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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. Kalem_Lee

    Kalem_Lee Versed in the lewd.

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    Zuko used Brotherly Love and Concern.

    ITS SUPER EFFECTIVE!
     
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  2. Akuma-Heika

    Akuma-Heika The Devil Exists Within

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    The girlish thoughts I was referring to was how she was considering using an official deployment for capturing the Avatar as a chance to go look for a boyfriend. Second half of that was her falling for Aang on said mission. Something I think possible with her path to redemption/change she is going on. That would cause problems, even if just internally for her (and likely be hilarious, at least, to me :p)

    Not much of a fan of Sokka. I don't hate him, but he is possibly my least favorite character in both series and definitely is for the good guys in Avatar, thus my dislike of SokkaAzula.

    The AzulaKatara thing was just a random thing, because while I have seen a lot of Zutara, I cannot remember ever seeing an AzulaKatara fic. One probably exists, but I just haven't seen them. It wasn't meant to be serious, more of a "lol" moment.
     
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  3. Threadmarks: Returns
    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.

    ---

    Zuko was leaning against the railing, watching the waves of the sea as they gently rocked the ship. They were approaching the blockade, so Zuko would need to be hidden away soon, in the coffin built into one of the halls inside the ship.

    But that was far from the Prince’s mind.

    His mind stayed on the conversation with his Mother. The very fact that his mother had poisoned his Grandfather to protect him had thrown the prince for a loop. She was Mother! Mother was incapable of such harsh acts as murder.

    Zuko shook his head.

    Azula probably got his letter right after he left. Before his meeting with mother, Zuko would’ve said that Azula would’ve laughed at the letter or simply thrown it away as foolishness. But now?

    He wasn’t sure.

    If he were being realistic, she probably did both of those things still, simply because that’s how she responded to sentimentality. But there was a hope that maybe, just maybe, he got through to her; He did want to try getting to know his sister without the competition for the throne getting in the way.

    That wasn’t really what was bothering him.

    But he didn’t know what it was, though.

    Zuko stopped as he heard a rumble above him. He looked straight up and saw, following the same path that the ship had tread but in the opposite direction, was the underside of a giant flying beaver.

    No.

    Not a beaver.

    A Flying Bison.

    Zuko blinked at the sight of the Avatar’s mount.

    He tried to fight it.

    Zuko really tried.

    He took deep breaths. Tried to force his lips to remain in that impassive expression he had perfected over the past year.

    But he failed.

    Zuko, Prince of the Fire Nation, started to laugh. It was a hard, braying sound that seemed to echo across the waves, robbing him of his treasured breath, forcing him to clutch at his stomach and bend over to remain on his feet.

    He had searched for a year and found nothing. After giving up, the Avatar was just flying over his head.

    It was like the Universe was taunting him.

    Zuko managed to contain himself after ten minutes of breathless laughter and looked to the side, seeing ships of the blockade having been diverted to chase after the Avatar, so he went inside to find his designated hiding place.

    ---

    Aang found himself looking downward and saw a small, Fire Nation cargo ship.

    He felt like there was something really, really important down on that ship.

    But he shook his head and pressed onward; speaking to Roku was much more important.

    ---

    The sanctuary of the Fire Temple was exquisitely decorated.

    Crimson carpets, which ironically felt like stepping on water, covered the floor and hung from the walls in magnificent tapestries. Directly ahead of him was the statue of Avatar Roku and Winter Solstice was nearly upon them.

    A beam of sunlight was crossing the threshold gradually reaching for the forehead of Avatar Roku. When it finally did so, Aang would be taken to the Spirit world.

    Any second now.

    Hurry up! Aang demanded with a hard clack of his staff on the uncarpeted ground. His friends were counting on him!

    That was the worst part.

    The fire sages had turned on Aang, save one. But as Aang had dove into the Sanctum, Sokka and Katara had gotten captured. He didn’t know if they were being taken away and if he’d have to go save them the second he was done or if they were being kept right outside the door as hostages.

    “Come on,” Aang begged the stream of light. “Just a little further...”

    ---

    Zhao was starting to feel a little better.

    It had not taken him long at all to track the Bison down, and he was able to follow it past the Blockade and from there, guess his destination as the Fire Temple. He was right, as usual. The Avatar would naturally be drawn to places of spiritual enlightenment on the Solstice and given that his past life was Fire Nation, it stood to reason.

    But these series of deductions were robbed of their earlier satisfaction when they had gotten duped into allowing the Avatar into the Sanctuary. At least Zhao had his friends to ensure that the Avatar stayed in the Temple to try to free them.

    Actually, Zhao had a short order of business to take care of.

    He walked toward the tribals, clearly siblings. One girl, one boy. They took notice of his approach and adopted brave, defiant expressions on their faces.

    “What do you want?” The Boy snapped out.

    “I’d show a little more respect if I were you,” Zhao coldly chided with a raised eyebrow. “I could have the sages kill you right now if you prove to be more trouble than you’re worth.”

    “If you do, you’ll have to deal with an angry avatar,” The boy rebutted.

    “I’m sure we’d have to deal with an angry avatar anyway if we want to catch him,” Zhao pointed out airily. “Perhaps we should just skip to that part and get it over with, hm?”

    The boy’s bravado evaporated. “Whoa, whoa, hold on there. Can we talk about this?”

    “Sokka, shut up,” The girl hissed with more than a little fear in her eyes.

    “Can we talk about this?” Zhao mused openly. “It might be best if we started with introductions. I’m Commander Zhao. And you?”

    “Sokka of the Water Tribe,” He said, his bravery returning, if only briefly.

    “Of the Southern Water Tribe,” Zhao corrected with a small frown.

    “Y-yeah,” Sokka flinched slightly at the correction. Interesting!

    “And I’m Katara,” The girl replied, narrowing her eyes in a glare at the Commander. “Now what do you want?”

    “I really just want to know how the Avatar was found,” Zhao said with a dismissive wave. “Was it you who found him?”

    “We’re not telling you anything,” Katara snapped.

    “Is that so?” Zhao asked. He shrugged and turned to the Lieutenant who had taken a position at his flank. “Kill them.”

    Both of the tribal savages froze, and looked at the Lieutenant with wide eyes as Zhao turned away. Any second now…

    The sages gasped in alarm and the Lieutenant stopped at the sound. Zhao’s head whipped toward the door of the Sanctuary opened and out stepped...an elderly man in Fire Nation robes.

    Avatar Roku.

    Commander Zhao felt his blood run cold with dread as he joined the defense.

    ---

    “That was close!” Sokka shouted, tightly gripping Appa’s saddle as the flying bison ascended in nearly a straight line, away from the fire temple and firebenders trying to burn him alive. “That Zhao guy tried to have us killed!”

    When Appa breached the clouds, he leveled out, allowing his passengers to relax their death grips on the saddle.

    “I’m sorry guys,” Aang replied with a frown. “I didn’t mean for that to happen.”

    “It’s okay, Aang,” Katara reassured him with a grateful smile. “You saved us before anything could happen. We’re not hurt.”

    “Good,” Aang said with an uneasy smile. “That’s good. I’m glad you’re not hurt.”

    After a moment, Aang turned to to side, away from them in a gesture Sokka immediately recognized as a signal to give him space. Katara, of course, got the opposite impression and moved in to give Aang a hug from the back.

    He moved in to try to pull her away, but Aang wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her closer.

    None of them spoke another word for the rest of the flight.

    ---

    “Uncle?” Zuko whispered as he crawled into the base through the secret entrance. “Uncle, are you here?”

    The entrance led directly into Zuko’s office and while the table and map were lit by candlelight, it was obvious that Zuko was alone.

    He let out a breath. His pack seemed to slip from his shoulders of its own accord, bearing a letter from his Mother to Uncle sitting on the top. With a sharp inhale, the candle’s got brighter, allowing him to see where he could hang his cloak without tripping over it later.

    “Zuko?”

    The door to the office opened and Iroh stepped inside, holding a candle in one hand.

    “Uncle,” Zuko said in a tired voice, though still smiling as they moved to embrace.

    “I am glad to see you return safely,” Iroh said with a happy smile of his own. In his other hand, he had held the letter he had received. “What was your choice?”

    Zuko’s eyes took on a strange glimmer. “I have my mother back.”

    “I’m so happy for you,” Iroh replied, his smile getting wider. “How was she?”

    “She’s fine,” Zuko answered. “She and I talked about everything. About Father...you should’ve seen how mad she was after we brought her memories back and she saw the scar.”

    “I imagine her rage would send dragons into hiding,” Iroh said with amusement.

    “And a few other things, too,” Zuko shook his head with a soft chuckle. “It was amazing.”

    ---

    What did that animal do to your face?

    ---

    “Sozin’s Comet?” Sokka repeated with a frown. “I guess it makes sense.”

    Appa had landed back in the Earth Kingdom and the trio had set camp. The fire was roaring, vegetables and meat stew were cooking in separate pots, so the smell of food was thick in the air and making their mouths water.

    “That’s what they used too,” Aang began before finding himself swallowing a mouthful of air. “Too...you know.”

    “Yeah, I gotcha,” Sokka nodded quickly. “So we have until the comet arrives to get to the North Pole and find you a Waterbending master, then two more masters for Earth and Fire so you can master them too and...”

    “Sokka,” Katara cut him off with a glare.

    “What?” Sokka asked with a glare of his own. “I’m just listing off everything we need to get done in six months.”

    “But we can worry about that later!” Katara barked. “We just got done escaping from the Fire Nation, can’t we have a bit of a break?”

    “Guys!” Aang shouted, cutting them both off. “We can’t waste time and energy fighting among ourselves while the fate of the entire planet is resting on our shoulders!”

    Both of them felt the rush of air through their clothes that snapped them back to their senses.

    “Right.” Sokka quickly nodded. “Sorry. I was just...uh...”

    “Let’s eat,” Katara quickly changed the subject, moving to take their meals off of the fire. “It sure smells good, doesn’t it?”

    Aang sighed and hung his head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

    “It’s okay,” Katara replied. “We’re all just a little tense right now. What we need is to just relax, eat dinner and then get some sleep.”

    “We can talk about stuff tomorrow,” Sokka replied. “Katara’s right, we’re in no shape to stress about this right now.”

    “Thank you, Sokka,” Katara beamed at the surprising compliment.

    “Yeah, well, I mean,” Sokka began, forcing Katara to wonder how her brother was going to ruin her mood. “You are a woman, so you’re better at this emotion and sensitivity stuff.”

    Katara’s eyebrow twitched. “Just like how you’re better at being boneheaded and stuffing your foot in your mouth.”

    “See, exactly!” Sokka nodded in agreement. He turned to Aang. “See, Katara gets it. I mean, she’s got to put ‘being tough’ and ‘verbally witty’ as negatively as possible because normally when you’re honest about this sort of thing, women just want to hit you.”

    This woman’s about too.”

    Guys...”

    ---

    Iroh,

    If you’re reading this, then Zuko got back to the Pier safely and thank the spirits for that.

    I hope you’re doing well and that the past few years have treated you well. I haven’t seen you since you left to siege Ba Sing Se and I haven’t heard from you since...well. I think you remember. I am very sorry for your loss.

    After seeing what that beast did to his face, I can only be grateful that you have taken my son under your wing. He has grown into a strong and happy young man, one blooming even in the face of incredible adversity even thriving in his unspeakable exile.

    But in spite of all the good things that I have said, Iroh, I am worried for him.

    Zuko, for all his grace and even cheer, has become something almost unrecognizable. Perhaps it is the beasts fault, but my son used to care for his nation. Care for his people. That care and devotion is gone, replaced by something else.

    My son is now flippant. He is now flighty, though that might have been his limited time-frame speaking, but I don’t think so.

    “They made their bed with dragons. It’s not my fault if they get eaten.”

    Those were his exact words.

    Iroh, I know you’re as concerned as I am about this. So I ask you to try to steer him back on the right path. This aimless wanderer that he has become is not who he is. It will not bring him lasting happiness or fulfillment. A Fire Nation man needs wood in the ground, not just air and want. You know this.

    Before I left, I told Zuko to never forget who he is. But he has changed. He has changed a great deal.

    Whether it was because the animal succeeded in burning it out of him or if it was instead snuffed out by something else, Zuko really wouldn’t say. Just that being exiled was the best thing that had ever happened to him.

    So I ask you, Iroh, to bring Zuko out of this. He needs ground to stand on. Whether that ground is in the Fire Nation nobility or somewhere else entirely, it does not matter. He needs to put roots down somewhere, or on something.

    Also, I had something brief to say about my daughter.

    My daughter is the animal’s favorite for good reason. She is cold and she is dangerous. A firebending prodigy who sought for power and glory above all else.

    Part of it was definitely my fault.

    In my years away, I had no memory of Zuko or Azula. Having it restored and then comparing my experience with Azula with my second daughter Kiyi, I saw where I went wrong.

    Azula wanted me to love her. She wanted me to appreciate and adore her firebending the way the animal did. She wanted me to congratulate her on her achievements. She wanted me to tell her how smart she was. She needed a love that I did not even recognize as love but that the other parent had in spades and used it to wrap her around his depraved finger.

    As her mother, I have failed her spectacularly.

    Given how she had always acted cold and antagonistic to you, I can imagine that you might have given up on her. But allow me to say that Azula never forgave you for not avenging Lu Ten’s death. It is not because they were especially close, but that in her eyes, you had a duty, were too weak to fulfill that duty. She thinks a father needs to act like her own, in order to be a good father. If Zuko were to die, for instance, she would expect Ozai to go on a rampage and see to the deaths of Zuko’s killers.

    I do not expect this to suddenly get you to love her, but at the very least, I hope this helps you understand her and put her actions into context.

    So, Iroh, as a favor. From one parent to another.

    Please help my children.

    Bring Zuko back to solid ground.

    Show Azula what love really is.

    Before something terrible happens.

    ~Ursa

    ---

    “Uncle?” Zuko inquired over a steaming cup of jasmine.

    Iroh had entered the office with his letter in hand. “Zuko. I’m glad to see your awake.”

    “I slept really well,” Zuko said with a small smile, before looking down at the map with a melancholy expression. “It was good.”

    “What is wrong?” Iroh asked.

    “Nothing,” Zuko lied. “Can I ask what the letter said?”

    Iroh shook his head. “No. At least, not until you tell me what’s wrong.”

    Zuko sighed. “Alright, I’m just thinking. About...you know.”

    Iroh sat down and took a cup of tea that Zuko had graciously poured ahead of time. He simply sipped and waited.

    “I just,” Zuko started, unable to finish his sentence, shaking his head as he looked at a scroll on the wall, the one that had positions and rosters of the fire nation blockade. “I found Mother.”

    “You did,” Iroh replied.

    “But it wasn’t this epic quest like I thought it was going to be,” Zuko shook his head. “It was just ‘talk to this person. Then talk to this person. Go here. Talk to the spirit. Find Mother.’ And I was done.”

    “An uneventful journey is usually the best,” Iroh pointed out.

    “I know,” Zuko replied with a frown. “But nothing’s changed. Yes, I know where Mother is. Yes, we talked and it was amazing. But...she’s still not a part of my life. We’re still separated by my own exile and a fleet of warships.”

    Iroh hummed and nodded.

    “And even if I wasn’t exiled, I still wouldn’t want to live over there,” Zuko continued with a disappointed sigh. “I still don’t want anything to do with the Fire Nation.”

    “Really?” Iroh asked in surprise. “Not every single Fire Nation man or woman was at your Agni Kai, Prince Zuko.”

    “I know!” Zuko snapped, looking like the old Zuko for the first time in over a year. It faded just as quickly. “I know. The people at the head of this war. They made their bed with dragons...”

    “You’ve said that,” Iroh interrupted the vicious metaphor with a glare.

    “I did. And I meant it. But the people of Hira’a?” Zuko shook his head. “They had no part of it. They’re just a small town so far on the fringe it’s almost a different nation altogether. But Father makes decisions that directly affect them. If the Fire Nation wins or loses the war, they will be affected.”

    Iroh slowly started to nod. “You have started to see the vastness of the role of the Fire Lord.”

    “I have, and it scares me,” Zuko replied. “I don’t want to be the one directly responsible for their lives being destroyed if I make a bad decision.”

    “Well, you do not need to ascend the throne,” Iroh replied. “With you in exile, Azula is in line and she very much wants that power. As frightening as that thought is, Prince Zuko, it is an option.”

    Zuko fell silent, and thus, so did Iroh. They sipped at their tea, until Zuko finally broke the silence.

    “I sent her a letter.”

    “You did?”

    Zuko nodded. “Just asking, if we ever met again, if we could start over. Without the baggage.”

    Iroh frowned, the weight of his own letter feeling like a boulder in his hand. “Do you think she’ll want too?”

    “No.” Zuko shook his head. “Honestly, I think she’ll laugh at it. But I felt like I had to try.”

    “Perhaps she might surprise you,” Iroh replied.

    “Maybe,” Zuko said. “But right now, I’m just trying to answer one question.”

    “Which is?”

    “What now?”

    ---

    Author’s Note: I wasn’t sure I’d get this chapter out this week, but here you go. I hope you all enjoyed it. Not much else to say about it, though.

    Shout out to our newest Super Patron, Russel Beatrous, whose support is helping to make this possible.

    Shout out also too Melden V, Anders Kronquist, Ray Tony Song, Volkogluk, Aaron Bjornson, iolande, Martin Auguado, Julio, Hackerham, Tim Collins-Squire, Maben00, Ventari, PbookR, Seij, ChristobalAlvarez, Apperatus, EPiCJB19, Seeking Raven and Handwran. Thank you guys so much!

    Until the next time!

    ~Fulcon
     
  4. codeRR

    codeRR Heroic spirit unkown

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    oh ho I'm the first comment after the update? Score.

    As for itself, I'm very interested and glad to see that they are going to start working on bringing his head down from the clouds. It's not exactly where they want him to be but it's better than the current method of mind he has. Honestly, you also make Azula just sound more reasonable or at least her warped view that Ozai has imposed.

    Once again Aang and Zuko "see" each other. The spirits are likely just bashing their heads on the wall at this point.

    and the great question at the end of all journies has come to the front; What do we do now? A daunting question
     
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  5. Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    Indeed!

    I made Azula sound reasonable. :D

    Also yes, they're going to try to bring Zuko's head out of the clouds.

    Yes they are.

    And destiny is gettin' real tired of their tip-toeing.

    Very daunting.
     
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  6. Threadmarks: The Waterbending Scroll
    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.

    ---

    “Fire Nation, Earth Nation, Water Nation!” A caller was shouting, standing outside a boat. “So long as bargains are your inclination, you’re welcome here! Don’t be shy, come on by!”

    Zuko looked at the ship. In truth, he had recognized it immediately as a pirate ship when he had first set up a base in the merchants pier. It became even more obvious when he had met the Captain and spoke with him for a minute. But if anyone would have Water Bending resources, it would be them and now that they’ve returned from their...high risk trading trip, he was hoping they’d have something he was actually looking for.

    So, the Prince stepped up ramp and entered the shop.

    At that second, Zuko froze and so did the other three occupants of the store.

    There, standing right in front of him, was the Avatar. A young boy whose bald head and blue arrow tattoos made him stand out like a sore thumb. Also in the store were two water tribals, a boy and a girl of similar age.

    The Avatar and his traveling companions.

    They were similarly staring at him, in his red, Fire Nation armor and topknot. The tribal boy was reaching for a weapon, the girl for a water skin at her belt. The monk was also slowly backing away into a defensive stance, his staff pointed forward.

    Zuko immediately brought his hands up in a peaceful gesture. “Wait, wait, wait, whoa. Hold on a second.”

    This stopped the Avatar from causing a windstorm in the shop and thankfully, the other two from drawing their weapons, whatever they’d be.

    “You didn’t see me, I didn’t see you,” Zuko said, pointing two fingers at his eyes and then at them. “Deal?”

    The three of them looked at each other and then back at him. The Avatar nodded. “Deal.”

    Zuko let out a tense breath and made took one look at the right wall, it having been lined with scrolls. He could feel the Water Girl slowly and carefully circle out of his way as he did and they started whispering...but Zuko could hear them quite well.

    “Aang, are you sure about this?” The girl asked in desperation. “He’s Fire Nation!”

    “Let’s just slowly back out of here and leave before anyone else sees us,” The Avatar replied, their whispers.

    Zuko honestly felt relieved. The sooner they left town, the more likely it was they could get out without his men seeing them and he could go back to pretending like they didn’t exist. So he began to peacefully peruse the large collection of scrolls and immediately one caught his eye, the symbol of the water tribe scratched into the end. He grabbed it and opened it.

    His eyes went wide and he immediately turned to the Captain who was manning the counter. “How much for the Waterbending Scroll?”

    Zuko noted with an uneasy feeling that the group of three had stopped moving just before they had exited the ship.

    “We have a buyer in the Earth Kingdom already lined up,” The Captain responded. “But if you can cough up fifty gold pieces?”

    “I’ll give you thirty,” Zuko immediately said, walking up to the counter and pulling a string-full of coins out of his wallet and laying them on the counter.

    “I’m afraid I’m not haggling on this one.” The Captain’s mouth pressed into a fine line. “It’s fifty gold pieces or nothing.”

    “Oh, you’re being serious.” Zuko blinked and pulled out another string full...then another. “Here’s fifty and an extra five if you don’t tell anyone who bought it from you.”

    “A pleasure doing business with you, your highness,” The captain said, taking the coins. “Your gold is always welcome here.”

    Zuko gave a small bow and tucked the scroll into his armor, walking right past the frozen Avatar and water tribals that were just standing in the door.

    ---

    “You’re crazy,” Sokka told them. “No, no, you’re insane.”

    “Sokka, that was a water bending scroll!” Katara pointed out with a harsh glare. “Like it or not, Aang needs to learn Waterbending and he needs to do it as fast as possible.”

    “Yeah, and he can do that at the North Pole,” Sokka argued back. “You just want this scroll so you can learn Waterbending as fast as possible!”

    “She does have to learn it too,” Aang reminded him from his lotus position on top of a rock.

    “Well yeah, but she can do that at the North Pole too,” Sokka rebuffed dismissively. “We already restocked on all our supplies and we know the Fire Nation is all over that town. So we should do the smart thing and run. Besides, we couldn’t afford that scroll anyway!”

    “We could’ve stolen it,” Katara grumbled, folding her arms and looking down the river they had set up camp besides.

    “And have that entire ship of pirates come after us?” Sokka asked, exasperated. “Then the Fire Nation would be guaranteed to find us and we’d have Zhao on our tail again!”

    Aang took a deep breath, and let it out. “Sokka, we need to grab that scroll.”

    “Why?” Sokka asked.

    “Because,” Aang began. “I have airbending. You have your weapons. Katara has nothing and that puts her at risk.”

    “Well, Katara’s not supposed to be fighting anyway,” Sokka argued with a glare. “She’s a girl.”

    “Oh, so that means that I can’t-” Katara began.

    “Katara, please,” Aang cut in sharply with a pleading expression. “Let me finish.”

    Katara just folded her arms and glared at her brother.

    Aang took another meditative breath. “Sokka, it doesn’t matter if she’s a girl. She’s out here. With us. And because she’s out here with us, she is going to be fighting and if she doesn’t know enough to defend herself, she’s a target. I know you don’t want that.”

    Sokka fell quiet for a moment. “Can’t we just, I don’t know, leave her back at camp?”

    “They can just attack the camp,” Aang replied with a decidedly unimpressed frown. “Then they’ve got Katara as a hostage.”

    Sokka let out a loud, irritated groan. “Fine. We’ll get you both the scroll.”

    “Thank you Sokka!” Katara beamed, rushing forward to give Sokka a hug.

    After an awkward moment, Sokka returned it. “You’re welcome.”

    After they embraced and let go, Sokka turned to the both of them. “Now, did either of you see where that Fire Nation guy went after he bought the scroll?”

    Both Aang and Katara shook their heads.

    “No, he kind of just disappeared after he left the ship,” Katara responded.

    “The pirate captain called him ‘your highness’,” Aang pointed out. “Maybe he can help us find him?”

    “That’s a good place to start,” Sokka replied. “But we’ll have to be really sneaky now that we know that town is full of fire nation. The best time would be to head over there tomorrow before they get busy.”

    ---

    “Uncle, you’ll never guess what I found,” Zuko said with a grin as he stepped into the office. He took the scroll out from his armor and unfurled it before his Uncle.

    “Ah, excellent!” Iroh beamed. “You’ll be able to start the next part of your education, then.”

    “Words cannot describe how excited I am,” Zuko replied, turning the scroll around and beaming. Sure, it was just a scroll of forms with none of the water bending philosophy that really interested Zuko, but the forms could be enough as a starter. He didn’t really start to understand and apply the philosophy of the Air Nomads until he had started actually practicing their forms, so the Prince was hoping the Water would be the same way. “You said you learned how to redirect lightning from watching water benders, right?”

    “That’s right,” Iroh slowly nodded, his hands tucked away in their sleeves. “But what else did you find over there?”

    “Why do you ask?” Zuko asked, his smile turning into a frown.

    “You look troubled,” Iroh answered.

    Zuko might’ve gotten better at disguising his tells. He might’ve started to care a little less about being honest. But for him, there was no lying to Uncle Iroh. They simply knew each other too well. He looked back towards the office door, then locked it. With a breath, he spoke the truth. “Uncle, I met the Avatar.”

    “You what?” Iroh looked stunned.

    He recounted the brief meeting in the store, where a quick call for a truce had prevented the place from erupting into violence.

    “And then I left with the scroll,” Zuko finished.

    “Prince Zuko,” Iroh began, adopting his most serious expression. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

    “Don’t say it, Uncle,” Zuko shook his head. “Please do not say what I know you’re about to say.”

    “This is your chance for a new life,” Iroh continued.

    Zuko closed his eyes, then opened them again.

    “I am being serious, Nephew,” Iroh said. “You could join him. He needs a firebending instructor and you need a new life, a life away from the Fire Nation.”

    “Right but I also don’t need to have the entire Fire Nation wanting to immolate me for treason,” Zuko pointed out. “The whole point of getting a new life is to slip out quietly and disappear. Not put myself out, publicly for all to see, that I am a rebellious prince with no loyalty toward his nation anymore.”

    “Zuko, you need a purpose in life,” Iroh rebutted. “As much as you might think differently, looking for a purpose is not a purpose! A firebender needs a strong root, in bending and in life and you’re floating on your back in the middle of the ocean.”

    “It’s been nice,” Zuko replied, nodding with a smug grin.

    “Your Mother is worried,” Iroh stated with a concerned frown. “She’s worried that you’ve stopped caring about your nation, your people, even your own men.”

    “I mean, she’s right,” Zuko replied sheepishly. “The only thing left to do is join the white lotus and head off to Ba Sing Se.”

    “You have the opportunity to help repair the damage done by Firelord Sozin, remove your father from power and restore peace to the world,” Iroh stated with all the power and authority that he had as Prince of the Fire Nation. “And your only thought is of how you can most efficiently disappear.”

    “I mean, you have that power too,” Zuko pointed out. “Since you think this is such a good idea and Father already thinks you’re a traitor in the making, why don’t you join the Avatar? He needs a Firebending instructor and you’re the greatest master I know.”

    “That is not my destiny,” Iroh replied.

    “Well, it certainly isn’t mine,” Zuko replied with a shrug. “And if it is, I’ll trade you.”

    ---

    The trip back into town was really, really, tense. For one, the trio were now seeing Fire Nation soldiers everywhere. Or at least it felt like everywhere. They weren’t wearing armor, they were in disguise, but Fire Nation royalty was apparently present which meant that the pier would be swarming with soldiers.

    As Sokka had pointed out, the pirate had known the prince that had shown up, which meant that he was living here and that the Merchant’s Pier was always filled with Fire Nation soldiers. They hadn’t seen a Fire Nation ship in port, but it was probably hidden somewhere. The thought that they had Fire Nation eyes on them the entire time made the hairs on the back of their neck stand up as they walked through the street a second time.

    Sure, Aang was now wearing a cloak to hide his airbending tattoos, but that wouldn’t do much if the Fire Nation already knew they were here.

    The ship, thankfully, was exactly where they had left it, with the crier in front telling everyone what great bargains they’d get if they shopped there. They walked in and, watching their backs, were relieved when no one followed them inside.

    “Ahoy, Captain!” Aang said with a pirate accent. “Glad to see you’re still ashore!”

    The captain chuckled. “Well, I’m glad to see my three favorite customers come back! I was a little worried you were spooked forever.”

    “We wanted to ask about the Fire Nation guy that came through here,” Sokka said, directly to the point as usual. “You called him ‘your highness’?”

    “Oh, yes, the man who left me five gold pieces for no reason at all,” The Captain replied, stroking his chin thoughtfully. “I’m afraid my memory has completely failed me but maybe you could jog it.”

    “Hows about a copper piece?” Aang asked.

    The Captain laughed, long and hard. “No.”

    “Hows about two copper pieces?” Aang pressed, his grin getting strained.

    “It’s not as funny the second time,” The Captain’s mirth disappeared, replaced by cold steel.

    “There’s got to be something!” Aang said with a pout.

    The Captain glared. “If you’re not gonna by something, shove off! You’re crowding the boutique.”

    With a groan of defeat, they left the shop.

    ---

    “They’re coming for the scroll, aren’t they?” Zuko asked, frowning in annoyance at the scroll of forms.

    “I would imagine so,” Iroh said.

    “Well, I’m not ready to part ways with it yet,” Zuko replied with a glare. “Uncle, if you wouldn’t mind telling Lieutenant Jee that I want patrols sweeping the town? Get the men in armor. Have them make a sweep then report back with what they’ve found, even if it’s nothing. Get them in armor.”

    “You’re trying to capture him, now?” Iroh asked, an eyebrow raising in curiosity.

    “No,” Zuko shook his head. “There is no way any of my men can catch the Avatar.”

    “Then what are you planning?” Iroh asked, stroking his beard.

    “Just something to get the Avatar out of my hair.”

    ---

    The three dove into an alleyway when they saw them.

    Two fire nation soldiers, marching down the street at a brisk pace. They were hefting spears and scanning the roads in front of them.

    Sokka turned to Aang and Katara and whispered. “Follow them.”

    They started to trail the pair as inconspicuously as they could, checking stands, joining conversations for a few brief moments, anything to stay out of the pairs direct sight.

    The trio’s patience was rewarded when the pair arrived at a warehouse after a half an hour of trailing them, passing a second patrol that was coming out. They hid in an alleyway, crouched in the shadows behind a barrel that had been sealed with ropes.

    “The Fire Nation has a base inside the warehouse,” Sokka said. “I’ll bet you anything that’s where they’re keeping your scroll.”

    “Yeah, but how are we going to get in?” Aang asked, briefly peering over the barrel. “That place is crawling with them.”

    “We can’t just walk in the front door,” Katara pointed out. “Hey, there he is!”

    Sokka and Aang looked over the barrel where Katara was pointed and saw, walking toward the warehouse on the far side of the block, was the Fire Bender they had met earlier. His full hair and topknot was disguised by the cloak and hood he wore, but there was no disguising that old scar. He walked behind the warehouse and disappeared.

    “Where’d he go?” Aang asked, jumping on the barrel and taking off to the town rooftops.

    “Aang, wait!” Sokka tried to call, quietly, but the monk was gone.

    With a groan, Sokka and Katara both ran across the street into the alleyway and took a hard left. When they saw no guards watching the back alleyway, the two ran across the street and found Aang, standing behind the warehouse, scratching his head.

    “Aang, what are you doing?” Katara asked. “Those guys could’ve seen you and then we’d have been in a load of trouble!”

    “Sorry Katara,” Aang replied sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head. “But look! The scar guy disappeared over here somehow.”

    “He disappeared, huh?” Sokka asked, stroking his chin. He walked forward, examining the back of the warehouse they had found, carefully looking over every inch of the back. “Huh. I think there’s a secret entrance here.”

    “A secret entrance?” Aang asked, raising his eyebrow.

    “How do you know?” Katara asked.

    “Look,” Sokka said, pointing to the wall. “The boards are mismatched here; they cut a hole in the wall.”

    Aang and Katara leaned in and got a closer look.

    “Hey, I see it!” Katara said in surprise.

    “Oh, really?” Aang asked with a frown. “I mean, yup! I see it too!”

    “Now we just need to figure out how to open it,” Sokka said. He looked up and around and saw a nail sticking up out of the board. He reached up and gave it a light tap, feeling it wiggle. “Aha! They disguised the switch as this nail sticking out.”

    “Okay, so we go in through the secret entrance, sneak around the base, look for the scroll, and get out,” Aang said with a nod. “I think we should come back later tonight when they’re asleep and that scar guy’s not right there.”

    “Good idea.”

    ---

    Night came. Under the guidance of starlight, the three of them returned to the warehouse, carefully sneaking through the alleyways to avoid alerting any guards, armored or otherwise. Sokka found the nail once again and pressed it in with his thumb, causing the hidden door to slide up into the wall.

    The three waited tensely for it to finish opening and when it was done, a small crawlspace was revealed. With a nod exchanged between the three of them, they crawled inside, entering the base.

    Sokka had brought a lantern and once they were all inside, Sokka lit it with a pair of spark rocks.

    They had arrived in some sort of war room. In the center was a massive table with a map of the world drawn on it. On the walls were scrolls upon scrolls of information, troop movements and communication. Each of them were drawn directly to a trio of drawings of their faces pinned up on the wall.

    “Okay, so this guy is hunting for us,” Aang said with a gulp. “I wonder why he didn’t try to fight us in the store?”

    “Probably didn’t want to fight three on one,” Sokka replied quietly. “Let’s focus on finding the scroll and get out of here. I feel like we’re being watched.”

    ---

    Zuko had hidden in the shadows of a cabinet the second he heard his secret entrance opening. The crew had been ordered to never use the secret entrance and they were all accounted for. So he felt more than a little annoyed when the Avatar and his friends crawled through his secret entrance.

    Of course, that meant that they had seen him use said entrance earlier. Sloppy, sloppy.

    But he watched them. The water tribe boy was immediately taken in by the map in the center. Given it had fort locations, the layout of the blockade, the location of the Gates of Azulon and a ton of other markings for the Fire Nation’s internal defenses, it only made sense. Zuko stifled a chuckle as the boy’s eyes widened and he started sputtering as he realized what he had and immediately started making a copy with charcoal and a piece of parchment.

    The girl and the Avatar started searching his office.

    Zuko knew what they were looking for, but they wouldn’t find it; the scroll was clutched in Zuko’s hand.

    “Where is it?” Katara growled quietly, looking through cabinet and drawer alike.

    “This seems like a war room,” Sokka said quietly, still marking his parchment up with rapid, nervous energy. “They might not keep the scroll here.”

    “Then where would they keep it?” Aang asked.

    “We’d have to look at the rest of the base to find it,” Sokka said. “Just give me a minute.”

    If they went into the base, it was likely that the rest of the men would find them and then they’d have an actual fight and Zuko would actually have to start chasing them and, from how obviously the two tribals were untrained, it would be pathetically easy for his men to capture them and from there, the Avatar would either run, which Zuko doubted, or would stick and get captured himself and then...Zuko would be on his way back to the Fire Nation.

    The thought made Zuko’s stomach churn.

    So, deliberately stepping so his steel boots clanged against the warehouse floor, he walked into the light. Each of the three froze in their place and slowly turned to look where Zuko was standing.

    “Looking for this?” Zuko asked, hefting the scroll up in his fingers. “I made a copy already, so you can have it.”

    That shook them out of their funk.

    “Wait, seriously?” The girl asked with a confused, nonplussed expression. “You’re just giving it to us?”

    “Yup.”

    “Just like that?”

    “Uh huh.”

    “Wait, why?” The boy asked, his eyes narrowing in suspicion.

    “Because I want the three of you out of the pier and out of my hair,” Zuko replied with a frown. “Right now.”

    “Why?” Aang asked with a frown, something telling him that he needed to stay in this exact spot right now or things will go bad. “Who are you, really?”

    Zuko blinked. “I am Prince Zuko. I’m an exile, tasked with capturing you so that you don’t cause the Fire Nation to lose the war. You?”

    “I’m Aang,” The Avatar introduced himself. “And this is Sokka and Katara.”

    “Nice to meet you,” Zuko said. “Now if you could go? Now? Please?”

    “Wait, if you’re supposed to be hunting us down,” Sokka started, putting the pieces together. “Why do you want us to leave?”

    “Do you want me to capture you?” Zuko asked with a frown.

    “No, no, no,” Aang said, shaking his head. “We’ll just take a scroll and leave.”

    “Thank you,” Zuko replied, tossing the scroll to Katara. “Catch.”

    She caught it and opened it, her face splitting into a massive smile as she looked at the forms written thereon.

    “Now if you could all go back the way you came from, that’d be great,” Zuko said with a point toward the secret entrance. “Before the rest of the base wakes up and sees me chatting with you.”

    “Wait a second,” Aang said. “You said you were exiled?”

    Zuko groaned and barked out his response. “Yes! And you’re threatening to put an end to it just by breathing! Go! Away!”

    “Why don’t you want to go home?” Aang asked.

    “Because home is a den of jackal-vipers and being separated from them was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Zuko replied flatly.

    “And you don’t want to help the Fire Nation win the war?” Aang asked.

    “No.”

    Sokka’s head turned in place. “Why not?”

    “They made their bed with dragons,” Zuko sniffed. “Not my fault if they get eaten.”

    The three looked directly at each other with varying degrees of surprise.

    “Look, I know you want us to go,” Aang began. “But I can’t help but feel there’s a really good reason we’ve met, and I can’t leave until I figure out why.”

    “Sure you can,” Zuko pointed out. “Just move your legs, crawl through the exit and you’re home free.”

    “He’s got a point,” Sokka replied.

    “No,” Aang shook his head. “Look, you don’t want to go back home. But if you’re not trying to go back home, then what are you doing?”

    “Seeing the world,” Zuko answered. “Trying to learn a bit more about bending arts outside of Firebending, you know.”

    “Really?” Aang asked. “Neat!”

    “So that’s why you needed the Waterbending scroll,” Katara said, enlightenment painting itself across her face. “You actually wanted to learn about Waterbending!”

    “Yup, and I’ve got a copy so you can just take that and go,” Zuko said, gesturing for them to be gone with a wave.

    “Well, we’re going to the North Pole,” Aang began.

    “No.”

    “And you said you wanted to see the world...”

    “No.”

    He had a point.

    “And you don’t want to help the Fire Nation,” Aang pressed on in spite of the Prince’s flat refusals. “So...why don’t you come with us?”

    “Aang have you lost your mind?” Sokka hollered in alarm.



    Everyone, including Zuko, shushed him. Sure, the office was supposedly soundproof, but it was the dead of night and there were quite a few sailors sleeping here.

    “I’m serious!” Sokka said, appropriately quiet.

    “And I agree with him,” Zuko nodded. “We don’t really know each other. For all you know, I’m laying a trap for you right now. Or I could lose my nerve after a few days and turn you all in. Or...”

    “But you won’t,” Aang replied.

    “Sure I will,” Zuko nodded. “Guarantee it.”

    “You don’t want to go home, remember?” Aang pointed out with a raised eyebrow. “I know the feeling. You want to learn about the other bending styles. I’m the...the Last Airbender.”

    “I already know about Airbending,” Zuko cut in flatly.

    “How?” Aang asked with a deep frown.

    “We found this scroll in the Southern Air Temple,” Zuko replied. “It was big and had everything on it.”

    “You found the big one?” Aang asked, looking shocked.

    “We had to take a pickax to the little compartment it was stuck in, but yeah,” Zuko said with a wistful smile. “Greatest treasure I ever found.”

    “Another monk and I hid that scroll away as a prank,” Aang said, his mouth agape. “It survived Sozin’s Comet?”

    Zuko’s smile turned to a frown and he looked at the floor. “Yeah. It did. Sorry.”

    “Sorry for what?” Aang asked, then his eyes lit up in realization. “Oh. Oh. It’s okay.”

    “Did you want it back?” Zuko asked quietly.

    “Please?” Aang asked.

    “Sure,” Zuko shrugged, stepping forward toward the safe beneath the map table he had installed. With a turns turns of the dial, it was open, and the large, ornate scroll with jade handles was lifted out. “It helped me out. A lot. So...thank you, Avatar. For hiding it away for me.”

    “You’re welcome,” Aang said, gingerly taking the scroll and beholding it with reverence. Sokka and Katara looked at it with great interest. “But are you sure you don’t want to come?”

    “Why would you even want me along?” Zuko asked with a frown.

    “Well,” Aang started, tucking the scroll. “I need someone to teach me firebending and you’re the first person in the Fire Nation I’ve met that actively doesn’t want them to win the war.”

    “After what Sozin did to the Nomads?” Zuko asked. “Yeah, I didn’t want anything to do with that.”

    “And the rest of the Fire Nation does?” Katara asked with a disapproving frown.

    “I didn’t figure out that the Nomad’s didn’t have an army until I reread that scroll a couple of times,” Zuko explained. “The only thing I had ever been taught was that they had the most powerful army in the entire world.”

    “Yeah, no.” Aang shook his head. “Nope, no army. We love and respect life too much.”

    “I know that,” Zuko said, folding his arms.

    “So will you come with us?” Aang asked.

    “Don’t your friends get a say in this?” Zuko rejoined with a glare.

    “Oh, uh...” Aang stopped, having almost forgotten that he was traveling with two others. “Come on, back me up. I really feel like he needs to come with us. I need someone to teach me firebending and he seems perfect for the job!”

    “I don’t know Aang,” Katara started, looking at the Avatar with concern and at Zuko with suspicion. “He really seems like he doesn’t want to go.”

    “Listen to her,” Zuko encouraged. “She’s smart.”

    “Can you stop agreeing with me?” Katara asked, looking a little perturbed. “It’s freaking me out!”

    Zuko just shrugged and said nothing else.

    “Besides, it’s not like he’d be welcome at the North Pole,” Sokka replied. “They might listen to you because you’re the Avatar, but I think they’ll draw the line at letting a Firebender walk free.”

    “But he’d be my Firebending Instructor,” Aang pointed out. “They’d have to make an exception for that.”

    “No,” Zuko shook his head. “Anyway, this conversation is done, you’ve got your scrolls, so I’m going to bed. Good night.”

    Zuko found himself frozen, however, when the Office filled with a white light.

    “Now hold on for one moment, young man.”

    Zuko slowly turned around and found himself face to face with Avatar Roku. Sokka and Katara both had retreated back a couple steps, their hands raised in a defensive position.

    “It is the destiny of the Avatar to master each of the four elements in turn,” Roku intoned, leaning forward. “And that includes Fire.”

    “I’m sure he can find someone else to teach him,” Zuko replied, folding his arms. “I’m not the only Fire National whose decided the war can burn. Jeong Jeong comes to mind.”

    “But it is your destiny to be the Avatar’s instructor,” Roku stated with every ounce of authority being the Avatar brought him. “And as such, you must teach him Fire Bending, so that he can bring balance back to the World.”

    “Can’t you do it?” Zuko asked with ancient avatar with a bored expression.

    “It is not my place to do so,” Roku replied.

    “But you can do it.”

    “I cannot.”

    “Why not?”

    “It is difficult for me to contact Aang.”

    “But you’re doing it now.”

    “This is perhaps one of the most important moments in his journey,” Roku explained testily. “And you are defying destiny and the spirits that have watched over you from your birth.”

    “Well, him learning Fire Bending is really important and you can show up whenever you like,” Zuko replied. “So saying ‘it’s hard’ isn’t going to excuse you from doing your duty and teaching your current life firebending.”

    “I will not always be here for Avatar Aang to call upon,” Roku replied. “To have him rely on me would be to confine the Avatar to places of spiritual energy and in so doing, would prevent him performing his duties throughout the world.”

    “I wasn’t aware my base was a place of spiritual energy,” Zuko said with a bored expression on his face.

    “This is a special occasion.” Roku was getting visibly angry. “Again, you are defying destiny. You are required to teach the Avatar the element of Fire so that he can restore the world to balance.”

    “No.”

    But through his petulance, Zuko had to admit he had a point.

    Roku blinked. “Prince Zuko, was it not the massacre of the Air Nomad’s that opened your eyes to what our beloved nation has become?”

    “Yeah, that doesn’t mean I want anything to do with it,” Zuko replied with a shrug. “If I join forces with the Avatar, I lose my ship, my crew and my Father’s coin.”

    “And you will gain the chance to help make things right,” Roku replied.

    Zuko tossed that thought around in his head, frowning but unable to say anything. It was at that moment he became very uncomfortably aware of the feeling that Avatar Aang and Avatar Roku were right and he didn’t like it one bit.

    “I will leave you to make your decision, Prince Zuko,” Roku said. “The consequences of which, good or bad, will rest on your head.”

    He was gone, leaving in his place a dazed Aang.

    Zuko glared at them. “Okay, is he done?”

    Katara moved to steady hand, her hands on his arms. “I think Roku is gone.”

    “Good,” Zuko nodded then he frowned.

    There was a knock at the door.

    Zuko frowned. “Hide. Now.”

    The three scrambled as Zuko moved to open the door.

    “Prince Zuko,” it was Lieutenant Jee. “Is everything alright? We heard some strange noises coming from your office.”

    “Yes, Lieutenant,” Prince Zuko replied. “Everything is fine. Now. We just got a visit from a hostile spirit, but I handled it. Tell the Men I want extra stock on salt in the morning. I don’t expect another visit but we need to be careful.”

    “Yes, your highness,” Lieutenant Jee bowed.

    “Dismissed,” Zuko said.

    The Lieutenant bowed and left, leaving Zuko to close the door.

    The trio emerged from their hiding places.

    “Why do you want salt?” Sokka asked.

    “Makes barriers against hostile spirits,” Zuko replied with a shrug. “Makes it easier to deal with them.”

    “Really?” Sokka blinked. “Good to know.”

    “So are you coming with us?” Aang asked, leaning on his staff a little bit too much.

    Zuko groaned. “Just tell me one thing.”

    “Sure,” Aang said.

    Zuko pointed to a map pinned up on the wall with a line going from the south pole and stretching up in a zing-zagging pattern. “How, exactly, are do you decide where to stop or not?”

    Aang blinked owlishly at the map, then got a wide smile. “Well, that is where we like to ride the giant hog monkeys. On Kyoshi Island, that’s where we’d have ridden the giant elephant koi and-”

    “Wait, wait, wait,” Zuko stopped him. “You mean to tell me you’ve been taking all those detours for fun?”

    “Yeah.” Aang nodded. “Why else would we?”

    Zuko blinked. “To throw off pursuit?”

    “Oh,” Aang got a thoughtful look on his face. “I guess it does that too, huh?”

    That settled it.

    Zuko didn’t breathe for a second, then he threw his hands up in the air. “Alright, fine. I guess I’m in. If you’ll have me.”

    Aang looked at Katara with the best puppy-dog eyes he could muster.

    “Well,” Katara started to buckle. “He did get an endorsement from Roku. So...sure. I guess.”

    “Sure. Fine,” Sokka leaned forward, pointing at him with his boomerang. “But I’ve got my eye on you.”

    “Well, I guess I should pack my bags,” Zuko took a breath, stretching. “And grab some blasting jelly.”

    “Why do you need blasting jelly?” Aang asked.

    “Because if I’m going with you,” Zuko started, making for the door. “The rest of the Fire Nation is going to think I’m dead.”

    ---

    Uncle Iroh,

    This letter is going to come as a shock.

    But I did what you suggested.

    I joined the Avatar.

    They snuck into the base through my secret entrance, looking for the Waterbending Scroll. We talked for a while. A long while. Aang felt like I was supposed to be his Fire Bending instructor and Avatar Roku, who felt the exact same way.

    You probably found this letter after the explosion. While it looks like I’m dead, I’m not. This is a golden opportunity for me, just like you said. To see the world without the crew holding me down and more importantly, to make things right. So I rigged a few capsules of blasting jelly and timed our departure so it looked like we got attacked by the Avatar.

    The Avatar is responsible for me leaving, so it’s not entirely a lie.

    I only ask that you let everyone think I’m dead. Don’t tell anyone that I turned traitor. Don’t let anyone know. Because, as much as I don’t want anything to do with them, I do care about them. Most of them. Everyone except Father.

    You could probably tell Mother, though.

    I found a purpose, even if I’ve got doubts about the whole thing. If this is the right thing to do, I’m sure it’ll work out. If not, I can find something else.

    Lastly, I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for always believing in me. For teaching me and striving to help me become better. For the games of Pai Sho and teaching how to prepare tea. Thank you for being the Father that Ozai never was.

    ~Prince Zuko

    ---

    Author’s Notes: I hate this chapter. I hate everything about it. Do you guys have any idea how many of my plans this sets on fire? This chapter is dancing on the funeral pyre of my plans and it’s ticking me off!

    Well, okay, all isn’t technically lost. To be honest, I had planned on Zuko being presumed dead anyway but I didn’t plan on him joining the Avatar until The Crossroads of Destiny. Why did I have to listen to the characters? They just disobey me! Curse you, characters! Curse you!

    Shout out goes out too Melden V, Anders Kronquist, Ray Tony Song, Volkogluk, Aaron Bjornson, iolande, Martin Auguado, Julio, Hackerham, Tim Collins-Squire, Maben00, Ventari, PbookR, Seij, ChristobalAlvarez, Apperatus, EPiCJB19, Seeking Raven, Handwran and Russel Beatrous! Your continued support makes all of this possible!

    Until the next time!

    ~Fulcon
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2019
  7. HypoSoc

    HypoSoc Time, once consumed, has no meaning

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    Azula is going to be PISSED...
     
  8. Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    Yes indeed.
     
    Relyt33 and Xicree like this.
  9. chinlamp

    chinlamp Getting sticky.

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    I loathe it when stories throw away their premises, especially interesting premises. At least you lasted longer than the majority of fanfiction that does this, most do it on chapter two.

    All this time, you've had Zuko be pretty fine with being away from home and not caring, with him having a backbone and resisting attempts from all sides to go back to the Fire Nation, and then, meets his mother, straight into doing what he's said all story he doesn't want to do.

    Well, that's another of your stories that I can't being myself to care about anymore. Jesus Christ, you'd think I'd learn not to start reading your work in the first place, but every damn time it's 'oh, this guy writes well and this seems like a decent idea' and I completely forget that you consistently make your stories the opposite of what I was enjoying at the beginning over the course of them.
     
  10. Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    Then do us both a favor and avoid my work.
     
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  11. Thewildwolfofwesteros

    Thewildwolfofwesteros Hedonist

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    I have a feeling the fact Aang mentioned most of his stops were to have fun are what won Zuko over, Zuko still doesn't want to go back but traveling the world faster then he already was he can get behind.
     
  12. codeRR

    codeRR Heroic spirit unkown

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    I have to say I agree that it's a twist I didn't see coming for awhile later. But that doesn't mean it's bad, plus I don't think it throws away the premise, he DID give up and didn't interact with ether side for quite a while. Things are still very different...plus I think it works for the journey that Zuko himself is undergoing. He's been like a breeze that's been caught into a vortex and now will learn to be more flexible and down to earth. This also helps lay the foundation for Earth, the one thing he's really lacking-substance and the deep roots that he's been lacking.

    Edit: it's also good because now Zuko gets more people into his life that he cares about. As we saw he only really had like...2-3 people he actually gave a shit about apparently.

    Even if unexpected (and unplanned sorta) I still am interested to see your next steps.

    Also, I love this little meme in the chapter of-

    *powerful character uses all their authority to get Zuko to do something*
    Zuko: *Slow blink* "how about...no"
     
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  13. Ragnarok

    Ragnarok Experienced.

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    Maybe you should learn to take criticism. While you are not obligated to listen to critics and can write whatever you want, neither are readers required to fellate you. You want to take things a certain way, fine. I agree with the man that these recent developments run contrary to what the initial appeal to the fic is. And you have the right railroad things back to canon. But you'd better accept that people will have issues with that, and trying to shut critics down is not cool.

    I like what you wrote until now, but completely ignoring what could be cool, unexplored territory like Zuko searching for his mom, having a global adventure on the Firelord's dime and sticking to his own path to focus on what we've all read a thousand times before is disappointing. I don't think I'm going to be reading any longer, either.

    Yeah yeah, don't let the door hit me on the way out and all that, yadda yadda yadda
     
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  14. Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    You hit the nail on the head.

    Weird how people can't seem to see that.

    Have a cookie.

    Precisely. See, you get it!

    Presumptuous.

    They're not required to comment either.

    Glad we agree.

    Right, developing the plot in a way that's true to the characters should absolutely take a backseat to the script and what was initially planned no matter what.

    Presumptuous. Again.

    So giving someone an honest suggestion to avoid what I write when there's something he takes issue with on a consistent basis is shutting him down.

    Really.

    There was nothing there.

    Probably should've stuck to precanon, tbh but that got screwed way back in chapter 5.

    He is sticking to his own path. It just so happens that his path runs with the Gaang right now.

    Thank goodness.

    Aw, baby's upset.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
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  15. Akuma-Heika

    Akuma-Heika The Devil Exists Within

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    FTFY

    Pretty sure he came up with the desire to find his mom at the same time he decided he didn't want to go back to the Fire Nation...and faking his death has practically assured that he will not be returning to the Fire Nation as he was. Not sure what your problem is that he stuck to point. If he does, it will be in an epilogue, not the main story.
     
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  16. Fencer

    Fencer Weaponized Randomness

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    this was one of the best Zuko Iroh interaction I have ever read. Seriously hearing Zuko call bullshit on canon manipulative non-logic was just lovely. Watching him repeat the process with Roku was slightly less satisfying but also great.

    edit: i think... yeah I think this was the logical progression of this fic. But I also think it should have been delayed a chapter or two. Not indefinitely just.... Zuko was still vigorously against the idea all through this update. I think a few days to a week where he mulls over what Iroh said and actively considers it followed by Roku butting in and pushing him over the edge would have felt more in character. Itoh actually second guessing himself after Zuko’s retort would also have been good. People arguing... I dunno some people come away certain they were right and the other person was wrong but Iroh has been learning to listen lately so both coming away from the disagreement with things to think about would have been interesting to see as well.

    edit edit: maybe not even a full chapter just another scene or two where zuko pokes at the idea from different angles.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
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  17. Thewildwolfofwesteros

    Thewildwolfofwesteros Hedonist

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    Takes cookie

    I just figured it made sense considering his previous actions statements and thoughts.
     
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  18. Kalem_Lee

    Kalem_Lee Versed in the lewd.

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    I woulda liked more "Notice your Destiny Zuko!" But this was hilarious. Just the effort of Zuko agreeing with Katara and trying to get them to leave had me in laughs.

    Also neat that someone may mentioned that Zuko did the title drop of Giving up. Cant wait to see if this happen again.
     
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  19. Sanbashi

    Sanbashi Getting out there.

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    In all fairness criticism should usually be constructive and objective, like fencer. Saying the story is bad because you don't like the plot progression is not objective. The story was always heading in this direction. Did it happen to fast? Maybe, I'm not sure, but you and the other guy are just being obtuse.

    My major gripe so far is that I would have loved to see more of Zuko and Mom, but that's not too big an issue for me to stop watching
     
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  20. Xicree

    Xicree Destroy and Rejoice!

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    Fuck that.

    That isn't criticism you offered it was your opinion and taste being projected.

    The author is under no obligation to pander to you.
     
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  21. NightmareWarden

    NightmareWarden Know what you're doing yet?

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    I have some criticism, since that seems to be happening. This complaint might not matter in one or two chapters if we see Aang and Zuko training together, but otherwise... Zuko really should have demonstrated smokebending. It could have happened multiple times as a progression for when he let that Earth kingdom ship limp away (as opposed to using more dangerous firebending). It could have been part of a decisive battle (Agni Kai with one of his crew? A random noble who takes massive issue with Zuko studying another bending style?). It could have been in a drawn out sparring match with Iroh in which Iroh or a crew member notes that Zuko barely fights like a firebender anymore, that he uses fire with smoke in many creative defensive techniques.
    If Zuko's quest for his mother had more difficulties, then that could have been the demonstration. I'm not saying that smokebending needs to be as important for Zuko as healing is for Katara, but when I saw Zuko's bedridden scene, I assumed he'd pull off a smokebending equivalent to his candle-lit fountain in Ba Sing Se. I will completely eat these words if Zuko has a fight with Zhao or Azula that is filled with comebacks and emotional accusations (and smokebending) though!

    On to positive stuff! I've enjoyed a ton of the character interactions in this story. Katara and Sokka actually acting like siblings has been great! I really loved those moments. The different paths Zhao and Aang have taken have been neat and logical. I had a suspicion that Aang would end up eating his words after turning down the jerky AND flying away from Kyoshi Island without supplies...but Bison don't eat meat and the Gaang managed to handle that offscreen plenty of times in canon. So who cares.

    I'm really interested in what sort of struggle ends up bring back some, if not all, of Zuko's old fiery determination. You never know what extra objectives Zuko would force onto any of the Gaang's plots (meaning Sokka's plots) or where they might go thanks to Zuko's knowledge of the land. Thanks for the story and I hope my criticism isn't a pain to read.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2019
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  22. Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    Not at all, thank you for the critique. It was well written and I definitely could have used smokebending more. But

    Actually, I intend too in the future.
     
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  23. Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Chapter's 1k words through, going to let it germinate for another day before I finish it tomorrow.
     
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  24. l---erddad---l

    l---erddad---l Wait, google can see this?

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    Holy shit, I love this. Immediately watched, and recommended to people I know.
     
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  25. Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    Thank you. Have a cookie.
     
  26. Threadmarks: Extinguished
    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.

    ---

    Zhao was furious at his poor timing.

    Looking up in the sky, the commander saw the avatar’s bison flying off into the night sky, passing into the clouds and out of sight. Before him was a warehouse that, until about ten minutes ago, looked completely abandoned. But a section of it had been completely blown out, the room inside having been reduced to dust.

    Fire nation soldiers rushed into the office from inside the warehouse, shocked by the destruction.

    “Commander Zhao, sir!” Lieutenant Jee gave a sharp salute upon seeing the new arrival. “What happened?”

    “It appears you were attacked by the Avatar,” Zhao replied, giving the floor a thorough examination, looking for clues. “Where’s Prince Zuko?”

    “He was in this room,” The Lieutenant ordered, going pale and immediately looking around.

    “A precision strike, then,” Commander Zhao replied, scanning the floor for clues. A hint of red beneath the rubble caught his eye, and he knelt down to carefully pick it up.

    It was a fire nation breastplate. Or rather, the back of one was the front had been blasted to pieces. Inside was a crimson substance that looked suspiciously like blood.

    “The Prince,” Jee said, staring at the plate.

    Zhao put a finger on the liquid and brought it to eye-level. No, it was not blood. It was juice from Dragonlily Berries, an Earth Kingdom fruit that grew in this part of the world. It looked very close to blood, but it was stickier than it should’ve been.

    He sniffed the juice and caught a whiff of the berry’s strong odor that was otherwise completely covered by the smoke and dust of the explosion.

    “What happened here?” Zhao looked up to see Iroh staring at the wreckage.

    “You were attacked by the Avatar,” Zhao responded.

    “They killed the Prince,” Jee said, his face slowly changing from shock to rage.

    “Lieutenant, that’s patently false,” Zhao cut in with a harsh frown. “This may be the Prince’s armor, but he wasn’t wearing it at the time of the blast.”

    “How do you figure, Commander?” Iroh asked sharply, his eyes narrowing.

    “This isn’t blood,” Zhao replied turning his fingers over to show the juice that had stained his finger pads. “This is Dragonlily Juice.”

    “Then the Avatar faked the Prince’s death,” Lieutenant Jee started to blink.

    “That’s correct,” Zhao replied. “We can only assume that the Avatar and his companions kidnapped the Prince.”

    “Why would they do that?” Jee asked. “Why wouldn’t they just kill him?”

    “The Avatar’s an Air Nomad,” Zhao responded flatly. “Their respect for life defied good sense. I imagine that the Prince’s abduction was a compromise to ensure his removal while not going against the Avatar’s own moral code.”

    General Iroh looked surprised. Then masked it behind an expression of indifference. As was expected of a master of Iroh’s caliber. “We must save Prince Zuko at all costs.”

    “I agree.” Zhao gave a slow nod. “If the Avatar has the Prince, then the Avatar has nearly all military information for troop and ship movements in the entire eastern hemisphere. He could cripple all operations in the Earth Kingdom in as little as a week.”

    “Do you think the Avatar would torture the Prince, sir?” Jee asked.

    “No,” Zhao shook his head. “But the tribals traveling with him are a different story.”

    Iroh’s thoughtful frown was well hidden, but Zhao saw it all the same. “Lieutenant, prepare the ship. We must pull out of port immediately. Commander, I must apologize for cutting your visit short.”

    “No, no. I understand,” Zhao replied. “If it means anything, I would like to volunteer my ships to assist in the hunt for the Avatar.”

    “That will be unnecessary,” Iroh pointed out. “We have the fastest ship in the fleet and an entire detachment of ships would only slow us down. Besides, we both know that you are planning an expansive military operation in the North Pole that is only awaiting approval from the Fire Lord. We cannot afford to have you distracted. Return to your duties and leave Prince Zuko’s rescue to us.”

    Zhao didn’t like it. Yes, the ship Iroh possessed was faster than anything else in the Navy. But that didn’t mean that other ships couldn’t be used to block off the Avatar’s route.

    Something was off.

    “You have your orders, Commander,” Iroh spoke. “Carry them out.”

    “Yes, General.”

    ---

    Iroh let out a deep breath as he returned to his room to pack.

    The blast had woken him up from his deep slumber and interrupted his pleasant dream of Pai Sho, Tea and a peaceful afternoon in the gardens.

    He had to assess the situation and figure out where the blast came from in the dark halls of the base as the crew were scrambling to light lanterns. Of course he arrived and saw Zhao inspecting the wreckage.

    The general had known he was coming, he received the messenger hawk that morning. But then questions piled up, which could all be summarized as ‘what happened’?

    Still, the General had a duty to perform which meant that those questions would be answered in their own due time.

    In his haste to pack, however, the General had seen something that was not there before; a letter, written in crimson-backed paper and tied in fine twine. He unwrapped the letter and read it.

    It was then, even as the smile opened on his face, Iroh slapped his forehead in a groan.

    ---

    “So,” Katara started, not entirely sure where to start.

    The group had landed in a clearing in the forest just beside a small river. Appa was resting in the sand on the shore while Sokka was setting up the Fire Pit. Aang was meditating on a rock which left Katara and Zuko to set up the tents.

    For his part, Zuko was silent.

    “Have you,” Katara continued, looking for something to say. “Slept in a tent before?”

    “A couple times.”

    “Oh. Like when?” Katara asked.

    “When we were looking through the Air Temples,” Zuko responded as he finished putting his tent up. “Especially the Western one. That one took days.”

    “Why did it take days?” Aang asked curiously.

    “We were cremating the Fire Nation soldiers that died there,” Zuko replied.

    “Oh,” Aang said with an uncomfortable expression. “What about the monks?”

    “You wrap the deceased in silk and send them on in a specially prepared glider, right?” Zuko asked with a frown, handing Katara a rolled up tarp.

    “That’s right,” Aang nodded. “Did you do that?”

    “The gliders we found were rotten through,” Zuko replied. “We didn’t have the materials or knowledge to build new ones, so we left the monks in silk until someone could come back to finish the job.”

    “Well,” Aang slowly shrugged. “It’s better than nothing.”

    “You didn’t just pile them up, did you?” Sokka asked with a frown.

    “No. They were evenly and respectfully spaced out on the cliff-side,” Zuko answered. “That’s the truth.”

    “Thank you,” Aang said. “So how did you get sent out to capture me, anyway?”

    Zuko turned to the last tent that needed to be set up; his own. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

    “Okay,” Aang replied.

    “Does it have anything to do with your scar?” Sokka asked.

    “Sokka!” Katara snapped angrily.

    “What? I’m just asking,” Sokka defended with a sharp glare.

    “Yes, but as I said, I don’t want to talk about it,” Zuko answered, biting back the far harsher reply he almost belted out with. “Besides, it’s just a scar.”

    Sokka shrugged. “Fair enough.”

    “So, can we start Firebending training tomorrow?” Aang asked excitedly, a big grin growing on his face. “I want to learn how to throw fireballs out of my hands!”

    “Sure, we can start tomorrow,” Zuko got a small smirk on his face. “But your firebending training is going to be entirely breathing exercises. You aren’t bending fire until I feel like you won’t accidentally burn a forest down or something.”

    “Hey, don’t worry, I’ll be careful!” Aang nodded eagerly. “Airbender’s honor!”

    Zuko blinked, then turned to Sokka. “Be honest with me. Will he be careful?”

    “No.”

    “I didn’t think so,” Zuko replied with a nod.

    “But Avatar Roku said it was your destiny to teach me Firebending,” Aang pointed out.

    “Well, I’m sure that Roku understands why it’s important that you learn them in the right order,” Zuko replied without so much as a glance at his pupil as he put his tent up. “Don’t want the Avatar to burn the world down because he got power mad without Water to cool him off, do we?”

    Aang groaned in irritation. “But if I don’t learn all the elements before the comet comes, the Fire Nation will win the war!”

    “Wait...huh. I guess that’s coming up, isn’t it?” Zuko asked with a shrug. “You know, I forgot about that. But I wouldn’t worry about it. If you master the basics, the more advanced stuff kind of learns itself.”

    “Which is what the breathing exercises are?” Katara asked curiously.

    “Exactly,” Zuko nodded.

    “But the basics have to have some Firebending forms,” Aang said desperately, trying to cling to the hope of throwing fire even as it was evaporating out of his hands. “Right?”

    “Right, but those basics are designed to teach how to breathe properly,” Zuko replied with a nod. “You don’t need to actually bend fire to learn that. Besides, I can’t exactly show you how it’s done properly right now, anyway.”

    “What do you mean?” Aang immediately said.

    Zuko took a breath and ran through a quick series of movements. Each time it looked like Fire should have come out, only the barest of sparks emerged instead. After he finished, he centered his chi. “My bending's out of juice.”

    “Why is it out of juice?” Katara yelped in clear concern.

    “Well,” Zuko started, taking a seat. “One of the key components of Firebending is drive. Strong emotion, passion, things that are all necessary to light your inner fire and I’m out.”

    “So you’re saying you don’t feel emotion?” Sokka asked with a frown.

    “It’s kind of hard to do,” Zuko replied with a nod.

    “That isn’t right,” Aang said with a frown. “Firebender’s are some of the most passionate people I know. For you to not have that, something had to have happened. Like...like...”

    The Avatar’s eyes went wide. “One of the keys of Airbending is detachment.”

    “Yup,” Zuko replied with a pointed finger.

    “Oh,” Katara’s eyes also went wide. “Zuko, you said that scroll helped you out. But I think all that airbending knowledge...messed you up.”

    “My uncle certainly seemed to think so,” Zuko said softly, taking a seat in front of his tent. “But personally I think it was a good trade. I mean, I could still be angry, mad at the world and chasing after you with an endless zeal, hounding you from the north pole to the south pole...but I also wouldn’t be as good at Firebending so I think it would’ve evened out.”

    “You call that good at Firebending,” Sokka replied with a lot of doubt.

    “No, that’s the most pathetic firebending I’ve ever seen,” Zuko contradicted. “But before I lost my drive, I was pretty good.”

    “So, we need to find a way to restore your drive,” Aang said. “Do you know how to do that?”

    “Well, personally, I was kind of hoping to learn a bit more about water bending,” Zuko answered.

    “I don’t know, maybe you should stay away from other bending styles until we’ve got this figured out,” Katara said with a frown. Noting Zuko’s unimpressed expression, she quickly continued, “But I would be happy to learn with you once we’ve got this figured out. Promise!”

    “Actually, Katara, I think he’s got a point,” Sokka said. “He’s mastered Fire and integrated Air pretty heavily. What if by learning the other styles, he rounds himself out? You know?”

    “He’d be following the Avatar cycle to bring balance to himself,” Aang replied with wide eyes. “That’s what you’re hoping will happen, isn’t it?”

    “Honestly, I just want to learn everything the world has to show me,” Zuko replied with a small smile. “Given how the four nations are built on their bending styles, that seemed like the obvious place to start.”

    “Well, we have the Waterbending scroll,” Katara said, holding the scroll aloft. “Aang and I were going to start practicing what’s on it later, maybe you could join us? You know, get a head start before we get to the North Pole?”

    “I don’t think it’ll do me a lot of good,” Zuko replied. “Since I can’t bend Water, the only thing practicing the forms would do for me is help me understand the philosophy of Waterbending, but I don’t think either of you really know what that is, do you?”

    “...not exactly,” Aang admitted. “But the scroll is better than nothing.”

    “Well, I did learn a little bit from Gran-gran,” Katara interjected. “Water is the element of change. We bend by joining with the current and redirecting it.”

    Zuko blinked and gave her a confused stare. “I’m sure you put your own power in their somewhere, otherwise the water would just ignore you.”

    “I mean, yeah,” Katara said with a nod. “You can’t change a current without building a dam, can you?”

    “Wouldn’t make any sense otherwise,” Zuko replied.

    ---

    “Okay, so this one looks easy,” Katara said, looking over the scroll. “The Water Whip.”

    “This’ll be fun,” Aang said with a smile. He looked over to where Zuko was practicing with a pair of Dao swords. “Zuko, are you going to join us?”

    “I’ll wait until you’re done,” Zuko replied, going through a form with his swords.

    In truth, he wanted to get started right away, but that didn’t seem like it’d be worth the trouble of dealing with the pair of excited water-benders. Besides, since they could feel the element, they’d probably have a clearer picture of how Waterbending works and could help him better understand and apply it to his own bending.

    Zuko was content to simply practice with his broadswords. With his bending out of commission, he needed a way to contribute to the group’s defense if it came to that. So while the swords didn’t need much dusting off, given how much havoc they had raised in the hands of the Blue Spirit, Zuko still felt the need to practice.

    The Prince was keenly aware that Sokka was watching him practice with barely concealed envy. Eventually, the tribal spoke. “So, you seem pretty good with those. Where did you learn?”

    “I studied under Master Piandao in my childhood,” Zuko replied, still going through his forms. “The finest sword master in the Fire Nation. Maybe you’ll meet him someday.”

    “Yeah, maybe after the war is over we can touch base and compare notes,” Sokka said with a cheeky, perhaps too-wide grin. “I could probably show him a couple water tribe moves.”

    “Maybe,” Zuko replied idly. The Prince immediately recognized Sokka as someone who hadn’t been knocked on his butt in a while; the signs were all there. He was favorably comparing himself to a master in spite of his relative inexperience and he did not carry himself as someone who knew how to fight. Perhaps a quick lesson would save his life later. “Want to spar?”

    “Huh? Oh, sure!” Sokka said, standing up as Zuko placed his blades on the ground. “But I warn you, I won’t go easy on you!”

    “I hope not.”

    After a moment of standing in horse stances, Sokka leaped forward and started the bout, which was over in another two seconds, with Zuko having pinned him to the ground in an armlock.

    “Ow! Ow! Okay, okay!” Sokka reached up with his other arm and patted Zuko’s leg. “I give!”

    Zuko let him go and gave Sokka space to stand back up. He looked up as Katara and Aang rushed over.

    “What’s going on?” Katara asked.

    “We’re just sparring,” Zuko replied idly.

    “You weren’t sparring for very long,” Katara pointed out with a frown.

    “Sokka hasn’t been trained all that well,” Zuko pointed.

    “Hey!” Sokka snapped in annoyance. “So what if I haven’t been trained by the best sword guy in the Fire Nation, I still pull my weight!”

    Zuko gave a so-so gesture with his hand. “Eh?”

    Sokka growled and turned around to go sit on the stump and sharpen his boomerang.

    “So, how’s the scroll coming?” Zuko asked.

    “We’re taking a break,” Katara replied flatly with a too-wide smile on her face.

    “Y-yeah,” Aang nodded quickly. “Taking a break. Yup.”

    “You just started with it,” Zuko pointed out, raising his single eyebrow. “Having trouble?”

    “Not really,” Aang said truthfully. “Just, you know. It’s a bit different.”

    “Uh-huh,” Zuko replied. “Well, if you’re done with it, I’m going to go have a look.”

    “Go ahead,” Katara replied, still sounding overly cheerful.

    Actually, Zuko had a pretty good idea of what the forms looked like without the scroll. But the reminders would help as he actually tried to make sense of them. Sure, the Airbending forms were different from Firebending, but they were different in that they had a clear purpose that Zuko could understand. But the Waterbending forms weren’t like that. They were different. Alien.

    Zuko had a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach that if there was a black abyss for a Firebender to descend into, it would be the Waterbending forms. But it wasn’t like he had anything better to do so he looked at the scroll.

    What was the one they said looked easy? Zuko asked, looking all all four impossible moves in detail. The Water Whip, that’s right.

    He looked at it, examined it and then tried to follow it and right away, he felt completely wrong. So he tried it again and frowned, rubbing his chin.

    “You’re not doing it right.”

    Zuko took a breath and looked at Aang. “Alright, what am I doing wrong?”

    “You look like you’re trying to force the water,” Aang replied with a shrug. “You just got to shift your weight through the stances and flow through the form.”

    “Teach me,” Zuko said, sitting on his knees.

    “Well, I mean, I’m not a master,” Aang hurriedly pointed out.

    “But you know more than me at this point,” Zuko pointed out.

    “I guess,” Aang replied. “Here, this is how I think it’s supposed to go.”

    Zuko had never actually seen Waterbending before now, when Aang had taken a small stream of water out of the river into a perfect water whip, which he then allowed to flow right back into the river. The Prince had been hoping that, with a proper demonstration in front of him, he’d be able to make better sense of water-bending.

    The exact opposite happened. Now he was even more confused. Why did the whip stay in the Avatar’s hand even though he wasn’t forcing it? Why did the river change the way it flowed just because the Avatar was flowing with it?

    From Airbending, Zuko had learned to take the path of least resistance. But there was still resistance. Either you blew through it, per firebending or you went around it, per airbending. But with Waterbending? There was no resistance and that made no sense.

    “So you flow from stance to stance, shifting your weight into each one,” Aang continued, centering his chi. “If you were a waterbender, the water would start to match flow with you and you’d be able to bend it.”

    Zuko blinked. “I don’t get it.”

    “What don’t you get?” Katara asked. “It seemed kind of clear to me.”

    “But see, Katara, you were doing the same thing he was doing,” Aang replied with a frown.

    “I was?” Katara asked with a frown. “How so?”

    “Both of you were moving like you were trying to force the water,” Aang answered. “You can’t do that. Either you flow with the water and change how it goes, or you don’t bend.”

    Katara growled in irritation.

    “I-I’m just saying,” Aang replied. “I’m not a master, that’s just what I think is happening.”

    “I think this would be a lot easier if there was something I could bend,” Zuko said. “But that’s hard to do if I can’t bend.”

    “Maybe you can’t make your own fire,” Aang said with an inquisitive expression. “But maybe you won’t have too!”

    “How so?” Zuko asked.

    “Well, the thing with water is that it’s already around,” Aang said. “So if you had fire already going...”

    “I might be able to bend that instead,” Zuko said, nodding and clearly impressed. “I brought some candles to help with meditation, let me go get them...”

    The candles were small, arranged in a line in front of the prince. With a pair of spark rocks, Zuko lit the candles and stood up.

    “Alright, moment of truth,” Sokka said idly, still polishing the azure stone in his club well past the point he could see his face in it.

    Zuko brought his hands up to perform the ‘Fire Whip’, mirroring the Avatar’s motions earlier. The flames from the candles sprung up, higher and higher as they started circling the princes hand.

    “He’s doing it,” Katara breathed with wide eyes.

    “Yes he is,” Aang replied, his own expression growing more and more excited.

    Then the long and wispy candle flames extinguished with barely the smallest amount of smoke.

    Zuko hummed. “Well, it was worth a shot.”

    “What happened?” Katara asked.

    “Firebending needs three things to work,” Zuko began. “Drive, Chi and Breath. As soon as the flames got too long for the candles to maintain, it needed more of all those things to stay alive. But, since my drive is gone...”

    “But I don’t get it,” Katara shook her head. “You weren’t firebending, you were waterbending.”

    “Yeah, with fire,” Zuko admonished. “And fire isn’t water.”

    ---

    Author’s Note: I meant to have this chapter out last week, but things came up. Still, I’m glad I was able to get this chapter out today and I hope you all enjoy it! Not much to say other than I’m glad I can have Zhao be more than the Stupid Evil Fire Nation guy we usually see him as. It kind of bugged me because, even though the Fire Nation isn’t particularly bright, you can’t plan a nearly successful invasion of a foreign nation and also be, well, stupid.

    Shortsighted and impatient, certainly, but not stupid.

    Shout out too Melden V, Anders Kronquist, Ray Tony Song, Volkogluk, Aaron Bjornson, iolande, Martin Auguado, Julio, Hackerham, Tim Collins-Squire, Maben00, Ventari, PbookR, Seij, ChristobalAlvarez, Apperatus, EPiCJB19, Seeking Raven, Handwran and Russel Beatrous. Thank you for your continued support!

    Until the next time!

    ~Fulcon
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
  27. WearyRain

    WearyRain Making the rounds.

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    Oh, completion via pseudo avatar cycle, i like the idea
     
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  28. Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    I thought it was a good idea. :)
     
  29. Diraniola

    Diraniola Not too sore, are you?

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    I want to see Zuko use this pseudo water bending to control and fight a forest fire. I always thought the fire juggler Aang tried to imitate when he burned Katara was using more water bending forms than fire.
     
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  30. Fulcon

    Fulcon Wim Hoff Method Initiate

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    That's actually what I was thinking about when I was planning this part out!

    ...have a cookie. :D
     
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