Avatar: The Next Generation
Chapter 8: Scared and Worried
Hajime's advance toward Azula was quickly stopped when a wall of flames came up in his path. He jumped back just barely saving himself from being burned. Kazuna used the water from her pouch to drown most of the flames, but was unable to put out all of them.
“You're clearly not up to your mother's level yet are you?” Azula smirked at Kazuna. She began advancing toward the young waterbender. Kazuna instinctively backed away. She knew she stood no chance against Azula.
Ikuo jumped in front of his cousin while manipulating the earth into a wall in front of him. He stood in a fighting stance facing Azula.
“Really,” Azula rolled her eyes, “It's pathetic how you actually think you stand a chance.”
Azula casually began walking forward toward Ikuo and his wall of earth. Then, out of no where, Azula suddenly had Ayame pinned to the ground and her arms tied.
“Foolish girl,” she spit at Ayame, “Thought you could sneak up on me. You have so much to learn.”
The other children looked at each other with looks of horror on their faces. They didn't need to say anything. They all knew they were doomed.
“Aang, what is it?” Katara asked after running into her husband who had stopped walking out of no where. He had been leading the group of adults through the woods following the trail that may or may not have been left by their children.
“Look,” Aang said as he stooped down and picked something up off the ground. He held out his palm, so the others could see the coin in his hand. “This is Water Tribe money.”
“Kazuna,” Katara gasped.
“It looks like there was a fight,” Sokka said as his eyes roved around the area. “Some of the plants are flattened, and there are more scorch marks here. These have to be from a fight.”
“They must have found Azula,” Ty Lee's eyes were beginning to overflow with tears.
“Not necessarily,” Suki gently put her hand on Ty Lee's shoulder to comfort her, but she didn't sound too convinced of her own words.
“If Azula did beat them,” Mai said, “How did she manage to take all of them with her? She couldn't have carried all of them by herself. They can't be...” She trailed off, unable to finish the horrible idea that had come to her mind.
“They're not dead,” Zuko actually looked convinced of this. He wrapped his arms around his wife, and she laid her head on his shoulder. “Azula would have had to do something with the bodies. Plus, I don't see any blood which is a good sign.”
They were all beginning to look a little sick. Horrible thoughts were going through their heads. What could Azula have done to their children?
“Seriously?” Ichiko exclaimed as she saw Azula bringing her friends into the cave. “All five of you together couldn't stop her?” In actuality, Ichiko wasn't surprised. She knew better now then to doubt Azula's abilities, but she was still pissed at her friends for what they'd done.
“Shut up Ichiko,” Hajime growled at her, “You're the reason we're in this mess. The least you could do is be grateful.”
“It's not my fault you guys are idiots and came alone.”
“Last time I checked, you came completely alone. Remind me again, who's stupid?”
“Enough!” Azula had had enough of the two children's arguing. “If you two keep that up you'll really regret it. I'm not opposed to torture.”
The children stared at her with wide, terrified eyes.
“What do you want from us?” Ai asked, “Why don't you just kill us?”
“Because you have information that is useful to me.”
“What information do we have that could possibly be useful to you?” Ikuo asked.
“You spend a lot of time at the Fire Nation palace and other important places. Ai's going to become Fire Lord someday. You know that you have information that could be useful to me.”
“Even if we do,” Ikuo said disgustedly, “We'd never give it to an evil bitch like you!”
“Oh dear boy,” Azula smirked, “You'll give it to me. It's just a matter of whether you'll give it to me willingly or not.”
“We would die before we'd tell you anything,” Ichiko spat at Azula.
“We'll see about that,” Azula's smirk grew larger, “I'll give you the night to mull it over. We'll see in the morning if you're still reluctant. If so, I'll have to use some of my favorite methods of torture.” Azula walked off towards the entrance of the cave, leaving the children virtually alone.
“Favorite methods of torture,” Ayame whimpered, “What kind of person has a favorite method of torture?”
“Monsters,” Ai said.
Kazuna was suddenly aware of the tears falling down her cheeks. She looked at her friends. She wasn't the only one crying. Ayame had tears streaming down her face, and Ai looked like it was taking all of her will power to not collapse into sobs.
“What are we going to do?” Kazuna whispered to her friends. She wasn't sure why she wasn't able to make her voice louder. It didn't really matter if she spoke louder. She was sure Azula couldn't hear them, but her voice refused to do more than whisper.
“There's nothing we can do,” Ai lowered her eyes to the ground. “We're just going to have to hope we'll be found before Azula tortures us to death.”
“Guys,” Kaimu spoke up, “I think we need to stop for the night. It's gotten dark, and we need our rest.”
“Kaimu's right,” said Aang, “We'll stop here. We'll take turns keeping watch. I'll go first.”
“I'll stay with you,” said Katara, “It'll be better to have two pairs of eyes.”
The others found the softest places on the ground and tried to clear their minds. They had been in a rush and hadn't thought to bring sleeping bags. They'd been hopeful that they'd find the children in one day anyway. Aang and Katara found a log that could make a comfortable bench, or at least as comfortable of a bench that a log could make. They sat turned away from each other, so they could see more of the area. Their eyes were constantly alert, scared that they'd see Azula and hopeful that they'd some how spot their daughter and the other children.
“I can't believe this is happening.” It was the first time Katara had spoken during the hour her and Aang had been keeping watch. Aang was pained to hear tears in her voice. He turned to his wife and wrapped his arms around her. She laid her head on his shoulder.
“It'll be alright,” Aang said trying to comfort her. He knew he wasn't being very convincing. Katara would see right through his fake assurance. In truth, we was as scared and worried as she was.
“Don't lie to me Aang.”
“Okay, I won't, but really, Katara, we'll do our best to find them. We'll find Azula, and it'll be all of us against just her. We'll be sure to win.
“But what if they're dead before we get there,” she whispered quietly. Aang knew that this thought had crossed everyone's mind, but Katara was the first person Aang had heard actually voice it.
“I don't know, Katara. I don't know.” He would have liked to have been able to say something that would have made Katara's, and his own, pain go away, but he couldn't. He had no idea what was happening to his daughter, his niece and nephew, and the other children. He could only hope, just like Katara and the others, that they were still alive.
Aang and Katara hadn't realized that their conversation wasn't a private one. Only a few of the adults had been lucky enough to find sleep.
Zuko, in particular, was unable to let the darkness overtake him. He had failed to protect his daughter. In his mind, that made him almost as horrible of a father to his daughter as Ozai had been to him. Sure, he hadn't branded his daughter using fire as Ozai had done to him, but he hadn't protected her. To him, that was almost as horrible.
He remembered when Ai was born. He had promised her that he would be a better father than his own had been. I knew she couldn't remember it, she'd only been a few minutes old, but Zuko had taken that promise very seriously. He'd always tried to be the best father to his kids that he could be. It had worried him at first. How could he possibly know how to be a good father when he had never had a good father as an example. It had taken a long conversation with his uncle Iroh to convince Zuko that he might actually make a decent father, and he had actually thought he was doing a decent job until this. He wouldn't blame Ai if she hated him after this.