Excerpt from Chapter 1:
i"A quiet breeze will follow two travelers on the way to tomorrow. When what is wrong becomes what is right, shall condemn these two with awful fright. Only by becoming one in mind, body, and soul, each will be rewarded with a new role. As King and Queen of their lost hearts in a world with indescribable power, these fated shall never cower.
A new dawn will shine with torturous pain, should two doomed find what they seek to gain. And yet, all will not be lost, if and only if, the rightful path is not covered in unforgiving frost."/i
"That is the prophecy you seek and receive, beware and take care, and heed as you please."
bThe Final Chapter of Dying to Survive/b- written in Zuko's point of view, 75 years later
Well, it seems that history has a way of repeating itself. News of what has been happening in Republic City has finally reached the Fire Nation. General Iroh has been sent to help the Avatar, and I pray that all goes well... I have heard of Avatar Korra's strengths, her prowess and skill from the time she was just a little girl in the water tribe. I sigh, taking in the memories. Here I am surrounded by four walls, at the top of a tower overlooking the vast ocean waves that connect my family's land to the rest of the world. Looking at the endless push and pull of the water, my heart sinks a little each time the waves fall, and rises back along with them, reaching toward the sky, reaching toward the one person who I can never ultimately see again. This old body will die soon though; I am practically a centennial man... and I smile, the wrinkles in my face as numerous as my years, knowing who is waiting for me on the other side. I sit back in this creaking chair and rest my head in my hand, my fingers scraping the dusty pink skin of my scar. Closing my eyes, I take a breath and remember... it all happened so quickly, and yet, I can still feel the pulsating pain in my heart with each beat. With a heavy heart, I will tell you the rest of our story... the rest of how on this earth, people sometimes take drastic measures in order to simply survive one moment, one moment when everything can change...
It was so strange. Katara had come into the meeting with the Xiong clan as if possessed by a devil. Her rage and fury was unfounded and I was terrified of what was happening to her. When she woke up in my arms later, she had no recollection of what had happened. I told her to forget about everything. Her whole body trembled within my arms and she clung tightly to me. At that moment, my heart started racing, my breath barely could escape my lungs and all I could do was hold her. I knew then, how much she meant to me, how much I could not stand to see her in pain, to see her without a soul, her essence gone. I could not hold it in any longer. After a few silent moments, she pulled herself up without letting go of me. Her kimono was tattered, her hair matted and coarse, her face shining with sweat and her eyes fierce with purpose. She took my face in her hands and whispered gently "Zuko, I love you." The wind blew in softly and I finally let out a sigh. A small smile graced my lips as the one woman in my life who had been there for me, who had understood everything about me in a way that I sometimes myself couldn't understand, told me she loved me. We kissed as passionately and tenderly as we never had before. In that moment, something shifted in our beings and we recoiled, looking at each other in awe.
It all came flooding back. The memories, the fears, the spirits, the danger, the love. We remembered our journey to the Spirit World and back, shocked at what had been forgotten. After we talked about everything that we remembered, the bells rang in the halls for dinner. We quickly took each others' hands and ran to find Iroh. I was no longer in the dark about what needed to be done. Katara tried her best to heal him, but she was never able to bring him out of the coma. But right before she gave up, she received a message through her bending from Iroh's spirit. He warned us about what was needed to be done and quickly.
The next day we all packed up and left Sozin's Turf. Laia, Jet, Akizo, Zhen, Katara and I all headed into the Forest of Death, towards the Ora Volcanoes and mountainsides where Iroh had said a secret Temple of Sanoroi was left abandoned. There, we were to find a way back to the Spirit World and help Iroh face an evil force that was linked with the ongoing war between the Yin Yan Warriors and the Xiong Clan. That was all he could get through before the connection was lost. Before we left, I bid Mai goodbye, letting her know I had to stop pretending. She was the easy way out, someone who had been there early on, but never really understood me as I had changed into the Fire Lord, the man, not the child she had previously known. I sometimes can still feel the sting of the slap that Mai gave me that day, and the way her torn stare seemed to carve out a part of my soul. She left, and we all departed on our mission.
There were a few bumps along the way towards Ora Volcanoes. Laia said she had to go visit her family in a nearby village first before heading on a possibly fatal mission. It was there where it was exposed that Laia was actually part of an agreement to which she would be married to Zhen. She had run away from the village early on in hopes of avoiding a marriage to a person she believed was utterly vile. To an extent, she was right. I will never forget the way Katara's face depleted of color when she found out what was wrong with Zhen. After the expose, Zhen confessed his illness. His father was a Xiong Clan member back in the day who, when visiting the Earth Kingdom, had an affair with a cursed concubine. The result of that affair was Zhen, a little boy earthbender. After he was born, his mother was executed by the Earth Kingdom officials who had been hunting her for spiritual crimes of trapping people in the ground and using their remaining minutes of life to find a connection to the spirit world. Before her death, she had muttered some nonsense and one bystander noted the name "Zhen" was uttered. Zhen was taken by his father to the Fire Nation, and was raised in Sozin's Turf secretly. When Laia met him, she thought him to be rather handsome and he had a presence that she had never encountered before. He was so intriguing, and so, the two played together from an early age.
Laia explained though, that things started to become odd. Once a month, on the day of his mother's death, Zhen would get fits of rage and become violent. His bending would get out of control and the ground around him would rise and fall wildly, putting everyone in danger. Many believed Zhen's mother cursed him for being the cause of the end of her life, and Zhen knew he felt his mother's death wish in him whenever this happened. The day would pass and things would be normal again. The power he felt on those days got to his head though, and his arrogance at knowing what he was capable of drove Laia away from him. She wanted nothing to do with him and so she left.
The family in the village still desired that Laia marry Zhen. Jet was most affected by the news, and he departed our group quickly thereafter. Laia was devastated. Zhen apologized for all the pain he had caused her but she wanted to only find Jet. We all followed Jet's trail deeper into the Forest, and we stumbled upon a secret underground lair where the Yin Yan Warriors had their base and meetings. I held Katara's hand tightly as we hid and listened to the plotting of the group. They were in contact with the Spirit World somehow, and were planning on overthrowing the benders in the Fire Nation council, starting with the Xiong Clan, who to them, ruled unfairly and always left the non-benders at the bottom, in the poorest conditions. I had never really considered the way my father's reign of rule affected the non-benders and I have often reflected on that moment, wondering if there was a way that all of this could have been prevented. If only the people had not become oppressed, if only... if only I had not done the same thing to Mai.
You might be wondering what Mai has to do with anything? At this point, to all of us, she was gone. But to all of our surprise, she was at the center of group, leading them, giving them a speech. At one point, she raised her fist, where she clutched a small burlap bag. Her words rang and echoed through the cave where cheers ran through our bodies like spiders. "Tonight is the night we take on the orders from the other world. Tonight, we take back our power as spiritual people. As humans, our cores, our beliefs and humanity lie in the way we care about others. Do the benders care about us? OUR FEELINGS? NO! They do not, and after much searching, after such determined efforts, I have the answer to our woes in this here bag. I am pleased to inform you all that we have all but one gem left and we are on our way tonight to find the last one. The last one, hidden within the forgotten Temple of Sanoroi. Rest assured, I will lead you all towards regaining the balance of right and wrong in this world and beyond!"
I couldn't take my eyes off of her. She was so electrifying in that moment, and terrifying all at the same time. Katara wanted to rush in, but I held her back and motioned for her to stay quiet. We would follow her band of warriors in order to find out what was going to happen. As we ventured out, the tension between Laia and Zhen never ceased, but Akizo managed to get in between them whenever the atmosphere felt like it was going to ruin our cover. To tell you the truth, I never felt easy about Akizo, the strong quiet guy who was always there whenever needed. It seemed too easy for him to blend into the background and I was uneasy around him. I told Katara my worries, but she assured me that Akizo was a trustworthy guy.
That turned out to be utterly untrue. We traveled one day and night to the temple, which was located at the base of the largest volcano on the island. As we were getting ready to head in, following Mai's trail into the temple, I suddenly found that I could not find Katara. When I did find her, she was in a corner of the forest that was dark and surrounded by trees. It was happening all over again. She turned toward me, her skin ghostly pale and her eyes black as night. She had with her knives and darts, and she started swinging them towards me. I darted and weaved between the trees as she chased me. I worried for everyone's safety if I started to firebend, but in the end, I had no choice. When I ran into Akizo in the woods, I was confused but I didn't buy his dumb look. I prodded him quickly about what was going on, and he finally cracked an evil smile. The ends of his lips curled and he spat in my face. "Piece of trash bender" he said. He snapped his fingers and Katara appeared behind me. As she raised her arm to attack, I ducked and shielded myself with a wall of flames. In the moment, I was not able to control the flames and they caught onto the bushes around us. The fire quickly spread and Akizo fled the scene. Katara swayed in place and the darkness lifted from her gaze. She stared at me, frightened and I reached out towards her. We ran back, escaping the raging fire to find Laia and Zhen back at the camp site. To our surprise, Jet was with Laia and Zhen.
The ground suddenly shook and we looked up towards the rustic Temple, hidden away, covered with foliage, and saw a burst of flames come out of a broken window in the top floors. We all looked at each other and without a word raced into the unknown. Along the way, Zhen struggled to keep his bending at bay. Laia stopped and restrained Zhen from lunging for Jet. Katara and I watched briefly as Zhen started to transform into a monster. His eyes glowed with fury and his fists tightened as the earth around him spiraled inward. Laia kept screaming at Zhen to stop, but he was out of control. Katara and I ran toward the group but Laia yelled at us to keep following Mai. I hesitated but Katara looked at me with a gaze that was warm and urgent. She nodded and tilted her head to the side. With one look back, in one moment, I saw the determination in Laia's stance and her choice made, she turned toward Jet, hugged him tightly and with tears in her eyes, pushed him aside and ran toward Zhen. He was now building a mound of earth beneath him, sending him upward. Laia pushed herself off the ground with a blast of fire from both fists and flew into the air next to him. She lunged forward, grabbed onto his neck and kissed him with so much pressure, I thought she would twist his neck off. The rumbling of the earth began to lessen, but not before a large rock fell from above on top of me. Katara quickly waterbended it away, and with impatience, grabbed my hand and we ran. Through the echoes of tumbling rocks, we both heard a resounding cry of anguish from Jet. My stomach dropped and later I would be told that Jet had sat there in the temple for a day before burying Laia's lifeless bruised body. Zhen disappeared, never to be seen again.
We ran up the stairs and toward the top tower where we had seen the flames. Katara burst through the door first and stopped just as quickly. There, in the middle of the room, was a vortex of wind and debris circling in a spiral. Mai stood there with an evil smile and the bag of gems in her hand. She muttered on about something to herself, that "it was complete" or some nonsense like that, but as we entered the room, she turned her head ever so slightly in recognition and let the gems fall into the vortex. The wind blew even more harshly and with a tilt of her head, she jumped into the chaos and disappeared. I looked at Katara and with a sinking premonition, we followed.
The Spirit World was just as we remembered, but this time there was a more ominous feeling of dread floating within the gray clouds at our feet. The stillness seemed void of anything and as Katara clutched onto my arm, we looked around, trying to find a glimmer of hope, a signal of what we were meant to do. In the distance, we saw a flash or twinkle of sorts and we walked towards it. Behind a rotting tree, we found a disposed, breathless fairy creature... it was Ryuu. Barely alive, she brightened slightly at our presence. Just before she passed, she told us to follow the lights, and there we would find our answers. I held my hand over her eyes as she died? I'm not sure if a spirit in the spirit world could die, but apparently it was so. There were glimmers here and there in the tops of trees and as we ventured on, the lights began to glow more lightly, signaling a pathway. At the end was a small cove with a pond and little tents. From one emerged Iroh, followed by our mothers. We ran to greet them, our spirits soaring with possibility and happiness. Their faces weren't as glad to see us though. We quickly learned that the war on earth was just part of the greater problem. Iroh shook his head as he explained that the evil forces that had passed on earth were gathering an army in the Spirit Realm: Ozai, Sozen, and Azulon were together, gathering an army of Yizun and sucking the chi out of the living and dead. Katara was quick to say that we needed to stop it all, but I wondered what we, non-benders in a spirit world could do to stop them. After all, wasn't there an Avatar for a reason? Our mothers told us that although there was an Avatar, he or she took care of the people of Earth, not the Spirit Realm, and although there was a link between the Spirit World and Earth, there was a being that could be called upon to take care of matters in the Spirit World.
I still don't know how it happened, but it was at that moment that Katara and I learned that we were the saviors. There had been a prophecy made of this coming time, where two would become one to defeat the evil that had overtaken the balance of nature. Katara listened quietly as her mother explained that it was the loving bond between us that made us most powerful. I have to admit, I was scared. I didn't know what the consequences would be of us trying to defeat the evil trio. It got worse though, because my father was a feared opponent on his own, but with everyone else combined? I thought it would end there, but we were wrong. Our task wasn't to stop the trio, but instead, the reigning Spirit of Darkness, Aidn. Iroh motioned some other men from another tent, members of the White Lotus, who had meditated into the Spirit World, and gave Katara and I a map towards Tyr Isle, where Aidn resided. Unfortunately for us, our family didn't know exactly what we were supposed to do in order to defeat Aidn and his army.
We left to a tent of our own where Katara and I sat, discussing our options. She was so brave, and I loved her even more for it. Katara was willing to sacrifice herself and her loved ones, just to save the entire balance of existence. Such a heavy burden for one person alone. I never told her this, but Katara was the reason why I had the strength to do what we did. I agreed that it was the only option, and that things would figure themselves out on their own.
We left the next day for our journey. The reunion with our loved ones was all too short and we said goodbye, leaving the members of the White Lotus to gather their numbers and fight the Yizun army. On our way through the Spirit World, we met various creatures of good and both evil forces. Some taught us about chi bending, the core essence of life that was taught long ago in the Temple of Sanorois. Our bending was none existent in the Spirit World, but we soon learned how to manipulate the air around us into forming orbs of chi which contained the most powerful forms of attack and pressure. It wasn't air, it was just essence. I played with Katara many a time, trying to see if I could touch her cheek with the chi that grazed it. She would smile and laugh in those moments, those times when we could forget for a second that our lives were at stake and that we may not make this journey. But there were those surprises along the way where we met those we hated the most. Mai had been found among a group of Yizun, of course their leader, trying to collect as much chi from the innocents as possible. We had a battle that lasted hours, but in the end, we defeated Mai and the Yizun, those lifeless forms of evil. Akizo was with her when the battle happened. He had followed us into the Spirit World it had seemed, and had been helping Mai all along. As a spy, we never considered the possibility that it started with him, but his rope tricks had all been related to chi work. It was a difficult defeat, especially for Katara, who had felt the most betrayed by his tricks.
After about a month, when word got to us that Iroh and our mothers had led a successful attack against the Trio, we gained the strength to make the final push toward Tyr Isle. The night before we reached its shores, while we were resting, I asked Katara to marry me. We were sitting against a tree, watching the red glow of light settle around the peaks and dips of Tyr Isle in the distance, floating in the sky ahead, when Katara stirred from her light sleep, her head resting on my lap. I chi bended the space underneath her and floated her gently into my arms. She turned her head over, wondering with a playful smile what I was doing. I jumped into the air and laid there right beside her. I took her hands and guided her in slow, fluid circles around and around, as if dancing like a leaf that was falling from side to side to the ground. My eyes never left her gaze as I inched closer and closer. Our long hair danced in the wind, the strands of my hair intertwining with hers. I buried my head into her neck and embraced her tightly. For a moment, we were silent, but then I finally closed my eyes and said, "Katara, I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, but all I know is that I love you with all my soul, all my being. Will you be mine, body and soul, forever my bride?" A tear fell from her cheek onto my scar as she closed her eyes, smiled and brushed my face with her fingers. I lifted my head to meet her gaze once more as she whispered a joyful "Yes, I will." I kissed her softly as we landed on the ground, our toes brushing the surface of the sand all around. Our hands found their ways around, brushing away the cloth that separated our bodies. We sunk lower into the ground and became engulfed in the warmth of our love.
I smile now, thinking of that warmth, the first time we had made love. It was like a dream, and sometimes I still do dream of that night. It was pure bliss and I thought we could remain like that forever, intertwined in each others arms, laying in the soft cotton like sand that surrounded us. A dream it was not though, and when we woke up, we saw the red glow darken in the distance around a peak on Tyr Isle. The strangest thing was not that foreboding glow though. It was the whitest glow that actually surrounded our bodies. It was like a light was shining from within us, and I felt it too. All of my muscles felt warmer, expanded into a place of higher authority and power. Katara felt it too and as we gathered our belongings, we gave each other one last deep kiss and we lifted on an orb of chi into the sky.
Tyr Isle was a lot smaller than we assumed it to be. There was one black palace with no roofs in the middle of the isle, and as we reached toward it, a deafening cackle of laughter rang through our souls. The doors swung open and we were sucked into the depths of the darkness and flame that surrounded Aidn. He sat not in a throne, but in a pool of black fire. He had no human resemblance except for his eyes, which were also as monstrous as his presence. His eyes were black with a gold pupil in the middle, the shape vertically oval instead of horizontal, and with a bald head, no nose or mouth. His chin pointed downward, his cheeks sunken and his robes the cruelest bloody red I have ever seen. No voice protruded from his form, but suddenly, we both heard a slither of words in our minds.
"So you are here to challenge Aidn? No one before you has succeeeeeedddddeed."
That last bit still gives me chills to this day. His eyes flashed a brilliant golden light in the expanse and Katara fell to the ground, a cloud of black dust rising around her. I yelled and quickly gathered the chi around her to push away the evil. I struggled in vain though, and after I gave all my effort, the cloud of black had shifted from Katara and slowly snaked its way towards me. Me eyes widened as the cloud entered my nostrils and open mouth. Katara yelped and reached out as I staggered and coughed. Then, I can't really recall what happened. All I remember is feeling the urge to kill her. I lunged for Katara, but she quickly bended the chi around my waist and arms into a constraint. She inched closer with a leap and with her hands slowly circling the space in front of my face, she closed her eyes and whispered my name as her thumb pushed into my forehead. My head recoiled and Katara was knocked backwards as the dark essence that was controlling me exploded from within. The white glow returned to us and together we faced Aidn.
Aidn floated upwards, lifted by the flames, but as Katara and I gripped each others hands more tightly, something odd was beginning to happen. As Aidn soared closer and closer towards us, Katara and I began to fuse. The light from within us began to shine brighter and brighter, until suddenly, I felt Katara in me. Her thoughts were my thoughts, her ability, mine. I looked down at my body, but there was none. And so it began. Together, as one, Katara and I formed Zutara, a being so powerful it was on par with the great evil Lord Aidn. We clashed for what seemed like days, but in the end, our exhaustion led to a stalemate, that is until, our fusion weakened and we became two souls once again. Katara heaved heavily as she struggled to push forward and keep attacking Aidn. He was just about conquered, but when I attacked him, he sent all his power towards me. My body flew across the expanse and hit a wall. As I fell, tumbling to the floor, I remember hearing Katara's shout of pain. I could barely open my eyes, but I was alive enough to see what would be the unfolding of all our efforts to save the worlds that held the living and dead.
Katara took a deep breath and exhaled a thin line of white smoke. It trailed through the air to where Aidn was lying just as weak as I was. At that moment, I knew what Katara was doing. I had seen it before, those ribbons of chi. It had been a while ago in the Fire Nation, but here, it was different. It wasn't just Katara's chi she was using to bind Aidn, it was her soul. Aidn struggled to lift his form, but as Katara waved her arms in the air, and the ribbons began to tighten around him, he had no chance. As the last bits of chi left Katara's form, she turned toward me, Aidn shrieking in agony as the white glowing ribbons ate at his form. She took slow staggered steps as she recited the incantation to bind his evil power. And with finality, Katara stopped in front of me, fell to her knees, looked up at the dark sky and whispered "it ends."
Aidn's form disappeared into a thousand small white crystals that shattered to the ground. Katara's head fell and I caught her body as she fell into me. I shook my head, not wanting to believe it. She wasn't dead. She couldn't be gone. But as I cried silently into her limp form, embracing what was left of my other half, a small breath of air escaped from her lips. I looked at her face, her eyes slightly open as she smiled sadly.
"I can't go back, Zuko... I'm so sorry, but I had to do it... I had to save everyone, had to save you... please forgive me."
The tears flowed freely from both our eyes as I began to understand what she was saying. She had sacrificed her soul to be Aidn's eternal keeper. The power she had confined into the crystals was not defeated but contained and imprisoned. Katara had made herself an official being of the Spirit World, whereas I remained human.
"I won't forget you. Wait for me Katara, and I will come back to you."
"Yes, one day, we will meet again, Zuko."
I kissed her tenderly with what was left of my power. I trembled as the glow from my form began to weaken and the wind entered into Aidn's chamber. An orb of chi began to form in the center and Katara's soul slipped out of my fingers into the sky above. I cried after her but my body was sucked into the vortex and I was sent back to the Temple where it all began.
I was lost, alone, and I felt abandoned. Initially I was so furious, that I bended all the fire I had in me. But once all the anger dispersed, I sat motionless, waiting for something, anything that would force me to move.
Eventually, I made my way back to Sozin's Turf. There, I found Iroh, alive and well, out of his "coma". I was relieved that I had someone to talk to about the experience and my loss. It took a while, but things settled down between the Yin Yan Warriors and the Xiong Clan. Plans were forged to make the city more integrated for non-benders and benders alike. Slowly, years passed. I married, had children. Things were normal, or they seemed relatively so. But some nights, sleeping next to my wife, I would dream of Katara. I felt like I was back in the Spirit World, happily by her side instead. I would wake and realize it wasn't my reality though and life would continue on.
This is what had happened eons ago. Now, it seems like it is happening all over again. Amon seems like an individual related to Aidn, although I try to convince myself every minute that there is no way it is possible, no way because if it were true, it would mean everything that happened was in vein.
Alone in my memories, I wait for the moment when I can be relieved of all the pain and suffering. As I sit and ponder this, there is a knock at the door...
The door swings open and there stands Katara, her old sagging face plastered with a smile, her aging body moving slowly, lost of its agility and graceful fluid movements from her youth. I manage a small smile.
"Hello Katara. Have you come to discuss the news of Republic City?"
"Yes, Zuko. Isn't it devastating news? I do hope that Korra can handle herself. She is so young... but I guess we were young as well and we did okay defeating Ozai, isn't that right?"
Her eyes sparkled and for a moment I felt like it was her, it was Katara. But as my fingers lifted towards her, my face dropped and I shook my head, recoiling my hand.
"That's right. We made a good team."
I remained silent for a moment, as Katara sat down in a chair and looked into the sunset as well. I gazed at her features, all the same in my eyes, and in my lifetime I always wondered where it all went wrong. I knew what had happened though, and it pained me each time to see her, but I always hoped someday she would return to her true form, so I invited her to remain friends as we had before.
"Uncle Zuuuukooo! Mom!"
The door swung open again and in bounded Kya, Katara's daughter.
"Kya, you followed me all the way up here?"
"There you are, Mom! I told you to wait for me before you left."
Katara laughed softly as her daughter, grown now, gave her a hug. Kya looked at me and punched me softly on the shoulder.
"Uncle Zuko, you're looking well. Almost like you did in those portraits of when you first became Fire Lord!"
I laughed and widened my arms. We hugged and for a second, I lingered my affection, taking in her youthful energy. I closed my eyes tightly as we parted and Kya began talking quickly of the efforts and news from Republic City. As she parroted back the stories of the battlefield and Iroh's triumphs, I took in the pair, gazing at them fondly as I sighed. I knew it from the moment Katara's form appeared in front of me again all that time ago in the palace. It was about a year after I had come back from the Spirit World. Aang flew in on Appa and had said he had amazing news to share. He told me he was now a father. I was definitely shocked. He was a bit young, but nevertheless I was happy and proud for him and Toph.
Only it wasn't Toph who was the mother of his child. Sliding down from Appa's tale was Katara. I was breathless, totally shocked and still to my core. In her arms was a small bundle, a girl, just born not too long before. She greeted me with a warm smile and a hug and spoke of how long it had been since we had seen each other. I shook my head and held the tears in my eyes as I realized it all.
Katara's body had returned to this world just as I had, but her spirit was not there. Everything that had happened stayed in the Spirit World, and all Katara on Earth could remember was her time traveling with Aang and the gang. Aang told me about how quickly the two of them had reconnected. Toph went after some independence seeking, trying to see if there were others out there like her. In a short time, Katara and Aang got married, and had Kya. But as Aang told me their story, something nagged at me, something was off.
"Here, want to hold her?" Katara had asked.
I stood, opening my arms. As I held Kya, she peaked her eyes open and in a moment's flash, I saw it. The sparkle of gold. My mouth fell open and I blinked, but it was gone. I don't know if it was the sunlight, my imagination or wishful thinking, but in that moment I knew that Kya was actually my daughter.
"She's beautiful, Katara," I said softly. As I handed her back to Katara, I knew then and there that for the rest of my life, I would be tortured with memories, spirits and ghosts of the past. Kya would grow up with Aang as her father, never knowing her true identity. There was no way to prove it, and I didn't want to burden her with a story that seemed imaginary. I mean, who would actually believe me when I told them that the love of my life was actually living in the Spirit World, waiting for me to come back to her?
"Do you want some tea, Uncle?"
I snapped out of my trance and smiled.
"Of course, Kya. Anything you make warms my heart."
Kya gave me another quick hug and Katara smiled at the two of us. We sat there for a few hours, into the night, reminiscing, laughing joyfully, until Kya finally decided it was time to leave. We went on our separate ways and I into my bed chamber, alone, disheartened, tired of waiting, got ready for another night's rest.
What I didn't know at the time was that my life would actually change that night. As I was about to head off to sleep, a soft knock woke me from my stillness. Katara entered my room once again, lit dimly by the moonlight.
"Is something wrong, Katara? It's late."
She strode towards me and pulled me out of bed and into the light of the balcony where we had reconnected so long ago. Katara didn't say a word, but smiled warmly into the moon as the wind shivered into our souls.
"It's been so long, Zuko... so very long."
I squinted, not sure what was going on. I looked at her with worry and when she turned to me, I gasped shortly. Her eyes... it was her eyes. They brimmed as brightly as when we were engulfed in the glow before our final battle together.
She nodded her head and rested her fingers on my face. Our old souls connected once more at the touch and I cried, holding my hand on top of hers, grasping it tightly.
"I missed you so much. But Kya... you sent her to me, didn't you?"
Katara nodded again and smiled brightly, her wrinkles creasing into crescents under her cheeks.
"She's our daughter, Zuko. She's your blood."
Katara leaned in and kissed Zuko gently on the lips and stepped back. Zuko reached out to her and his smile fell as she melted into the shadows. From the depths of the room, he heard an echo.
And with one last glance up toward the moon, Zuko exhaled and his spirit burst into a small ball of light. It drifted out of the room, up into the sky, leaving the bodies of two lovers, two great fighters on the bed, holding each other, their eyes closed, forever together even in death, only to survive for the next part of their journey together.
A/N: ** If you are one of those people who like to listen to music while they read, the song I had on repeat while writing this chapter was Can't Take My Eyes Off of You - by the Cary Brothers
Here it is, the final chapter of Dying To Survive. After watching Korra again and doing some soul searching, I FINALLY got the nagging feeling of - you never finished this! You need to finiiiiishhh ittttt! - So my nagging need to have closure, plus motivation from watching Korra got me to write this out for you all.
I know it's been way too long, and I am so sorry. I had to condense everything into this one chapter, written in a different style from the rest of the story, because I felt it was the only way I could actually get it done. I hope you enjoy the elements I added in from the current Korra series. I swear if anything overlaps, it's pure coincidence. The whole nonbender-bender conflict had always been a part of my story and I felt eerie when things were unfolding in Korra that were way similar to the feel of DTS. I am glad I was able to wait for Korra though because it gave me that last spark of creativity I needed to finish the story. I know it's a fast leap for Zuko and Katara in this chapter but just pretend it's how it would end anyways so it doesn't need much explanation and angst as usual haha ;) I think four years is long enough to get things rolling if you know what I mean...
Anyhow, feedback is welcome. I hope you enjoy it as always. Thanks to those who waited patiently and never gave up on the chance that I would actually finish this. Thank you!
SPOILERS-SIDE NOTE: I forgot what my plans were for Raeya but I think she fit into the "bad side" as did Eisa... they both were just bitter towards each side.. yes, I'm sorry Laia died! but it was necessary to stop Zhen from killing Zuko and Katara before they could get to the S.W. Also, Yin Yans wanted Katara dead because she was a powerful bender and some of them knew of the prophecy that could be fulfilled by her and Zuko (also why he got hit in Ch 22 I think it was). Any other lingering questions, feel free to ask and I will update this section appropriately.