WARNING: HERE THERE BE SOME SOZIN'S COMET SPOILERS! IF YOU DON'T WANT TO SEE THEM, DO NOT READ UNTIL AFTER JULY 19. THAT IS ALL!
A/N: Welcome one and all to Reggie's own Sokkla100. Chances of finishing? Pretty much non-existent. Chances of you enjoying the ride anyway? Hopefully, fairly high.
Because I'm me, I'm taking this 100 thing a little differently. Instead of doing 100 completely separate stories, I'm having them all take place in the same location: Ba Sing Se University. I'm also going to try and put these in some semblance of a story that makes sense and where you can see the relationship developing instead of it just being thrown at you. 100 chapters is a lot, though, so we'll see how it goes.
Disclaimer: All the characters you recognize belong to Bryke. The others are mine.
Summary: 100 Tales from Ba Sing Se University about a certain pair of students from the Fire Nation and Water Tribe. A Sokkla 100 set. Some Sozin's Comet spoilers.
Tales From B.S.S.U.
Theme: 98. Request
"Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will." Jawaharial Nehru
For someone as independent as Azula was, it was shocking how little control she'd ever had over her life. From the moment she had accidentally burned her brother and Ursa had left the nursery to take care of him instead of comforting her distraught daughter—instead of believing she hadn't done it on purpose—the princess had both lost and gained control of her life.
No longer did her mother hover over her school work or check that she was practicing those things seemly to a Princess. She did not seem to care what Azula did, and soon etiquette classes were replaced, at her father's request, with more Firebending training, history, and studies of politics. She hadn't protested, Firebending was more fun than learning how to properly hold a tea cup anyway, and she barely noticed all of her free time evaporating.
With Ozai now gone, confined permanently to his prison, she had thought perhaps that she might start to gain some of the freedom back, but it had proven a vain hope.
The lose of her father, her dreams, and the limited freedom she had enjoyed, Azula had also lost her ability to Firebend. With no war, nothing left to gain or prove, the teenage princess had lost what had held her together all her life, and with it the only thing that made her truly special.
She had thought they would leave her in peace after that, and for a while they had. Zuko had seen her as no serious threat with her abilities gone, and allowed her back into the palace—though always under the strict guard of Mai and, eventually Ty Lee when she was persuaded to return. That had been a year and a half ago, after six months in prison awaiting her fate, and she had thought she could be safe and disappear.
Avatar Aang had other ideas.
He claimed he wanted only to promote peace among the nations, and felt the best way to do that was to educate them in the truth about each other. What better way to promote education, he had reasoned, than to use its highest form, Ba-Sing-Se University, as an example to all the other schools in the world?
Under pressure from the Avatar, the restored Earth King, and other leaders of the nations, the people in charge of the University had agreed. Students from each nation would be selected by the Avatar and his allies to attend the school on a trial basis, and if it proved successful then the exclusively Earth Kingdom school would open its doors to those from any nation inclined to academics.
This was all well and good, Azula supposed, but she failed to see why it was that Zuko insisted that she be one of the representatives of the Fire Nation. Perhaps he remembered the hours she had spent as a child at her studies, and assumed she had enjoyed them rather than been doing them to try and gain attention from either parent. Or, and this was more likely, he wanted her as far away from him as possible, in some remote corner of the globe where she could be constantly watched and had little chance of causing trouble even if she had wanted, or had the ability, to.
He kept insisting that it would give her a chance to start over. She would have anonymity of any other student, and would no longer have to be the Princess she was bred to be.
Zuko either seriously over estimated her desire to be someone different—because, really, she was fine the way she was—or else sore under estimated the Earth Kingdom's ability to hold a grudge. Even stripped of her title, her armies, her status, hair style, wardrobe, her companions (save Mai and Ty Lee); it was not likely the citizens of Ba Sing Se had forgotten the only person to have ever conquered their city. No one in history had done that before, and it was something she was still proud of doing regardless of who had won the whole war in the end.
It was foolishness on Zuko's part to pretend that she could have a fresh start, Azula knew this, but she could not deny a direct order from the Fire Lord without once again finding herself rotting in some cell like the worthless puppet so many people assumed she was. Azula did not know what she WAS anymore, but she did know she wasn't worthless.
She would go to Ba-Sing-Se University and Fire Lord Zuko's request, but she made no promises to enjoy herself.
When Aang requested that Sokka be one of the Water Tribe representatives in his experiment at Ba Sing Se, the teenage warrior had leapt at the chance.
It wasn't that he considered himself a brilliant academic—because he wasn't—and he certainly had no desire to return to the city he'd once viewed as a prison. He didn't really think Aang's idea would work, what with the built in loop holes created by all the 'ifs' and 'thens', and he doubted even more that this would be as fun and exciting as Aang made it sound.
It was just that he was going crazy down at the South Pole.
Sokka wasn't sure what to blame: the two years the tribe had been depending on him as it's sole provider, or the year he'd spent traveling the globe with complete freedom as the idea guy for their group. Whichever one it was, the resulting problem was simple. He needed to have something to do and he just…didn't any more.
For one hundred years the men of the Water Tribe had been raised as warriors to fight the Fire Nation. That was all there was. No one thought of being a culture leader, an architect, a scientist, or anything really but a warrior, because those things didn't matter if your home didn't exist.
Now the only path Sokka had been raised for his whole life no longer existed. Worse still, no one at home needed him any more. The men were back, and with them hunters far superior to Sokka's meager skills. His father was home to take his place as Chief once again, and there was time now for the children to play in ways he never had.
Worst of all, Katara didn't need him any more either. She was off helping Aang all the time as the Water Tribe ambassador. She was healing the scars of the world while he tried to find a niche in a place that didn't feel like home anymore.
Even Suki had returned to Kyoshi Island, as the warriors there still needed her leadership both on the Island itself and in every corner the earth kingdom. He could have gone with them, perhaps, but this was Suki's thing, and idea guy or not he would only have gotten in the way.
With each passing day Sokka was becoming more keenly aware that his home was a round hole and he was a square, and this just wasn't working no matter what his father tried to tell him.
It bothered the 18-year-old a little that he was, once again, not choosing to leave his home so much as being shoved out of it by a sense of loyalty to Aang, but who was he to argue with the most powerful force in the physical world, really?
Aang was asking him to jump into an unknown, and he would for no other reason than that.