"Okay," Mai said, muttering to herself. "Spirit bothering village. All you need to do is just hop over to the Spirit World and talk it out. Easy. Not like you've never done this before or anything. Just hit that Avatar Switch in your head, and bam, Spirit World. Great."
Nonetheless, Mai sat on the floor, and closed her eyes.
She opened them again, disappointed. Nothing had changed.
Oh well, she tried. Standing up, she stretched, and left her body behind.
Oh. Well. That was easier than she'd expected.
Looking out the first-storey window, she saw that what had once been a village was now a misty bamboo swamp. Shrugging, she hopped out of the window, and dropped lightly to the ground, begrudgingly beginning her search.
It wasn't that she wanted the village to be terrorised by this 'Blue Spirit' that had so captured their imaginations, it was just that she had gotten her hopes up when it looked like it wasn't working, and now she actually had to go and do work.
Back in the real world, two shadows stole into the room, from the window.
Azula was the first to enter, fists raised, expecting a fight. Ty Lee followed, landing lightly next to her Princess in the small room. Of course, this meant she almost landed on Mai's insensible body, still sitting on the floor.
This left Azula somewhat nonplussed. She had expected the Avatar to be at least a little more prepared than that.
With an air of scientific curiosity, Ty Lee extended a finger, licked it, and jammed it into Mai's ear. When this failed to get any reaction, she shrugged at Azula, who simply looked blank in return.
The pair of course couldn't risk speaking, so Azula was forced to instruct Ty Lee to collect the Avatar and transport her back to camp via the window, while Azula herself would exit by the ground floor, looking for opportunities to apprehend any of the Avatar's companions along the way using only hand gestures and two expressive eyebrow movements. She managed, evidently, as Ty Lee slung Mai over her shoulder, and clambered out of the window.
Azula opened the door, wary of any creaking, and padded down the hallway towards the landing.
She made it almost all the way to the stairs before someone hit her on the back of the head and everything went black.
She woke up -of course- tied to a chair.
"Morning now," the barbarian corrected her. "We were gonna wake you up earlier, but you started snoring. Katara's pretty sure you haven't been sleeping right. Toph wanted to wake you anyway, but you know how Katara gets some times."
As a matter of fact, Azula surprisingly enough, did not know how Katara got some times. Not that she was going to admit that. So she simply sat, passively.
"I see. And now you want to interrogate me?" She almost laughed at the audacity.
"Oh." She was a little disappointed.
"I mean, apart from the fact that I don't know the first thing about interrogating someone, I kinda... don't know what to ask. 'Hey Azula, I heard the Fire Lord is completely crazy, any word on that?' 'Well, Sokka, there was the time he showed up to one of his meetings in a dress, and of course he eats babies, does that count?' I mean, what good would, like, troop movements and stuff do us?"
Azula blinked, owlishly. "So, what is your plan, then? And if you call my Father insane again, I promise you, you will regret it."
Sokka shrugged. "Well, since your friend got away with Mai, we're just gonna have a straight trade later today. I'm just kind of killing time."
Azula raised an eyebrow. "A simple hostage trade? No cunning ruse, no clever plan? I don't mean to sound forward, but you could solve many of your problems by simply killing me right now." She wasn't concerned about giving him ideas. He wouldn't get within two feet of her if he tried anything.
"No," he replied, and she was startled by how emphatic his response was. "No. Simple trade, that's all. Nothing fancy." And Azula recognised something, beneath the layers of flippancy.
He was scared. Azula smirked.
"I take it, then, that your relationship with the Avatar has progressed as we told you it would?"
"Yeah. Yeah, it pretty much has," he said, with a slightly vacant smile. It was obvious that he was somewhere else, in his minds eye.
"Congratulations." Something suddenly occurred to her. "But what, exactly, is going to keep Ty Lee from organising an ambush of her own?"
Sokka gave her a look so condescending that she almost lost control and attacked him at that moment.
"Pretty much the exact same thing that's stopping me, I'd imagine."
Azula's brow furrowed. Sokka gaped.
"You don't get it, do you? This is... this is completely ridiculous. I mean, at least I had an excuse, 'cause I mean Mai's kinda reserved plus I only met her last winter, but seriously? You haven't seen it? She is literally all over you. I mean you are practically wearing her as a hat."
Azula's glare could have punched through steel. "Explain yourself."
Sokka threw up his hands. "Okay, you know what? You didn't let me figure out Mai on my own, so I'm just gonna go ahead and spoil the ending. Your acrobat friend? Is clearly into you."
"I beg your pardon?"
Sokka dragged his hands slowly down his face. "You are so completely clueless. She digs you. She'd like to get to know you better. She wants to take higher than you've ever been. She wants to know what love is, and she wants you to show her. She wants to stand with you on a mountain, she wants to bathe with you in the sea. She wants you to tie her down and do sexy things to her. Is any of this getting through to you?"
If Azula had flushed any harder, she would have started glowing.
"You are- you are completely delusional."
Sokka shrugged. "She as good as said so herself, when you guys were holding me captive. Seriously, you can ask her."
Azula filed that suggestion under Not Doing, Ever, and shook her head, trying to get the disturbingly pervasive mental images Sokka was prompting out of her head.
Desperately, she tried to change the subject.
"You mentioned, before, that you considered my Father to be-"
"-Yes. Why did you reach that conclusion? Certainly you have never met him."
Sokka wasn't impressed. "I'd say the clincher was probably when he decided to carry on the whole I must conquer the entire world thing. Because that idea is crazy. And stupid." After a moment, he cocked his head at Azula's lack of reaction. "Oh come on! You know it's never gonna work. Sure, you've got the colonies, but even if you conquered the whole Earth Kingdom it's just too big, and there's too many people living in it that really are not gonna be cool with the idea of bowing to the Fire Lord! You'll get rebellions every week! What's he gonna do, burn down the whole world so there's nothing but the Fire Nation left, and crown himself King Of The Charcoal Pit?"
Azula, with some difficultly, wrestled her temper under control.
"One- my Father is not insane, and you will know it when you are dragged before him in chains. Two- Ty Lee certainly does not want to do... those things you said she does, and I will ask her, just so you can't say otherwise." She was most definitely not going to ask Ty Lee anything of the sort, but Sokka wouldn't know that. "Three- it is possible to bring the greatness of the Fire Nation to every part of the world, and it shall be done by summer's end. Perhaps you shall even live to see it. And four-" she smirked, cruelly. "Do I even need to say it?"
Sokka sighed. "Probably not," he admitted, seconds before Azula hit him over the head with a chair.
"-ake up. Sokka, wake up!"
"I'm up!" he cried, flailing wildly and almost hitting Toph in the face. "Where's Azula!"
Toph shrugged. "She jumped out the window just a few moments ago. Katara's gone after her, but it looks like she's long gone."
Sokka sighed, and sat up, moving towards the window. Looking out, he stared at the direction Azula had gone.
It was puzzling him, slightly. "She just ran off straight that way?"
"But that's straight into the woods. The woods that are full of moose-lions and platypus-bears."
Toph grinned cruelly. "Yeah."
"Do you think she meant to do that?"
"Do you think she knows where she's going?"
Sokka contemplated the view for a few more seconds. Then he shrugged. "Eh. She looked like she needed to blow off some steam anyway."