"Water brings healing and life. But fire brings only destruction and pain. It forces those of us burdened with its care to walk a razor's edge between humanity and savagery. Eventually, we are torn apart."
~ Jeong Jeong. The Deserter.
The swarm of girls did in fact turn out to be exactly what Zhe had feared. Fan girls, and a lot of them too.
The second the young Avatar stepped out of the main hut, he found himself swarmed by the girls who couldn't be older than ten.
Zhe and Katara watched as the boy struck up conversations with the giggling girls before they were lost in the horizon. Zhe glanced at the young water bender. "So... What do we do now? Sokka's gone missing in search of those girls, and now Aang has a fan club."
Katara sighed, "I'm going to get supplies. We can't stay here forever, we have to get to the North Pole so Aang and I can master water bending."
Zhe nodded, "I'll met you at the market. I'm going to go check up on Appa."
The two benders, one of water and the other of air, headed different directions. Katara to the market and Zhe towards the stables.
Apparently they weren't the only ones getting the royal Avatar treatment. Zhe found Appa lounging on his side munching the large bale of hay that had been provided by him. His horns were gleaming, showing they had just been polished with the utmost care.
"Hey buddy," Zhe greeted one of the last parts of Aang's and his culture with a wave. Appa grunted a greeting as he continued to chew. Zhe grabbed an apple from the storage and gave it to the sky bison, who growled in appreciation.
Zhe sat on one of his six feet, petting the bison on the snout. Aka and Momo had left to explore the village, knowing Aka and the white furred lemur, Zhe was wondering that even with being part of the Avatar's group would save them from the trouble of the two troublemaking animals would no likely cause.
Zhe decided he may as well head back to the market to find Katara, he met her halfway, carrying two pots of dried fruit and meat. Zhe took one of them without a word. As they walked back to the hut they had small talk. Zhe was interested in Katara's life before finding Aang.
Katara warmly reminisced about her childhood in the Southern Water Tribe, as well as all the trouble Sokka got in when he tried to prove to his father and the other warriors about how much of a man he was.
The end result was the six year old boy being buried neck deep in the snow with penguins pecking at his hair.
While Zhe was laughing at the image Katara finally asked something she had been wondering for a long time, ever since she had meet the boy in the isolated and destroyed temple.
"Zhe... Where are you from? And I mean originally, why aren't you with your parents? Why were you in that temple to begin with?"
Zhe stopped laughing immediately at her questions, pain flashed through his pale face and sadness in his smoky eyes. It left so fast had Katara not been looking so close she would of missed it.
"I'm from everywhere," the boy said vaguely, as though he wasn't even there with her. His eyes were dull as he thought of long repressed memories.
Fire, it was everywhere. Nothing could stop it and it was all his fault... It was because of him everyone and everything was gone...
Zhe felt his eyes tearing up and immediately tore away from the memory. He forced a smile and looked at the concerned water bender.
"I'm was born in a small village, you've probably never heard of it."
Katara frowned, obviously knowing he was hiding something. "But what about-"
She stopped when she saw Zhe walk faster, leaving her behind. Katara sighed, mentally making a note to never bring up his past. For some people it would help them heal, but Katara wasn't sure that would help the airbender.
But the questions were still there. Who was Zhe really?
Katara could tell Zhe was upset even if he didn't shown it. The reason?
Aang had been gone for hours with his horde of fan girls. They had seen neither hide nor hair of the Avatar, though Aang didn't exactly have any hair they still couldn't find him. And since Aang was gone and they couldn't find him, Zhe couldn't learn any airbending moves from the master.
Katara, seeing the boy sulking in the corner even worse than her brother had before, decided to take matters into her own hands. "Come on Zhe, we can practice bending together. We can show each other our moves, maybe we can make some up. While water and air are different elements their forms are slightly similar and maybe the culture shock will help us." She encouraged the sulking boy.
Zhe perked up at this, even if he couldn't learn airbending from Aang, what was the problem with learning with Katara? They were both benders, even if they were different elements, luckily their elements were slightly similar than say fire and water or earth and air. Both elemental katas were both go with the flow, with waterbenders able to use water to forever change course and adapt, the same thing with airbending even though their element was more about freedom than adaption.
The two benders found a good spot for training; it was next to a traditional red bridge that curved slightly as a small river trickled by. Zhe was sitting Indian Style with his glider resting on his knees next to the river watching Katara curiously.
"You push and pull the water like this," she explained as she fluidly moved her hands back and forth, the water had started to move in the same direction.
"That's pretty cool, especially since you had no help," Zhe complimented as he got up and twirled the handmade glider in his right hand.
Zhe went into the same stance Katara had been in, the young waterbender corrected some of the few mistakes until he got it right. The airbender then moved his wrists and elbows the same way Katara did, while nothing happened to the water not that they didn't expect it. The two could feel a breeze forming, soon enough both teenagers could see the breeze thanks to upheaved dirt and grass, with a small grunt Zhe pushed his hands forward and the result was instantaneous.
With the force of a stampeding sky bison, the large gale of wind swept its way across the river and into the forest surrounding the village. Instantly large trees that had to be over half a century old tumbled to the ground with lard resulting crashes. Those that did not fall had limbs ripped off and large cuts appearing through the hardened bark, it looked like a madman had attacked the trees with a sharp sword.
"Woah…" Katara breathed as she saw the destruction, while it wasn't as destructive as say Aang in the Avatar State but it was still a sight to behold. She highly doubted she could do something like that with water; Katara made a mental note that even though air bending was a symbol of freedom it was still a force to be reckoned with.
Zhe lowered his hands, he scratched the back of his black spiky hair sheepishly. "Oops."
Katara rolled her sea blue eyes, "if you get in trouble with the village, I'm not helping you."
"But you're the one who showed me how to do that move!"
Katara raised her finger and shook it in his face, "Ah, ah, ah. I never moved my hands forward in a thrust, that was you. Not me."
Zhe sighed and crossed his arms in defeat. "And here I was thinking you were my friend."
Katara laughed at the male's sullen expression. "Come down, you're more moody than Sokka when he is deprived of anything meat related." She said before tilting her head slightly, "speaking of my brother… Have you seen him? I haven't seen him since we last ate."
Zhe shook his head. "No, I haven't seen him either? You think he's with Aang?"
Katara 'pffted'. "I don't think Sokka would like to be with Aang and his little 'group' of fans. Judging by his comments earlier he's probably trying to find that leader of the warriors who kidnapped us. What was her name again?"
"Suki, I think. I never really had a chance to talk to her, what with the whole village gushing about Aang being the Avatar, though some people were gushing over me for being an airbender." Zhe said for a second the two were silent as they pondered where the oldest of their group had gone off to. Finally, "You don't think he's going to do something stupid, do you?"
"It's my brother, Zhe. When does he ever not do something stupid?" Katara asked rhetorically.
He shrugged, "Well since we don't know where the others are, we may as well train. A bender doesn't get good overnight." Zhe then went into a different stance than the one Katara had shown him. Both arms were raised, with each elbow slightly bent, his palms were spread forward as he slouched back slightly. Katara remembered back when they had first ran into Zhe at the Temple, and how he moved when airbending. Each move was fluid and sure, like the wind itself.
"You want to be as loose as possible," Zhe explained as he slowly swayed in the light breeze, his grey eyes seemed to glow in concentration yet still havening a certain calmness within those smoky grey orbs. "Airbending is freedom, both physically and mentally. When you release the element from within you, it has its own will but will allow you to guide it. You can't control the wind, just like you cannot control ocean as a whole, you may be able to guide it and place your will upon it, but no matter what the air will always be free." Zhe closed his eyes as he breathed deeply, Katara could see an excessive amount of air billowing from his mouth and nostrils. "Even on the inside, within your mind you will always have that sense of freedom, that sense of passion that only those who have flown in the clouds could possibly have. An airbender is always light on their feet, ready for anything. They don't like to be contained and forced to stay in one place, whether it be fighting or playing. This is why airbenders and earthbenders are so different in both state of mind and culture."
Katara listened on with bated breath, she had never realized how much an element could represent itself in a human being, even if said human being was a bender. She had always noticed that out of most people in her village, save the more experienced and older villagers, she had always been the one to adapt the fastest. She was willful and always looking at a problem and thinking of a way for adaption, just like water going through a bamboo forest. While the path may be blocked by the bamboo shoots, water still found a way to flow through. She had also noticed how much alike Aang and Zhe were. Sure Aang was a more innocent and childish than Zhe. But both had the same free spirit as the other, the ability to never stay still for too long, to always be ready to roam and fly. To be free. Like air the two were always quick on their feet, able to fight an attack not head on like Sokka, but able to find a different path, their own path.
"Earthbenders depend on their strong stance for their attacks," Zhe continued on, his eyes still shut as he pondered the four elements and those who could bend them both physically and spiritually. "It is rare for an earthbender to move at all, while it is the exact opposite for airbenders. We depend on our speed and creativity to take someone down, we don't try to control our thoughts to stay still and fight in one spot, we free those thoughts and use them for our imagination."
Zhe reopened his eyes and helped Katara with his normal form, fixing any small imperfections in the kata. Finally once he deemed her form was good enough he went through a technique he had created.
With his palm facing forward Zhe moved his left arm back slightly while the right stayed where it is. "This is a defensive move I made up, I saw a firebender blocking another firebenders attack by batting it away, I decided to use that with my airbending." A small ripple seemed to move through his hands, his loose shirt rippling as Katara realized that he was channeling air through his hands. "Since you're a waterbender you should be able to coat your hands in water, when something comes at you do this."
Zhe batted his right hand to the side, the palm still wide open, a small gust of wind shot out of his hand and had anything tried to strike him it would have instantly been knocked off course and land somewhere else where neither him nor his friends would get hurt.
Katara bended some water from the river to coat her tanned hands, the water rippled just like Zhe's. She held her hands out just like she had seen Zhe do, she quickly moved her left hand to the side as though swatting away a giant buzzard fly, water flew out of her palm like air had gone from Zhe's though it was lesser in speed and size.
Zhe grinned while Katara grinned in satisfaction of getting the jist of the move right. "Alright, I knew you would be able to learn that fast." Zhe got into his own stance from across Katara, "now to try it for real?"
Katara raised an eyebrow, "you mean have an actual fight with actual bending?" She asked, slightly unsure on how to react. She had never fought a real bender before, even when she had meet Aang the closer they had gotten to fighting was during practice and they never dueled it out since neither were sure how an airbender and a waterbender fight would turn out, not to mention that while Aang was the Avatar and a master airbender, he knew practically nothing about waterbending while Katara only knew the basics which she had to teach herself since she was the only waterbender in the South Pole.
"Not an actual fight, more like one of us attacks the other with light blows while the other has to block it, unless you want me to use that move you just taught me," Zhe teased.
Katara rolled her eyes, "And risk being thrown through several trees and all the way across the island? No thanks."
"You defend first while I attack lightly, at least this way we don't have to practice when we get attacked by real enemies," Zhe said. Once the two got into their poses Zhe shot a quick yet soft billow of air at the waterbender.
Katara batted it aside like she had seen Zhe do, to both their shock and satisfaction the air was thrown off track and merely slammed into a protruding rock. "I did it!" Katara cried out, a large smile on her face.
Zhe grinned, "Alright! Now for the next one-" The boy stopped when he heard something off deep in the woods. He unknowingly got out of his kata form and instead tilted his head slightly in the direction of the odd noise.
Katara got out of her kata form as well, seeing as her hearing wasn't as good as the young airbender's she didn't understand why he had suddenly broken off. "Zhe?"
"Shhh," Zhe held up a finger for silence. His eyes clenched in concentration, he could faintly hear the faint screech of something he had no clue as to what it belonged to. One thing was certain though, it was getting closer to them. Then the two felt the ground tremble slightly.
"What is that?" Katara whispered in confusion, before Zhe could share his own confusion the answer was soon revealed to them.
They saw a red and orange blur running down the road, it was Aang. And the reason for his flight was the pack of rabid girls running after the young preteen Avatar. Their screeches and squeals was revealed to be the odd noise Zhe had heard. The two watched with large sweat drops as Aang crossed the bridge the two were near, before running back the way he came when he jumped over the group of girls, who merely continued to follow the bald airbender, their arms waving as though they were trying to grab him. Once Aang had realized that they were still following him he headed back to the bridge but immediately stopped in the middle when another group of fan girls appeared and the young Avatar suddenly found himself surrounded.
Luckily for Aang and unfortunately for the fan girls, Aang had enough sense to jump ten feet in the air and held a ball of condensed air in his arms to keep him hovering well above the young girls reach.
But Aang was quick to realize that his ball of air was getting slower and smaller before it disappeared all together. He fell into the swarm of fan girls, who having now caught him, didn't seem to want to give him up.
Zhe and Katara merely stood on the riverbank watching Aang try and free himself from the iron grip of the seven and ten year olds, but to no success. After a minute or so of watching Aang's failed attempts to escape Zhe turned to Katara, "should we help him?"
Katara pretended to ponder the possibilities, all the while listening to Aang's protests and the giggles of the fan girls. After a minute or so she finally said, "Aang is the almighty Avatar." She said with a smug smile to an equally smug Zhe. "Surely the master of all four elements can handle his own fan club." With that said the happy waterbender turned her back to the still captured Aang and walked back in the direction of the town, Zhe following her. The protests of their friend falling on deaf ears.
After leaving Aang to his fate, the two benders, who looked a lot more happy then when they had first gone into the forest, walked back to the main hut where they found Sokka leaning against the banister.
The oldest out of the Gaang had a troubled expression, his eyebrows scrunched up as he gazed at the statue of Kyoshi, as though hoping to see an answer to whatever question was plaguing his mind in the faded and worn woodwork of the long dead Avatar.
Zhe glanced at Katara before saying softly to her so Sokka didn't hear them, "I got this, go check up on the supplies and make sure Sokka didn't eat all of it."
Katara would have rolled her eyes had not Zhe made a strong point, whether happy or sad Sokka always found comfort in food, usually meat. The younger sister headed into the back of their temporary home to check up on the supplies while Zhe walked up to Sokka and leaned against the same banister, side by side the young South Pole warrior.
"Copper piece for your thoughts, Sokka?" The young airbender asked as he glanced at Sokka, who still looked down. When Sokka ignored him and continued to stare out into the horizon Zhe elbowed him, "come on, Sokka. We may have only just met a couple of weeks ago, but I can still tell when something is bugging you. I'm here to talk to, you know. What with me being an Air Nomad filled with infinite wisdom and guidance as well as a spiritual guide."
Despite his sour mood Sokka couldn't help but snort. "Yeah right, like you or Aang are filled with infinite wisdom. You have never enjoyed the rich and juicy flavor of blubbered seal jerky, while Mr. Avatar can't see the difference between fire wood and blubbered seal jerky."
"When did this happen?"
"Oh, right. You hadn't joined us yet." Sokka said as he rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly.
"And also, need I remind you that both Aang and I are both vegetarians. Though I have eaten meat before," Zhe said truthfully.
Sokka raised a brow, "wait, what?" Sokka couldn't help but grin. "So you do know the tasty goodness of meat, when was this, why wasn't I there, and why'd you stop."
Zhe smiled despite himself. "Well for one, my parents weren't Air Nomads, and I ate meat when I was a kid. Since I was born on the western shore of the Earth Kingdom and you in the South Pole I doubt you could've come. And, I stopped when I realized my heritage." The last part was spoken softly, if Sokka wasn't standing by him he would of missed it.
"What, when you first discovered you could airbend?" The nonbender couldn't help but ask, how else would this kid figure out he was a descendent from the same Air Nomads and airbenders that Aang had once known one hundred years ago.
Zhe shook his head. "No, after that. Back when-," he stopped suddenly, after a second or so he finally said, "back when I first moved to the Temple, I had been alone for a long time so I didn't exactly want to eat Aka and I never knew about Momo until you guys found me."
"Heh, yeah Aka doesn't exactly look that appetizing, he's mostly fur and bones," Sokka joked as he thought of the furry ferret.
"So, you going to tell me why you look like you had just cleaned up from being snot on by Appa?"
"I went to go find those warrior ladies," Sokka said where Zhe groaned.
"Let me, guess. You found them, probably insulted them, and then challenged the leader to a fight." Zhe said bluntly as he looked at Sokka who had the decency to blush. Sokka scratched the back of his head, "Well it may have gone a little like that." Sokka said weakly.
"So what happened?"
Sokka seemed to deflate at the words, he mumbled something unintelligible under his breath that not even Zhe could understand. "Could you say that again?"
"I got my butt kicked, alright!" Sokka exclaimed as he threw his hands up in anger and embarrassment. "I didn't even have a chance, she used my own wrappings to bind my foot and hand."
"Yeah, those warriors are pretty good at binding us," Zhe said as he remembered the day before when said warriors had captured and bound them easily.
Sokka shot him a withering glare before deflating yet again. "…What am I going to do, Zhe?" he asked sadly. "If I can't even beat a girl in hand to hand combat, how am I supposed to help protect you guys against real firebenders? I'm not a bender, I can't use Katara's magical water, I can't run or move as fast as Aang or you, and I can't even bend at all. I'm the one nonbender in a group of benders." The boy said depressed as he realized how much of a disadvantage he was at.
Zhe never knew that Sokka could have such fears, sure the boy was brash, but everyone in their small group looked up to him. Some could even say that he would be a great leader, out of all of them Aang and Sokka seemed to be the leaders. Sokka was the oldest of them, with Zhe a year younger and Katara a year younger than Zhe. Aang was the youngest at age twelve, but since he was technically one hundred and twelve and the Avatar so he was the official leader of the group, but everyone would listen to Sokka if he had a good idea.
"Well for one, you could apologize to Suki." Zhe advised, "maybe if you're nice she could teach you some moves. You know Sokka, just because she's a girl doesn't mean she can't kick butt and win." Zhe smiled slightly as though remembering a fond time. "My mother, she wasn't a bender like me and my dad. But she wasn't afraid to make sure we stayed in line. My dad was the greatest bender of all time, he wasn't an airbender though," Zhe added quickly when he saw Sokka's question in his eyes. "But he was absolutely terrified of mom when she got angry."
Sokka was silent for a minute before he asked a question that had been asked by Katara earlier today. "Zhe… where are your parents?" he asked cautiously, knowing that Zhe's past was something that was considered off limits, but he was too curious. "They weren't in the Temple when we found you, and even though I'm not the best person to talk about parents, I know that neither of them would let me wander the world if I was an airbender, it'd be too dangerous."
Zhe chuckled, but it wasn't a warm one like he usually did. Instead it was cold and bitter, Zhe looked at him and Sokka noticed his smile didn't seem to reach his eyes. "You're right, Sokka. It isn't safe being an airbender, especially since one would think that you were the Avatar, what with the one who disappeared being an airbender, the last airbender…"
Sokka looked at the boy with growing dread in his gut… why did he have a feeling that Zhe's past wasn't a nice one? Sokka nearly winced at the coldness and empathy in Zhe's grey eyes, no longer the color of smoke but more of hardened steel.
"Someone found out… didn't they?" He swallowed, "Someone who shouldn't have."
Zhe felt the tears forming, felt them flowing down his pale cheeks, but he paid them no mind. He just stared at the statue of Avatar Kyoshi. "Yes. And it was my fault," Zhe managed to choke out. Zhe looked at the sympathetic Sokka, pure fury and the need for revenge burning in his blazing eyes, nearly making Sokka flinch at the sight of the raw emotions coming from the normally happy and sometime empathetic Zhe. "And because of me, my parents were killed right in front of me."
Katara stood in the doorway of the balcony, tears threatening to spill from her sea-blue eyes. Zhe had never seen Katara cried, Spirits he never cried. Yet just telling them small pieces of his former life and he was reduced to a tearful mess. Katara's hand was covering her mouth, she stepped forward towards him.
That was when Zhe cracked. He couldn't deal with this, he shouldn't have said anything. No one knew about his past, he had never let people get close to him before running into these guys. He never wanted to tell people what happened, didn't want to hear people say it wasn't his fault. It was his fault. If he had just been born normal, maybe a nonbender, none of this would of happen. His parents wouldn't have been killed because of one slip up, he wouldn't have witnessed the destruction of his village and home. Zhe backed up, memories of the Event replaying in his head. For one wild second Zhe found himself surrounded by the burning homes of his village, familiar dying grey eyes locking into his own. He could still hear her, his mother's dying voice. "Run!"
Zhe did just that, he grabbed his glider that had luckily been leaning against the banister next to him. Before the two Water Tribe siblings could as much as blink the young airbender was already soaring through the air heading to Spirits knew where, since neither were airbenders they couldn't follow him, unless they got Appa.
The two stood shell-shocked at the turn of events, they had always suspected deep down that something in Zhe's past turned sour. But they never realized that it could have been that bad. But both knew, especially Katatra, what Zhe was going through.
They had lost their mother to the Fire Nation who had come looking for the last waterbender that had managed to elude them since the Raids, their mother had protected her youngest and declared herself the last waterbender in the whole South Pole.
By the time Katara returned to their tent with her father hot on her heels it was too late, she was already gone as was her killer.
It was at that moment that Aang strolled in. "There you two are!" He shouted happily, his normal exuberance seemed lost upon the two. It took a moment for Aang to realize something was wrong. His eyes flickered towards each sibling before noticing someone was missing. "Hey, where's Zhe?" Aang asked confused as he looked around for his fellow airbender but to no success.
"We don't know," Katara said breathlessly as she looked into the direction that Zhe had flown to, "he ran off."
"Uh, did something happen? You guys don't look that good," Aang said in concern for his friends, never had he seen them so upset, even Sokka looked a little misty-eyed.
"What are you doing here, shouldn't you be with your fans?" Katara asked harshly, normally she wouldn't have shouted at the innocent Avatar but it was obvious that all her anger at Aang not being the 'simple monk' and with Zhe's past being somewhat revealed to them, she was a bit angry at the moment.
Aang shrunk back at the venom in Katara's voice. "Uhhh, okay something definitely happened. Does this involve Zhe?"
"His parents were killed, Aang." Sokka said softly, whereas Aang stiffened and gasped, his grey eyes getting misty.
"W-What?" Aang asked, his voice breaking, he had always wondered where Zhe's parents were… but to know they had been killed… No wonder Zhe never wanted to talk about his past.
"Right in front of him."
Aang was now openly crying, he may have been a master airbender at the tender age of twelve, the Avatar, master of all four elements, the spiritual bridge between the Spirit World and their world, but he was still twelve. He wasn't even a teenager, he hadn't realized how much the war affected him. The only times the war had ever really affected him in his new life was when he and Katara explored the Fire Navy ship and Zuko attacking the village in order to capture him. But nobody had died during that. He didn't realize then, maybe because of his youth and innocence, but war did take people away. It took Zhe's parents away.
"Where is he?" Aang asked after he calmed himself down, his tears had left and he instead had a look of determination, he would help his friend, whether or not they had just meet, Zhe had become a part of their small tightknit family.
"He went north," Katara pointed in the direction Zhe had gone in. "You can use your glider to catch up, we'll get Appa." The three then split up, with Aang in hot pursuit of his friend and Katara and Sokka rushing to get to Appa.
Aang found Zhe at the shore. The airbenders back was to him, his shoulders slumped and heaving slightly. Aang stepped forward hesitantly, not knowing if Zhe would try to bolt again.
"… What do you want, Aang?" Zhe asked hoarsely, his voice raw from crying.
"Why didn't you tell us?" Aang asked sadly, as he sat down on the rock Zhe was sitting on. "You could have trusted us. We're your friends, Zhe. And friends stick together."
"Because you guys didn't need to know," Zhe muttered under his breath, his cheeks still wet from the tears that had been locked within him for so long. "I didn't want to be the pity party, what's done is done. I can't bring them back, I can't go back in time, and I still can't save them." Zhe slumped even further. "Its all my fault."
Aang patted the teen on the back, never having been in such a situation. "Hey, its not your fault." Aang said with steel laced in his tone, his eyes just as hard. "Never say it's your fault. Don't blame yourself or think of bad memories, it'll just tie you down and drag you into an ocean of despair."
"The monks taught you that?"
Aang managed a small smile, "Monk Gyatso."
Zhe twitched a small barely noticeable smile before sinking back into his depression. "Aang, you may be the Avatar and know more about certain things than I do, but you're wrong about this." Zhe looked at Aang, grey meeting grey. "It was my fault. I was never allowed to bend without one of my parents watching me and always in the safety of the compound. Since you were still in a block of ice back then, nobody knew what happened to the Avatar, the last airbender." Zhe looked out into the horizon, his eyes fixed on something.
Horror and pain filled Aang, he felt as though some great weight had been placed on his and dragged him down. "They thought you were the Avatar." He suddenly realized.
Zhe was quiet before nodding his head. "They were so sure, and why wouldn't they be? I was the first airbender to pop up in a hundred years, they didn't wait to make sure. They just decided to burn down my village, kill my family and friends, before coming after me." Zhe's hands clenched into tight fists. "And you know what I did, Aang? When I saw for the first time the killer of my people, my nonbender mother, my aging and rusty bending father?" He asked the bald monk softly, Aang shook his head in negative. "I ran." His fists trembled before Zhe stood up abruptly. "I RAN!" Zhe punched the air in frustration, creating a large whirlwind to form in the ocean. "I was a coward, I should have done something, anything! But I ran," Zhe was crying again, but he couldn't help it. "I ran… I ran…"
Aang felt like crying too, Zhe didn't deserve that. It was Aang's fault, not Zhe's. He was the one who had ran, if he hadn't maybe he could of helped fend off the Fire Nation, then a hundred years later nobody would attack Zhe because he thought he was the Avatar just because he was an airbender.
"Zhe, if you hadn't run away you would have been captured and probably killed." Aang said in hope he would calm the teen down and maybe help with the guilt. "What you're feeling is survivors guilt, I know that running away isn't always the best way, but for this situation it was." Aang placed his hand on his shoulder, idly wondering if being the Avatar had the perks of calming down teenagers who had their childhood and innocence ripped away from them.
"Maybe I should of stayed, maybe I could have taken at least one of them down with me," Zhe muttered darkly.
Aang's eyes widened, since he had been taught by the monks he never believed in killing, especially for revenge. But Zhe hadn't been raised by the monks, he had to pretty much raise himself after his parents were killed, and this war didn't help matters. Zhe probably had no one to rely on until they had popped up, Aang couldn't understand the pain of living alone with only Aka for comfort in the ruins of your people, knowing that the killer of your parents and people still walked the land. Aang wouldn't have sought for revenge, but would Zhe?
"Zhe, I know your upset and I can totally agree with you, Spirits I actually understand you better than you know. But revenge never ends good, by the end when you try to dig their grave your just making your own."
"You don't understand, Aang. I need to kill the man who ruined my life, I have to. I owe it to my parents, I need to avenge them. The town I lived in was a peaceful town, it was small and never caused any problems. I was just born in it, and I destroyed it." Zhe shook his head. "I know people say revenge isn't good, but for me it's the only way for me to achieve peace within myself. I can't let my parent's sacrifice be in vain."
Aang sighed, "Just promise me this vendetta wont consume you." He pleaded, his doe-like grey eyes seemed to widen to enormous lengths, making it impossible for Zhe to refuse his request. "… Sure." Zhe chuckled, "I probably never will get revenge, I don't even know who the man was. I just remember his face."
"You need to be cheered up!" Aang said brightly, his inner Air Nomad coming out. "Whenever I was in a bad mood, Monk Gyatso would always make fruit pies. I bet we could whip some up, I'm sure we could find the ingredients at the market.
Zhe couldn't help but chuckle, the tears were gone, evaporated by Aang's sunny personality. "You know, this is the first time I've cried in six years. You probably think I'm a wuss now."
Aang shook his head fervently, "No way. You're one of the strongest people I know, and I have Appa." The younger airbender exclaimed as he warmly thought of his large fuzzy life companion.
The two turned their heads when they heard a low familiar groan, Appa had landed on the shore. Katara and Sokka quickly hopped off. "You found him!" Katara said as she rushed towards the airbenders. She quickly gave Zhe a hug, who was too emotionally drained to do anything, and gave Aang a hug as well.
"Never run off like that again!" Katara couldn't help but mother hen.
"Katara, he flew off, he didn't run off."
Katara whacked Sokka on the elbow, "Be quiet, Sokka. Just because you have the sensitivity of a sea prune doesn't mean we all do." The young Waterbender scolded her brother who just grumbled under his breath.
Despite feeling as though he had been torn apart emotionally Zhe couldn't help but chuckle, only those two Water Triber's bickering could make him feel better.
Katara placed her hand on Zhe's other shoulder, Aang still had his hand on the other, and looked at the boy with warmth in her bright blue eyes. "You don't have to tell us what happened," she whispered to Zhe though the entire group heard her clearly. "You seem to think that we'll judge you, for what ever happened, but we wont. I understand that you don't want to say anything. But we're the same. All of us have lost loved ones to the Fire Nation… I saw my mother die before me too," Katara said as a stray tear went down her cheek. "We're your family, Zhe. You, me, Aang, and Sokka, we're all a family now. You don't have to be alone anymore, none of us do."
Zhe nodded his head, a small smile twitching at his lips. Aang held his arms as wide as he could, his eyes sparkling as he looked at the huddled group with a wanting look. Zhe rolled his eyes at Katara who smiled at what Aang wanted before having a group hug, Sokka joining in before Katara could yell at him. All of a sudden the four were suddenly drenched in spit as Appa's huge tongue managed to lick them, their protests and Aang's laughter ringing on the shore.
Several days had passed since that incident that had ended up with Zhe finally feeling at peace within himself, at least as much as he could with the thought of his parent's murder still on the loose. Zhe had finally started to get closer to the others much faster than he had before, back before the incident he had always been a bit weary due to his years as an orphan airbender during the War, but now that he had friends, a family, he felt himself slowly healing.
Perhaps it had been the fruit pies, Zhe thought with a small chuckle as he fondly remembered when Aang had decided to show him what he deemed one of the most sacred arts of the Air Nomad culture.
Aang and Zhe were in a small kitchen that had been granted to the Avatar and his friends by a humble and honored chef, Aang had humbly bowed to and thanked the man for his assistance for allowing them to use the kitchen as well as the ingredients.
"Now, my dear young pupil," Aang started to say with the air of a wise and aged monk, even though he was already covered head to toe with flour, even though they had yet to get the flour out for the fruit pies.
Zhe sighed in exasperation. "Aang, I'm technically older than you biologically." He reminded the young Avatar who was indeed technically younger than him, the fact that Zhe was easily a head taller and more broader in the shoulder than Aang also served as a good point.
Aang scowled at the airbender's jab and pointed his finger at Zhe accusingly, "But I'm technically one hundred and twelve years old. Just because I was in a giant hunk of ice doesn't mean I can't say I'm older. I am." Aang finished with a huff.
Zhe laughed before giving Aang a deep and exaggerated bow. "Oh, excuse me Master Aang, oh mighty conqueror of the elements. Don't annihilate me with your baking skills!" The airbender pretended to quiver in mock horror and fear.
Aang's scowl was instantly wiped away as he laughed, his sides aching. Zhe soon followed, and anyone passing by would of thought the last airbenders have gone crazy.
"So, how do I make the esteemed and iconic fruit pies of the Air Nomads?" Zhe asked Aang who was already getting out chicken duck eggs and goat cow milk from the ice cooler and was balancing them in his arms, his tongue sticking out in concentration.
Aang beamed at Zhe. "Just watch the master do his work!" The boy exclaimed happily as he double checked all the ingredients, when he saw that they had everything he clapped his hands and rubbed them eagerly. "I feel like I haven't had a fruit pie in years…" Aang laughed as he realized something, "Or I guess you could say a whole century."
"Well I've never had an Air Nomad fruit pie in my whole life," Zhe reminded Aang, "Though I did learn to never put Flaming Fire Flakes in a pie and put it in the oven."
"What happened?" Aang asked Zhe curiously, remembering the spicy flakes that were so hot they were capable of even a nonbender to breath fire even for a short moment due to their hotness back when he had them one hundred years ago when he visited the Fire Nation, then a peaceful country, with his friend Kuzon.
Zhe winced as he remembered before scratching the back of his head sheepishly, making his unruly spiky hair even more unruly, "Well for one it kinda… exploded," He said somewhat lamely. "My mom was not happy to see the kitchen in ruins, my hair nearly on fire, my eyebrows singed off, and the pie I had tried to make sticking to the ceiling."
There was a moments pause… And Aang was suddenly on the ground laughing so hard he was clutching his sides as he rolled left and right, his feet kicking at the air as he struggled to regain his breath.
Zhe's eye twitched. "It's not that funny!" He defended himself with a huff, refusing to look at his friend who was still laughing at him!
Aang choked a little as he tried to regain his breath, after a moment or so Aang cracked a grin at his fellow airbender. "It is funny!" He crowed as he tried to stifle the giggles while Zhe glared at him. "Remind me whenever we're in an evil firebender's kitchen, we'll leave him a surprise in his pie." Aang cocked his head to the side before his smile nearly cracked his face, "Hey, that rhymed!"
Zhe resisted the urge to bang his head against the stone wall. "Do you ever take anything seriously?" He asked the bald monk with a dead pan.
Aang cocked his head to the side again as he pondered that. "Uhh, not really."
"Perfect," Zhe muttered with a small groan.
Aang got back to his feet as he had the air hit his back and raise him up. Brushing his robes that were still covered in flour the young airbender looked at the other airbender before grabbing an odd assortment of fruits of different shapes, sizes, and colors.
"Hmm, what flavor should we do?" Aang mused as he inspected the fruits with a critical eye, as though he was picking a prized racing ostrich horse. He looked at Zhe, "What flavor do you want?" He asked with a smile, "A new taster should always have a say in the most amazing thing he will ever eat in his life."
Zhe shrugged his shoulders, "You can pick. You actually know what flavors the Air Nomads had back then, so you should pick. I don't care as long as I get a slice."
Aang snapped his fingers when he decided. "I got it! We'll do a Moon Peach and a Lychee Nut pie!" he turned his head to Zhe, his eyes wide and twinkling with barely concealed joy and excitement. "Ready to learn more about your airbending roots?"
Zhe grinned despite himself, "You bet!"
The dark-haired teen couldn't help but chuckle as he fondly remembered how Aang taught him how to bake a traditional Air Nomad fruit pie. From how long to keep it in the oven, how to use airbending to keep the crust nice and flaky, and of course using airbending to make the fruit custard stand up with its traditional swirl.
Despite being careful, the two airbenders did make quite the mess. It was hard to airbend in such a small room surrounded by flour and other ingredients that would fly away at the most gentle of breezes. Still the two had fun, the only thing that could have been funner was penguin sledding, but seeing as Zhe had never gone only Aang knew the joy of riding a penguin down a sheer slope, Aang promised his friend that once they were done in the North Pole they would find more otter penguins and ride them in the North Pole. Surely Sokka and Katara's sister Tribe had fun too, right?
What happened after the pies were baked and cooled was the best part for them, for Sokka not so much.
Aang and Zhe had carried the two pies out of the kitchen and into the main hut they were staying in with utmost care, making sure that nothing would ruin the baked perfections they were holding in their hands. Nobody tried to get in their way, though a couple turned their heads in the direction, either at the airbenders themselves or the heavenly scent that wafted throughout the village due to the pies.
Once they reached their temporary room Aang motioned for Zhe to place his pie on the window still next to his own, the pie Aang was holding was a pale yet somehow elegant violet color, the smell of baked moon peaches wafting into the room. That with its golden crust nearly made the two salivate at the thought of nibbling into the delectable pies.
The pie Zhe was carrying was dark red, or crimson in Zhe's opinion. Like the other pie, the dark red custard was raised in the air due to airbending and was still suspended in its form, the whole cream was swirled and seemed to keep its airbending roots within the desert itself. The smell of baked Lychee Nut was nearly enough to have Aka and Momo (who had entered the room the second they smelled the pie) into trying to devour both the pies.
"So, now what? Do we just eat it?" Zhe asked Aang who still looked like he had something else up his sleeve.
Aang used his airbending to cut two large slices out of the Lychee Nut pie before turning around to face Zhe. "There is another part of the traditional and sacred art of pie baking, and that is this." Aang whispered in Zhe's ear about the other piece, Zhe's eyes widened before his grin matched Aang's.
Zhe grabbed the Moon Peach pie and placed it on the table with the two slices of Lychee Nut pie, the rest of the dark red pie still rested on the window still.
"One," Aang stated as both benders started to channel wind to their palms.
"Two." By now they both formed a large ball of condensed wind within their finger tips.
"Three!" Aang yelled and both benders let their air balls fly and watched them hit the Lychee pie, sending it flying into the sky thanks to the boost of the airbenders. Zhe and Aang rushed to the banister and watched the dark spot high in the sky start to get bigger and bigger as the pie started to descend.
"I have a really good feeling about this, Katara." Sokka was saying to his younger sister as they walked back to the hut they were staying at. "I'm going to ask Suki if she can teach me, surely if I apologize she'll let me, right?"
"I don't know, Sokka." Katara said worriedly, "They aren't like Aang and Zhe, their culture doesn't revolve on forgiving that much, and even I wouldn't forgive you that easily if you weren't my brother. I don't want you to get hurt. Maybe you could ask Aang to apologize for you since you're, well you know, not good at apologizing?" She added weakly when Sokka sent her a glare.
"I don't need Aang. Besides he and Zhe are doing some sort of Air Nomad bonding thing, probably mediating or something weird and boring like that," Sokka said with a wave as his hand.
Then the two Water Tribe members heard something, Sokka suddenly realized that there was a shadow on his even though he wasn't near any trees.
The pie crashed into Sokka, covering the young warrior head to shoulder in the creamy red custard. Almost immediately Aka and Momo appeared and tried to lick off the residue of the pie. "Ahh! I'm bleeding!" Sokka cried as he tried to scratch off what he assumed was blood before looking at Momo and Aka. "Ah, Momo and Aka are vampire bats, but in furry form!" The boy cried out as he tried to shoo the animals off of him, unknowingly opening his mouth and his tongue hitting his flailing hand. Sokka paused as he tasted the red substance, "Hey, wait a minute…" Sokka licked his hand, smacking his mouth as he tried to figure out the taste. Realization struck him, "This is some type of berry sauce!" He declared aloud.
Katara resisted the heavy urge to hit her boneheaded brother. "Something falls from the sky and douses you in a mysterious red substance and you just lick it off of your hand!" The girl yelled at him in disbelief.
"Well I'd like the option," Sokka started to say before he heard a familiar laugh high above him, joined in by another familiar voice. Once again realization struck the boomerang user. Sokka's tanned face turned bright red, if he had been a firebending then the custard covering him would have been boiling and melting off of him. "AANG! ZHE!"
The two airbenders immediately stopped laughing, both looked at each other before Aang yelled, "RUN!" And with that the two airbenders disappeared a small puff of cloud and a trail of dust the only remains of their existence and where they were headed.
Nonbender or not, Sokka gave chase to the two, all the while yelling how when he caught them he would show them just how much pain a nonbender of the Southern Water Tribe could give to them.
Luckily the two monks had managed to calm down the fuming Sokka and offered him the olive branch, which was in the form of a slice of pie. The food lover immediately forgave them when he had a bite, declaring that they could make as many pies as they wanted too, as long as they changed the target to Katara instead of him.
Katara immediately whacked the boy on the head while Aang and Zhe laughed.
Zhe felt something furry crawl up his arm, a little pink tongue licked his cheeks while Zhe scratched the back of Aka's ears, the little ferret purred as he hit a certain spot.
"Zhe!" Aang suddenly ran into the room, a broad grin on his face, "Guess what!?"
Zhe raised a brow at the energetic airbender. "Please tell me it doesn't involve fan girls and that marble trick," He sighed wearily.
Aang shook his head, "No something else. Sokka's wearing a dress!"
"Sokka… In a dress?" Zhe tilted his head in confusion, "Did spending a century in that block of ice mess up something in your head?"
Aang ignored the jab and instead pointed at a lone dojo high up the mountain, "Looks like Sokka took your advice. He went to go see those Kyoshi Warrios and they agreed to show him how to fight, but he still has to wear the dress and make-up."
Zhe laughed at the thought of Sokka in the forest green garb complete with fan and make-up, it did give him a funny sight. Zhe grabbed his glider and spun it around a couple of times before the orange fabric showed, "I'm going to go fly, this place has some great currents."
Aang gave the boy a wave, "See ya later, Zhe."
Zhe nodded before taking off and rose into the air. He circled around the small village a couple of times, some of the villagers pointing at him in awe, before turning around and heading towards the highest mountain.
After a couple or so minutes of flying Zhe arrived on the summit of Mount Kyoshi, a small smoothed slab of rock protruded from the tip of the summit. Zhe landed there before getting down and sitting in a meditative form, his glider resting on his knees.
Zhe felt the sunlight hitting his face and inhaled, enjoying the warmth of the sun. For awhile he merely sat there almost in a trance, his form relaxed and free of any tension.
Zhe opened his eyes and took in the view, since he was at the highest point on the island he could see everything. From the small collection of huts that formed the village they had been staying in, he could even faintly see the stark white fur of Appa in the distance, the ocean surrounded him, and he could see the bay where they had arrived in.
He understood why the Kyoshi islanders wished to stay neutral, none of them really had any ties to either the Fire Nation or the Earth Kingdom and the Water Tribes, and none of them would really come here. While a beautiful island, they only had enough resources to feed themselves, no army would think of wasting soldiers to take this lone island when they have their own mortal enemies to worry about.
Zhe suddenly tensed when he saw something in the bay, a large something rising from the water, its form serpent-like and it seemed to be shaking as though trying to throw something off.
Deciding to investigate Zhe leapt off of the mountain range as he opened up his glider, thanks to his downward momentum and having no headwinds the young airbender managed to reach the bay in record time, anyone on the ground would of merely seen an orange blur.
What Zhe saw terrified him. A monstrous serpent creature with scales as dark as night and golden gills had emerged from the bay, when Zhe saw the dorsal fin he realized that was what had chased him and Aang out of the bay barely a week or so ago. With eyes that seemed to burn into him, the creature, which Zhe realized had to be the Unagi, was intelligent and looked furious.
Aang was currently hanging on one of the whiskers of the beast for dear life, his yells echoing throughout the bay. Glancing down Zhe saw Katara standing at the coast, Zhe snapped his attention to Aang when he saw that the Unagi had managed to shake the Avatar off.
"Aang, grab on!" Zhe yelled as he swooped down, his hand held out to grab the quickly falling Aang.
Aang reached for Zhe, their hands met but Aang's hand slipped out of Zhe's grasp.
"AANG!" Both Zhe and Katara yelled as they watched him fall, Zhe quickly swooping down after him.
Aang hit the water with a sickening splash, he slowly floated back up, clearly unconscious. Katara immediately started to try and wade into the ocean after him. "Katara! Don't! I got him!" Zhe yelled towards the waterbender while the Unagi screeched in triumph and rushed towards the downed twelve-year-old to make him its dinner.
"Oh no you don't!" Zhe swooped down towards the unconscious Aang, the Unagi not that fall behind, it was only luck and skill that Zhe reached him first. He grabbed Aang by his pants and used all of his airbending skills to send him back into the sky.
The Unagi reared its head, now eye level to the conscious and unconscious airbenders, Zhe quickly dodged the quick bite that would would've eaten both of the whole and rushed towards the beach, the wind stinging his eyes and he silently willed his glider to go faster.
Katara pushed at the water, sending a large wave that managed to slightly push away the Unagi, allowing Zhe to land in the beach. Katara rushed over to Aang, who wasn't breathing.
"Zhe, we're not safe here!" Katara said as the Unagi growled at them, Zhe grabbed Aang and piggy-backed him towards a large formation of rocks, Katara close behind him.
The Unagi screeched in fury of losing its prey, large and deadly jets of ocean water erupted from its maw, with the force to destroy a house the water crashed into the rock, which was luckily well fortified to stop the attacks.
Zhe quickly laid Aang flat on his back, his eyes wide in panic when he realized that Aang hadn't even moved and he wasn't even breathing. He quickly looked frantically at Katara, "Can you do anything?"
Katara leaned over the unconscious boy, she closed her eyes for a second as her hand trailed from Aang's stomach, up his throat, and a small amount of water floated its way out of his mouth. For a second nothing happened, then Aang started to hack and cough.
Aang slowly opened his eyes to see the relieved benders bending over him. "K-Katara?" He asked, his voice hoarse from the salt water. "Don't ride the Unagi. Not fun."
"I need to put a bell on you," Zhe said as he shook his head, "Make sure you don't do something so stupid again."
Aang slowly focused on him. "Zhe?" Aang managed a small smile, "You saved my life."
Zhe chuckled. "Thank miss waterbender over there, she managed to get the water out of you. I just got you out of the water, though I was nearly made into a snack for that Unagi."
"Thank you," Aang said wearily, completely exhausted from the whole ordeal.
Zhe glanced over the rocks and saw the Unagi going back into the murky deep, he immediately gasped as he saw the unmistakable form of a Fire Nation cruiser making its way to the beach. "I don't want to alarm anyone, but there is currently a Fire Nation battleship making its way towards us."
"What!?" Katara gasped as she came to Zhe's side. Her eyes widened when she saw the familiar ship. "Zuko!"
"It's a long story, Zhe. We'll tell you about it later," Katara said worriedly as she realized why Zuku was here. For Aang.
The two watched as the ship docked at the beach and three komodo rhinos lumbered out, soldiers on their back. The three were silent as they heard them riding above them, Aang tried to move but Zhe and Katara pushed him down. "Not yet, Aang." Zhe hissed as he heard the rumbles of the mounts, "There are too many of them and you almost just became a snack for the Unagi."
"They're going to the village," Aang said with wide eyes, "It's Katara and Sokka's village all over again."
Aang tried to stand up but Zhe pushed him down, Aang glared at the boy but was met with a glare of equal ferocity. "You're hurt, Aang. I'll deal with this. I was too weak when the Fire Nation burned down my village, but now I'm stronger and I can fight back. I don't want anymore orphans and refugees to be created, I don't want anymore me's… I can do this." And with that said and done Zhe grabbed his glider and flew after the Fire Nation soldiers.
"Come out, Avatar! You can't hide forever!" Prince Zuko yelled from atop his Komodo Rhino, two others flanking him with benders and nonbenders on them.
The normally boisterous village had turned into a ghost town as the villagers saw Fire Nation soldiers for the first time ride into their home. They watched from locked doors and windows, waiting for the Avatar or the Kyoshi warriors to save them.
"Find him," Zuko commanded his men, who ushered their beasts forward.
Suddenly there were flashes of green and gold, and the men were thrown from their mounts. The Kyoshi warriors had arrived.
Suki rushed towards Zuko, who used his fire bending to try and kill her, but with speed and agility that would of made Zhe and Aang proud she managed to easily dodge it. She leapt into the air, her fans poised to knock the banished prince from the mount, but the Komodo's tail hit her and sent her crashing into the ground.
Zuko shot another fire blast at the downed warrior, but she was saved by none other than Sokka, who was decked in the traditional Kyoshi Warrior dress and makeup, though he was now short one fan as he had used it to stop the fire blast.
Before Zuko could do anything he suddenly found himself on the ground, another warrior had jumped off the roof and kicked him in the chest, sending him crashing into the ground.
Suki, Sokka, and the other warrior surrounded the prince, who used his upper body strength to twist his feet in a full circle, sending the warrior crashing into the house, Suki into the post, and Sokka on the ground.
By now most of the village houses had caught on fire, black smoke billowing everywhere. Zuko glanced around to see that Aang had yet to appear, "Nice try, Avatar. But these little girls can't stop me!"
In reply a large gust of wind smacked into his chest sending him crashing into a house. Zuko got back up a little sore for wear but nothing he couldn't handle, his hands now covered in the deadly flame that was his element he turned in the direction he knew that the Avatar was in…
But instead of seeing the young little bald monk with the tattoos, he instead saw a young boy a year or so younger than him with dark spiky hair and pale skin, no baldness and no tattoos. What caught his attention was the staff in his hand, similar to the Avatar's.
"If you think you can just raze a village to the ground without me stopping it, well you got another thing coming to you!" The boy exclaimed his grey eyes seemed to be miniature storm clouds as he looked at the disgraced prince.
"Who are-" Zuko started to say before the strange newcomer suddenly took a larger than possible breath before breathing out, a huge gust of wind erupted from his mouth, blasting the prince back into the house, burning timber falling on him.
With a cry of fury the timber exploded as Zuko stood up, flames erupting from his mouth as his anger got the best of him. He glared at Zhe, his amber eyes burning as bright as the sun that gave him the ability to bend fire.
"Aang was raised by the monks, he was taught that violence was always bad and never fight to kill or hurt," The boy said before looking at Zuko with a leveled glare, "But I wasn't raised by the monks."
Zuko's eyes, one nearly closed, widened as he realized what the boy was saying. "You… You're an airbender?" He asked, disbelief ringing in his tone.
"What gave it away?" Zhe spun around in a circle, his hands on his staff as though it was a bat, he swung and a large arc of wind headed towards Zuko who managed to jump high enough to dodge it.
"How is this possible," Zuko said as he circled the airbender who followed his movements, his staff ready to either defend or attack. "I spent three years looking for the Avatar, an airbender. How did I not find you?" He asked more to himself than to Zhe.
"Did you try the Temples?" Zhe asked sarcastically.
Zuko glared at him, "It doesn't matter. I know you exist now, once I capture you I'll go after your fellow airbender, and once my father sees that not only I captured the Avatar but the last of the airbenders, I will have my honor back!"
Zhe faked a yawn. "Are you done yet?" He asked with an air of boredom.
Zuko growled before shooting fire at him, the size easily around the size of the rocks they use for catapults.
Zhe jumped up into the air and spun his glider around in a circular motion, allowing him a couple seconds in the air, before Zuko kicked upwards and a large wave of fire came towards him.
Suddenly water from the barrels rose and hit the fire, steam rose and covered the battle scene for a couple seconds. When the steam had disappeared the two benders saw that it had been Katara who had come to Zhe's rescue.
"Thanks for the save," Zhe said to Katara who, while panting slightly at bending such a large amount of water, looked proud of herself. "No problem, Zhe." She said.
"Well, well, well if it isn't the Water Tribe peasant," Zuko sneered at the bender who glared at him with hatred in her bright blue eyes, he was the one who had attacked her village after all and now he was doing it again.
Zuko punched his right hand and a large torrent of fire came from his knuckles, the large ball of fire headed straight towards Katara before it was thrown off track by the timely whack of Zhe's staff.
"Katara, go make sure everyone is safe, I got this," Zhe told the girl who looked like she wanted to protest before she nodded her head and dashed off into the burning homes, making sure everyone had gotten to safety.
"I don't know why you want Aang, but he's my friend. And I don't let Fire Nation take my friends," Zhe told the boy who could only be older than him by about a year, Zhe's eyes were squinted in concentration, for some reason that he couldn't put his finger on it, the attacker in front of him looked familiar.
Zuko clenched his hands into tight fists, fire taking the shape of daggers. Zhe held his staff tightly, for a second there was only the sound of burning timber before a wind started to breeze through lightly, sending dust swirling.
Both benders charged forward at the same time, Zuko's hands held as though he was about to stab Zhe with his fire daggers, Zuko swung his hand but Zhe dodged it. The tip of the fire dagger nearly nicking the spikes of hair on his head.
Zhe twirled his staff, but Zuko managed to move his head at the last second, preventing himself from getting whacked in the head, but that didn't stop Zhe's foot from colliding into his jaw though, for added effort Zhe had channeled air to help blast Zuko backwards.
Zuko fell to the ground with a dull thud, his helmet falling off his head and bouncing a couple times before rolling face up. Zuko pushed himself up and balanced on his hands as he used both his feet to kick towards Zhe, a large torrent of fire was unleashed and headed towards the young bender.
Zhe sucked in a large amount of air before blowing it out, the wind effectively putting out the fire.
Zuko's one good eye widened when he saw one of his most powerful and deadly attacks be stopped by something as simple as breathing, that and the dull ache of his ribs that signified they may have been broken. He stumbled to his feet, his arm pressed against his side.
"You're different from the Avatar," Zuko said through gritted teeth. "Your fighting style is different, more direct and forceful."
"I told you, I wasn't raised by the Air Nomads, you wiped them out, remember?" Zhe said with a scowl. "I had to learn my own way, I won't hold back like Aang."
The two benders stopped their fighting, instead both just looked at one another, both gazes calculating as they tried to plan their next, and final, move.
Zhe rushed towards the crowned prince, his staff held high in the air, Zuko rushed forward as well, fire burning in his palms. Zhe swung downwards while Zuko punched, the two elements of air and fire collided and immediately an inferno of deadly size and ferocity was created.
Both benders were thrown backwards, Zhe hit the ground and rolled over a couple of times before he slid to a half, Zuko on the other hand collided into a ruined house.
Both benders were gasping for breath, Zhe's hand slowly twitched towards the staff at his side.
And then suddenly Appa appeared above them, "Zhe!" They could faintly hear Katara yell to the airbender, "We have to go!"
Zhe threw his glider into the air and jumped and grabbed the sides, he flew up to Appa and landed in the saddle. Everyone was on the bison, Aang guiding the giant bison while Katara and Sokka were huddled in the back, Momo and Aka sitting on their laps.
Immediately Aka chittered something and rushed towards his friend, Zhe smiled wearily as Aka licked him. "Hey there buddy." Zhe and the others glanced down to see the still burning village below them.
"It's all my fault," Aang stated, tears forming in the great pools of his eyes. His eyes focused on the burning statue of Avatar Kyoshi.
"You did the right thing in leaving. Zuko would have killed everyone had we stayed, they're going to be okay, Aang." Katara assured the distraught Avatar.
Aang looked ahead for a second before something flashed in his eyes, and the next thing the others knew was that Aang had leapt from Appa's head and was heading towards the bay that sheltered the Unagi at the speed of an arrow.
"Please tell me he didn't just jump off Appa," Zhe yelled as they rushed to the edge of the saddle, they couldn't see Aang as he had disappeared underwater.
The water where Aang had dived in rippled, and suddenly the Unagi itself emerged from within the ocean, its serpent like body nearly as high as Appa. And on its head was Avatar Aang who held the two whiskers as though they were the same reins he used for Appa.
With a great deal of effort Aang pulled the whiskers back and a large jet of water erupted from the Unagi's maw, dousing the burning village and effectively putting out the fire.
The Unagi reared its head and Aang went sailing into the air, only to be caught by Appa.
Aang climbed up his spirit companion's flank and sat down on the saddle, dripping wet from the ocean. "I know I know," Aang started to say as he sat down. "That was stupid and dangerous."
"Yes, it was," Katara said though she was smiling. Suddenly Katara lunged forward and engulfed the boy in a hug, Aang breathed a sigh of relief though Zhe was the only one to notice the blush.
"So, where are we going next?" Sokka asked Aang as he looked at the map. "Are we going to go to Kangaroo Island like you planned?"
Aang thought for a second before shaking his head, "No, I don't want to see if the wallaby's have evolved into giant man eating rodents. I think we're done with the small detours."
"So, then where are we headed to next?" Zhe asked before looking at his burned clothes that had been scorched by Zuko. "Please tell me it's a place I can get some new clothes."
"Don't worry, this city has it." Aang said beaming at them. "Its one of the greatest cities in the world, its an Earth Kingdom stronghold that I used to visit a hundred years ago. We're going to the city of Omashu!"
So, how did you like the little look into Zhe's past. More will be explained as the story progresses, what happened? Who are Zhe's parents? Who killed them?
Hope you liked my version of the Warriors of Kyoshi, which is one of my favorite episodes of the whole series. And for those wondering, no Zhe and Katara will not be paired. I'm a die hard Kataang fan, Zhe and Katara will have a close relationship though.