The story opens in the city of Yu Dao. A large crowd is gathered outside the administrative building; citizens of the Fire Nation are gathered on the left, while those from the Earth Kingdom are gathered on the right. The view cuts to the front of the Fire Nation side, where Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph, and a few Air Acolytes stand with Iroh; all are wearing fine dress robes. Aang is speaking to Iroh.

Gurihiru - For this ceremony, we had residents from each country wearing costumes from their cultures. Katara is wearing her hair in a Water Tribe hairstyle.

Aang Zuko was such a big part of making this happen. Too bad he couldn't join us today!
Iroh Ursa and her family are visiting the Capital City for the first time since her exile. Fire Lord Zuko needs to be there to support them.
Katara How did your tenure as the Interim Fire Lord go, Iroh?
Iroh [Enthusiastically.] I had much more fun – and more tea – than I had expected! The National Tea Appreciation Day was a rousing success! But it only made me miss my little teashop all the more.
Katara You'll be going home soon, I hope?
Iroh Oh, yes! Attending this is my last bit of official business! Afterwards, it's back to Ba Sing Se for me! [Turning his head to the balcony of the building above.] Looks like they're ready to make an announcement!
Kori Morishita, wearing a mixture of clothing displaying both the red of the Fire Nation and the green of the Earth Kingdom, stands on the balcony and addresses the crowd.
Kori Citizens of Yu Dao, the election results are in! Please welcome your city's new coalition government!
As she steps back, the four newly elected representatives step forward, waving as the crowd below cheers in celebration. The view cuts back to Toph, standing next to Aang, who is clapping with the crowd.

Gene Luen Yang - With two citizens from the Fire Nation and two from the Earth Kingdom (one of whom is Kori Morishita's mom), the government that eventually becomes the United Republic Council gets underway!

Toph Fire Nation alongside Earth Kingdom ... You really think those people will get along well enough to govern this place, Twinkle Toes?
Aang [Still clapping.] They've got to. Yu Dao's the example. The remaining colonies are all trying to set up the same system.
The scene changes to later, as the group walks with the crowd down a crowded hallway. Sokka's hand strays to his stomach as he talks to Iroh.
Sokka Ah, my favorite part of any celebration--the banquet!
Aang, who up until this point has been walking with Katara, turns his head and sees, off to his left on the other side of the hallway, a tall person dressed in the robes of an Air Nomad. Curious, he hangs back to ask one of the Air Acolytes a question, pointing across the hall as he talks.
Aang Hey, Xing Ying, is one of your friends coming late?
Xing Ying No. Everyone who's supposed to be here is already here.

Gurihiru - Xing Ying is a character who was introduced in The Promise. Since we based her design on Avatar Yangchen, the two looked much alike.

Aang, turning back toward the far wall, sees the mystery person still standing there, waving at him.
Aang Hm. I'll be right back. [Tries to push his way through the stream of people.] Excuse me! Sorry! Excuse me, please! I'm trying to get-- [Unable to find a way through, he backs out to where he started.] Eesh. [With a sudden 'whoosh' of air, Aang rises above the crowd and rides a cushion of air over the heads of the shocked crowd.] Coming through, right above you! [Restores a hat to its former position with his airbending after accidentally knocking it off.] Oops! Sorry about that!
The mystery woman walks through the courtyard outside as Aang flies through the entryway, following and trying to get the person's attention.
Aang Hey! Are you an Acolyte? I don't know if we've ever met before--Where are you going?
The person makes no reply, but climbs the stone steps toward the top of the city wall, Aang still following, now riding on a ball of air.
Aang Wait up!
At the top of the steps, overlooking the mountainous country behind, the figure stops and faces Aang, perched atop his air ball as he talks to it.
Aang Hop on my air scooter! I can take you to join the other Acolytes--
The figure lowers its hood and Aang cuts off mid-sentence as he recognizes the person to be Yangchen, who is wearing the necklace bearing the emblems of the four nations around her neck.
Aang [Shocked.] Avatar Yangchen!

Gene - I loved discovering bits and pieces of Aang's past lives in Avatar: The Last Airbender. We got to see a lot of Roku's life, some of Kyoshi's, and very little of anyone else's. Yangchen in particular intrigued me. She came from the same culture as Aang, but her advice to him in the episode "The Old Masters" was so coldly pragmatic. I always wondered what she might've been like when she was young, and what experiences molded her into the Avatar she became.

As he watches her, she points off into the distance, a sad, almost desperate look on her face. Her lips try to move, but, no sound comes from her mouth.
Aang [Drawing closer to her, worried.] I can't hear anything you're saying! I don't understand--
To his further distress, Yangchen begins disappearing, right in front of him. Aang tries to reach out to hold on to her, but his hand meets only air.
Aang No, no, don't go! Yangchen!
She vanishes, and Aang is left with his hand outstretched to nothing, confused and upset by the vision. The scene cuts to later in the evening; in a long room with a high ceiling lit by both flame and green luminous crystals, the banquet is underway, waitresses in white walking the aisles as the people sit at the long tables, no longer seated by the nation to which they belong. At the head of the room, at a table above the rest, sit the new representatives and Iroh. The gang, save for Aang, is seated at a table as well. Sokka, his mouth full, turns to talk to the Air Acolyte sitting to his left.

Gurihiru - There are a lot of scenes where people are eating. We don't draw the plates until the inking stage, and we add food when we color. We have fun setting out the various dishes.

Sokka Oh man, Yu Dao's gotta make brand new governments more often! My mouth is so happy right now! Yee-Li, you gotta try the turtle-duck!
Yee-Li No, thank you. The Air Acolytes follow the ancient Air Nomad practice of vegetarianism.
Sokka [Unfazed, continuing to eat.] Sorry to hear that. Your mouth is missing out on a whole lot of happiness.
Meanwhile, Katara, sitting across the table from Sokka and Yee-Li, talks to Toph, who is seated on her right.
Katara How are things at the academy, Toph?
Toph [Picking her teeth with her fingernails.] Good, I guess. I've got so many lily livers--er, students--these days, I had to make a bunch of earth tents outside the school just to house 'em all. I wanna expand the building, but we don't have the money.
Sokka [Still eating.] Why don't you charge tuition? With all those students, you'd be richer than the Earth King!
Toph [Lazily flicking a piece of food off her finger.] The Beifong Metalbending Academy isn't that kind of school. I don't want it to be a business. We're doing something new, you know? Something important. I mean, I didn't charge Aang tuition. I'm not about to start now.
Katara [Looking around.] Speaking of Aang, has anyone seen him?
As she stands and goes to find Aang, looking worried, Sokka calls after her.
Sokka Nope. But when you find him, tell him he's got to reconsider that vegetarian thing. His mouth will thank him!
The scene changes; a pair of close-up shots focuses first on the totem of the Air Nomads on Aang's meditation beads, followed by the beads of sweat rolling down Aang's head, his eyebrows furrowed in intense concentration. As the shot retreats outward, Aang is seen sitting down while holding the beads in his hands. He looks down at them anxiously.
Aang [To himself.] Nothing.
He closes his eyes, trying again to connect with Yangchen. The shot retreats further, revealing that Aang is sitting on the balcony where Kori and the representatives stood hours before; light pours onto the porch through the ornate, large doors behind him, which are swung fully open. Katara is suddenly beside him.
Katara Aang! What're you doing out here?
Aang [As Katara sits down beside him.] On the way here, I saw Avatar Yangchen in the crowd.
Katara Yangchen ...?
Aang Yeah. She was four Avatars ago, the airbender Avatar before me. She was trying to tell me something, but I couldn't hear her voice.
Katara So you've been trying to contact her through your meditation beads.
Aang [Looking down at his meditation beads.] I can't get through for some reason. Meditating just hasn't been going all that well lately.
Katara [Putting a hand on his arm as he closes his eyes.] Sweetie, I'm sure it's important. But if you can't do anything about it right now, come inside. Celebrations like this are important, too.
Aang [Suddenly straightening up, his eyes wide; he hits his head with his palm as he exclaims loudly.] That's it! Celebrations, of course!
The scene jumps back to the grand hall where Aang, having walked up to the gang, stands behind the Air Acolytes, a smile on his face as he looks down at them.
Aang Air Acolytes, clear your schedules tomorrow! We're going on a field trip!
As Yee-Li's face breaks into a look of euphoria, Sokka stares at Aang, taken aback; Toph sits in her chair, leaned back, listening indifferently.
Jingbo and Xing Ying [Simultaneously.] Yay!
Aang [To Sokka.] You guys are coming, too!
Sokka [Dejected.] Aw. I was hoping to visit the Yu Dao markets tomorrow morning. I need a new bag.
As Sokka finishes, Toph burps loudly. The scene changes to Appa flying over the ocean; it is the day after the banquet and the gang is sitting in Appa's saddle, Aang at the reins.
Aang Man, you guys are gonna love this!
Sokka [Sighing.] Doubt it.
Katara Oh, cheer up, Sokka. I'll help you shop for a new purse when we get back.
Sokka [Looking irked.] Not a purse, a bag! A manly, manly bag. To carry my manly, manly things.
Toph We'll be sure to find one that matches your manly, manly belt.
Not paying the debate behind him any attention, he continues talking to the Acolytes, who are leaning eagerly over the front of Appa's saddle, listening to him.
Aang Today's one of the highest holidays on the Air Nomad calendar: Yangchen's Festival! It's also one of the funnest! It hasn't been celebrated in over a hundred years! And with everything that's happened, it might have been completely lost to history if Yangchen herself hadn't reminded me last night.
Xing Ling Avatar Aang, please tell us more!
Jingbo Where are we going?
Yee-Li And what are we going to do?
Toph, behind the group of Acolytes, has her head turned in their direction, a somewhat unsettled look on her face.
Toph Those Acolyte kids are super nice and all, but don't they seem awfully ...
Katara Eager?
Toph Yeah.
The view switches back to Aang. As he describes the festival, images of his memories of the festival appearing to coincide with his words.
Aang We're going to a cliff overlooking the ocean, where there's this giant statue of a beautiful woman! That's where Yangchen's Festival begins!
A shot of airbenders riding both gliders and sky bison near a tall statue on a cliff appears appropriately in the frame.
Aang We'll gather together and bow four times, as a sign of respect.
Their bison in the background, the Air Nomads of the past, gathered in a group, stand at the foot of the statue, their heads bowed to it.
Aang Then we'll walk down the cliff to a secluded meadow, playing traditional Air Nomad music along the way!
The group is shown leaving the statue behind, walking and playing instruments as a few lemurs fly with them. The shot switches abruptly back to reality, where Yee-Li has withdrawn a pair of cymbals from her pack.
Yee-Li [Happily.] Oh good! I brought my cymbals!
To everybody's immediate distress, she clangs the instruments together; all but the Air Acolytes cover their ears, wincing as the harsh noise resonates through the air. Aang continues with his explanation.
Aang When we get to the meadow, we'll eat a ceremonial Air Nomad meal!
A handful of monks and students sit on large, circular mats under a few wide-spreading trees, eating and talking. Toph suddenly interrupts Aang; she is standing upright in the saddle, looking in his direction.
Toph Let me guess: Tofu, veggies, and not a lot of salt.
Aang [Enthusiastically.] Yep!
Toph [Sarcastically.] Spectacular.
Aang continues once more with his exposition.
Aang Afterward, we can visit an island just off the coast, where Monk Gyatso used to take me and the other kids to fly kites. The winds there are perfect!
The monk and a large group of children stand on the side of a gently sloping hill; some are holding their kites, some are airbending them through the sky, while still others are watching the kites. In the foreground, Gyatso shows Aang, holding his own kite, a technique for maneuvering his crane-like kite.
Aang I even packed an Air Nomad kite with our stuff!
Katara [Watching as the thrilled Acolytes examine the kite; she seems confused.] Where's the string?
Aang Why would you need a string?
A single flashback shot shows Aang, standing next to Gyatso, concentrating as he airbends his kite through the breeze.
Xing Ying Oh, it all sounds so wonderful, Avatar Aang!
Aang [Tearing up, remembering the past, speaking more to himself than to her.] It'll be more than wonderful. It'll be the way things used to be, if only for a day.
Jingbo [Pointing excitedly into the distance ahead.] Look, everybody! We're almost there!
Cut to the ground, where the gang looks up at the statue, its head surrounded by a few cranefish.
Xing Ying She's more beautiful than I'd imagined!
Jingbo Wow!
Aang [Seeing a cranefish on the statue's head, he runs toward it, waving.] Hello there, Mr. Cranefish! Happy Yangchen's Festival!
Jingbo What a beautiful creature!
The cranefish opens its mouth and a harsh, grating sound emanates from its throat, causing Yee-Li and Xing Ying to cover their ears.
Yee-Li Beautiful but noisy!
Aang They're pretty common around here.
Sokka [Noticing something, pointing to his forehead.] Huh. I thought it'd be a statue of Yangchen, but this lady doesn't have an arrow on her forehead. Who is it?
Aang To be honest, I'm not sure. The festival's supposed to celebrate Yangchen's defeat of a powerful dark spirit.
Sokka She's the dark spirit?
Aang No ... I don't think so. The Air Nomad elders used to tell the story every year, but I'd always miss it because I was flying kites with Monk Gyatso.
A quick flashback to Monk Gyatso; the sun behind his head, he speaks to Aang while holding Aang's kite.
Gyatso You'll have plenty of time to learn the intricacies of Air Nomad history when you're older.
Sokka Isn't it a little weird to be bowing when you're not sure who it is you're bowing to?
Aang Well ... that's just what you're supposed to do for the holiday. That's just how it's done.
The frame zooms in on Toph, standing next to Aang, the words "That's just how it's done" echoing in her head as her eyes widen. The scene suddenly flashes back to the past; Toph, her parents standing next to her, is in a cemetery, facing toward a tall, worn headstone.

Gene - After I signed on to do these comics, Toph quickly became my favorite character to write. Mike, Bryan, and their writing team made her so vibrant. I can close my eyes and hear her voice. We didn't include her in The Search for narrative reasons, but I really missed her. I'm glad we got to throw the spotlight on everybody's favorite blind earthbending master here.

Toph But why do I have to bow to that giant slab of rock?
Lao Beifong Young lady, that's just how it's done.
Another flashback; Toph stands awkwardly in a shop. A man kneeling next to her works on the right sleeve of the new dress she is wearing. Her parents stand in front of her, watching.
Toph [Miserably.] But why do I have to wear this scratchy, scratchy dress?
Lao Young lady, that's just how it's done.
A third flashback; Toph and her parents sit at a table, while Toph holds a small cup in her hands and a teapot rests on a tray in front of her.
Toph But why do I have to take such small sips?
Lao Young lady, that's just how it's done.
The final flashback shows a group of kids playing with a ball in the street; framed in the window of the house behind, Toph and her father stand. While Lao watches the children, Toph, turned toward him, speaks.
Toph [Sad.] Father, I wanna go play with those kids! [The frame zooms, focusing on Toph as she turns toward the window.] I don't understand why I have to spend every single day locked up in this house! [The frame zooms again, now focusing only on her face, a tear welling in her eye.] It gets so ... so ... lonely in here.
Lao Beifong [Close-up.] I'm sorry, my daughter. But this is just how it's done.
Snap back to reality. While the rest of the group faces Aang, Toph stands apart from them, frowning, facing defiantly away from the statue.
Aang All right everybody! Let's line up to do our bows!
Toph [Quick zoom on Toph's face, her eyebrows furrowed in distaste.] No, thanks.
Aang [Zoom out to a frontal view of Toph and Aang.] Toph, come on. Don't be like this.
Toph [Crossing her arms.] I just don't feel comfortable doing that kind of stuff, all right? Toph Beifong doesn't bow to anybody.
Katara [Starting to get upset, advancing on Toph.] But this is important to Aang.
Aang [He stretches out an arm, signaling for Katara to stop.] Katara, it's okay--
Toph So important he doesn't even remember who the giant stone lady is? If it hasn't been celebrated in over one hundred years and the world didn't end, maybe it isn't that important after all!
Aang [Quick zoom on his eyes, an eyebrow raised; he turns to face the Air Acolytes looking at him wonderingly.] Heh Heh! Don't mind her, Air Acolytes! In fact, this is a perfect learning opportunity! [Cut to a side-view of Aang, giving the Air Acolytes a frontal view while Aang closes his eyes, holding his hands palm-to-palm.] Peace is at the very heart of the Air Nomad way of life. We let insults fly past us like a gentle breeze, leaving our inner peace undisturbed. [Frontal view of Aang, now looking eager and happy once more, with a side-view of a still-defiant Toph behind him.] Come. Those of us who are not stubborn dunderheads will now do our bows.
Toph [Gruffly.] Harumph! Be my guest!
As cranefish circle the head of the statue and Toph continues to face away from it in blunt refusal, the other six bow their heads toward the statue. As they straighten back up, the Air Acolytes begin exclaiming to each other.
Yee-Li That was incredible!
Jingbo Wow!
Xing Ying My goodness!
Sokka [Behind them, looking confused.] Um, were you guys doing something else? Because all I did was bow.
Xing Ying notices that Jingbo, standing in front of her, is straining under the weight of the load of supplies on his back.
Xing Ying [Concerned.] Do you need some help with that backpack, Jingbo?
Jingbo [Sweat running down his face.] No, thank you! As the most junior Air Acolyte present, it's my honor to carry the festival supplies!
Aang, facing away from them, turns his head to address the Acolytes, an intricate pan flute in his arms and Momo, who is grabbing at the flute, on his shoulder.
Aang Acolytes, pull out your instruments! It's time to walk down to the meadow for our ceremonial meal. Hope you guys are hungry for some yummy tofu and bean sprouts!
Yee-Li Mm!
Sokka [Sarcastically] Can't wait.
The group walks away from the statue, playing traditional Air Nomad music: Aang with his pan flute, Xing Ying with a horn, and Yee-Li with her cymbals. As they walk farther and farther, the clinging of Yee'Li's cymbals begins to annoy Toph; finally, she covers her ears, sick of hearing the cymbals' noise. The frame zooms on her face, filled with extreme irritation. Cuts to Yee-Li, whose expression goes from pleasant to shocked in a heartbeat as the cymbals abruptly contort into odd shapes, rendering themselves unusable. A wider shot reveals Toph, her arm outstretched toward Yee-Li; she has metalbent the cymbals intentionally. Yee-Li stares down in horror at her useless instruments.
Toph If we have to do this, can't we do it quietly?!
Katara [Runs over to Toph.] Toph, please--
Toph [Blowing up at everyone.] I thought I was done with these sorts of fuddy-duddy rituals when I left Gaoling! Can someone at least explain to me the point of it all?!
The Acolytes, downcast, turn to Aang, who stands facing away from the confrontation. He has not turned around and he does not do so even as he speaks to them, not offering answer to Toph's question.
Aang Let's keep going, Acolytes. We're almost there.
Yee-Li [Walking in front of Aang and pointing into the distance, looking confused.] Avatar Aang, is the meadow just beyond that town?
Aang [Eyes wide.] What town?
The view switches from facing the group to being at their backs. A small town rises in front of them; smoke fills the air as it pours from chimneys both tall and short across the town itself. Workers walk the streets, covered in dirt and lined by small buildings; a water tower rises in the foreground, while, far in the background, a tall warehouse can be seen. The view cuts back to the faces of the group. Toph still looks indifferent; the rest of the gang stands and stares, their eyes wide in shock, but none of their faces matches the dismayed expression on Aang's face.

Gurihiru - The story is set in a small industrial town. We mixed historical elements from both the United States and Asia for the final result.

Aang Oh, no! This--this is where the meadow used to be!
The gang walks into town, looking around at the workers and the buildings rising a short way into the now-grayish sky. Aang's shock persists.
Aang None of this is supposed to be here. This is ... was a sacred place.
Katara A hundred years have passed, sweetie. A lot can change.
Toph [Perking up as she sniffs the air.] Smells like ...
Sokka [Puts his hands together in delight.] Meat! I'll enjoy the Air Nomad ceremonial meal a whole lot more on a full stomach! We'll be right back!
A voice calls suddenly from behind Katara and she turns her head in response.
Niyok Katara? Is that you?
Katara [Turns around.] Niyok?
Seeing one another, the two old friends run up to each other and exchange a hug.
Niyok I haven't seen you since you left home!
Katara I can't believe it! What are you doing out here in the Earth Kingdom?
Niyok [Pointing behind her at the towering refinery.] We came to work at that refinery.
Katara [Noting the choice of words as Aang and the Acolytes survey the refinery.] "We"?
Another girl, about their age, calls out to them from a table behind the two, where she sits with another girl; Katara and Niyok both turn to look at the caller.
Nutha Niyok!
Katara [Excitedly.] Is that Nutha?
Niyok Yep, that's my sister.
Katara [Waving and yelling back enthusiastically.] Nutha! It's me, Katara!
Even across the considerable distance between them, Katara can see the glare on Nutha's face; she does not seem pleased by Katara's appearance. Katara is taken aback by the sudden show of hostility. Nutha yells again, this time angrily.
Nutha Niyok! Get back over here!
Niyok [Waving cordially as she leaves.] I should go.
Katara [Lost for words.] Well ... it was good to see you ...
Behind Katara, Aang is staring, focused, into the distance, seemingly at nothing in particular; Yee-Li, standing next to him, has noticed.
Yee-Li Aang ...?
As Aang continues staring at nothing, the view switches to what he sees: the vision of Yangchen is appearing to him again, in an empty section of the courtyard occupied by nothing but a stack of barrels and backed by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. Her hand is raised toward him; she tries to speak, but, again, she remains mute, no sound passing her lips. Soon, as abruptly as she appeared, she is gone. The shot changes back to the common reality, where the others have noticed Aang's vacant stare.
Xing Ying Avatar?
Katara What are you seeing, Aang?
Aang [Turning toward the gang, pointing at the fence.] Yangchen just appeared to me again.
Katara Behind the refinery?
Aang Yeah, come on!
The next frame shows the Acolytes, Aang, and Katara standing in front of the fence. A cloud of sorts rises from the void beyond the fence; it is implied that the cloud is noxious, as everyone but Aang is doubled over, their hands covering their faces. Even Aang pinches his nose as he surveys the fence and the locked gate on his right in shock.
Xing Ying Ugh! What is that?
Yee-Li Smells like rot!
Jingbo Smells worse than rot!
Aang, meanwhile, has made up his mind. Stomping a foot on the ground, he earthbends four low, circular platforms at the very foot of the fence.
Aang Go ahead, guys. Step on. We're gonna go check it out.
Yee-Li [After they all mount their own pedestals, pointing questioningly at the fence.] But doesn't the fence mean that we're not supposed to be here?
Aang [Steadily.] No. The fence isn't supposed to be here. [Switching gears.] Make sure you keep your knees bent.
Stomping firmly on the earth once again, the four are launched into the air and over the fence. Aang, airbending himself into the air, lands before the others and uses airbending to soften their landing. While Jingbo and Katara land on their backs, Yee-Li and Xing Ying land lightly on their feet. The putrid fog dispersed for a moment, the two turn to each other, talking as if the fog is a minor detail.
Xing Ying Was that fun or what?
Yee-Li I love being an Air Acolyte!
Meanwhile, the fog has enclosed Aang and Katara; they have their hands to their faces again, unsuccessfully trying to ward off the stench.
Katara Ugh! It's ten times worse now!
Aang, one eye open, is surveying the source of the awful scent for the first time. A river, its water turned an unpleasant shade of green-yellow, runs through the bottom of a chasm, just beyond a makeshift wire fence; whatever is tarnishing the river is apparently the source of the smell.
Aang [Still holding his nose.] This must be what Yangchen was trying to tell me. It wasn't just about the festival. [He takes his hand from his face.] This land was once sacred to the Air Nomads. Now it's being defiled.
Guard #1 Hey! You're not allowed back here! This is private property!
The scene has changed to a group of four security guards, who noticed the intruders on the other side of their fence and passed through the gate.
Guard #2 [Amused.] Don't you people know what fences are for?!

Gene - The Earthen Fire security guard uniforms look an awful lot like Republic City's police uniforms. Might there be a connection?

Aang [Calmly talking to a guard with a mustache.] Sir, I need to talk to whoever's in charge of the refinery.
Mustached guard Who do you think you are to make demands like that, kid?
Aang [Upset.] I'm the Avatar.
The guard puts his face close to Aang's; the two pairs of angry eyes bore into each other.
Mustached guard Once you cross that fence, all you are is a trespasser. [Turning to his compatriots.] Guards, let's get 'em outta here!
The other three guards bend columns of earth from the ground simultaneously before earthbending slices of the rock at Aang, Katara, Xing Ying, Yee-Li, and Jingbo, who, thanks to his heavy pack, is lying helplessly on his back. As the flying earth threatens them, Aang airbends the Air Acolytes out of the way while Katara shatters the rocks with her waterbending.
Aang [Over his shoulder, as the guards wield a layer of earth around their clenched fists.] Are you guys hurt?
Xing Ying [As Jingbo lies on his face, the load now on top of him.] No, we're okay.
Katara [Bending a torrent of water from the murky river below.] Move out of the way, Aang! I've got them!
Aang [Holding out a hand.] No! Not yet! [Turning his head toward the Acolytes.] Here's another learning opportunity!
Jingbo [Stuck under his pack.] A little help, please?
Aang turns to face the Air Acolytes, speaking calmly as the guards bear down on him.
Aang Air Acolytes, as I told you before, peace is the very center of Air Nomad life.
As Yee-Li helps Jingbo back to his feet, the guards let out yells of fury. Aang, still utterly calm, turns back around, facing his attackers.
Aang We don't engage in conflict unless absolutely necessary. [As the guards close in on him, he airbends himself into the air; the guards, still racing toward him, look up in surprise.] And even then, things will often work themselves out--
Unable to stop, the guards all collide at the same moment beneath him, their heads crashing together with a great bonk.
Aang --with just the slightest nudge.
Knocked unconscious, the earth wrapped around the guards' fists crumbles as they fall to the ground, unmoving.
Aang [Landing deftly on the ground beside the stunned guards.] See?
As Aang finishes, the Air Acolytes applaud enthusiastically.
Xing Ying Bravo, Avatar Aang!
Jingbo This has got to be the best field trip ever!
An unknown voice rings suddenly through the air, accompanied by applause.
Satoru Flying fire ferrets--that was amazing!
Aang whips his head around to see who it is; the frame focuses on a young man in a work apron, wearing thick gloves and a pair of goggles around his neck, in addition to the normal glasses he wears on his face, which is aglow with enthusiasm.
Satoru Hello, Avatar! My name is Satoru! [Eagerly rushing up to Aang and shaking his hand fervently.] What an honor to meet you! What an honor!

Gene - I thought long and hard about a possible love interest for Toph. Of all the main characters, Toph took the most drastic action to get away from her past. She looks forward to the future without looking back. It would make sense for her love interest (one of them, anyway) to represent the future, and we all know the future belongs to nerds.

Aang U-u-uhh ... th-th-thanks?
Satoru [Seeing Katara and shaking her hand as well.] You must be Katara!
Katara Y-yes!
Satoru [Turning to the Air Acolytes.] And you guys are--?
The three of them incline their heads to Satoru, introducing themselves.
Xing Ying We're Aang's students, the Air Acolytes!
Yee-Li Nice to meet you--
Jingbo [Finishing the thought.] --But we'll, ah, stick with the Air Nomad tradition of bowing instead of shaking hands, if you don't mind.
Satoru [Turning back to Aang.] I've read so much about you, Avatar, but I have to say, you're even more impressive in person!
Aang [Flattered, rubbing his neck awkwardly.] That's really nice of you to say, but ... I ... Listen, are you in charge around here?
Satoru Kinda ... I'm the refinery's engineer, but my uncle put me in charge of the entire operation until he and his business partner come back. [To both the gang and the guards now dragging themselves to their feet behind him; his head is turned toward them, his expression one of great displeasure.] Which is why the guards should have checked with me before they attacked you like that.
Aang Well, maybe you and I can sit down for a bit? I'd like to talk to you about where this refinery is located. The land it's built on--
Satoru [Ignoring Aang, his hands clasped over his mouth, eyes wide.] No. Way.
Katara [Concerned.] Satoru?
Aang You okay?
Satoru [Hands still over mouth.] This is the best day of my life!
Aang [Awkwardly rubbing his neck and turning away from Satoru.] Please, Satoru! I'm flattered, but you're making too big of a deal out of this ... out of me! I mean, saving the world was a team effort! I couldn't have--
Satoru [Losing his composure completely, clapping his hands against his head.] Toph Beifong!
Unnoticed by the rest of the gang, Toph, Sokka, and Momo have returned to the group and are all eating meat kebabs. Satoru walks up to her.
Satoru It's really you!
Toph [Unfazed, still eating.] Yeah?
Satoru I've died and gone into the heavens! I've admired you for so long, Ms. Beifong! First, you save the world-- [Quieter, his addition eliciting a look of offense from Aang.] --with Avatar Aang's help, of course-- [Back to his loud enthusiasm.] --and then you discover a brand-new kind of bending that not even the Avatar can do!
Toph Ha ha. That's right. He can't.
While Aang looks at the two, shocked about Toph's blatant mocking of him, Toph seems to be enjoying Satoru's monologue. Momo, on Toph's shoulder, has finished is meat kebab.
Satoru [Bowing respectfully to Toph.] It would be an honor ... No. It would be the experience of a lifetime if I could give you a tour of the Earthen Fire Refinery!
Toph [Still eating.] Satoru, was it?
Satoru [Hands over his mouth again.] You said my name!
Toph Sure, Satoru. Lead the way. [Motioning back to the rest of the gang, flipping the empty stick from her fingers.] Okay if my friends tag along?
Satoru [Momentarily confused.] What ...? Oh, yes! Them! Of course your friends can tag along!
Aang So generous of Toph to let us "tag along."
Sokka [His mouth full of food.] This meat is sooo good. Anyone want a bite?
Aang No.
Katara I'll have a bite.
Sokka [Going back to his kebab.] By "anyone," I meant anyone vegetarian.
Cut to the front of the massive factory; the gang stands at the entrance, far below the tall stacks and the few crane-fish flying overhead. Satoru is giving his tour.

Gurihiru - They don't have electricity, so it was hard to make a decision about how modern these facilities should appear.

Satoru Ms. Beifong--
Toph [Cutting him off.] No need to be so formal. You can call me Toph.
Satoru Toph, welcome to the Earthen Fire Refinery!
They walk inside, looking around as Satoru gives a brief history of the project.
Satoru Years ago, my uncle discovered that this area is particularly rich in natural resources. But he wasn't allowed to develop it because ... well ... because of political reasons. My uncle isn't a very political guy, but he is Fire Nation and this land is Earth Kingdom.
Aang Actually, Satoru, that's what I've been meaning to talk to you about. This land may be a part of the Earth Kingdom continent, but historically the Air Nomads have always--
Satoru After you and your friends ended the war, Toph, my uncle was able to find an Earth Kingdom business partner. A couple months later, they opened this place!

Gene - I deeply admire the comics of Don Rosa, who made his name writing and drawing Disney Duck comics. Rosa always puts little jokes in his panel backgrounds. They're there waiting for you on your second of third read. This page is me doing my best Don Rosa impression.

Unnoticed by the rest of the group, Katara bends a stream of water toward Sokka's mouth, which was opened wide to eat the last piece of meat on his stick.
Satoru We're the first joint business venture between the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation!
Aang But, as I was saying--
Katara snatches the kebab from Sokka's hands, who stares bewildered at his empty fingers as he bites down.
Satoru Here, it doesn't matter where you're from, as long as you're willing to work hard.
Aang Satoru, if I could just have a moment--
Katara calmly eats Sokka's final piece of meat while he stares at her, looking irritated. Satoru walks over to a set of large double doors, placing both hands on them.
Satoru People from all over the world come here-- [He throws open the doors and the group follows him through.] --because the Earthen Fire Refinery represents the future.
Satoru motions into the large room beyond. The group steps to a railing at the edge of the platform, staring in wonder at what the room contains. After an initial wide view of the entire process, the frames focus on several specific aspects of the process itself: As large boulders tumble down a ramp, three firebenders simultaneously bending a massive flame into the open heart of a roaring furnace underneath the belt; several earthbenders pulverizing the stones, breaking them apart and revealing small crystals of green and white within; the broken stones and glowing crystals passing to several waterbenders, taking water from a trough behind them, dissolving the rocks and further separating the crystals; and the finished, fully separated products of green crystals, white crystals, and leftover dirt falling into carts at the end of the line. Cut back to the gang. A tiny smile is discernible on Toph's face, while Sokka and Jingbo are utterly ecstatic.
Jingbo Wow.
Sokka You said it, Jingbo.
Satoru If you think this is impressive, follow me. [Walking to another set of doors, turning back to the gang before he opens them.] That was actually our first, older production line. Here's our brand-new one, which came into operation about a month ago.
The group, once again, stares in awe at the machine before them. No benders operate the machine; stones feed into the top of a stone crusher, which dumps smaller fragments of stone onto a conveyor belt. The belt leads into a funnel; glowing crystals, separated from the dirt and rock, roll down two conveyor belts and fall into crates; forklift drivers can be seen, among other operators, moving the filled crates of both dirt and crystals from place to place.
Sokka Okay. My mind has officially been blown.
Satoru This production line does the same thing as the old one, only we've replaced all the bending with machines.
Sokka I've never seen so much machines in all my life! Not even in the machinist's workshop at the Northern Air Temple!
Aang Why would you want to replace bending with machines?
Satoru [As the machine runs loudly near him.] Well, not everybody's a bender. With machines, even nonbenders can perform tasks that require a lot of power. Plus, how long does it take to train a bender before he's ready to work for us? Years? We can train an employee to use one of these machines in a couple of days.
Katara [As Yee-Li, behind her, covers her ears against the deafening noise of the machine.] Bending just seems so much more ... elegant.
Satoru That may be true. So far the bender line has been more efficient. But we're figuring out ways to improve this new line every day.
Cut to the outside of the warehouse, where the gang has followed Satoru. Sokka is pointing to a forklift nearby with a thrilled expression.
Sokka What is that?
Satoru The forklift?
Sokka [Asking the person who was driving.] Mind if I give it a spin?
Katara Sokka, don't bother him! He's trying to work!
Satoru You know, the biggest deposit of crystals outside of Ba Sing Se is right here, beneath out feet! That's what most of our current operation focuses on, but there are so many other resources we're gearing up to extract! We just have to figure out how to do it. And we will. Like I said, this is the future.
Toph I'm impressed! The whole place ticks and hums like the inside of a clock.
As Satoru has been talking, Katara has been watching Sokka; having commandeered the forklift, he is racing up and down the open area behind them, going progressively faster with each run. Now he yells at Satoru, utterly ecstatic, the front wheels of the forklift off the ground and Sokka leaning over the steering wheel.

Gurihiru - We had fun drawing Sokka speeding around in the background.

Sokka Hey! How fast can this thing go?
Satoru I'm not sure. It's not really built for speed. It's more--
A loud pop punctuates the steady sound emanating from the engine; as Sokka looks back, panicking, the forklift starts to smoke. It comes to a stop, hissing as Sokka climbs off, who looks at Satoru as the engineer walks over to the motionless forklift. Sokka looks incredibly guilty, his head down and his shoulders drooped.
Sokka Oops. Sorry about that.
Satoru [Putting his goggles over his eyes.] No, it's not your fault. I'm still tinkering with the design.
Katara He's just being nice, you know. It is your fault.
Sokka I know.
Toph [As Satoru examines his broken machine, smoke billowing from under the hood.] You built this?
Satoru Yeah. [tsk tsk, sigh] I'm really sorry, but I'm gonna need some time to get this up and running again. I'll ask one of the employees to finish the tour with you. They can show you the next building, where the crystals are graded and cut.
Toph [Smiling, nudging Satoru aside.] Step aside. [Extending a hand over the engine.] Satoru ... this engine ... I can feel it.
The frame shows what Toph sees: an image of the metal within the engine, including the disconnected idler wheel and the serpentine belt hanging loosely on the engine's left side.
Toph Every part is precisely crafted-- [She loops the wheel back onto the belt with metalbending.] -- even the parts that no one will ever see.
Reattaching the wheel to its axis with a click, the engine roars to life again. Cut back to Toph and Satoru; as Toph shuts the hood with a clank, Satoru removes his goggles, amazed.
Satoru Nobody but you, you mean. That was amazing.
Toph No sweat. Even my most novice metalbending students could do that.
Satoru Your students?
Toph I run a metalbending school.
Satoru Toph Beifong, is there no end to your amazingness? [Suddenly struck by an idea.] Flying fire ferrets! I've got an idea! What if you and your students came here every now and then, to help out with the machines?
Toph The Beifong Metalbending Academy isn't far from here. We're just outside of Yu Dao.
As the two talk, an eager Satoru moves ever closer to Toph.
Satoru That's where my uncle and his business partner are right now, meeting with the city's new government! They want to build a railroad--
Toph --to connect there to here.
Satoru Of course, we'd pay you and your students for your time.
Toph No. They're students, not employees. But you could sponsor a new school building for us.
Satoru I think my uncle would be open to that. It would be like a ... a partnership between the refinery and the school.
The two faces are just inches apart.
Toph Satoru, I would love to be in a partnership with you-- I mean the refinery.
Sokka Is it just me, or is there some serious oogie-osity going on over there?
Katara I think it's sweet! We almost never get to see Toph's softer side.
Sokka Toph's softer side gives me the oogies.
Meanwhile, Aang is staring once again into a seemingly empty area, an entrance to the warehouse. Xing Ying has noticed.
Xing Ying Avatar Aang, is it happening again?
As Aang stares at the apparition of Yangchen, still voiceless, the frame cuts to a close-up of his eyes, before abruptly jumping to a vision: a massive creature, humanoid in appearance and clad in stone and metal with a glowing mark on its forehead, brings its fist down mightily on the mangled wreck of what was once a warehouse, fragments of debris flying through the air as the raging monster pummels the remains. As the frame cuts to Aang once again, he speaks to Yangchen.
Aang Yangchen, what are you showing me? Is that what's happened already ... or what's going to happen?
Yangchen vanishes in a wisp of mist, giving no answer.
Xing Ying Are you all right?
Jingbo Anything we can do to help?
Aang I--I'm okay. I just need to get him to listen to me. [Walking up to Satoru, who turns around to listen to him.] Satoru, I hate to interrupt the, um ... whatever it is that's happening here, but I've been trying to tell you all along-- there shouldn't be a refinery here, let alone a whole town! This land was -- is sacred to the Air Nomads! You aren't supposed to build on sacred land!
Satoru [Taken aback.] Avatar, I --
Toph [Jumping to Satoru's defense.] No offense, Twinkle Toes, but what is that, a rule from the olden days? No one's been here for a hundred years! If Satoru and his uncle can figure out a way to make this place useful, I say good for them!
Aang [Less adamant, glancing back at the spot where Yangchen was standing.] But Yangchen's been trying to warn me ... she just gave me a vision. I think something bad is going to happen.
Toph Like what?
Aang I'm ... I'm not sure ... I can't hear her for some reason. And the vision wasn't all that clear.
Toph [Rolling her eyes.] Here we go again! More stuff that's so important, you don't even know the details.
Aang But don't you see? Something bad's already happening!
Katara Aang's right. Just look at the river! That's not what a river should look like!
Satoru I know what you're talking about, Katara, but I can tell you for a fact, that's not the refinery's fault.
Aang [Upset and disbelieving.] It has to be the refinery's fault! Nothing else around here could do something like that!
Satoru My uncle thinks it might be a natural phenomenon.
Aang [Angrily.] Are you kidding me?!
Sokka I'm with Aang. Nature might be gross sometimes, but it's never that kind of gross.
Toph [Stretching her hand toward her friends.] All right everybody! Back off!. [Turning to Satoru, putting a hand on his shoulder.] Satoru ... say it again, about the river.
Satoru [Calmly, the frame zoomed on his face.] What's happening to the river -- isn't because of the refinery.
The shot zooms on Toph's face, as she focuses on his words. The shot cuts to Katara, Yee-Li, and Jingbo, as Yee-Li turns to Katara, raising her hand to her face to muffle the sound of her voice.
Yee-Li What's she doing?
Katara Toph can use her earthbending to figure out if someone's lying.
Jingbo [Impressed.] Wow.
Toph [Turning to Aang and Katara.] He's telling the truth.
Sokka [Pointing at Toph; light-heartedly.] All right, then. I'm with Toph now.
Aang [Grasping Toph's arm suddenly, pulling her away from the rest of the group; serious expression on his face.] Mind if we talk alone for a moment? [Cordially, to the rest of the group; they look surprised.] Excuse us!
After they walk out of hearing range of the others, Aang speaks to Toph.
Aang Believe me, Toph, I know what it's like to have a crush on someone. It can blind-- [Toph's stares blankly at him, arms crossed. Aang raises his left hand to his head.] Yeesh. Sorry. What I'm trying to say is, sometimes you can like somebody so much that it affects your perception of them.
Toph Kind of like how your perception is affected by your fuddy-duddy traditions?
Aang [Offended.] What -- ?!
Toph Look around, Aang!
The view changes, showing workers in the foreground standing near boxes of crystals, one of them operating a forklift; in the background, earthbenders move a box. Toph continues.
Toph People from all over the world are here, working side by side! Isn't that exactly what you've been wanting for Yu Dao?
The frame switches to the reverse, showing Aang and Toph debating behind the workers.
Aang [Conceding.] Yes, but--
Toph Satoru's right. This place is the future. You really want to sacrifice the future for a stupid, backwards holiday?
Aang [Outraged, shouting in Toph's face.] Hey! Who're you calling stupid and backwards?!
Toph [Shouting right back.] I was referring to the holiday, but if the shoe fits--!
The shouting match abruptly comes to an end as the ground beneath their feet begins to shake and rumble. As Aang and Toph try to maintain their balance, several carts full of crystals tumble over, spilling their contents onto the quivering earth, some crystals bouncing around on the undulating surface.

Gene - I live in California. Earthquakes have always seemed like a fearsome antagonist to me.

Toph What was that?
Aang I don't know.
The view cuts to the workers outside, one holding onto the warehouse structure for support while another grasps his forklift, bracing themselves against the earthquake. The earthquake dies down and dissipates and as it does, a concerned Sokka and Katara hurriedly make their way over to Aang and Toph.
Sokka Whatever you guys are arguing about, you need to keep calm.
Katara The workers are getting scared.
Toph Wait, you think we caused that earthquake?
Satoru None of the earthbenders in our employ are powerful enough to do that.
Aang Well I can tell you for sure, that wasn't me. "Fuddy-duddy" Air Nomad tradition teaches us to maintain our inner peace, no matter how unreasonable those around us are.
Toph So you're saying it's me, then?!
Aang If the shoe fits ...!
Toph [Outraged.] Are you forgetting who taught you earthbending in the first place?! I'm not some novice! I know how to control --
Toph's angry rant is cut off as another earthquake begins. Cart after cart of crystals topples to the shaking ground and the group struggles to stay on their feet. Jingbo, still carrying the heavy pack, falls onto his back once more. Finally, the quake stops.
Sokka Whoa. That was way bigger than the first one!
Aang You guys okay?
Jingbo [Trying to right himself by waving his legs.] Yeah. But can somebody give me a hand, please?
Satoru Toph, Avatar Aang, I'm sorry, but maybe you guys should leave ...
Aang Satoru, at least let us help you clean up.
Satoru [Adamantly.] No, just go. please! My uncle will be back at any moment!
Toph [Irked.] How many times do I have to tell you people, those earthquakes had nothing to do with me!
Satoru It doesn't matter, all right? Right now the refinery's my responsibility! I can't have my uncle see--
Satoru's explanation is cut short as a series of cries for help pierces the air and they all turn to see the source of the cry. The scene cuts to the entrance of the refinery; boulders shoot through the air, emanating from the machine room as a loud series of pounding noises and crashes come from within.
Sokka One of the machines has gone crazy!
As terrified workers flee the malfunctioning machine and the falling boulders, the gang runs toward the disaster. Aang and Toph bend two flying boulders into rubble as a worker runs between them, his hands on his head.
Aang Watch out!
Cut to Katara and Sokka, as Katara deflects a rock with waterbending.
Katara We need to get everyone out of here!
Sokka [Pointing three running workers away from the danger.] Go on! Out that way!
Cut back to Toph and Aang, as, over the deafening noise of the machine, an old man yells from under a heap of rubble.
Worker Help me!
Toph Someone's trapped underneath!
Aang I'll get him! Toph--
Satoru [Yelling after the two.] There's a cord that connects it to its power source! You need to unplug it!
Aang's head is turned toward Toph, behind him, as he runs, and he does not see the rock bearing down on him.
Toph Aang, watch out!
Pushing him aside, she extends a fist into the air, catching the rock and instantly pulverizing it.
Aang [Shocked by his near miss.] Thanks!
Toph Hurry!
Turning away from her, Aang earthbends two pillars from the ground, lifting the debris from over the trapped worker and freeing him.
Aang [The man puts his arm around Aang's shoulder for support.] Take my hand, sir! You'll be okay!
Worker Thank you, thank you!
As another volley of boulders falls on them, Aang punches one of them, reducing it to pebbles as Toph vaults herself through the air next to him; the worker ducks and covers his head with his hands.
Toph [Yelling in midair.] Got him?
Aang Got him!
Toph lands on the broken, uncontrollable machine and lands a single, metal-wrenching punch into its side; the pounding noise coming from within the machine stops, as do the flying rocks. Toph steps off the silent mess of mangled iron and walks over to Aang, the old man still standing beside him.
Aang That was dramatic.
Toph [Dusting off her hands.] You know me.
Aang [As they walk back toward the exit.] Toph, about those things I said earlier --
Toph I know. Me too. I guess I was just trying to say ... don't you think you're trying a little too hard to hold on to the past?
Aang Maybe. But don't you think you're trying a little too hard to run away from it?
Toph Not everybody's past is like yours, Aang. Some of us have to run away just to ... just to live.
As they walk through the doorway itself, they find a figure standing in front of them, blocking their way. A burly man sits on a komodo rhino behind him.
Mongke [Walking toward Aang and Toph.] Avatar Aang. Still showing up where you're not wanted, I see.
Aang The Rough Rhinos?! Colonel Mongke?! What are you doing here?
Mongke The owners of the Earthen Fire Refinery hired us as their personal security detail, to protect them from rabble-rousers like you!
At that moment, a large man in red and gray robes walks into the room behind Aang; he yells angrily at them.
Loban What's all this ruckus?! Who are all these people?!
Satoru They're my guests, and they're just about to leave! Uncle Loban, I can explain everything!
Loban Satoru! [Pointing behind himself at the pile of mangled metal wreckage.] You can start by explaining what happened to that machine that cost us ten thousand ban!
Quick cut to a close-up of the pile of debris, still letting out odd noises. Satoru turns to Toph.
Satoru [Somewhat exasperated.] You couldn't just unplug it?! [Toph shrugs.]
Loban [Turning to address a man in green walking out of the same hall from which he himself entered.] What'd I tell you, Lao?! Satoru is too scatterbrained to shoulder any real responsibility.
Satoru [Bowing to Loban, upset.] Forgive me, uncle! I'll get it all sorted out, I promise!
Loban [As the shot changes to show the view from the perspective of the man in green; Toph looks shocked.] One of us should've stayed behind to make sure something like this didn't happen!
Loban suddenly relents; he has seen the look of complete shock on the face of the man in green.
Loban [Unsettled.] Lao ...? You look like you've seen a ghost.
Lao walks past Loban without offering up an answer. Vacantly, he comes to a stop in front of Toph, staring down at her with wide eyes, an arm half-extended towards her. Toph speaks to the man, her only word bringing comparable looks of shock to the faces of the members of the gang who understand its full significance.
Toph Father.

Gene - What happened to Toph's parents is arguably the second-biggest dangling thread left by the series. Coming up with an answer was a little intimidating, but let's be honest -- nothing's as intimidating as it was to tell the story of Zuko's mom in The Search.








See also