This AzulaxKatara request goes out to Spikesagitta. I think it's about time I posted another multi-chaptered fic… In any case, happy New Year, everyone! Hopefully you're spending it with the people you love.
Disclaimer: I do not own.
Status Report? ll
An air ship—a massive, blimp-like construction of steel and heat-fueled engines—burst through the darkening clouds, ascending to the highest point it could before its nose evened out and men dressed in bright red garb with armored boots and shoulder pads hurried out onto the circular observation deck atop its rounded hull.
Below, within the bowels of the ship, a score of similarly dressed men were scrambling about, fear in their gazes and in the set of their shoulders as they kept everything in working order. To the rear of the engine room was a door that lead out onto a raised walkway below which there were several enormous crates, the contents of which were unknown, and across that was a staircase leading up into the galley, which was curiously deserted. A series of hallways connected the galley to the cramped living quarters for the aforementioned soldiers, but that isn't our main focus.
Instead, we'll travel a little further along the length of the ship to where a hatch that allowed access from the bottom of the ship into the engine room raised and the smiling visage of a young woman appeared. The rest of her soon followed suite to reveal a curvy young girl in her late teens dressed in pink and she hefted herself upwards, holding onto the rim of the entrance and lifting herself effortlessly into a handstand. "Any of you guys seen Mai?"
When she didn't receive an answer, the girl huffed and performed a front flip, landing neatly on the soles of her cloth shoes and padding over to the large, intricate map that had been spread out across an even larger table, her arms crossed over her chest. "So… Where are we going?"
The duo, who had been looking it over and navigating their current path, shrugged. "The Prince told us to head east."
If one descended the ladder beneath the wide windows that allowed a glimpse of the open air and the threatening way the clouds seemed to be gathering and hooked a sharp left at the end of the long, narrow corridor leading from the foot of it, they came to a door that had a rather ominous sign hung above the wheel that allowed entry reading, "Keep out," in a sharp, angry pen.
If one was so inclined to ignore that warning and open the heavy iron door, they would find—
"Azula, what are you doing?"
A short, slender young woman with pale skin, dark brown hair swept up into a topknot, and wild, topaz-coloured eyes balled her hands into fists, her nails biting crimson marks into her palms. Azula, as she was called, was a stunning young lady with almond-shaped eyes and regal, almost oriental features and her beauty was marred only by the furious scowl that furrowed her brow and peeled her lips back in a teeth-baring snarl.
The speaker, a young man with a mop of short brown hair and those same wild eyes, stepped into the room and closed the metal door gently behind him, his booted feet echoing in the emptiness of his sister's private quarters. His handsome face had been scarred on the left side by a mark that resembled flame and his left eye, though just as sharp and calculating as Azula's, was locked in a permanent squint.
"I never gave you permission to enter my room, Zuko," was the frosty response. She didn't turn to look at him.
"Ty Lee asked me to check on you."
That girl… She would be cleaning Azula's room for a month for her impudence.
Azula scoffed, turning her head to pin her brother with a dark glare. "And you listened to her? She's beneath you."
"You're my sister." He said it as though that was the answer to everything—and it really was. The royal Fire Benders may have been counterintuitively cold towards each other, but Zuko really did love his sister. That was the only reason she hadn't taken his head off… yet.
When the unfortunate soldier who was the current recipient of the young woman's rage whimpered, she rounded on him, the air around her warping and twisting with the heat of the element that bubbled in her veins. "Didn't I tell you to be quiet?"
"A-apologies, Princess," he gasped, wincing as the intake of breath aggravated his bruised ribs. She sneered, kicking him again for good measure.
"If that's all, brother, you can go now. I'm very busy."
"Actually, it isn't." This newcomer, a tall, pale youth with a decidedly bored expression stepped into the doorway, eyes the same honeyed colour of a gemstone flicking from the person she was addressing to the man crouched on the floor. She didn't comment, however, choosing instead to slip closer to the young man.
"She's right. I thought you might like to hear about the Avatar."
At the title, the Fire Bender snarled and struck the wall before here, causing electricity to crackle harmlessly across the metal surface and the guard yelped, ducking down so as to avoid an unpleasant shock. "What is it now?"
The tension in the room was nearly palpable, but Zuko merely continued calmly, as though remarking upon the weather, "He's fast. We've lost his trail, but our contacts in the outlying areas may have found him again. We're currently in pursuit."Azula muttered something under her breath, her frame impossibly rigid, and her brother dared to take another step into her personal bubble. "The men are waiting for your orders."
"Tell them to jump—every last one of them. They're useless." The man cowering against the wall whimpered, but fell silent at a withering look from the princess. "Why is it that nothing ever seems to go my way?"
"They'll work out," Zuko assured her, trying his very best not to sound patronizing. His attempt seemed to have failed because the young woman sent another arc of electricity towards the ceiling and the lights flickered ominously.
"How can you be so calm?" his sister demanded, whirling to face him at last. It was then that the young man saw the panic in her eyes… and understood. He had been there once; back when gaining his father's respect—his love—had meant everything.
That had all changed the moment he had realized that there was someone who loved him no matter what. Mai rested a hand on the Prince of the Fire Nation's shoulder and leaned into him, her gentle, clean scent enveloping him and making his chest constrict with its familiarity. Zuko smiled slightly—a quirking of the edges of his lips, really—,his heart warming as it tended to any time his thoughts strayed to his beautiful, albeit stoic, girlfriend.
"The Avatar and his ragtag band of friends is no match for the Fire Nation's best."
Mai nodded. "He's right, Azula. Take it easy."
For a heartbeat, the brown-haired girl's shoulders sagged and it seemed as though she had actually listened to them.
"Get out of my sight." She waved a hand dismissively and gave her brother and one of her closest—… friends? She'd never admit to it—the cold shoulder. "I don't want any further interruptions while I discipline my men."
The soldier in question looked up at the other occupants of the room pleadingly, but Mai merely sighed and Zuko shook his head. There was no arguing with Azula when she was like this, so the couple shared a look then, they left the tiger to her prey.
A ragtag group of youths was dozed, cuddling against one another like penguins as the creature that they were astride flapped its broad tail tiredly to propel them through the air.
It wouldn't be able to take them much further and the lone teen who wasn't amongst his travel companions knew that. He sighed, rubbing the top of his bald head, his finger lingering against the light blue ink of the arrow that had been tattooed there.
What could he do? With the Fire Nation on their tails, there would be no rest. They were fugitives and it was all his fault.
The boy sighed again, turning his head to look over his shoulder at his sleeping friends—in particular the pretty mocha-skinned girl who was curled on her side, her expression peaceful.
"Katara…" He whispered it, reverently—as though saying it too loudly would break the spell that caused her slumber. His heart skipped a beat and brown orbs became glassy. He had to do something… She deserved to be happy.
He desperately wanted her to be happy—more than anything.
There was a small, furry creature with large, bat-like ears and beady eyes sitting next to Katara and it chattered, fluttering over to the boy on bat-like wings and landing on his shoulder, its furry little hands gripping the stiff fabric of collar of his dark orange cloak. They hadn't had a chance for personal hygiene; as it was, they hadn't eaten properly in what felt like days. Something had to give.
"Oh, Momo… What should I do?"
Lightning flashed, its brilliance turning night into day, but the roar of thunder was curiously absent. For a moment, the boy's expression lifted—as though the natural occurrence had also shed light on the answer to his problem—then, he leaped from the side of the vast creature and into the darkness below.
And the flying bison flew on.