Avatar: The Next Generation
Chapter 10: Reunion
Aang was using all of his willpower to keep from collapsing. It may have been two against one, but Azula was putting up a fight. Aang could tell that Zuko was as exhausted as he was, but Azula was still smiling and looked like she could fight for a lot longer. They were going to have to defeat her soon, or they were screwed.
“What's wrong?” Azula taunted, “Worn out already? I'm just getting started.”
“How are you able to do this?” Zuko asked his sister in disbelief, “You've been in a mental hospital for years. You haven't been able to train. You should be worse than before, not better!”
“Those doctors,” she said the word with utter disdain, “Are idiots. Clueless. It was easy to do things behind their backs. You disappear for a few hours, and then let them find you in a closet or something. You're supposed to be insane. They don't question it.”
Aang was confused now. “But you couldn't have gotten out of the hospital. Where did you go?”
“The hospital grounds were quite easy to get to, and had several good places that were perfect for training and out of sight.”
The three benders continued to circle each other during this exchange. They were just waiting to see who would make the first move. It was giving Aang and Zuko a little bit of time to regain some of their strength. Aang had even begun debating if he should use the Avatar state. He'd only used it a few times since the end of the war. He didn't like relying on it's power.
“It's a little sad isn't it,” Azula continued, “A supposed crazy girl able to hold her own against both the Fire Lord and the Avatar at once? I always knew I deserved the title of Fire Lord more than you, Zuzu.” At this last comment, she looked snidely at Zuko and wrinkled her nose.
As soon as Azula's attention was on Zuko, Aang used the moment to access the Avatar state. He's eyes glowed for just a second. By the time Azula looked back at him, they were their usual gray again. Azula had no idea what had just happened.
“Now,” Azula got into a fighting stance, “Are we going to actually fight, or are we going to stand here chatting all day? It would be nice to catch up, but I have plans.”
“I hope those plans involve jail,” Aang growled at her.
Azula's ever present smirk widened. “Unfortunately, they don't.”
The fighting continued. This time, Aang and Zuko were winning with the help of the Avatar State. Azula realized this too. She decided to take action before they got the better of her.
“As I said before,” she called after blasting fire at the both of them, “I have plans, and I really am running late. We'll have to do this again sometime.”
She blasted fire at them once more. Zuko and Aang guarded themselves from the hot flames, but it had given Azula the distraction she needed. Once the flames were gone, Zuko and Aang looked to where Azula had been standing just seconds before.
“She's gone,” Zuko whispered in shock, “How could she possibly have gotten away that quickly?”
“It wouldn't be the first time,” Aang said remembering back to when he was twelve, and they'd fought Azula in an abandoned Earth Kingdom town.
“We have to go after her,” Zuko said, “We can't let her get away, and she could lead us to the kids.”
Aang agreed and the two friends set off in the direction Azula was most likely to have disappeared.
“What if she finds the others?” Aang asked Zuko as the ran after Azula.
“I think she's more concerned about getting away from us,” Zuko assured Aang, “Why would she stop to fight them?”
“Good point,” Aang said. “I hope she leads us to the kids.”
“Look!” Aang yelled. He pointed to where he'd seen something up in the trees that looked just like Azula. “I think I saw Azula.”
“We'd better go that way then,” Zuko said. He and Aang veered off from the direction they'd been running. They'd been running for a few minutes when Zuko asked, “Do you see her anywhere?”
“No,” Aang said shaking his head. “I've completely lost sight of her.”
“So have I. Where should we go?”
“I have no clue. We don't have any trail to follow this time.”
Zuko's shoulders slumped in defeat. They were screwed.
Sokka led the way into the cave. The other adults followed him as quietly as possible.
“I don't think she's in here,” Sokka whispered to the others, “The cave seems pretty small.”
There's an opening over here,” Toph informed the others as she walked up to a crack in the wall, “The children are back there. I can see them.”
“What about Azula?” Sokka asked his wife.
This had all been spoken in whispers, so the children were unaware of their parents proximity. Ai was the first to notice them coming.
“Mom!” she yelled as soon as Mai came into the little alcove. The other children noticed the adults after Ai's yell. “How did you guys find us?”
“It wasn't that hard really,” said Ty Lee as the adults went to untie the children.
“If you ever do anything like that again,” Toph threatened her daughter, “You're dead.”
“Yes, Ma'am,” Ichiko choked. She could feel the tears coming. She hated crying in front of people. She was shocked to see tears in her mother's eyes as well. She'd never seen her mother cry. Suddenly, Toph was holding Ichiko tightly. As soon as her mother released her, Sokka pulled her into a hug that was just as tight as her mother's had been, while Toph grabbed Ikuo.
“Mom, where's dad?” Kazuna asked Katara. Kazuna had been apologizing so profusely that she hadn't even realized her father's absence at first.
“There was a problem in the Fire Nation capital. Something about relations with the Earth Kingdom. He and Uncle Zuko had to go back,” Katara told her daughter.
“What happened with the Earth Kingdom?” Ai asked anxiously, looking back and forth between her mother and Katara.
“The Earth King is unhappy about how the Fire Nation has handled Azula's escape,” Mai told her daughter and the other children, “But that's not important now. We have to get out of here before Azula comes back. Come on.”
The children set off with their parents. Thrilled to finally be free again.
“Zuko,” Aang held out his hand to stop the firebender from moving forward, “I hear something moving.”
Zuko stopped and listened. “I hear it too. It's too loud to be one person.”
“Let's go check it out,” Aang said quietly. He began moving forward as quietly as possible. He crouched down and hoped that the plants would help hide him from view. Zuko followed him.
They didn't get that far when they saw what had been making the noise. “Katara!” Aang yelled before he could stop himself.
Katara and the others were startled. They were ready to fight before they saw that it was only Aang and Zuko. Katara bended her water back into her water skins as Aang ran towards his wife and daughter. He hugged them both. “Kazuna!” he addressed his daughter, “I'm so happy you're alright!”
Zuko hugged his wife and daughter as well.
“You handled things with the Earth Kingdom really fast,” Mai said slowly, as if she was trying to figure out how it was even possible that they could have gotten to the Fire Nation and back in such a short length of time.
“We never even got there,” Zuko sighed, “We ran into Azula.” The kids all shuddered at the name, more terrified of her than they'd ever been of anything in their lives.
Katara gasped, “What happened?”
“She got away,” Aang hung his head, “We tried following her, but we couldn't track her. That's when we found you guys.”
“At least now there's proof she's in the Fire Nation,” Haru said in a useless attempt to cheer everyone up.
“Yeah, I guess,” Zuko agreed, “We'd better be getting back. The Earth Kingdom representative won't be happy with how long it took us to get there or that we were unable to capture Azula.”
“True,” Aang said, “This will be exhausting.”
Azula walked back to her current hideout thinking about how easy it had been to escape from her idiot brother and the Avatar. I can't believe he was made Fire Lord, Azula thought to herself, He has no talent!
She'd decided to take a long, winding route back to her cave. Zuko and the Avatar might have been idiots, but it was better safe than sorry. She couldn't have them finding her hideout or the children. Because of this, it was sunset as she came upon the cave.
Let's hope those brats didn't do anything while I was gone, she thought as she bent down to go through the opening that led to the secret alcove in the cave.
She didn't look up until she was completely through the hole. Usually, she would have begun taunting the children as soon as she began through the hole, but she'd had a long day. She wasn't in the mood for theatrics.
What the hell! They were gone! She couldn't believe they were gone! There was no way Zuko and the Avatar could have found this place. It had to have been someone else, or what if the brats had gotten away on their own? No, Azula thought, They couldn't have. They weren't smart enough to get out on their own.
“You little demons,” she muttered lowly to herself, “I will find you, and this time I won't be so kind. Next time, you're dead.”