Chapter 9: The Who's and What's
A couple of days ago, Toph had been back in the royal palace of Ba Sing Sei. Being the King at first just sounded dumb. She wanted to flick Twinkletoes on his nose for ever suggesting such an idea. That and she hated Ba Sing Sei. She didn't want anything to do with the city a year ago. After the war ended, she just wanted to go home and see her parents again. She missed them even though she didn't bother showing it on the surface.
She'd expressed those feelings once, and Katara helped her write that letter to them.
Apparently it did get to them eventually, and that was a good thing. They'd written back, but by the time the letter had gotten to the Fire Nation, she wasn't there and the war had already ended. The letter was forwarded to her in Ba Sing Sei.
The last days of the group actually being together were pretty much good times.
After Zuko and Mai left to go back to the Fire Nation, was when people of the city started coming to Aang with their problems.
With no King to run the place, Ba Sing Sei's rich were so hopeless. She had to shake her head at that fact. There were also middle class, poor people, and refugees who had so many issues to take to the King especially now since the territories belonged to Ba Sing Sei again and not the Fire Nation.
After Zuko initiated a world wide returning of all troops, which was his first order as Fire Lord, he denounced all the territories that the Fire Nation claimed which they had no right to. Mostly including all lands in the Earth Kingdom. Land-wise, most was made right again. The only thing that couldn't be fixed was the Air Nomad locations that weren't occupied.
Ba Sing Sei wanted a King on the thrown since they saw that their current King was nowhere to be found. Turning to the Avatar, it was suggested that he take the place as King. Aang immediately refused, saying that was something he couldn't do and that he knew a fellow hero with the guts to do it.
And so Toph spit out her tea when Aang publicly announced her as the new King of Ba Sing Sei.
People went half and half on this decision. Some people (the middle class, poor, and refugees) were happy to know that somebody who helped in the war and aided in Fire Lord Ozai's fall was taking the throne. On the other hand the rich of Ba Sing Sei weren't too happy that the city was being left in a child's hands, let alone a girl.
Soon enough, Toph grew into the position and was running things smoothly. Much smoother than Sokka did in his one day reign as King.
She'd been the King and head of the Dai Li for months now.
Her parents must have thought the position was permanent and not temporary, because they sent her a letter saying her father started looking up suitors for their little "King". She stuck her tongue out at that part of the letter. Looks like she'd have to tell them personally that this 13 year old was not getting married anytime soon!
Like Zuko, she liked taking her time off from the throne and just relaxing though. They both had nations in their hands now. It took some time for the thought to settle into her mind that she was now the ruler of the Earth Kingdom, seeing as to how she was King in the nation's capital. The good thing was, for now, all she had to worry about was Ba Sing Sei by itself. The other cities and towns must have been fixing themselves up.
She felt sort of bad for Zuko because the people of the Fire Nation, unlike the Earth Kingdom, needed their Fire Lord in order to do absolutely anything productive and constructive. Whereas in the Earth Kingdom, people were used to doing for themselves.
Thinking about it, she chuckled. The Fire Nation was such a pampered nation in her personal opinion.
On this particular day, she took the time to write another letter to her mother and father and was going to visit the now familiar Jasmine Dragon tea shop in the upper ring of the city. Little did she know of anything that happened in the apartment of Iroh.
Knocking on the door, she smiled as she was greeted by her much older friend, "What's shakin?"
Iroh chuckled and stepped aside to let her in, "Thank goodness a King such as yourself hasn't forgotten about little old me. It's been a while hasn't it?"
She came in grinning, "Yeah it has actually. I've been dealing with so many issues the people of this city have."
"Would you like a cup of tea?"
She was already written down in history as The Blind King of Ba Sing Sei. It wasn't as fun of a nickname as The Blind Bandit or The Runaway, but she guessed it sounded cool in one way or another.
It was as she sat down that she noticed something. As she used the earth itself to see, she could feel the vibrations of everyone within the house.
Sokka was sleeping next to Suki. Katara was in a room on her own. Aang was in a room and so was someone else, and it surely wasn't Momo. She focused on that area as she sipped her tea.
Slender well shaped body, long hair; something about the person seemed off and unstable.
"Would you like some soup?"
"Yes please." She rose from her seat at the kitchen table and walked closer to freeze at the all too familiar countenance. She would have attacked Azula in her sleep, but it struck her as too odd that she was even here in the first place and sleeping in the same room as Aang, "What's going on here?" She turned back to Iroh.
He set her soup down on the table before going to make himself some, "Even I don't know but I think today we are going to find out."
Iroh sat down before his bowl, picking up his spoon, "She was brought here yesterday afternoon."
Toph went back over to her seat at the table and sat before her soup, wondering now if she could even stomach it.
Sokka turned and embraced Suki lovingly. What would he do without his Kyoshi Warrior by his side? Even though the war was over, it seemed a whole new war had begun and right in the house that all this time he'd deemed safe.
Azula was here.
Back on that beach, it wasn't the fact that Azula was injured that he said anything, it was Aang's face. If he knew any better, he knew that was also the reason Mai acted so aloof. So that they could take her away from the Fire Nation in the first place. Give them the false pretense that she didn't really care. He was able to see right through it.
Had it not been for Aang, he himself would have left Azula to bleed on that beach.
His last memory of her was painful and anger inducing. From the way everyone else was acting, they'd have probably done the same thing as his first thought. It was the second thought that spoke to him on the inside and suggested that they take her with them. At the time it was more like a sarcastic question but neither Mai or Aang thought of it that way.
Not expecting to be taken literally, that person was sleeping only a room away.
He couldn't bring himself to think of her as a woman, perhaps even a person. She was a cunning, conniving monster who deserved to get thrown away when the war ended.
Looking at Suki, now there was the epitome of a woman. Graceful, smart, kind, beautiful…she had the whole works. He had some luck actually getting her to like him without even thinking about it so long ago. Though things did happen for a reason. Yue's death taught him just how precious a loved one was supposed to be, which was something that he never shared with anyone. It was just one of those things he kept to himself.
The girl in his arms was one of a kind.
That thing sleeping in Aang's room was a hindrance to their peace.
It was as he was tussling these thoughts in his head that Suki turned over and embraced him in return, knowing that he was awake as she was too. Though their minds were on the situation at hand.
Suki nuzzled her nose into Sokka's chest. She'd been trying to stop thinking about what happened on that beach but she couldn't. It was so weird and unexpected. She also couldn't focus enough on Sokka due to thinking hard about how to keep advising Katara as to how to get through this. Eventually Katara was going to ask her a question that she probably wouldn't have an answer to. It wasn't like she thought she had all the answers, by all means she didn't. It was just that she wanted to help Katara in every way that she possibly could. The water tribe girl was her friend.
She hadn't had a moment to talk to Aang about any of this and she didn't know if she wanted to. He and Katara would just have to work things out on their own without a second opinion. It was already morning and she hadn't heard anything or anyone being drowned, so she figured that maybe they'd settled their issues the previous night.
She shifted a bit in her boyfriend's hold, "What Sokka?"
"Do you think breakfast is ready yet?"
He smirked, "An appetizer before the meal?"
She smiled, "Maybe."
It was as their lips locked that she remembered that anyone else's drama couldn't and shouldn't interfere with her and Sokka's time. It may have hit close to home, maybe too close, but things were better now. They were together, happy, and had little to no worries.
It was during their brief make-out session that the door was burst open by no other than Aang himself, calling in, "Breakfast is ready and Toph is here!"
Interrupted and not happy about it, Sokka let out a groan, whispering, "Continue later?"
Suki sighed, "Continue later."
They both knew that if they didn't get up, those who rose earlier than them would want to get them up despite their closeness and comfort.
Breakfast for everyone already on the table, it seemed to Iroh that everyone was having a late start. He and Toph had already had a lengthy conversation before the first to rise, Katara, was up. Next was Aang who in turn went to wake up Sokka and Suki.
He'd actually set a bowl aside for his niece, unsure if she was going to wake up or not. He had many questions for the Avatar since he was the only one to contact Azula after all this time.
As they'd gathered around the table, it seemed that everyone was waiting to pounce the poor boy with questions, but they'd prefer to finish eating first.
Toph of course, couldn't take the silence at the table for very long, "So what's up everybody? The king is in front of you and you don't even have a hi?"
Katara blinked, "How's that going anyway? I know the city's been in better hands since Wang Fire over here tried to rule it."
"HEY HEY! That's KING Wang Fire to you!"
"Oh please Sokka."
"Now now let's all calm down."
Toph piped up, "Yeah. I wanna know why SHE'S here!"
Everyone went silent. Of course, they all knew who Toph was talking about. She had all the right, just as someone else had all the right to explain the circumstances.
Aang felt all eyes on him, except Toph's, and resisted the urge to shudder.
Katara's eyes were gentler than Sokka's as she'd gotten a piece of the puzzle when she'd confronted him about it the previous day. Though it didn't end the fact that she still had questions.
Suki began, "Please tell us what's going on."
Sokka added, "Before breakfast comes back up."
Aang looked around the table to his friends, colleagues, and mentors. He'd actually not been able to eat much, though he did notice out the corner of his eye that there was a dish set aside for a specific someone. He was happy to clearly see that Iroh was accepting of this since it was his house. He decided it was in everyone's best interests that he begin his explanation, "Um…I suppose you're all wondering what's going on. I tried to think about what I was going to say, but I couldn't really come up with a speech. You see…I didn't just get the idea in my head. I was visited by a certain spirit a while ago. The spirit asked me to go to the Fire Nation and to start helping Azula…"
As her name was mentioned, all of the teenagers cringed, yet continued to listen.
Aang continued, "When I got there, I never realized just how bad things were."
Sokka intervened, "So was it your plan or Mai's plan to break her out of the mental institution!"
Ignoring any sarcasm, Aang stood his ground and looked around the room at everyone before he answered, "It was my idea."
The room suddenly sprang to life with sound as everyone began talking at once. Almost like a frenzy of concerns going around the room.
Iroh remained silent, only watching and listening as things unfolded.
Suki blinked, "Aang…what spirit would ask you to do something like that?"
He heaved a sigh, "Avatar Roku."
Suddenly everything was quiet again and it seemed no one knew what to say or ask.
Katara wondered aloud, "What's the connection? Why would the past Avatar care about just her? Why would he ask you? Why not someone in her family?"
Aang nodded for self-reassurance, "Because they are family. Zuko and Azula are descendents of the Avatar before me."
There's no such thing as coincidence.
"Roku showed me a vision one night and it was so disturbing. At this point, I wish I could replay it or something. But you guys, I know how you must feel but think about what she's going through."
Toph crossed her arms, "So now you're her spokesperson? Are you also gonna apologize for all her actions on her behalf?"
"I can't do that. I can't say that she's sorry for anything that she's done. She did a lot trying to stop us from saving the world and she's hurt everybody here in one way or another. She's hurt me too."
Sokka shook his head, "So how can you of all people go through with this?"
Katara stirred, eager for an answer to that question.
Digits rubbing in front of the now nervous bald youth, he took a moment to think it over. Thinking of the experiences while in the asylum and thinking of his latest memories of the princess up until now. Mentally going back to the beach, he thought of the dreadful feelings he'd felt over the past month, "I may be the only one who thinks so but…no one deserves what's happened to her while we were going around living our lives and being happy. Not even thinking about anything but ourselves."
Suki narrowed her eyes, "Are you going to bring the last Fire Lord himself out here too for a healing soul searching trip?"
Everyone looked back to Suki, who stood up and glared intently, "I'm trying to see things through your eyes but all I can think about is being locked up and mocked by her in the Boiling Rock. You weren't there, you don't know what it was like. I don't know if I can just forgive and forget all that she's done. I don't know if I can accept her being under the same roof."
Sokka pipped up, "And what about when she wakes up? There's bound to be trouble! What if she starts trying to kill everybody or something? She's not in her right mind but even when she was in her right mind, she wanted to wipe us out!"
Aang wasn't sure how to respond. He just looked over to Katara, who had a look similar to everyone else's. She too, was in heavy disagreement with the mission that he was given and was taking to heart. He could understand why. Azula almost killed him underground in this very kingdom. She struck him with lightning and it was Katara who saved him and nursed him back to health. The look that everyone had was one that had a hint of hate in its midst. There was only one other person in this room who didn't hold such feelings.
Iroh stepped forward, "We don't know what will happen until she wakes up."
Everyone then turned their attention towards him, though Katara kept her gaze to Aang. She watched him closely and couldn't even read what his eyes were saying. Perhaps he'd seen things that were traumatizing over in the Fire Nation, in that big white building on the tropical island, and yet she fought any sense of sympathy since she certainly couldn't empathize. He'd been spending all of his time with someone who wanted him dead and probably still did. What she was most afraid to ask was if the crazy girl had warmed up to him in any way during the month he was in the Fire Nation. Deep down, she really didn't like the idea of that. Her attention then turned to Iroh, who most of the questions had now been directed to, as if he had all of the answers about his own niece. But she knew, Iroh only knew what he knew, as for current situations Aang was the only one to ask. She wanted to pull him aside, yet when she went to look for him, he'd left.
Getting up from the table, she had the feeling that he was going to check up on their unwanted guest.
"I know you did a lot of things and no one likes that. But I'm not asking them to like what you did in the past. I hope at some point everyone can give you a chance."
The still body of the princess had no reply for the distraught kid kneeling in front of her resting spot.
Aang looked at her sleeping face, and smiled a little, "Like this, it almost looks like you didn't do anything to anybody. I hope you're having a great nap."
Katara decided to listen in rather than interrupt.
"And I'm really sorry for anything that I said that may have offended you when I went to visit. Like when I yelled at you. It's just that the things you said were so hurtful. I don't think you want to always be hurtful like that. I think you were taught to be that way."
Not a stir from the princess before him.
Aang smiled a little.
"At least Zuko is giving me this chance. Even though we don't agree on how to go about this, he does still care about you too. On the beach, Mai came. When I wondered why she was there, it came to me; she must have come to see you too. I don't know what happened between you, but she's your friend." He smiled a little more, "I'll be your friend too, if you let me that is."
Katara looked down at the floor for a moment, keeping back a sigh. Aang surely sounded like himself. Willing to give anybody a chance no matter what. It was weird. She figured that he'd be the first one to shun that crazy girl for all that she'd done, yet there he was consoling her while she was unconscious. It was a real mystery as to what would happen when she did wake up. While she resented the thought, she was almost curious at to what would happen when that day came. It was only a matter of time. She'd done the best she could to heal the princess's wound, so all they had to do was wait.
"If it's okay with you, I think I'm gonna take a nap in my sleeping mat over there. I won't bother you with my rambling anymore. Um…night?"
She heard movement, and knew Aang was setting himself up far away from the princess to rest. It was a shame, the day had just started yet he was already going to nap. Were they really that hard hounding him for answers? Turning away, Katara decided it was best to leave them alone for now. She'd have to talk to Aang alone later on.
"When I worked under Fire Lord Ozai, I knew that I was following a man of power, cunning, and by all means, one that would leave a legacy in his wake during his world domination." The Admiral paced, his new henchmen sitting before him.
The men looked to each other for a moment, then back to the authority figure before them.
"But…he lost to the Avatar. I thought he was strong, it just turned out that he was going about things all wrong. Now we have this wimp of a Fire Lord who doesn't even lead his own country. No…his wife is practically the Fire Lord!" Admiral Quinta scowled, "I can't stand that woman. She gives me an evil eye every time she sees me."
Kahn blinked, and gulped in the presences of his new boss.
"I've sent an assassin, yet he couldn't even get to the Fire Lord. The Fire Lady took him out. I almost thought she would banish me at the last meeting. That would be troublesome."
"What's your plan now boss?"
"It must be a stroke of fate that the former princess was also a patient at that hospital you gentlemen had gotten yourselves admitted to."
"So the question is where was she during all that commotion? Did she manage to break free?"
"I heard she went crazy, so I doubt it."
"Though at my meeting, some interesting dialogue was exchanged between the Fire Lady and the Medical Director. Interesting words indeed. I think it can work to our advantage if we were to find her and convince her to join us. We'd need someone powerful on our side and if all plans fail, she could easily take the fall."
Admiral Quinta chuckled to himself. Considering the rumors that she'd gone crazy, he'd say that it would be a lot easier to take advantage of that girl. He remember seeing her when she was in her right mind, she wasn't a force to be reckoned with.
"She's not in the Fire Nation anymore, that I'm sure of. I want you to start searching in the Earth Kingdom. Find her and when you do, don't do anything. Just report back to me of her whereabouts."
"We don't want to do anything unnecessary until we know every single detail."
"Boss…are you thinking of busting you know who out?"
"No that won't be necessary. We only need one of them if we want to take the throne away from that good for nothing wimp. Couldn't even win an agni kai and got his sorry face burnt up. I was there for that. I can't believe that same pipsqueak is the new Fire Lord. It makes my blood boil in frustration. Not only are his new policies costing me my extra businesses, but that pompous look he always carries himself around with…the Fire Lord and Lady. I can't stand it. It makes me sick."
"Boss what will you do when we do find her?"
"You let me worry about that. When you do find her, I want to know if she's in her right mind or not. If she is, then it'll make things a lot harder for us. We'll become her puppets. Yet if she isn't…" he smiled, "if she's still crazy…"
The pair of thugs looked to one another again, and shrugged. They had their orders now. It was in their best interests to carry through with them and to not fail miserably.
A/N: It's been a while hasn't it. I've been so so so SOOO busy. But I haven't forgotten this story and I haven't given up on it. It's been a few years but here's chapter nine. At this point, I'm just writing whenever I can. -_-;
Preview for the next chapter: All about the Gaang. Will Azula wake up? Will she stay in her comatose state a little longer?
Oh and by the way: The story originally has page breaks to signify when scenes change. I don't know why this website likes to delete them on its own for some reason. So I'm gonna represent page breaks by the 'insert line' option and see how that works. =P
Rate and Review please! 8D