Chapter 21: Awakening
Konoha, Fire Country, few days later
Tsunade was breathing out in frustration. The war had been going so well, the Sound Confederation, more specifically the Fire Nation and Otogakure, hadn't been able to punch through the lines the Konoha, Taki, and River made in the North West. With Kusa's border right on Iwa, it would have provided a very good buffer against the main bulk of the enemies' troops. Yet, somehow…all of Kusa was penetrated and a massive army of 61,170 infantry, which included ninja and four thousand tanks, were marching towards the village.
Civilians were currently being evacuated into the bunkers under the Hokage Monument. They hadn't been used since the brief Suna/Oto/Konoha war of three years prior, yet were still the perfect defense for the civilians. The fires of war hopefully wouldn't reach those beneath the rock and stone of the bunker.
Iruka wiped the sweat off his brow as he finished escorting the civilians from the third district. He looked up to see the smoke on the horizon growing larger and larger every minute. He scowled, and began walking to the walls where his post would be.
Hiashi was organizing his clan. The Hyuuga would be the largest defenders of the village in this time of crisis. Even the non-shinobi of the clan had taken up arms, donning armor and grabbing swords, bows, and other weapons. The leader of the Hyuuga took a deep breath through the nose, knowing that not all of his clan…his family would survive.
Tsunade walked out onto the now deserted streets of the village. The only people out were ANBU and Shinobi, moving towards the walls. The Hokage breathed out, several of the civilians had petitioned her to let them form a militia for the coming battle. Knowing that the closest Samurai reinforcements were miles away, she had no choice but to accept. So now the poorly trained and poorly armed men and women of the Konoha Militia, numbering 3,800, were on the walls with the shinobi, which numbered barely over 800.
'Sensei…what would you have done in this situation…?' Tsunade thought to herself as she walked. She glanced back at the Hokage Monument. 'Grandfather…Uncle...you fought in the wars that shaped Konoha…what…what would you have done with a massive army literally on Konoha's doorstep?'
No answer was forthcoming. She looked down and continued to walk the streets. Those few people, part of the militia, were attempting to get ready while elderly, formerly retired shinobi were attempting to get their skills back. She watched as an old man with a reddish-brown beard toss several kunai into a target. Of the six he tossed…not one hit the bulls eye.
'This is truly a desperate time…' Tsunade thought as the smoke seemed to directly fly over Konoha, forming into a cloud that seemed to portent doom.
Outside the wall, the Fire Nation army had come to a halt in a clearing around Konoha. Like a colony of ants it fanned out around the fortified position of Konoha. Generals' road on komodo rhinos, with flag bearers behind them. The Iwa/Oto/Kumo ninjas made sure to cut all the phone lines out of Konoha so they would not be able to contact aid from their allies. The tanks acted like soldier ants for the infantry army, moving with them in concert, acting as guards.
General M'Tsing Lee road on his komodo rhino steed onto the front, and men bowed and made way for him. In his hand was a megaphone. He cleared his throat.
"Hokage Senju Tsunade of Konoha, I wish to discuss…terms with you. If you are not a coward, meet me in front of our armies…" M'Tsing announced over the megaphone. "Come. We wish to parley….!"
He looked back, seeing the siege equipment being set up. Catapults were being wheeled up into a firing range of the village. There were 220 catapults in all, each capable of tossing a 400 kilogram chunk of flaming rock into a target. M'Tsing smirked, he was ready to rain fiery death onto Konoha.
The gates began opening with a creak, and the General guided his komodo Rhino, as well as his entourage to them. From them, exited a beautiful blond hair woman with a purple diamond spot on her face, with gray eyes, wearing gray and green clothing, she was wearing a look of contempt on her face. Behind her was a woman in a dark blue kimono, with medium length black hair. And behind her, was a man with long black hair, white eyes, and wearing white robes.
"Ah, you must be the Hokage Senju Tsunade," M'Tsing said with a smile, yet his voice seemed to be laced with poison. "Words of your beauty don't do them justice…"
"Cut the small talk," Tsunade snapped at him, her hazel eyes boring into him like drills, yet he didn't flinch.
"Very well. I am General M'Tsing Lee of the Confederation's army, I grant you a chance to surrender, and your people will receive mercy," M'Tsing said, and Tsunade's eyes narrowed. "You see, the Fire Nation really shouldn't hold a grudge against the Fire Country and its village of Konoha…we're effectively fighting ourselves…"
"No, you're wrong, M'Tsing-san…we aren't. The Fire Nation follows a path of industry and conquest, while Konoha follows a path of peace," Tsunade spat out. "And unlike your people, you don't have the Will of Fire. We will not surrender."
M'Tsing laughed. "You are hopelessly outnumbered. We have you beaten in numbers and quality of our soldiers. And reinforcements are days away. Save your people from suffering, surrender."
"You do not know the people of Konoha too well," Tsunade smirked. "We will never surrender, and you will lose…"
With that, the Hokage turned on her heel and left the Fire Nation general leering at her. He gave a chuckle, and turned his rhino back to the rest of the army. The gates of Konoha slammed shut and Tsunade walked up onto the wall. M'Tsing smirked as he leaned back on his saddle.
"Give the men the order. Its time to release the prisoners…" M'Tsing ordered his lieutenants and captains, who gave a nod.
Tsunade checked a telescope to see what was being planned. "…what are they doing…" she saw the Fire Nation soldiers putting several…things into the catapults. "Everyone, be ready! They're about to launch something!"
All over the wall, both Shinobi and Militiaman prepared. M'Tsing unsheathed a sword from his hip and raised it high.
"Fire!" M'Tsing ordered, and the catapults launched a volley.
Instead of flaming projectiles…strange objects began raining down on the wall and into Konoha. The defenders dodged them, but several hit…and revealed what they really were. The…severed heads of samurai and shinobi which guarded the outposts in the north were the projectiles being launched from the catapults.
Several of the defenders vomited, screamed, or ran from the revolting display. Despite being sickened, Tsunade rose her hand.
"Stand firm!" Tsunade ordered, rushing over to the militia who were starting to run. "Stand firm! You are soldiers and shinobi of Konoha! Show no fear, we need to stand and fight!"
The militia was seeing their Hokage keep her cool, and started to feel inspired. She took out a kunai, and glanced at her men, and then at the invaders. The Fire Nation was loading their next volley, this time it was their deadly projectiles. The Iwa/Kumo/Oto ninja forces were establishing camps and cutting Konoha further off from its allies. Tsunade squeezed her fist, she was going to protect her village and her people…she wasn't going to let Konoha fall.
The deadly missiles started launching. From the catapults, fiery chunks of material began raining down on the wall and into the village. With each impact, there was an explosion, followed by smoke rising. The wall suffered the most hits, yet it held firm, and some of the defenders on the main area hit were able to duck behind the battlements. At that moment, the Fire Nation soldiers began charging towards the wall as another volley was launched. The tanks advanced, lobbing fireballs onto the wall.
The ninja defenders retorted by tossing kunai with explosive tags attached to them at the tanks. Several embedded in the softer metal of the tanks, and then the tags sparked. A few tanks exploded from the volley of explosive kunai, and Tsunade raised her hand. The signal got the militiamen armed with bows and arrows to load an arrow into their bows. She waited until the enemy soldiers were in range and then her eyes flashed, she dropped her hand and the militia let lose a deadly volley of their own right in to the Fire Nation line.
The arrows connected into the charging Fire Nation soldiers. Several of the enemy soldiers were pierced by the arrows, the deadly missiles punching through their chests, neck, and heads. Those that weren't hit tossed spears into the defenders, striking several of the non-Shinobi militia.
"So it begins…" Tsunade muttered, another volley being launched from the Fire Nation catapults and the Fire Nation tanks that weren't destroyed in the explosive tag volley neared the wall…
Earth Kingdom Waters, 'Fire Navy Ship'
His eyes were closed tight, as if he was sleeping for a very long time. He felt himself on something hard…something metal, with only a little bit of soft cloth over the hardness, and his body felt very sore. His brown eyes slowly opened, trying to focus…and they glanced side to side. There was an eerie red light in the room he was in, and he could see dark, metal walls around him. Groaning, he picked himself up, still feeling incredibly sore. Turning to the side of the bed, he rested his hands on his knees, groaning in pain.
"What happened…?" he asked, looking at the ground as his vision focused, and he put his hand on the bandages on his chest. He then looked…and saw the Fire Nation paraphernalia on the metal walls of his room-flags with the Fire Nation symbols hung from the walls, as well as lit torches at the far end. He glanced back, uttering. "Oh no!"
Aang grabbed his staff, and opened the door. It creaked open as he limped out, leaning heavily on his staff for support. He walked down the hallway, trying to find a way out. His entire body still hurt, and he nearly lost his balance and fell into a room. He leaned against the cold metal wall, groaning in pain. He slowly began walking again, his staff making loud plops on the ground whenever it hit. He reached the end of the hallway…
"Did you hear something…?" a deep voice asked, and he gasped.
Aang peered around the corner, and his eyes widened seeing two Fire Nation soldiers, one big one and one tiny one, and he pushed against the wall, trying to hide. He then gritted his teeth, grabbed his staff and turned to the hallway while swinging. A powerful gust of win hit the two 'soldiers', and one gasped.
"He's awake!" the big one yelled as he shielded his face from the gust of wind.
Aang began running as fast as he could, pulling himself along the walls of the hall as the two soldiers followed.
"Stop! Wait, please!" the big soldier pleaded.
The injured Avatar panted, looking back as the two started gaining. He then looked ahead, and saw the way out. He leaned on his staff, and then sprinted up the stairs onto the deck, and he jumped off the stairs…and crashed to the deck with a loud clang, his staff bouncing out of his hands.
It rolled…to two Fire Nation soldiers, one of which was on one knee, petting…Momo!
"Momo?" Aang asked and the lemur, as well as the two soldiers looked at him, and Momo chattered, hoping over to him as he pushed himself to up, holding his ribs with his left hand. Momo landed on his shoulder, chattering happily.
"Otouto!" a familiar voice said from the rails. "'bout time you got up!"
"Twinkle toes, that's got to be you!" another familiar voice.
"Aang-kun!" the third familiar voice yelled.
As Momo licked his cheek, he glanced over to see…Katara, Toph, Naruto, and Hinata running over to him. They stopped by two of the soldiers who were feeding his lemur.
"Aang! You're awake!" Katara exclaimed and the young Avatar blinked for a second, seeing a Konoha Headband on her forehead.
"Are you…sure? I feel like I'm dreaming…" Aang said, rubbing his eyes as the Waterbending Master ran over and hugged him.
"You're not dreaming, you're finally awake," Katara told him, hugging him and making his eyes widen in surprise. Momo flapped away, chattering as another soldier in full armor came walking over.
"Aang! Good to see you're back in the land of the living, buddy," he said as he walked over and hugged Aang.
"Sokka…?" Aang asked in a groan, and he started to lose it. His eyes slowly started closing…
"Somebody catch him he's gonna…" Toph started as Katara and Naruto started to run over…but it was too late, the young Avatar had fallen onto the deck, hard.
The group converged around him as Appa walked over. Katara managed to pick him up as Sakura finally made it over. Sasuke, Kurenai, Suki, and Kakashi were the last over, and they all watched as the medical kunoichi began to try to help Aang regain feeling in his body.
Azula's Flagship, Fire Nation Waters
Meanwhile, Azula's flagship was steaming towards the Fire Nation Homeland, victorious after the 'death' of the Avatar and the conquering of Ba Sing Se. Also traveling aboard the flagship were Orochimaru and Kabuto, they were watching over Azula as she slowly regained consciousness in her bedchambers.
On the deck, Prince Zuko was watching the waves lap up on the ship's hull, and looked up at the full moon. He was deep in thought; he didn't even sense someone was coming up behind him.
"Aren't you cold?" it was Mai, and she walked over with a small smile on her face.
"I…have a lot on my mind," Zuko replied as he glanced back, and then looked back at the moon. "It's been so long, over three years since I've been home…I wonder what's changed…I wonder…how I've changed…"
Mai gave a 'bored' yawn. "I just asked if you were cold, I didn't ask for your whole life story." She walked over to him, putting her arms around his shoulders and pulling his face towards hers. "Stop worrying."
She pulled him into a kiss, and his eyes closed to return it. A second later, they pulled away, and Mai smiled at him. Mai then walked off towards the pagoda on the ship, while Zuko looked back out to the sea. He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath through his nose, and then opened them again.
"Going home feels good, doesn't it, Zuko-kun…?"
Zuko turned on his heel to see Orochimaru standing there. "What do you want?"
"Just letting you know my offer still stands," Orochimaru said, his unnaturally long tongue slipping out of his mouth between his fangs. "Really, Zuko-kun, you should take it. You have the potential to be even greater than your sister, I can see it. And you will never catch up if you don't take my power…"
"I told you no already. I don't need your power, your help," Zuko said with venom in his voice. He had learned not to like his father's new ally, he was just too…weird…and it was as if he could feel Orochimaru's evil chakra whenever he was in the room.
"Why do you have to be so difficult? Think you're not strong enough to handle my power, perhaps?"
"No, I just don't want to take the easy route," Zuko replied, his eyes narrowing.
"Fine," Orochimaru said as he started to walk off. "But I'll keep trying, young Fire Prince. You'd probably be more powerful than Azula is now…"
With that, the Snake Sannin walked to go below deck. Zuko scowled as he watched the treacherous snake go, and again wondered why his father allied with someone so…vile. Did…did the Fire Nation…did his father change so much in his absence that he was willing to do anything to get this war finished? And even…if the stories were to be believed…start the Fire Nation's conquest of new…fresh worlds like the one Orochimaru provided? Closing his eyes in thought, he wondered, really…if he made the right choice…
Conquered Earth Kingdom Waters, Captured Fire Nation Ship SWS Bounty
Aang had regained consciousness a after a few minutes, and he looked around to see that he was in Katara's arms, Toph, Naruto, Hinata, Sokka, Kakashi, one man he recognized as Bato and the other he didn't recognize were around him. Glancing up he saw…Suki talking with a beautiful dark haired woman with red eyes, and he looked to see…the same guy he saw in his vision who was torturing Hinata standing off to the corner. Seeing that man, he pushed himself back into the Waterbender's lap in surprise, and he looked around to try to find Yamato…who wasn't anywhere he could see. He then, while blushing, got off of Katara's lap and knelt in front of her.
"Why are we on a Fire Nation Ship?" Aang asked as Bato walked over and put a blanket over him. "Why is everyone dressed this way? And why am I the only one who is completely out of it?" he then looked at Kurenai and Sasuke. "And who is she and why is he here? He was hurting Hinata!"
"You need to take it easy, okay?" Katara replied, putting her hand up to stop his questions. "You got hurt pretty bad." Aang put his hand on his chest as he looked down to the deck plating. "I like your hair."
"I have hair?" Aang gasped, grasping his scalp. "How long was I out?"
"A few weeks," Katara replied as someone started walking over.
"Is everything okay…?"
"We're fine, dad," Katara told him, her eyes narrowing and she looked away.
"I'm Hakoda, Katara and Sokka's father," the man said, offering his hand to shake the young Avatar's.
"He knows who you are; I just called you dad, didn't I?" Katara asked snidely, putting her hand on Aang's shoulder and looking back with a narrowed eye.
"…I guess you're right," Hakoda said, a little taken back by his daughter's attitude.
Aang gently took his hand and lifted Katara's hand off his shoulder. "Nice to officially meet you, Chief Hakoda."
He offered his hand, and Hakoda shook it. "It's an honor to meet you."
"Great, now you guys have officially met, so would you mind giving us a little privacy?" Katara asked her father, sounding rude and angry.
"Of course," Hakoda said, and he gave Aang a nod before walking off.
"Are you mad at your dad or something?"
"What? Not at all, why would you say that?" Katara asked, her expression changing back from its angry façade into her normal, caring expression, looking slightly confused about the question.
Aang shrugged. He went to spread his arms and then winced in pain. As he did that, Sakura walked over, knowing she'd be needed.
"Lets go down stairs, you need a healing session," Katara said as she helped Aang up.
"Here to help out too," Sakura said with a grin. "Nice to see you finally back up, Aang."
Aang gave a smile back at the older teenager and the three walked back into the ship. Naruto looked to Hinata, after seeing the scene.
"Hey Hinata-chan, why do you think Katara-chan…was like that to her dad?" Naruto asked his girlfriend, who shrugged.
"I don't know, Naruto-kun. It does seem…weird though, I thought she and her father were close," Hinata replied with a sigh.
Naruto nodded, folding his hands behind his head and looking at the sky. "I wonder how the war's going at home. Kakashi-sensei hasn't updated Oba-chan lately."
"Hopefully everything's fine," Hinata said and she leaned closer to her boyfriend, who grinned, wrapping one arm around her shoulders.
In Aang's room, Katara had bent water from two bowls on either side of her and Aang into her hands, and then pressed the water onto the young Avatar's back. Sakura was focusing on his front, her hands bathed in a green light as she ran a diagnostic jutsu. Finding areas where pain were her hands slowly healed them or lessened the pain. She looked up at Katara and Aang.
"Tell me where your pain is most intense," Katara told him gently, running her hands over Aang's burn mark.
"Ugh…a little higher…" Aang groaned and Katara's hands slowly went upwards and he closed his eyes tightly…and then his eyes widened. He remembered the start of going into the Avatar State in the Catacombs of Ba Sing Se. "Wow…you're definitely in the right area there…"
"I can feel a lot of energy twisted up around there…" Katara said as her hands moved in a circular pattern with the water covering them. "Let me see if I can…"
As she pulled the water away, Aang arched his back as if he was struck. His mind flashed back as he remembered how he was injured…a bolt of lightning, shot by Azula, had struck him in the back. His next vision was Katara crying over him, her hair disheveled and the night sky moving.
"I went down! I didn't just get hurt, did I? It was worse than that…" Aang put his hand on his forehead. "…I was gone…but you brought me back."
"I just used the Spirit Water from the North Pole, I don't know what I did exactly," Katara replied, gazing down at the floor.
"You saved me," Aang said softly, turning around to look at her.
"Sakura stabilized you after I saved you," Katara said, breaking the gaze for a second. "She's one of the reasons why you're up and about."
Sakura grinned. "Glad to do it. Though I bet you'd have stayed in that coma even without my help."
Aang gave a small smile. "Thank you for the help, Sakura."
Night had fallen and the fighting had not let up. Fire Nation siege equipment kept launching fiery death from the catapults. The wall was still holding despite repeated attacks. There were dead Fire Nation bodies littered everywhere below the wall, even though the death toll was rising.
Ladders were being used to try to breach the wall, yet only a few troops had actually made it up the wall in time. Several tanks started to fire point blank at the wall and the gate, attempting to break in. Tsunade snarled as the entire wall shook. A group of tanks and firebenders were converging on another part of the wall and concentrating their firepower.
Multiple sustained blasts of red and orange flame shot from the tank's turrets and the firebenders' fists and palms. The normally light orange/yellow wall slowly turned dark black from the fire blasts. The torrent of flame stopped for a second, then began again, and the combined flames began to turn the wall molten.
Several shinobi on the walls moved suddenly, taking out scrolls. Despite the situation, Tsunade smiled to herself. Those Shinobi, especially the middle age one with the white beard, belonged to the best weapon smith clan in the village, the same clan that Tenten of Team Gai belonged to.
The bombs dropped from the wall onto the tanks and firebenders below. The first one exploded as the tag burnt up. The spikes shot off the bomb, hitting the Firebenders with their extremely deadly shrapnel. The other bombs exploded, having the same effect. The tanks, except for the ones closest to the explosion, were mostly unharmed except for the kunais sticking out of their armor. One of the shinobi on the wall made a seal, and the kunais exploded-they had tags attached to them.
"Keep on fighting!" Tsunade yelled as several Kumo Ninja ran directly up the wall towards them. They surged onto the battlements, kunai and shuriken clashing.
Three Kumo Ninja, obviously Jounin charged the Hokage. Tsunade dodged their attacks, leading them backwards. Catching three kunai on her fingers she instantly turned them back at their thrower's, the blades slammed into the Kumo Ninja's chests and heads, they didn't even get off a ninjutsu.
An Oto Jounin had stormed the wall, heading directly for Tsunade. He knew if he killed her, Orochimaru would reward him greatly. Flying through the hand seals, he took a deep breath and shot a high pressure blast of water at the Hokage. Seeing the blast from the corner of her eye, she dodged the blast.
'Arrogant,' Tsunade thought as she started her own hand seals. "Doton: Doro Ryuudou (Earth Release: Mud Flow)."
She pushed her hands onto the wall, and it turned into mud around the Oto Jounin, making him lose his chakra control on the wall. She then flew through more hand seals, and slammed her hands down again.
"Doton: Doruyuudan (Earth Dragon Projectile)!" A dragon's head rose out of the wall, and the gaping maw opened and several projectiles began launching from its mouth, slamming into the enemy Jounin. This, combined with the fall…killed the arrogant Oto Jounin.
Tsunade breathed through her mouth as more enemy ninja charged up the wall. The sound of ninjutsu being executed, kunai, shuriken, and swords clashing echoed on the walls. The enemy ninja were providing enough of a distraction for the Fire Nation Soldiers to start really putting ladders up to start storming the walls.
Dozens of soldiers managed to make it up and fireballs were launched and swords clashed between the Konoha Militia and the Fire Nation Soldiers. The sound and smell of death began to fill the air. Several firebenders who had made it up the wall charged Tsunade, lobbing fireballs and streams of flame at the Hokage.
Gritting her teeth she charge. "You have to be a lot better than that to even think of hitting or hurting me!"
Like a charging bull, she hit the Fire Nation line, her fists and feet inflicting deadly damage onto the closest firebenders. One Firebender stomped forth and fired a blast of flame at her, but she dodged with ease, closed the distance and grabbed his wrist. Tsunade then slammed her fist hard into his chest, shattering his entire ribcage and as he coughed blood up, she tossed him off the wall to aid her men.
The Fire Nation artillery began to fire on the wall, large, fiery projectiles slammed into the walls. Konoha Shinobi and militiamen were blown off the wall as the chunks of flaming rock kept slamming down. On a part of the wall with the heaviest fighting, a chunk began to drop towards where Hiashi was fighting. After delivering two lethal Jyuuken strikes at a Iwa Ninja's neck, he glanced to see the fiery rock plummeting towards him.
"Kaiten (Rotation)!" Hiashi yelled, pumping chakra throughout his skin pores and he began spinning. The fiery rock slammed into the Jyuuken Ultimate Defense, and the result was it wasn't able to break through, and another affect of the Kaiten was that the Fire Nation soldiers and Iwa and Kumo shinobi who had gotten up onto the wall were blown off, making them plummet to the ground below and certain death.
Hiashi stopped spinning and caught a Fire Nation soldier's sword between his fingers, and jabbed out with his other hand. Hitting the point on the man's head, he followed up with a powerful kick that sent the man falling to the ground below.
Breathing out through his nose, he kept watching as more and more enemy shinobi and soldiers charged the wall. 'Its…like a sea of them…' he thought before he kept fighting.
Fire Nation Capital
Compared to the way the world was, the Fire Nation capital was full of celebrations. People were cheering in the harbor as two incredibly old women began their announcement. They were Lo and Li, Princess Azula's Firebending instructors, even though they weren't Firebenders themselves; they demanded perfection on the princess. Flames were lit on the balcony they were on, and for effect, a massive wall of flame was in the entrance behind them.
"Your Princess Azula, clever and beautiful, disguised herself as the enemy and entered the Earth Kingdom's Capital of Ba Sing Se!" the twins announced to the people below. "In Ba Sing Se she found her brother Zuko, and together they faced the Avatar. And the Avatar fell, and the Earth Kingdom fell!"
Azula's agents quickly overtook the entire city! Several Dai Li agents stood on the battlements of Ba Sing Se's wall and suddenly leapt down, dragging their hands across the stone wall. They went to Ba Sing Se's great walls and brought them down! The Dai Li landed, kicking up dirt and they charged the wall, slamming their fists into it. Massive cracks shot up the wall where they dragged their hands, and it fell right into the earth below, like it was sucked up, leaving a large, gaping hole for the Fire Nation occupation to come in. The Armies of the Fire Nation surged through the walls and swarmed over Ba Sing Se, securing our victory! The Fire Nation soldiers marched through the city, tens of thousands of troops all marching in formation. People hid in their homes and businesses while others watched on the sides of the roads in disbelief. The citizens saw hundreds of komodo rhinos march down their streets and on the roofs of the buildings, Kumo, Iwa, and Oto ninjas leapt from building to building following the army. Finally hundreds of tanks charged towards the palace, overrunning what little defenses there were and the Fire Nation flag was draped over the Earth Kingdom symbol.
"Now the heroes have returned home! Your princess, Azula!" both twins announced as Azula, dressed in full Fire Nation royal armor walked out of the fire effect behind Lo and Li. She had a confident smile on her face and, for added effect, she had the first level of her Cursed Seal activated, black flame marks had covered her face and the palms of her hands. The Fire Nation citizens all cheered their princess, throwing confetti and detonating fireworks. "And after three long years your prince has returned…ZUKO!"
Less confident than his sister, Zuko walked out of the fire with his head held slightly low. His hair was in a top-knot with the royal Fire Nation symbol on it, and he was wearing black armor trimmed with yellow around the plates, just like his sister. When he reached the edge of the balcony, people started cheering him, yet he still couldn't shake the feelings of unease he was having.
Earth Kingdom Inner Sea
The captured Fire Nation ship steamed westward, towards the Fire Nation. Aang had returned from his healing session and the Team was gathered around him. The young Avatar met Kurenai and Sasuke, the latter which barely even said 'hello' even after Naruto pestered him to, and he also learned where Yamato was-trying to aid Iroh in his imprisonment.
"After what happened in Ba Sing Se we had to get you to safety. We landed approximately forty miles away from Ba Sing Se to begin to plan our next move. We rescued Suki from a way-lay prison where she was getting prepped to ship out, then Sasuke here nearly went back to Orochimaru until Sakura convinced him otherwise, meanwhile Katara began training under Kurenai-sensei and myself, Toph, and Suki began training under Kakashi-sensei, and we liberated Omashu with help from the resistance. The Earth King and Bosco decided to stay in Omashu to learn from Bumi on how to be a better king," Sokka started and he leaned back. "That took about a month to do, and then we flew to Chameleon Bay here where dad and the other Water Tribe warriors had captured a Fire Nation ship. Since then we are traveling west. We crossed through the Serpent's Pass a few days ago. We've seen a few Fire Navy ships but none have bothered us."
Sokka finished, pointing at the map he was holding. In Aang's hand was some ramen Naruto made, and the others were eating it. What had happened over the past month had made Aang a little uneasy, and he looked up.
"So what now?" Aang asked as Hakoda prepared to eat some more of the noodles.
"We've been working on a modified version of the invasion plan," Hakoda said with a smirk.
"It's Sokka's invasion plan," Katara said snidely, and her father sighed.
"Yes…right…Sokka's invasion plan," Hakoda said, slightly less enthusiastic than before due to his daughter's attitude. "We won't be able to mount a massive invasion without the help of the Earth King's armies, but the Solar Eclipse will still leave the Fire Nation vulnerable."
"So we're planning a smaller invasion, just a rag tag team of our friends and allies from across the Earth Kingdom, we already ran into Pipsqueak and the Duke ("Hey Aang!" Pipsqueak said)," Sokka said after raveling the map up, and he tapped it in his hands. "Konoha will also be sending some help too, maybe even Suna and Kiri if the war's going well in their world."
Aang nodded slowly. "Wait…war in their world?"
"Thanks to Orochimaru, Aang, the Fire Nation has a foothold in our world and war has broken out between the Sound Confederation and the Konoha Alliance," Kakashi replied and Aang looked down. "Orochimaru has been planning this war for a while, and he's needed more foot soldiers than what he has, thus the alliance between Otogakure and Fire Nation."
"Okay…" Aang said as he breathed out.
"Anyway, the best part is that the Eclipse isn't our only advantage," Sokka said with a grin, and he put his hand to his mouth. "We have a secret…" he whispered. "…you."
"Me?" Aang asked, blinking.
"Yeah, the whole world thinks you're dead!" Sokka replied as he stood up. "Isn't that great?"
Naruto sighed. "Way to make him feel bad Sokka…"
Aang stood up in shock, and walked over to the edge of the ship. "The world thinks I'm dead? How is that good news, that's terrible!"
"No, its great! It means the Fire Nation won't be hunting us anymore," Sokka said as he walked over to the young Avatar. "And even better, since they won't be expecting you on the Day of Black Sun."
"No, no, no, no, no, you have no idea…this is so messed up!" Aang yelled as he put his hands to his head, and then a horn blew from ahead of them. They looked to see a Fire Navy ship sailing towards them. "I'll handle this, the Avatar is back!"
He stepped forward, grabbing his glider and the wings shot out. Then a sharp pain shot into his side, making Aang gasp and put his hand on his side. Shaking the pain off, he grabbed onto the wings, and prepared to take off.
"Aang, wait!" Katara yelled as she walked forward. "Remember, they don't know we're not Fire Nation."
Sweat fell from Aang's face, and he relented, flicking his staff close. Hakoda and Bato went to grab their helmets, and began to put them on their heads as Kakashi henged into an Fire Nation officer.
"Everyone just stay calm, Bato, Kakashi, and I will take care of this," Hakoda said as he placed the helmet over his head as Bato did the same.
Pipsqueak wrapped the Duke in a red tarp, and then tossed him over Appa, covering the flying bison protectively, and Momo hopped in as the horns of the bison were covered. Aang, Toph, Katara, Sokka, Hinata, Kurenai, and Suki went into the staircase to hide while Naruto and Sasuke assumed the roles of Fire Nation ensign. The Avatar growled in frustration.
"I hate not being able to do anything," Aang whispered angrily, watching from the stairs.
"Hopefully you won't need to," Toph whispered back
The two ships pulled next to each other, and the genuine Fire Nation ship extended a ramp over to the captured one. The Captain of the enemy vessel walked over the ramp with two Elite Firebender guards. The captain had an unfavorable look on him; he was constantly scowling as the wind blew in his hair. Hakoda and Bato glanced at each other as they approached while Kakashi looked on calmly.
Hakoda bowed as the Captain stopped. "Commander, why are you off course? All Western Fleet Ships are suppose to be heading to Ba Sing Se to support the Occupation."
"Actually we're from the Eastern Fleet. We have orders to deliver some cargo," Hakoda replied, repeating his cover story to the Fire Nation Captain.
"Ah…Eastern Fleet," the Captain said, putting his hand to his beard and looking at the captured ship. "Well nice of Admiral Chan to let us know he was sending one of his ships our way."
"I'm sure Admiral Chan meant no disrespect sir, things have been going slowly ever since we got those Sound Ninja on board," Bato offered and the Captain nodded with a sigh.
"Yes, they do make protocol more difficult. They are no more than highly trained brutes," the Captain agreed. "Though how hard is it to write a quick note and send a hawk our way? Or send us a radio message?"
"Next time we'll send two hawks, as well as two messages," Hakoda assured him as he and Bato bowed.
One of the Captain's guards bowed, and Bato, Hakoda, and Kakashi walked away. One of his guards leaned over. "Sir, Admiral Chan has been on leave for two months on Ember Island."
The Captain's eyes widened. "What? Why doesn't anyone ever tell me anything?" he then glanced at the three soldiers. "Something isn't right here, they should have known that. I think this is a captured ship." They began walking back across the ramp. "Just stay quiet until we're safely off the ramp we'll sink this ship."
Toph heard the Captain's whisper, and stomped on deck. "They know!"
She then slammed her hand to the metal deck, and began metalbending. The ramp splintered and collapsed right under the enemy Captain's and his guards fell into the water below as the enemy ship crew scrambled to battle stations. Katara and Hinata ran up on deck and they began to waterbend a massive wave of water in between the two ships. Naruto and Sasuke tossed off their captured uniforms, and threw dozens of explosive tag kunai at the Fire Nation ship. The kunai-tags hit their marks, and several explosions followed on the Fire Nation ship's deck. Then the engine activated on their ship, and started to speed off on course again.
Fire Nation Palace, Royal Gardens
Prince Zuko was sitting at the edge of the turtle-duck pond, deep in thought. Three turtle-ducks, the mother and two chicks came swimming up towards him and he took out some bread, and ripped it apart. He then tossed some of the bread into the water, and the turtle-ducks began eating. A shadow appeared behind Zuko, and the turtle-ducks started squawking in fear.
"You seem so downcast, has Mai gotten to you already?" Azula asked her brother in her typical manipulative, teasing voice. "Though actually Mai has been in a strangely good mood lately."
"I haven't seen dad yet, I haven't seen him for three years," Zuko replied, looking down and away as if he was frustrated. "Since I was banished…"
"I didn't capture the Avatar."
"Who cares? The Avatar is dead," Azula told him as he looked away slightly. "…unless, somehow, you think he miraculously survived?"
Zuko remembered Katara offering to heal his scar in the Catacombs of Ba Sing Se, learning that she had water from the Spirit Oasis in the North Pole. He remembered her saying it had special properties, and she was saving it for something important.
"No, there's no way he could have survived," Zuko replied after thinking about it, but Azula's suggestion still stuck in her mind, as if she was unsatisfied in his answer, or that he was keeping something from her.
"Well…then I'm sure you have nothing to worry about," Azula replied after a pause, her features softening.
Azula began walking away, and Zuko watched his younger sister go. He wondered what she was planning, since he recognized that look.
Earth Kingdom Inner Sea
A Imperial Firebender shot a blast of fire onto the boulder on the trebuchet, igniting it and then another soldier slammed a sledgehammer down onto the trebuchet's lever, sending the deadly missile flying towards the captured ship. The missile missed, barely, but another one was immediately sent flying towards the ship. This one hit dead on, slamming into the port side of the ship.
Toph got into Earthbending stance. "Load the Toph!" she yelled to Pipsqueak and the Duke.
Sakura ran next to Toph as Pipsqueak dropped two slabs of stone in front of them. "Sakura-Toph Missile Service loaded and ready!"
"You mean Toph-Sakura Missile Service!"
"I'm older than you Toph, so I go first!"
"But I'm your Earthbending teacher!"
"Will you just return fire already?" Katara yelled back at the two Earthbenders, bending up a massive wall of water with Hinata to shield the ship from another projectile.
Toph and Sakura stomped their feet, and the rock slabs shot up into the air, and then punched forward, sending the slabs flying into the enemy ship. Sakura's slammed into a group of soldiers and firebenders before crashing into the hull, leaving a major hole. Toph's crashed into one of the Fire Navy ship's trebuchets, smashing it to pieces. In response, a trebuchet next to the one destroyed fired its fiery missile at the captured ship.
Toph stomped her foot and sent a slab of rock slamming into the projectile, deflecting it as Sakura sent another volley, making it slam into the next trebuchet. Hinata and Katara kept bending the water around the ship, making a veritable shield against incoming fire blasts that the Fire Navy Officers were trying to launch.
A stray projectile crashed into the water near the aft of the ship, near where Aang and Sokka had taken cover in the command tower. Aang went to run out and help, but Sokka stopped him, shaking his head. The young Avatar reluctantly went back into the hiding place, and bashed his head against his staff.
"Tayjuu Kage Bushin no Jutsu!" Naruto yelled, and he created 200 clones and they all swarmed off the ship, charging the enemy vessel.
The Fire Navy crew attempted to stop this onslaught as they loaded a secondary weapon, a massive ballista with a chain. One of the Naruto's tossed an explosive kunai, which embedded itself into the soft metal on the ballista, and the tag went off, blowing the weapon to pieces. Puffs of smoke and cries of battle echoed on the deck of the Fire Navy ship as Toph and Sakura continued to bombard it.
Aang peered out as he saw Sasuke step forward towards the enemy Fire Navy ship. His cursed seal activated as he withdrew his blade, and two hand-like wings spread from his back as his skin turned ashen gray. The Avatar's jaw lowered, seeing the transformation. His wings flapped and he flew over the Fire Navy ship, flying through the hand seals as he targeted the weapons.
"Katon: Soudai Housenka no Jutsu (Fire Element: Grand Mystical Fire Phoenix Technique)!" Sasuke yelled, taking a deep breath and dozens of massive fireballs, as if he was using the Goukakyuu in rapid succession flew from his mouth and pelted the deck of the Fire Navy ship.
One of Sakura's rock slabs slammed through the middle of the bridge tower as the crew tried to fight off Sasuke and Naruto. Naruto's clones were being destroyed, but a lot of the Fire Navy crewmembers had been taken out, laying sprawled unconscious on the deck of the ship. The Captain looked out from the bridge, seeing the chaos.
"Sir, should I order a retreat?"
The Captain gritted his teeth as another slab crashed through the deck, exiting below the waterline of the hull. On the captured ship, Sokka grinned at the development.
"How we doing?" Toph asked, launching another rock slab from her 'battery.
"We're winning! Things couldn't be greater!" Sokka replied as…the sea serpent rose from the water, and he gulped. "The universe just loves proving me wrong doesn't it!"
"You make it too easy!" Toph called back as Sakura went to launch a rock at the serpent, when a stray fire bolt from the enemy ship hit the serpent.
It hissed in pain and anger, and turned its attention on the enemy ship. Naruto saw it coming and yelled 'Dispel!' and all his remaining clones puffed out of existence. He grabbed his Kazekami off his back, and ran off the deck, pushing himself into the air in altitude with Sasuke as they flew back to the ship.
"So teme how many did you knock out?" Naruto asked grinning. "Me and my clones clocked about 90 Firebenders on the ship."
Sasuke blew a strand of hair out of his face. "I have you beat, my blasts managed to take out 91 firebenders and the other crewmembers.
Naruto growled. "I'll beat you next time teme!" he yelled as the serpent began wrapping itself around the enemy ship, its coils winding around the entire vessel and pulling it further underwater.
"Abandon ship!" the captain yelled as the Sea Serpent reared itself up at the bridge and roared, slamming its face right into the bridge itself.
Earth Kingdom port, Seedy Merchants Pier
After making sure they had lost the attacking ship, the team's captured ship pulled into a neutral harbor in the Earth Kingdom's inner coast that was closest to the Fire Nation. Some repairs had to be made to the ship before it could set out again. Naruto, Hinata, Sasuke, Sakura, Katara, Sokka, Toph, and Suki entered Aang's room dressed in their dull red Fire Nation cloaks.
"We're going into town to find some dinner," Toph said, stepping forward with a grin.
Aang's stomach growled. "Well, I am pretty hungry, maybe supper is a good idea."
Naruto reached into his pocket and took out…a Konoha Hiate-iti. "Bro, have a little surprise for you. Oba-chan thinks you should become an official Genin of Konoha…so…here…"
"Wow…" Aang blinked, and his adopted older brother handed him the hiate-iti.
"Try it on, and then we can get out of here and get something to eat bro!" Naruto said with a grin, and the young Avatar grinned back.
"Uh, do I have to wear it on my forehead though?" Aang asked, looking at Naruto and the others.
"Maybe its best you put it on your forehead for now," Sokka suggested.
"Why? Hinata is wearing hers around her neck and Sakura has hers in her hair," Aang asked, looking around at the group. "And Sasuke isn't even wearing his!"
"Uh…so no one will see…" Sakura started, but Sasuke cut her off.
"So your identity won't be revealed. With your hair, as well as the headband, no one will recognize you as the Avatar."
At that, Aang's eyes narrowed. "I'm not going to wear it if I can't also wear my arrow proudly!"
"Come on Aang, be practical," Sokka started as Aang laid on his side, turning away from the group.
"Bro…" Naruto growled, kneeling down next to his adoptive brother, and he placed the hiate-iti next to him. "Just put it…"
"You guys go ahead without us, we'll catch up with you," Katara interjected, putting her hand on Naruto's shoulder.
"Alright…" Naruto said, standing up and walking out with the rest of the group.
"I think I understand why being in secret bothers you so much," Katara said, laying her hand on Aang's shoulder. "You don't want people to think you failed."
"You're right, but the problem is I did fail," Aang told her bitterly, looking back up at her from the bed.
"Aang, that's not true…"
"It is true, I was in Ba Sing Se, I was there! But I lost…" Aang told her as he stood up, clutching his side. "And now the Earth Kingdom's fallen for good."
"Aang, that's not true," Katara said, trying to brighten herself and the young Avatar up. "Remember: there's still a plan, the invasion."
"And I hate the Invasion Plan too!" Aang yelled in frustration, grabbing the Fire Nation flag over his bed and he ripped it down, making his staff fall to the floor next to him. "I don't want you or anyone else risking their lives to fix my mistakes!" He then relaxed, looking somber. "I always knew I'd have to face the Firelord, but now I know I have to do it alone."
Katara's eyes widened in shock at what he said, and she started walking over. She just wanted to hug him, to convince him not to do that. They were all a team, a family…she didn't want him to think this way.
"Katara, please, just go, please…" Aang pleaded, and she looked down and Katara began to walk to the door.
"Is there anything you need?" Katara asked quietly from the door.
"I need to redeem myself, I need my honor back."
Katara sighed, closing her eyes and she slowly closed the door behind her. Aang closed his eyes, and he sat onto his bed and looked at his staff. Reaching down, the young Avatar clasped it, as well as the hiate-iti next to him. He grabbed the headband…and tied it onto his arm.
Fire Nation Capital
Zuko was getting ready to meet with his father. Mai polished a part of his armor lovingly as she looked up at his worried face. She bit her lip lightly, and placed the handkerchief onto the bureau, and she rubbed the side of her boyfriend's face.
"You'll do fine, Zuko," Mai told him gently, and he sighed, placing his hand over hers.
"…I'm still worried he won't accept me back…and worried what Azula told him…" Zuko said quietly, and his girlfriend nodded.
"Firelord Ozai is still…rather harsh as a person, but over the past three years, with the success of the war, he's kind of settled down," Mai told him as her hand rubbed his scar. "And you did help defeat the Avatar and conquer Ba Sing Se. Your father would be royally idiotic if he didn't accept you back."
Zuko smiled lightly, and Mai leaned up and kissed his cheek lightly. He gave a nod in thanks, and then began walking down the hallway towards the Firelord's War Room. He stopped at the flag that was used as the door for the room, and he took a deep breath, remembering Mai's vote of confidence to him. Taking a deep breath, he walked in, pushing the flag aside to enter. There, behind the shadow of flame, on the throne, Ozai knelt, waiting for his eldest son to arrive….
Captured Fire Navy Ship
Katara had broken off from the group early to bring some food for Aang. In her hands she carried a tray of vegetarian dishes for the young Avatar. She turned down the hallway on the ship and she opened the door.
"I brought you some food," Katara said and she looked around…Aang was no where to be found. "Oh no…!"
She dropped the tray, spilling the contents of the food onto the floor and sprinted out onto the deck. Her heart was beating, she didn't want this. He just had woken back up! Why did he leave? Tears began welling up in her eyes as she ran.
Aang gritted his teeth as he tried to keep his flight path stable. The clouds began gathering around him and he closed his eyes, part of him, a big part of him wanted to go back, but he fought against it. He didn't want to endanger anyone else, especially Katara.
Fire Nation Capital, War Room of the Firelord
Zuko walked across the room towards his father. Mentally gulping, he tried to stride with his pride in tact, each step feeling like an eternity. Eventually…he reached the edge of the Firelord's cloak of flame. Kneeling down, he bowed his head to the shiny, reflective floor in respect.
"You have been away for a long time…" Ozai began, and Zuko kept his head to the floor. "…I see the weight of your travels changed you…you have redeemed yourself my son."
The Firelord stood up, standing at his full height and he began walking down to his kneeling son. Zuko lifted his head up to look his father in the eye, and he was slightly in awe at the way his father carried himself, with such power and confidence. Ozai looked upon his son, seeing that he was starting to look like himself, minus the scar.
"Welcome home," Ozai stated, with an unusual undercurrent of warmth in his voice.
Eastern Sea, towards the Fire Nation
Aang had finally managed to stabilize himself in the air when he felt a pain on his side. Against his better judgment, he reached down and clutched it, making himself lose the stability he achieved it. He took a steep dive, almost crashing into the ocean until he grabbed the wing on his staff again, and he pulled himself out of the dive, narrowly avoiding the crash.
Back on the captured Fire Nation ship, Katara ran up on deck towards her father and Bato. Tears were in her eyes, and her father's old friend looked at her, and then him.
"I'll leave you two alone," Bato said as he began to leave.
"What's wrong, Katara?" Hakoda asked her as she stepped forward.
"He left!" Katara replied, her voice cracking.
"Aang…he just took his glider and disappeared…he has this ridiculous notion that he has to save the world alone, that its all his responsibility…" Katara continued, closing her eyes painfully as her voice cracked more.
"Maybe that's his way of being brave…" Hakoda tried to offer.
"…it's not brave! It's selfish…and stupid!" Katara yelled, throwing her hands back as her father stepped back. Then she began to break down. "We could be helping him and I know the world needs him but doesn't he know how much we need him too!? How much I need him? How could he just leave us behind?"
Hakoda started to understand, and he looked away slightly. "You're talking about me too aren't you…?"
"How could you just leave us dad? I know we had Gran Gran and she loved us but we were just so lost about you…!" Katara asked, now fully crying. She wiped away the tears streaming from her eyes, but they just wouldn't stop, and she turned away and buried her face in her hands.
"I'm so sorry Katara," Hakoda said as he walked over, putting his arm on her shoulder. She turned around and hugged him tightly, crying as all her pent up emotions fell into the view.
"I understand why you left…I really do…and…I know that you had to go…so why do I still feel this way?!" Katara cried. "I'm so sad and angry and hurt…!"
"I love you more than anything, you and your brother are my entire world, I thought about you everyday I was gone…and every night when I went to sleep, I was missing you so much it would ache…"
Katara continued to hug her father as she kept crying, letting all of it out, letting all of it go.
Fire Nation Palace
Firelord Ozai paced in front of his son as Zuko watched. The leader of the Fire Nation folded his hands behind his back, as if waiting for someone before he started to speak.
"I am proud of you Prince Zuko; I am proud because you and your sister conquered Ba Sing Se, I am proud because when your loyalty was tested, by your treacherous Uncle, you did the right thing and captured the traitor, and I'm proudest of all with your most legendary accomplishment, you slayed the Avatar," Ozai said, after pacing around and stopping behind his son, to look down upon him.
"…what did you hear?" Zuko asked, trying to avoid his surprise of what his father acclaimed of him.
"Azula told me everything; she said she was amazed and impressed by your power and ferocity. At the moment of truth…" Ozai said as Zuko looked away. "For your accomplishment, Zuko, I have hired one of the best instructors of the Shinobi Nations who have allied with us."
From the shadows, doing some strange movements with his hands and walking to an imaginary beat, a tall black man with black goggles in his eyes, seven swords on his back, and two tattoo iron horns on his cheek appeared. He had a Kumo headband on his head. Zuko's eyes widened slightly at the strange man, as if saying 'he's one of the best instructors?'
"Yo dude, the name's Kira Bii and I'll be your instructor today! I'm going to teach you to be a butterfly with the sting of a killer bee," the man said, gyrating around and humming a beat.
"Kira Bii is the younger brother of the mighty Raikage, Zuko. Kumo's elite ninja squad, Samui, Kairu, and Omoi were trained by him personally," Ozai stated and Zuko blinked.
"So boyo, when do we get starto? Oh yeah, that's a good one!"
Zuko blinked, hardly believing that he would have this strange guy for a teacher. Kira Bii began rapping more to the point about what he'd be teaching Zuko to the point where it seemed more like gibberish.
Fire Nation Waters, near the blockade
Aang continued to fly towards the Fire Nation alone. More and more clouds continue to gather behind him, and he groaned in pain, feeling another jab in his side. He then saw in the distance the Fire Navy blockade, hundreds of vessels patrolling in a semi-circle fashion around Fire Nation Waters, providing a barrier to almost any large scale assault.
"The blockade…" he said quietly as the ships continued to move. He took a deep breath, filling his lungs full of air, and he folded the wings of his glider back into his staff, and dove into the water, using waterbending and his momentum to rocket through the water like a torpedo.
He glided under the massive ships and several marine animals moved out of the way as the Fire Navy ships continued their patrol. When he was a significant way from the blockade, he surface, and began taking deep breaths of air to replenish his oxygen supply. He relaxed on his staff, trying to catch his breath and he gave a sigh, and then made his way over to a floating peace of driftwood.
That gave him an idea. He pulled himself up on the driftwood and opened his glider, using it as a parasail and he began riding on the waves further into the Fire Nation. It seemed like hours he was doing it, and a few times he almost fell off of the makeshift board. Later, the storm had finally caught up to him and he was sailing through heavy rain and treacherous waves.
The waves kept getting even worse, and he gritted his teeth as he struggled to keep his hands on the glider. He leapt up on the board as a wave came, and he lost control. He crashed into the stormy waters, grunting as he let go of the glider and it flew away.
Fire Nation Palace, Princess Azula's chambers
The Fire Nation Princess was sleeping in her massive bed, dreaming of Sasuke and conquering the world, both worlds. She snuggled into her pillow, as thoughts of her ruling the Fire Nation and the entire world entered her mind, and a smile appeared on her face. Then, her door opened.
"Why did you do it?" Zuko demanded from the doorway.
"You're going to have to be more specific than that," Azula stated, not opening her eyes and she tried to get back to sleep.
"Why did you tell father that I killed the Avatar?" Zuko demanded again, walking further into his sister's room.
"Can't this wait until morning?"
"It. Can't," Zuko stated angrily.
Azula sighed, opening her eyes. "Fine…you seemed so worried about how father would treat you because you hadn't captured the Avatar and if I gave you the credit, you'd have nothing to worry about," she stated, pulling herself up and looking at her nails nonchalantly.
"Call it a generous gesture, I wanted to thank you for your help," Azula replied as she pulled herself out of bed and began walking towards him. "And I was happy to share the glory."
"You're lying," Zuko stated bitterly, seeing through her smokescreen.
"If you say so," Azula retorted calmly as she walked past him.
"You have another motive for doing this, I just haven't figured it out yet," Zuko told her, turning to face her.
"Please Zuko, what ulterior motive could I have?" Azula taunted, stretching her arms and turning to face him with her trademark smirk on her face. "What could I possibly gain for letting you have all the glory for defeating the Avatar?" she asked him as she walked over to him and paused. "Unless…somehow…the Avatar is actually alive…all that glory would suddenly turn to shame…and foolishness…" she walked back over to her bed and crawled back in. "But you said it yourself, that was impossible." She saw Zuko's enraged face and she laid her head back down on her pillow. "Sleep well, Zuzu…"
Zuko walked out, his teeth bore and he slammed the door behind him. He figured out her entire plan, if the Avatar was alive, he'd get all the blame and she wouldn't. Marching back to his room, he changed out of his armor and into his night clothes. He saw that Mai had fallen asleep in his bed, waiting for him, and he sighed, climbing in next to her.
Fire Nation Waters
Lightning streaked through the sky as the rain kept pouring all around him. The waves crashed into him and he struggled to keep his grip on the driftwood. Each strike of the water on him made him groan in pain and he could feel his grip slipping. Reaching out in vain to his glider, he gave a scream of terror as a massive wave threw him like a rag doll along with his driftwood. He let go and sunk into the water, the storm still echoing overhead. He surfaced, and grabbed the driftwood and took a deep breath, panting in pain, cold, and exhaustion.
"I'm not going to make it…" Aang whispered to himself, closing his eyes and seeing faces of his friends, of Naruto, of…Katara. "I failed." The lightning flashed, and…Roku appeared. "Roku?"
"You haven't failed Aang…"
"But everyone thinks I'm dead again. They think I abandoned them…and I'm losing this war…" Aang closed his eyes. "I'm letting the whole world down…"
"If anyone's to blame for the state of the world, it is me. I should have seen this war coming, and prevented it. You inherited my problems, and my mistakes," Roku told him gently, closing his eyes and looking down. "But I believe you are destined to redeem me, and save the world…"
The storm began clearing up. "I don't know…"
A light suddenly bathed him. "You already saved the World…" He then looked up in surprise to see Yue, the new Moon Spirit, descending from the heavens towards him. "And you'll save the world again…but you can't give up…after all, isn't that the nindo you and your brother have?"
The storm stopped and Aang closed his eyes, thinking of her words. Gripping his driftwood tightly, he made his decision.
"You're right…I won't give up…that's my nindo…!" Aang resolved thrusting his hand into the water and he created a massive wave, gripping onto the driftwood tightly. He then climbed onto the driftwood and balanced on it, thrusting his hands out as the wave continued to propel him towards Roku's crescent island.Yue lifted her arms and the wave grew in height, speeding him up
He thrust his arms back as he kept getting more speed as the Moon Spirit continued to watch, and then she ascended back into the Spirit World… Aang made landfall on Roku's island, and he fell on his back, completely exhausted and he fell asleep.
Morning came and something hopped onto Aang's chest. It then chattered and began licking his face like a dog. He groaned, waking up to see…Momo on him. His eyes widened, and Momo leapt off and he pulled himself up to see Katara, Sokka, Toph, Naruto, Hinata, Sasuke, Sakura, and Suki running over to him. The Waterbending Master threw her hands up in joy and she sprinted towards him.
She knelt next to him, hugging him close. "You're okay!"
She put her hand on his cheek, making him look up at her. Naruto stopped Aang from joining the hug when Katara leaned in and kissed the young Avatar, surprising all of them. She pulled away, blushing slightly and Aang blinked, putting his hand to his lips in disbelief.
"Glad to see you're in one piece, bro," Naruto said with a chuckle as Sokka twitched, his voice lost. He knelt down next to Aang, and hugged him with Katara. Everyone but Sokka, who seemed to be frozen in place and twitching, and Sasuke joined the hug.
"…I…have so much to do…" Aang said, finally finding his own voice.
"…I know…" Katara said, replaying what she did in her mind and her blush increased. "But you'll have our help."
"You think you could get out of training by just going to the Fire Nation did you?" Toph asked with her trademark grin.
"Not only that bro, but we're accelerating your ninja training," Naruto said with a grin, pulling Aang into a headlock for a second. "Before the invasion I'm going to teach you the Kage Bushin no Jutsu and the Rasengan."
"…what about the invasion anyway?"
Sokka finally found his voice. "We'll join up with my dad on the eclipse."
Toph then felt something hitting her foot. "Hey…what's…oh…its your glider…"
It was completely wrecked. Both wings were completely destroyed and it was broken in both places. In all other words, it was totaled.
"That's okay…if someone saw it, it'd give away my identity…its better for now that no one knows I'm alive," Aang said solemnly, holding his staff. He looked down for a second, and then he leapt up to a lava flow, twirled his staff and impaled it in the rock, making it look like a flag, jamming it right into one of the lava flows. Leaping away…it began to burn up…and he rejoined the group.
Fire Nation Blockade
Four men in black cloaks with red cloud markings flew on strange birds in the skies over the blockade. They had been spotted and several fiery rocks launched at them when they refused to respond to hails. The main with the massive sword on his back gave a predatory grin.
"Ah, they want to have fun don't they?"
"This is slowing us down," one man said calmly. "Deidara, Kisame, destroy the fleet so we can go in unopposed. And be quick about it…"
"They will see the beauty of my superior art," Deidara said with a grin, thrusting his hands into packs on his hips and his hand mouths began munching on the explosive clay that were in that. "How about a little C2 to start with…?"
"This is going to be fun…!" Kisame said, taking his Samehada off his back and he leapt off the strange clay bird, landing on the water surface. He charged the nearest ship and the carnage began, followed by several explosions courtesy of Deidara…
To Be Continued…
Whew! Sorry it took so long, I kept getting side track and school started before I could make significant headway into the story. This will be the last chapter of Bending the Jutsu, since the next, the Headband will be the start of Season 3's real stuff. For some chapters in Book 3, I'll have to increase the rating from T to M, but it'll be mostly T. I hope you enjoy it and please read and review.