Disclaimer: Avatar the Last Airbender copyright Michael DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, and Nickelodeon. No copyright infringement is intended. Story was created for entertainment purposes only and if requested to be removed, it will be done immediately and without complaint.
The Years Past
The young heiress of the renowned Bei Fong family rested her head against the palm of her hand as she gazed off into the nothingness that is outside of her window. At times like these, she wished more than anything to see the world around her, enjoy the view, scenery, and landscape of the very source of her comfort. She closed her eyes, allowing the cool spring breeze drift over her face, relishing the feeling on her skin. If she closed her eyes long enough, she could imagine that she was actually outside in a nice meadow full of grass and that comforting breeze that set her mind at ease.
Other times, she could imagine herself in a nice big canyon, surrounded by her element. The tall stone walls and chunky earth reminded her what made her so special and different from others. Her ability was something she wished and thought about revealing to her parents countless times, but she knew that they would never understand. However, after her secrets had been revealed and the great battle that ended the one hundred year war, her parents ended up even more overprotective and overbearing as ever. Sometimes she wondered what life would have been like if she was born normal. Perhaps then she'd be officially recognized as Toph Bei Fong, heiress to the Bei Fong fortune and not Toph, the invisible girl and child that the Bei Fong family did not supposedly have. If that had been so she would've been stripped of her title of the Avatar's Earthbending Master and the greatest Earthbender in the World. She didn't know if she could bear to part with those titles.
"Miss Bei Fong? Did you hear what I just said, Miss Bei Fong?" came a voice from her right, startling her out of her reverie.
Scowling at the scholar who found it more important to lull her out of her thoughts than to leave her be, Toph grunted out a reply, "No."
The man sighed, closing the thin booklet open on the table. "I think we should stop here. It is obvious that your mind is not with you today, even though we have been going over your proverbs for the last three hours… Tomorrow we shall pick up where we left off." Gathering up the remaining booklets on the table, the scholar turned to Toph and said, "Perhaps we could work on your character identification. Your father has told me of your skill in identifying characters through its raised edges on wood and stone."
That was not the only skill she had, she thought bitterly to herself.
Taking her silence as an approval, the scholar bowed to the young heiress—even though he knew it would be useless to do so to a person who could not even see him—and left the room, sliding the door closed behind him.
Once the man had left, Toph blew the few stray pieces of hair that had escaped the clip in her hair, from her face. She liked having her bangs in her face, obscuring her vision, though her true vision did not come from her eyes but her feet. Having her hair loose and messy was how she liked it, and the main reason why she hardly given a care about her looks when traveling with the gAang.
She was not left to her thoughts for long when a servant knocked lightly on her door and then entered after gaining Toph's approval. "Miss, I am here to inform you that it is dinner."
Scowling at how she never seemed to have a moment to herself, Toph rose from her chair. When the servant offered a helping hand, Toph couldn't help but swat the girl's hand away. Just because she was blind, it did not mean that she didn't know how to walk by herself. Although she was forced to wear slippers throughout the Bei Fong estate, they did little to hinder her special sight. The bottom of the shoe obscured her vision somewhat, but not to the point where she could not detect an oncoming foe or feel the slight vibrations in the earth. The vibrations were merely not as strong as they were when she went barefoot.
"What's the matter, Aang?"
The bald monk glanced up at his friend, feeling guilty for causing his friend concern over him. "It's nothing," he supplied, hoping to drop the subject.
Katara gave her friend a disbelieving look, hoping for the monk to relent. But when it seemed that he was not going to crack anytime soon, the young waterbender reluctantly returned her attention to the pot of stew over the fire. In fact, Katara knew what was bothering the young airbender, even though he refused to speak about it. It had been the center of his troubles for the past few weeks. Katara was surprised that he managed to last so long without voicing his thoughts even once.
"Aang! Check out the chicken-pig I caught!" called an overjoyed Sokka as he ran up to the campsite.
Not quite sure how to respond to the dead animal hanging by the feet in his friend's hand, Aang could only laugh awkwardly and give a thumbs up.
Sensing the boy's obvious lack of enthusiasm, Sokka's grin faded. Aang never was good at acting or lying for that matter. Setting aside the animal, Sokka sat down at the empty spot on the ground next to the young monk, whose gaze was fixed on the campfire.
"Aang…" said Sokka, uncertain of how to start out.
The young boy glanced over at the Water Tribe boy in response. "Yea, Sokka?"
Sokka rubbed the back of his head, feeling awkward and uneasy about what was to come. He never was one for comforting people or tears for the matter. He debated about how to voice his concerns for the next few seconds, until he finally decided on being blunt. "It's okay to say you miss her, you know."
Katara released the breath she didn't know she was holding. Someone finally broached him about that subject. She tried to coax him into talking on several occasions but ended up chickening on the end.
Aang returned his gaze to fire ahead. "I know… but I just don't want to think about it. If I think about her, I'll end up missing her more… And right now, my main concern is to restore balance to the world now that the war is over."
The two Water Tribe siblings had no idea how to respond to a response like that.
In an attempt to change the subject, Katara offered, "Zuko mentioned that he was going to meet up with us in a few days." It had taken a lot of work on Zuko's behalf before he was able to regain the waterbender's trust again. The prince had risked his life rescuing prisoners from the Boiling Rock prison, freeing Suki and countless others, though he did not escape unscathed. Katara had healed the firebender out of mere concern for Aang's firebending master and nothing more. Zuko had then taken a huge part of battle in the Great War in his hands, defeating tens if not hundreds by himself. Nothing could have shown his trust or his newfound loyalty better than the moment he stepped in place of a threatening blow from the Fire Lord meant for the Avatar. He had almost died, but was relieved that Aang had been safe and the Avatar had taken out the Fire Lord mere moments later. If not for Katara's healing abilities, the traitor-gone-ally would have been no more.
"That's nice to know. I haven't seen him in a while," answered Aang sullenly before he stood up and bid his other two traveling companions good night.
Sokka turned to his sister with a resigned sigh. "I don't know how long that kid can last like that."
Clutching the spoon close to her chest, Katara could only stare at the sleeping airbender. "Me neither."
"Is there a reason why you are refusing to go with me to Gaoling again?" asked Zuko, his piercing gaze on the young Avatar.
Aang nodded, shrugging off Zuko's wariness of his true intent. "Of course; I am scheduled to be at the Northern Air Temple that week to overlook the construction of the new Temple and the village that the Mechanist is building."
Zuko narrowed his eyes at the young airbender. "Somehow I doubt that. Weren't you scheduled to go two weeks after my trip to Gaoling?"
Aang had hoped that Zuko had missed that little details, but it seemed as if the prince—now Fire Lord—was as sharp as ever. Clearing his throat, Aang hoped that what he was to say next would sound convincing enough to the firebender. "The Mechanist delayed my trip because he had some things he wanted to take care of before he showed it to me."
When Zuko seemed to buy his lie, Aang released the breath that he didn't know he was holding and wiped away the few beads of sweat that had formed on his forehead when the firebender looked away.
"It's a shame," commented Zuko as he glanced through the map on the table in front of him. "It seems as if you're avoiding Gaoling, or should I say… somebody who is living in Gaoling."
The Avatar couldn't help but choke on the tea he was sipping when his friend had made that comment. When he had recovered enough to speak, he gasped, "That's preposterous!"
With a knowing glint in his eye, Zuko continued to map out the regions of the city he was soon to visit. "It is, isn't it? I mean, who do you have to avoid in Gaoling? Certainly not our good friend, Toph Bei Fong, who just happens to live in Gaoling."
Once again, the young airbender choked on his tea, wondering why luck didn't seem to be on his side.
Sympathy had then spread onto the firebender's face when he realized the reason why the young man in front of him still refused to visit the city to that very day. "I know that we haven't talked about Toph much, but have you talked to her at all in the last five years?"
The airbender's gaze shifted to the table where his hands fidgeted and twiddled. "No," he answered, the sadness and longing rang clear in his voice. "It's for her own good anyway. She's nobility and heiress to a large fortune; she doesn't deserve to be traveling the world with a lowly airbender, even if I am the Avatar." Clearing his throat once again, Aang asked as if the topic was never broached, "Do you think you can spar with me? I want to brush up on my firebending."
Zuko knew that the conversation was now over and that the young monk would no longer talk about the subject. Sighing to himself, the Fire Lord nodded.
She could feel her opponent standing mere meters away ready to attack. With a shift in her footing, the young woman skillfully avoided the boulder than came flying past her, mere centimeters from scratching her nose. While her opponent was busy with a follow-up attack, she quickly stomped her foot on the ground, sending a large chunk of earth shooting up behind her opponent, knocking him off balance. Then with a quick swipe of her hand, another chuck of earth came flying at the man, sending him out of the ring.
Grunting, the man brushed the stray pieces of earth and rock from the top of his head. "Now that wasn't fair!"
The young woman grinned. "Yes it was, Boulder. I only used earthbending and let you use every trick you had. And yet, you still lost!"
The burly man pouted. "The Boulder demands a re-match!"
Toph couldn't help but laugh. "Another time, Boulder. Right now, I need to get back before my parents notice my disappearance."
"The Boulder shall remember the promise. The Blind Bandit better come back soon for the re-match," stated the Boulder as he pulled himself out of the crater he had created from the impact of flying out of the ring.
Grinning, Toph exited the stadium and raced home, hoping that her parents were still too pre-occupied with attending to Liu family that had come to visit earlier that day. Once the coast was clear, the young earthbender jumped over wall of the estate, and slipped into her room past the guards' notice. Once safely inside, Toph quickly bathed and changed just in time for a servant to enter her room, informing her of the dinner they were to have with the Liu family.
After dealing with the finishing touches on her dress and allowing the servant to fix her hair and apply light make-up, Toph entered the dining room where the guests and her parents awaited her.
"Toph, did you spend your entire day in the garden?" asked Lao Bei Fong.
The young earthbender bowed to her father before answering, "Yes, Father."
Lao Bei Fong turned to his guests to introduce them to his daughter, much to Toph's surprise. The only people to have ever sat down with them at dinner were Master Yu and Aang, Katara, and Sokka. Just thinking about them caused a wave of sadness over her. It had been so long since she had last seen them The last time she had seen Katara and Sokka were a few months ago when they decided to drop by for a visit. She had half hoped that Aang had gone with them, but had her hopes dashed when the two Water Tribe siblings came alone. A few weeks before Katara and Sokka had come, Zuko had come to her town for some business, but did not leave without stopping by for a visit.
It was at times like these where she was seated in front of strangers that she wondered what was truly going on. Why was she suddenly being introduced to people when she had been kept a secret her whole life? After she had come back from the Great War, she had been even more of a secret than before, if that was even possible.
"… this is my daughter, Toph." The young blind earthbender had been so absorbed in her thoughts that she only caught the end of her father's introduction. Realizing that this was her cue, "It is an honor to meet you," she said with a bow before taking a seat to her father's right and her mother's left.
"Although my daughter is blind, her blindness does not stop her in her studies. She can read and write quite well, though I'm afraid it mostly pertains to objects that contain characters with raised edges," explained the elder Bei Fong.
The guests were enthralled by such knowledge and could not help but stare at the young woman, causing a small blush to form on the girl's face. Toph had not expected her father to reveal her blindness in such a way nor the admiring stares from the three guests. Usually she would be soaking up all the praise, but in awkward situations like these, Toph couldn't help but wonder where her trademark arrogance had gone.
"She is very beautiful too, Mrs. Bei Fong," commented Mrs. Liu.
Mrs. Bei Fong beamed at the compliment. "Thank you, Mrs. Liu. Toph takes after me, so I've been told."
Toph couldn't help but wonder where that statement came from since the only people who even knew of her existence were the people in the estate and the gAang. Even then she hadn't heard anyone comment on her looks resembling her mother.
"Toph… How interesting that Miss Bei Fong has the same name as the Avatar's Earthbending Master," commented a teenage boy whom Toph assumed was her age. Toph stared straight ahead of her into the person seated across from her—the very seat Aang had sat in when he first visited. Stop it, she told herself. This was not the time to go thinking about that traitor, especially not in front of all these people.
Before the boy could make any connections, Lao Bei Fong cut in. "It is, isn't it? We were quite surprised that our Toph and the Avatar's Earthbending Master had the same name as well, especially since Toph is not a common name." After giving the guests a smile, Lao Bei Fong gestured to the food on the table as the start of dinner.
Toph wanted more than anything to know what was going on. Finally, after dinner was consumed, conversation moved to the sitting room for the adults. Toph was left alone with the teenage boy from the Liu family.
"I am terribly sorry for not introducing myself earlier, Miss Bei Fong. My name is Ling Tao Liu. It is an honor to meet you," said the boy with a slight bow.
The young eartherbender noted that the boy had manners and gave him some credit for not being a stuck up arrogant jerk—yet. "It's an honor," she replied half-heartedly.
With a smile, the boy held out his hand toward the Bei Fong heiress. "May I accompany you with a walk in the garden?"
She decided that there was nothing to do if she wanted to remain polite to her parents' guests. Toph grudgingly grabbed the hand that the boy offered.
"How nice of you to see me off on my journey instead of joining me," said Zuko with a hint of annoyance at the fussy Avatar.
"What are friends for!" exclaimed the ecstatic youth.
The Fire Lord could not help but roll his eyes at the airbender. "Are you absolutely sure that you do not want to come along?"
The smile on the young man's face faded at the question. Of course he wanted to go, but he was afraid of what he might do if he did go. He promised himself years ago not to think of her or visit her. The reason why they separated in the first place was his decision. "Yea," Aang answered in a voice so low that Zuko had to strain his ears to hear.
Not quite knowing what to say, Zuko patted the young Avatar's shoulder instead, in what he hoped was a comforting motion. "I'll tell you about her wellbeing when I return," Zuko told the boy, earning a grateful smile in return. "But the last time I was there, Toph's father mentioned something about the Liu family and some sort of arrangement. It's probably just a business merger."
Aang nodded, glad to know that his friend's family was still well off. "Thanks, Zuko."
The firebender returned the smile. "Keep yourself out of trouble."
Hmm…. This is my first time writing anything in the Avatar fandom, so please excuse any awkward scenes and characterizations. I'm not exactly sure where this story is headed, but I have a vague idea, so bear with me. Also, I know that the current title is not that good, but I have yet to think of something fitting.
Oh, can anyone guess what I have in store for future chapters with the addition of Ling Tao? It might be obvious, it might not. I'm a little sorry that I have nothing to offer for those who can guess right. Well, enjoy and let's hope that I can manage to update fairly regularly since I have hardly touched my other stories, heh.