Three years later…
The screening room was packed. Not that Korra was surprised — this was a special occasion. Not only was it the mover finale, there were some very important guests in the audience. Varrick had taken special care to ensure the royal family, his mover stars, and their friends, got the best seats in the house with all the munchies and drinks they could want.
Korra hadn’t gotten the center balcony seats, but she had gotten ones just to the right of them, and those were pretty good, too. The royal family’s insignia marked exactly who got the center seats.
Well, that and the burst of flame coming over the balcony’s edge.
“Kaja!” snapped the exhausted voice of Iroh’s wife. “No! You don’t do that inside the theater!”
“But I make big fire, Mommy. See?” He did it again.
“No, no big fire! Sit down!”
Korra could hear muffled laughter from the audience below, no doubt all the parents who had already gone through the three-year-old stage. There was sympathy mixed with vast relief that it wasn’t their kids trying to burn the place down.
Of course, Asami laughed, too. Maybe Korra just didn’t get the kid thing.
At that moment, the lights dimmed, and the mover’s opening theme song began to play.
Who’s gonna fight for friends and freedom? Nuktuk!
He’s the biggest, baddest, bending-ist man I know.
Who’s got a feisty new partner? Nuktuk!
Fighting dragons on a vol-cane-o!
When people are in trouble, he’ll have no hesitation!
He’s Nuktuk, hero of the Fire Nation!
Asami leaned into Korra’s shoulder. “This is so exciting. Thanks again for bringing me along.” Korra nodded and patted her hand. Just then, a server approached and offered them both a tray of finger foods. Korra took a meat-bun and bit into it.
“Whatever you do, don’t eat the peppers,” Bolin warned, taking a meat-bun as well.
“Oh don’t listen to him,” Tenna corrected taking a breaded pepper and dipping it into a dark sauce. “They’re delicious. Especially dipped in chocolate.”
Asami made a disgusted face, which made Korra laugh. Mako raised an eyebrow at all four of them, but especially at his brother when he stuffed the entire meat-bun into his mouth. “Isn’t Izumi having big banquet afterwards?”
Detective-man Mako at it again, criticizing without actually criticizing.
“Umm hmm,” Bolin mumbled between chews.
Back on the screen, Shiro’s voice blared:
“When we last left Nuktuk, he and Empress Fusa had discovered the location of the enslaved Fire Nationers hidden within the catacombs of a great volcano. But that wasn’t all they found. Their arch enemy, the evil dragon lord, Eliadon, was also there. He had been using the Fire Nationers to help him build an ultrasonic mind-control device powered by volcanic energy, which he planned to use to rule over the entire human race! Fortunately, Nuktuk managed to damage the device with his waterbending but not before his companion Fusa was turned against him!”
Korra leaned over, whispering in Tenna’s ear. “You know, I have to admit when you first told me the plot for this thing, I was a little skeptical. But this is actually pretty good.”
Tenna smiled. “Some of the best stories are based on fact.” Another server came by with a tray of wineglasses. Varrick’s special imported vintage from the Earth Kingdom. Korra took one and sipped at it curiously. Tenna politely refused.
Below the balcony, the crowd gasped and awwed, drawing Korra’s attention back to the screen. Shiro’s narration was complete for now, and the mover headed into the thick of the plot.
Nuktuk pulled Fusa into an embrace and kissed her, snapping her out of Eliadon’s mind control. When Nuktuk pulled away, the tattoo on her forehead glowed.
“No!” Eliadon roared. “It cannot be!”
“Is that…” Nuktuk asked expectantly.
Fusa nodded. “The seventh secret.”
“Unlock all the power you like! It will not save you!” bellowed Eliadon as he breathed out a powerful flame.
“Look out!” yelled Nuktuk, bravely dodging aside with Fusa, avoiding the fire. But the dragon’s attack weakened the already unstable ground they were standing on, and it crumbled away. Nuktuk leapt, managing to catch the edge of the rock with one hand while Fuse clung hard to his other. The two dangled over surprisingly realistic-looking lava.
“Nuktuk!” cried Fusa. “I need you to let go.”
“What!” Nuktuk gasped.
“Just trust me, okay?”
Nuktuk released his tenuous grip, and the two fell. Eliagon laughed manically as the two heroes dropped out of sight and churned up an explosive plume of fire.
“But no!” cried Shiro. “Can this really be the end of our heroes?”
A dragon growled, right on cue.
The crowd gave a collective gasp as a female dragon wearing Fusa’s tiara emerged into view from the great lava pit, Nuktuk clinging to her neck, unharmed.
“No! That’s impossible!” Eliadon gasped in horror.
The second dragon stomped down hard with her front feet, then reared back her head and snarled. Fusa’s voice resonated, loud and threatening. “Behold my true form!”
In the center balcony, Izumi sat back, rather enjoying herself. As “dragon Fusa” came on screen, little Kaja squealed with delight and stood up in his seat. “Mommy! Mommy, look! It’s Flare!”
Iroh’s wife shushed him gently. “That’s right, sweetie.” In her arms, Kaja’s baby brother, Shyu, started to whimper. She shifted the toddler in her arms, trying to pull Kaja back into his seat.
“Here, I’ll take him, hon.” Iroh offered, lifting his younger boy and whisking him out of the room before he started wailing. Meanwhile, Izumi rested a hand on Kaja’s shoulder.
“Kaja, dear, come sit with Grandma.” The little boy flopped down into her lap. Beside her, Zuko offered the little boy a sweet from one of the trays, making Kaja giggle with delight.
Izumi raised an eyebrow at him. “Really, Dad?”
“What? I’m not allowed to spoil my great-grandson?”
She had no good response other than to ignore him. Thankfully, Iroh’s wife made that a bit easier when she leaned over and asked quietly, “So what ever happened to the rest of the combustionbenders?”
“Those that could be rehabilitated moved on,” Izumi whispered. “The children were all adopted into loving homes, and the adults were helped to find jobs all across the nation. Those that couldn’t recover… stayed on here to serve in the royal guard.”
“And the facility? Was it destroyed?”
Izumi pressed her lips together. “The lower levels were. But the rest couldn’t be. Those airbenders were smart and built the place under 100 Year War memorials. But don’t worry, I’ve found another use for it.”
Izumi nodded. “I’m turning it into an orphanage.”
Iroh’s wife nodded curiously at this insight. “What a clever idea.”
“It was Bolin’s idea, actually.” Izumi didn’t mind giving credit where it was due. “In fact, part of the proceeds from this mover are going to help fund the project.”
There was a long, “Oooh!” from the crowd below, and Izumi turned her attention back to the mover. Shiro’s voice echoes across the theater.
“With their enemy defeated, Empress Fusa and Nuktuk travel to Ruby Valley to speak with her mysterious teacher.”
“..this is my sifu’s cave,” said Fusa, still in dragon form as she lowered her head to the ground so Nuktuk could dismount. “I’m afraid I must go the rest of the way alone.”
“Will I ever see you again?” asked Nuktuk, tearfully. Fusa nuzzled him and makes soft dragon noises.
“Take care, my love. I’ll never forget you.”
Inside the cave, Fusa dipped her head respectfully to a shadowed figure.
“I have returned, Sifu.”
“So I see…” Izumi’s voice resonated as a female Volcat stepped from the shadows. “You have done well, child. But I’m afraid your quest isn’t over just yet.”
“I don’t understand. I unlocked the seven secrets.”
“I sent you on this journey to discover who you are. You may have discovered your real form, but power alone doesn’t define who you are. It is your deeds that do this. I wanted you to learn this yourself before the time came for you to decide.”
“Weather you want to stay a dragon or sacrifice your power and become human permanently.”
The volcat climbed down from her ledge, and walked to a shallow pool. Fusa turned her great head to gaze at her reflection.
“You’re going to have to choose, child. The woman, or the weapon…”
Back at a Fire Nation dock, the mayor of the city shook Nuktuk’s hand.
“Thank you for everything you’ve done, Nuktuk. Where will you go now?”
“Where ever I’m needed, sir.”
“Well, good luck to you.”
Nuktuk took one last longing look behind him before preparing to board a ship with Juji and Roh-Tan.
“Don’t be sad, Nuktuk,” the panda-dog said.
“Yeah, you’ll always have us.” Juji piped up.
“Yeah, I know.” Nuktuk sighed and looked up at the clouds.
“Nuktuk!” a familiar voice called behind him.
Nuktuk turned and his face stretched into a grin. The woman Fusa stood on the shore waving a hand over her head. She was dressed in a simple Fire Nation dress, her hair unbound and wafting gently in the wind. Without her tiara, the mark of her sifu showed clearly on her forehead.
They ran to each other, Nuktuk scooping her up and spinning her around.
“You came back!”
“Of course,” said Fusa. “We both know you’d be helpless without me.” She leaned up to kiss him but Nuktuk pulled back.
“Wait. Before anything else happens…I need to ask you something very important.”
Fusa looked genuinely confused. Started to ask a question, but stopped. “What is it?”
Nuktuk knelt and held up a small box, a gleaming sunstone ring inside. “Will you marry me?”
Fusa’s eyes widened in surprise. Real surprise. Gasps and coos sound from the extras.
“Are–are you serious?” Fusa asked, her voice shaking a little. Nuktuk stood and looked her directly in the eyes. “I’ve never been more serious in my life.”
Fusa’s eyes teared.
“Yes,” she sobbed. Then she threw her arms around Nuktuk’s neck. “Yes, I will!”
Nuktuk cried a little, too. Then he swept Fusa up into his arms and kissed her.
The extras clapped and hooted. Varrick’s voice piped up calling, “Way-ta-go, tiger-bear!”
The Fire Nation audience joined in, clapping as the screen went dark.
Bolin dabbed a tear from his eye. “That part gets me every time.”
Korra smirked. Mako nudged Bolin in the shoulder. Asami sighed, “Oh, that’s so romantic.”
Tenna smiled fondly. “That’s my husband. A hopeless romantic with no subtlety whatsoever.” She patted his hand. Bolin entwined their fingers. Then he stood, pulled her to him and swept her up into his arms bridal style.
“Yes, I am,” he said and kissed her in front of everyone.
“For the last time,” Varrick said, following up behind the royal family as they filed out of the balcony seats. “It’s not a bribe.”
He held up the same packet of free passes to the Little Ba-Sing-Seh Hot Springs he’d been trying to give her right before the mover started. “Think of it more like an… incentive.”
“I’m telling you, Mr. Varrick,” said Izumi firmly, “that my country has no such thing as the ‘Royal Family Seal of Approval.'”
“You’re the Firelord! You can invent one!” Seeing he was getting nowhere with Izumi and that Iroh more than had his hands full with Shyu and Kaja, Varrick turned his sights on Zuko.
“How about it, Lord Zuko? Old people love hot springs, right?”
Zuko shrugged. “You could say I don’t quite get the enjoyment out of it that most people do. But thank you for the offer. You may quote me as saying the mover was… not unpleasant.”
“I’ll take it!” Varrick said, then finally walked off, presumably to go bother some other important people for quotes.
Izumi rolled her eyes. “What an annoying, obnoxious–”
“Oh, give the young man a break,” Zuko said, waving her off. “He’s just trying to make his business work. And he’s right. Most old people are quite fond of hot springs.” He glanced over at Iroh, whose wife had excused herself to the ladies’ room when Varrick approached. Not a bad strategy. But now Kaja was insistent on walking himself down the precarious steps, while Shyu was wiggling in Iroh’s arm so much, one would think the baby was trying to hurl himself towards extreme bodily harm.
“Daddy! Daddy! I hungry,” Kaja whined. “I want snacks.”
Iroh stared at him in wonder. “How can you want snacks after all you ate in the theater?”
“My belly says I want snacks, so I do.”
“Let me hold him,” Zuko volunteered, indicating Shyu. “We’ll meet you down in the banquet hall.”
Iroh was more than happy to take his grandfather up on the offer and handed baby Shyu over. He made his way down the steps while Kaja fired off a chorus of, “…and steam buns, and fire crisps, and red fish, and steam buns, and…”
Zuko smiled and walked Shyu over to the window, pointing out all the people exiting into the crisp night air. The balcony where they stood was sealed off from the public, leaving it empty except for Izumi and her father. He lifted Shyu up to his face, pressing their cheeks together. Izumi joined him at the window.
“Are you ever angry about it?” The question slipped out of Izumi’s mouth without her even realizing it.
He lowered Shyu from his face. “Angry about what?” he asked, which was rather annoying, since he knew perfectly well what she was referencing.
“Angry about what Aunt Azula did to you.”
“Ah, that,” he said. She thought at first she was going to give him an answer, but instead he rubbed noses with Shyu and said in a singsong voice, “Who’s a cutie little Fire Nation prince? You are! That’s right!”
Izumi sighed, but there was nothing she could do except wait. Maybe she shouldn’t have brought the topic up at all. It was taboo when she was a child; no reason things should change now.
“I was angry,” Zuko said without warning. “When Mai and I first discussed having a child, I was so angry I couldn’t sleep some nights.”
Izumi fell still.
“I kept thinking… my wife and my sister will get to hold this child, to feel her warmth in their hands. And I’ll never experience that. I’d hold you, of course, but it wouldn’t be the same thing.”
He brushed a tuft of Shyu’s dark hair away from his eyes. “Then Mai became pregnant. And I was the one who told her.”
Zuko smiled at her. “I sensed you inside your mother before even she knew. I’m sure she suspected at that time, but I could confirm it. I could bring my hand near your mother’s womb and sense your tiny heartbeat. I sensed the shape of your body… so tiny, but so very much alive.”
He exhaled slowly, savoring the sweetness of the memory, “At that time, I thought, no father has ever experienced what I am experiencing right now. And I found the space for forgiveness. My life is different now that it would have been. But I can’t focus on the might have beens. The future is more important.”
Izumi nodded and looked outside. The crowds had thinned now. Most everyone had left as was off to their daily lives, though a few lingered around discussing the mover, some with grand gestures to indicate the more exciting scenes.
“I can’t even imagine…” she said, only half-conscious that she was speaking aloud. She tried to put in her head what it would feel like to sense the movement of an unborn child with her bending, and it wasn’t registering. Maybe it was just something only her father would ever be able to do.
“Do you think… I could ever do something like that?” she asked.
Zuko shrugged. “Who knows? I imagine you’ll find out sooner rather than later.”
“Sooner rather than…” Izumi narrowed her eyes at Zuko. “Dad, what are you–”
“Bah, let’s get down to that banquet,” Zuko said, completely cutting her off. “My belly says I want food, so I do.”
Izumi knew there was only one person that her father could possibly be talking about. But it wasn’t like she could just ask Tenna that sort of question. She was the Firelord, after all, and she didn’t just cut into other people’s personal business like that.
Still, she was curious, and in what was quite possibly one of the most infuriating seating arrangements she’d ever dealt with (aside from that time she had to sit next to Prince Wu at a world leader meeting), Zuko was right next to Tenna at the one end of the table and Izumi was on the opposite end. The table was just long enough to put Tenna out of Izumi’s bloodbending range, and since the servants were doing quite literally everything, she had no good excuse to stand up and walk down there, either.
“And then,” Korra was going on next to her. “Asami said, ‘what if you powered the razor with electricity?’ And then Varrick said, ‘That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.’ So then Asami said, ‘Then you won’t mind if I patent it.’ Which she did. And now she’s inventing it. And izz gonna be awesome.”
“Korra, I think you should give the Ember Island wine a break,” Asami pleaded.
“No way! I’m just getting started! Now, let me tell you about the time…”
One of the servants tapped Izumi on the shoulder. “Pardon me, your highness, but the young lady,” he motioned to the opposite end of the table, “wanted to know if she’s free to stroll the gardens while we’re waiting for the final course.”
“Will it be long?” Izumi asked, puzzled.
The servant looked red in the face at this remark. “It seems the young prince was, um… rehearsing his considerable firebending skills on, erm… on the cake.”
Izumi stifled a smirk. Calm, professional, royal. “Tell Tenna she’s welcome to take a walk in the gardens. I’d actually like to join her.”
OHMYGOSH!!! Izumi lending her voice to Varrick’s mover to send a message is just precious!!! And Tenna is pregnant? And Izumi learns a new (benevolent) bloodbending skill (that is not like making lungs breathe after almost drowning)? And Varrick trying to get good reviews from famous people is absolutely hilarious and soooooo Varrick! (I really don’t want the story to end) but as so many peopple say with the series, not to be sad its over but happy that it happened. and I am SOOOOO happy that you have written this story!!! <3
Thank you–glad you’ve enjoyed reading it. There’s a still two chapters to go–mostly just closing stuff up. We are working on one more story in this series. 🙂