Avatar: The Next Generation
Chapter 15: Don't Let Her
Ichiko sat on the beach watching the giant koi fish in the distance. Her head rested on her knees as she got lost in her thoughts. She didn't notice at first that Hajime had sat down beside her. He nudged her after he'd been ignored for a few minutes. She literally jumped to her feet as soon as he touched her. He'd probably have been attacked if she hadn't noticed it was him so quickly.
“Don't ever sneak up on me like that!” she yelled in rage. Her voice shook as she spoke and Hajime could tell he'd frightened her. Truthfully, she had frightened him too. Azula had all of them more scared than any of them would admit.
For a minute, Ichiko looked as if she was debating storming off and sitting back down where she'd been before Hajime had scared her. Hajime didn't say anything. He watched Ichiko for a moment before turning to look to where she'd been staring before being interrupted, the giant koi.
Suddenly, Hajime spoke up, “Sometimes, I wish I wasn't human. It seems like it would be so easy being an animal. Sure, they have emotions, but they're no where near as complicated as our emotions are. Take dogs for example, they either hate you or love you. It's as simple as that. They don't judge people so easily. If you're kind to them, they're kind to you. Dogs don't set out to make each others lives miserable. They don't want power. They help each other, work as a team. It's so simple.”
Ichiko just stared at Hajime. She had no idea where this was coming from. She slowly sank down in the sand behind him. After his little speech, neither one of them said anything. Hajime watched the koi, and Ichiko watched Hajime. He seemed different to her somehow, right at this moment.
Finally, Ichiko broke the silence, “I understand. I was thinking about what it would be like to be a fish before you came.” She turned to look at the koi again as she spoke. “It doesn't know who Azula is or why everyone's so scared of her. I thought it would be great to be so carefree. Then, I realized that there's problems with being a koi too. They have to worry about predators and always finding food sure, but the biggest problem is that they don't love like we do. I mean, who knows if they even love at all. Dogs are loyal to their owners, more so than most humans would ever be to anybody, but is it really love? I think that's what's so special about being human. We have to deal with a lot of crap, but there are so many great things that make up for that.” Ichiko had never considered herself to be good with words. She had no idea where this was coming from. It just came to her as she spoke.
Ichiko looked back at Hajime. “I won't lie. I'm terrified of Azula. But I realized today that she can never win. She's after power. Even if she wins and gets what she wants, we'll still have each other.” She paused before continuing in a tight voice. “Even if someone we love dies because of her, we'll still have won. Azula's life will always be miserable, and although this may make me a horrible person, that makes me feel better.”
Neither one said anything more after that. They watched the sunset together before walking home in silence. As they walked, Hajime wrapped his hand around Ichiko's, and she surprised herself by not pulling hers away. Then, in front of Ichiko's door, Hajime kissed her on the cheek, smiled, and left without saying a word.
Kazuna frowned at the letter her mother handed her. She was used to getting letters. It was how she stayed in touch with Ichiko, Ai, and Ayame when they were apart, but the handwriting on this letter wasn't any of theirs.
She opened the envelope, curious to see who had written her. Before reading the letter, she glanced at the signature at the bottom. Akatsuki. Why had Ai's nine year old brother written her? She began to read his slightly messy handwriting.
I know it may seem a little weird that I'm writing to you. We don't usually talk to each other when you're not here. We don't even talk that much when you're here. I saw Ai writing a letter the other day and wanted to write one too. Dad has to help me since I don't know how to spell all of the words yet.
He asked me who I wanted to write to first, and I said you. I hope that's okay. I guess I could have written to Kuuya since he's my best friend and all, but I'm writing to him next. I hope he gets his letter when you get yours. I'm going to try writing to everybody!
I'm running out of things to talk about. Writing a letter is hard.
I can't stop thinking about Azula. Dad's reading over my shoulder and frowning as I write. It's true though. I'm scared.
My hand hurts. Writing can be hard.
I hope you write back.
Kazuna smiled as she read the letter. She had no idea why Akatsuki had chosen her to write to first, but she thought it was cute. Her smile faltered a little at the part about Azula though. It wasn't right that a little nine year old was so terrified of something like this. It was even his own aunt! When Kazuna had been nine her biggest worry had been what she was having for snack that day.
She sat down to write Akatsuki back.
I'm touched that you decided to write your first letter to me.
Kuuya did get a letter today. I didn't talk to him, but it was probably yours. We'll send our replies together, so you may have even read his already.
Azula's been on my mind too. I understand why you're scared, but I'm sure everything will be fine. If they beat Azula once, they can do it again.
I can't wait to get your next letter.
Ayame stepped into the building where she practiced fighting every day. She wasn't surprised to see Ikuo there. He liked to practice his sword fighting in here when the Kiyoshi Warriors weren't all using this place to train. She did find it a little odd that Ikuo was just sitting on the floor with his sword on the ground beside him. He didn't look as if he'd done much practicing at all.
“Ikuo,” she said to get his attention.
He looked up at her and said, “Hey.”
“Hi,” Ayame said a little slowly. She could tell that there was something off with Ikuo. “What's wrong?”
“Nothing,” Ikuo sighed, “I'm just thinking.”
“About Azula,” Ayame finished for him.
Ikuo just nodded and Ayame went and at sat beside him.
“Isn't she what everyone's thinking about?” he asked.
“Of course she is,” Ayame said, “How can we not?”
“I hate that she's pretty much taken over our lives,” Ikuo said.
“Then don't let her,” Ayame smirked.
“What?” Ikuo asked in confusion.
“Spar with me,” Ayame said as she stood up. “You and your sword against me and my hand to hand combat and chi blocking.”
Ikuo smirked, “You're on.”
Ikuo was back to his normal self in no time. As they spared, he began to taunt and tease Ayame. Normally this would have bugged her as she hated being picked on, but considering the circumstance, she decided to just put up with it and even toss a few teasing insults back.
Kuuya was honestly a little frightened when he saw the tears on his mother's face. He'd seen her cry on a few occasions, but this seemed different somehow. Maybe it was because it was just the two of them in the room and his dad wasn't there to comfort her like he usually was. Kuuya felt that it was his responsibility to cheer her up, and he wasn't sure if he could do that.
“Mom?” he whispered quietly. He'd needed to ask her something and had found her in her room. She was sitting on the bed and had no candles lit. The light from the other room was just bright enough for him to see the tears.
She hadn't noticed him come in. She shifted her gaze from the window to him. “Kuuya,” she said, “Come here.” She held her arms out, and he walked into them. He hadn't been held in a while. He was too old for it really, but he let her just this once. She hugged him for a few minutes until the tears had stopped falling. Then, she loosened her grip on him and smiled. “Come on,” she said, “Let's go and see what your brothers and sisters are doing.”
Kuuya followed Katara out of the room. He was surprised at how easy that had been.
Ai was wandering around the palace aimlessly when she came across a boy she had never seen before coming down the hallway. She could tell he was a servant, but he looked so much younger than the other servants. She must have been staring because he grinned a little before bowing and addressing her as Princess Ai. Almost everyone had bowed to her for her whole life, but it never got any less annoying to her. She didn't ever stop them though since it was tradition.
“If never met you before,” she said to him before we could walk away.
“Probably not, Princess,” he said, “I just began working here a few days ago.” As he talked, Ai noticed that he was actually rather cute.
“How old are you?” she asked him.
“Seventeen. My birthday was a few months ago,” he seemed curious as to why she was so interested in him. Ai knew these were rather odd questions to be asking of a servant, but she was very interested in this new boy.
“My name is Haruki by the way,” he informed her.
She held out her hand for him to shake, not exactly the most proper thing for a princess to do to a servant. He was hesitant to take it, but eventually did.
“Just call me Ai,” she smiled at him.
He smiled back, “All right then.”
Zuko sighed and let himself fall back onto the bed. For the past week, night had become Zuko's favorite part of the day. It was the only time he got to forget about Azula.
Mai laid down on the bed beside him and put her head on his shoulder. They laid next to each other for a while without either of them saying a word. They both tried to empty their heads of everything that was happening. It didn't work.
“It'll all be over soon,” Mai said in a slightly hopeful voice.
“I hope so,” was all Zuko said before they went back to the silence.
Aang sat down on the steps leading into the teashop. His family had been on his mind for days. The sun was setting, and he was leaving for the Fire Nation in the morning. He sat there for a couple of hours just thinking. He wondered what Katara and their children were doing. He hoped they were safe and nothing too big was happening while he was gone. His mind couldn't help but drift to Azula. The sooner she was taken care of, the better.
Every time Azula had sneaked into the prison to see her father she'd marveled at just how stupid the guards seemed to be. She'd been able to sneak passed them without them ever suspecting a thing. Today, she'd succeeded in knocking out the current guard before he even knew what was happening. She'd made sure he hadn't seen her either, so they'd never have proof that it had been her, even if she was the prime suspect.
She smiled when she laid eyes on her father. “It's time,” she said.
Ozai smiled evilly as Azula held up the keys that she'd stolen from the guard. Yes, this had been too easy really. She hadn't gotten to seriously hurt anyone, and breaking someone out of a prison cell with just the keys was a little boring. Even her pathetic uncle had smashed his way out of a cell. Unfortunately, they needed to escape unnoticed, so they needed to stay as quiet as possible.
Ozai followed Azula into the woods, free for the first time in twenty years. Now the time had come to take back what was rightfully theirs.