Well... by now nobody's brobably surprised anymore about my slow update schedule.
What would this be for an author's note if I wouldn't tell you about my new obsession again? This time it's The Umbrella Academy. If you haven't watched it yet, do it. Right now. Go on! (No wait, read the chapter first!)
I have a dozen new half finished works lying around now, things I'll probably finish and upload. At least two dozen more ideas as well.
The problem with this story is, I know exactly where I want to go with it. I simply have no clue how to get there. So I'm more or less just throwing the characters together and letting them interact, hoping they'll somehow push themselves into the right direction.
As always, many thanks to everyone who read and reviewed the last chapter!
Shon99: In my head it very well may be the same ostrich horse! Though it might also be one of any other random Fire Nation soldier. I guess we'll have to wait for Zuko to confirm ^^ The Earth King very much did go on a journey with his bear, but by this time he would have been back, seeing as he has a Kingdom to rule now that the war is over. I'm setting this half a year after the end of the show, meaning a lot of things have changed already.
To everyone theorizing about, well, anything, I won't say anything but wait and see! Reading those reviews always makes me smile.
A handful of people noted the story was moving forward too slow. I'll try speeding things up, but tbh my greatest fear is always rushing a story too much. Having the story set at a slower pace gives me time to delve into character dynamics, build tension etc. I know the last two chapters were reeeeaally slow paced though, so I'll change that!
"On another note, I can never write Denki's name without smirking. Any fellow german speaking fellow having the same problem? Because to us Denki sounds like... Thinky. Which kinda doesn't fit his character too well. It always cracks me up!)
Sokka didn't steer Appa down to greet the sentries.
Behind him he could hear Katara snoring softly. She hadn't planned on falling asleep, but exhaustion had pulled her under after a few hours of flight.
He had come close too a few times but managed to pull himself back in the nick of time. Peering down he frowned at the white fields surrounding the city. It looked almost like home, if it weren't for the missing ice, the too flat land, and of course the walls both before and behind him.
Urging Appa faster he cursed at his own brain. Now that he could see his destination everything seemed so much further away.
It also didn't help that he could feel cold dread pouring into the city.
As he'd come close to sleep his vision had... changed, for a moment, revealing cloudlike tears ripping through the sky. They had vanished as soon as he'd blinked, but he knew it hadn't been a hallucination. The way his skin had started crawling, the way Appa made a loud, protesting sound and tried steering out of the jetstream they'd ridden.
They'd narrowly avoided the blackish rifts, leaving Sokka's heart pounding hard against his ribs.
That he couldn't see the otherworldly phenomena anymore didn't ease his worries in the slightest.
It was only one more reason he was glad they were approaching Ba Sing Se now, he hoped Uncle Iroh would be able to shed some light on whatever kept upsetting the world that way.
Appa gave a low rumble beneath him. Reaching out a hand to pat the beast's fur he sighed softly, pulling his scarf tighter. "I know, buddy. We're almost there. Then you can rest, alright?" They'd been flying for well over ten hours by then, with only two short breaks. The jetstream had been a big help – otherwise they'd never been able to reach Ba Sing Se within one night.
Looking back he saw both his sister and his friend leaning against each other, oblivious to the world. Shaking his head he forced his eyes forward again, yanking his thoughts back on track. "Rest a few minutes longer, guys. We'll get help soon." Grimacing, he yielded. "Soonish."
Toph yawned loudly. While she had enjoyed sleeping in there came a time when she simply had to get moving. All around she could still hear the other girls' even breathing, even some soft snores. Chuckling at herself she pulled on her clothes, readying herself for the day.
She didn't particularly try being quiet, but the girls could have slept through a volcano errupting right next to them.
Yawning again she trudged through the corridor to Zuko's room. The other kids – she refused to think of them as older than her – had an excuse for being tired. Sparky did not. Maybe a bit, but he'd been through worse and she had to discuss this with him.
This being their guests. While they all had been truthful about their quirks there was a lot being hidden here.
One thing she was sure was they'd grown up in peace. While they all acted similar to soldiers there were tiny differences. Mostly their ingrained behavior. They were too easy going to have lived anywhere close to war. In a way they reminded her of Kuei.
That wasn't fair, she chided herself. Perhaps they had been free of war, but they definitely had seen their fair share of combat. Some more than others, that much was clear, but they definitely knew how to fight themselves out of a lethal situation. It was clear from their body language.
Shoving Sparky's door open she fully expected him to react, to jump up and rebuke her for barging in, but he kept sleeping.
That was strange.
Kneeling down next to him she poked him lightly. Then harder. "Sparky, wakey wakey."
He didn't even so much as twitch.
Frowning, she prodded harder, earning a slight moan in return. "Come on, bad time to get sick, esteemed Lord", she grumbled.
Deciding he wouldn't wake up for quite some time she stood up, closing the door firmly behind her as she left.
The second the door snapped shut a stone dropped from her shoulders.
Blinking she turned around. Her body felt lighter now. When had it started feeling so heavy?
Izuku stretched as much as the cramped space allowed.
Sleeping on a mattress again had been heaven on earth. He was quick to notice most of his friends were still deeply asleep. It didn't surprise him. They'd all scratched at their limits. Once again he was more than thankful for One For All, his quirk's very nature allowing his more energetic lifestyle, making it easier to bounce back even from extreme exhaustion much quicker.
Careful not to disturb his sleeping classmates he left the room, trudging through the corridor to the front of the store.
To his surprise the hallway was already occupied.
Toph stood by what he knew to be Lee's own room, looking paler than the day before. "Everything alright?", he asked gently.
Toph inclined her head slightly. "Just drained."
Nodding in sympathy he found himself at a loss for words. He didn't quite know how to interact with Toph. She had a fierce personality that put even Kacchan's to shame. Of course there was the part of him that couldn't wait to jump onto the subject of her powers, asking her how she dealt with her blindness by using her bending. It certainly was something he'd have to look into.
He'd seen it before with Shoto during the fight with Stain. He'd been forced to block his own vision trying to keep his foe away. If the benders from this world had a way to get feedback from their powers, could they somehow use that too? The same went for Dark shadow. While Fumikage did get some sort of feedback through his demon it was most often verbal or instinctual communication between the two.
"Stop that, you're driving me crazy!"
Twitching Izuku noted he had said that out loud. "Sorry", he hurriedly apologized, "I do that a lot."
"Then do it somewhere else!"
The rebuke threw him off completely. "Look, I really am sorry. I'll try to keep it down."
How someone blind could have mastered such a sharp glare was beyond him.
He put his hands up defensively, backing away.
Toph sighed, running a hand through her hair. "Just... try to be quiet until Sparky wakes up. Looks like everyone here's too tired to do anything right now."
Nodding quickly Izuku couldn't help but feel awkward. "If there's anything I can do to help in the meantime just tell me."
The girl frowned. "I think there's still some dishes left from yesterday. I'll be... elsewhere."
Blinking after the retreating figure Izuku huffed softly. That had been strange. Turning around he headed for the kitchen.
He found it spotless. With nothing to do he sat down in the shop part of the building, enjoying not having to move for some time.
Yet he couldn't quite relax.
It all felt... too quiet. Something kept nagging at the back of his head.
Jumping up he let his body fall into his familiar warm up exercises. Perhaps it wasn't the best idea to train fully now, but he could at least keep his mind occupied.
Zuko woke up to the worst headache he'd ever experienced.
For a moment he debated simply not standing up, but his sense of duty won out.
His first attempt to stand up almost sent him crashing to the floor. Cursing softly – as softly as someone who'd travelled with sailors for three years possibly could – he tried again, this time slower.
It felt like hours before he got dressed and stumbled out of his room. His whole perspective was off, distance never quite what it seemed. "Not the time to get sick", he snarled at himself.
He kept a hand at the wall, steadying himself slightly.
The voices coming from the shop made him pause. It took a couple of minutes to remember they had guests – otherworldly guests.
Taking a deep breath he entered the shop, looking at the people assembled in front of him.
Seeing he wasn't the last to rise sent a pang of relief through him. Only a handful of his guests were awake, talking among themself with low voices. It was Tenya that spotted him first.
"Good morning, Lee", he greated politely. Zuko gave a nod accompanied by a low hum as an answer. Talking seemed to exhausting.
Izuku flashed him a quick smile. "So, I was thinking maybe we could compare some of our powers with yours in detail? I think there's a lot that could help the other. Did what Denki and Kacchan said yesterday help anything?"
Oh. He had almost forgotten already they'd showed him the way their specific quirks worked. "A bit", he forced out. His voice came out stronger than he'd thought.
Sitting down next to them he brought a smile to his face. "Slept well?"
"Like a baby", Eijiro chuckled.
"Yes, we can't than you enough for your generous offer", Momo added.
He was distantly aware he should probably offer them something to eat, or at least a pot of tea, but he felt too drained to stand up again.
Drained was the wrong words, he recognized – lightheaded, more like it. Disconnected from his body. He leaned back in his chair, wishing he could just go back to sleep.
Something prickled in the back of his neck.
His breath hitched.
Yanking his head around he found Denki entering the room, clearly half asleep. "Morning, guys."
He remembered all too vividly the way the yellow lightning crashed down on him, tearing at him, spreading, forcing all the energy out of him, twisting and prodding, remembered the weakness almost crushing him-
"Whoa, sorry, didn't mean to startle you!" Denki blinked at him, his face scrunched up.
"It's alright." What had that been about? That memory, where had it come from?
A frown rose on his face. Which memory?
He had a feeling he'd just forgotten something important.
"You sure? I mean, after yesterday I wouldn't be surprised if something were a bit off."
"Yesterday?", Momo inquired.
"Yeah. There was this... cloud thing. A spirit perhaps?"
Right. That had happened. Denki had somehow absorbed the tiny specks of lightning the spirit had thrown at them. Closing his eyes Zuko resisted the urge to shake his head. He'd seen a lot, but a storm spirit in his kitchen? That was new.
He listened only halfheartedly as Denki recounted the last evening.
"Are you sure you're fine?", Tenya asked, clearly concerned. "You look a bit pale."
"Just tired. It's been a couple long days."
Yet he couldn't quite shake the worry himself. Something had definitely happened – something he either couldn't remember or hadn't noticed. "While we wait for the rest of your group to wake up, why don't you tell me how exactly that portal opened for you?"
They traded uneasy glances. "We are not really sure ourselves", Izuku murmured softly. "Quirks can be... difficult to explain. Some follow rules nobody but the user knows. And over time quirks have not only become more powerful, but also much more complex."
"So you have absolutely no idea how you ended up being here?"
Momo shook her head. "We have some theories, but considering we didn't even know other worlds were a thing until we ended up here... but it's better than nothing."
"The thing is", Tenya added gravely, "we were informed the villain we fought had some sort of displacement quirk. He'd throw some kind of energy beam at his enemies and they'd collapse into themselves." Shaking his head he continued "Actually we shouldn't even have been there for the fight. We were all roped in somehow. And half our class got stuck when his blast changed."
"He didn't seem particularly agitated nor that strained. Usually there are signs when someone uses more of their power. When he fired off his power that time it changed midway, that's what makes it so strange. It changed color, or rather lost it. His beams were a dark red color, but still vibrant enough to be recognized as red. Midway it changed to black with maybe a hint of purple around it. Then that vortex swirled into existence and swallowed us whole."
"We think someone else must have been involved, maybe a villain with a different quirk. Or maybe even something from your world."
Zuko could feel himself freeze. A rupture in the very essence of our world. "Something like a spirit."
"You haven't really said anything about spirits", Momo reminded him. "Would they be capable of such actions?"
"It's possible." Oh, how he wished he'd payed more attention to Uncle going on about the older, more violent spirits. "It could very well be connected to-" A sharp pain raced through his forehead.
Clutching his hands across his head he fought down a moan.
"Whoa, hey!" Denki was by his side almost immediately.
Startled, Zuko pulled back. Where had that come fr-
Blinking at the room his headache subsided.
Everyone in the room stared at him. Tenya was halfway out of his seat, looking ready to rush over every second. Gulping down a lump in his throat he forced out "Sorry." Had something just... happened?"
"Scratch the maybe, that thing yesterday was definitely involved!" He couldn't even protest Denki laying his hand over his forehead. "You're burning up, man!"
Momo slowly rose from her stool. "I'll go make some tea."
"Shouldn't you go and lay down again?", Tenya suggested.
He shook his head slowly. "If that is connected I doubt we can afford taking a break." Taking a deep breath he gathered his thoughts. "I heard a couple interesting things the last few days. If all of this belongs together we have to deal with it, and fast."
Staring at the table he found himself grimacing. "But this had better wait until everyone is awake."
Soft jostling woke Aang from his slumber.
Blearily opening his eyes he met Sokka's eyes. A wide grin appeared on the older boy's face. "Welcome back to the land of the living, Aang! Try not to throw me away this time."
Memories came rushing back. Bringing up his hand he tried summoning a small flame.
Shock threatened to overwhelm him again.
"Hey, come on, don't do this to me. Everything's alright, okay? I kinda need you right now, and I mean now."
Forcing his thoughts back on track Aang opened his eyes again, nodding to show he was back. "Where-" He broke off, recognizing Ba Sing Se. More specifically, the king's palace. "Why are we here?"
"Long story?" Sokka shrugged. "But you need to do your little routine of greeting the king and everything before someone gets mad. And then we go see Uncle Iroh, alright?"
Pulling himself up Aang nodded. "Alright. I'll see what I can do."
Kuei had been surprised but happy to see them.
It was him who told Aang Zuko and Toph were in the city. And Iroh wasn't.
Aang's still somewhat dizzy state must have been visible. After the shortest possible amount of time he could throw him out without breaking any protocols Kuei excused himself and sent the Avatar on his way.
Meeting Sokka and a finally awake Katara outside (the latter being very unamused about Sokka waking her only after Aang had already gone inside) they quickly decided to hurry to the tea shop. Zuko was no Iroh, but he knew a thing or two about the Avatar, things that might help. Also Sokka kept insisting he needed to talk to the Fire Lord because of a spirit world matter. It chafed at Aang, being second best after his friend when it was his job to be the bridge to the spirit world.
Or was it still?
He hadn't dared approaching the subject with Eart King Kuei, too worried about the information becoming public. The Avatar was a symbol of peace. If word got out he was nothing but a single Air Nomad child anymore there was no saying what would happen. Peace was fragile – the war had not been over long enough for all the hurt to settle.
Approaching the tea shop Aang felt some of his worry ebb away. The five of them had always battled against horrible odds. They could beat this too, right?
"How much more incompetent can you get?!"
The booming voice made Yagi Toshinori flinch. Resisting the urge to duck away he knocked on the door, waiting for the high pitched confirmation before entering.
The scene had by now become familiar.
UA's president Nezu sat behind his desk, worry etched into his animalistic face.
Towering above him at almost four times his size stood the current Number 1 hero – the flame hero Endeavor.
As always the latter was quite literally flaming. Turning to the newcomer the man's face morphed into a sneer. "Well, if it isn't All Might."
"Endeavor", he greeted, his voice polite. Despite their turbulent past the two heroes – former hero in his own case – had found a shaky middle ground. Endeavor turned to All Might more frequently for help. A handful of times he'd even approached him for personal matters. He still threatened Toshinori each time afterwards, telling him how easy it would be for him to burn the older hero into a crisp, but it was loosing bite already. In a way it reminded him of young Bakugo by now.
Nezu let the two men seize each other up before clearing his throat. "I can assure you we are doing everything to find all of the missing students."
"Oh, is that fatherly concern, Endeavor?"
The flames surrounding the flame hero burned brighter for a second. "Is that any of your concern?"
Raising his hands Toshinori beamed at the larger man. "Of course not! I just happen to be concerned for our students' safety. Including your son."
"I can alleviate most of your concern, for both of you", Nezu stated with a soft smile. "Vortex started talking yesterday. Apparently his conciousness couldn't handle the thought of being responsible for childrens' deaths."
That came as a surprise. "He wasn't aware they were missing?"
"Still missing, more like it." The principal motioned for him to sit. Following the invitation Toshinori sank down into one of the two chairs, tapping the other with a meaningful glance at Endeavor. The younger hero gave him a scoff but sat down nonetheless.
"Vortex kindly offered us insight to the way his powers work. Which is to say", the rat clasped his hands, "he transports whatever he hits into a parallel dimension for a limited amount of time. Relative to the amount of people transported it shouldn't have taken more than three hours for our students to reappear."
"We are monitoring the area, aren't we?"
"I sure hope we do", Endeavor almost growled.
"And we do. However there has been no trace of the missing children."
Toshinori breathed in deeply, waiting for the explosion of rage next to him.
It didn't come. Endeavor leaned forwards ever so slightly, a frown on his face. "Perhaps an outside interference?"
"It does seem like the most plausible solution, yes."
He was about to turn to Nezu when something struck him as odd. "You know something, don't you?"
Endeavor crossed his arms. "I might have a lead", he offered.
"Don't you think it would be only fair to share with us?"
"I swore never to speak of this again, All Might. Were you even the slightest bit competent we wouldn't even be in this situation. Whose fault was it the children were there after all?"
That shut any protest up faster than a punch to the mouth would have had.
Nezu frowned at the flame hero. "Don't you think this is a bit harsh?"
Endeavor rose to his full height. "Let's hope I'm wrong. Because if I am not..." He grabbed his bag, the flames vanishing, leaving him to seem much younger and much older at the same time. Worry was etched deeply into his face. "If I'm not", the man repeated, already on his way to the door, "May all gods be with the children. They'll need them."
The door slammed shut behind him.
Silence reigned for a few seconds.
"That wasn't ominous at all", Toshinori bantered lightly at Nezu. The principal looked after the disappearing hero, his eyes knitted closely together.
"Endeavor can take care of himself", he decided finally. "In the meantime, let us search for our problem children on our own. I know someone who might be able to help..."
That's it for today!
I know it's short (7 pages instead of my usual 10 to 11), but I think it's action-filled enough!
Now I gave myself enough ideas to keep myself interested a while longer, so you won't have to worry about long waiting times, yeih!