Author's Note: Guess what! This blog is now caught up with fanfiction.net. That means I won't be posting a new chapter of this story until it's also updated over there. I'm working on the chapter now, and it will probably be up sometime this weekend. Also, I already said on fanfiction.net that this story has six chapters and an epilogue left. I'm planning on having it all done in about two months. Enjoy the chapter!
Avatar: The Next Generation
Chapter 16: Crushes and Armies
It was the late afternoon when Aang saw the Fire Nation capital in the distance. Zuko hadn't known when to expect him, so he was a little surprised to see Aang gliding through the sky as he was taking a walk. Aang was a little unnerved at how tired and aggravated Zuko seemed. In the little time it had been since they'd seen each other, Zuko seemed to have been stretched to the limit.
“How are things here?” Aang asked Zuko as they walked through the palace together.
“I have some bad news actually,” Zuko paused for a moment. He seemed to be thinking about how to break the bad news to Aang. “Ozai broke out of jail the other night. The guard was found knocked out. He's woken up, but he doesn't know who attacked him. The attacker obviously made sure they wouldn't be recognized, but we're almost positive it was Azula.”
Aang sighed, “This isn't good. Who knows what they're up too. Have you gotten any leads to where they might be.”
“Not yet,” Zuko told Aang with regret in his voice. “We're searching though. We think it's only a matter of time before they let us know where they are.”
“You're probably right,” Aang said, “They'll want to fight us eventually. You have what they want at the moment, the throne, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be looking for them now.”
“I agree,” said Zuko, “I have men and women searching for them all over the Fire Nation as we speak.”
“I've found at least twenty people so far that want to help us,” Azula told her father as they sat in the forest under the cover of the trees. “Most of them were high ranking officers when you were Fire Lord and have since been demoted or kicked out the the military all together. They much preferred when you were in power.”
“Excellent,” Ozai smiled, “We'll need to gather more people though if we want to be successful.”
“They told me they had friends that were interested as well,” Azula informed him. “They're bringing them to meet with us. I don't think it will be that hard to get a fairly substantial number of soldiers. There are many in the Fire Nation who want you as their leader again. I wouldn't even put it past many of the current soldiers to turn on Zuko. It won't be that difficult to organize a full-scale rebellion against dear, old Zuzu.” She smiled with evil glee as she spoke.
“Yes,” Ozai smiled too, “We'll have the throne back in no time.”
“Ikuo!” Hajime repeated for what seemed like the millionth time. He hit his friend on the shoulder for good measure.
“What!?” Ikuo snapped finally discovering that his best friend wanted his attention.
“You've been staring at Ayame for an awfully long time,” Hajime smirked at his friend.
“I have not!” Ikuo said indignantly, “I wasn't staring at anyone.”
Hajime rolled his eyes, “Of course you weren't.” He continued after a moment of silence. “I don't understand why you won't admit that you like her. There's nothing wrong with it.”
“I've known her since I was born,” Ikuo answered, “We even used to bathe together as infants. It's weird.”
Hajime considered Ikuo's words for a moment. His face scrunched up in mild disgust before saying, “Ew. Okay, that is a little weird.” There was a moment of silence before Hajime realized something, “Wait! Ichiko and I were in those baths too... I am officially disgusted.”
Ikuo laughed at his best friend, “Sorry to bring it up. Look on the bright side, we, and they, can't remember anything.” He suddenly got serious and said, “But that's not the real problem. Honestly, I don't want to tell her how I feel and have her react the same way Ichiko reacted when you admitted your feelings to her.”
“Thanks for bringing that up,” Hajime said sarcastically.
“You're welcome,” Ikuo smirked.
“I will convince you to tell her someday though,” Hajime told Ikuo.
“Good luck with that,” Ikuo said.
The two boys were oblivious to the conversation that was currently taking place between the two same girls they'd just been discussing. Ayame and Ichiko were sitting in the backyard of Ichiko's house. They had their backs against the stone wall of the house and were occasionally glancing at the two boys they could see under the trees in the distance.
“I just don't understand it,” Ichiko was saying to Ayame, “Out of all the guys in the world, why would you possibly like my brother?”
“I don't think I had much say in the matter to be perfectly honest,” Ayame snapped at Ichiko.
“No say in the matter?” Ichiko asked in disbelief, “Of course you had a say in the matter! No one's making you like him.”
“No, but that doesn't mean I can just make myself not like him,” Ayame said. She paused before saying, “And even if I could, make myself not like him I mean, I don't think I would.”
Ichiko just shook her head in disbelief, “Whatever. If you want to be with my idiot of a brother than go ahead. I just hope you don't regret it.”
“Well, in order to be with him,” Ayame said, “He's going to have to ask me out.”
“If you like him so much, why don't you just ask him out?” Ichiko asked.
Ayame's eyes moved downwards, and she spoke in a soft voice, “I'm too scared to tell him.”
Ichiko looked at Ayame in shock. Ayame never got nervous around boys. She was always flirting and seemed to know exactly what to say to them. Ichiko never thought she'd see the day where Ayame would be scared to ask a boy out. “Wow, I never thought I'd hear you say that,” she said in surprise.
“Neither did I,” Ayame said.
“Well,” said Ichiko, “If you're waiting for the idiot to make the first move, you're going to be waiting a long time.”
Mai found her son Akatsuki sitting in the library reading a book.
“Akatsuki,” she called to him. Once she had his attention, she continued, “Two letters came for you today. They're both from the Southern Water Tribe.” She smiled at her son when he jumped up in excitement and ran towards her.
“Really!?” he asked excitedly as he took the letters from his mother.
Mai smiled at her son one last time before leaving him to read the letters on his own.
Akatsuki looked between the two letters. He couldn't decide which to read first. He figured the one with the messier handwriting was his best friend, Kuuya, and the one with the neater handwriting was from Kazuna. He wanted to open his best friend's first, but he couldn't help himself when he set Kuuya's on the desk and opened Kazuna's first instead.
He read it eagerly. She wanted him to write back! He hadn't actually thought she'd write him back. He'd figured that she'd just consider it weird that he'd sent her a letter and just throw it away.
He wasn't sure when exactly he'd begun liking Kazuna. When she'd first shown up in the Fire Nation after Azula's escape, he hadn't noticed anything different about his feelings for her. She was just a family friend, but by the time she returned to the Southern Water Tribe, he'd begun to feel differently. She had always been nice to him, and he thought she was the prettiest girl he'd ever seen.
He'd always thought that she just saw him as Ai's little brother and didn't really pay much attention to him. Her letter gave him a little hope. Maybe someday she'd see him in a different way.
Azula and Ozai were able to gather many people who were willing to fight for them. There were a lot of Fire Nation citizens who had preferred Ozai's rule and were more than willing to help him get the throne back.
Many of these people were soldiers who'd lost their jobs after the war. Fire Lord Zuko had greatly downsized the military. He said it wasn't necessary to have such a large military when there was peace.
This had left many people without jobs. Many people who had once been soldiers were now homeless and living in the streets. They were undernourished but still good fighters from their years of training in what had been the largest and most powerful military in the world.
Ozai and Azula were confident that they could build up a larger army than Zuko currently had at his disposal. In addition to the past soldiers, they were able to find a great many more Fire Nation citizens willing to help.
It wasn't hard for them to travel through the Fire Nation and meet with people without being caught by anyone loyal to Zuko. Zuko probably wasn't even aware at just how fragile his hold on the nation was.