Author's Note: So much for this chapter being longer. That didn't happen.
Also, I'd planned on having this chapter up last weekend, but school was crazy last week. Pretty much all I did was go to school, come home and do homework, and then sleep. Then, my whole weekend was focused on Harry Potter (I loved the movie!), and seeing my best friend for the first time since August. So, most of this chapter was written over this week. I hope you guys enjoy it!
Avatar: The Next Generation
Chapter 19: Love Isn't a Weakness
“I have some news,” Aang told his children, “We're all going to the Fire Nation for a visit in a week.”
“All of us?” Sugi asked in excitement.
“Yes,” Katara told her daughter, “All of us. Even Aunt Toph and Uncle Sokka, Suki and Kaimu, and Ty Lee and Haru are coming with their kids.”
“This is awesome!” Kazuna yelled in excitement. She had seen Ichiko and Ayame just a few months earlier, but none of them had seen Ai in over a year now. With so much happening in the Fire Nation, none of their families had been very willing to travel there.
“But I thought you guys said it was too dangerous,” Saki said, “Why are you letting us go now.”
Aang spoke up, “It's been so long since you guys have seen Mai, Zuko, Ai, Akatsuki, and Akiyoshi, and Yuuga can't even remember them,” he motioned to the now two-year-old child that was watching the conversation with interest, “Your mother and I think it's about time we went again.”
“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” Kazuna repeated to her parents as she got up to hug them. This was difficult since there were also seven other children trying to do the same thing. She was so excited to see Ai again. She was also looking forward to seeing Akatsuki. They'd been writing to each other a lot over the past year, and she couldn't wait to actually get to talk to him.
Kazuna ran towards Ai as soon as she came into sight. “I'm so glad to see you!” she exclaimed as she wrapped her arms around her friend. Ayame soon joined in the hug, but Ichiko stayed back. After a few moments, Kazuna turned to her, “Come on, Ichiko.” She held out her arm, gesturing for Ichiko to enter the hug as well. Ichiko just shook her head with a look on her face that said, “no way.” Finally, Kazuna was able to pull her into the hug with Ai and Ayame's help.
“You guys are such saps,” Ichiko said when they'd finally broken apart, but she had a smile on her face as she said it.
Kazuna couldn't wait to catch up with Ai, but as soon as Ai had begun telling them the latest about her boyfriend, whom they had yet to meet, Kazuna caught sight of Akatsuki who was currently in a conversation with her younger brother Kuuya. He didn't seem to be paying much attention though. He was looking her way, and smiled as soon as he saw that she was looking at him. She smiled back and waved which caused Akatsuki to blush a little.
Ai leaned over to whisper into Kazuna's ear, “He's been talking about you all the time this past year. He's completely infatuated with you.”
Kazuna found herself blushing at Ai's words. It wasn't anymore than she'd expected. After a exchanging a few letters with Akatsuki, she'd thought that he might have a crush on her. Still, she wasn't exactly sure how to handle it now that they would be staying in the same place. She liked him as a friend and everything, but he was only ten years old after all.
Azula proudly stood as they watched the army marching past them. It had taken over a year, but the time had finally come. A month ago, Ozai had told Azula that he felt that their army was ready to fight Zuko and his army.
It was taking a while to gather their army together since they were so scattered across the nation. They had gradually been gathering troops as they neared the capital. They weren't far now, and they had a fairly substantial number of their troops with them already. It wouldn't take long before they were noticed by one of Zuko's men. It didn't matter. They weren't hiding anymore. Judging from the size and talent of their troops, Zuko would need all the extra time he could get anyway.
“My Lord,” Zuko turned as he heard one of the servants address him, “General Eun Mi wishes to speak to you sir. She's says it can't wait. It's something about Ozai and Azula.”
Zuko hadn't even waited for the guard to finish speaking. He took off towards the room where Eun Mi, one of the top ranking generals in the Fire Nation army, was waiting for him.
“You have information?” Zuko asked her before the door had even swung shut behind him.
General Eun Mi looked at him with a grave look on her face. “Yes,” she began, “Azula and Ozai are leading their army towards us as we speak. I already have troops surrounding the capital, and even more on their way to meet them. If everything goes well, they'll be defeated before they even reach the city.”
“But things never tend to go well when it's war,” Zuko said with sadness in his voice.
“No, they don't,” the general agreed.
“All right then,” Zuko said as he started towards the door, “Continue doing your job. I'm going to have the palace evacuated. We need to get the servants and especially the children out. Then, my friends and I will join you.”
General Eun Mi nodded and replied, “Yes, sir,” but Zuko was already gone. She hurried back to her soldiers as well.
The children were told they had fifteen minutes to gather some of their things to take with them. They were being taken to a bunker underneath the palace. It was the same one Fire Lord Ozai had hidden in during the Day of Black Sun. It wasn't the most ideal place since Ozai and Azula would know where they were, but it was going to be heavily guarded, and they didn't think even Azula and Ozai's strong army would be able to break in. They didn't have any earth or metal benders like Toph.
Hajime was quickly gathering his things when he heard a knock at his open bedroom door. He looked up and was shocked to see Ichiko standing there with a small bag at her feet.
“I need to talk to you,” she said. Hajime could hear the fear in her voice.
“What is it?” he asked her as he sat down on his bed. He patted the space beside him, motioning for her to sit there.
She came over slowly and left a fairly large gap in between them. “I've been thinking,” she began and then continued slowly, “I've been kind of stupid this past year. I didn't want to admit my feelings for you because somehow I thought that would make me weak. Then, Ai said something to me last night that made me realize something. She told me I shouldn't be scared of love. She said that was what caused Azula and Ozai's downfall. They didn't have anyone who loved them enough to help them when they needed it. They only had themselves to rely on. That made me realize that love isn't a weakness. It makes you stronger. Afterward, I wanted to tell you the truth, but I couldn't get the courage to. Then, we find out that Ozai and Azula are coming, and I had to tell you I really did like you before...”
She trailed off and just looked at Hajime. He just looked back just like he had been through her whole speech, just watching her.
After a moment, Hajime leaned over and kissed her. He offered her a small smile once they pulled apart, and he took her hand. “Come on,” he said as he stood up and pulled her up with him, “We need to get going.”
They kept their hands linked together as they went to find the others.
Akatsuki fumbled with the hem of one of his sleeves as he walked toward Kazuna's bedroom door. He couldn't believe he was doing this.
Kazuna glanced up at him as he knocked. She smiled at him, but he could still see the fear in her eyes. “Hi Akatsuki,” she greeted him, “You can come in if you want. I'm almost ready.”
He walked over to her bed as his knees shook. He couldn't believe he was going to go through with this. He decided to get it over with quickly. “Kazuna, I have a crush on you,” he said so quickly that the words were barely distinguishable, but he knew that Kazuna had understood because she froze.
Kazuna turned towards Akatsuki with a look of shock on her face. “What?” she asked in disbelief. She'd never thought that he'd admit his feelings like this. What was she supposed to say?
Akatsuki didn't answer her. He just looked towards the floor and tried to keep from blushing even harder.
After a moment or two, Akatsuki felt the mattress dip down beside him. His blush grew darker when he felt Kazuna's hand on his shoulder.
“Akatsuki,” she began, “You're only ten, and I'm sixteen. That's a big age difference.”
Akatsuki said nothing. He just continued staring at the floor. Kazuna's room had a rather nice carpet.
“Look,” Kazuna continued after an awkward silence, “I'm too old for you right now, but who knows what will happen when we're older.”
Akatsuki finally looked up at Kazuna in surprise. “But I'm not guaranteeing anything either,” she quickly added.
“Still,” Akatsuki spoke with a slight smile, “I can hope.”
Kazuna smiled back at him. “Come on,” she said as she stood up, “We need to hurry. We don't want the others waiting for us. It wouldn't be too great if Azula and Ozai came before we were in the bunker.”
As Akatsuki followed Kazuna out of the room, he marveled over how happy he now felt even though his home was getting ready to be attacked by his own grandfather and aunt. He knew he'd be able to win Kazuna over in time.
Author's Note: So, next chapter will may contain some fighting not much. After that though, the remaining chapters (not including the epilogue) will contain fighting. It'll be interesting to see how those chapters go since my past attempts at writing fighting/battle scenes have been pretty horrible.