Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or the Last Airbender
Bodyguard of Azula
Chapter 2: Paragons and Family
(Location: WTS Serene Moon)
Sokka stood at the ship's prow, watching the water pass by. He was trying to think, but with what they were going up against, he was finding it hard to even concentrate. A brief pain in his leg appeared suddenly, like something was biting him. Instead of hopping around and yelling like he normally would've, he looked at said biter. "I thought you stopped doing that to me, Akela," he said in good humor.
The wolf pup's look said he was thinking too much. Sokka and Akela had not been with each other for long. Sokka was fishing outside of the city. He had excused himself so he would not feel completely useless since the reconstruction was being taken care of by Waterbenders (Katara and Aang among them). He was fishing for sea crabs to bring more food. It made himself useful, in a little way. That was when he heard a whimpering noise coming from a nearby ice cave. He could barely hear it, but it was still there. He went to see what was making the noise and found a four-month-old wolf pup laying next to a wolf that had been burnt to death. Sokka immediately knew it was the pup's mother. As he neared the pup, it turned around and growled at him, its fur was covered in soot and ash.
He had been giving the pup a bath in the Spirit Oasis when Pakku and some of his students found him. What anger the Waterbending master had at the scene transform into shock when Sokka pulled the pup out of the water. The pup's fur was pure white. Sokka and Katara had been surprised too but Aang was puzzled. Once he was told about the Tribal myth of white wolves, he was surprised as the rest of the group. By then the pup had wormed his way into their hearts, so they decided to keep him. Sokka named the pup Akela, after the Alpha wolf in the myth.
Akela had gotten along well with Appa. When the two of them met for the first time, Appa had been sleeping. Akela simply jumped onto Appa's head, made himself comfortable and began sleep as well. According to Sokka, they now had a friendship that was made in "Sacred snoring." Akela and Momo did not get have such an easy meeting. According to Katara, when Akela saw Momo, somehow he grinned like Sokka when he was hungry and saw something that had meat. This led to a grand merry chase throughout the city. By the time it had ended, Momo was hiding inside Aang's clothes and Sokka was telling Akela that if he could not have the winged lemur for dinner, then neither could he. After that, if Momo was irritating Akela, all Akela had to do was show him that same grin and Momo was gone quicker than you could blink.
Akela pushed against Sokka's leg. He reached down and scratched Akela behind the ear. The pup was big enough to reach his kneecap and it looked like he was going to get bigger. "I was just thinking about what we're up against, that's all," he told him. It was hard not to, considering who it was.
The prisoner was a Fire Nation seaman, part of the fleet that attacked the Northern Water Tribe. He was captured while trying to make it back to the ships. Both Pakku and Chief Arnook interrogated him for information about the Fire Nation military forces and plans, but he responded only with silence and insults.
After four hours , Pakku and Arnook let Aang, Katara and Sokka talk to the prisoner (thinking the Avatar might be able to get some answers out of him), leaving them with a contingent of Waterbenders. Aang and Katara did most of the talking while Sokka hung back and listen, but the prisoner just gave them the same treatment. "Well, what about you, little Water Tribe boy," he finally asked Sokka. "Don't you have a method for pumping me for information?"
Sokka thought about it, briefly. He shook his head. "No, I won't do that." He did have a question though. "Do you know anything about a guy named Naruto?"
The prisoner's head snapped up so quickly, some had hoped he had broken his neck . "How do you know about Lord Naruto?" he demanded.
Sokka was a bit surprised at his reaction. He had honestly not been expecting it. "I was there when he killed Zhao."
"What did you do to gain his attention?"
"I stood in his way when he tried to take the Avatar and didn't move," he answered. Where was this going?
The prisoner seemed surprised. "And he didn't kill you?"
"No, he asked me my name, look up to the sky, asked a question but didn't get a reply."
"Well…" He probably should not show what he had found in his pack that night, but he didn't know what else to do. "He didn't get an answer, but I found this later." He pulled out a medallion with four strange symbols craved on it. On the top of the medallion was an upside-down triangle while on the bottom was a normal triangle. On the right side of the medallion was an upside-down triangle with a line through it, on the left side was the same triangle with the line only right side up. Each of the symbols had lines connecting it to another symbol, either curving along the side or going straight down the middle.
When he saw the medallion, the prisoner was stunned. He looked at his hands, manacled and chained to the ground, both made out of ice. He took a breath and then completely melted them by Firebending. Before anyone could attack, the prisoner knelt before Sokka, his head touching the ground. "Forgive me, Lord Sokka," he said. His voice was slightly muffled as it was coming up from the ground.
Everyone was dumbstruck, but Sokka was able to recover quickly. "Why am I forgiving you?" he asked carefully.
The prisoner brought his face up. "I ask for forgiveness because I did not believe your words about Lord Naruto."
"It's okay, but I still want to know who this Naruto is and what this medallion is."
"I do not know about the medallion itself. But the fact that you have it means that you are also a Paragon," he explained, even though what he said did not really explain anything.
Sokka grew confused. "A Paragon, what is that?" he asked.
"I cannot say. Only Lord Naruto can explain it to you." He almost sounded ashamed.
Aang decided to interrupt. "What's so great about this Naruto anyway? From what I've seen of him he is a murderer who doesn't even care about human life!" Even since their meeting, the Air Nomad did not hold the blonde in that high of a regard.
The prisoner leapt up, looking like he wanted to do some serious damage to Aang, perhaps even kill him. Sokka got in front of him. It was almost laughable, facing down a soldier like this. But he did it. "Stand down, soldier," he commanded, figuring that the soldier would respond to commands like that.
The prisoner complied but glared at Aang. "I will not hear you slander Lord Naruto. Every time he fights in the field, he tries to make sure that everyone gets out alive. He tries to save lives while you cower and hide, Avatar. So, shut. Your. Mouth."
Katara was about to respond when Sokka looked at her and shook his head. Looking at the prisoner he asked, "Can you talk about him?" If the soldier was willing to tell him information, it might help if they ever run into the blonde again.
"Lord Naruto is the bodyguard of Princess Azula and the Paragon of the Fire Nation," the soldier explained. "He's been given an honorary rank and commands respect from the soldiers, Benders and Nonbenders alike. He leads his men personally into battle and has won many victories. He is able to fight and defeat a Bender on equal grounds and has done so on many occasions, both within the Fire Nation military and the enemy."
"Is he a Bender himself?" That was the clincher. If this Naruto was a Bender, then that meant he would be able to figure out a way to fight him.
"No, he is not."
"Why would he consider my brother to be his equal? Shouldn't he be more worried about the Avatar?" Katara asked.
The prisoner laughed at her. "Lord Naruto doesn't even consider the Avatar a threat. He believes that a person who runs away and lets his own people die is a weak coward with no honor."
"I'm not weak or a coward!" Aang protested.
"You had to go into the Avatar State just to attack us with that giant water monster and Lord Naruto was able to defeat you with one swing of his sword. You are a weak coward and have no honor; therefore, Lord Naruto has no respect for you," he said derisively.
Aang, feeling furious at such words, left. Katara quickly went after him. "Thank you," Sokka told the soldier. He walked away, allowing the nearby Waterbenders shackle to the prisoner again.
"You're slow Aang!" Pakku barked as his students trained. "Avatar or not, you need to be better if you want to pass my expectations." He noticed Katara looking at the stairs. Sokka was standing there, Akela beside him. "What do you want Sokka?" he asked the young Tribesman, walking over to him.
"Sifu Pakku, can we speak alone?" Sokka asked formallly.
He looked at him with a brief look of curiosity and confusion before nodding in agreement, "Practice your sets until I return," He told his students. He led Sokka down the steps through the city until they reached a secluded spot. "What is it that you want?" he asked as they stepped out of the sight.
"I want you to teach me Waterbending," Sokka told him.
Pakku started to laugh. It was something that he had never heard before. A person who wasn't a Bender who wanted to learn how to Waterbend? It was downright ridiculous. "You want me to teach you how to Waterbend when you're not even a Bender?" he asked rhetorically. "You would be an embarrassment to me and my teachings."
He bowed his head. "I apologize, I meant that what you to teach me how to Waterbend without Bending," he tried to explain .
The laughter stopped. "What are you talking about? You cannot Waterbend without Bending."
Sokka silently cursed himself. He needed to explain this better. He could do that. "What I mean is please teach me the basic stances and sets for Waterbending that is all."
Pakku was silent as he looked at Sokka's bowed head. "Why?"
"Because there is someone out there who might come after Aang and who is stronger, faster, better than me. And all I have is my machete, my club and my boomerang."
"You have forgotten about your intelligence and wits." What he lacked in Waterbending ability, he made up greatly in smarts. Give him a few years to hone them and Pakku was certain that few, very few, would be able to match wits against him.
"That won't be enough to beat this guy!" Sokka unexpectedly shouted, exasperated and annoyed at the fact that the older man was not getting his point.
In the silence that followed, the two of them stared at each other. "Is there another reason for this request?" Pakku asked with suspicion. Sokka nodded his head once. Reaching into his shirt, he pulled out the medallion he found (for some reason he just could not explain, he found himself more at ease wearing it). When the Waterbending master saw it, his eyes went wide in shock and surprise. "I see," he said. He turned around and walked away. He stopped and looked back. "Just because you're not a Bender doesn't mean that I'm going to be easy on you. In fact, I am going to push to your edge and then I am going to make you break that edge, got it?" His expression was hard, practically unforgiving.
Sokka knew that meant his request had been granted. "Yes, Sifu Pakku," he answered. As he followed Pakku back to where the training ground, he tried to hide a smile from Pakku. He wasn't sure if it worked.
"That was a long month," Sokka said to himself. Pakku hadn't been kidding when he said he was going to push Sokka to his edge. The man was relentless. Lesser men would have caved or run away, but Sokka was stubborn. He needed to do this, needed to know how to fight without his weapons should the time ever come when he did not have them. His stubbornness worked out in the end as he began to improve. He also began seeing how Aang moved when he was Airbending. As he got better and better, earning some praise from Pakku, for a reason unknown to him, he was also getting silent disapproval from Katara. Aang did not understand what Sokka was doing but did not object to it.
Sokka looked at the night sky and saw the full moon. For a moment, he was reminded of Yue and felt a pang of guilt. "C'mon, it's time we went to bed," he told Akela. He made his way to the stairs leading below deck with the pup trailing behind him. "And if you fart in my face again, you're sleeping in the crow's nest." The pup simply gave a challenging look . As the two of them walked to the stairs, Sokka saw Katara and Aang talking. He heard the words "Avatar" and "Scary." He kept going, more intent on sleeping.
The next morning, they were about head to an Earth Kingdom base before heading to Omashu. Both Katara and Aang had been given gifts from Pakku and now Sokka stood before him. "Sokka," Pakku started. "Your training has no doubt been one of my more unusual ones. But nonetheless, you have also proven to be one of my best students, perhaps even better than your sister." He sighed. "My only disappointment is that you are not a Waterbender. Had you been one, you would have one of the greatest Benders this side of the world has ever seen."
Sokka bowed his head respectfully. "Thank you, Sifu Pakku." He climbed onto Appa's back and settled in, getting a dirty look from Katara.
"Chief Arnook has sent a message to a village that his father had once known," Pakku told them. "They will send someone to meet up with you once you have reached Omashu and begin your Earthbending training with King Bumi. For now, head to General Fong's base so that they can give you an escort."
"Understood," Sokka answered. As Appa took off, he heard Katara muttering something. "Is everything alright Katara?" he asked.
"Everything is fine Sokka, just fine," She replied in an annoyed tone. He chose not to push it. If she wanted to tell him, she would.
(Location: FNS Royal Flame)
Naruto watched as Azula gave her men a speech. It was short and to the point, driving home the points she felt they needed to hear. She was good at that. "My brother and my uncle have disgraced the Fire Lord, and have brought shame on all of us," she said, walking amongst them. "You might have mixed feelings about attacking members of the Royal Family. I understand. But I assure you, if you hesitate, I will not hesitate to bring you down." No one said a word. They didn't dare to. "Dismissed."
As her men left, the captain approached and gave a quick bow. "Princess, I'm afraid the tides will not allow us to bring the ship into port before nightfall," he told her.
She looked out at the sea from the prow. "I'm sorry, captain, but I do not know much about the tides," she said without once looking at him. "Could you explain something to me?"
"Of course, Your Highness."
"Do the tides command this ship?"
"I'm afraid I don't understand." Even as he said the words, he felt a sense of dread turning in his stomach.
"You said the tides would not allow us to bring the ship in. Do the tides command this ship?" she asked again. This time, the question came with a sharp warning.
"And if I were to have you thrown overboard, would the tides think twice about smashing you against the rocky shore?"
That dread morphed into a panic. As much as he didn't want to think that could happen, the princess was every inch the Fire Lord's daughter. "No, Princess."
"Well then, maybe you should worry less about the tides, who've already made their mind about killing you and worry about me, who is still mulling over?" she told him.
He bowed. "I'll pull us in."
Naruto stopped him before he went to the command deck. "I know she told you to bring the ship in, but I want you to use your best judgment," he said, keeping his voice calm.
The captain felt a little more at ease but stayed alert to the princess. "Thank you, Lord Naruto. But right now, my best judgment is to obey Princess Azula," he replied. He did not want to be on the receiving end of the her anger.
He chuckled. "I wouldn't worry. Azula won't have you thrown overboard because of this." The captain didn't believe him. "I'll go talk to her." The captain nodded in thanks and went inside. Naruto walked up to Azula. "How many times have I asked you to stop threatening the captain of the ship, Azula?" he asked her.
"I lost count," she answered, half-sarcastically. That got her a smack upside the head. "Ow! What was that for?!" she demanded, rubbing her head.
"That was for being sarcastic when I was being serious."
"But you do it to me all the time!"
"I'm your bodyguard, I'm allowed," he said lightly. Then he got serious. "But back to the point, you told me that you would stop threatening captains after that incident involving that one captain's son and the bedroom." His pointed look had her blushing faintly.
"That happened one time and you still won't let it go," she accused. It was not like anything happened.
"With good reason, Azula. If you want to rule the Fire Nation, then you cannot threaten or punish everyone who displeases you. That will get you killed in the end, understand?" She nodded. "Good, now I'm going to let you off the hook this one time but keep this up and I will enforce punishments," he said lightly.
Azula grew nervous. "What kind of punishments?" Her voice didn't crack, at least she didn't think it. To those who knew Naruto in the Fire Nation, if he used the word 'punishment' what he really meant was that he was going to prank you and prank you hard. No one was safe from Naruto's 'punishments' not even Fire Lord Ozai (considering he was the first victim of Naruto's 'punishments').
"I'll just let your imagination try and figure that out," he said with an evil smirk. He walked away, leaving Azula with a sacred look on her face.
Meanwhile, inside his head, the Kyūbi was laughing. "You truly are evil gaki."
"I threaten her for a reason, fox. If she keeps going like this, she's going to end up like her Royal Flaming Asshole of a father," he told the Bijū.
"I know that, and you're doing a decent job of guiding her. But even you have to admit that some of your methods are downright hilarious."
"Of course, I do. That is why I do them. It's a treat to see the confident Fire Nation Princess get flustered and angry," he stated with a quiet laugh.
(Location: Aboard Appa)
Sokka kept a lookout as they flew. He was the first to see their destination. "There it is!" he cried, pointing to a large fortress. Now knowing where to go, Aang flew Appa towards and into the fortress, landing on a terrace.
They were greeted by someone instantly. "Welcome Avatar Aang! I'm General Fong," the general introduced himself while he and the men behind him bowed their heads. "And welcome to all of you great heroes, Appa, Momo and the mighty Katara!"
"Mighty Katara, I like that," Katara stated, crossing her arms. She certainly felt mightier since she really knew how to Waterbend. The title gave her a certain sense of satisfaction and smugness.
Fong looked around. "Forgive me but wasn't there another person with you?" he asked, making Aang and Katara start to look around for Sokka.
He was still in the saddle, having a conversation with Akela. "You really need to stop falling asleep every time you get on Appa," he told the pup, who just yawned in reply. After he and Akela landed on the ground, he saw the general and the others. "Sorry about that. Once Akela is out, he's hard to wake up."
General Fong shook his head. "That's not a problem, Paragon Sokka," he said shortly. He turned around and motioned them to follow. As they went into the main tower, Sokka was not quite sure but he could have sworn Fong said that last part with distaste. Then again, how did he know what the Tribesman was now? He certainly had not told anyone.
Fong took them to the main hall. "Avatar Aang, we were all amazed at the stories of how you single handedly wiped out an entire Fire navy at the North Pole." he said from behind his desk. "I can't imagine what it feels like to handle devastating power. It's an awesome responsibility," he declared while stroking his bread, trying to look wise.
Aang didn't like what he was implying. "I think those stories are a little exaggerated. I never destroyed any of the ships…" he began to say.
But Fong cut him off. "Avatar, you're ready to face the Fire Lord now."
"What?!" shouted said Airbender. "No, I'm not!" He was not even close to ready!
Katara agreed. "Aang still needs to master all four elements," she told Fong.
"Why? With the power he possesses, power enough to destroy hundreds of battleships in a matter of minutes, he can defeat the Fire Lord!" he replied, coming to his feet.
"I told you, I never sunk any of those ships, I…" This time Aang was stopped by Sokka who put a hand on his shoulder.
"But sir, Aang can only do that when he's in the Avatar State," he told the general.
"You see, it's the special state where-"
Before Aang could even start his explanation, Fong interrupted him. "I'm aware! Your eyes and tattoos glow and you gain unbelievable power." He turned to the map beside him. "Without you, we'd be slaughtered before we even reached their shores. But, with you leading the way, as the ultimate weapon, we could cut a swath right through to the heart of the Fire Nation." He placed his finger on the location of his fortress and drew it to the capital of the Fire Nation with a board stroke.
When Sokka heard the words "Ultimate weapon" his eyes went flat and he began to grow suspicious of the general. Akela also picked up on what the general had said and began to softly growl. Sokka looked briefly at the pup, shaking his head and silently telling him to stop. Akela did so, albeit reluctantly.
"Right, but I don't know how to get in or out of the Avatar State, much less what to do once I'm there," Aang explained uneasily. He omitted the fact that he felt scared about the Avatar State.
"So, it's decided then." The general turned away from the map and faced them. "I'll help figure out how to get into the Avatar State and then you'll face your destiny." he declared.
Okay, Katara didn't like where this was going. She stood up and the others mimicked her actions. "No, nothing's decided! We already have a plan. Aang's pursuing his destiny his way."
Fong didn't seem to impressed with her crossed arms and daring expression. "Well, while you take your time learning the elements, the war goes on," he replied. "May I show you something?" He came down from his desk and led them to a window. He pointed down to a small building. Wounded soldiers were going in or out of it. Most were injured somehow. "That's the infirmary and those soldiers are the lucky ones, they came back," he told them. "Every day, the Fire Nation takes lives. People are dying, Aang! You could end it, now!" Seeing the indecisiveness obviously etched onto the Avatar's face, he eased off somewhat. "Think about it." He walked back to his desk and sat down, watching in silence as Aang and Katara left the room, leaving Sokka and Akela. "Was there something you needed?" he asked the Tribesman.
Sokka looked the man straight in the eye. "Yeah, I have a question: how many of those men were injured because of sheer stupidity?" he asked back. From what he heard come out of the general's mouth, he sounded like the kind of guy who would do that.
"Whatever do you mean, Paragon Sokka?" The distaste was much more evident now that the two of them were alone.
"How do you know I was a Paragon, anyway? I never told anyone about that."
"Word travels, Paragon." This time, he all but spat the last word out. "By now, everyone on this side of the world has probably heard that you are a Paragon."
"So, what do you have against me, personally? Or do you dislike because of what I am?"
Fong's face grew hard and bitter. "I've read my history. I know what your predecessors have done. This war will be won by the Avatar and by the Benders as well as the Nonbenders who support him. It will not be won by upstart little brats who think they are better than the Avatar. Why don't you go home and let the Avatar, your sister, and the adults fight the war? "
Akela growled loudly and lunged for the general, only for Sokka to bark out "Akela, heel!" He stopped, but still bared his fangs (small as they were) at the general before padding back to Sokka.
"Try to control your dog. We don't need a feral animal loose here," Fong told Sokka.
"Akela is a wolf, not a dog. And I like him feral." Sokka motioned Akela to follow him as he walked to the open doors. Just before he left, he turned back to face Fong. "Let me ask you this question instead: how many men were injured and how many were killed because of your sheer stupidity when you went up against Naruto?" He left the room with that question in the air.
(Location: FNS Royal Flame)
Azula practiced the motions again and again. But no matter how many times she was able to generate lightning, she was still one hair out of place. Both Lo and Li had left her, going down below. They said it was so she could have some peace. She took it to mean they were tired of her not getting it. It was frustrating but she kept at it.
When she finally stopped, she saw her bodyguard was still in the same spot as when she started. He was sitting in a meditative position and concentrating on his outstretched right hand. After a few seconds what look like blue chi to Azula began to swirl around his palm. It began to compress on itself as more and more began to form and swirl. Soon enough, floating a few inches above his palm, was a blue spinning orb. She saw Naruto's eyes focus on the orb and it began to spin even faster and form four white blades spinning around the outside of the orb. As she watched , Azula heard a low thrumming, like something was trying to cut the air itself.
The orb continued to spin until it abruptly disappeared. Naruto sighed in slight frustration. "Not there yet, but definitely making progress," he said to himself. He rose and looked at Azula. "Is something the matter?"
"It's nothing. I keep generating Lightning but no matter how many times I do it, I'm always just a hair out of place," she replied, sounding as frustrated as she felt.
He raised an eyebrow questioningly. "Are you telling me that in order for your Lightning generation to be perfect, you must have perfect hair?" he asked mischievously. Before Azula could respond, he continued. "I'm just playing with you, Azula. You have made some good progress with Lightning generation. Do you remember what happened the first time you successfully created a lightning bolt?"
She looked away. "Enough, Naruto."
"I'm glad that I manage to spread my legs in time but what I want to know was why that lightning bolt was that low in the first—"
"I said enough!" She bent a fireball at him, which he promptly dodged.
"You need to lighten up Azula. You keep going like this and you will burn out fast. You're already one of the best Firebenders out there."
"No! I cannot just be one of the best, I must be THE best Firebender there is! I have to be perfect in OW!" That last bit was uttered because Naruto had bonked her on the head.
"Stop right there, Azula. That is your Royal Flaming Asshole of a father speaking, and I want to hear you, not him, speak," Naruto told her in a serious voice. "Now what do you think of your Lightning generation abilities?"
Azula thought it over for a minute, trying to separate what were her thoughts and what were the thoughts her father drilled into her. "I think that they're pretty decent," she finally answered. The fact that she was able to generate lightning at all was impressive.
Naruto smiled warmly. "There, you see. It is okay to be decent at something, Azula. Remember that no one is perfect." He looked at the setting sun. "Let us head below decks, we're both tired and hungry. A meal and some sleep will do us good."
Azula nodded in agreement and began to walk towards the stairs alongside Naruto. "By the way Naruto, what was that thing in your hand? It looked like it was made from blue chi," she asked him, her curiosity finally getting the better of her.
"It's just something I'm working on, that's all," he answered shortly.
"Once it's done, will you show me how it works?" She was curious to see what would happen if he used it in combat.
"No, Azula. I only plan to use it when the situation calls for it." That was all he would talk about the subject, he wanted to keep what he was working close to the chest.
The banging on the door woke Naruto up. Feeling glad he went to sleep in his clothes, he opened the door to see one of the Firebenders in front of him. "What is it, soldier?" he asked.
The Firebender was a little nervous but kept his voice from cracking. "Sir, it's Princess Azula. She had nightmare and now will not let anyone in to see her, not even Lady Lo or Lady Li. She's tried to burn anyone who walks in," he rapidly explained.
Naruto nodded. "Go back to your post, soldier. I'll take care of this." The soldier saluted and left. He came out of his room and walked down the corridors to Azula's room.
Both Lo and Li were standing outside the door. "Having nightmares," Lo said but it was Li who continued the sentence. "For her to have them is disgraceful."
Naruto threw them a glare that would have melted a blizzard created by ten master Waterbenders. "You know damn well who gave her those nightmares. If anyone is disgraceful it's him," he told them both with a growl.
"Curb your tongue." This time it was Li who spoke first and Lo who finished. "If you know what's good for you."
He laughed. "You know, I still don't understand why he assigned you two to teach her Firebending. You're not even Benders."
"And neither are you," both said in unison.
"Yeah, but the difference between me and him is I fight the war his family started while he and the both of you sit on your asses in comfort." He waved them away. "Now leave, you're not doing anything but being inconsiderate to her."
"You will not―!" They started to say but were silenced when they saw his eyes hardened.
"I said leave," he growled, his voice promising them a painful death if they didn't. They left rather quickly. He opened the door and walked through, closing it behind him. The candles that lights were off, but there was a small window that let in the full moon's light. The pale beam of the moon fell somewhat on the bed. "Azula?" he called out to the bed.
"Go away!" the bed screamed. A fireball flew out from under the sheets, right at him. He ducked and let it fly over his head and hit the wall, dissipating harmlessly against the metal. "Go away, I'm not a monster!"
"It's alright, Azula." He stood at the end of the bed. "It's Naruto."
The edge of the covers lifted and Azula looked out at him, the light from the window showing the hopelessness and scared look on her face. "N-Naruto?" she asked hesitantly.
He nodded. "It's me." She stared at him for a second and then leapt at him, burying her face in his chest as she held onto him and cried. Naruto sat down on the bed with her, simply holding her and rubbing her back while she cried, whispering soothing sounds. "Was it the same dream again?" he asked her when she had stopped.
She nodded. "I was chained to a post and surround by people who kept looking at me with disgust and hatred in their eyes. They kept calling me a monster. The post was set on fire and I was burning, but I could still hear them calling me a monster." She buried her head into his cheat again, tears threatening to fall.
"You're not a monster, Azula," he told her. "You have a side of you which is both kind and caring. You have only just begun to show it recently. Do you remember the orphan you met on the street?"
She nodded. It was two weeks before her father ordered her to hunt down her brother and uncle. She had been walking with Naruto and a procession of Imperial Firebenders through the city to see a prototype of a new battleship that was being built. As they approached the docks, a small boy ran past Azula and grabbed her money pouch.
The boy did not get far before he captured by the Imperial Firebenders. As he was about to lose a hand for stealing, Azula stopped them. She walked over to the boy, knelt so the two of them were at eye level. She asked him why he was stealing. He told her that he was stealing so he could buy food for the other kids at the orphanage because the person who ran the orphanage kept all the food and only fed the orphans the bare minimum. The owner also made them sleep in infested beds and rat-chewed sheets. When they got sick, they were not treated unless they were dying.
When the boy was done, Azula had a look of pure fury on her face. Looking up at Naruto and her guard, she told them that they were going to this orphanage. Looking back at the boy, she asked him if he could show them where it was. He agreed and showed them the way to the orphanage.
What they saw horrified them. The so-called "orphanage" was a rundown building. When they walked in, they were disgusted at the conditions in which the orphans lived in. When the owner came to greet Azula, she asked him why the orphans were living like this. He told them that he was short of funds. The boy called him a liar, saying he kept a large amount of money in the orphanage. The owner hit the boy and threatened to whip him in front of Azula, Naruto, and the Imperial Firebenders.
Azula told the Imperial Firebenders to hold the owner and then told Naruto to go and look for the money. He came back after a few minutes, carrying a big truck full of Fire Nation money. He told Azula that it was only one out of twenty-five. She then ordered the Imperial Firebenders to throw the owner in prison. She then ordered Naruto to go down the docks and bring the workers who were building the prototype here.
When they arrived, she told them to start fixing the building. The orphanage was going to be funded by the Royal Family and the next time she would check the place; it will have better accommodations for the orphans, and it will have a better owner. She turned back to the boy, took back her pouch and opened it. She poured out about half of the money, gave it to him and told him to share with the other orphans.
"Those kids still think of you as their big sister. Do you think that makes you a monster?" Naruto asked her.
"No," she answered, stopping her tears.
"Are you feeling better now?"
Naruto stood up, letting Azula stay on the bed. He turned to leave but was stopped when Azula grabbed his hand. "Please stay," she said, scared at the thought of being alone. Naruto looked at her and then nodded. He lay down on the bed with his back to the wall. Azula lay down next to him, placing her back to his chest and hold his arm like it was a lifeline. She was asleep in less than five seconds.
"She is a broken child," the Kyūbi stated. It was so obvious that it was almost painful to see.
"I know she is. She can fix herself, but she needs a friend to help her." Naruto silently replied as he held her, and she held him in return.
"Is that all you want to be, Naruto? Or is it something more?" the fox wondered to himself. Despite everything that seemed to point to the opposite, his Jinchūriki had his own nightmares to deal with.
(Location: Earth Kingdom)
Aang walked into Fong's office, his footsteps echoing through the silent and all but empty hall. "General Fong?" he called out quietly.
"Come in, Aang. Have you thought about our discussion?" Fong asked, despite already knowing the answer. He knew what the Avatar's answer was going to be the minute he heard him come in.
"I'm in. I'll fight the Fire Lord," Aang said.
After a brief discussion with the general, Aang returned to the group's quarters. Both Katara and Sokka looked up from their beds as he walked in and went to his bed. "I told the general I'd help him, by going into the Avatar state," he told them
"Aang, no. This not the right way," Katara argued. Sokka said nothing as he absently scratched behind Akela's ear. "There's a right way to do this. And it is through practice, study, and discipline." She continued.
"The general does have a point…" Sokka began to say.
But before he could finish, Katara interrupted. "That's something I'd expect to hear from you. You just want Aang to glow it up or something!" she almost shouted at him.
"That's not what I was talking…" he tried to protest.
But she cut him off again. "If you two meatheads want to throw away everything we have worked for, fine! Go ahead and 'glow it up!'" she said in a huff as she walked out of the room.
"Katara, I'm just being realistic. I don't have time to do this the right way," Aang tried to defend himself. It didn't sound convincing to him either.
The room was silent for a few minutes until the sound of breaking wind disrupted it. "Damn it, Akela! At least aim it the other way!" Sokka told his wolf pup. Somehow, Akela looked smug.
What began the next day would seem to anyone else as weirdness. To start off, Fong had Aang drink a special tea that was supposed to enhance a person's Chi tenfold and might also make Aang go into the Avatar state. The result of that idea was Aang in a sugar high that would have made little kids either join him or watch in wonder. He was flying all around the place on an air-ball, while also talking at a fast pace. As this all went on, Sokka commented that Aang could "talk the Fire Lord to death." Akela was trying to follow Aang with his eyes. When Aang finally crashed into one of the columns, Akela cover his eyes with his paws. Both Sokka and Katara were not quite sure if he was doing that because of Aang crashing or because he got dizzy from watching Aang fly all over the place.
Sokka tried to scare Aang into the Avatar state by using Momo as a head. Not only did that fail, but Akela saw Momo and decided he was hungry. The result was Akela chasing both Sokka and Momo around the fortress with Momo some how managing to get stuck in Sokka's shirt, so Sokka had to stick his head out of the middle of the shirt, giving the appearance of a two headed being, one head being human the second head a flying lemur. The soldiers who were watching found it hilarious.
The third attempt would have made any sane person check General Fong's head to see if there actually a brain in there. He organized a ritual that had Aang wear clothing from all four nations (which, quite frankly, look ridiculous). The shaman began to chant a lot of mumbo-jumbo, poured water and earth into a bowl, threw a torch in, used an air blower bellow and then, just to top it all off, threw the stuff (let us call it mud) at Aang. The only thing they got out of that Aang sneezing and splattering all the mud on Sokka, Katara, Fong and Akela. As they were about to leave, Akela shook himself in front of Fong, splattering him with more mud. To Sokka, the wolf pup was blaming the general for all this.
(Location: Spa Resort)
"Look at these magnificent shells!" Iroh said as he emptied the bag onto the table of their small house. "I'll enjoy these keepsakes for years to come."
"We don't need any more useless things now!" Zuko told his uncle. "You forget, we have to carry everything ourselves now."
They then heard a voice that surprised them. "Hello, brother. Uncle," Azula said from where she sat across the room. Naruto stood against the wall, close enough to move but with enough distance to let her take charge.
Both Zuko and Iroh instantly went on their guard. "What are you doing here?" Zuko growled at his sister.
"In my country, we exchanged a pleasant hello before asking questions," Azula said lightly, fiddling with a seashell. "Have you become so uncivilized so soon, Zuzu?" She stood up and walked over with the seashell still in hand. Naruto followed by only a few steps.
"Don't call me that!" Zuko yelled. He hated that nickname. She knew he hated that nickname!
Iroh knew his niece wasn't here for a visit. "To what do we owe this honor?" he asked some suspicion. Even though Naruto had said she changed, it was still a good idea to be careful.
"It must be a family trait. Both of you so quick to get to the point." She broke the seashell with her fingers, causing Iroh to scowl. "I come with a message from home. Father changed his mind; family is suddenly important to him. He is heard of plans to overthrow him, treacherous plots. Family are the only ones you can trust." She looked at her brother for a moment, then out the window. "Father regrets your banishment. He wants you home." She looked back to see her brother's reaction.
Zuko just stood, mentally double checking to make sure he heard his sister correctly. Meanwhile, Naruto walked up to Azula, told her that he will be outside and walked out the door. "Did you hear what I just said?" Azula demanded as her bodyguard left and Zuko looked out the window. "You should happy. Excited. Grateful. I just gave you great news."
"I'm sure your brother simply needs a moment to—" Iroh began.
"Don't interrupt, Uncle!" she snapped at him. She walked up beside Zuko. "I still haven't received a thank you, I'm not a massager. I didn't have to come all this way."
"Father regrets? He…wants me back?" Zuko asked, still not sure about it. Suddenly, his dream was within his grasp. It almost seemed to be too good to be true.
"I can see you need time to take this in. I'll come to call on you tomorrow, good evening." As she made her way back to the ship, she saw Naruto leaning against a tree waiting for her. When she passed him, he got up and walked behind her. "Why did you leave?" she asked.
"Because if I didn't, I would have started laughing," Naruto said. "Family is important to the Royal Flaming Asshole, that's one of the better jokes I've heard you tell, Azula."
"Yeah, a joke…" Azula said quietly but Naruto was still able to hear her. "Am I going about this the right way Naruto?"
He shrugged. "You're doing what your father would do and I know that the Royal Flaming Asshole doesn't think friends or family are important. The question is do you consider them important?"
She thought it over for a few minutes. By the time they return to the ship, she replied. "I'm not sure."
Naruto simply nodded. "I understand. Maybe you just need to think on it?
Azula nodded in agreement as they boarded the ship. That sounded like a good idea.
(Location: Earth Kingdom)
Aang sighed in defeat as he watched Katara walked away. He turned back around to watch the sunset. As he did, he heard Sokka come up beside him. "Are you going to convince me that this is a bad idea now?" he asked, turning slightly to look at the Tribesman.
Sokka shook his head. "I know it's a bad idea and so do you. You just want to end this war so badly that you're ignoring this one crucial point."
Aang lost his temper after hearing this. "Don't give me that, Sokka! You were agreeing with the general said after I told you two what I had done!" he yelled at him.
Sokka simply waited for Aang to be done. "While I did say that the general had a point, Katara cut me off before I could finish. What I was going to say that it's also too risky to try it because there is a downside to it."
Aang grew confused. "What do you mean a downside?"
"Aang, you know how I constantly use my boomerang?" The Airbender nodded. "While the upside is that it can hit someone from far away and always come back to me, the downside is that it can take too long to come back to me. If I throw my boomerang at someone and that was my only weapon, it could give someone the chance to kill me. Every weapon has a downside and from what I've seen, the Avatar State is a weapon."
"How is the Avatar State a weapon?"
"When you enter the Avatar State, your emotions take over and you let rage rule your actions."
"No, I don't!" he immediately protested.
"Yes, you do, Aang, and when that happens, everyone in your way could get hurt. Look, my dad taught me that in battle, rage must be tampered with discipline."
"And how am I supposed do that?!" Aang demanded. He really wanted to know how. But he was tried and exhausted by everything that had happened today, his temper was a bit short.
"Do what you're supposed, learn and master the four elements," Sokka reminded him.
He calmed down when he heard that. "Do you think that will help me with the Avatar State?"
"Why else would all the previous Avatars go through the exact same thing?" the Tribesman asked in return.
Aang gave a small laugh at that. "You're right, Sokka," he said before his face grew troubled. "What about General Fong?"
"Look, tomorrow morning, go tell the general that you want to continue on your journey. If he disagrees, I'll do something that'll prove my point."
"Are you sure?" Sokka just gave him a small grin.
(Location: Spa Resort)
"We're going home, after three years. It's unbelievable!" Zuko said as he packed. He had been excited ever since he fully realized what Azula had said earlier.
But while his nephew kept moving around the house, Iroh looked out the window in thought. "It is unbelievable," he agreed, albeit in a different way. "I have never known my brother to regret anything."
"Did you listen to Azula? Father realized how important family is to him. He cares about me!" Zuko protested, looking over at his uncle. He could believe that his sentiment was not shared.
Iroh turned around to face his nephew. "I care about you! And if Ozai wants you back, well…I think it may not be for the reasons you imagine," he told Zuko. Out of the two of them, he knew the Fire Lord better.
"You don't know how my father feels about me. You don't know anything!" Zuko said, turning away from him.
"Zuko," Iroh said. "I only meant that in our family, things are not always what they seem."
Zuko whirled around, his anger exploding. "I think you're exactly what you seem! You're a lazy, mistrustful, shallow old man who's always been jealous of his brother!" He stomped away from his uncle, not seeing the downcast expression on his face.
(Location: Earth Kingdom)
Aang stood in front of General Fong. Sokka had disappeared before he woke up and Katara wasn't anywhere nearby, so he was on his own. "The thing is I don't think we'll ever be able to trigger it on purpose," Aang explained. "So, I guess that's it."
"Sure, I can't change your mind?" Fong asked. If one were paying attention, one would have heard the slight pleading tone in his voice.
Aang nodded, not hearing the tone. "I'm sure. I can only reach the Avatar state when I'm in genuine danger."
The doors suddenly burst open as a soldier ran in. "General Fong!" He cried.
"What is it?" The general asked as he rose from his desk.
"Look out the window into the courtyard, sir!" Fong and Aang rushed over to the window. What they saw surprised them. A good majority of General Fong's army was fighting but they were not fighting an army. No, they were fighting just one person: Sokka.
(Location: Spa Resort)
Zuko walked down the staircase that was carved into the side of the mountain. He stopped for a second to look at the ship. All he could see was the promise that the ship silently held. He started to walk again when he heard his uncle's voice. "Wait! Don't leave without me," it called out. Turning around, he saw Iroh coming down the stairs with a travel pack just like the one he had on his shoulder.
"Uncle, you changed your mind," he said, happy that he was coming
"Family sticks together, right?" Iroh asked, catching up to his nephew and placing a hand on his shoulder.
When he felt that hand, he was reminded of a different time and a different hand on his shoulder. "We're finally going home," he said as he turned back to look at the ship, that memory echoing in his mind. As he walked down the staircase, he failed to see Iroh looked at the ship with suspicion.
"They're coming," Naruto noted from where he stood on the ship next to Azula.
"Yes, I can see that," she said with a small hint of sarcasm.
He ignored that remark and turned to the captain. "Captain, have the Imperial Firebenders line up," he called out. "Let's make them feel welcomed."
"Yes, Lord Naruto," the captain answered. He turned around and began giving orders. The ship and dock briefly became a bustle of activity as people began to move around.
"This won't go as smoothly as you think it will," Naruto told Azula.
"And what makes you think that?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.
He shrugged. "It just will."
She scoffed at the simplicity of his answer. "You're paranoid."
"I'm your bodyguard. It's my job to be paranoid about stuff like this," he replied with a straight face.
"Will you relax? Nothing will happen," she assured him. "Zuzu is desperate to go home and my uncle won't let him go alone. This will be easy." She wondered when her brother would figured out that he was trapped.
"If you say so, but if it happens, and Zuko goes for you, I will not interfere."
That had caught her by surprise. "Why?"
"Two simple reasons," he answered. "Number one: I know you can handle him. Number two: I want to see how far Zuko has come along."
Azula scoffed. "Zuzu was pathetic at best with Firebending." She could still remember the day he tried to impress their grandfather and failed. "I don't know why you want to see how far along he's come."
"We both know Firebending isn't the only he knows. And we both know who taught him swordsmanship. He was very agile last time, and he knew how to hide himself. He did last longer than you did when we were playing hide-and-seek."
She scowled. "Don't remind me." That was one memory that she would always remember with annoyance. It had been one of the few times Zuko had beaten her at something.
"You're still embarrassed about the fact that you were tied up in a tree after only five minutes of the game?" Naruto was genuinely surprised by that. He would have thought she had gotten over it by now. Azula would have responded had Zuko and Iroh had not appeared at the other end of the dock. As the two walked down the pier, Naruto noticed that Iroh kept looking at the Imperial Firebenders on each side of them. "Ten says that this is about to get ugly," Naruto thought as he silently stepped back and leapt up to the roof of the command tower, sitting down and leaving Azula with two Imperial Firebenders behind her.
"No bet," the Kyūbi replied.
"Brother, Uncle, welcome!" Azula greeted them as she bowed, and they bowed in return. As he and Zuko bowed, Iroh noticed that the Imperial Firebenders had filed in behind them. "I'm so glad you decided to come."
"Are we ready to depart, your Highness?" the captain asked, turning to face her.
"Set our course for home, captain," Azula ordered.
"Home," Zuko said quietly to himself. It had been three years since he had seen it
"You heard the princess! Raise the anchors! We're taking the prisoners home!" the captain ordered as he, Zuko and Iroh walked up the gangplank, only to stop and freeze when he realized his mistake.
As he froze, so did everyone else. "And here we go," Naruto thought as Azula glared at the captain.
"Your highness, I…" the captain tried to explain, but it was too late. Both Zuko and Iroh had caught on. While Iroh quickly spun and dealt with the Imperial Firebenders, Zuko had thrown the captain into the water.
"You lied to me!" he accused Azula with a look of fury.
"Like I've never done that before," Azula answered before turning her back and signaling the two Imperial Firebenders behind her to attack . They were quickly defeated by him, taking them down at the same time and landing on the deck of the ship at the same time.
"Zuko, let's go!" his uncle called out as he fought the Imperial Firebenders on the pier. But Zuko would not back down now. He simply bent his fire into the shape of two daggers, one in each hand, and began to attack Azula.
"That's an interesting way to Firebend in close combat," Naruto noted as he watched, his voice only loud enough for him and the Bijū inside him to hear.
"But it's also sloppy," the Kyūbi stated as he observed as well. "He's striking wildly and not focusing." The fox was right. Azula was bending no return fire. She simply ducked and weaved, avoiding the wild strikes her brother was throwing at her.
When she deflected a strike, she turned it to her advantage by pushing him back. "You know, Father blames Uncle for the loss of the North Pole. And he considers you a miserable failure for not finding the Avatar," she taunted him. "Why would he want you back home, except to lock you up where you can no longer embarrass him?"
"Good Kami, woman! Are you trying to make him madder?" the fox wondered out loud.
"Is that a rhetorical question?" Naruto asked him.
Zuko simply yelled in rage and began to attack Azula again. Their fight went around the ship, eventually going up the stairs on the deck. After a few moments of twisting, turning, and deflecting, she grabbed one of Zuko's hands in a hold and then bent a blue stream of fire at him. He stumbled back to avoid it but fell down the staircase. As his eyes refocused on his sister, he saw that she began to generate lightning.
But before she could use it against him, Iroh intercepted the lightning by grabbing Azula's hand and redirecting it towards the mountainside. Taking advantage of her surprise, he twisted her hand, making her bend forward and kicked her in the chest, making her fall overboard. He helped his nephew get back up on his feet and the two of them got off the ship. As they ran down the pier, they saw a shadow briefly fly over them. When they reached the staircase that led back up the mountain, they saw Naruto standing in front of them. But before they could even attack him, he took one step to the side, silently giving them an offer to keep going. They took that offer and raced past him.
He walked back to the pier as Azula pulled herself out of the water. The sopping wet princess glared at her bodyguard. "And what do you have to say in your defense for not stopping them?" she growled at him.
He thought it over for a few moments and finally gave her a foxlike grin. "Told ya," he answered.
(Location: Earth Kingdom)
"Will you hold still?!" a soldier shouted as he tried to hit Sokka with his weapon, only to miss.
"Why would I do that?" Sokka asked aloud before he dodged a stone ring that was bent at him by one of the Earthbenders. He had been fighting against most of the army for a while now and though it sounded odd, he felt that there was a kind of flow to the fight. It was like he could tell what they are going to do before they even did without even looking at them. He dodged a spear thrust from behind him even when he could not see the person who held the spear.
Meanwhile Aang was racing down the stairs outside of the tower and had met up with Katara. "What's going on Aang?" she asked, having already noticed the commotion. Akela was by her side.
"All I know I that Sokka is in the middle of that fight," he hurriedly explained, pointing down to the fight.
Fong, who had gotten there before Aang did, shoved his way into the middle of the fight and ordered his troops to halt. "What is the meaning of this?!" He demanded. Before anyone could answer, he continued. "Why did you attack my troops?" he demanded of Sokka, looking down at the Tribesman.
"One of your soldiers decided to be funny and tried to trip me by Earthbending. When I saw it coming and stepped out of the way, he got mad. He tried to attack me, and I retaliated. The next thing I know, I'm fighting about three quarters of your army and proving a point to you," Sokka answered, making Fong even more furious.
"What was the point you were trying to make?" the Earth Kingdom general asked through gritted teeth.
"That even an army can be beaten by one person. I'm guessing that thought never even crossed your mind when you fought against Naruto. How many of your many were injured or killed before you finally decided to pull out?" Sokka asked in a serious voice.
When he heard that question, Fong snapped. He did not see Sokka in front of him with his soldiers wounded all around him. He saw that Spirits-damned blonde back on that battleground in front of the colony, looking at him with annoyance and irritation. "I won't tell you again. Leave." The words he heard that day echoed in his mind.
"Hold him!" he screamed. A soldier tried to obey the general's order but Sokka twisted out of his grasped and moved out of the way when Fong tried to hit him. The army formed a circle around the two as Katara and Aang tried to force their way to the front. When they were able to do so, they saw that the general was trying to hit Sokka, too angry to effectively use his Bending, and her brother twisting away from him.
'Those moves look a little familiar," Katara thought as she watched her brother fight. She knew those stances from somewhere but could not place them.
Meanwhile Aang was trying to stop the fight. "Please, General, stop fighting!" he cried as he tried to stop the two of them.
Fong looked at the Air Nomad and then suddenly, like he had calmed down in that single moment, he used his Earthbending to sink Sokka into the ground up to his waist. "If you want me to stop, use the Avatar state!" he ordered, pushing him to the side, and began to give Sokka a beating.
Katara tried to stop the general but was held down by the soldiers. Akela tried to interfere but got stuck because his legs were encased in stone. They were helpless to stop the beating. They could only watch it happen. Sokka was beginning to look bad from the beating as Fong kept pummeling him. "I don't see glowing," the general told Aang who was desperately trying to go into the Avatar state, but with no success.
"You don't need to do this!" begged Aang as he tried to hold the punch the general had drawn back.
Fong scowled and freed his hand. "Apparently, I do." Turning his attention back to Sokka, Fong punched him so hard that he spat out blood and slumped forward onto the ground. For Aang, it was the straw that broke the camel's back. As he saw Sokka slump down to the ground, he went into the Avatar State and turned to glare at General Fong. "It worked, it worked!" the general celebrated, seemingly oblivious to what he had just unleashed.
But the celebrations did not last long as the general was thrown back by a slash of air; courtesy of a truly angry Aang (why else would he be in the Avatar state?). Aang then began float upward by bending a large tornado to support him. He looked down upon the fortress, like a god looking upon mortals.
"Avatar Aang, can you hear me?" Fong shouted over the sound of the wind whipping past his ears. "Your friend is safe! It was trick to trigger the Avatar state!" He released Sokka from the ground and released Akela's legs from the stone, the soldiers also let go of Katara, who ran over to check on her brother. "And it worked!" he cried in triumph.
Aang responded by suddenly slamming back down to the ground, causing a ripple of air and an upheaval of the earth to blow away the ring of soldiers and causing damage to the fortress itself. Before Aang could do anymore, he was stopped by the one person he did not expect: Sokka. But there was something different about Sokka as well. Just as Aang's eyes and tattoo shined a bright white, Sokka's eyes and the symbols and the lines on the medallion (which somehow slipped out from the confines of his shirt) were shining as well. The only difference was that they were shining the darkest black one could ever see.
"Enough," Sokka said in a voice that was overlaid with another voice.
Aang went completely still when he heard the word, but his spirit was lifted out of his body. He felt a hand on his shoulder and when he turned to see who it was. It was Roku. "It's time you learned," the pervious Avatar told him. They flew away on Roku's dragon, up to the clouds. As they flew through the clouds, Aang saw previous Avatars were standing amongst them. He could barely make out the fact that their eyes were glowing.
"The Avatar State is a defense mechanism, designed to empower you with all the skills and knowledge of all the past Avatars," Roku explained. Aang then saw a vision of an Earth Kingdom Avatar bending two large statues off the ground, her eyes momentarily glowing. "The glow is the combination of all your past lives, focusing their energy through your body." Aang saw two visions, one of a Water Tribe Avatar bending up a tidal wave and an Air Nomad Avatar bending a wind that was powerful enough to bend the surrounding trees, both of their eyes had momentary glowed. "In the Avatar State, you are at most powerful, but you are also at your most vulnerable," the previous Avatar warned the current one.
"What do you mean?" Aang asked him, after seeing a vision of a Fire Nation Avatar causing several volcanoes to erupt.
"If you are killed in the Avatar State, the reincarnation cycle will be broken," Roku told him, as he and the previous Avatar stood before him in a line, going back farther then he could see. "And the Avatar will cease to exist." One by one, each Avatar faded away from the current Avatar's eyes, ending with Roku.
Fang carried him back to his body, flying back down to the fortress. but before he could reenter his own body, he felt a presence nearby. "I see that Roku had forgotten to mention something important about the Avatar State," an ethereal voice spoke. Aang turned around to see a cloaked person standing in front of him. The cloak itself was ever changing, the fabric was made of both black and white and the two colors kept moving around, never stopping at point. The hood was up and no matter how hard you tried; you could never see the person's face.
"What do you mean?" Aang asked cautiously. He was not sure how, but he somehow knew that this was a spirit.
"He forgot to mention that there is a group of people who have the power to cut off the link between you and the Avatar State," the spirit explained, like it was nothing. "You've already met two of them and one of those two commanded you to stop just now."
"You mean Sokka?" he asked. The spirit nodded in acknowledgement at his question. "That's great! He can help me when I go fight the Fire Lord!" he declared with a big grin. Suddenly, going into the Avatar State did not seem like that big of a problem.
The spirit gave a humorless laugh at those words. "Such naivety, these four people weren't given this power to help you. They were given the power so that they could stop you or possibly break the Avatar cycle."
Those words horrified him. They terrified him to his bones in a way he would not have thought possible. "You can't do that, if the Avatar cycle is broken then the balance will be disrupted, and the world will be thrown into chaos!" he automatically protested.
"And that's a bad thing?" the spirit asked him. "I'll tell you a secret, little Avatar," It walked up to Aang and leaned down to whisper in his ear, even though it did not look like it had a mouth. "The world will be around long after your precious cycle is broken. I should know, I was here before the cycle even came into existence." Before Aang could even reply, the spirit made shooing motion and said, "Off you go now, little Avatar."
The next thing he knew, he was back in his own body. When he looked around and saw all the damage he had done, he had look of sadness on his face. As Katara rushed over to comfort him and to give him a hug, he whispered "I'm sorry Katara. I hope you'll have to see me like that again."
"Hah! Are you joking?! That was perfect!" They turned to see the general walking up to them with a slightly crazed look. "We have the means to control you when you're like that."
Aang threw the general a look. "You're out of your mind," he accused.
Fong ignored him. "I'll guess we'll hammer out the details on the way to the Fire Nation." He was about to continue when Sokka, still covered in bruises, walk up to him, and buried his fist in the general's stomach. While he bent over to grasp for breath, Sokka kneed him in the face, breaking his nose. When the general was reeling back from that, the Tribesman grabbed the hair on the top of his head and slammed his face into the ground.
"That was for the beating," Sokka told him. He looked at all the soldiers. "Anybody got a problem with that?" They shook their heads very quickly. Akela decided to add insult to injury by walking over to the general's unconscious head and raised his rear leg. No one commented on the sound or smell that followed.
"Do you still an escort to Omashu?" one of the soldiers asked, looking anywhere but his unconscious commander.
Katara shared a quick look with Aang and Sokka. "I think we're all set," she answered.
As Appa carried them away from the fortress, Aang looked back at Sokka, who was being treated by Katara. "You were right Sokka. The only way for me to master the Avatar state is to master the four elements." He then remembered something. "You said that if the general disagreed with what I was going to say, you were going to do something, what was it?"
"Weren't you paying attention, Aang? I did do something," Sokka replied as he tried to keep still for his sister.
"You mean the fight?" he asked, receiving a nod in return. "But it started before I went to speak with General Fong. How did the fight help?"
"I knew what the general was going to say long before you went to speak with him, Aang," he said as Katara finished up.
"What do you mean?"
Sokka took a breath as he began to explain. "After our first meeting with General Fong, I did a little snooping around and talked to the soldiers. It turns out that the general is a bit of a glory hound. After I heard him use the words 'Ultimate weapon' I knew that he was going to get you to agree to unlock the Avatar state by any means necessary."
"That still doesn't explain the fight," the Air Nomad pointed out.
"I was getting there, Aang. I had also found that at the same time we arrived at Omashu, General Fong had launched an attack against a new Fire Nation colony that was still being constructed. It had no defenses except for one person."
"It was Naruto, wasn't it?" Katara asked. She did not know why, but that was the first name that came to her.
Sokka nodded. "From what I could find out, he apparently told the general to leave and if he did not, they would have to fight him. General Fong didn't know who he was at that time, so he ordered the army to attack."
Both Aang and Katara were silent, until Katara finally asked the question. "How bad was it?"
Sokka's face turned grim. "Would you say that the army at the fortress was fairly big?" The two of them nodded. "According to the soldiers I talked to, the army is about a tenth of its original size."
"You mean…" Katara asked completely shocked. "You mean that one person killed that many people?"
Sokka nodded. "After he killed all those people, he stopped the battle and introduced himself to the general. After he had done that, he told General Fong to again leave. This time he did. And after that, he has a hatred with anything that is associated with Naruto, which included me, unfortunately."
"That's all interesting. But what does that have to with the fight?" Aang demanded.
"I'm getting there, Aang," he replied. "After we had our conversation, I went to talk to some of the soldiers that thought the general's plan wouldn't work. After a while, we came up with a plan. Some of the soldiers would start a fight with me in the courtyard for a phony reason. As the fight progress, we would get louder and louder with the fighting and the insults until we had attracted enough soldiers to make it an actual fight. Once that happened, we would simply wait until General Fong showed up with you in tow, Aang. After I made those comments about Naruto, he flew into a rage and we all know what happened after that."
Katara and Aang just looked at Sokka as he scratched behind Akela's ear. "So, you were expecting that beating he gave you?" Aang asked.
"Yes, once you saw that I was being beaten half to death, I knew you would be enraged and go into the Avatar state, thus proving my point about the Avatar State being a weapon," Sokka answered. What he had not expected was for the beating to be so vicious. He had underestimated Fong's hatred for the Paragons.
Aang and Katara did not say anything as they thought over what Sokka had told them. Not just because of what he told them, but also because of what happened when Aang was in the Avatar state. To them, how Sokka was able to stop Aang completely, with just one word, scared them.
(Location: Spa Resort)
Naruto watched as Azula showed the crowd the wanted poster for Iroh and Zuko. As the crowd dispersed, he walked up to her side. "What are you thinking about?" he quietly asked.
"I'm not thinking about anything, I'm just annoyed," she snapped, trying to avoid looking at him.
"You're annoyed with me, aren't you?" he asked the obvious question.
She glared at him. "What were you thinking, letting them get away?"
"I was thinking that if I let them get away, it would give you more time."
Her eyes narrowed. "What are you talking about?" she asked, not sure of what he meant.
"If Zuko and Iroh are on the run, you would have to chase them. It would give you more time to find your answer."
"What are you talking about when you say 'answer' like that?"
"Your answer to whether or not family and friends are important to you," the blonde explained further.
For some reason, she grew troubled. "I… I don't have an answer."
"I didn't expect you to have one right away."
She turned back to the ship. "I'm going to get some sleep."
"Alright, sleep well." He'd stay and make sure the crew was in order.
Azula walked up the gangplank, still trying to figure out what her answer was. "Somehow," she thought to herself, "I think I'll be dealing with this question for a while."
Author's Note: Thank you all for the reviews you have sent me about this story.
I will state this right now: I am going to skip The Cave of Two Lovers. The reason is that it is a little pointless for this story.
For those of you who did not know where Akela came from, that means one of three things. Number 1: You have never watched any of the older Disney films. Number 2: You were never a Cub Scout or a Boy Scout. Number 3: both Number 1 and Number 2. If you need some help, then I will give you a clue to help you: Look for the Bear Necessities.
Also, the symbols on the medallion are real. They are the alchemical symbols for Water, Earth, Fire and Air, if I use the medallion Sokka has for an example.
For those of you who want to know who the cloaked spirit was, do not worry he will be explained.
The full meaning behind being a Paragon will also be explained later as well.
I will see you all next chapter!