THE FLAMES OF DESTINY: SUBMERGED

BOOK II OF THE FLAMES OF DESTINY SERIES

CHAPTER 1: THE HARMONY RESTORATION MOVEMENT

Katara climbed up into Appa's saddle, allowing herself to smile. It was dusk and the city of Ba Sing Se was alight with colorful lanterns and torches. The sounds of celebrations filled the air. After Sokka helped Toph into the saddle, Aang offered a "yip yip" and they were off. She chanced a glance at Zuko. He was sitting beside her looking the other way. She frowned slightly. It had been that way for a week. They avoided eye contact with each other, they avoided speaking more than two words to each other, they avoided being left alone in the same room together. Of course, no one suspected their former love affair. (K) Can it even be called a love affair? It was so short-lived. She sighed. Of course it had been a love affair. The amount of time was irrelevant. Zuko was the love of her life, her soulmate. (K) But I have to put that behind me now. I have to be here for Aang...and for the world.Her split with Zuko had been the most painful thing she had ever experienced, save her mother's death. A whole week and the wounds still felt fresh and raw. She glanced over at Zuko again. This time he seemed to sense her gaze and turned his head. Their eyes met...and for the first time in a week, they held each other's gaze. He gave her a wistful, resigned smile.

He wished he could do more. He wished he could say more. When Zuko felt her eyes on him, he had meant to remain facing the other way. He had to be a man of stone, but when it came to Katara, he could not. At least, not yet. He hoped against hope that time would make things easier but if his time with Katara taught him anything, it was that time was an illusion. (Z) After all, I fell in love with her in a matter of weeks. Years won't make a difference to how I feel.He sighed. He would be fated to love her from afar for the rest of his life, knowing that she loved him too and knowing they could never be together. It was torture. A torture they would both experience forever. So maybe his resigned smile had been enough. He wanted to let her know that he understood, and that he felt the same. She seemed to get it. She gave him a similar smile in return before looking away. Strangely he felt heartened by her response. She was fighting the same battle he was fighting. They had to do what they could for the world, even at great personal sacrifice. Zuko had a big job ahead of him: restoring the honor of the Fire Nation. This Harmony Restoration Movement was essential to showing the world the goodwill of his country. He would see the Fire Nation colonies in the Earth Kingdom removed. The people of the Earth Kingdom would feel less threatened, and perhaps tensions would ease over the next few years until there was none at all.

Those were happy thoughts at least. Something to distract him from the agonizing loss he felt. The breeze was cool as they flew over the city and everyone seemed to be feeling at peace. He wished he felt as peaceful. Besides his split with Katara, something else was disturbing him. Zuko had decided to see his father in the prison he was being held at. He no longer felt any fear for the man, no respect either, and certainly no filial affection. But somehow his father had a hold on him. He could not explain it. (Z) Maybe...maybe it's my own fears. Although he didn't fear him, his father gave him an anxious feeling. Perhaps it was that so many in the Fire Nation nobility and commons still supported Ozai, although he was no longer fit to be Fire Lord. So many whispered that Zuko could not do the job, he was too weak. Zuko would not be a weak Fire Lord. He knew he would face opposition with the Harmony Restoration Movement from the council but that did not matter. He would make them obey him. But...how could he do that? By force? That made him no better than his father. That must be what he was afraid of: becoming like his father. Power had the ability to corrupt. If he ended up that way...everything would have been for nothing and the honor of the Fire Nation would remain shoddy. Suddenly Aang took them down in a fast dive that had Zuko clinging the side of the saddle. Katara, Sokka, and Suki had been prepared apparently. They had their arms up laughing in delight. Toph, of course, was never ready for anything that had to do with flying and was clinging on to the saddle as well.

Aang was all excitement. "Let's go again!", he exclaimed. Just then there was a loud crack and the sky was exploded with colors. "Wait guys!", said Suki. "The fireworks are starting!". Zuko watched the following explosions in mild awe. They must've been beautiful to the crowds congregated on the ground, but the view from the sky was amazing. "Wow. The view is amazing!", remarked Katara. Zuko smiled for a moment that they were still of one mind. The crowds below erupted into applause and cheering. "Sounds like the Earth King just announced the Harmony Restoration Movement", said Suki. The mentioning of the initiative brought Zuko back to his depressing thoughts. He could not become like his father. He would not. But...if he did... Toph's voice interrupted his thoughts. "Hey wanna know what fireworks are like for me? Close your eyes". Sokka obliged Toph and closed his eyes only for her to yell "BOOM!" In his ear. Katara turned around and put her hands on Toph's shoulders. "Oh Toph don't be such a grump! You're out with friends on a beautiful night celebrating the fact that we saved the world". "True", Toph conceded. Katara gave Zuko a meaningful look to indicate that she meant him too. Zuko turned away. He couldn't explain to her what was going through his head. Not there.

Aang turned around with a wide grin on his face. "You too Your new Majesty Fire Lord Zuko sir! Turn that frown upside down! It's happy time!". Aang used his fingers in the corner of his mouth to stretch his grin even wider. Zuko grimaced. "Zuko...?". "I visited my father in prison the other day...I've been meaning to ask you a favor Aang". It was best to just put it out there. Aang looked perplexed. "Sure, anything". Zuko took a breath. (Z) This is the only way. I will never allow the world to slip back into chaos."If you ever see me going the way of my father, I want you to...I want you to end me". Katara's ears pricked up at that. "What?!", exclaimed Aang. "Even now, after everything that's happened, my family's legacy is still a part of me. That's why it's my duty to heal the scars the Fire Nation has left on the world. But...the Fire Lord's throne comes with a lot of pressures. And if I'm honest with myself, I need a safety net. The world needs a safety net. That's what I need you to be, Aang. The safety net". Katara was struck dumb by Zuko's words. (K) Why would he even suggest something like that?! When we get back on solid ground I'm going to have several words with- she checked. She understood. A safety net. Even the most experienced and masterful acrobats had a safety net under them when they walked a tightrope although it was highly improbable they would ever need it. With all the new power and prestige of being a head of state, Zuko had to be thinking that he would end up like his father: corrupted by power. (K) I know Zuko won't end up like his father! But he also wants to make absolutely certain the world never falls into chaos by the hands of the Fire Nation again.Katara glanced over at Aang. Aang was struggling with himself it seemed. He finally found words to speak. "Zuko, you are NOT your dad! And you're my friend! How can you expect me-". Katara struggled not to sigh. He was the Avatar! His duty was to snuff out anything or anyone who disrupted the balance in the world, friend or not. "As your friend I'm asking you", Zuko interrupted. "If you ever see me go bad, end me. Promise me, Aang". Aang did not look like he was about to agree. (K) And this is where I come in. Aang turned her way, as she knew he would. When he did, she fixed him with a serious stare and nodded her head. Aang was distraught but he heaved a sigh. "...Fine. I promise".