It had been a few days since my encounter with the Sun Warriors and my firebending was more powerful than ever. It came more easily, too. Aang was a quick learner but he was easily distracted. When Naruko came to watch the practice, she had to sit very still and at the very edge of the court yard or she would draw Aang's attention. She usually came towards the end of my lessons with Aang to spar with me. She had even taught me some of the beginning styles of her taijutsu and when I tried it with my firebending, the blasts were quick, on target, and very efficient. We were both teaching each other, actually. I was teaching her how to fight with swords, at her request after seeing me practice with them, and she was helping me build up my speed.
I glanced down at my wrist, where two deceptively small looking bands were, matched by some on my ankles. When she had introduced me to these weights, I had been reluctant, thinking I was strong and fast enough with out them. Then she had shown me hers and taken them off. She had run off and only maybe thirty seconds later came back with Aang's staff, that I knew had been with him on the other side of the temple. Aang had come running to get his staff a few seconds later, but it stuck with me. She was faster than him.
She had sealed the bands to me and added small amounts of chakra until they were almost dragging me down to the ground. She had walked with me around the edge of the clearing I used for training until I had gotten used to them and then had me pick up speed. We had gone like this until I could almost run at my normal speed and brought my reflexes back up to speed. Then we sparred. I had lost most of the rounds, getting thrown off when the weights threw off my sense of balance. She had told me to come to her when I could move easily and comfortably for a full day so she could make them heavier. She had only had to do it once so far but I was almost back to normal with this weight.
I looked up through my bangs to where Naruko was sitting with the others as I poured the tea I had just finished making. She was using her henge to change her appearance to some of her friends in her world and was giving an intro on each person. Right now, she had changed to look like another girl with brown hair up in two buns on her head. TenTen, I think she said her name was.
I spotted Sokka sitting away from the group and frowned. He was usually contributing to most of the conversations. I finished the tea I had made for them and as I was pouring the last cup I remembered part of a tea joke Uncle had used.
"No one can make tea like Uncle," I said, getting the attention of the others as I picked up the tray. Naruko changed back to herself. "But hopefully I learned a thing or two. Would you like to hear Uncle's favorite tea joke?"
"Sure, I like jokes." Aang shrugged.
"Bring it," Toph said.
I knelt down next to Haru and The Duke to give them their tea. "Ok, well, I can't remember how it starts but the punch line is, 'Leaf me alone, I'm bushed.'" It was only after I finished talking that I realized how ridiculous that sounded. I looked around at everyone else and saw similar expressions. I looked away. "Well, it's funnier when Uncle tells it."
"Right..." Katara said as I gave tea to her and Aang. "Maybe that's because he remembers the whole thing."
Everyone laughed at that and I smiled. Some of them were still getting used to me so I was okay with them laughing at my expense.
Toph reclined back on her hands. "It's nice to get a chance to relax a little. It hardly ever happens."
I handed Naruko her cup and she nodded at me in thanks. "It's best to only tell a joke if you know all of it," She said while reaching up to tap my head. It was on the side with the scar. That was another thing I noticed about her, she wasn't shy about my scar, looking me in both eyes and even occasionally touching it. Both something Mai had never even tried. Naruko nodded in Sokka's direction. "Can you see what's up with him? His silence is worrying."
I nodded as I stood up to go to Sokka. I couldn't help but notice that I was almost constantly comparing Naruko to Mai and that my feelings for Mai have dwindled into the fondness I might feel for a friend, not a lover. We were childhood sweat hearts, but I guess that was just it. It was when we were children, which neither of us even are anymore. And then the whole banishment, and now we barely knew each other, even with the time we spent together before the invasion.
I shook myself out of my thoughts as I knelt to give Sokka his tea. He looked up at me. "Hey, can I talk to you for a second?" He didn't wait for a reply, just got up and walked to the shadows, out of hearing distance of the others.
I set the tray down and followed. "So what's up?"
Sokka paused for a second. "If someone was captured by the Fire Nation, where would they be taken?"
I already didn't like where this was headed. "What do you mean? Who was captured?"
"When the invasion plan failed, some of our troops were taken. I just want to know where they might be."
I knew the and rescue them was implied but Sokka wasn't stupid. He knew he couldn't rescue all of the troops. There must be a specific person. "I can't tell you."
"What, why not?"
"Trust me, knowing would just make you feel worse." I started to turn away but Sokka's hand on my shoulder stopped me.
"It's my dad. He was captured, too. I need to know what I put him through."
I started to reconsider. It was terrible news but it was family. Mine may suck, but not his. I gave him one more chance. "It's not good, Sokka."
"Please?" He was completely serious for once. And desperate.
I turned back to face him. "My guess is... They were taken to The Boiling Rock."
His eyes widened. "What's that?"
"The highest security prison in the Fire Nation. It's on an island in the middle of a boiling lake. It's inescapable."
Sokka turned away. "So where is this place?"
I narrowed my eyes. Stubborn idiot. "Why do you need to know? What are you planning?"
"Nothing." Yeah, right. He knows he's not fooling me. "Boy, you're so paranoid."
I made my decision. "It's in the middle of a volcano between here and the Fire Nation. You guys actually flew right past it on your way here."
"Thanks, Zuko." Sokka yawned and stretched while giving me a fake smile. He patted my shoulder as he walked past me to the others. "Just knowing makes me feel better."
I narrowed my eyes. "Yeah, I'm sure it does."
I made my way back to the group and sat next to Naruko. Though the others were warming up to me, she was the friendliest face. She raised her eyebrow at me over the rim of her tea cup and I shook my head, making a purposeful glance at the others. She nodded and turned back to Toph. Those two had gotten close with their similar sense of humor and personality traits. In fact, she seemed to be able to adapt herself to others interests and personalities, making her someone to like and trust. What confused me, though, was that she didn't seem to realize what she was doing.
Naruko was the first of us to leave to our rooms. I had also noticed that while the others occasionally slept in a room, they stayed out here in the courtyard away from us. Or me, most likely.
I went to the hallway that had our rooms in it ten minutes after Naruko had left. I heard faint noise from Naruko's room and knocked on her door. I opened it when she answered to see her sitting on one side of her bed, sharpening her kunai. From the ease she handled the small, but deadly, knives I knew she could wield them as easily as bending came to me. I was glad Aang had been the one to find her, not my sister. If she was on her side, then we'd be screwed.
I looked around her room and saw it was bare except for what must have already been here. She didn't have many personal items, I guessed. The things she seemed to care about the most were her necklace and headband.
"You can sit down, Prince. I won't bite, though no promises about scratching." I smiled a little, glancing down at her sharper, and slightly longer than normal, nails and sat down across from her on her bed as she packed up her kunai. "So, what's Sokka's deal?"
I debated on telling her but decided to after thinking it over. If she came along then breaking into and out of the prison would be slightly easier. I knew first hand she was good at stealth, she had snuck up on me one time to see if she could scare me. She had told me her lifestyle involved infiltration and if we wanted, she could change how we looked.
"He asked me about where war prisoners from their failed invasion would be taken. He wants to rescue his father but the problem is, he was most likely taken to The Boiling Rock. It's inescapable."
"How's that?" She asked. I could see the gleam of a challenge in her eye. Of course she would see it as a challenge.
"It's on an island in the middle of a volcano..."
Her groan cut me off. "Please tell me it's not lava? I've already ran inside a volcano and kinda had a hand in making it erupt."
I shot her a weird look and continued, making a mental note to ask her about that later. "...No, it's a boiling lake. The water can't be touched or you'll be burned."
Naruko's eyebrows drew together. "How do they get on and off the island, then?"
Naruko hummed. I watched her think about what I said, seeing her eyes reflect her emotions and play across her face. She suddenly grinned, and she looked so much like a fox that I blinked. "It sounds fun. I'm in."
I blinked again then huffed in bemusement. "Fun isn't exactly what I would call it."
She shrugged. "Well your not me. I'm so bored sitting around doing nothing. Sparring with you has been whats kept me from going insane."
"And you're not already?" I teased.
She shoved me with her foot. "Let me make sure I got all this. Inescapable prison surrounded by boiling water and crawling with Fire Nation guards, not to mention that it's in the Fire Nation. Anything else?"
I winced at her wording. I had forgotten to take the guard part into account. "No, but it sounds even more impossible out loud like that."
She stood up and stretched. "Yeah, well, my nickname back home was 'most unpredictable ninja.' I think I can manage. Kami knows, I've done harder."
I stood up with her. "Kami?"
"It's what we call one of our gods. Kami, Fate, and Shinigami are the most commonly referred ones. Shinigami are death gods, by the way. There was this one guy on the other side of the war that followed a god named Jashin. He was pretty much immortal but his religion was sick. It involved him sacrificing anyone he could get his hands on to keep his immortality. He's not really dead either. One of my friends, whose sensei had been killed by him, blew him up into pieces in a giants hole. Even after that he wasn't dead so Shikamaru caved the hole in. He's probably still down there. No one checks."
I stared wide eyed after her as she walked away. I couldn't string any solid or coherent thoughts together. I just followed behind her until I realized we were heading for my room.
"Uh, why are we going to my room?"
She raised an eyebrow at me. "Sokka's most likely going to leave when everyone's asleep which shouldn't be much longer. Don't you want to get anything?"
I nodded as I held back the blood I could feel rushing to my cheeks. I hurried into my room and grabbed my pack. I kept it mostly packed for a quick getaway.
I went back out and walked with Naruko back to the courtyard. Both of us silenced our steps and breathing as we moved past all the others. Aang was snoring loudly but we stayed silent. Naruko started heading to Appa and I got her attention, shaking my head. I mouthed "What are you doing?"
She pointed at Appa and rolled her eyes but mouthed back. "It's Sokka. He's gonna think he can take a bison unnoticed into the Fire Nation."
I realized her logic and both of us climbed on Appa. He opened an eye and groaned at us but Naruko silenced him by scratching him. Both of us settled into the saddle to wait for Sokka. Naruko fell asleep after fifteen minutes and I leaned against the side of the saddle with my arms crossed and closed my eyes to wait.
I lost track of time but figured it must have been at least an hour before dawn when I heard Sokka's footsteps. I must have fallen asleep. Sokka must have been waiting to make sure everyone was in a deep sleep since it was at least two hours before anyone woke up.
I winced as I heard him try and fail to be quiet. I nudged Naruko with my leg and she immediately woke up. She listened and heard Sokka's footsteps as well. She sat up and both of us waited as he neared. Appa's head lifted and we knew he had started climbing him. We heard him shush Appa and continue climbing.
I saw his hand grab the edge of the saddle and spoke as he pulled his head over. "Not up to anything, huh?"
Both Naruko and I winced as Sokka yelled and fell back to the ground. We stayed silent but no one woke up. Naruko and I moved to lean over the edge and Sokka glared up at us. "Fine, you caught me. I'm gonna rescue my dad. You happy now?"
"I'm never happy."
Sokka got up and worked on his pack where some supplies had fallen out. "Look, I have to do this. The invasion plan was my idea. It was my decision to stay when things were going wrong. It's my mistake, and it's my job to fix it." I jumped down and heard Naruko follow. She was staying silent for some reason. "I have to regain my honor. You can't stop me, Zuko."
I let Sokka walk by and start to climb Appa again. "You need to regain your honor? Believe me, I get it. Both of us are going with you."
"No," Sokka said determinedly. "I have to do this alone."
Naruko finally spoke. "Sokka, if there is one thing I have learned in my life, it's to never do alone, what you can do with others. What if something goes wrong? You could die, and your father could die. How would that effect everyone else? Knowing you didn't want them to go with you?"
Sokka paused and I looked at her. That again, sounded like something Uncle might say. I gave Sokka more reason to pause. "How are you going to get there, on Appa? Last time I checked, prisons don't have bison day cares." Sokka sighed and climbed back down, defeated. I turned away. "We'll take my war balloon."
I heard Sokka follow but didn't bother to check if Naruko was. Her footsteps were too silent to hear anyways. "Guys, wait." Sokka and I turned to Naruko. "We need to leave a note or something for the others."
She was right. Sokka pulled out some paper and ink from Katara's bag and started writing. "I'll say were going fishing to get some meat, but how do I explain you...Hey, why are you coming with us anyways, Naruko?"
"Sokka, I'm trained in the art of stealth and infiltration and am good at pulling off the impossible. This is the kind of stuff I've done since I was twelve. Just say you're showing me more of what your world looks like."
That was a good excuse and Sokka didn't fight on her reasons for coming along. I told Sokka to add exercises for Aang to do when he hears a badger frog croak and he made a comment about Aang not liking homework. Sokka finished the note and put it under Momo's arm where the others would find it.
I led the way to where I had taken the war balloon and we climbed in silently. Naruko sat down with her legs crossed while Sokka leaned against the side. I started firebending the wood and we started rising. As we got higher Naruko closed her eyes and moaned. When we hit an up draft she sank her nails into the floor of the balloon.
Sokka grinned. "Don't like heights?"
"You were fine on Appa," I added.
She cracked open an eye to glare at us. "The only times I have been in the air the place was one) big enough for me to not realize I was in the air, and two) flew smoothly. Or I was unconscious or falling. This thing is small and bumpy, no offense Zuko. Plus, Appa is a sentient being and I'd trust him. This thing could be destroyed too easily, just a small hole and we're down."
Sokka sat down in front of her. "Now that I think about it, none of us really know about your life back in your world. Can you talk about it to take up some time?"
We hit a different air current and I saw her knuckles whiten. "Let me get used to this."
Sokka and I fell into an awkward silence while waiting for her to calm down. "Pretty clouds," Sokka said after a minute.
I looked around us at the clouds. "Yeah...Fluffy."
Sokka started whistling and I looked at him. "What?"
"What?" He echoed. "I didn't say anything." There was another small pause. "You know, a friend of mine actually designed these war balloons."
"Yep. A balloon. But for war."
I added more juice to the fire that I was monitoring. "If there's one thing my Dad's good at, it's war."
"Yeah, it seems to run in the family."
I turned to him, being sure not to accidentally kick Naruko. "Hey, hold on, not everybody in my family is like that."
Sokka casually shrugged. "I know, I know, you've changed."
I glanced into the flames, watching them but seeing something else, someone else. "I meant my uncle. He was more of a father to me...and I really let him down."
Naruko raised her hand to get my attention. "I know he would be proud of you, Zuko."
Sokka added to her comment. "You left your home to come help us, that's hard."
"It wasn't that hard."
Sokka seemed surprised. "Really? You didn't leave behind anyone you cared about?"
"Well I did have a girlfriend, Mai." I glanced down at Naruko but she didn't react, just kept her eyes closed. I don't know why I thought she would.
Sokka grinned. "That gloomy girl who sighs a lot?"
I smiled but it quickly dropped. "Yeah. Everyone in the Fire Nation thinks I'm a traitor. I couldn't drag her into it."
Sokka leaned back and crossed his arms. "My first girlfriend turned into the moon."
I glanced at him. The moon...That princess with the white hair at the north pole. She must have been touched by the moon spirit. I think I remember Uncle saying something. "That's rough, Buddy."
Naruko spoke up while setting her hands in her lap but she didn't stand up. "I'm fine now. You should know your all's small talk is painful to listen to and then the subject just got depressing."
Sokka sat back down in front of her. "What about you? No love interests? Boyfriends? In a totally friendly way, you're hot."
I listened carefully to her reply, not aware of Sokka's eyes looking between us. She sighed and shifted so one leg was bent and her arm wrapped around her knee. "One thing you should know about me is I've been an orphan since I was born. And a very powerful demon attacked the day I was born and killed a lot of people. Since I was born the day of the attack, no one could look at me with out remembering it."
Sokka looked terrible for having gotten her talking about it and I kept my expression carefully blank, though I knew my eyes were blazing. "You can stop..."
Naruko shook her head. "No, it's okay. You're my friends, right? Anyway, I didn't really make any close friends until I had graduated the academy and was put on a team with Sakura and Sasuke. I think I may have considered Sasuke romantically at one point in our time as a team but things changed. He changed." She whispered the last part. "Some things happened and Sasuke betrayed the village and left. I was sent on the retrieval team and was the one to confront him. We fought, he tried to kill me, and almost succeeded. I still have the scar." Naruko put her hand on her chest, only a few inches away from her heart.
Sokka was silent in sympathy. I kept the flame going. "Why did he leave?" I asked. I wanted to know if the guy had a good reason for turning on her. I was shocked at the strength of my protectiveness over her.
She glanced up at me and stared into my eyes for a second. "Something you should know is Sasuke's childhood was hell. He had an older brother named Itachi. He was a prodigy. He was in the strongest rank of ninja aside from sanin or kage when he was only thirteen. Sasuke didn't know it until recently but Itachi was ordered by a man named Danzo and some Elders to wipe out his clan because they were trying to take over the village. It would have resulted in civil war. Itachi was a pacifist and loved Sasuke more than anything, but he did it on the condition that Sasuke was sparred and taken care of. He wanted Sasuke to kill him and tortured him mentally when he found Itachi over his parents bodies and again when he was thirteen. A man named Orochimaru, played on Sasuke's desire for power and put a mark on him that made him crave it more. Sasuke left to train with him. Killed him and Itachi, before finding out the truth. Now he wants to destroy my home."
Sokka was solemn. "He's on the other side of the war, isn't he?"
She nodded. "Can we find a different topic, now, please?"
"Um, did you ever learn who your parents were?"
Naruko smiled. "Yes. My father's name was Minato Namikaze. He was the Fourth Hokage, the leader of my village. He died saving my village from the demon. My mother's name was Kushina Uzumaki. She... She was fatally wounded by the demon not long after giving birth to me."
I narrowed my eyes. She was leaving out something. Something important, but after what she's revealed, I didn't want to push it. It did anger me that her village abused her when she was the daughter of their hero. I knew without her saying, that she was either neglected or abused. "Why were you treated badly when you were his daughter?"
She slowly stood up, not letting go of the edge. "Not a lot of people knew, including me. Only those who were close to my father, like Kakashi, knew. He was his student. Anyway, in the Third Shinobi World War, he made a technique that allowed him to teleport through enemy ranks, wiping out a lot of them. For protection against his enemies, I wasn't allowed to know."
I understood that. I knew first hand that children were not excused from the father's enemies' wrath. If anything, they were targeted.
"Hey, Naruko, you know any games or something?" Sokka asked.
Naruko stared at him in surprise. "Sokka...Wow. Totally off topic and random. Most of the games I know need a lot of space but there is always rock, paper, scissors.*"
"Rock, paper, what-now?"
Naruko rolled her eyes. "Scissors. It's a hand game. For rock, you're hand is in a fist, scissors, you only have your index and middle finger out, and paper, your hand is flat. Like this." Naruko showed us the motions and then explained the game. I only participated in a few rounds, but eventually just stood back and watched Sokka and Naruko get into it. Naruko won the majority of the time and I could tell she was letting Sokka win the times he did. Sokka could tell too.
"How do you win all the time?" He whined.
She didn't look away from Sokka's hands as they continued. "I can read the motions your hand is making and I know what shape you're going to do. Watch my hands and wrists to see if you can tell."
Sokka stopped. "That's not fair! Cover your eyes or something."
Naruko rolled her eyes but reached to her waist where her headband was. She untied it and then wrapped it around her eyes. "Happy, now?"
Sokka waved his and in front of her face and made different faces, trying to be sure. When he was confident she couldn't see, they continued playing. I smirked as Naruko still won most of the time, but I think she was making her intentions obvious in her hands to get Sokka to learn how to predict motions. I was taught a similar lesson by Master Piando. He was looking at her hands the entire time, and soon was able to win at least half the time.
I looked at the sun to see it was around two and we were about halfway there. At this rate we would arrive a little before dawn. "Okay, time to stop playing. Let's eat something."
Both stopped and Naruko lifted her headband off her face. I reached for our bags and tossed them to Sokka and Naruko so they could get the food. We settled into a comfortable silence as we ate, only interrupted when I heard a faint humming sound. I looked around and saw Sokka looking at Naruko.
Her eyes were closed as she hummed and ate some rice balls. She didn't seem to notice Sokka and I staring at her. When she finally opened her eyes she seemed surprised as she self consciously rubbed her arms. "What?"
"You were humming. It was really nice." Sokka shrugged.
"Where did you learn it?" I asked.
She shrugged. "I heard it when I was little and I guess it stuck."
"My uncle would love to get his hands on you. He liked to have music nights on my ship and he would probably teach you every song he knows."
She tilted her head. "Should I be worried?"
I shook my head. "No, but he'll probably make tea and play pai sho with you."
Naruko laughed a bit but soon went silent. I was curious at it but the silence right now was comfortable. The rest of the day was spent mostly talking about random things. Naruko had gotten Sokka to tell her about how they met Aang and some of their adventures. I listened as well, curious as to how they had found Aang and about some of the things they had been doing while I was tracking them. It was when Sokka was telling us about meeting King Bumi, who I couldn't believe was over a hundred years old, but then again, it explained why he was the way he was, that Naruko fell asleep.
"I'll stop now. I'm tired, too." Sokka yawned. I looked around to see it was already dark, only the smallest hint of light on the horizon. "Wake me up when ever you want to sleep. We can take shifts."
I nodded as Sokka sat back on the small seat and relaxed, soon falling asleep.
I woke up to Naruko's hand on my shoulder. I blinked, trying to wake up all the way. "What is it?" I looked at the sky to see it was just before dawn, enough cover for us to not be noticed.
"I'm pretty sure the large mountain with constant steam coming off of it is the Boiling Rock."
I scowled at her as I sat up and shook Sokka awake. "No need for the sarcasm. We're here, Sokka. Get ready." Sokka jerked up and looked at the volcano. "There's plenty of steam to keep us covered. As long as we're quiet, we should be able to navigate through it without getting caught."
I had my eyes on the steam as we approached the volcano when Naruko spoke. "Problem with that plan. This thing is in the air because it's using hot air, right? Hello, flying into a volcano here. Not gonna work."
I barely held back from smacking my forehead. Of course. Sokka gripped the edge tighter. "It's our only way to get in without being spotted."
I looked at Naruko to see her eyes flashing around our surroundings. "Okay, Zuko, try and give this thing as much air time as it can get. When we get close enough, I'm going to jump with you two to the shore."
I started firebending into the balloon as soon as we breached the steam. We only rose a little bit before the fire stopped working and we went down. The propeller on the back was the only thing pushing us toward the island but we were approaching the water quickly. Sokka and I lost our balance as we dropped closer to the water. Naruko grabbed Sokka and threw him onto her back before grabbing my arm.
"Hold on! In 3...2...Now!" Naruko jumped just as we crashed into the surface of the water. Sokka yelped but managed to stay quiet as Naruko jumped. With her pulling me along, we made the large jump to the shore, landing inches away from the water. Naruko didn't stop or let go, instead rolling us forward as we landed so we flipped further away from the edge. I knew why when I heard my war balloon crash against the shore where we had landed, our stuff flying on the ground in front of us.
I turned around to look at my ruined balloon. The metal rods that had supported the balloon were broken and twisted beyond repair.
Naruko stood up and dusted her clothes off, looking at the destroyed balloon. "I hate to say I told you so, but..."
I glared at her and she held up her hands in surrender. "How are we going to get off the island if the balloon won't work?"
Sokka stood up from where he had landed and started walking to the wreckage. "We'll figure something out. I suspected that it might be a one-way ticket."
"You knew this would happen and you wanted to come anyway?" I asked incredulously.
"My dad might be here. I had to come and see." Sokka said as he picked up the balloon and shoving it on top of the rest of the wreckage. Naruko must have caught on to what he was doing, as she was helping him. "My uncle said I never thought things though, but this..." I tangled my fingers in my hair. "This is just crazy!"
Sokka turned his head to glare at me. "Hey, I never wanted you to come along in the first place and for the record, I always think things through. But my plans haven't exactly worked, so this time I'm playing it by ear." Sokka and Naruko finished stuffing the balloon into the basket. "So there." Sokka hissed and jerked his hands away from where he had set them on the hot metal and Naruko kicked the remains of the war balloon into the water, where it quickly sunk.
I stepped forward. "What are you doing?"
"It doesn't work anyway, and we don't want anyone to find it."
I glanced at Naruko, curious as to why she hadn't said anything, and saw she was studying the prison. I looked up to see it myself. "I hope you know what you're doing. There's no turning back now."
"First things first." Naruko said. "We need to get in unnoticed and get some disguises. I'll get to the top and see what the guard's look like and I can use a henge on us until we actually find some outfits."
I nodded but looked at her hair. I liked it at this color, but yellow was so not found anywhere. "You have to change your hair to black or dark brown. That's the usual color for the Fire Nation."
Naruko scowled, grabbing a chuck of her hair. "Fine. Henge." With a small and sign and a poof, Naruko's yellow hair turned midnight black. Her whiskers also disappeared and I blinked a the sudden change. After looking her over, I decided that black didn't suit her.
"You might want to change yours and Sokka's eyes to brown or gold. You're eyes will stand out a lot." Naruko rolled her eyes before making the same seal. Her eyes turned gold. She grabbed Sokka and held onto him as she did it again, changing his eyes. I pushed the thought of how similar she looked to Mai out of my head violently. They were nothing alike.
"Anything else, Mr. Makeover?" I shook my head and she jumped up, leaping to the rim of the prison and disappearing.
"She sure comes in handy. I'd never have thought about the appearances, let alone a way to change them." Sokka said, looking at his eyes in the reflection of his boomerang.
I hid a smirk as a picture of him at that one island came to mind. "Didn't you dress like a girl or something at that one island? The one with the giant serpent?"
Sokka made a face and didn't reply. Naruko came back, a thoughtful look on her face. I still couldn't get used to the black hair and gold eyes. "I have clones henged as bugs to get the layout of the prison and I know where to get the outfits. Let's go." Naruko grabbed my arm and did the henge. Looking down at myself, I saw that I was in different clothes, but I still felt my own. While I was looking at myself, Naruko did the same to Sokka and herself. She started walking up the island. "This way. There's a way in over here."
Sokka and I followed after her. "I'm so glad we found you. You make things a heck of a lot easier."
Naruko suddenly stopped and turned around. "That reminds me. Zuko, come here." I cautiously made my way to stand in front of her and she grabbed my wrist, taking off the weight and doing the same to my other wrist. I caught on and kicked my shoes off, taking off the ones on my ankles. "You might need the extra help."
I shook my hands and rotated my feet, trying to adjust to the sudden loss of weight. "What are those?" Sokka asked as we continued walking. I stumbled as I tried to adjust to the feeling.
Naruko twirled one of the weights around her finger as we walked. "This is a chakra weight. The more chakra I add to this, the heavier it gets. They help build up speed and strength. I sometimes where them, but they can only take so much chakra. One of my friends, Lee, has weights and when he takes them off, huge craters are left in the ground wherever they land."
I felt my jaw slacken but it was nowhere near Sokka's wide open mouth. "He must be fast."
Naruko nodded. "I'd say he and his sensei, Gai, could beat Aang with speed. Aang can be seen when he runs as fast as he can. Those two...you see them blur and next thing you know, you're beaten on the ground. Few can meet them speed wise. Now, enough of that. We need to focus now."
Sokka kept his mouth shut as Naruko led us into the prison The place looked so much larger and inescapable from inside it. Naruko led us inside and straight down multiple hallways. Seems her clones already helped her learn the layout. We arrived at the uniform room with no interactions with the guards. Naruko released her henge on our clothes as soon as the door closed. She eyed both me and Sokka before turning to the shelves of clothes. She pulled down three of the helmets and clothes, tossing ours at us. "Those should fit. We'll change back to back. If you peak, I will hurt you."
Both Sokka and I nodded quickly before turning around and changing. We stayed facing the wall for at least a few minutes until we heard Naruko say it was okay to turn around. I blinked again when I saw her. If I didn't know it was her, I'd think I was looking at an actual Fire Nation native.
"What took you so long to change?" Sokka asked.
Naruko glared at him before showing her open pouch to us. For a second I didn't realize what she was getting at before I realized the weapons were gone. "Where are your kunai and shurikan?"
Naruko smirked. "You want to search me?"
I held back as much of the blood rushing to my face as I could, noticing Sokka's skin turn darker. Oh.
"What do we do with our clothes?" Sokka asked, picking up his.
Naruko went to her pouch in her pile of clothes and pulled out the scroll I recognized as the storage one. She unrolled it to a certain seal before holding out her hand. "Clothes." We handed them over and they were sealed away. She looked up at the ceiling before jumping up to the vent. She unhooked it and slid her pouch inside. I saw a flash of blonde in the vent and knew she was giving it to a clone to hide.
"Okay, the important thing to remember when going under cover is to stay in character. That means following the orders they give you as soon as possible and not interfering with the other people. Try to stay in the back and remain unseen. You two work on finding your dad and I'll work on a way out. Got it?"
Both of us nodded before leaving the room. The hall was still empty as we came out. Naruko was in front ans held up a hand. "A large group is running down the hall toward us."
Sure enough, we were able to hear the pounding of multiple footsteps before a large group of guards ran by us. One of them stopped and yelled at us. "Guards, there's a scuffle in the yard. Come on!"
We ran after the group, coming out in a large courtyard. There was a large group of the prisoners in a large circle around two people. As we got to the front of the crowd, I saw it was a guard and a very large prisoner. The prisoner was turning away from the guard. "I didn't do anything. I'm going back to my cell."
The guard made a fire whip and slashed it down right behind him. "Stop right there, Chit Sang."
I was getting ready to intervene when two hands grabbed me. Sokka and Naruko were holding me back and I remembered Naruko's advice. I let them pull me back.
Chit Sang had stopped but not turned around as the guard walked up to him. "I've had it with your unruly behavior."
Chit Sang turned his head to look at him. "What did I do?"
"He wants to know what he did. Isn't that cute?" The guard leaned in very close to us. He was right in front of Naruko when he asked that question. She tilted her head and put on a smirk that didn't belong on her face.
I didn't realize my fist had clenched until I felt her hand on it. I relaxed my hand as the guard turned back to Chit Sang. "You didn't bow down when I walked by, Chit Sang."
I barely hid my disgust as Chit Sang jerked in surprise. "What? That's not a prison rule."
The guard pushed up the part covering his eyes and got in Chit Sangs face. Well, as much as he could considering his height. "Do it."
Chit Sang wasn't intimidated. "Make me."
They stared off for a few more seconds before the guard smirked and pulled back. He walked to where he had been standing before, where his smirk grew. He started making another whip before flinging it at Chit Sang's head. Chit Sang turned around and stopped the whip, sending it back at the guard, who dispersed it into the ground, a triumphant grin on his face. He clucked his tongue, shaking his head. "Firebending is prohibited. You're going in the cooler." The guard turned and pointed at Sokka. "You. Help me take him in."
"Meet back here in an hour." Sokka whispered before jogging after the guard.
The group started dispersing. The majority of the guards started going inside, talking about the lounge and Naruko tugged me along after them. When we got there, the guards were taking off their helmets. Naruko looked at me. "Do you want me to...?"
Naruko obviously wasn't comfortable with covering up my scar but was offering anyways. I shook my head. "No."
Naruko nodded before taking off her helmet. "Try and get information from some of them."
I nodded as she grabbed some food and sat down at a table where a group of male guards were. I was grabbing some food, watching the group welcome her with suggestive smiles and lingering eyes. I didn't like it but I knew it was a good way to get information.
"Hey, new guy." I turned around at the voice, looking over to where two guys were stirring with a female guard. "I know it's a rule to have your helmet on at all times but this is the lounge. Relax."
I saw my chance to get some information and walked over to them. "But what if there's an incident? If I'm not prepared someone could strike me on the head."
The group laughed before the female guard spoke up. "Give it a week, he'll loosen up."
I sat down at the end of the table. "Can the new guy ask you veterans a few questions about the prison?"
The female guard spoke up while closing her eyes. "No, you can't date the female guards."
The one who had spoken to me originally put his hand over his mouth, though he spoke clearly. "Trust me, you don't want to."
The third one laughed as the female guard threw her tea cup at his head. "No, that's not it. The Boiling Rock, it holds the Fire Nation's most dangerous criminals, right?" All of them nodded. "So what about war prisoners?"
The female guard nodded her head slowly. "Yeah, there are some of those but only the ones who did serious stuff are brought here. Most of them are kept in prisons close to where they were."
I thought about how to phrase my next question. The invasion should be common knowledge among the Fire Nation by now, so... "The Water Tribe and Earth Kingdom were responsible for that invasion, right? Are there prisoners from there?"
The guard tapped his tray as he thought. "I know there are some Earth Kingdom soldiers here. Not a lot, but some, but Water Tribe...I don't think there are any from there. The only benders are in the North Pole and they don't like to come out of there."
The female guard nodded. "Yeah. I don't know about any Water Tribe prisoners. Why do you ask?"
I quickly tried to think of an excuse. "Uh...My mother was..."
The guards quickly waved me off and I almost sighed in relief. "Enough said but sorry, none."
I nodded, standing up. "Thanks anyways."
They nodded before going back to talking amongst themselves. I needed to tell Sokka about that. I started making my way back to the courtyard when someone fell into step beside me. I looked out of the corner of my eye, relaxing when it was just Naruko. She kept facing forward as we walked through the courtyard. "So, what did you get?"
I looked around to see if I could find Sokka. "No Water Tribe prisoners are here. Where's Sokka?"
"He's on the tower at our left, very top." Naruko led me over to the tower and I saw a small figure in a guard uniform at the top. As soon as we were inside and at the stairs she spoke again. "I found two possible ways out of here and a third way which is our last resort."
I nodded as we reached the ledge where Sokka was standing. Naruko whistled to get his attention and he snapped around. "Naruko, Zuko?"
I shushed him as I stood beside him. "Listen, I asked around the lounge. There are no Water tribe prisoners. I'm afraid your father's not here."
Sokka's eyes widened as he shoved up the covering on his eyes. Naruko laid a hand on his shoulder. "What? Are you sure? Did you double check?"
I so didn't want to say this. "Yeah. I'm sure."
Sokka shrugged off Naruko's hand and walked to the wall. "No...No!" Sokka slammed his hands on the wall and turned around. "So we came all this way for nothing?"
"I'm really sorry, Sokka."
Sokka leaned against the wall. "I failed...again."
I racked my brain for something to say. "Oh, what would Uncle say?" I looked around for anything I could think of that could be inspiration before my eyes landed on the clouds. "Sometimes clouds have two sides, a dark and light...and a silver lining in between." I grabbed the rail as I thought of how to say this like Uncle would. "It's like a silver sandwich." I heard Naruko make a sound like she was trying not to laugh and glared at her. She held her hands up in peace and I continued. "So when life seems hard...take a bite out of the silver sandwich."
I heard Sokka run up and looked at him as he grabbed the rail and leaned over. "Maybe we haven't fail after all."
I smiled. "That's the spirit." I crossed my arms triumphantly over my chest. "I can't believe that worked. I didn't even know what I was saying."
Sokka turned to me. "No, what you said didn't make any sense at all. But look." He pointed at someone in the courtyard and I followed his line of sight until I saw a girl about our age with red-ish brown hair sitting on a rock. "It's Suki!"
I remembered that he mentioned a girl named Suki on the way here. She was part of that group of females who attacked on Kyoshi Island. A bell started ringing and a guards voice rang out, telling the prisoners to go back to their cells. I looked at Sokka and could almost see the hearts in his eyes as he ran off.
I stood with Naruko, watching him run off before following after him at a more natural pace. "So what were those escape plans?"
"The problem is all the plans are a way off this island but once we get out of here, we still need to find a way off the island as a whole."
Well, crap. I hadn't thought of that at all after the balloon was trashed. "I guess we have to cross that bridge when we get to it. What are the idea's though?"
She hushed her voice as we got inside from the courtyard. "The coolers could act as a boat but we'd need to get one off the wall. The gondola's could work if we had a hostage from high up and the last resort is me making clones. I could run across the water or the cables while carrying you."
I immediately saw why that one was a last resort. We turned a hallway and saw Sokka pacing outside a door. He waved us over. "Hey, Naruko could you..." Sokka was pointing at himself and the door.
She sighed. "She needs to meet me anyways, so I'll slip in with you and release the henge. Zuko, you stand watch and knock three times if someone's coming."
I closed the door behind Sokka and stood off to the side as Suki sat up on her bed. "What is it? Did I do something wrong?"
Sokka crossed his arms. "You mean you don't recognize me?"
Suki scowled and looked away. "You people all look the same to me."
I got tired off this little guessing game. "Sokka, stop being an idiot."
Sokka turned to me. "Hey!" I shrugged and looked at Suki. She was smiling with tears in her eyes and I looked away as she tackled Sokka and hugged him. Sokka stood up and held her arms. "The other Kyoshi Warriors, are they here?"
Suki looked down. "No, I don't know where they are. They locked me in here because I'm the leader."
Sokka cupped her face in his hand. "Well you won't be here for long. I'm busting you out."
Suki grabbed his hand. "I'm so glad to see you Sokka. I knew you'd come. Wait, why are your eyes gold?"
Sokka looked at me. "Oh. It's her doing. Suki, this is Naruko. Naruko, Suki. She's a ninja from a different world."
Suki raised an eyebrow but turned to me to confirm it. I shrugged. "It's the best explanation we have. Oh, and I don't really look like this. Release." My henge disappeared and I took my helmet off so Suki could see me. She was visibly shocked but covered it well. I put my henge back up just as Zuko knocked on the door. I held a finger to my lips and looked at Sokka. "I need to talk to you. Find me." He nodded and I slid out quietly. I nodded at Zuko as I passed him and went down the hall. I waited around a corner, listening to what was happening.
I heard the female guard say she needed to get into Suki's room and Zuko's lame excuse as to why she couldn't. I heard her tell him to move aside and I heard a thud. I peaked around the corner to see Zuko pinning the guards arm behind her and Sokka slipping out of the room. The guard noticed Sokka, though, and told him to arrest Zuko. Sokka looked back at me and I nodded. He squared his shoulders and grabbed Zuko's arm, shoving him to the ground. Zuko looked up at me and I nodded at him, telling him to play along.
The female guard, Sokka, and Zuko walked by me and I ran up to them. "What happened?"
The female guard was rubbing her arm. "We have a traitor."
"I'll help take him in."
The female guard nodded and I walked to be on Zuko's right. We walked him into an empty interrogation cell and the female guard tossed him prison clothes. "Change."
Sokka was ordered to go tell the warden and I stood outside the door with the female guard while Zuko changed. The guard uniform was tossed outside and I peaked inside to see Zuko leaning against the wall. "Look sharp. It's the warden."
I stood back up as a man came down the hall. I wasn't impressed with him. His features were kind of harsh but he had nothing on Ibiki and Anko. The female guard opened the door and I saw recognition flash in the Warden's eyes. "Well, well, well. I never thought I'd find you in here, Prince Zuko."
I saw Zuko's eyes widen but other than that, no major change in expression. "How did you know who I am?"
"How could I not? You broke my niece's heart." I hid a wince.
Zuko uncrossed his arms and stood up straight. "You're Mai's uncle? I never meant to hurt her." I shoved back the beginnings of jealousy I could feel churning in my gut. I couldn't have a reason to feel jealous.
The Warden cut Zuko off. "Quiet. You're my special prisoner now and you best behave. If these criminals find out who you are- the traitor prince who let his nation down- why, they'd tear you to shreds."
I bit back the retort on my tongue. Zuko recrossed his arms. "So what's in it for you? Why don't you just tell my father and collect the reward?"
"Oh, in due time, believe me, I intend to collect." The Warden turned and left and I met Zuko's eyes as I closed the door. I knew Zuko would be taken to a cell and I needed to find Sokka. I saw the female guard check the lock on Zuko's door before starting to walk away. "The door won't open until they let him out." She said to me when I paused by the door.
I nodded and started walking around, trying to find Sokka. I saw one of my clones as a fly hovering at a corner and signaled it to find Sokka. I followed my clone until I saw him heading to the lounge. I sat down beside him and snatched a roll of bread from his tray. "The Warden is Mai's uncle."
Sokka whistled, raising his eyebrow. "Well, that was unexpected. What did you want to talk about?"
"Three possible ways out. One is to find a way to get a cooler off the wall and use it as a boat. Another is to get a hostage high up enough that they wouldn't cut the cable's for the gondola and the last one is for me to use my clones and carry you out across the water or cables."
Sokka grimaced. "I don't like the last one."
I shrugged, picking apart my bread. "Zuko didn't either. But there's also another problem. How do we get off the island as a whole, not just the prison?"
Sokka grimaced but was staring at his tray in thought. "Tell me about the cooler one. I had kinda thought about that earlier after seeing Chit Sang."
"I checked them out. They are bolted from the inside but if you undue the bolts than I can pull them out of the wall from outside. The info I got on the layout showed me a blind spot but the current is slow and who knows how long it could take."
Sokka swirled his cup in his hand as he thought. He suddenly jumped up. "Zuko can get inside and undue the bolts."
I followed Sokka as he walked through the halls, stopping at an engine room to grab a wrench before going to the inside courtyard. We saw Zuko and Suki mopping the floor between the stairs and a section of the wall away from everyone. "Oh, good. You guys have met."
Neither of them reacted. They just kept on mopping. "Actually, we met a long time ago."
Zuko didn't seem to remember what she was talking about. "We did?"
"Yeah, you kind of burned down my village."
Zuko stopped mopping and I saw him cringe a bit. "Oh, sorry about that. Nice to see you again." Zuko moved away from Suki as he said that. Smart man.
As if that was the cue, Suki and Zuko leaned their mops against the wall and crouched down. Sokka and I took our places across from them. "Okay, Naruko's plan that I feel is most possible is this. Use the coolers to get across the water."
Suki looked at me in shock. "How?"
Sokka seemed to be on a roll so I let him take care of it. "The coolers are built to keep the heat out and the cold in. It should work on the water as well."
"Are you sure?" Zuko asked.
I nodded. "My clones info showed me a blind spot between two watch towers and I can help get the cooler from the wall."
Sokka nodded too. "I had thought of the cooler thing after watching Chit Sang. The current would take us straight across. As long as we're quiet, no one should notice."
"But how are we going to get the cooler out?" Suki asked.
I jumped just like everyone else when Chit Sang's voice rang out above us. I cursed myself for not paying attention. "Yeah, how are you going to get the cooler out?"
Chit Sang swung himself under the stair rail and onto the ground in front of us. Sokka tried to cover up our plan but was failing miserably. "What? We didn't...We didn't say that."
I sighed. "Just give it up. He heard."
Chit Sang nodded. "Every word. Now either I come with you or the Warden hears about this little plan."
Suki looked at Sokka. "I guess we have no choice."
Sokka frowned. "Okay, you're in."
I held up a hand and pointed at Chit Sang, putting on a sugary smile. "If this plan gets compromised in any way, I'll throw you into the water after cutting out your loose tongue. Understand me?" Chit Sang paled and nodded quickly and my smile fell into something gentler. "Glad we understand each other."
I turned to Sokka, ignoring his pale face, and he took his cue. He pulled out the wrench and gave it to Zuko, who hid it under his clothes. "Now, first we need someone to unbolt the cooler from the inside."
Chit Sang smirked. "Oh, I can get you inside."
"How?" I asked. I hid a smirk as Chit Sang immediately spoke. Wimp.
"Quickest way to get inside is to firebend. We just need to get into a little fight and you need to bend at me."
I looked around for something they could fight over when my eyes landed on the mops. "Zuko, hit him with the mop."
"What?" Zuko asked, reeling back.
I pointed at his mop. "Hit him with the mop. Chit Sang, you throw him around, Zuko, firebend. Got it?" Both nodded and I continued. "Sokka and I will head out and blend into the others over there and Suki will follow after she counts to sixty. Count to a hundred after Suki leaves and then start. Once you get in the cooler, you have an hour, okay?"
Everyone nodded and Sokka and I left to go integrate in the crowd. I counted in my head and when I got to sixty, Suki came out with her mop and started working a few feet behind Sokka. I counted to a hundred and Chit Sang came out and stopped a few feet away with his arms crossed. Zuko came out mopping, moving the mop too far backwards as he moved. He soon jabbed Chit Sang with the end of his mop, 'setting him off.'
Chit Sang turned on Zuko. "Hey, what are you, stupid? Watch where you're going."
Chit Sang and Zuko grabbed each others shoulders as they grappled. Chit Sang swung Zuko out further into the open. "Hey, you watch who you're shoving."
Zuko shoved Chit Sang back and I refrained from rolling my eyes. They are way too obvious when they are trying to hide something or fake something. "I think you mean whom I'm shoving." Both grunted as they grabbed each others hands, each trying to shove the other back. The other prisoners were cheering them on as they broke apart. Zuko threw a punch and Chit Sang used his momentum to flip him.
I nudged Sokka. "Call for help to restrain them."
Sokka nodded, pushing forward through the crowd. "I need back up over here!"
Chit Sang moved to jump over Zuko and slam his elbow into him and Zuko spun on his hands and flipped away. He brought his hands up and released a stream of fire at Chit Sang's feet. Two guards shoved through the crowd.
"No firebending. Into the cooler."
The guards charged at Zuko and I saw his body tense as he was tackled to the ground and had his arms pinned behind him. He was pulled to his feet and taken away to the cooler.
The crowd went back to what they had been doing and I grabbed Sokka, pulling him away. "I'm going to follow Zuko and make sure he's put in the right cooler. Get Chit Sang and Suki out of their cells and outside by the end of the hour." Sokka nodded and went to help the other guards put the prisoners back in their cells.
I quickly jogged the way I had seen Zuko taken until I caught up with them. I followed behind Zuko and the guards to make sure he was put in the right cooler. He was and I waited for them to go away before standing guard outside the door. I knocked three times to let him know it was me and he knocked two times back.
I kept watch, listening to Zuko unscrewing the bolts. I looked around for a vent I could use to hide the bolts and found one two cells down. I walked over and made sure no one was looking as I climbed to the ceiling and working on unscrewing it. The hour was almost up when I heard two knocks on the door. Zuko was done. I opened the doors, shivering at the blast of cold. "You get them?"
Zuko looked up and breathed fire from his nose. I recognized it as a way to get warm. He uncurled his body and showed me the pile of bolts in his lap. I grabbed as much as I could before helping him out. I held back a flinch at feeling his skin and the cold metal. I let him sit against the wall and get warm as I took the pile of bolts to the vent. After securing the vent back in place I helped Zuko up. He was still cold but that technique worked well to get him warm. Getting outside would definitely help. "Sokka is getting Suki and Chit Sang out of their cells and meeting us there. Find him. I'm going to get on the wall and work on pulling the cooler out."
Zuko nodded and, shivering, made his way down the hall to find the others. I dispelled most of the clones I had around, leaving around three for back up. I quickly made my way outside and climbed the wall until I was three rows up. I moved until I had found the blind spot and made a clone to help me work the cooler out as quickly and quietly as possible. It took me a good fifteen minutes to get it two thirds of the way out and still keep a grip on it. I heard crunching footsteps and turned my head to see Suki, Chit Sang, and two other prisoners. I groaned but whistled to get their attention. They all looked up at me and I took private joy out of their expressions. I made another clone to work on the cooler while I went down.
As soon as I landed, I marched up to Chit Sang, who was suddenly pale. "What are they doing here? Only so many people can fit in the cooler and the more people, the slower it will go."
Chit Sang waved his hands in front of his face. "They're my girl, and best buddy. I couldn't just leave them."
I stared at him as I thought it over, but relented, knowing I would have done the exact same in his position. "Fine, but no talking." The last part was said to the other two, both of whom nodded.
I looked up at the lightening sky. The days seemed quicker here to me. I wasn't even very tired and I had been up all night. I made my way back to my clones when I heard a whistle, signaling that the cooler was out. I quickly helped them get it on the ground and on its side. I dispelled my clones once I had a firm grip on the cooler and looked at the steep and rough slope in front of me. I sighed, but my attention was caught by Sokka and Zuko finally arriving.
"Need a hand?"
I nodded, adjusting my footing when the cooler started sliding. Sokka and Zuko quickly moved to either side of me and we started making our way down the slope. I glanced at Sokka, noticing his conflicted face. Something must have happened that was making him hesitant to leave. When we got close enough to the shore that the others heard us, Chit Sang and Suki ran to help us with the cooler.
"Took you long enough." Chit Sang grunted. As we got closer to shore, his friends came into sight. The guy had sat down on a rock and his girlfriend was standing and waving, but not making a sound. I guess they took my no talking thing seriously. "This here's my girl and my best buddy. They're coming too."
"Fine." Sooka was definitely frustrated. We stopped the cooler at the edge of the water and I added chakra to my feet to help pull it into the water. I got panicked looks and noises but when they noticed I wasn't screaming or reacting, but standing on the boiling water, they didn't do anything more. "Everybody in the cooler, lets go."
I saw Sokka move away and sit on a rock, staring at the ground. With a glance, Suki, Zuko, and I followed. Zuko spoke. "Are you sure you want to go? You're the one who said you wanted to redeem yourself, redeem your honor. Rescuing your dad is your chance."
They must have heard something about new prisoners. Suki stepped forward. "Your dad?"
Sokka looked up at us. "If I had just cut my losses at the invasion, maybe we wouldn't be in this mess. Maybe sometimes it's just better to call it quits before you fail."
Zuko and I spoke at the same time. "No, it's not." Zuko glanced at me and gestured for me to continue. I did. "If you had cut off the invasion, hopes of defeating the Fire Nation would have been destroyed all over the world. If an organized fleet, or whatever, couldn't do it, than who could? You got to the Fire Nation Palace. You proved that they were not invincible and in any war, in any world, that is something that could change everything." I could feel my anger rising. "Yeah, you failed and yeah, it sucks, but I wouldn't even be here, heck, my world probably wouldn't be here if I decided to ' call it quits before I fail' because I would have given up before I was a ninja and if not then, I would have let Akatsuki capture me like they've wanted to since I was twelve. While failing is a possibility in everything you do, it's what you were doing and what you managed to do, that changes everything." I could feel Zuko, Suki, and the others gaping at me but I didn't take my eyes from Sokka's. "Now, what do you want to do?"
The silence was pronounced, only broken by the sound of the boiling lake behind us. Chit sang was the one to break the silence and he flinched when my eyes snapped to him. His friends were already in the cooler. "Sorry to interrupt, but can we get a move on?"
I glanced back at Sokka, who looked at me for a second before answering. "No, I'm staying." I was happy about his choice but I could tell what was coming next. He turned to me and I simply raised an eyebrow. He nodded, turning to Suki and Zuko. "You guys go." He grabbed Suki's shoulders. "You've been here long enough."
Suki smiled and grabbed Sokka's hand. "I'm not leaving without you, Sokka."
Zuko stepped forward. "I'm staying too."
"Not me, I'm out." Chit Sang stated before jumping into the cooler. I yelled after him,
"The currents slow, but bear with it."
I got a wave of his hand in response and huffed, turning to Sokka when he spoke. "We gave up our only chance of escaping. I hope we haven't just made a huge mistake."
"When are the new arrivals supposed to get here?"
"Dawn, on the gondola's."
I nodded, drawing up the mental map I have of the place from my clones' scouting. "I know a place where we can see who gets off and remain hidden. Follow me."
They nodded and I started going to the area on the corner where we could get in to see the gondola's. We had to hug the wall to avoid being seen once we left the blind spot. I kept glancing at the cables, checking to see when the gondola arrived. I had just spotted it in the middle of the line when a loud yell echoed around us, soon followed by bells and yells of the escaped prisoners.
"The plan failed, they're caught!" Sokka exlaimed.
I quickly shoved Sokka in front of me when I was able to see the gondola's landing platform. "Focus on finding your dad."
All of us watched tensely as the gondola came closer. When it stopped Sokka spoke. "If my dad's not there, we've risked everything for nothing."
Suki grabbed his hand. "We had to."
"Come on, come on." Sokka pleaded when a soldier moved to open the door. I immediately dismissed the first guy that came out.
"Is that him?" Zuko didn't. I scowled at him as did Sokka.
"My dad doesn't have a nose ring." I didn't see anyone that even remotely looked like Sokka out of the prisoners that got off. I could see Sokka deflating with each person. "Where is he?" There were no more people after another man got off. "That's it? That can't be it."
"I'm sorry, Sokka." Suki consoled.
Sokka's shoulders dropped. "Oh, no."
All of us looked up when we heard a guard yell for someone to get off the gondola. I could feel myself leaning forward, waiting for the person to get off. One glance at the man – blue eyes, a mix between Sokka and Katara's features, and the wolf tail hair – and I knew it was him.
Sokka slumped in relief, whispering one word. "Dad."
Sorry for the long wait. I was gonna try and make this into one chapter but I decided to go on and split the Boiling Rock to give you guys something. Also, never saw them play rock, paper, scissors so I just made that up and I'll try and get the second half out soon, but no promisses, Okay? R&R