Bending the Jutsu: Into the Inferno
Chapter 1: The Headband
Konoha, Siege Day Two
Tsunade gritted her teeth as she dodged several fire bolts. A battalion of Firebenders had made it up the wall and were fighting the Shinobi and Militia in vicious combat; their faceless skull-like masks hiding their faces were striking fear into the limited trained militia. One man charged the Firebender closest to him, katana drawn. However, the Firebender kicked out his foot and stepped forward, tripping him and slamming a blast of flame right into his face. A cry of pain was heard and the militiaman fell off the wall into the horde below.
Like a bull, Tsunade barreled through the line of Firebenders, her fists and feet inflicting deadly damage, as well as deflecting fiery boulders that were being launched from the Fire Nation's catapults. An Iwa ninja intercepted her and flew through the hand seals. An entire portion of the wall began shaking, and Tsunade's eyes widened in shock…
…the wall imploded, taking a portion of the defense with it. Tsunade herself was sent falling from the wall, and the Hokage struggled to get into a position to catch herself. She initiated a tumble in mid air and she flew through the hand seals. Her cheeks swelled and she spat out a bunch of mud. When it hit the ground, it immediately grew into a wall which Tsunade landed on.
"Damn…" Tsunade cursed as the Fire Nation soldiers took advantage in the gap in the wall that the Iwa ninja created.
Tanks, Firebenders, soldiers, and enemy soldiers surged through the gap in the wall. Streams of flame shot out of the tanks, blasting into the defenders who weren't on the wall. Tsunade leapt off her makeshift wall into a column of Firebenders, using a Painful Sky Kick to blast them all away. A tank targeted her, firing a blast of flame as the Hokage charged.
However, a kunai with an exploding tag embedded itself onto the tank's turret and exploded. Tsunade looked back to see Umino Iruka, rallying the defenders as he tossed another explosive kunai. A giant blue snake, instantly recognizable shot at the wall, temporarily pushing the Fire Nation advanced back.
"When you enter Hell, tell then Anko sent ya!" Mitarashi Anko's voice rang out as her snake chomped several soldiers that attempted to counter attack.
Tsunade rejoined the attack, slamming her fist into a tank, sending it crashing into a column for Fire Nation soldiers. "Push them back! Push them back! We can't let them get a foothold!"
The troops rallied, and charged towards the Fire Nation soldiers and their Sound Confederation allies. Blasts of fiery rock dropped from the sky, crashing into Konoha's wall as well as providing support for their forces. Tsunade rolled out of the way of a fiery rock, and she growled.
"We have to destroy those catapults somehow," Tsunade said as she picked herself up. "They'll bombard us into oblivion if we don't…"
Several of the Fire Nation soldiers suddenly froze, and she looked back to see Nara Shikaku, head of the Nara Clan, standing there with his arms crossed. His shadow was connecting to the shadows of at least 12 soldiers, and he had a bored look on his face.
"Even though there are a lot of you, quantity doesn't beat quality all the time," he said as he closed his eyes. "Kage Kubi Shibari no Jutsu (Shadow Neck Bind Technique)."
His shadow swirled up around the soldiers' necks and grasped them hard, suffocating them. They managed a strangled scream before they succumbed to their fates.
"Shikaku, thank kami you got here in time," Tsunade said as the Nara Head walked over.
"We came in through the East Gate; the enemy had its forces spread weakest there. My forces are ready to back up Konoha, Tsunade-sama," Shikaku said as he prepared the next attack. Like his son, he was a 'General' of the Konoha forces, 500 soldiers were under his direct command.
"Great, direct them to the hot spots. We have to formulate a plan to destroy the catapults bombarding the village," Tsunade told him as several fiery blasts crashed into the village buildings behind them, starting raging fires.
Meanwhile, Hiashi, Sarutobi Asuma, and Aburame Shibi were leading the forces off the wall to cover the gap with the other forces behind the wall. The Hyuuga Head performed several Kaitens to shield the people under his command. Asuma's trench knives glowed blue as he formed his wind sword technique. He slashed through a Fire Nation soldier's polearm before slamming the incredibly sharp blade through the man's gut, killing him.
"Keep moving! We have to reinforce Hokage-sama!" Hiashi ordered as he slammed his palm into a Iwa ninja, liquefying his organs.
The militia and defending shinobi filed down into the stairways in the battlements towards the ground floor of the wall. The wall shook from multiple fireballs crashing into the structure, making dust fall from the rafters landing on top of the Konoha defenders. Pretty soon, the entire wall was evacuated and Hiashi, Shibi, and Asuma sealed the exit since the Fire Nation soldiers were following them down.
"Move, move, move, move!" Asuma ordered, tossing down his cigarette as he lead the militia and shinobi to reinforce Tsunade.
The battle for the walls had been lost-the Fire Nation has secured them. But they're going to have to fight, bleed, and die for every inch of Konoha. They wouldn't take this village. The enemy would be expelled and destroyed. It just had to.
Fire Nation Capital
In the Fire Nation's capital, night had fallen and lights bathed the palace interior. Zuko tossed and turned in his bed next to Mai, who was sleeping peacefully. Groaning, his nightmare started getting worse and worse, and he grunted and tossed and turned. His eyes opened, and he looked to his sleeping girlfriend, being sure not to disturb her. Pulling himself out of bed, he walked over to where he threw his cloak and draped it over his body.
"…so going some where?" Mai's voice asked, pulling herself up, showing she was in satin red Fire Nation nightgown, similar to Azula's except it had a black trim, and he paused at the door. "I could feel you tossing and turning. Are you alright?"
"…I just have to talk with someone Mai…"
"You're uncle?" Mai guessed, and he shrugged. "…I won't tell anyone if you want it to be secret."
Zuko sighed. "Thanks Mai, I'll be back soon."
He left the room, leaving his girlfriend alone with her thoughts. Mai heaved a sigh, and she laid her head back on the pillow and soothed out her hair. She yawned, snuggling up in the bed and she fell back to sleep.
Zuko made his way out of the Palace, sneaking through the Fire Nation Capital City, Huojing, and he got up to the edge of the crater and began walking away from it. Traveling down the path of battlements, he began heading to the Fire Nation Maximum Security Prison. He passed several soldiers, either hiding in the shadows or he knocked them out with a well placed hit to the neck.
A few minutes later he reached the prison, it was a massive spiral building with several stone walls. Walking into the courtyard with his hands in his cloak's sleeves, he stood and paused for a second, looking at the massive facility. He slowly moved both hands to his sides and he looked up to see his Uncle's cell. A passing guard on the wall saw him standing in the courtyard. Thinking he was an intruder, he looked down and Zuko standing there.
"Who's there?" the guard yelled and Zuko glanced up.
'I…can't face him right now…' the Prince thought, and he turned on his heel and walked away from the prison.
He breathed out, his hands tightening to fists as he walked. The Guard watched him leave, before returning to his patrol.
Outer Fire Nation Islands
At a medium sized island on the outer edge of the Fire Nation, a single cloud in the sky began descending down from the sky towards a nearby island. There seemed to be people talking inside of it and it glided down to water level. Several animals, green marine iguanas and strange looking puffin birds with yellow beaks with a red spot in them.
"I think I see a cave up below," a young woman's voice said in the cloud.
"Shush! Keep quiet!" a young man's voice said in a harsh whisper.
Hovering above the beach, a blast of wind, shaped in a large ball blew away the cloud, revealing the flying bison, Appa. On his back were Aang, Katara, Naruto, Hinata, Sasuke, Sakura, Sokka, Suki, and Toph. Appa landed and the Water Tribe warrior hopped off first, and put his back against a rock and looked around.
"We're in a remote part of the island, wannabe," Sasuke said drolly as he hopped down, followed by Sakura and Toph.
Sokka ignored him, and looked back at the others. "Nice job with the cloud camo, but next time try to form a cloud that keeps its mouth shut!" he said, folding his arms.
"Yeah we wouldn't want a bird to hear us chatting up there and turn us in," Toph said sarcastically as she stood next to Katara and Hinata.
"Sokka, lighten up," Naruto said with a grin. "We got in, no problems."
"Hey! We could be turned in any time, we're in enemy territory and those are enemy birds!" Sokka yelled at his companions. One of the puffins hopped onto his head as he pointed up and squawked.
The group laughed, even Sasuke shared a snigger as they began walking. Sokka then leapt ahead of them dramatically, looking around after slamming to the ground, like he was trying to pull off 'I meant to do that'. Sasuke sighed, closing his eyes.
"Sokka, if you're done acting like a buffoon, we're trying to get moving here."
"Hey! I'm just checking for mines!"
"With your body on a deserted beach?" Sasuke pointed out and they kept walking, and the Uchiha stepped on and over Sokka, leaving his face in the black dirt.
They walked into the cave and the Water Tribe warrior, footprints still on his cloak and hair, ran into the cave ahead of them to check it out. His head looked back and forth in the cave a he turned to the rest of the group.
"Well, this is it; this is how we will be living until the invasion begins. Hiding in cave after cave after cave," Sokka said and his head drooped. "…after cave, after cave, after cave…"
"Sokka, we don't need to become cave people," Katara told her brother. "What we need is some new clothes."
"Yeah, blending in is better than hiding out," Aang said, putting his hands on his hips. "If we get Fire Nation disguises, we'll be just as safe as hiding in a cave."
"This could also help you guys with your infiltration skills," Sasuke said. "Especially, you buffoon."
"HEY!" Sokka roared and he went to tackle Sasuke, but Naruto held him back.
"Wow, wow, calm down Sokka, he'll kick your ass remember?" Naruto whispered and Sokka stopped struggling. "And I agree with what Aang and Katara-chan are saying, time to get some clothes for the time being."
"Plus, they have real food out there," Toph added, relaxing on the wall and she punched it, and several white colored insects, called cave hoppers jumped out. "Does anyone really want to sit in here and eat cave hoppers?"
In response, Momo slid in and grabbed one cave hopper before it ran away and immediately stuffed it into his mouth. The lemur munched on the hopper, looked at the rest of the group and spat out a leg.
"…looks like we got outvoted, sport. Let's get some new clothes," Sokka said.
Hinata closed her eyes and activated her Byakugan. "There is a beach house not too far from here, still on the beach, and the owner is putting a lot of clothes out on the clotheslines."
"Lead the way then, Hinata," Aang said with a grin.
A short while later, they were spying on the house where the clothes were drying, there were seven clotheslines, all filled with drying garments. Steam rose from volcanic vents in between the lines, adding to the dry cycle of the clothes.
"I don't know about this, those clothes belong to someone…" Aang said as he looked at the clothes.
"We don't have much choice, Aang. Henge takes up chakra which can be used in a fight," Naruto said as he scouted the clothes he wanted.
"I call the silk robe!" Katara announced, and she pulled herself over the rocks and ran quickly to a clothesline, and yanked the robes off gently.
"Okay…if its essential to our survival…I call the suit!" Aang announced running and grabbing the suit. Toph followed, grabbing what she wanted.
Sakura pointed at an outfit and whispered something to Hinata, who blushed, and both went down and they got their outfits. Naruto grabbed his followed by Sasuke. Sokka and Suki were the last to get their's, all of them going off to change.
Naruto had grabbed an outfit that resembled a merchant; it had a red shirt with golden trim around its lapel, as well as dark red pants. Aang's resembled a student; he was wearing a dark black, vest with red trim, a gray tee-shirt underneath, as well as another long sleeve shirt underneath that with a red line that went down all the way down to his hands. Finally, he had gray pants and black boots with a red trim down the middle, and a red headband with a golden colored arrow pointing down.
"There, normal kid!" Aang said, spinning around.
"Cool Aang," Naruto said as he stashed his Konoha Hiate-iti reverently into his pack, and pulled out some cover up. He couldn't afford to use a henge now, so he rubbed the whisker marks with his natural skin color. His hair would be more of a problem, but he hoped there were more people with blond hair in the Fire Nation.
Sasuke came walking out. He was wearing what looked like a nobleman's outfit, long satin robes as well as long red pants. On his hip he kept his chukoto, which was a sign of status. He breathed out through his nose, looking at his teammates.
Toph was the first of the girls to come back from changing. She was wearing a simple soft red dress with red with a dark red and yellow long scarf which up and down her sides and was tied in back of her. Next to Aang was Sokka, who was wearing a dull red tunic and puffy black pants underneath that, as well as Fire Nation sandals on his feet.
"I suppose I should wear shoes…but I won't be able to see as well…" Toph said as she sat down and began pulling on her yellow shoes. "Sorry shoes!" she pushed out and the sole went flying and hit Sokka in the face. "Finally, a stylish shoe for the blind Earthbender."
Katara, Hinata, Sakura, and Suki came walking out at that moment. "How do we look?" Katara asked with a smile.
Aang's eyes widened. Katara was wearing a long red dress and a red, single strap tank top that had her midriff exposed. Her hair was worn up in a top knot while the rest of it was spread out and worn down and finally in front of her body was two bangs. Still around her neck was her mother's necklace.
Aang blushed and rubbed the back of his head, and then he noticed the necklace. "Oh…your mother's necklace…"
"Oh…oh yeah, I guess its pretty obviously Water Tribe isn't it?" Katara asked as she took off her necklace and looked at it. She closed her hand over it and stowed it in the pack.
Naruto got a good look at Hinata, and his eyes widened. "D-Do you like, Naruto-kun?" she asked. She was wearing a two-strap, low cut red tank top, her midriff was exposed, and she was wearing red pants and sandals. Her hair was done in a top-knot like Katara's and she still had her bangs in front of her face. "S-Sakura-chan actually pointed it out…"
"You…look…wow…" Naruto said, stuttering to find words. "I mean…wow, you look great."
"Told ya he'd like it, Hinata-chan," Sakura said with a grin. The pink haired, now brown haired kunoichi was wearing a red, Fire Nation style vest and a short dress like Katara's.
Sokka turned to look at Suki and his jaw dropped. She was wearing a red top that was completely sleeveless, as well as exposed her midriff and a red belt which held up her skirt. "So Sokka meets your approval?"
"Hell yeah!" Sokka replied with a grin, immediately running over to her and hugging her.
The fighting was increasing in intensity. The Fire Nation soldiers were now in a blood lust, swarming through walls and the gate, which had been torn open by three tanks. The Konoha Militia clashed with them, trying to stop them from pushing forward into the village. Fireballs rained down from the sky, crashing into the crops and buildings and destroying them.
Hiashi, Iruka, and Asuma fought back to back against the Fire Nation soldiers. Asuma's trench knives glowed blue as he slashed through one soldier after another, and he spat an ember into one of the Fire Nation soldier's faces and formed the tora sign. Immediately, the ember ignited and caught the soldier's body on fire entirely.
Iruka blocked a sword with his kunai while dodging fireballs from several firebenders. Taking out a kunai with an explosive tag attached, he tossed it at the firebenders feet and set it off, killing several Firebenders in the resulting explosion. Landing, he crossed his fingers and created two Kage Bushins, and the three advanced, fighting the Fire Nation soldiers.
Hiashi dodged and ducked several blades and fire blasts, slamming his palms into the Fire Nation soldiers and benders, killing them all with one blow. His Byakugan flashed as a tank advanced towards him. A stream of flame shot out of the turret at him and his whole body began glowing blue.
"Kaiten!" Hiashi yelled and he began spinning. A blue shield of chakra expanded around him and blew away several dozen Firebenders and Fire Nation soldiers as well as blocked the stream of flame. The Kaiten was so powerful, when it slammed into the tank it sent it flying several dozen meters into the sky before it crashed into a column of Fire Nation soldiers on its side.
The Hyuga Head gave an 'humph' and dodged a doton jutsu from an Iwa Ninja. He skidded back and leapt up. Hiashi slammed his foot into the Iwa nin, and then slammed his palm into his forehead, liquefying his brain. His advance was followed by three other Hyuga's, all three were branch members of Chunin level, and behind them were several militia.
In another part of the village Shizune was fighting next to Gemma and Aburame Shibi. She flew through the seals and took a deep breath.
"Dokugiri (Poison Mist Technique)!" Shizune yelled, blowing a purple cloud of poison gas into the Fire Nation soldiers, Firebenders, and about a dozen Kumo Ninja. Coughs were heard as the targets began choking on the fumes.
When the cloud cleared, there were nearly a hundred dead Fire Nation soldiers and all the Kumo Ninja in the area were dead, all from the poison. Shizune lead her squad down and looked as the sea of Fire Nation soldiers, mixed with tanks advancing. Shizune panted, but she prepared herself to fight next to Gemma and Shibi, who was getting his swarm ready.
Tsunade ducked and dodged several blasts of fire that were shot at her and she saw two of her ANBU fighting-and being overwhelmed by Iwa Ninja and Fire Nation soldiers. One of the ANBU got impaled by a rock pillar before she could do a substitution and the other was fighting against several Firebenders. He formed a long series of seals and wind began blowing.
"Futon: Kazekiri (Wind Cutter)!" the ANBU yelled and blades of wind slashed through the ankles of his opponents, making them drop to the ground. He then slammed his hands together. "Doton: Tsuchikujiku (Earth Crusher)!"
Slabs of rock rose out of the ground and literally crushed the incapacitated soldiers and shinobi. The ANBU leapt back to Tsunade, panting from slight chakra exhaustion.
"They just keep coming, Hokage-sama…"
"Fall back to where the genin are and recover. Hold the bunkers and don't let any of the enemy through."
"But Hokage-sama, I should…"
"Protect me, I know, but right now, the citizens and child genin are more important."
The ANBU nodded reluctantly, and formed his seal and disappeared, heading to the bunkers.
From the Hokage Tower, the Elders watched the battle dispassionately. The War had finally come to Konoha. Homura and Koharu pursed their lips, listing this attack as another failure of Godaime Hokage, Tsunade. They glanced back to see Danzo entering.
"Shouldn't your ROOT be out there fighting, Danzo-san?" Homura asked his colleague.
"They are, mixed in with the ordinary shinobi," Danzo's blood was slightly excited, war…he could turn it into his advantage. "I have dispatched my own emissaries to the Fire Nation. We'll be able to broker a peace with the Fire Lord…"
Koharu's eyes flashed. "Are you insane, Danzo? What would make the Fire Lord agree to end the war with us?"
"The death of Tsunade…and myself being placed as Hokage."
His fellow elders looked shocked as Danzo actually gave a dark smile. "This is what you want, isn't it? You have disagreed with our 'Princess' for three years…"
"This is not what we want, Danzo," Homura said.
"A shame," Danzo said, a sword coming out of his cane and he slammed it through Homura's chest. "I always enjoyed you being on my side and having your council, but I guess our alliance is at an end."
Homura's eyes were wide in shock, blood dribbled down his lip and he yanked his cane sword. Homura dropped to his knees, and then to the ground, the blood pooling around his body. He then looked to Koharu.
"Koharu, do you stand with me?" Danzo asked, flicking his wrist and the blood flew off his sword. Koharu's eyes narrowed.
"Absolutely not. I will not side with a traitor."
"As you wish," Danzo said dispassionately, slashing through Koharu's neck, instantly decapitating her. He flicked his wrist and slid his sword back into his cane. He summoned two of his ROOT ANBU, who saluted Danzo. "Dispose of their bodies and assume their identities."
"Yes, Danzo-sama," both ANBU ROOT said picking up the bodies, plus Koharu's head, and carrying them off.
Danzo then looked out on the battlefield which Konoha had become, and his twisted smile reemerged.
Fire Nation Town
Later, they were in the small town on the island, shopping for accessories. Katara bought a red Fire Nation choker with a ruby in the middle of it, Hinata bought some hair pins which she put into her top knot, Toph bought a golden crown with two tassels on it, Sokka a Fire Nation symbol for his top knot, and Suki bought a jeweled, dark red necklace that went around the base of her neck. Aang then stowed Momo into his outfit and he grinned, turning to the rest of the group.
"I used to visit my friend Kuzon here a hundred years ago, so everyone just follow my lead and stay cool. Or as they say in the Fire Nation, stay flamin'," Aang said, and he pointed with a grin.
"Aang…not to bring you down or anything…" Naruto started, rubbing the back of his head. "What makes you think the slang will be the same from 100 years in the past?"
Aang didn't seem to hear him as he started walking, passing a person eating some meat on a stick. "Greetings my good hotman," he said, passing the man who looked at him strangely.
"Uh…hi…I guess," the man said as the team passed him and he watched, shaking his head and thinking on how strange kids were now a days.
They stopped at a restaurant and Aang looked to see the stuff in the windows. There were more meat on a stick being shown out of the window, even one that looked like a meaty dango and the one next to it looked like fish.
"Oh, we're stopping at a meat place…?" Aang asked reluctantly.
"Come on Aang, everyone here eats meat, even the meat!" Sokka replied as he pointed at a nearby hippo-cow, which opened its huge mouth and ate some rancid meat on the ground.
"…does anyone else find that a little disturbing?" Sakura asked, a sweat drop appearing on the back of her head. "I mean, aren't cows and hippos herbivores?"
"You guys go ahead, I'll just go get some lettuce out of the garbage," Aang told them, pointing back.
"If you're sure," Hinata said and Aang nodded.
With that, the gang walked into the restaurant through the red clothed door, and Aang went off on his own. He kept addressing people as 'hotman' as people walked by. Three homeland soldiers started to walk by before noticing him. They walked over to him and stopped directly in front of him.
"Stop right there, we caught you," the lead soldier with the grey beard said.
"Who me?" Aang asked with a gulp.
"It couldn't be more obvious that you don't belong here," the soldier said and Aang gulped louder. "Next time you play hooky, you might want to take off your school uniform."
Aang looked down at himself and then a realization hit him. He then chuckled nervously and the soldier grabbed him by his shoulders and yanked him off to the school.
At the Fire Nation Academy, Aang was marched into a classroom. A middle aged woman was standing in front of a class of students, all dressed in the same uniform that he was wearing.
All the students looked at him, including a girl around his and Toph's age wearing her brown hair in a pony-tail and bangs which framed her face like Hinata's or Azula's, yet they were flat at the bottom instead of slanted. The teacher, Mrs. Kwan, crossed her arms and held her pointer deftly.
"Well, isn't this a new mind ready for molding?" Mrs. Kwan asked in a arrogant, high and mighty tone.
Deciding to play along, Aang put on a smile and rubbed the back of his head. "Y-Yeah, that's right, let the molding begin!"
"Wait a minute," Mrs. Kwan said as the two soldiers started to walk away, but they paused when she said that. "You're not from the Fire Nation," she walked over and crossed her hands behind her back as she inspected him. "Clearly, you're from the colonies…"
"Y-Yeah…the colonies, of course! The colonies in the Earth Kingdom," Aang said, and the two soldiers walked off at that.
"Your etiquette is terrible, in the Homeland we bow to our elders," Mrs. Kwan told him as she walked to face him, and she put her fist facing upwards to her palm. "Like so."
She bowed to him. "Sorry mam," he said and he put his fist to his hand horizontally and bowed, but she tapped his fist with her pointer. The girl in the front row demonstrated the right way for him again, and he smiled and did it the right way.
"And we don't wear head coverings indoors!" Mrs. Kwan told him and pointed at his headband.
"Um…I have a scar…it's really embarrassing," Aang said as he scratched his head.
"Very well, what is your name? Or should we just call you Manner-less Colony Slob?"
He chuckled at that lightly. "'Slob' is fine…or uh, Kuzon." He turned to face the class at that.
A few hours later class was dismissed when the large bell was rang outside the school. Students exited the classrooms enthusiastically, yet also in an orderly fashion. Aang walked off on his own and he checked on Momo who was in his vest.
"We made it through the day Momo," Aang whispered as they walked. "And it was pretty fun…I wonder if that was like classes that Naruto, Hinata, Sakura, and Sasuke went through…"
"Don't let the Headmaster catch you with that monkey," a girl's voice said and he cringed and turned to see the girl who helped him in class standing there.
"Don't worry, I'm not a tattle tail, my name's On Ji, I like you," she said, walking over with a smile. "I like your headband by the way." He seems really nice…anything to take my mind off this morning is a good things…
That morning, On Ji learned who she would be marrying. A procession from Otogakure had arrived and her mother and father greeted a tall man with silver hair and glasses. He looked relatively handsome; however, he was nearly twice On Ji's age. He was Yakushiji Kabuto, tutor to the Princess and right hand man of Lord Orochimaru himself. She was to marry him to secure a political alliance between the two powers since the Princess's fiancée had been captured.
Why did my life get so damn complicated…? And why the heck do mom and dad think I should marry a guy twice my age? He's creepy! On Ji thought before a muscular arm draped over her shoulders. Great…this day gets worse with my stalker…
"On Ji, you shouldn't be talking to the new kid. I'm supposed to protect you, you know," the young man said gently and smoothly, trying to woo her.
Aang immediately bowed in respect. "Wow, you must be one of those popular kids I've been hearing about!"
"That's right, now listen friend-On Ji's off the market. I used to be her boyfriend but now I protect her so her husband will receive a 'pure flower', if you will," the boy, Hide, said cockily. "That's what her parents told me to do, and I took the assignment honorably. Don't forget it."
He poked Aang's chest to emphasize that and Momo began to push out. Aang smiled nervously and pressed his head back. Hide pointed at him again as a warning before leading On Ji away. She glanced at him, closing her eyes.
Damn it! On Ji thought as she was pulled away.
"It was nice meeting you!" Aang said as he raised his hand and a kid, Shoji, ran over.
"I don't believe it, he didn't beat you up, not even a little!"
"I guess I was just lucky."
"We're on our way to play hide and explode, you wanna come?"
"I'd love to!" Aang replied as he went to play with the rest of the kids.
Fire Nation Palace, training grounds
Zuko was panting in physical exhaustion. His first lessons from his new sensei were basically dodging and agility. He had learned the hard way not to be caught by one of his sensei's arm bars. Taking out his dao swords he blocked Kirabi's next attack, and was sent flying.
"Little dude, you can't compete with my strength! Just keep on dodgin' if ya want to keep standin'!" Kirabi said as he hopped on one knee, carrying two of his straight swords.
Zuko panted and then he groaned, picking himself up. "What am I learning by doing this crap!?! All I am doing is getting beaten up right now!"
"The most important rule for a ninja dude is to be agile, to dodge the attacks and use your guile!" Kirabi replied cheerfully, and he charged again.
Zuko gulped and leapt out of the way. Kirabi chased him throughout the day, hitting the Prince a few more times, leaving bumps and bruises on his face and body. The Kumo Guardian's attacks were nearly impossible to dodge, and he was incredibly strong and fast.
'Just…how strong is this guy?' Zuko thought before he attempted to dodge another attack.
His leg was grabbed by his sensei and he was slammed to the ground. "Too slow, little bro'! Pick up the speed and you'll dodge the deed!"
Zuko felt the wind escape his lungs as he was slammed down into the ground again and again, before being tossed into the wall. The blow made him drop his swords and just as Kirabi charged him, he duck and spun around, creating a ball of fire around him which tripped his sensei up.
The Fire Prince rolled and then leapt into the air, and he threw out three fireballs from his fists which slammed into Kirabi, making his sensei crash back. Zuko landed, panting and wiping his forehead.
"Good, good little dude! You're using your guile and making yourself agile!" Kirabi said encouragingly, dusting the soot off his armor and putting out the fire on his headband. "We'll keep working on that, and make your sword skills all that!"
Zuko blinked. The lesson's over already? He thought as he fell onto his butt and wiped the sweat off his forehead. His body was really sore and he groaned. Going to need the healers later before I see Mai tonight…
Fire Nation Cave, outermost island
Night had fallen and the team was waiting for Aang to return. Katara had started to get worried and Naruto was waiting at the outer part of the cave waiting for his 'little brother' to return. He heard some rocks sliding down and looked up as Aang landed. He was covered in soot and looked even more cheerful than normal.
"Okay bro…where've you been?" Naruto asked, blinking as he and Aang walked into the cave.
"We've been worried sick!" Katara added, looking up from the fire.
"I got invited to play with some kids after school," Aang replied with a grin, reaching behind his head and untying his headband.
Sokka immediately picked himself up when he heard that. "…after WHAT?"
"I enrolled in a Fire Nation School…and I'm going back tomorrow," Aang said proudly, putting his hands on his hips!"
"You enrolled in what?" Sokka asked again, throwing his arms down in disbelief. He then fell back, crashing onto the ground from shock.
"For once, I agree with the buffoon," Sasuke said. "We're already infiltrating the Fire Nation, we don't need to go into a school to do it more."
Fire Nation Prison
At the prison tower, Zuko was walking through the halls to Iroh's cell. His body was still slightly sore from the training, but the doctors had managed to take away quite a lot of his pain. He had finished his date with Mai, and had finally welled up the courage to go talk with his uncle.
"You again! Stop right there, whoever you are!" one of the guards yelled angrily, pointing his spear at Zuko as he walked up. Zuko raised his head up, allowing his scar to be seen to the guard who made way as he walked past. "Prince Zuko?"
Zuko grabbed him by his uniform, and slammed him against the wall, making him drop his spear. "I'm going in for a visit, you stand guard here, and no one, no one's going to know about this."
He dropped the guard, and then continued walking. He reached Iroh's cell, where his uncle was sitting with his side to the door. Zuko walked in, and looked at his uncle.
"Uncle, its me," Zuko said, as he lifted his hood up. In response, Iroh turned himself away from him.
Fire Nation Cave
Aang was sitting with the rest of the group around the fire. What Sasuke said after Sokka fainted made sense, and Sokka had crossed his arms.
"Aang, I'm trying to be mature and immediately shoot down your idea, but it sounds really terrible," Sokka stated plainly.
"Yeah, we got our outfits, what do you need to go to school for?" Toph asked, agreeing with Sokka and Sasuke.
"Every minute I'm in that classroom, I learn new things about the Fire Nation. I already have a picture of Fire Lord Ozai," Aang replied, reaching down and pulling out the picture of Ozai. He then pulled up another one. "And here's one I made out of noodles!"
"…impressive, I admit, but I still think its too dangerous," Sokka said after a moment.
"I guess we'll never find out about the secret river then, it goes right to the Fire Lord's palace," Aang said slyly, looking at the group. "We were supposed to learn about it in class tomorrow…"
"Hm…I do like secret rivers…fine, lets stay a few more days," Sokka said, and he looked at Naruto, Hinata, and Sakura. "You guys should say something though; you are the higher ranking ninja here."
Naruto put his hand to his chin. "…bro's plan does make sense, we're learning about the Fire Nation in other ways than just traveling…"
"And we could use the crucial intelligence about the attitudes of the Fire Nation that we could use to change after the war…" Hinata added.
"Even though its risky, it sounds worth it," Sakura finished and she looked at Sasuke. "Your thoughts?"
"We are already in deep, I don't think we should risk our cover for Aang to play schoolboy for a couple days," Sasuke stated plainly, and he crossed his arms and leaned back. "But I see I'll be outvoted either way."
"Flameo Hotman!" Aang cheered in triumph as he stood up and threw his hands into the air.
"…flameo?" Sokka asked his sister as Aang ran off, and Katara shrugged.
Meanwhile at On Ji's household, the young woman was smoothing out the red, silk dress her mother was making her wear. She wore a look of disgust, her arranged fiancée was there today and her parents wanted to get to know him. She curled her lip, looking at herself at the mirror.
I hate my life… On Ji thought as she walked out of her room.
She walked down the steps of her house, walking towards the living room. She heard her parents laughing and saw that her fiancée, Kabuto, was telling a few jokes for her parents. On Ji's disgust deepened and Kabuto looked up at her.
"Oh, my lovely little future wife is here…come on, sit, sit…" Kabuto said, motioning for her to walk over.
She walked over, sucking up her disgust and she sat down next to Kabuto. "…welcome to our home…Kabuto."
"Aw…is that any way to speak to your future husband?" Kabuto asked and he put his arm around her shoulders. "You look lovely by the way…"
Her skin crawled as his hand was placed on her shoulder. "…thank…you…"
"I look forward to getting to know you more tonight…tradition, no?"
"…w-what?" On Ji asked, looking up and her eyes widened, looking at her parents.
"We were going to save it for later, but Lord Kabuto insisted!" her father said proudly. "My little girl is going to become a woman…"
"No…no I'm not ready for that…" On Ji said, her eyes wide. "I'm only 13 years old!"
"This is an honor that only comes up once in a lifetime, On Ji! You should be proud!" her mother said with a grin. "A handsome, politically powerful man wants you!"
"No! I'm not ready!"
"Oh come on honey…" Kabuto said, tightening his grip and sending a jolt of chakra into her system. "You'll enjoy it…"
On Ji's eyes widened and her future husband lifted her up…and began to carry her off to the bedroom again. When the door slammed shut…the worst night in On Ji's life began.
Fire Nation Prison
Zuko sat cross legged in front of his uncle's cell, waiting for anything that would now show that he was being acknowledged. When no answer came, Zuko took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
"You brought this on yourself, you know? We could have returned together, you could have been a hero!" Zuko started, and Iroh moved so he was completely facing the wall now. "You have no right to judge me Uncle! I did what I had to do in Ba Sing Se and you were a fool for not joining me!" still no acknowledgement; Zuko looked at him in disbelief. "You're not going to say anything?"
In rage, Zuko kicked the metal stool he was sitting on up into the air, and punched it, a burst of super hot fire shooting out and he melted the stool into a metal slag. Angrily, the Prince turned to Iroh.
"You're a crazy old man, and if you weren't in jail, you'd be sleeping in a gutter!"
With that, Zuko stormed out of the room, slamming the door shut. Iroh closed his eyes, leaving himself alone with his thoughts.
Fire Nation Island, Fire Nation School
The next morning, Mrs. Kwan walked into her classroom, and all the students stood up immediately. Only On Ji and Aang were slow on the uptake, standing up after the others. On Ji was uncharacteristically down, and she looked like she was slightly in pain. Her legs seemed to be shaking as Mrs. Kwan paused in front of the classroom.
"Good morning, class," Kwan said as she knelt down at her own desk. "Recite the Fire Nation Oath."
The whole class turned and faced Ozai's picture and put their fists to their palms. "My life, I give it to my country. With my hands, I fight for Fire Lord Ozai and our forefathers before him…" the entire class but Aang recited perfectly.
"Fire Lord…forefathers…" Aang attempted, trying to keep up.
"With my mind, I seek ways to better my country, with my feet…"
Desperately, Aang tried to finish. "Firebenders…Fire Lord…blah, blah, blah…?"
The children began to chuckle helplessly at that, and On Ji giggled. At least I can count on Kuzon to alter the mood at least…
Mrs. Kwan raised her eyebrow in irritation about her newest student's actions. All the students, but Aang turned around and knelt in front of their desk. He did so a moment afterwards, and the teacher slammed her ruler into the book on her desk.
"Since its hilarious to mock our national oath, we'll begin with a pop quiz on our march to civilization!" Kwan said and got a resounding amount of disappointed 'aws' at that.
Everyone but Aang again pulled their notebooks in front of themselves, and grabbed their pens to begin. Aang followed suit, a moment after.
"Question One: What year did Fire Lord Sozin battle the Air Nation Army?" Kwan started firmly and her students began to write the answer down. Aang raised his hand. "Kuzon?"
"…is that a trick question? The Air Nomads didn't have a formal military, Sozin defeated them by ambush," Aang asked, standing up.
Everyone looked at him in shock and Kwan looked a little disturbed and confused at the question. "Well…I don't know how you could possibly know more than our national history book, unless you were there 100 years ago."
Aang made a silent gulp and he smiled and rubbed the back of his head. "I'll just write my best guess!"
Later, in music class, the teacher used his baton to tap the music stand for his students to begin. The orchestra started and the teacher began guiding them through the song. Aang was playing the Tsungi Horn, and he took a deep breath and began playing, tapping his feet on the ground in beat and surprising everyone in the room.
"Kuzon?" the teacher asked as Aang kept playing and then he stopped.
"…I know, I'm a terrible Tsungi Hornist…"
"No, child, that hullabaloo going on with your feet. Is it a nervous disorder?"
"I was just dancing, you do dances in the Homeland, right?"
"Not really, no," Shoji said next to him.
The teacher walked to the window. "Dancing is not conductive to a proper learning environment. Young people must have rigid discipline and order."
"But what about expressing yourself?"
"I know that sometimes we are so moved for the love of our nation we can't control our own bodies," the teacher replied, walking back to his stand. "If you must, you may march quietly in place if the urge hits you."
He raised his hands and began to conduct again, and the rest of the orchestra followed. Aang shrugged and began blowing more softly into his tsungi horn.
Later, at lunch, the students were walking out to various places in the courtyard to eat. Aang looked around to see the several students looking at him strangely and whispering amongst themselves. He kept walking and ended up in front of On Ji.
"Hey Kuzon, I really liked that crazy dance you were doing," On Ji said with a smile, hiding the crushing feelings she was having from the previous night.
"Thanks On Ji, I could show it to you later if you'd like," Aang said with a grin, and he looked up to see Naruto and Hinata coming. "Bro?"
"Uh…mom said you forgot your lunch," Naruto said with a grin, and he handed Aang the bento box.
"On Ji, this is my big brother Na…"
"Na Lee," Naruto said with a grin. "So you're the new friend Kuzon's been telling us so much about…" he started and all the girls around them started to blush, seeing Naruto there next to Aang. He blinked. What?
Suddenly, a fire blast slammed in front of them and Aang and Naruto stepped back. "What'd you say, colony trash?" Hide asked angrily, stomping forward to Aang. "You were going to show her something?"
"Just some dance moves," Aang said calmly and cheerfully, not wanting to escalate things.
"Back off," Naruto said, getting in front of Aang.
"Whose going to make me?" Hide asked as Naruto rose to his full height. The bully wasn't intimidated and threw a punch, and the jinchuuriki caught it and twisted his wrist a bit.
"I don't like people who pick on my little brother…" Naruto said dangerously, his eyes narrowing.
"W-Wait, I can handle this," Aang said as Naruto let go of Hide's fist.
"Alright," Naruto said and Hide growled as he stepped back.
"No body shows On Ji anything, especially movements!" Hide yelled angrily, and he lunged at Aang who sidestepped him. The group of students began to form a circle around them to watch the fight.
Aang sidestepped, dodged, and ducked all of Hide's attacks, and the children began to clap and cheer. Naruto grinned, crossing his arms as his 'little brother' handled the bully problem. Hide charged, punched, and missed every time. Aang then got behind Hide and made it so he couldn't charge or punch.
The Avatar grinned and bumped him making him stumble. He growled and turned and began to launch more furious punches and blows at Aang, who dodged and ducked with ease. Finally, Aang sidestepped as Hide punched, lost his balance and spun in mid air before coming crashing to the ground…right at the Headmaster's feet. Putting on the 'victim' act, Hide sniffled and wiped his nose, acting as if he was being beaten up.
"…picking fights on your second day?" the Headmaster asked Aang angrily. "We need to have a conference in my office. Bring your parents, after school."
"My parents?" Aang asked, his eyes widening.
"Wait a second," Naruto started. "Kuzon didn't pick the fight, and he didn't even throw a single punch. That little bully there you keep fawning over should be the one having the conference."
"And who are you? Why should I believe you after what I seen with my own eyes?"
"I'm Kuzon's brother, and I saw the entire thing. Including the fire blast that Hide launched at Kuzon when my brother was only talking to the girl back there, On Ji," Naruto said.
"T-That's not true Headmaster Chee! Kuzon attacked me!"
"…we'll handle this at the conference," the Headmaster said and he walked away with Hide. The bully gave a confident grin before walking away with him. "Don't be late."
Later, after school, Aang was in the Headmaster's office. Right behind Chee was a portrait of Ozai, as if he was watching over anyone who came into the office. The Headmaster folded his hands, and leaned forward.
"Thank you for coming, Mr. and Mrs…"
"Fire! Wang Fire!" Sokka said, playing the part of Aang's father, complete with an over the top beard on his face. "This is my wife, Sapphire!"
"Sapphire Fire, nice to meet you," Katara said, her hands on her 'pregnant' stomach.
"Mr. and Mrs. …Fire…your son has been enrolled here for two days and he's already causing problems. He's argued with his history teacher, disrupted music class, and roughed up my star pupil," Chee stated bluntly, standing up for emphasis, forgetting the account that Naruto made of what really happened in the fight.
"My goodness! That doesn't sound like our Kuzon!"
"That's what any mother would say, ma'am. Nonetheless, you've been forewarned. If he acts up again…I'm sending him to reform school," Chee told them harshly. "…and by that I mean the coal mines. Are we clear?"
"Don't you worry, Mr. Headmaster! I'll straighten this boy out something fierce!" He leaned over to Aang. "Young man as soon as we get home you're going to get the punishment of a lifetime!"
"That's what I like to hear…" Chee said in sadistic satisfaction as he sat back down in his chair behind his desk.
With that, the three 'Fires' walked out of the office, Katara doing her best to imitate a heavily pregnant woman.
Fire Nation Capital
On a bluff, overlooking the sea, Zuko and Mai were on a date. They had finished their picnic and were watching the sunset together. Mai was reclined on Zuko's shoulder, his arm around her. They were both in red robes and Zuko's hair was put up in the royal Fire Nation top knot.
"Orange is such an awful color…" Mai said playfully, leaning up against her boyfriend.
Zuko chuckled. "You're so beautiful when you hate the world…"
"I don't hate you…" Mai said, looking up at him.
"I don't hate you too…" Zuko whispered, and the two leaned in for a passionate kiss.
The sound of someone clearing their throat was heard and the two looked up to see Azula standing there. "Zuko, can I have a word with you?"
"Can't you see we're busy?" Zuko asked tartly, before kissing Mai again.
"Oh Mai…Ty Lee needs your help untangling her braid…" Azula said after rolling her eyes.
"…sounds pretty serious," Mai said as she stood up and walked away from Zuko, and as she walked past Azula she shot the princess a small glare.
"So, I hear you've been to the visit your Uncle Fatso at the prison tower…" Azula started, crossing her arms playfully and glancing back at Mai.
"That guard told you!" Zuko snarled, standing up angrily.
"No, you did. Just now," Azula said smugly, and Zuko sat back down.
"Okay, you caught me, what do you want, Azula?'
"Actually, nothing, believe it or not, I'm looking out for you. If people find out that you've been to see Uncle, they'll think you've been plotting with him. Just be careful, Dum-Dum."
Zuko looked at her, and then away. He couldn't believe Azula was actually acting like a sibling now days, instead of a rival or a enemy. She was really looking out for him…and given he had been away from the Fire Nation for a long time, he didn't know how his homeland worked, and she did. So the roles were again the same, Azula had the upper hand, acting like the elder sibling, and Zuko was forced to be the younger, more inexperienced sibling even though he was older.
Fire Nation Island, Gaang Cave
At the cave, Momo was playing with the puffin-like birds as the group talked around the campfire. Sokka stomped forward towards Aang, still wearing the beard he had put on for the 'Wang Fire' act.
"That's it, no more school for you young man," Sokka said threateningly. "Sasuke was right, we're in too deep and another incident like that will blow our cover sky high!"
"…I'm not ready to leave, I'm having fun for once. Just being a normal kid," Aang said as he stood up and walked towards Appa. "You don't know what it's like Sokka, you get to be normal all the time.'
"Ha ha," Toph giggled mockingly.
Sokka scowled, but Aang continued. "Listen guys, those kids are the future of the Fire Nation. If we want to change them for the better, we need to show them a little taste of freedom."
"What could you possibly do for a country of depraved little fire monsters?" Sokka asked incredulously.
"I'm going to throw them…" Aang said and he did a few dance steps. "…a secret dance party!"
Sokka's jaw dropped. "…go to your room!"
"Wait, that's not a half bad idea," Naruto said with a grin. "And it gives us an excuse to have a party…think of all the meat that'll be served, Sokka…and Suki-chan in a dress or something…"
Sokka blinked and looked over at his girlfriend. Suki grinned. "It does sound fun…"
"Well then, its settled. Lets get this party ready!" Aang said with a grin.
Later that night, the cave was illuminated by candle light. There were many small candles lit around the cave providing a healthy glow. Toph and Sakura stomped their feet, and rose a three tiered stage for the band that they hired.
"I can't believe we're having a dance party," Sokka said as he lit another candle. "It seems so…silly!"
"Don't think of it as a dance party, but as a cultural event celebrating the art of fancy foot work," Aang said with a grin, demonstrating one of the kicking dances he knew as Katara and Hinata made a fountain of punch for the guests by freezing water into a two tiered bowl.
Outside the cave, Aang's classmates approached. On Ji had to sneak out of her house to escape another night with Kabuto. She was never going to see that man again, she would rather die first. She just hoped that 'Kuzon' could help her out. In fact, she prayed for it.
"They're coming! Everyone, stop bending!" Toph yelled as she felt the group of students approaching.
Aang walked over to Appa. "Sorry buddy, you should probably wait out back." Appa gave a frustrated guttural roar, but walked into the back of the cave. "I know, you got fancier feet than anybody, and six of them."
After the band had set up, the drummers began to pound their drums as the horn blowers and the guitarists started to play a catchy tune. They were all arranged in tiers on the stage, drummers on the highest level, horn blowers on the second level, and guitarists on the third.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the Flamey-o's!" Aang said, jumping into the dance floor and announcing the band. "Yeah, this ought to get everybody moving."
He looked around to see the kids still standing in a circle, unsure what to do even though the music was playing. It was like a middle school dance where sixth graders were nervous about dancing with each other because they were boys and girls.
"Now what do we do?" Shoji asked as he poked out of the crowd.
"This is when you start dancing," Aang said with a grin.
"I don't think my parents want me dancing in a cave…" one boy said as he drew his head down into his turtleneck.
"Yeah, what if someone finds out?!" another boy asked a bit neurotically, looking around nervously.
"Oh boy…listen guys, dancing isn't something you think about. It's a form of self-expression that no one can ever take away from you," Aang told them and he waved his hand down in emphasis.
"Maybe it was different in the colonies, Kuzon, but we don't do that here," Shoji said depressingly.
"Sure you do! You have for generations! It just so happens that I know several classic Fire Nation dances. A hundred years ago, this was known as the 'Phoenix Flight'," Aang said, squatting down and running around in a circle, kicking his legs out and holding his arms back. The students watched on in awe. "And this was the 'camelephant strut'!"
He hops on one foot to another, his hands raised to his sides as he alternated with each hop. He then leapt into the air, doing a somersault and lands in front of two girls, who giggle embarrassingly. He then somersaulted backwards, and landed expertly on one foot, and bowed. The students were amazed and began to clap.
"Who knew Twinkle-toes knew how to dance?" Toph asked Katara with a grin.
Katara grinned back as Naruto grabbed Hinata's hand. "Are we going to let my brother have all the fun, Hina?"
Hinata grinned. "No…I don't believe we are."
They walked out to the dance floor and began moving to the beat. Their hands went back and forth as they danced in front of each other and they grinned. Naruto put his hand around Hinata's shoulder and spun her a bit, his hand sliding down her arm and he grabbed her hand, holding her in place before pulling her to him and the dance started anew. Sasuke and Sakura watched, and the last Uchiha downed a glass of punch.
"So anything you want to…ask me Sasuke-kun?" Sakura asked hopefully, moving closer to him.
That bastard! Come on, I want to dance with you! Inner Sakura raged in Sakura's mind as she sighed. "Okay…"
Fire Nation Prison
Zuko had returned to see his uncle, carrying a new dinner for him. He hoped he could get Iroh to actually talk to him tonight. He missed his uncle's advice.
"I brought you some komodo-chicken. I know you don't like it, but it beats prison food," he said, pushing a tray of the komodo chicken towards his uncle, who still had his back to him. "I admit, I have everything I've ever wanted, but it's not how I thought it would be. The truth is, I need your advice." He grabbed the bars. "I think the Avatar is still alive. I know he's out there, I'm losing my mind! Please uncle, I'm so confused, I need your help!" Still no response or acknowledgement from his Uncle. "Forget it, I'll solve this myself! Waste away for all I care!" With that, he stormed to the door, opened it and gave one last look to his uncle, before closing it.
He didn't see it…but tears began to stream down Iroh's cheeks as he kept his eyes closed. It was eating him up…but he knew that Zuko had to solve this for his own. If this was really what he wanted. He had made his choice…and Iroh had made his.
Nephew…you can still make the right choice…its never too late.
Fire Nation Island, Dance Party Cave
Aang somersaulted in mid-air, landing in front of On Ji. She looked away bashfully, hiding her blush as she looked at 'Kuzon'. One of her friends nudges her forward, and she looked up to Aang who held out his hand. She blushed and grabbed it, following him out to the dance floor.
"And this is how they do it in the ballrooms of Ba Sing Se," Aang said as he and On Ji stood parallel to each other, and he passes his arms in an undulating fashion back and forth, stepping from side to side as he did so. On Ji slowly began to imitate him, and get the hang of the dance.
Sokka watched. "Wow, they look pretty good together."
"Eh, if that's what you like," Katara said dismissively, turning her head away to hide her jealousness.
I have to ask him…maybe his family in the colonies can hide me… On Ji thought as she continued the dance.
More students began to join in the dance, copying the movements of Aang and On Ji. "Yeah, that's it! That's the sound of happy feet! Alright, go with that! Everyone, freestyle!"
The nervous kid who wondered if anyone would find out began to do an elaborate freestyle dance on the dance floor, shaking his entire body, throwing his hands into the air and kicking multiple times. He then came to a stop and struck a pose, pointing two fingers into the air. The scared looking kid began to move his hands back and forth with the beat, pulling his head out of his turtle neck. Shoji began moving his shoulders back and forth with the beat, getting into the music.
Aang walked over to Katara, and offered his hand. "…I don't know Aang, these shoes aren't really right for dancing and…I'm not sure if I know how to…" Katara stammered, gesturing to the floor and then she began to play with her hair.
"Take my hand," Aang said confidently, and Katara's doubts went away.
"Okay," Katara said with a smile, grabbing his hand as he pulled her to the dance floor.
They got right in the middle of the floor and stopped. Aang whispered to her on the dance they would do, and she smiled, and they faced each other putting their hands together and bowed. Then they stretched out their arms and touched their wrists together, circling around a newly formed axis. In perfect timing they alternated and threw out their hands when they weren't facing each other, and then they put their wrists back together.
"Aang, everyone's watching," Katara whispered as all the students looked at them.
"Don't worry about them. Its just you and me now," Aang said confidently, and she looked into his eyes and blushed, and then her own confident look appeared.
They did another circle connected to each other. They stepped forward, holding each other's hands and leaning forward. They then disconnected and stood in front of each other. Aang kicked out and Katara ducked, sidestepped and grabbed his hand and they spun in the circle, their faces going millimeters towards each other as if they were going to kiss. Aang then ducked her kick and the two cart wheeled in front of each other, landing on their feet. All the girls were blushing, looking at Aang as he cart wheeled in front of them, same with the boys who saw Katara. They spun, cart wheeled, and did more flips before coming to each other and Katara landed in his arm.
With the conclusion of the dance, everyone started to clap and cheer as Aang and Katara panted, looking at each other. On Ji looked a little…dejected, but she decided to stay cheerful.
Outside of the cave, the Headmaster and several truant officers had arrived after hearing a tip. Behind them was the tipster…none other than Hide himself.
"It is a dancing party. You did the right thing by telling me, Hide."
"Anytime, Headmaster, sir," Hide said as he bowed slyly at the head of the school.
A new song played and in the cave the scared boy was now having fun and dancing. "This is incredible, its like my inhibitions just disappeared!" the Headmaster and his entourage appeared at the head of the cave, and the boy's head shrunk back into his collar. "Now they're back…"
Aang and his friends were still dancing a bit, oblivious to what had happened. "He's the one we want!" the headmaster announced, and Aang looked up alarmed. "The boy with the headband!"
He pointed and the truant officers made a bee line to Aang. "Uh-oh!" Aang yelled as he ran into the crowd, disappearing into the sea of kids. One of the officers thought he found him.
"Looking for me?" Shoji asked, he had put on his headband to help hide Aang's escape.
"That's not the one, he's here somewhere! Don't let him leave the cave!"
One officer found another person with a headband and ran over. "Yes?" On Ji asked and the officer let go. At that moment, On Ji made her way through the crowd again too to where Aang's group was escaping. This is my only chance…have to escape…won't go back…have to escape!
The officers kept getting confused, seeing that everyone was putting on their headbands and helping with the escape. The Headmaster looked around annoyed and pushed his way through, thinking he saw Aang and he chased him…but when he lifted the 'boy' up he saw it was a girl with pig-tails.
"Looking for someone?"
The officers and Headmaster looked around in shock as they went to the middle of the circle, standing back to back as the kids kept asking 'looking for someone?' All of them were now wearing their headbands…and it was freaking out the people who were after Aang.
Katara was keeping the way open as Aang looked back and waved, not noticing On Ji sprinting pass. He then ran through and Shoji watched as the back part of the cave closed like a mouth! Shoji's jaw dropped and the Gaang finally reached Appa.
"That was close…" Naruto panted as he looked to see Katara, Aang and… "Uh…"
"Please…please let me come with you!" On Ji pleaded, panting.
Sasuke's eyes narrowed and he walked over. "Why should we? How do we know you aren't going to turn us in at the next town we land at?"
"Since I don't want to be here! I don't want to marry that Kabuto guy!"
At that, Naruto's, Hinata's, Sakura's, and Sasuke's eyes widened. "What?" Naruto asked as On Ji panted, the days of stress starting to take their toll.
"…my parents…arranged for me to marry Kabuto…Lord Orochimaru's right hand…to solidify the alliance between the Fire Nation and Sound Country…he's twice my age…I don't like him…and the fact…the fact my parents are okay with it…" she looked at them pleadingly, tears starting to stream down her face. "Please…please let me come with you…"
The group looked at each other, and Katara held out her hand. "Of course," she said and On Ji grabbed it, and the group got onto Appa's saddle.
"Yip-yip!" Aang yelled as he grabbed Appa's reigns, and they took off into the sky.
On Ji huddled at one place of the saddle, Sasuke looking at her suspiciously as Sakura went over to her and put her hand on her shoulder comfortingly. On Ji was crying onto her knees, the dam had broken and her stress and what Kabuto did to her…it was all coming to the surface.
"…Sokka, you can take the beard off now," Katara said, trying to lighten the mood.
"Oh no I can't, it's permanently attached to my skin," Sokka replied as he stroked his beard.
"Wait a go, dancey pants, I think you really did help those kids…you taught them to be free," Toph said, grinning and she glanced at On Ji. "And…saved one from some bad parents too."
"I don't know, it was just a dance party after all," Aang said bashfully, rubbing the back of his head.
"Well that was some dance party, Aang," Katara said as she crawled over to him and kissed him on the cheek, making him blush.
"I…I thought your name was Kuzon…" On Ji whispered, looking up.
"…well…" Aang took off his headband…showing the arrow. "…I'm the Avatar…"
On Ji's eyes widened. "Y-You are…I…I never guessed."
"…yeah…if we're successful, no one will have to go through what you went through again," Naruto said as he held Hinata. "…I know Kabuto…the traitorous bastard. He nearly killed Tsunade-oba-chan after playing off her hemophilia."
On Ji nodded. "T-Then I'll help however I can…I know about the villages in…the Fire Nation…and…and I can teach Aang how to Firebend. E-Even though I'm only a beginner…"
Sakura smiled. "We could use all the help we can get, On Ji-chan…"
"Yeah, nice having you with us," Toph added, grinning.
Hinata smiled at her. "We'll make sure no one ever does that to you again…you'll never have to see Kabuto again."
She nodded, and pulled her knees up to her chest. The group continued to fly off towards a new location, and On Ji…was glad she took this chance. She'd never have to see Kabuto again…she could be free from the burden…
Back Alleys of the Fire Nation Industrial base
Smokestacks pumped out copious amounts of smoke, blackening the night sky and blocking the light from the moon and stars. Zuko had come here to meet with a…contact, wearing his hooded outfit. The sound of clanging feat was heard and he lifted his hood up.
"You sure you weren't followed?" Zuko asked him as the tall man, easily twice his height, shook his head. "I've heard about you. They say you're good at what you do, even better at keeping secrets. The Avatar's alive…I want you to find him…and end him."
The assassin nodded, and the smoke moved away a bit and the moonlight hit him. He was tall…had a metal arm and leg…and a third eye tattooed vertically onto his forehead. He looked very intimidating…very…very powerful. In the underground, he was known as 'Combustion Man', yet his real name was unknown…only a few people knew it…
To be continued…
Whew. Sorry it took so long. I've been doing a lot of things, especially for college. And I had a long stint of disinterest and uninterested in writing this fic for a bit. But I decided to finally buckle down and finish it. I hope you like, it took a lot of work. I especially hope you like the changes I made.
Please read and review.