Author's Note: This chapter takes place over the course of a year. At different points in the chapter you see [number] months later, that means that part of the chapter takes place that many months after the last chapter. Next chapter will pick up a year later, and that's when the rest of the story (excluding the epilogue) will take place. Also, this chapter is extremely short. I'm going to work hard on making the next one an actually decent length. Enjoy!
Avatar: The Next Generation
Chapter 18: A Year of Fear
Posters began appearing all over the Fire Nation. There were all different types. Some were wanted posters for Azula and Ozai. Others warned of the recruiting that the two were doing, telling the people of the lies they were spreading in order to convince others to join them.
Everyone knew now what was happening. Many people lived in fear of the future.
Others grew excited and began searching for Azula and Ozai on their own. They wanted to help return them to power.
The Fire Nation was slowly disintegrating into chaos. Even the other two nations began to fear what would happen. Zuko was doing all he could to keep the nation together, but that was becoming harder and harder. Many members of the military, people with government jobs, and even his palace staff were quitting their jobs. Some supported Azula and Ozai, and some were just scared of them and what would happen if they were associated with Zuko.
The Fire Nation's relations with the Earth Kingdom and Water Tribes became worse. The Earth Kingdom especially wanted nothing to do with the Fire Nation. They feared there would be another war and even began to build up their military.
Everything seemed to be falling apart.
Three months later
“Why would you date him?” Ichiko asked Ayame as they left school one day, “I thought you liked Ikuo.”
“I do,” Ayame replied.
Ichiko looked at Ayame in confusion, “You never make any sense.”
They were talking about Ayame's latest boyfriend. He'd asked her out at lunch, and to everyone's surprise, she'd said yes. Ichiko didn't even know the boy's name, and she was pretty sure that Ayame didn't either. None of it made sense. Why did she just randomly decide to date this boy?
Ikuo had been there to see it too. He'd looked shocked at first and then angrily stormed off, saying something about using the restroom.
“Ikuo hasn't said anything to me,” Ayame tried to explain, “I thought that if I got a boyfriend he might finally ask me out.”
Ichiko rolled her eyes, “I can't believe you're using that stupid jealousy thing. It never works. At least not the way you want it too. Either the guy you like isn't brave enough or really doesn't care. If he does get jealous, he's still unlikely to say anything to you.”
“You're not going to get onto me for using the other guy though?” Ayame asked. This also confirmed to Ichiko that Ayame still had no clue who this guy was since she referred to him as “the other guy.”
“Of course not,” Ichiko replied, “I could care less about him.” After all, caring had never been one of Ichiko's strong traits. “I just think this is a stupid idea.”
“You always think my ideas are stupid,” Ayame said a little indignantly.
“Probably because they always are,” Ichiko muttered as the continued toward their homes.
It turned out that Ichiko had been right. Ayame had dated the guy for about a week when she finally dumped him. Ikuo, instead of admitting his feelings, had begun to outright ignore the fact that Ayame even existed. As soon as she announced the break up, things seemed to return to normal. Neither Ayame nor Ikuo had yet to admit their feelings to each other. On that note, neither had Hajime or Ichiko.
Six months later
“He refuses to meet with me,” Zuko told Aang. They were in the same room that meetings about the war had been held about two decades ago. Now, it was being used for somewhat similar reasons.
Aang was in the Fire Nation for about a week to meet with Zuko. Zuko had asked him to come after the Earth King refused to listen to Zuko. Aang's job had become very hard lately since the Earth Kingdom and Northern Water Tribe weren't wanting anything to do with the Fire Nation anymore. Aang felt, that if he didn't live in the Southern Water Tribe and have such a strong influence there, it would probably be siding with it's sister tribe as well.
“I've already tried speaking to the Earth King,” Aang sighed, “He refuses to listen. I'll head to the North Pole tomorrow and see what can be done. I can't say I have much hope though. What little trust the Earth Kingdom and Water Tribes had in the Fire Nation after the war has been all but broken.”
Zuko nodded in agreement, “I can't say I blame them for hating us, but their hate is blinding them to the truth. We're not their enemy anymore. Ozai and Azula are.”
“Hopefully,” Aang said, “They'll see that soon.”
Ten months later
Azula nodded her head in approval as she watched a group of soldiers train. The amount of training they'd had was sparse as they had to be careful that they weren't found. Often, small groups of them would meet in their town and practice together while Azula and Ozai traveled and made sure everything was going well.
Even though they weren't getting formal training, their soldiers were determined and talented. Azula was confident that the odds were in their favor.
Almost twelve months later
Ai smiled contently as she rested her head on her boyfriend's shoulder. It was a week away from their one-year anniversary. She couldn't believe how long it had been!
Even though she still felt fearful every time she thought about Azula and Ozai, this had been an amazing year. Haruki always knew how to make her feel better when she began to feel scared. She'd been surprised when she'd realized that she was in love with him. It was about a month earlier. He'd been teasing her about being a princess (one of his favorite things to do) when it had just suddenly hit her. She hadn't told him yet for fear that he didn't feel the same way.
“What are you thinking about?” Haruki asked her, interrupting her thoughts.
“Just the past year,” she answered. It was basically true. She was just leaving out the part about her realizing her love for him.
He smiled down at her. “It has been an amazing year. Hasn't it?”
“Mm hm,” she murmured in agreement, “The best.” She lifted her head from his shoulder and kissed him. This continued for a while until Haruki eventually pulled away.
“Ai, I need to tell you something,” he said as he took her face in his hands.
“Okay,” she said anxious to hear what he had to say.
“I love you.” He said it quickly, and it took a moment for it to register in Ai's mind. When it did, a huge smile spread across her face.
“I love you too, Haruki.” Haruki seemed both happy and relieved at her words. He pulled her in for another kiss.
Later that night as Ai was lying in bed, she marveled over how the past year had been the best and yet most terrifying year of her life. She had the most amazing boyfriend in the world, but it was only a matter of time before her crazed aunt and grandfather tried to ruin everything.