supposed to end with a boarding action initially, except that I don’t think Zuko’s ship was armed with ballistae. I didn’t even think it had a trebuchet but I was wrong on that and didn’t feel like being incorrect twice. So, I just had the wooden ship get hit and burn. You know, the steel ships and flame-blasting weaponry goes a long way to explaining the Fire Nations domination of non Water Tribe waters.

    Also, what are they still using catapults and trebuchets for?

    Shout out goes out too Melden V, Anders Kronquist, Ray Tony Song, Volkogluk, Aaron Bjornson, iolande, Martin Auguado, Julio, Jiopaba, Hackerham, Tim Collins-Squire, Maben00, Sultan Saltlick, Ventari, PbookR, Seij, ChristobalAlvarez, Aenor Knight, Apperatus, EPiCJB19, Seeking Raven and Handwran for your continued support!

    Until the next time!

    ~Fulcon
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2019
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  20. Fencer

    Fencer Weaponized Randomness

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    tech levels are weird in avatar. Think part of the explanation is something along the lines of fire nation tech tree being focused on what can be powered by heat. Boilers and hot air balloons being the big breakthroughs. More realistically it’s because cartoonists aren’t military historians. Honestly ship space is always at a premium so the mere idea of waisting it on boulders to shoot at people is a bit laughable. You’d run out of ammo too quickly for it be useful. Though I can’t remember if fireworks are a thing so not having canons may actually be correct for reasons besides not wanting to up the level of death and destruction whenever the fire navy gets screen time.

    not sure about ballista. My knowledge on historical navel armaments is more or less non existent but they certainly have the knowledge to make them. They just aren’t all that destructive. Still light it on fire and any wooden ship is going to have a bad day.
     
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  21. RichardWhereat

    RichardWhereat The Dawn Will Cum

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    It's weird, and stupid, but it's canon.
     
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  22. Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    I'm pretty sure they're a thing. Sokka uses a gunpowder analogue in a failed attempt to enter the Fire Temple's inner sanctum in 'The Winter Solstice pt 2'.

    They have ballistae, used in The Boiling Rock and during the first episode of Season 3 by an enemy ship.
     
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  23. Fencer

    Fencer Weaponized Randomness

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    Then it’s really just down to cartoonists not making the best military design team.
     
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  24. Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    Pretty much, yeah.
     
  25. Threadmarks: Epiphanies
    Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    The following is a fanbased work of fiction. Avatar the Last Airbender is the property of Viacom, Nickelodeon, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Koniezko. Please support the official release.

    ---

    “And that’s enough for today,” Iroh said. “You go on inside, Prince Zuko. I’ll catch up.”

    “You’re not coming?” Zuko asked with irritation. “You were supposed to help me chart a search pattern along the western coasts.”

    It had been a day since their ship was repaired, Zuko wanting to put out to sea as quickly as possible. Thankfully, the mess hall wasn’t hard to fix, just one of the walls had been smashed in, warping parts of the ceiling and floor with it.

    “I’ll be along in a minute,” Iroh replied, starting yet another airbender kata.

    Zuko’s eye twitched and he turned away on his heel with an angry growl. He stomped up the stairs and through the door up to the bridge. What is Uncle doing?

    Up on the bridge, he walked up to the map. He’s holding up our planning, that’s what he’s doing. Just so he can do airbender katas. He’s a firebender! He should be practicing his firebending!

    They had stopped at Pouhai Stronghold to have their ship fixed and were traveling away from shore. Marked up on the map, places such as Makapu Village and the large island off of it’s coast might be good places to start looking. Zuko had heard the village had a fortune teller, a fairly skilled one at that; though Zuko would have to be much more desperate than he already was to consider employing her services.

    He had a perfectly functional pair of eyes and a brain, thank you. He shouldn’t have to resort to a soothsayer.

    Zuko took a deep breath and studied the map. There were Earth Kingdom coastal towns all through the northern peninsula that he could dock at if he needed supplies, none of them would be places a hundred year old bridge between worlds would be hiding.

    Because they traded with the Fire Nation and the Fire Nation made it a point to burn any places a hostile spirit might be taking shelter. With very few noted exceptions, it worked; their armies were rarely stopped by spirits who guarded the valleys and hills they marched through. But it never brought the Avatar out from hiding.

    The prince hit his head against the map with a groan, bringing his fist against it as well. “I can do it...I can do it...my father wouldn’t have given me this mission if he didn’t think I could do it...”

    But there was a niggling thought in the back of his skull that this was a lie.

    With a growl, he shook this thought away from him, studying the map. He had already done the circuit around the Earth Kingdom’s continent once as he visited each of the Air Temples. A more thorough search of the Earth Kingdom would be needed but he was not looking forward too it.

    It was then that Zuko realized that he also had two other places he could search while he was circumnavigating the globe. Again.

    He might he hiding in the Poles, Zuko thought. It was as if a frozen spike was being driven in the pit of his stomach. Oh, I was hoping to avoid going to enemy territory and they’re even worse than the Earth Kingdom..

    Zuko swallowed. Still, if that’s where he is, then I need a plan to search it. Where is Uncle Iroh?

    He took a deep breath and walked over to the panoramic windows surrounding the helm and looked down at the deck, where he could see Iroh still training his airbending. Without actually bending air. Still? He’s just doing the katas for no reason!

    With his hands curled tightly into fists, he stalked to the stairs, intent on dragging his uncle up to the bridge by his ankles if he had too.

    However, when Zuko actually got to the bridge and opened his mouth to start shouting, his voice was robbed of it’s power and he was forced to stare, blankly, at what his Uncle was doing. He was not alone, either; the guards on deck were staring at his Uncle instead of the absolute discipline they had been trained to employ while on duty.

    Between General Iroh’s circling hands was a single cloud of black smoke.

    Zuko’s head tilted as Iroh pushed and pulled the cloud with a smile on his face, creating a twister that flew up from his feet into the air, filling the sky with smoke that sparked with orange embers. Then Iroh brought the cloud back down and made it bigger, forcing it to course in a ring around him.

    The prince sat down on the deck and waited for his Uncle to finish, with a completely flabbergasted expression on his face. He watched as the smoke went from side to side, up and down, around, through his legs, beneath his arms, like some kind of playful pet serpent.

    With a deep breath, Iroh finished, dispelling the cloud with a wave of his hands.

    “Uncle!” Zuko immediately stood and rushed to the elderly general. “That was incredible! How did you do that? What even was that? Can you teach me?”

    “I believe I can,” Iroh replied with a smile. “But I’d say that it might be a little more difficult for you to manage a smoke cloud than it was for me.”

    “Why, Uncle?” Zuko immediately asked, fueled by the desperation of wanting every possible advantage that he could get his hands on.

    “Because you have not yet mastered the basics,” Iroh replied, pointing at Zuko’s nose. “And because you have not tried to understand what the Air Nomad’s have had to say about their bending and apply it to your own art.”

    “I...” Zuko took a deep breath and let it out. “Alright. Alright, Uncle. What do I have to do in order to master the basics faster?”

    “You must spend less time staring at that map in the bridge,” Iroh replied, more than a little delighted that his nephew had finally accepted what he had been telling him for a year. “And more time studying the Firebending scrolls that have been sitting in your room collecting dust for the past few months.”

    “Uncle, we need to plan out the course for our Search,” Zuko objected. “Now that we’ve been to each of the temples, we’re going to have to widen our search to the North and South Poles. We cannot afford to get careless because we didn’t plan our expedition properly.”

    “A dangerous undertaking,” Iroh replied. “But perhaps an unnecessary one. Zuko, if I might be honest, I do not believe we will find the Avatar before he reveals himself. Thus, outright looking for him across the globe is much less productive than mastering your bending.”

    In another life, perhaps Zuko might’ve still been so bull headed as to charge into the North Pole, carefully and meticulously searching the ice fields for months and even finding the capital of the Northern Water tribe, only to stealthily leave and go towards the South Pole when it became apparent that searching for the Avatar within the city of ice and snow would be impossible.

    “We can do both on the way,” Zuko pointed out with a glare.

    “But an expedition into the North Pole would be recklessly dangerous and foolhardy.” Iroh leaned forward and fixed Zuko with a knowing gaze. “Even a master of infiltration would find himself hard pressed to sneak into the Northern Water tribe in a Fire Nation ship. Better to halt the search itself and focus on expanding your education.”

    “Can’t I just do the drills a few more times a day?” Zuko asked with a frown. He had studied those scrolls extensively when they had started their journey and then hadn’t touched them because he already knew what was on them.

    “No, Prince Zuko.” Iroh shook his head. “Over-training yourself can lead to injury and blocked Chi pathways. If you study the Firebending scrolls with the same voraciousness as you studied that Airbending scroll, you will master the basics in no time.”

    Zuko’s hands balled into fists again and he took a deep breath. “Fine. But I’m studying the Airbending scroll too.”

    “I would be a little careful about that,” Iroh replied, raising a finger in warning. “Too much wind will snuff any flame.”

    Zuko blinked. “I will, Uncle.”

    ---

    With a growl of anger, Zuko ran through the kata again.

    Iroh watched from his favorite spot, sipping his tea.

    Zuko was not trying to do a Firebending Kata, though; he was attempting to Smokebend. But he had yet to actually create any smoke. Plenty of fire, though. Fire that flew in odd directions and came uncomfortably close to singing Iroh’s beard a couple of times.

    “Why can’t I do it?” Zuko growled.

    Iroh took another sip of tea before answering. “Have you been meditating?”

    “Yes!” Zuko barked. “I set my candles every morning and clear my head.”

    Iroh hummed. “Perhaps you should meditate more? The Nomad’s prescribed meditation for nearly everything.”

    “Uncle, I can’t sit on a cushion all day with nothing in my head,” Zuko shouted in anger.

    “I agree,” Iroh nodded. “But two hours of meditation a day instead of only one might make the difference between Smokebending and no Smokebending.”

    Zuko let out a low grumble and started to go through the kata again and again, there was no smoke. He let out a blast of fire from his foot as he kicked angrily towards the bow. This time he went through a fire bending kata, fire going every which way, dependably, just as Zuko had been trained. “I’m done for the day.”

    Iroh simply shrugged and dismissed him with a gesture.

    Zuko stalked to the door and door the stairs to his quarters, opening and slamming the door behind him. On his desk were the Firebending scrolls his Uncle had told him to study more. He felt like all he did this week was study those scrolls, and he studied those scrolls to get away from studying the Airbending scroll.

    A scroll that was starting to turn his entire life upside down.

    First, before he found the scroll, he had an image of his head of what it would be like to finally meet the Avatar. A dream, or a vision perhaps.

    After spending years of searching, scouring the North and South Poles, razing the Earth Kingdom and even destroying the Temples, his search would take him below, to the under ground. As he and his expedition broke the final wall, they would have found him.

    Zuko imagined that the Avatar might have sealed himself away beneath the Earth in a great vault as he trained, all of his past lives acting as his teachers while the war raged across the surface. The inside of this vault looked like the landscape of an alien world, the rocks spiking up out of the ground and floating in the air, fire swirling in the sky, the rain falling so fast they might as well have been small knives and the air would be breathable, but just barely.

    Then, crashing down in front of them, they would see him. A bald man, fully grown and massive in height and stature, without even the smallest hint of age on his features, his glowing eyes judging the Prince and his and finding them wanting. He would crash to the ground like a bolt of lightning and stand over them.

    Zuko feared that, upon this meeting, they would be crushed and murdered. The very earth itself would open beneath them to swallow them whole, rain would cut them to ribbons. Whatever meager counter attack they would mount wouldn’t so much as scratch him. Then, after everyone was dead, Zuko alone would be left alive, to which the Avatar would spare him, saying only this:

    ‘Return to your home and raise your future failures.’

    The prince might have been grateful that this was likely not going to be the case. The Air Nomad’s were pacifists with a respect for life over all else, but it just sullied the image Zuko had been building up in his mind. They were not chasing after a deadly and monstrous being locked away only by walls he was unable to bend away for some reason. They were chasing after a coward who was more likely to flee than fight him, even with his mastery of the four elements.

    “It explains why we haven’t even found a trace of him,” Zuko grumbled, sitting at the chair. “Now if I could just master smoke bending, we might have another way to stop him from just running away.”

    The plan was to use this smokebending that his uncle invented to force smoke into the Avatar’s lungs. While the Avatar was coughing and hacking, they’d net and restrain him. But that wouldn’t work if Zuko couldn’t bend smoke! And he couldn’t bend smoke if he couldn’t work through the basic’s like his Uncle said.

    Drive, Zuko thought, remembering his Uncle’s lesson from a few weeks ago. Drive is what fuels firebending. I want my home back. That’s my heat. That’s what ignites my fire. Focus on that.

    With that, he pulled out a Firebending scroll, on the basics and started reading.

    ---

    “We’re not actually going to the North Pole, are we, General?” Lieutenant Jee asked nervously.

    “I do not believe so,” Iroh replied easily, looking at the map with a small smile on his face. “Zuko is adjusting his priorities. Nevertheless, he is captain of this vessel and if that is where he wishes to go, then that is where we will go.”

    “With respect, sir,” Lieutenant Jee began. “I didn’t sign up for a suicide mission.”

    “Of course not,” General Iroh replied, turning toward the Lieutenant. “If we do go to the North Pole, I will do everything in my considerable power to ensure that we are at the smallest possible risk so that we may return to the ship safely. Do you understand?”

    “Yes, General,” Lieutenant Jee replied with a bow.

    “Very good,” Iroh replied. “Prince Zuko is in his quarters, yes?”

    “I believe so, General,” Lieutenant Jee answered. “He looked angry. Trying to bend smoke again?”

    “Indeed.” Iroh began stroking his beard. “Have you or any of the other firebenders in the crew considered also trying to learn?”

    “No, General,” Lieutenant Jee answered. “I know an advanced firebending technique when I see one and that’s something out of my purview. Besides, it would interfere with our duties.”

    “That’s fair,” Iroh said, moving his hand to cover a yawn. “Ah, I believe I’ll go take a nap.”

    ---

    How does anyone live like this? Zuko asked himself for the hundredth time.

    The Firebending scroll had started to cook his brain with it’s monotony, so he put it aside in favor of the larger airbending scroll that spent most of it’s time in his room so he could study it. It was a form of bile fascination for the prince, who found it disgusting but was unable to look away.

    It hadn’t ceased to amaze him just how much airbenders prided not caring in the slightest. Sure, Uncle told him not to confuse detachment and apathy, but perhaps he should tell that to the monks themselves.

    Except he couldn’t because they were all dead and their philosophy was to blame. All that detachment couldn’t save them from extinction.

    Perhaps they simply thought the fire would go away if they didn’t care about it enough? Zuko mentally jeered as he looked through the scroll. How’d they get anything done?

    He continued to read through the scroll, rubbing the top of his bald head, just in front of his ponytail. He was doing this to try to stop himself from scratching as his large burn scar because he didn’t want it getting any worse than it already was.

    Maybe if they actually had an army, they might not have died by Sozin’s Comet, Zuko mentally snapped, glaring at the scroll with absolute contempt as he studied it’s teachings on detachment and personal freedom.

    He gave up on the scroll and stood up from his desk. He was filled with annoyance, and anger. Perhaps a calmer mind would help him push through it and see what he needed to understand. He remembered what his Uncle had told him when they first found the scroll; a clear head can often see what emotion cannot.

    So he sat down, lit the four candles he had set for meditation and started breathing.

    Inhale. Exhale.

    Focus on the breath.

    Not the scroll, not the airbending scroll or it’s teachings which wouldn’t leave him alone. Not his failure to bend smoke, something that honestly felt like it should be simple. Not how stupidly impractical the Nomad’s suggestions on life were, not how they basically signed their own death warrant by being unable to defend themselves…

    It was like a tragic comedy, Zuko thought. That the army of a people who cherished life above all else would be the first to fall in war. Almost like they didn’t have an army at all.

    He continued to breathe, pushing everything else out of his mind, just focusing on inhaling and exhaling. He felt the candle flames reaching up then falling down with each breath, felt the heat surge and wane and saw the light brighten and dim through his eyelids.

    Zuko felt the anger and annoyance fade away. The disgust was evaporating and something else too, that he hadn’t seen before.

    Shame.

    Why was he feeling shame? Where did that come from?

    Shame gave way to confusion as he continued to meditate and he came to the sight he had hated to see at every air temple; the bodies. Specifically, the ones where children were hiding behind their elders, hoping to find some measure of protection, hoping to be shown mercy and finding neither from the countrymen of his past.

    It was at this moment, that Zuko had an epiphany.

    Wait…

    ---

    Author’s Notes: You know, I think a lot of my difficulty as a writer came from not wanting a resolve an emotional issue too soon. I’d have the MC think and think and think about something, make everyone believe he was coming to an epiphany and then...he’d stop just short of making the connection or changing his behavior. It can happen a few times, I guess, but too much and people get annoyed. Justifiably so!

    This comes to Zuko who basically had Airbending philosophy shoved down his throat by his own fork. He’s seen a belief system so antithetical to how he was raised and it scared him, which is why he’s been ripping on it nonstop for three chapters now. That said, now he’s doing the Airbending kata in the hopes of learning his Uncle’s smokebending which means he’s going to gorge himself even harder on their moves and philosophy which reads him to take some...rather nasty suppositories.

    Shout out too Melden V, Anders Kronquist, Ray Tony Song, Volkogluk, Aaron Bjornson, iolande, Martin Auguado, Julio, Jiopaba, Hackerham, Tim Collins-Squire, Maben00, Sultan Saltlick, Ventari, PbookR, Seij, ChristobalAlvarez, Aenor Knight, Apperatus, EPiCJB19, Seeking Raven and Handwran. Your continued support makes this possible.

    ~Fulcon
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2019
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  26. Fencer

    Fencer Weaponized Randomness

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    Oh thank goodness. Been digging through crap fanfics looking for gems and it was starting to fray my temper to bits.

    thanks for the reprieve.
     
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  27. Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    Hey, you're welcome! Glad I could help. :D

    Have a cookie.
     
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  28. RichardWhereat

    RichardWhereat The Dawn Will Cum

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    So he finally understands it was a genocide, entirely unprompted.
     
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  29. Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    Strange what happens when all the evidence piles itself in front of you with nothing there to act as a counter-weight while you're out in the middle of the ocean with only ~30 people to talk too, with only one of them caring a lot about your well being...
     
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  30. GiftofLove

    GiftofLove A Gift From The Heart

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    I'm loving this!
     
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