This chapter's story is based off of one I just heard on a TV program called Haunted Hotels. I don't own anything, and naturally, it is based off of a true story. I changed a few details. If you have any opinion on the story whatsoever, please, write me a review. I don't own anything, so I don't make any money, so all I have are your reviews. And to those inquiring after my grandmother, she is fine. She's dead, but otherwise, she's just fine.
"Do you think, Sokka, that sometime I might be able to visit this tundra?" Iroh asked, mildly, as if inquiring after the time of day.
"I wouldn't mind seeing it either," Zuko added.
"Out of curiosity of course, not because I want to know anything in particular…" If anyone saw his face color slightly, no one mentioned it. Whatever was going on in Zuko's head was his business.
Ty Lee, Aang and even Mai all agreed that they too would like to see this tundra, though whether out of curiosity or an actual desire to communicate with the spirits, Sokka did not know.
"Why don't you want to visit the tundra, Toph?" He asked his earthbending companion, noticing that she had not voiced any interest in the unusual stretch of land.
"Really Sokka? Really? After all this time, you're still asking those kinds of questions?" Toph asked, her voice dripping with sarcastic disbelief. Sokka always seemed to forget she was blind. It didn't bother her too much, she figured it meant that he saw her, and not her 'handicap'. Or it meant that Sokka really was a bit of a moron and actually did forget she was blind once and awhile.
"How will the spirits show me my future if I can't see, huh? I'm blind, remember?"
Sokka slapped his forehead. He always seemed to forget Toph was blind. It never seemed to be that important for some reason, perhaps because Sokka was quite aware that her lack of sight was by no means a handicap. But there were also days when he quite genuinely forgot.
"Right, Sorry Toph." He muttered.
"Well anyway, before we have another awkward silence, would anyone like to tell the next story?"
Surprisingly, Mai volunteered. She'd only told two stories, and with the exception of a few less than polite comments, had mostly kept quiet. She had felt uneasy most of the evening, but after a few cups of Iroh's special Spiced Harvest Tea, she was starting to relax. Now she wanted to tell a story.
"This is a story frequently told to first year students at the Royal Fire Nation Academy for Girls. I suppose it was meant to scare us into behaving, but it never really worked on any of us, except Azula. For you see, the story features one of her greatest fears…"
"What is she so afraid of?" Sokka interrupted.
"She seemed pretty fearless when we fought her,"
"Shut up, Sokka. I want to hear this," Katara hissed.
Mai's face twitched in surprise. She did not expect Katara to be so interested in anything she had to say, especially after how rude she had been earlier that evening. But she didn't say anything about it now, it would have to wait.
"Roughly fifty years ago, there was a girl named Ayako. Her mother was a noblewoman who had become widowed. She doted on her only daughter, and let her do as she pleased. Ayako's favorite way to pass the time was to practice her firebending outside in the gardens or in the forests surrounding their estate. She grew to love nature in all it's forms and even when she wasn't practicing, she could be found playing outside, or simply meditating.
When Ayako was nine, her mother remarried. Her new stepfather did not enjoy the idea of raising another man's child, so he sent her to the Royal Fire Nation Academy for Girls. For the young girl, this was torture, for not only was she away from home, separated from her mother and her gardens, but she also wasn't allowed outside very often. To make matters worse, her instructors her very strict.
One day, when her penmanship instructor had left the room for a moment, she sneaked out of the school, and made for a nearby forest. But she'd made a foolish mistake. When she ran out of the school, she had dropped her distinctive red silk kerchief, (with her initials embroidered in gold) onto the ground. Her instructor, a very strict man named Fumio, found the kerchief on the courtyard stones. He had a very good idea as to where she had escaped, after all when Ayako entered the Academy, her mother had warned all the teachers just what a wild child she was. So he followed the dusty trail of little footprints, which led to one red silk slipper, and then another. At the end of the trail, he found Ayako, laying under a tree, making chains out of Fire Lilies. Enraged, Fumio threw her shoes and her kerchief at her, and demanded to know just what she thought she was doing.
"I wanted to go outside!" She said, tears coming to her eyes.
"I thought I'd die if I didn't get some fresh air!"
"Fresh air? Fresh air! I'll give you your fresh air, you little brat!" He screamed.
He dragged her, kicking and screaming to a nearby cemetery, where Academy Faculty, and sometimes students, would be buried when they died. Taking some rope, he tied her to a glossy black gravestone, where he decided he would leave her for an entire night, as her punishment for running away.
"Here's your fresh air!" he roared, leaving the terrified girl for the evening. If she thought a day without going outside was bad, wait until she spent the entire night in the graveyard!
Ayako sat in that cemetery for the rest of the afternoon. She was too scared to use her bending to burn the ropes and set herself free. After all, what if Sifu Fumio caught, and punished her with something even worse? By the time night fell, it was much too cold for her to bend. It was a chilly fall night, and no matter how hard she tried, she simply could not produce any flames. Instead, she sat for hours on end, looking around fearfully, waiting for demons or ghouls to come and get her. Every sound made her jump. It seemed the night would never end.
Suddenly, she saw a light floating through the cemetery! Convinced that it was a ghost she began to scream hysterically, and finally, she fainted with pure terror.
But it was not a ghost, it was merely a servant, taking a shortcut to the cemetery, using a paper lantern to guide their way. This servant heard the girls screams and came running to the gravestone, where he found Ayako, white as milk and unconscious. Shocked, he cut her free from her bonds and picked her up, rescuing her.
So, Ayako survived her horrifying night in the cemetery. But she was never quite the same, afterwards. She had transformed that night, from a carefree, happy girl, to a nervous and frail young woman, who trusted no one, and would never venture outside again. Her studies suffered and she was eventually sent back home, where her mother cared for her until the died at the relatively young age of thirty, her life forever destroyed.
But the story doesn't end there. After her death, students began to notice strange things happening in the dormitories. Things got moved around, and they could often see a sad-eyed girl who would stare reproachfully, then vanish. Soon, students began to tell her story, for it had become quite a scandal after it had happened. It became a warning, never sneak out of the school, unless you wanted to be similarly punished,"
Mai finished her story, and waited for the usual barrage of questions and comments. By Agni, this gang was a talkative bunch. Finally, someone, Katara, asked:
"What part of this story scared Azula the most?"
Mai smiled, grimly. Surely everyone would be expecting her to say that it was Ayako losing her bending due to the cold, but that wasn't it. It was…
"The graveyard. Azula has always been terrified of graveyards. And the thought of being in one at night? Forget it, mention such a thing and you can see her skin crawl. She has no problem with seeing someone die, or attending the funeral rites, but once she's in the cemetery, she gets uneasy. No one knows why she's so frightened either. She hides the fear well, she always has, but those who know her best, know that if you ever want to freak her out, just lead her into or near a graveyard. Do that, and she loses her cool," Mai told them bluntly.
After everyone had contemplated this bizarre new fact about their old nemesis, Toph opened her mouth, gleefully quipping:
"Then perhaps we should fought more battles with her in cemeteries. Maybe she wouldn't have kicked our asses so often."