Author's Note: Sorry there was no chapter yesterday. It was a strange day yesterday. It's kind of a long story, but it you watch my Youtube videos than you probably know. Anyway, there will be another chapter up after this. Enjoy!
Avatar: The Next Generation
Chapter 9: An Unexpected Trip and a Discovery
Kazuna woke up in a very uncomfortable position the next morning. She turned her head to find that she was half on top of her cousin Ikuo and had somehow oddly twisted her body in her sleep. She moved a lot in her sleep she knew. Apparently, that wasn't a good thing to do when your hands and feet were bound.
It took Kazuna a few seconds to figure out what had woken her. Despite her uncomfortable position, she didn't think that was what had woken her. Then she heard the cold, mocking voice. “Wakey, wakey children.” Azula still had that stupid smirk on her face. Did that damn thing ever leave her mouth?
“So,” Azula continued, “Have you considered telling me everything?” Kazuna didn't believe she was a violent person. She usually left the violence to her cousins, but right then, she wanted nothing more than to rip that stupid smirk off of Azula's face.
“No,” Ai spoke for the whole group, “There's nothing to consider. We're not telling you a damn thing.”
The smirk just grew larger. “Very well then. If you want to be tortured, it's all right by me. In fact, I'll quite enjoy it.”
Kazuna could feel the tears coming again. She'd never thought of herself as a strong person. It had always made her feel like a disappointment really. Everyone in her family was strong and brave, except her. She wasn't quite sure how genetics had messed that one up.
It was as if Azula could sense this weakness in her because Kazuna was the first one Azula turned to. “I think the Avatar's daughter should get the honor of going first.”
Kazuna's breath caught in her throat. She was going to break, she knew it. She didn't want to. Why would she want to endanger her family? But she was weak.
“What do you even want to know?” Kazuna could barely even hear her own question, so she was surprised when Azula answered her.
“Let's start with something simple,” Azula said, “Why don't you tell me if the Fire Nation is looking for me.”
“The whole world is looking for you,” Kazuna didn't see the harm in answering this question. “They know you're in the Fire Nation though.” Kazuna admitted to herself that she wasn't quite sure if she should have told Azula this or not. What were the limits of what you could and could not tell the enemy?
“That was a good start,” Azula even slowly applauded a few times, “I already knew the answer of course, but you've proven that you can be cooperative. Keep that up, and you'll be fine. Now, Ai, I have a question for you. You're already beginning to get ready to take the throne, correct?” Ai just nodded her head. “That means you can answer a few questions I have about the inner workings of the Fire Nation.”
“No,” Ai spat.
Azula smirked yet again. “No, you don't know, or no, you won't tell me.”
“No, I won't tell you.”
“Stupid girl!” Azula was in front of Ai so fast that she appeared to have traveled faster than humanly possible. She grabbed Ai's forearms and gripped them tight. Ai's face contorted in pain. She looked to have been in too much pain for it to just be because of how hard Azula's grip was. Then, Azula pulled away. The other children could see the bright red marks on Ai's arms. Ai had begun to sob, and there were blisters forming where Azula had gripped her. Ai suddenly began screaming and gripping her arms to her body. Ikuo was struggling with his bonds trying to get closer to her so he could help, but it was useless. He couldn't get out of the bonds no matter how hard he tried.
“Now children,” Azula's smirk was wider than ever, something Kazuna would have thought of as impossible. “Have we learned our lesson?” Ai just continued to scream and cry while the other children stared at Azula in terror. “Don't worry,” Azula continued, “I won't kill you. Then, you wouldn't be useful as bait. Now, are you going to tell me what I want to know?”
The adults set off in the morning, still following the faint trail that they prayed led to their children.
“How far could she have possibly taken them?” Sokka asked the others, “She couldn't possibly have taken five children that far.”
“I don't know,” Zuko spoke up, “This is Azula we're talking about. If she wants something done, she'll find a way.”
“Way to cheer us up, Zuko,” Toph said sarcastically as she rolled her eyes.
“Sorry, but it's the truth. I don't think this is a good time to be lying to ourselves.”
“Zuko's right,” Aang said, “We need to be prepared for the worst.” Aang looked at the ground as he said this. Katara could tell he was in pain. She reached out to him and took his hand, giving it a comforting squeeze.
All of the adults were silent now. They drifted into horrible daydreams of the horrible things Azula could be doing to their children. They seemed to be doing that a lot lately.
“But Sokka does have a point,” Aang finally continued, “Azula probably isn't that far from here. We should probably be quieter, just in case. We want to sneak up on her, not the other way around.”
The others nodded, and followed him along the trail. Hopefully, they'd catch up to Azula soon.
The adults heard the bird before they saw it. There were many animals in these woods though, so they didn't pay the hawk that much attention until it landed on Zuko's shoulder. It was only then that they realized it was a messenger hawk. Zuko glanced at the others. What could this letter possibly be about? He prayed it was good news.
“There's trouble in the capital,” Zuko informed the others once he had finished the letter.
“Is it Azula?” Suki asked anxiously.
“No,” Zuko shook his head, “Not directly at least. There seems to be a problem with the Earth Kingdom. They're not happy about how we're handling Azula's escape.” He began to write a quick response back before sending the bird back to where it had come from.
“Idiots,” Sokka muttered lowly before continuing in a normal volume, “They're still holding a grudge from the war. They know you're doing as much as you can. I'd like to see them do any better.”
“Even so,” Zuko said, “I still have to deal with this. They want me back at the capital as soon as possible. The Earth King sent representatives who wish to speak to me. You guys need to continue looking for the kids. I'll go back on my own.”
“No,” Aang disagreed, “I'll go with you. It's my job to make sure all of the nations get along. The others are more than capable of finding and defeating Azula on their own.”
Zuko nodded in agreement. “All right then. Aang and I will go together. Will you guys be alright on your own?”
“Of course we will,” Mai assured her husband while she leaned up to kiss him goodbye. “It will still be eight against one. That's not even a fair fight really. It'll probably be dreadfully boring.”
Zuko smiled at his wife and turned to leave with Aang who'd just finished saying goodbye to Katara.
“If you're not back by the time this is settled,” Zuko called to the others as he and Aang began their way back to the capital. “We'll come back for you.”
They had a long trip ahead of them, but it wouldn't go quite like they expected.
“Is that what I think it is?” Suki asked the others.
“It's a cave,” Ty Lee said with excitement, “The trail ends at a cave!”
“Ty Lee!” Mai snapped quietly, “Shh! Azula cold be in there and hear you!”
“Whoops,” Ty Lee whispered, “Sorry.”
Mai just rolled her eyes at her friend. It was a wonder their friendship had lasted this long. Ty Lee could really get annoying.
“What are we going to do?” Suki asked. It was really a wonder that they'd spent all that time walking and not once had they discussed a plan. They'd been too preoccupied with worry for their children.
“I think we should sneak up on her,” Sokka said. He instantly went into “Plan Guy” mode. “We might be able to get her before she even realizes we're there.”
“That is assuming she's even in the cave,” Katara said, “She might have left and taken them somewhere else.”
“It's possible,” Sokka told his sister, “But we shouldn't count on it. It's not like we should assume that she just went out for a nice stroll and left the children there by themselves.”
“Well,” said Toph with annoyance, “If you two would shut your mouths, we could find out.”
“Right,” said Sokka, “Come on everyone and remember to keep quiet.”
Aang and Zuko hadn't been traveling for long, maybe an hour at the most. They were hurrying through the forest as fast as their legs would carry them. They wanted to get this business at the capital over with so they could go back to what was really important: their children.
“Well, who do we have here. You two have no idea how long I've waited to see you.” The voice seemed to come from no where. They recognized it though. How could they not. The cold tone could only belong to one person.
Suddenly, Azula dropped down in front of them. She'd apparently been up in the trees.
“Zuzu,” Azula addressed Zuko using her childhood nickname for him, “It's been so long. Any luck finding mother?”
“How did you-” But Azula didn't let Zuko finish.
“It's not that difficult to figure out you'd go looking for your mommy,” Azula rolled her eyes, “You always were a mommy's boy. That's probably what made you so weak.”
“You think I'm weak?” Zuko asked his little sister in disbelief. “Remember what happened during our Agni Kai?”
“I remember you having the help of a stupid Water Tribe girl to defeat me.” Azula smirked when she noticed the Avatar clinch his fists when she insulted the girl. “How is she?” She asked, now addressing Aang.
“Like you care,” Aang spat.
“Actually, I do. It's always good to have information on you enemies.”
“Where are our children?” Zuko asked in a menacing voice.
“They're alive,” Azula said casually, “They're also very stubborn. Didn't want to cooperate. I had to use a little torture.”
Zuko and Aang gasped which only caused Azula's smirk to grow larger.
“As I said,” she continued, “They're alive. They still have information though. I'm afraid I'll be needing to keep them for a while.”
She smirked again as Aang and Zuko began to attack at exactly the same time. Finally, she thought, some real fun.