Author's Note: Sorry there was no chapter yesterday. I was really busy with this video I had to upload to Youtube. If you follow me on Twitter, then you probably know what I'm talking about. Anyway, there's another chapter coming up after this!
Avatar: The Next Generation
Chapter 14: On Their Own
“We're doing all we can, Fire Lord Zuko,” Zuko's top ranking general informed him.
“I know,” Zuko said, “But it's obviously not working. We need a different plan. Does anyone have any ideas?”
No one said a word. They just looked around the room waiting for someone else to volunteer. Zuko sighed. The stress was really beginning to get to him. Mai, who was sitting at his side, rested her hand on his in an effort to calm him.
Finally, someone spoke up, “We're already doing everything we can.”
“You're telling me that the Fire Nation was able to almost take over the world, but they can't find one crazy woman?” Zuko's frustration was beginning to show.
“Sir,” spoke up another general, “I know it sounds bad, but it's the truth. Azula clearly knows what she's doing. She knows all of the Fire Nation's weaknesses.”
“We're obviously not looking in the right places,” Zuko told those assembled. “She has to be hiding somewhere we're not considering.”
Suddenly, Zuko felt Mai stiffen beside him. He looked over at her with a worried look on his face. “Mai, what is it?”
Mai slowly turned to look at him and then spoke in a whisper, “Your father.”
Zuko's expression turned into one of confusion. “What about my fath-” He stopped, suddenly realizing what Mai meant. He turned back toward the assembled officers who were looking at him and Mai with interest, “Place extra guards around my father's cell. I think Mai might have figured out one place Azula's been visiting.”
Ozai looked up from the floor when he heard foot steps coming toward his cell. It wasn't the normal time for the guards to come by which meant it had to be someone else. He had a pretty good idea who. A cruel smile made its way across his face as she entered, “Azula, good to see you again.”
He saw his smile mirrored on her face. “You too, father. I'm sorry I haven't been able to visit the past few days. I've been getting everything ready for our plan.”
“Of course you have,” Ozai said, “I'm sure everything will go perfectly. It's only a matter of time before I'm out of this rotten place. How is everything going?”
“The Avatar left yesterday and his family and many of his friends went with them,” as Azula spoke Ozai nodded his head in pleasure, “I think the Avatar is heading to the Earth Kingdom. From what I've been able to gather, the Earth King isn't happy with Zuko or the Fire Nation right now. Not that they have been for over a hundred years.”
“That's one less obstacle then,” Ozai said, “We'll have to deal with the Avatar, but we'll get Zuko out of the way first. Now, when am I getting out of here?”
Azula smiled, “Soon, father. Very soon.”
“I can't believe that even the Southern Water Tribe has heard about Azula escaping,” Kuuya muttered as he walked to school with three of his sisters. They had returned to the village on Saturday and it was their first day back at school. School had begun while they were in the Fire Nation. They hadn't even been to the Southern Water Tribe in about a month because they'd been staying the the Southern Air Temple, where they spent every summer.
“It's not really surprising, Kuuya,” Kazuna told her younger brother, “It's huge news. It makes since that they found out before we got back.”
“Everyone's going to be bothering me at school though,” Kuuya complained, “They'll want to know exactly what happened, and I don't want to talk about it.”
“Then don't talk about it,” Kazuna told him.
“That's easier said then done,” Kuuya rolled his eyes, “They'll bug me all day.”
“Why's that bad?” Misoka asked, looking up at Kuuya.
“Because it's annoying,” said Kuuya.
“We think it's cool,” said Nori, “It's cool when everyone wants to talk to you.”
“You're only eight,” Kuuya said dismissively.
“You're only ten,” Misoka and Nori said simultaneously in indignation.
Kazuna looked around as she entered the classroom. Her eyes roamed the room until she found Zhuang, Ching Lan, and Feng huddled in a group in the back of the room. They were her three closest friends in the Southern Water Tribe.
Ching Lan saw Kazuna first. She was always in excitable person, maybe even more so than Ayame which was saying something.
“Kazuna!” she yelled when she saw Kazuna coming towards them. She ran towards Kazuna and wrapped her arms tightly around her yelling, “I haven't seen you in months! It's been so long!”
Kazuna kind of laughed at Ching Lan's exorbitance. “Yeah, I know. We had to visit the Fire Nation because of the whole Azula thing.”
“Duh,” laughed Feng, “We already know that. Everyone knows that. We want to hear the whole story.”
“Everyone's saying that you guys actually fought Azula,” Zhuang said with awe in his voice.
“Yeah, we did,” Kazuna's eyes tilted downward, and she blushed lightly as she spoke.
“Well,” said Ching Lan sensing Kazuna's reluctance to discuss Azula, “As exciting as that sounds, I can't believe you made me put up with these two on my own for a month.” She pointed at Feng and Zhuang as she spoke. “A girl can only put up with two guys for so long before she goes insane. You have no idea how badly I need girl time.”
Kazuna laughed as Zhuang and Feng pretended to be offended. “I missed you too, Ching Lan,” she told her friend, “And you guys too,” she added when Feng and Zhuang both yelled, “Hey!”
“Okay,” Ching Lan began, “We have a lot of catching up to do. Let's start with this whole Azula thing.”
Kazuna sighed as she sat down with her friends and began telling them the whole story. She couldn't help but wonder if the others were having similar first days back.
“I don't think it's that difficult to understand,” Aang said through clenched teeth. He'd been talking to the Earth King for half an hour now, and the Earth King was being very stubborn.
According to the Earth King, it was completely unacceptable that the Fire Nation, more specifically Zuko, hadn't been able to capture Azula.
“And,” the Earth King continued, ignoring Aang, “I'm appalled that the Fire Lord couldn't come speak to me himself.”
“He's busy trying to find Azula,” Aang said exasperated, “Or is that not the whole reason we're having this meeting. If you want to speak directly to him, travel to the Fire Nation.”
“Why would I do that when I'm so busy here?” the king said a little haughtily.
Aang put his face in his hands. This was not going well.
Aang wearily made his way up the steps of the teashop. Once inside, his eyes roamed around the room searching for the owner. He spotted Iroh at one of the tables conversing with some customers. He always enjoyed asking the customers if they enjoyed the tea. Their answer was almost always yes.
Iroh saw Aang coming towards him and excused himself from the customers. “You look tired,” he told Aang once they had sat down at a vacant table.
“I talked to him for hours, and he still won't see reason,” Aang sighed.
Iroh had a sympathetic look on his face, “It may be years from know before the damage from the war fully heals,” he told Aang sadly, “In fact, it may never completely heal. We can only hope that sometime in the future the Earth Kingdom won't be so judgmental of the Fire Nation. Until then, I think the Fire Nation is on its own. The Earth Kingdom is obviously not going to be helpful in this situation.”
“I guess you're right,” Aang slumped in his chair, “I think I'll head back to the Fire Nation tomorrow. As you said, there's no use trying to reason with the Earth King, and I need to help Zuko as much as I can.”
Iroh nodded, “I wish you and Zuko the best of luck in finding Azula. We can only hope she doesn't cause to much damage before she's found.”