Avatar: The Next Generation
Chapter 13: He'll Want to Hear About This
Ichiko wasn't sure how long she stood there frozen in shock. It was as if her mind had stopped working because what had happened was just too impossible for it to even try to understand. Hajime just stood there, waiting for her to answer. When Ichiko was finally able to get her mind to work a little, she noticed he looked more nervous than she had ever seen him.
I have to say something to him, Ichiko thought. The problem was, she wasn't sure what she should say. She liked Hajime as a friend and all, but she didn't have a crush on him. She'd told herself a long time ago that she was never going to date anyone. She didn't see the point. She was perfectly fine being on her own her whole life. She liked the independence. She didn't want to have someone else tagging along all of the time.
Her friends had always told her that she'd get over it someday. She'd been determined- was determined- to prove them wrong. Then why was it that she couldn't just say that to Hajime? I just don't want to hurt his feelings. That's what she told herself. It even made sense, but she still got this sickening feeling that it wasn't true. She hated that feeling.
I don't like him! Okay, this was getting just a little out of hand if she was resorting to screaming at herself inside her head. Just calm down, she told herself.
“Um, Ichiko,” Hajime finally interrupted, “Sorry to disturb you from your thoughts, but we've been standing here a very long time.”
“Right,” Ichiko willed more words to come but none did. “Um...”
“It's okay if you tell me you don't like me,” Hajime told her. Ichiko wanted to believe that, but she knew it was going to be awkward between them no matter what happened now.
“I'm... confused,” she said finally, deciding that it was the most truthful answer she could give him. She glanced around the palace grounds, not quite sure what she should do.
“That's okay too,” Hajime said after a slight pause. “You can think about it if you want and then tell me later. Or, you could never bring it up again. That's fine too.” For some reason, this made Ichiko feel like a horrible person. She was about to try to say something to make him feel better, although she had no idea what to say, before he spoke up again. “Well, I guess we'd better be getting back to bed. We have a long ride on Appa tomorrow. Coming?”
He walked off without waiting to see if Ichiko was following him. She took a few steps to follow him but then stopped. There's no way I'm gong to be able to sleep now, she thought. Maybe a walk through the palace gardens would help her clear her mind.
“Bye daddy!” Sugi and Toya practically yelled as the hugged Aang goodbye. “We'll miss you!”
“I'll miss you guys too,” he told the three-year-old twins as he hugged them. They were the last of his children, besides Yuuga who didn't really understand what was going on, to tell him goodbye. Katara and the rest of his children stood around him along with the rest of his friends and family. Once the twins were done hugging him, Katara stepped forward with Yuuga in her arms. She didn't say anything, she just stepped toward him, and he wrapped his arms around her and the baby.
Finally, Katara whispered, “I'll miss you. You better get home soon.”
“I'll miss you too,” Aang told his wife, “I'll be home as soon as possible.” He kissed her goodbye and took off on his glider. He didn't want to stay around too long after saying goodbye, it made it harder for him to leave.
Hopefully, the Earth King won't be to difficult, he thought as he flew towards the Earth Kingdom.
After Aang's departure, the others had a couple of hours before they were to leave. They were in their rooms making sure they weren't leaving anything behind or making the most of the little time they had left with the Fire Nation royal family. Who knew when they would see them next.
“It's really going to suck not having you guys here,” Ai sighed, “It's so boring when you guys aren't around.”
“Yeah,” Ichiko laughed, “I guess you won't be going after crazed lunatics to pass the time without us, huh?”
Ai smiled, “No, I think that should be something we only do together.”
All of the children were currently standing on one of the palace's lawns saying their goodbyes. It seemed unfair that it was such a beautiful day when they were all so sad to be leaving Ai, Akatsuki, Akiyoshi, Mai, and Zuko behind.
“Next time,”Akiyoshi said in complete seriousness, “I want to go after the crazed lunatic with you guys.”
Ai smiled down at her little brother, “Sure, Akiyoshi.”
Saki looked at Akiyoshi like he was crazy. “Why would you want to do that?”
“It would be fun,” Akiyoshi defended himself.
Saki rolled her eyes. “It'd be suicide.”
“I think it'll be a lot quieter around here once you guys are gone,” Ai said changing the subject, “Less fighting anyway.”
“You're lucky you only have two brothers,” Kazuna said, “I have to deal with seven little kids.”
“I'm not little!” Kuuya protested.
“Fine then,” Kazuna relented, “Six little kids.”
The kids continued their goodbyes until the adults came to tell them it was finally time to leave.
“Have a safe trip,” Mai said as her friends and their children climbed onto Appa. Kazuna knew that Mai told them pretty much the exact same thing every time they left after a visit, but it had never seemed more relevant than right now.
Katara smiled down at Mai as she took her seat near Appa's head, “We will.” She really seemed confident about it too. As Kazuna yelled goodbyes and waved with the others, she wondered if she was just overreacting. It was true that Azula probably wouldn't bother to follow them. They'd be fine. Somehow, even though she knew this was true, she was still worried.
Luckily, it was hard to worry about Azula when you were crammed onto Appa, and Kazuna was literally crammed. There were so many of them that Kazuna was shocked that Appa could even fly. Amazingly, he was able to make it off the ground, but he flew a lot slower than normal and would need frequent breaks. At this rate, it would be a long time before they made it home.
Besides that, Kazuna barely had room to move. She had several off her younger siblings on her lap, and Ichiko and Ayame were pressing in on her from either side. (Ichiko was also practically on top of her as if she was trying her hardest to get away from Hajime who was on her other side. The two of them kept giving each other awkward looks. Hmm, Kazuna thought, I'll have to ask her about that later.) Appa's saddle was not meant to hold this many people. Once the younger ones were too old to be held, they were going to have to find another way for all of them to travel together. Toph, Sokka, and Ty Lee had joined Katara on Appa's head. Toph clinging to Sokka's arm tightly for support while the other three adults were monitoring the kids up in the saddle. They hadn't even gotten but a few mile from the Fire Nation Capital and Kazuna already felt like she was ready for this trip to be over.
Azula looked up to the sky when she heard the familiar noise. A smirk spread across her face as she saw the Avatar's flying bison make it's way across the sky. She could make out the many figures on his head and back. They're leaving, she thought, That will make things a little easier.
She began to make her way back to the Fire Nation prison that she'd been visiting a lot the past couple of days. He'll want to hear about this.