Avatar: The Next Generation
Chapter 7: The Chase to Find Ichiko
“Where are you taking me!?” Ichiko didn't get frightened often, but right now she was terrified. Azula had tied her up before Ichiko could even react. Ichiko had always thought she was a good fighter, but she learned otherwise when trying to fight Azula. Even deranged, Azula was a brilliant fighter. If she ever got out of this, Ichiko would train harder than she ever had before.
“Now, why would I tell you that?” Azula was smirking as she dragged Ichiko along. It pissed Ichiko off even more. “You don't tell your prisoner where your secret hideout is. That's just stupid. Then again, you wouldn't know that would you? You know nothing about these things.”
It was as if Azula knew exactly what to say to make Ichiko mad. “I'm only a year younger than you were during the war. And a year older than my mom and Uncle Aang.”
Azula rolled her eyes. “I know that, but, as you just said, that was during war. Things are very different during wars. You live during peace and are very sheltered. Besides, I was raised by Firelord Ozai. I was practically born to kill.”
Ichiko had to admit that the way Azula said that freaked her out. She talked about killing so casually. She knew Azula was a sociopath, but she never realized that meant she was this cold and unfeeling. Then again, she didn't really know what she had been expecting. She'd never met a sociopath before.
“Aw. Here we are.” Azula stopped in front of a cave. “Home sweet home.”
“You've been living in a cave?” Ichiko didn't know what she'd been expecting. Azula was on the run. It's not like she could be staying in some fancy hotel, but she knew from stories that Azula thought she was superior to everyone. Ichiko just figured Azula would feel a cave was beneath her. Better than being captured though, Ichiko thought.
“Not just caves.” Azula explained. “You think I've been able to stay out of the hands of the Fire Nation by staying in one place? Of course not. Not even the new Fire Nation is that stupid. Still, in the days when my father ruled, I would have been discovered already. I always knew I was better suited for ruling the nation than dear old Zuzu.” Azula had left Ichiko lying on the hard, rock-covered ground while she made herself comfortable (or as comfortable as you could in a cave).
“Oh, that was my nickname for Zuko when we were younger. He hated it of course, but what are little sisters for?”
“Definitely not killing.”
Azula's smirked widened. “Don't pretend to know anything about that matter. The right to rule is something you're born with. Zuko could have been a great ruler. If he hadn't gone all soft and sided with the Avatar. I deserve that throne. I am supposed to be Firelord. Zuko stole that from me. I want it back.”
Azula just got scarier and scarier the longer Ichiko was with her. As Azula talked, her voice became more menacing. Ichiko could tell how much hatred Azula had for Zuko. “Why does ruling mean so much to you?”
“What a stupid question. Ruling means power, dear Ichiko. Power you could never in a million years achieve. The Fire Nation had power. We almost had the whole world until your diseased family took it from us. My father's now in prison and unable to bend. I was locked in a mental institution like I was some disgusting, crazy freak!”
Ichiko resisted the urge to tell Azula just how crazy she thought she was. She knew that would be a very bad idea.
“Your family, including my brother and uncle, deserve to be brought down and trust me. They will be.”
The way Azula said this almost made Ichiko believe her. It may have only been Azula against practically the whole world, but it was obvious that Azula was determined and really believed she could do it. Ichiko knew that, when you believed in something, anything was possible. They would just have to believe harder than Azula.
“We need food.” Azula stood up and made her way out of the cave. She called back, “Wouldn't want you to starve now would we?”
“Ayame, how much longer are you going to take?” Ai was standing outside of Ayame's room with the others behind her. Everyone had been packed for a while, but Ayame had apparently decided to take her sweet time.
“Seriously,” Ikuo rolled his eyes as he leaned against the wall, “What are you packing?”
“Oh, just a few things,” Ayame answered through the door. Finally the door opened to reveal Ayame with three huge bags in her arms.
“What?” Ayame couldn't figure out why the others were staring at her as if she'd grown an extra head.
“Ayame,” Kazuna spoke up first, “You do realize you're going to have to carry your own things right?”
“Oh,” Ayame got a thoughtful look on her face. “I didn't think about that.”
“Obviously,” Ikuo muttered just loud enough for the others to make it out.
Ayame just looked at her bags. You would have thought they were telling her she had to die right then and there.
“What about my make up?”
“We're going on a rescue mission and you're worried about make up?” Ikuo looked at her in disbelief.
“You always need to look your best!”
“I'm sorry to interrupt,” Hajime, who had been standing farther down the hall the whole time, snapped. He was slowly moving farther and farther away from the group. “But in case you all have forgotten, Azula currently has Ichiko captive. I don't know about you guys, but I'd prefer to get to her before she's dead!”
The others just stared at him in shock. Hajime wasn't the type to lose his temper like that.
“We're coming.” Ai pushed the others down the hall. She stopped in front of Ayame. “Which bag has clothes?” She shoved the bag Ayame pointed at into her arms, threw the other bags into Ayame's room, and shut the door. Ayame didn't even protest being pushed away from all of her precious “necessities.”
Everyone in the palace was obviously preoccupied with trying to save Ichiko because the children encountered no one as they walked off the palace grounds.
“I can't believe we made it this time!” Ikuo was thrilled. He was running around everywhere and even did a little dance.
Hajime's temper was running very short even with his best friend. “Ikuo, your sister has been taken captive by a crazed lunatic, and your dancing around and cheering!?”
“Calm down, Hajime.” Ikuo didn't seem that worried about his sister. He just rolled his eyes at Hajime. “She'll be fine.”
Hajime looked like he was about to attack Ikuo until Ai stepped in. “Knock it off you two! Fighting won't help anything! We have to focus on finding Ichiko.”
“I completely agree,” Kazuna said, “Just one problem. How are we supposed to find her?”
“Kazuna, honey, it's time to get up.” Katara walked into her daughter's room only to find an empty bed. She stood there in shock for a minute until she began running towards the dining hall were the other adults were gathered for breakfast. “They're gone! I can't believe it! They're gone!”
Aang jumped up and ran towards his wife, “Katara, what happened?” He put his hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eyes.
“I went to Kazuna's room to wake her up and she was gone! I assume the others went with her.” By now Katara was in tears. Aang pulled her close and tried to stop his own tears from flowing.
The other adults just stared at each other in shock. Ichiko missing had been horrible enough, now they had five more children to worry about.
“When they get back I'll kill them.” Toph's fists were clenched. “How did I raise such stupid children.” Sokka decided now probably wasn't the best time to point out to Toph that she probably would have done the exact same thing if she'd been in either of their children's positions. He was worried about enough right now. He didn't fancy having an injury as well.
“I'll gather people to look for them.” Zuko stood from his chair. “And I believe the planning is over. I don't know about you guys, but I'm going to find my daughter.”
“Guys, come look at this.” Ty Lee was leaning over something on the ground. They'd only been traveling for one day, but they'd expected to have found the children already.
“What is it?” Mai asked her friend.
“It's a piece of cloth. It's pink. In fact, it's the same shade of pink that Ayame usually wears.”
“That means they were probably here,” Aang said.
“Maybe we should split up,” Katara suggested. “We'd be more likely to find them.
“That's not necessary,” Zuko said causing the others to look over at him with questioning expressions. “I know they're this way,” he said pointing north.
“And just how exactly do you know that?” Katara answered with her hands on her hips. She was beginning to get irritable. She just wanted her daughter safe.
“Simple, someone's been burning patches of tree bark and plants.” Zuko pointed toward a tree with some of it's bark burnt off.
The others just stared in amazement.
“How the hell did we all miss that?” Sokka's mouth was hanging open in disbelief.
Toph rolled her eyes. “How did I become friends with such idiots,” she muttered to herself while rolling her eyes. If Toph wasn't blind, she definitely would have realized this a day ago.
“But that could mean three different things.” Katara said with a contemplative look on her face. “It could be Ai and they actually want us to find them. It could be Azula, and she's trying to lore us into a trap. Or, it could have been done by some random firebender.”
“I guess we're about to find out,” Aang said leading the way.
“This sucks. It's been over a day. Not to mention the fact that I look like crap from having to sleep on the cold, hard forest floor last night and not having any makeup, and don't even get me started on all of those disgusting bugs that I know were crawling on me all night!”
“Ayame,” Hajime said through his teeth, “Do us all a favor and shut the hell up!”
Hajime and Ayame continued to bicker while the others just ignored them. It had been really easy to tick Hajime off ever since Ichiko had disappeared, but he was really pissed off at Ayame. Ayame cared about her friend but was definitely not cut out to rough it in the wild. All Ayame had done since they had left the palace was rant about how much she hated nature and how important her beauty products were.
“Guys, arguing isn't going to help anything.” Ai was getting a little tired of always being the one to step in and separate the fights. “We have to work together if we want to find Ichiko.”
Ai was trailing a little behind the others. Every so often she'd shoot a bit of fire at a tree or plant. The others may be fine with getting killed, but she at least wanted someone to be able to find their bodies once they were dead. She didn't think they'd be found before they found Azula anyway. Their parents were too preoccupied with finding Ichiko to even notice they were gone.
“Hey guys, look at this.” Kazuna was pointing to an area on the ground were an obvious struggle had taken place. The plants were flattened, and it looked like someone had been dragged. Kazuna was just thankful there was no blood.
“It could have just been some animals,” Ikuo said after a few moments of silence.
“Or, you know, a crazy sociopath could have found a little girl and bound her up and dragged her off.” The children froze. They turned around to see Azula standing against a tree with her arms folded and a creepy smirk on her face.
“You children have absolutely no idea how to remain hidden do you,” she continued while rolling her eyes. “I had hoped it would at least be a little challenging. I mean, I didn't even have to look for you. I just stumbled upon you on accident.”
“You haven't even fought us yet!” Ikuo exclaimed.
“Dear boy, it won't be a fight.”
“It's five against one!”
“But I'm a master firebender. You're just children.”
“We're the same age you were during the war,” Hajime barked at her.
“But no where near as talented, and that makes all the difference.”
“We'll see about that!” Hajime grabbed his knife and ran at Azula. Azula's smirk grew even larger. This would be fun.