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Alright! Thank you so much for the… reviews. This is the last chapter and I hope you like it.
Chapter Three – Part one: Let Go; Jump In
The battle broke out quickly and before Iroh could formulate a worth-while plan, chaos erupted around him. The whole battle field was a mess with fists and fire, though he had to admit that the fight would have looked more impressive if their soldiers were not the only ones seen. A cry alerted him as one of Zuko's men grabbed his throat and fell to the ground in an ever growing pool of red liquid.
He wanted to see how his nephew was fairing, but every time he tried to glance over, he sensed a foot, or a fist coming at him. Another cry and another body. They were losing fast; too fast for Iroh to even think. An invisible hand grasped his forearm and he crumpled to the ground as all of the heat in his body was sucked away. He couldn't let them do this to him, he had to fight.
He shut his eyes tight and called upon his remaining strength, but before he could even start to stand up, the feeling disappeared. His eyes wandered up to Zuko. A spear outstretched in his arms, he was standing over Iroh, chest heaving with effort. Blood already dripped freely from a particularly nasty cut across his left temple and his legs shook. Iroh didn't waste anymore time. He stood up, grabbed his own spear and dove back into the battle.
After all, maybe they weren't losing. Just because they couldn't see the corpses of the opposing side, doesn't mean they aren't there. Another cry, but this time when he looked around, none of his men fell. There! That was the inspiration he needed.
"We can do this!" Zuko shouted, most likely seeing the same event as Iroh. The men fought harder than ever before, but the battle's end didn't seem to get any closer. As the day turned to afternoon, Liam made his grand entrance and stood at a top row of one side of the stadium. He clapped his hands, and before long, the battle had quieted down.
"You've made a grand effort, but I must be going and of course I can't leave my little toys back here alone..." He broke off into an unhealthy laugh and turned to leave. Just as his back faded into a darkened doorway, the gates that they had come out of opened up again.
Zuko approached Iroh, still trying desperately to catch his breath and all of the soldiers looked around confused.
"Are they giving us a rest?" Zuko asked hopefully, but Iroh silenced him with a wave of his hand. Some of their men started toward the gate and Iroh panicked when he saw something in the dirt. A footprint appeared, large and deep.
"NO!" He cried out, throwing his arms up in an attempt to get them to come back, but it was too late. Whatever was there took that as its cue and threw a massive arm out, sending about five men flying through the air. They collided with the west wall and hit the ground just as hard. They didn't get up.
Beside him, Zuko took an unsure step backwards, his eyes never leaving the area he thought it was in.
"Oh God," He whispered, and swallowed hard, blinking the sweat from his eyes as if it would help him get a better look. The monster roared. An other-worldly noise exploding from one side of the stadium. The ten men that they had left backed to the other side, but he and Zuko stood in shock.
Iroh looked at his nephew, thoughts running through his head that this may just be the last time he will ever see the boy and Zuko looked back. His eyes searching Iroh's for any sign of a plan; an idea, but he saw nothing. "Uncle?" He asked, frightened. Iroh had always found a way out of trouble, but as the man thought, he came up with nothing. "Goodbye..." Zuko said, looking back at where the monster was and holding his breath. The winds changed and Iroh could feel the beast ready to swat them like little bugs. If only they could fire bend, but those invisible... his thoughts stopped short when he realized that the men had to be gone.
Liam surely hadn't left his own men out on the field. He opened his palm in desperate haste and tried to make a fire-ball. It worked. He gasped a new hope swelling in his heart. He pulled his arms back and sent another fireball flying forward. He heard Zuko's gasp next to him and couldn't help but smile.
It hit the monster and it roared in pain. Their men, seeing what they were able to do began fire bending. It didn't take long before the loud thud of the monster falling echoed through the air. Night was now upon them and they took little time to enjoy their victory.
Iroh turned to speak with Zuko, and his heart dropped when he didn't see his nephew. "Prince Zuko!" He shouted through the night, catching the attention of the soldiers. They searched too, but he was gone. "Go," He said, addressing what was left of Zuko's fleet. "I will find Zuko. You find the ship and I will meet you there." They nodded and took off for the first door that they had come out of while Iroh headed for the other side.
He ventured through stone and dirt until he came upon the same castle part they had been in before. The red and gold was unsettling and so was the silence. He could hear his heart beat which made it beat faster. Would Zuko be foolish enough to go back in? A scream stopped his steady pace through the halls and he looked up. It was definitely Zuko, but what scared Iroh was that it took a lot to get his nephew to cry out like that. He began running, now with more distress.
The scream came again, but this time it faltered off and was much more faded. He burst through the golden doors of the throne room and clenched his fists tight. Zuko was chained to the furthest wall, a little behind the throne. Liam was standing a few feet away, a smirk twisting onto his face as he turned and saw Iroh.
"So nice of you to join us," He pulled a bloody knife up to his face and watched blood drip from it. Iroh couldn't get a good look at Zuko, but he was willing to bet that it was the boy's blood on the knife.
"Get away from him!" Iroh shouted, for once unable to hide his anger. "I know, I know. I lost, but what's so wrong in me taking home a consolation prize?" Liam said, taking a step back and taking Zuko's chin; forcing his head up. A long cut ran across his face accompanied by the still bleeding cut on his temple.
"Plenty," Iroh growled, knowing he could beat Liam, it was the invisible men that he was afraid of.
"I'm letting you leave. Go on, get out of my kingdom. You're lucky I let your men leave!" He spat, taking his hand away from Iroh's nephew and approaching the aged man.
"You call that letting them leave?" Iroh shouted, trying to form a plan in his head. Behind Liam, Zuko moaned but otherwise didn't move. Iroh had never felt such anger. The only times that even came close were the times that he witnessed how terrible Zuko's father treated him. It always angered and amazed him how Zuko was so oblivious to how evil his father was. The boy just loved the Fire Lord too much.
Iroh took a deep breath to calm himself, and saw his opening. With surprising speed he bent down and tripped Liam. The Lord fell to the ground with a rough grunt and Iroh made a wall of fire around him. It would give him enough time to free Zuko and leave. He ran up to the boy, keeping most of his concentration on the fire and pulled the chains loose. Zuko, unable to hold his weight as the chains dropped, crumpled to his knees and fell forward, surprising Iroh.
His concentration left and the fire dissipated as he caught his nephew before the boy hit the ground. His mind was whirling, and he found it quite strange that he hadn't even thought of Liam. He gently rested Zuko on the ground and turned just as the Lord charged at him. The fight broke out with quickness, both eager to finish it off but for different reasons. Iroh first took the defensive, accurately blocking all of Liam's kicks and punches with little effort.
But before Iroh could take a more offensive stance, Liam leapt to a wall and pulled a long golden sword from it's sheath. Iroh sent a few fire balls that way, but Liam's sword just absorbed it. He ran forward, holding the sword back - ready to strike. Just as Liam reached Iroh, Zuko did an outstanding flip over his uncle, landing in front of him and throwing his chains out. They wrapped around Liam's ankles and he toppled heavily to the ground as Prince Zuko jerked the chains backwards.
Liam's sword flew through the air and Iroh caught it. He hated Liam for what he did, but killing him was too extreme. He looked to his nephew as Liam struggled to untangle himself on the ground. Zuko was out of breath, but his cuts were superficial. He'd live with minor scars, barely anything to worry about compared to the scar that marred his left eye. Iroh, making his decision, bent down and tied the chains all around Liam, melting them in places to make sure they were strong.
He stood up to full height and addressed the boy to his right. "We had better get going Prince Zuko." He said calmly, as if the whole ordeal had never happened.
"Yes, Uncle." Zuko replied, choosing to follow in Iroh's lead.
As they left the great hall, Iroh turned around and blasted fire though the doors until the place was substantially on fire, then he shut the door as he and his nephew preceded down the hall.
"Thanks..." Zuko whispered hesitatingly. Iroh didn't answer; he knew the boy was not looking for one.
Three – Part two: Epilogue
Once safely on the ship, everything seemed to return to normal. They had set a course to a beautiful island to have a rest and stock up. Iroh figured that the men deserved it. He kneeled on the deck with his nephew, quietly bandaging Zuko's wounds. Nothing too bad and the same for himself. He hadn't really realized how much the boy meant to him until now as they sat in comfortable silence. Without any children of his own, Iroh enjoyed considering the young prince to be just that, a son. Though he would never tell Zuko of his thoughts.
Prince Zuko loved his own father and Iroh never expected the boy to feel any form of paternal love for him and in a way he didn't mind. He finished wrapping a nasty gash on Zuko's leg and stood up from the ground, brushing himself off and sighing. Zuko stood to, but an anxious expression appeared on his face.
"Uncle..." He said quietly, refusing to meet the older man's gaze. A few moments passed until Zuko lifted his head slightly. He stepped forward quickly and hugged Iroh. At first, the ex-general was caught off guard. He took a surprised step back, but came to his senses quick enough to return the hug. Zuko pulled away awkwardly and looked up at his uncle.
Maybe Iroh was wrong; maybe Zuko realized what Iroh was and what his father wasn't. Iroh smiled quietly and put a gentle hand on his nephew's shoulder. Zuko smiled back, the expression seeming strangely harsh against the prince's face. Had it really been that long since the boy smiled?
"Now then, let us go get some tea," Iroh beamed, happy at the thought of tea.
"I figured as much," Zuko grumbled, though his voice had a hint of humor in it. They headed off the deck and disappeared beneath the ship, letting go of the memories of their experience that were sure to haunt them later. But as for now, things were perfect.
Well, there it is – my third EVER fanfiction finished. I hope you enjoyed it… even if not that many people read it. But for those who did… I LOVE YOU! Thanks for sticking with it's extremely long three chapters guys! Really, thank you.