"…. I just can't believe it's all gone." A young boy whispered as a girl slightly older than him hugged him, trying to comfort the child who could only be around the age of twelve.
The boy was paler than his two friends, with blue arrow tattoos on his body, he wore a simple monk robe with golden yellow and orange fabric.
This child wasn't just any child. He was the Avatar. He was technically one hundred and twelve years old, due to spending a whole century trapped within an ice berg before being found and rescued by the girl and another boy who looked like the girls older brother.
"I know it's hard Aang, but we'll get through this. Together." The girl promised the bald monk, her blue eyes shinning with compassion… but also with pity. She grabbed Aang's hand and squeezed it in reassurance.
Aang's doe-like brown eyes stared at the waterbender with misty-eyes. It had been several minutes since he had discovered his guardian and mentor, Monk Gyasto, skeleton as well as the realization that everything from his old life, his people, his friends, his mentor. They were all gone, dead, never to come back, never again would Aang see them until he passed on as well.
When Aang had realized this, pure rage and grief took control of the normally happy-go-lucky Avatar. He had involuntary activated the Avatar State for the third time in his life. It was only because of Katara he hadn't completely leveled the ruins of his old home and throw his new friends off of the mountain.
Tears were still streaming down his cheeks as Aang hugged Katara even tighter, he couldn't help but give a small half-twitch of his lips as Katara ordered her brother Sokka to join in on the group hug, where the eldest of the group grumbled about group hugs not being manly and unwarrior-like.
He would always mourn his friends and teachers of his past, but he would learn to move on, he had a new family. These kids of the Southern Water Tribe, they had come after him when he was captured by the Fire Nation Prince Zuko, and had not abandoned him in his hour of need.
"Do you want to leave?" Katara asked the mourning monk gently, her voice soft saying that she wouldn't judge him if he wanted to leave this place, a home that now held nothing but the memories of the dead.
Aang rubbed his tears away with his arm. "No," Aang was happy that his voice didn't tremble even though anyone could hear the grief and pain laced within his tone. "I want to see one more thing before we leave."
"Is it a kitchen?" Sokka asked eagerly, already thinking with his stomach. "Maybe some century old cured meats? Or maybe some blubbered seal jerkey?"
"Sokka, the Air Nomads were vegetarians. They didn't eat meat." Katara told her brother with a deadpan.
Sokka sulked at the thought of not eating meat his whole life, something he deemed impossible and immoral.
"Where do you want to go, Aang?" Katara asked the Avatar.
Aang glanced up at the ruined tower that had been his home, his grey eyes foggy as he went down memory lane. A wide smile, though it looked slightly forced, appeared on Aang's face as he thought of where he wanted to go.
"Well there was always the courtyards where we used to practice airbending, not to mention my room. A hundred years later, it must be a wreck." He joked, though it was obvious he was still upset and if not for Sokka and Katara, his new family, he may as well have continued weeping for his now dead people.
Aang was quick to notice that Katara had yet to let go of his hand. "Well then, to the courtyards we go." She said cheerfully, eager to make Aang happy again and if not she would do anything to at least bring a little ray of sunshine in the thunderstorm of emotions going through the last Airbender.
Aang led them back to the center of the temple, he was noticeably less cheerful now that he realized what had happened but Katara knew that he was still somewhat happy to see pieces of his old home.
"Wait." Sokka held his hand in front of Katara to stop her. He tilted his head slightly and had a deep look of concentration as though he was trying to hear something.
Aang, who had been on top of a large pillar, jumped down using a small gust of wind to stop his momentum. "What's wrong, Sokka?" the Airbender asked.
"Shh!" Sokka hushed the twelve year old.
Katara crossed her arms and rolled her eyes. "Sokka, I doubt you can sense any meat up here." She said referring to the one time when they were kids where Sokka claimed he had something called a 'Meat Sense', it had taken several weeks for him to stop yelling that his meat senses were tingling whenever it was time for dinner.
"Not that Katara, listen." Sokka urged his sister, all the while straining his ears to whatever noise he heard.
Momo, who had been on Aang's shoulder, chittered something before tilting his large bat-like ears in the direction where Aang had said where the courtyards had been.
Before Katara could say anything, she heard it. A slight whooshing sound and the sound of something hitting stone. It was so faint that Katara would have thought it was just her imagination had not Sokka pointed it out.
"It's coming from over there!" Aang exclaimed as he started to run towards the place the sound was coming from, eagerly wondering if it was another flying lemur like Momo or maybe even a flying bison to keep Appa company!
"Yes, lets just run towards the area with the sounds in this haunted temple," Sokka said sarcastically but immediately started to sulk when he realized his objection was ignored and Katara and Aang were already ahead of him.
After a minute or so of running and jumping over the fallen remains of the temple they reached the top of a large staircase that wound down towards the courtyard. Aang suddenly stopped while Katara and Sokka quickly joined him, they immediately noticed what had made the airbender stop in his tracks.
Down in the courtyards was a person. A boy maybe around Sokka's age but it was hard to tell due to their high vantage point. The boy was going katas with such fluidness it was as though he was the wind itself.
The boy had not noticed them, and who would? This place was like a tomb, no one had been here for a hundred years, apparently that wasn't the case anymore.
Sokka was ready to yell down to the boy, probably thinking the boy was Fire Nation, when it happened.
The boy had given a quick punch in the direction of an overgrown bush, immediately a large gust of wind appeared out of his fist and smacked into the bush with such force that it ripped the plant from its roots and over the edge of the mountain.
Katara saw in the corner of her eye that Aang had stiffened as though he had been shocked. All three of them stood stock still as they continued to watch the bender, an airbender, continuing his katas all the while using airbending to move rocks and plants to certain places.
The three noticed that once in a while the boy would use his bending skills to launch rocks at a wall, where he had made a makeshift bulls-eye on the wall with what appeared to be paint. The sounds they had heard earlier was no doubt him striking the wall in an attempt to get a bulls-eye.
"Sokka…. Katara…. He's an airbender!" Aang whispered in awe as he watched the boy continued his katas.
"Aang, calm down. Don't do anything stupid-" Sokka started to say before he was interrupted.
"Hello!" Aang yelled out as he jumped out of the cover of the trees they had been using to hide from the boy.
The airbender immediately stopped his moves and jumped ten feet in the air in surprise and shock.
Seeing this, Aang started to run down the stairs towards the airbender, one of his people, with a huge grin. All the grief and rage that had still been coursing through him had immediately left when he realized he was no longer alone.
"Aang! Come back!" Sokka yelled as he and Katara raced after the bald monk, who was halfway down the stairs.
"You're an airbender!" Aang exclaimed.
The boy had taken several steps backwards, his eyes wide with shock… and fear. The second Aang had said he was an airbender the boy took one look at the boy before turning tail and running away, a small dust cloud the only sign that he had been there at all.
"Hey- wait!" Aang called out as he chased after the airbender with the same speed, leaving the Southern Water Tribe siblings in the dust, literally.
The boy paid no attention to Aang and continued to race through the deserted and broken down temple, with great ease the boy jumped and flipped over obstacles as though he had known exactly where everything was.
"Come back!" Aang yelled as he realized the boy was getting farther and farther ahead of him. Aang narrowed his eyes in concentration and ran towards the wall, using his speed and momentum in a second Aang was now running on the ceiling.
"Leave me alone!" The boy yelled back. His deeper voice showing that he really was around Sokka's age. "Don't you Fire Nation ever give up!?"
Aang's eyes widened when he realized that the other airbender thought he was the Fire Nation, their enemy, the one who had destroyed their people and culture, leaving them all alone. "No, wait! You got it all wrong! I'm a friend."
"Like I'll fall for that trick!" The boy yelled, rage and pain so thick in his tone that it nearly made Aang misstep and stop completely. The boy slashed his hand at the wall and a force of wind erupted from his palm and hit a stone statue that was looking ready to crumble.
The second the burst of air hit the statue it immediately started to pitch forward, had Aang not been an airbender he would of instantly been crushed by the stone. Instead he merely flipped over it and continued his chase.
Aang was remembered that not even an hour or so ago he had been chasing Momo through the temple's halls, and now he was chasing an airbender through the temple. What was next, a stampede of sky bison?
"Please, stop!" Aang begged the airbender as both continued to jump over obstacles with ease and superhuman speed. Aang continued to dodge air blasts sent by the other bender, but the older boy never seemed to notice that Aang was able to dodge them and was running as fast as him. It seemed that in the boy's panic and fear of Aang being Fire Nation, he never once considered the fact the bold kid with airbending tattoos and the ability to run as fast as the other kid was in fact an airbender.
Suddenly the boy stopped, Aang saw why. They had run across the entire half of the temple grounds, they were now in what remained of the sky bison stables. A large circular tower that was the third largest tower in the whole temple.
The ceiling was open to the sky, allowing any sky bison to land within. The lower parts were actual stables with rotten food stalls, and walls. While the upper parts were merely floors and arches, open to the elements.
Aang realized why the boy had stopped, he didn't have a glider, meaning he couldn't continue to run. The boy turned around to face Aang, already in a fighting stance.
Aang held his hands out in surrender. "This is all a misunderstanding. I'm like you!" The Avatar said, hoping to not have to fight his new friend.
Aang noticed then that the boy had grey eyes, just like him and the now dead airbenders. But while he and those long gone had always been filled with mirth and a hint of mischief. This boy's eyes were instead as hard as steel, but Aang could see the pain and loneliness in those orbs.
"Those tattoos…" The boy muttered, the shadows now hiding his eyes but Aang could tell he was angry. "Those are a piece of my culture and my people, and you are disgracing them! Haven't you Fire Nation done enough!?" The boy spat out, he gritted his teeth as he got ready to blast the boy with air.
"Wait!" Aang cried out, "I'm an airbender too!" To further prove his point he quickly formed a ball of wind before standing on it like a top. "See! It's an air scooter! I made it myself a hundred years ago!" The young monk explained.
The boy instantly dropped his stance and instead opted to hang his mouth open that it nearly touched the dirty floor. Finally realization came to the other airbender when he heard the words 'hundred years ago'. "You're the Avatar!"
"Sure am!" Aang said happily, still on the air scooter.
"But that means… you're an airbender. An actual airbender." The boy said excitedly at the prospect of no longer being alone.
"You are too," Aang pointed out.
The boy nodded his head in disbelief. "I always thought I was the last one," he muttered, Aang wasn't sure if he was actually supposed to hear this comment. "I've been here all alone in this temple for a year or so, and all of a sudden the Avatar pops up." The boy rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "Oh right, sorry about trying to get rid of you when you were chasing me. I always thought that if anyone came here than it would be the Fire Nation."
Aang grinned, "don't worry, I guess I shouldn't have freaked you out." By then Aang had gotten off his air scooter and allowed the ball of condensed air disappear. An even bigger, if possible, smile stretched on his face. "Are there any more airbenders here?" he asked hopefully while looking around the stables as though expecting a dozen airbenders to pop out of the hay and yell 'Surprise!'.
Aang then finally noticed the appearance of the airbender. He was probably around Sokka's age, seeing as he was an inch or so taller than the Southern Water Tribe warrior but had a more lean and wiry build like Aang himself. His short hair was pitch black and seemed to spike upwards as though it defied gravity. Seeing as he was an airbender it made sense, seeing as all airbenders laughed at something as silly as gravity when they were capable of flying.
He had a slight tan that resembled Aang, not as dark as Katara or Sokka, but not as pale as Zuko or Iroh, but enough for to be obvious that he had been in the sun a lot. His sharp grey eyes reminded him of the monks that had raised him, kind yet also filled with experience. But while most, if not all, monks eyes were full of mirth, his seemed to hold something akin to sadness and pain within them.
As for his clothing, the mysterious airbender wore a thick coat to keep him warm in the harsh climate that blew through the ruins of the Southern Air Temple. The coat was black and along with the leggings held a slight similarity to Sokka and Katara's outfit that was good for living in the South Pole. Obviously one could tell it was not made by someone from the Southern Tribe, but it was still similar.
Suddenly Aang could hear the patter of boots hitting the stone, and the second he turned around he saw Sokka and Katara round the corner, both were gasping for breath, their faces flushed from the hard running they had to do to be able to catch up with the airbenders.
Sokka slowly walked forward, his hand still grasped at his side as he felt a stich, "d-don't run off like that again." He managed to gasp out before collapsing against the stone wall.
Katara on the other hand was able to slow down her breathing enough so that she didn't look ready to collapse like her older brother. She turned her attention to the boy. "You're just like Aang."
"Aside from the fact that this kid is younger than me and definitely not a hundred years old, as well as the fact he's not bald, doesn't have tattoos, and doesn't appear to have a giant fluff monster with him," Sokka was quick to add in.
Katara her attention back to the confused airbender. "I'm Katara from the Southern Water Tribe, this idiot gasping on the floor is my brother Sokka. And I'm guessing Aang already introduced himself… what's your name?"
The boy seemed to hesitate before sending a quick look at Aang, as though making sure that he was actually there before saying, "Zhe… My name is Zhe."
"Nice to meet you Zhe!" Aang said happily.
Sokka, on the other hand, snickered. "Sting. Ahaha, that's a good one. Very intimidating, man your parents must have had a field day with that." He said with a wide grin.
Everyone noticed how Zhe's face turned pained, as though he remembered something he wish he could forget. Knowing that Sokka had either offended him, or had brought up bad memories, Katara instantly went into angry little sister mode and whacked the warrior on the head.
"Ow! Katara, what was that for!?" Sokka complained as he rubbed the back of his head tenderly.
"For being an insensitive jerk!" Katara exclaimed as she rounded on her brother. "We have barely meet this boy for five seconds and you've already insulted him or brought something up that we shouldn't have."
"Uh, guys?" Aang tried to gain the siblings attention by standing between them to prevent a sibling brawl. The two Water Tribers turned their attention to the bald monk who grinned cheekily, "Uh, maybe you can just calm down? I think we're freaking out Zhe."
Sure enough Zhe was looking at the transaction with a confused look, as though he wasn't used to see siblings fight the way Katara and Sokka did. Before anyone could speak they all heard a chattering from inside the barn near Zhe.
Zhe broke into a grin as a small nose poked its way out of the old hay, soon a small white snout soon followed. Dark brown eyes blinked at the newcomers in confusion, as though not knowing how these weird people had gotten into the barn.
"Fire Ferret!" Aang exclaimed in joy at seeing the red ferret, seeing as Aang loved animals he was happy to see the cute bright red ferret.
At the same time Sokka began to drool, "Dinner." He muttered as he looked at the ferret and immediately wondered if it tasted like Duck-chicken.
"Aka isn't dinner, are ya buddy?" Zhe asked the ferret who quickly scrambled up Zhe's leg with his little claws before resting on his shoulders, making the ferret look like a fur scarf.
"I have food with me, if you want some…?" The last part seemed hesitant, seeing as Sokka was still drooling everywhere now that he was thinking of Gran-Gran's home cooked Duck-chicken. The instant Zhe said he had food, Sokka snapped out of whatever daydreams he had and instantly gained a new respect for the airbender. "You know what, I think you and I are going to be good friends, Zhe." The warrior said casually as he searched around the old barn, thinking that Zhe had it stashed somewhere.
"It's not in the barns," Zhe said while the other two had sweat drops as they watched Sokka looking around for any meat. "I have it safe from any animals and the elements… including this little guy." Zhe patted Aka's head with a wry grin, Aka merely yawned before nestling closer to Zhe and soon fell asleep.
Zhe started to walk out of the barns, motioning for the others to follow him. Aang kept pace with him the entire time, his questions rushing out so fast Katara could barely keep track. "Where are you from? How old are you? How long have you been to the Southern Air Temple? Have you been to any of the other Temples? Have you ever had a fruit pie? Well I guess you never tried an air nomad fruit pie. Man, do I have a lot to teach you!"
Katara smiled as she watched the Avatar continue to pester Zhe with questions. It looked like coming here had actually been a good idea, staying was an even better idea. While Aang had lost his hone, he hadn't lost his people. There was still one other airbender left, he wasn't alone, neither of them were.
  
It was soon obvious that for how long Zhe had been staying the ruins of the temple, he had been staying for awhile. In the main resident building, Zhe had made a makeshift tent that was big enough for everyone to go inside.
"Hey, this kinda reminds me of our tents." Sokka remarked as he looked around at the spacious tent, though was quick to notice that there were some imperfection regarding the stitching. No doubt Zhe had made the tent himself.
Inside the tent was a makeshift fireplace lined with stones in the middle, next to the dying fire was a sleeping bag where Zhe slept in. Besides it lining the walls were an assortment of dried fruit and vegetables. Zhe explained that he had been gathering some of the wild fruit that covered the tower.
Sokka was quick to notice that Zhe also had a small cache of blubbered seal jerky, which he told the warrior that they were for Aka since he didn't eat vegetables, though he did have a craving for moon peaches.
"Hey, a glider!" Aang said as he walked over to where a glider that looked the same as Aang's was propped against a pole. Aang opened the wings to discover that it was indeed the same type of glider but a little different in weight.
"I had to make that myself, all the others were rotten and spotted with holes by the time I got here." Zhe said with no small amount of pride as Aang handed him his glider. "It took me a couple of prototypes and nearly plummeting to my death, but I got it in the end. Luckily the monks left descriptions of the gliders so I had that to help me."
"Yeah, when we reached the age of eight we were supposed to make our own gliders by ourselves," Aang said as he thought back to the first time he had ever truly flown, he had yet to meet Appa yet. He smiled as he remembered the first time ever experiencing the freedom that flying brought him.
"So, you really are over one hundred years old? You look younger than me, I wouldn't have believed you if you hadn't done that cool ball thing." Zhe said as he looked at Aang, as though still having a hard time believing that a kid who was younger than himself was over one hundred years old.
Aang scratched the back of his bald head sheepishly. "Ehehe, what? I don't look like I'm one hundred and twelve, want to know my secret? Fruit pies and moon peaches," the monk said sagely.
Sokka, Katara, and Zhe laughed at Aang, his brow crinkled and his mouth set in a wise smile, as though he was trying to act like a head monk.
"So, how are you an airbender?" Sokka asked the question that everyone wanted to know.
Zhe was quiet for a moment or so, opting to poke the dying embers with a stick, finally he sighed, "I was born one."
"Well… yeeaaah. But I mean, who taught you? You were doing some pretty cool moves when we first saw you, not to mention your whole super speed."
"I taught myself," Zhe said simply, as though it was obvious. "Who else would teach me? The ghosts of the past?" he gestured towards the outside, and those that now rested there. "The only thing that I had to help me was the paintings on the walls. Everything else was just either instinct or imagination."
"I could teach you." Aang offered.
Everyone looked at the airbender in surprise, Zhe looked almost hopeful.
Aang saw their looks and shrugged. "Weeell, I am considered an airbending protégée as well as a master." He gestured towards his pale blue tattoos. "In order to get these tattoos, one must first master all thirty six tiers of airbending." Now Aang turned a bit sheepish, "Well technically I mastered all thirty-five. The monks considered my air scooter to be so advanced they let it slide. They told me I was the youngest airbender ever to become a master." He said with a wide grin, remembering the day he got his tattoos.
"That's great Aang, you can teach Zhe." Katara said, happy that at least one of them could teach another and to have another learn, Katara would have to wait until they reached the North Pole to find a waterbending master.
Zhe looked at her in shock. "What do you mean? I get it, I'm an airbender, one of the two left. But why do you want me to come with you?" The boy looked down when he said this, as though he was used to being alone.
Aang frowned, as did the two Southern Water Tribers. "Because we have a mission. To go to the North Pole so Aang and Katara can learn waterbending." Sokka explained, his face serious and expression grim. "If they don't learn than the Fire Nation wins. And since the Fire Nation know that, we could use an extra fighter." Sokka grinned, "ever used a boomerang?"
"Zhe, what we're trying to say is that even though we just met there was a reason why we all found each other. Think about it, you could have gone to any of the Air Temples but you chose this one. Aang, you could've left during… well you know. But you stayed and we found Zhe." Katara slowly said as she pieced the pieces together, "I think it was fate. It was our destiny to find each other, like how Sokka and I found Aang." The waterbender declared.
Realization seemed to dawn on Aang as he mulled it over, finally the Avatar said, "She's right. It was destiny that brought us all together."
"Or…" Sokka butted in, never one to believe in spirits and destiny. "It's just a coincidence?" Sokka shrank back at the glare Katara and even Aang were giving him. "Or, I guess maybe a whole bunch of glowy spirits decided to add in a little destiny and fate in there…" he muttered out to appease the two benders.
Zhe couldn't help but smile, "so I can come with you guys? I have to admit it gets a little lonely here with just me and Aka here." He scratched the fire ferrets ears, smiling when he saw the ferret's leg start to move as he hit a certain spot.
"As long as I get this seal jerky," Sokka took a big bite out of said jerky, "an then we're fine." He said through a mouth full of meat."
Zhe glanced over to Aang and Katara. "So, you want an extra airbender on your team?"
Aang grinned, "duh!"
Katara smiled warmly, Zhe felt himself relax, her smile reminded him of his mother. "Of course you can Zhe."
"Than I have one question." Zhe stated, "how exactly are we traveling?"
Aang and the two others shared knowing looks complete with matching grins.
  
"Appa!" Aang cried out as he saw the sky bison, immediately jumping up to lay on his furry head. "Look who we just met, buddy!"
Zhe looked at the ten ton bison in awe. "Woah, a sky bison. I thought they were all extinct."
Appa turned his attention to Zhe and Aka, he sniffed them for a couple of moments before licking Zhe, drenching him in bison spittle.
"Haha," Sokka laughed with a grin. "Try having that, plus bison boogies." He said with a deadpan, remembering his first encounter with Aang's flying bison.
"Don't worry, Appa just had a cold that time, he's all better now. Aren't you, buddy?" Aang asked his friend who merely growled in agreement.
The other three decided to take his word for it, and stared to climb up Appa, though Zhe just jumped once and landed on the saddle. Zhe had packed lightly, only bringing his glider, food, sleeping bag, and of course Aka.
Aka was exploring the saddle with curiosity, Momo flew down in front of the ferret and chittered something while Aka squeaked something in reply.
"Appa, yip yip!" With a small roar Appa quickly launched himself off of the mountain and with mighty beats of his tail they were soon soaring through the air.
The sun had started to set, leaving the four kids in the dark light of dusk. Aang, with Momo on his shoulder, was leaning against the back of the saddle, watching as the Southern Air Temple started to disappear in the cover of the clouds.
As they got father and father away from his home, Aang noticed Zhe looking in the direction of the Temple as well, a sad look on his face as he saw the rest of the Temple disappear.
This is it. Aang realized as he scratched Momo's ears. Everything left of the Air Nomads is us. Me, Appa, Momo, and Zhe. We're all that's left. While that thought alone saddened him, knowing that the Air nomad culture's survival rested on their shoulders, he was happy that he was no longer alone. There was another person, a person Aang would teach all the customs that he learned from the Air Nomads, he would teach Zhe everything he knew, from stances, fighting, and even fruit pies.
He wasn't the alone, not anymore. He and Zhe were the last of the nomads, the last airbenders.
Hope you liked the first chapter of The Last Airbenders. I hope this chapter didn't seem hasty, Zhe's character will become more developed as the story progresses. For those wondering what Zhe looks like and even with the help of my description, he looks like Aang when he had hair, but older and without tattoos, I may sketch him if I find the time. Leave me a Review on how you like this first chapter.