We were currently traveling through a sewer to get inside of Omashu. The smell was terrible and I was starting to regret encouraging Aang to see if King Bumi was alive and well. I moved as carefully as I could in such a place filled with disease and other unmentionable things. I heard Sokka gagging behind be and I honestly felt like doing the same.
When we finally found an exit, Aang search around to see if anyone was there and it seemed that the coast was clear. He pulled me up and I sighed as Katara spoke. "That wasn't as bad as I thought."
"Yeah, for you maybe." I mumbled as I wiped off my clothing in disgust. My eyes turned to the sewer when I heard Sokka coming out. He was cover in goop. Katara hosed him now with a whip of water as Aang dried of his clothes. I would have asked them to do the same for me, but it looked like a rather violent process so I kept quiet.
"UGH! What is this!" Sokka suddenly yelled as he attempted to pull small creatures off of his face. "They won't let go! Ah! Ah!"
I quickly smashed my hand over his mouth as he was backed against the wall. "Hey, be quiet. You'll call attention to us and then we'll really be in some trouble." I raised an eyebrow at him and he nodded. Taking my hand off his mouth, I tilted my head at the animal. "I've read about these...um, a pintapus, right?"
Aang nodded. "Yeah, they're really easy to get rid of, watch." The monk demonstrated by rubbing the head off the creature as it popped off. Sokka did the same for the other one and he sighed in relief. I noticed the small red spots that were left behind.
"Great now we should probably get going." I said. They all nodded and we began to walk away.
"Hey." We all turned toward the voice as I pulled the hood of my cloak on over my head quickly and ducked down. The soldiers walked over with frowns on their faces. "What are you all doing out past curfew."
"Sorry sir, we'll be getting home right away." Katara said with an innocent smile. Attempting to walk away once again- the guard called out.
"Hey, what's wrong with him?" He asked.
We all looked at each other as Katara spoke. "Uh, he has pina-pox sir." The man looked suspicious and began to walk over as he pointed out his finger.
"Uh, I wouldn't touch him." I blurted. "The slightest physical contact could potentially spread the infection to another person within less than 24 hours. Deadly even, if not treated correctly...which he hasn't..." I nudged Sokka as he began to groan.
"Uhhhh, it's so awful I'm dying."
The guard began to back away. "I think I've heard of pina-pox, didn't you're cousin Chang die from it? We'd better wash our hands!" The men ran away and I smiled in satisfaction.
"We need to find Bumi and get out of here." Sokka said as he hid behind a pile of ply wood.
I nodded. "Agreed." It was starting to become clear that perhaps coming into a city now conquered by the Fire Nation wasn't such a good idea. They knew my face, well, Azula's face and if they realized it was me then I would definitely be captured and brought back to my father.
"Where would they be keeping him?" Katara asked.
"Somewhere he can't bend, somewhere metal." Aang said as he searched the scenery around him. We stood up and began to move again once the soldier patrolling the area moved on to another spot. As we snuck around the corner I spotted a group of people on a lower level. I recognized two of them.
"Mai?" I whispered as my eyes widened. Suddenly a large bolder came down the slope of the building and Aang blew it away quickly. Once the dust from the bolder cleared. Mai's mother spoke up and pointed towards us.
"The resistances!" She yelled. Mai threw out small knife like arrows. A squeal forced its way from my lips as I barely dodged the weapons. Her eyes turned towards me with a curious expression.
I paled. "Oh no. We gotta get out of here!" Sokka gave me a confused look despite the situation. "She knows me."
The boy looked like he finally understood as he grabbed my wrist and he made a run for it. I glanced behind me to see that she was still coming. It looked like Katara and Aang's efforts weren't slowing her down. I knew Mai was talented, but this was ridiculous. When I looked around I realized we were cornered and there wasn't anywhere else to run.
"Sozai is that you?" She called from in front of us. I swallowed hard went I realized my hood had fallen back enough for her to see my face. I kept my head down and before I could answer, the ground underneath us opened. We all yelped as we fell into the hole.
"Ugh. Everything hurts." I groaned.
"You? I'm the one being crushed." Sokka grumbled. Looking up, I realized that my elbow was digging into his ribs. I flopped back and blinked when I saw three Earth Kingdom soldiers walk in front of us.
"You guys saved us. You're the resistances?" Katara questioned.
"That's right, we'll need you all to come with us." We all looked between each other before standing up and following them.
"So if you guys are the resistances. Then is Bumi here leading you guys?" Aang asked.
The soldier frowned. "No, of course not. We were prepared to defend our city to fight for our lives and for our freedom. However, before we even had a chance King Bumi surrendered."
I furrowed my brow. Why would he do that?
"The day of the invasion I asked King Bumi what he wanted to do. He looked me in the eye and said: I'm going to do nothing. There's no other choice now. The only way to win is to fight the Fire Nation. Even if we die trying."
Well then. "Actually there is another way. You could leave Omashu. You're directing all of your energy into fighting them, but you're out numbered. I think now it's better if you retreat to fight another day." Aang said. Even though it was sad to think this way, the monk did have a good point.
"No you don't understand. They've taken our homes and we need to fight them at all costs!" The soldier seemed angry and I could understand that, but I agreed with Aang.
"I don't know Young, living to fight another day sounds pretty good to me." The other soldier said.
"Yeah, I agree with the kid." The third man said. There was suddenly mumbles from various people in the cave and they all sounded like they were thinking the same thing.
Young sighed. "Alright fine, but there are thousands of citizens that need to get out of Omashu. How are we going to leave undetected?"
"Suckers!" Sokka blurted suddenly with a large grin.
I blinked before understanding. "Ah, pintapus."
"No, pinta-pox." I grinned along with him. "And you're all about to come with a nasty case of it."
The villagers had gathered as many pintapus as they could and began to cover each other in the red suction cup like markings. As soon as everyone was finished, Sokka stood out and in front of them and waited for him to speak.
"Alright everyone! In sick formation!" Sokka said as they began walking. I pulled my hood over my head and the boy glanced in my direction.
I shrugged. "It wouldn't really work for me. If Mai saw me then she might have already told the others. I can't risk being seen."
"Alright, well make sure you stay close and try to conceal yourself." He said.
"Will do, captain." I said with a salute and grin. Sokka moved to the front of the crowd along with the others. I was somewhat at an advantage because I wasn't that tall and I could hide among the people in the back. When Katara walked past me, I realize that Aang had disappeared. "Wait, where's Aang?"
"He said that he still needed to search for Bumi." She said with a sigh.
"Well, I guess if there's a chance then he should look for him." I'd never met Bumi before, so if Aang could really bring him back I'd like to see the man.
"Yeah." The girl replied. I offered her a smile that she returned as she moved to the front of the crowd with Sokka.
The plan worked and we made it out of the city in one peace. "It's amazing that so many people believed that pina-pox was a real disease. We're lucky that soldiers don't have much time to read." I said leaning against Appa's back.
I stared up at the dark sky. Various camp fires made by Omashu citizens put light into the dark scenery. "We all don't have the fascination to read like you do, Sozai." Sokka's voice spoke up as I turned to him with an even expression. His tone was teasing as I rolled my eyes.
"And we all don't still have the pina-pox markings on our faces like a certain someone." Sokka's eyes widened. "Could be permanent."
"Really? I do? Where? Katara you told me it cleared up." I suddenly let out a laugh at the older boy's mini-crisis. He glanced at me with a frown. "Haha, very funny."
"I wonder where Aang is." We both turned to Katara who sat on the ground with her arms crossed over her legs. "It's dark out and he's still not here yet. I'm getting worried."
"I'm sure he's fine. Aang's probably on his way back right now. He and Bumi will slide right on in." As Sokka said this I spotted a familiar figure in the distance with quite a large creature walking next to him.
"Well, you were half right." When the boy walked up he held a sad expression. "I looked everywhere. I couldn't find him." Katara took this moment to hug him and I patted his shoulder before gazing up at the mysterious creature.
He stared back at me before I smiled up at him. "Hi there."
"His name is Flopsie." Sokka added.
I tilted my head. "Flopsie, huh? I'm Sozai." I placed a hand on his head and he closed his eyes.
Another gigantic animal for me to love.
"We have a problem." I heard from behind me. I turned around to see Young. "We just did a head count."
Katara began to look worried. "Oh no, did someone get left behind?"
"No," He paused before pointing towards a toddler hanging off Momo's tail. "We have an extra."
"A baby?" I questioned. "Whose kid is this?"
"I couldn't tell you. He was here when we finished accounting for everyone." My eyes fell to the child as he continued to smile. This didn't look good.
I stared at the boy as he waddled around the fire. He did his best to keep himself steady and he didn't look to be more than two years old. He rounded the corner and tripped over Sokka's weapon. Falling to a seated position, he stared at it curiously before attempting to pick it up. Sokka pulled it from his hands and frowned.
"No, bad Fire Nation baby!" He scolded. The boy looked at him before breaking out into a loud cry. I frowned as Katara hit him in the arm. "Fine, here."
The toddler smiled and picked up the weapon with a gleeful noise. "Aw he's so cute." I cooed.
"Yeah I know." Katara added, hugging the boy around his shoulders.
"You won't think that when he's older. He'll join the Fire Nation army. He'll be a killer." Young said.
I shook my head. "He doesn't have to be." I stated firmly. "Not everyone in the Fire Nation is like that."
Young paused before speaking. "There aren't many to fit the exception like yourself."
I opened my mouth to speak, but decided not to. A lot don't even have the choice.
Suddenly the screech of a bird was heard from the distance. It landed on a rock not far from where we were seated. It had the Fire Nation symbol on it and that never meant anything good. Aang jumped over to the rock and took out the scroll from the bird. He opened it and I tilted my head curiously.
"What does it say?"
"It's from the governor. He thinks that we kidnapped his son. He wants to make a trade: his son for King Bumi." Aang looked at us with a nervous expression.
"Well, that settles it then, right?" Young said.
"I don't know, this could all be a trap." Sokka chimed.
I shook my head. "No way, the governor may be the Fire Nation, but he wouldn't sacrifice is child's safety" They all looked at me as I gave an awkward shrug. "I use to go to Mai's house sometimes for these gatherings. Her father is the governor, he let her take up lesson to learn how to fight. He wanted her to be safe at all times, so he cares.""
I wasn't really sure if anyone of this information would be of any help to this situation. "You're familiar with these people." Young stated rather than question.
I slowly nodded. "...Yes, Mai was a friend, I guess..." I'd rather not just blatantly say that I was the princess. Though it would come up later, but this didn't seem like the best time to point that out. "Well, we weren't on bad terms."
"Then it would be best if you went to negotiate and help make the trade run more smoothly." The older man continued. "We don't want anymore complications."
Sokka spoke up before I could say anything else. "I don't know. Would it be safe for you to go out like that? What if word goes back to the Fire Nation."
"I'm sure it already has." It wasn't like I'd really added anything significant to the gang and if I could help I'd do whatever I could. "I'll go."
The next morning I held the sleeping toddler in my arms with a smile. He was adorable that was for sure. "I hope this goes well." Katara answered.
"How are we sure this isn't a trap?" Sokka said as we walked across the top of a wooden building.
"I'm sure it isn't. The governor is worried about his son enough to make a trade." Aang said.
I decided to say nothing else as I left the child hand from the satchel across my chest. We all turned around when there were steps heard from the distance. My eyes widened when I saw who walked towards us. It was as if I was twelve all over again. Mai, Ty Lee and my sister, Azula made their approach.
"So that really was you, Sozai." Mai said with an even tone. She gave nothing away which was how she had always been. Ty Lee smiled with wide eyes.
"Wow, I haven't seen you in so long. This is really amazing. It's like the universe has pulled us all back together." Her tilted her head to the side. "But in like a really strange way."
I grimaced as I looked at my sisters smug face. "Yep..."
Katara looked at me with a silent knowing voice. That's your sister?
I nodded as Azula's came to me. "Well, well, isn't this surprise. Scratch that. It isn't. When Zuko said that you'd ran off on your own, I'd thought he was telling me a terrible joke, but here you are. Being the traitor I'd always thought you were."
A frown slowly made it's way onto my mouth. Since I left with Zuko I'd never actually thought that I would see Azula again, at least not like this. Just looking at her brought about all the terrible things she'd attempted and tried to do.
"Yeah you were right. Blah, blah, blah, insert sarcastic and witty comment here." Azula's lips twitched down as what I assumed to be Bumi's laughter intervened into the conversation.
"Hey everybody." He was lowered in a metal casket like box with only his head sticking out. He was set down behind the trio as Mai spoke up.
"You have my brother." She stated.
"Right here." Aang pointed to me. "We're going to make the trade."
"Wait." Azula said in a commanding voice. Oh no, I mentally groaned. "A thought just occurred to me. Do you mind?"
"Of course not, Princess Azula." Mai answered.
"We're trading a two year old for a king. A powerful earth bending king. It just doesn't seem like a fair trade, does it?" I glared at the girl as she smiled over to me. My gaze turned to Mai with pleading eyes. Please don't do what I think you're going to do.
"You're right. The deals off." She said. Bumi was raised back into the air and I heard his laughter fade.
"Bumi!" Aang yelled as he ran after the ascending metal box. Azula stepped forward and bent out blue fire. Aang jumped in the air and flew away on his glider. My sister glanced over at me as I guarded the baby.
"Sit tight, sister dear. I'll deal with you in a bit." She ran out of sight and I took this chance to back away from the others.
"We've got to get the baby out of here." Katara said.
"Yeah, way ahead of you" Sokka said. We began to run towards the ladder that we'd used to get up here, but Sokka suddenly fell to the ground.
"Sokka!" I yelled, pulling him to his feet. "We gotta go!"
"Look out." He yelled as he point behind me. I turned around to see Ty Lee running at me.
"No hard feelings." She said, jumping up ready to hit me. I closed my eyes and shielded the baby. When I suddenly heard an "ouff", I looked up to see that Katara had momentarily apprehended the girl.
"Come on!" Sokka said as we both slid down the ladder and ran down the road towards where Appa was waiting. I climbed onto the bison and grabbed a hold of Sokka's hand. I glanced down to the young boy. He still seemed to be alright, but this was definitely no place for a young child to be. He was in danger here and we needed to get him back to his family pronto. Sokka flew us back to where Katara was trying to fight off Mai and Ty Lee. Though from the looks of it, she couldn't bend the water.
"How are you going to fight without your bending?" Mai asked in a mocking tone. Sokka threw his boomarang knocking Mai's weapon out of her hand.
"I seem to manage." He said. Appa dropped down in front of them knocking the girls away with a gust of wind from his tail. Katara quickly climbed onto Appa and we went on our way to find Aang. Katara spotted him gliding down the earth rails with Bumi being followed by Azula. She was shooting fire at them and was ironically hot on their trail. Aang bent out a gust of wind trying to land on Appa's saddle, but it was too much and he ended up going over the bison completely. We watched as the two fell down onto another rail and then they were suddenly out of sight.
Sokka steered the Appa in the direction we'd last saw them. We searched for a little while until we spotted Aang near the ledge of a building. He was by himself.
"Where did Bumi go?" I asked in an unsure tone.
The monk turned around with a solemn expression. "He isn't coming with us."
"Why?" Sokka asked. "Wait, how did he even leave?"
"He was able to earth bend all along and could have left if he wanted to." The boy answered.
"I don't understand, why would Bumi willingly stay here?" Katara asked.
"...He said it wasn't the right time." Everyone went silent as I looked down to the child in my satchel. Strangely enough he was asleep.
"I think we should get him back to his parents don't you think?"
Aang looked at me before nodding. "Yeah, I'll take him once it gets dark.
I sat down crossed legged next to Flopsie as I patted his side. "I wonder what you eat. I've got these walnuts here, but I doubt that you'd want that." The creature looked at me with wide eyes and stuck out his tongue. I paused for a moment before bring the food up to his mouth as he gobbled it down.
"Well, walnuts it is." When I heard a roar from behind me I looked up at Appa who gazed down at me expectantly. "What, you want some too?" He opened his mouth and I dropped the walnuts in side. Suddenly Momo dropped down onto my head and I passed one up to him.
"Alright is everyone happy now?" I asked. They all ate quietly as I lad back onto the ground. "Good."
When I heard foot steps coming up from the left side I turned towards the sound. "What are you doing?" It was Sokka.
"Becoming one with nature, obviously. You want some nuts?" He only stared. "...Walnuts."
He shrugged and sat down next to me. "Sure." We sat in silence for a few moments before he spoke. "So, that was your sister back there and her friends."
"Yeah, it was quite the reunion. As you can see she doesn't really like me very much." I stated. "Ty Lee and Mai, they usually just did whatever she told them to. Now it's come to this...I really didn't expect to see her again. At least not right now."
I blinked when Sokka's hand brushed up against mine. My eyes glanced over to him. He seemed to have realized what he did, but he didn't move his hand or address that it was still there. So I decided to leave it be. "Don't worry, you've got us and we'll keep you safe."
A smile formed onto my face. "Well, hopefully with Aang helping me learn how to use a staff I'll be able to protect myself."
"True, but we'll still be here for you." He quirked up the right side of his mouth. "By the way, you still haven't told me what you wanted from winning the bet. Have you thought about at all?"
Oh believe me, I have. "Mm, I still haven't come to a real wish yet, but I'll give you an answer soon." I adjusted my glasses and gave him a teasing smile.
Katara walked over and tilted her head. "What are you guys doing?" Her eyes gazed down at our hands touching. We awkwardly looked at each other before slowly pulling them away.
"Nothing really." I said as casually as I could. Time to change the subject. "Nuts?" I held up a hand of them to her. She looked at them for a moment before taking some out of my hand and sitting down with us.