Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or The Last Airbender.
Bodyguard of Azula
Chapter 5: Seeing and Listening
(Location: Azula's group)
"Are we there yet?" Ty Lee asked out loud. They had been walking up a staircase carved into the mountain and it seemed like forever since they had been at the base.
"Yes Mai, we're there." Azula answered. As they walked up the last step, they saw the walls of Yu Dao stretched out before them. Just above the walls were the green-tiled roofs of the colony's buildings (she would've they would be red. They were a colony of the Fire Nation, after all).
"It took us long enough to get here." Mai said as she looked at her mongoose dragon with an annoyed look. When they had reached the base of the staircase, the mongoose dragons had been worn out because of hard riding. So they had dismount and walked up the staircase alongside them. "Can we head inside now?" She asked.
"Good idea." Ty Lee agreed. She wanted to get inside so they could find a place to relax a little bit. They were about to move forward when Naruto held out his hand, motioning them to stop.
"Wait a moment." He told them as he kept scanning the surrounding area.
"What is it, Naruto?" Azula asked him, becoming alert.
"We're about to get a visitor."
She was confused by those words. "What are you—?" Before she could finish the sentence, they heard a whistling sound and then saw something crash in front of Naruto's feet. Looking up, they saw that someone garbed all in black. They could tell that the attacker was female due to the fact that the clothing did not hide her curves and she had not covered her hair, which was brown and done in a female's hairstyle.
"You're getting better, but you still can't hit me." Naruto told the attacker as she pulled the chain in her hands and retrieved the object in front of Naruto's feet, which turned out to be a spiked meteor hammer. He walked forward, putting some distance between him and the girls. He shifted the jian on his back (he had packed a spare, just in case the one he had been using was lost or destroyed).
The attacker growled, swung the chain a little, and hurled the meteor hammer at him again. He ducked his head to dodge it and then the attacker threw the other end of the chain, which was also a spiked meteor hammer at him. He did a little jump and as he was in mid-air, he shot out his hands and landed in a perfect handstand. Shifting his weight forward, he let his body fall to the ground. As he was about hit the ground, he tucked his body in and rolled forward. He then leapt forward out of the roll and charged at the attacker.
The attacker reacted by bending the earth in front of her to form a barrier. Naruto didn't slow down. As soon as he reached the wall he put one foot on it and immediately started to run up it. He cleared the top in less than five seconds. Drawing out his jian, he stabbed it into the top of the barrier. He then proceeded to use it as a handle to swing over to the other side of the barrier, disappearing from Azula's, Mai's and Ty Lee's sight.
He tried to pull the jian out of the barrier as he landed, only to have it snap in half, leaving him with a ruined sword. "Damn it." He swore underneath his breath. Not letting something like that stop him, he got in close to the attacker and swept her legs out from under her. As her back hit the ground, she felt the tip of a knife touching her throat. "Lower the barrier." He told her, his voice void of emotion.
She did just that. As the barrier collapsed Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee rushed over to where Naruto was. "Are you okay, Naruto?" Ty Lee asked. She had gotten worried once he had gone over and they couldn't see him.
"I'm fine." He replied. He threw a glare at the broken pieces of the jian. "I'm annoyed to hell and back that the sword, but I'm fine."
"What are you waiting for, Naruto? Kill her!" Azula commanded him. His attacker was at his mercy. Now was the time to finish it. He should kill her right now and be done with it.
He looked at her and then smiled. "Now why would I do that?" He asked her as he put the kunai he had used against the attack away. He held out his hand to the attacker.
She took it and he helped her get up. "I'm going to get you one day, Naruto." She said with determination shining in her eyes as she pulled down the mask covering the bottom half of her face.
He laughed. "That's the spirit." He told her, making her smile back at him.
"Who is this Earthbender, Naruto?" Azula asked. That dangerous tone in her voice, the one where everyone who knew her would find a good hiding spot, should've warned him to answer the question carefully.
However, since he had been with her for so long, he didn't fear that tone. "Azula, Mai, Ty Lee, this is Kori Morishita." He introduced them to the attacker.
"Hello, it's nice to meet to you all." She greeted them with a welcoming smile on her face.
"Why was she trying to kill you?" Ty Lee asked. It was weird. One minute, they were battling it out and the next, it was like it didn't happen.
Both of them laughed at that. "Kori wasn't trying to kill me. She's been trying to beat me in a spar ever since I was first posted here." The blonde told them. "So far, she hasn't succeeded." That earned him a frown from her, which he had just smiled in response.
"Why didn't the soldiers stop her? I can see them up there." Mai told him as she pointed up to the gate. When they all looked up at the walls, they did indeed see solider walking their patrol and looking down upon them. She couldn't really see them but she was fairly certain that they were amused.
"They know what she's been trying to do. Also, her dad is the mayor of this place." He pointed behind him at the town to emphasis his point. Kori looked a little embarrassed by that fact, if the small blush on her face was anything to go by.
After a minute of silence, it was Azula who spoke. "We should enter the town and introduce ourselves to Mayor Morishita then." She said. It was protocol after all.
Naruto nodded in agreement. As they approached the gate, he turned to the others. "Let me take care of this." He took a few steps forward and looked up at the guards above the gate. Taking a deep breath, he opened his mouth and proceeded to bellow. "ATTENTION TO ALL MILITARY PERSONNEL! YOU KNOW DAMN WELL WHO'S TALKING RIGHT NOW, SO PAY ATTENTION! I AM CURRENTLY STANDING IN FRONT OF THE GATES WITH PRINCESS AZULA AND HER TWO FRIENDS. IF THESE GATES ARE NOT OPENED WITHIN FIFTEEN SECONDS, I WILL BE TAKING OVER THE MORNING TRAINING EXERCISES AND EVERYONE WILL ATTEND, NO EXCEPTIONS!" He lifted his head up to look at the sun. "I AM TIMING YOU, STARTING NOW!"
Never had Azula, Ty Lee, or Mai seen a gate be opened that fast. Not only was the gate opened quickly, there was also an honor guard waiting for them on the other side. "IT'S GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN, LORD NARUTO!" They all chorused together.
"It's good to see you all again as well." He told them with a warm smile as the group walked through the gate and into the town. The honor guard was about to fall in behind them when he spoke again. "However, you took sixteen seconds to open the gate. So I will see you all on the training field at four in the morning." Never in her life, did Azula think to see the men and women of the Fire Nation army, the strongest and mightiest army this side of the planet has ever seen, cry like babies when they heard what came out of Naruto's mouth.
Aang, Sokka and Katara stood in a marketplace with Momo on Katara's shoulder and Akela at Sokka's side. Team Guy stood nearby, keeping an eye out for any potential threats. After the meeting with Sifu and talking about Kurenai being pregnant, the teams from Konoha had finally gotten down to brass tacks. They eventually decided that the teams would remain separate but would work together. One team would guard Aang and the other two teams would try to locate Naruto or get information on him. Seeing as Team Kurenai had already done the part of protecting Aang and his group, Guy volunteered his team to do it next.
The first village they came across after the swamp and an encounter with some unique Fire Nation men on komodo rhinos was not an incident they liked to remember. Apparently, that particular little village didn't really like the Avatar, but when they learned Sokka was Paragon, they all but fell to their knees in welcome (apparently, the brother of the village's founder had been a Paragon). After getting into a trial that was weird, dumb and was rigged to an extent that even Guy and Lee could tell, Aang had transformed into Kyoshi and had essentially confessed to killing the village's founder, who was a tyrant. The mayor was all set to have Aang executed but Sokka had stepped in and revealed a trump card. He pulled out a scroll he brought with him from the Northern Water Tribe that was titled Basic Laws of the Nations. He announced that even though Chin village had a bad judicial system, they still had to obey the basic laws that the four nations followed. One of those laws was that a Paragon could overrule a court's decision if he felt it was unlawful. With that said, he declared the ruling of the case was void because of their prejudice against the Avatar.
The mayor grumbled, but complied. But then something strange occurred. Kyoshi, who still had control over Aang's body, noticed what Sokka had said and saw the Paragon Medallion he had when he showed it to the mayor. She immediately tried to attack him. She blew past Team Guy and Katara but was stopped when Sokka had, without conscious thought, cut the link between Aang and the Avatar State. The same Fire Nation troops appeared again, but this time, Team Guy was ready for them and easily beat them. After the celebration that night, they decided to quickly leave the town that Sokka had stated "Was the worst village they had ever visited."
Now they were Gaoling and in the marketplace, but not for supplies. "It's pricy but I really do like it." Sokka said as he looked at an expensive green bag with a strap. He was currently conflicted in whether buying the bag or not.
"Then you should get it." Katara told him. "You deserve something nice."
"I do, don't I?" He rhetorically asked her. "But no, it's too expensive. I shouldn't."
"Alright then don't." She walked away with Aang behind her. He was about to follow when he changed his mind and got the bag. Akela just rolled his eyes at Sokka's antics.
Meanwhile Neji stood against a wall next to Lee. "I can't believe he's agonizing over a simple bag." He muttered. It was completely ridiculous.
"But it's a bag with a most youthful shade of green!" Lee told his teammate. Then he turned serious. "Besides, would you rather go with Tenten when she discovers a sell on weapons?" The two of them shuddered at the memory of Tenten's last weapon shopping spree. Needless to say, the next time that happens, they were wearing body armor.
Tenten notice the shudder. "You guys okay?" She asked.
"We're fine." They answered in unison.
Meanwhile, a guy had come up to Katara and Aang. "Hey, you kids like Earthbending? You like throwing rocks?" He handed them a small piece of paper. "Then check out Master Yu's Earthbending Academy."
As the man walked away, Aang looked at the paper. "Look, there's a coupon on the back! The first is free."
"Who knows, this Master Yu could be the Earthbending teacher you've been looking for." Katara told him as she and Sokka (bag in hand) also looked at the paper. Sokka turned his head to ask Team Guy what they thought but when he saw the stony expressions on their faces, he decided not to.
(Location: Yu Dao)
"Kori!" cried the mayor as his daughter entered the building's foyer (which had been done in subtle style. Not that anyone had been paying attention to it at that moment) with Azula's group behind her. "Where have you been? You know that you had a meeting with a son from the Akatonbo family today." The frown on his face was seen by everyone there.
Before she could reply, Naruto spoke. "So that's your excuse this time? You wanted to avoid a guy?" He asked her.
Kori's cheeks blushed with embarrassment. "It wasn't like that!" She told him.
"Uh-huh." He replied, not believing a word of it.
"Naruto, is that you, my boy?" Mr. Morishita asked as he recognized the person talking to his daughter. The frown on his face disappeared and was replaced with curiosity.
He looked at the man "Nice to see you again, Mayor Morishita." He said in greeting, casually waving his hand in greeting.
The Mayor walked up to him and proceeded to give him a bear hug. "It's good to see you again, my boy!" He declared, tightly squeezing him in the hug.
"Sir… I need…air!" Naruto wheezed out. He could feel the air in his lungs being squeezed out and was finding it hard to take in more.
The mayor realized what his hug was doing. "Sorry!" He apologized as he let go.
"Sir…there are days…when I think…you try to kill me with those hugs!" The blonde told him as he gasp for air, silently glad to be able to breathe again.
"Nonsense, if I wanted to kill you, you would be dead." He replied. There was no pomposity or arrogance to his words. He truly believed that he could do it.
After he got his breath back, he gave the mayor a mischievous smirk. "Correct me if I'm wrong sir, but isn't that what your wife said to you just before she asked you out on a date?" He asked with an innocent expression that everyone knew was false.
The mayor's face blanched. "Why did I ever tell you that story?" He said with a groan, covering his face with his hands. He still regretted having drinks with the blonde, even if it had been a while now.
Before Naruto could continue, Kori interrupted the two of them. "Father, we have guests." She told him, looking pointedly at the people who had spoken yet.
He brought his face out of his hands and looked at who was behind Naruto. "Princess Azula!" He exclaimed before bowing down before her. "I am terribly sorry for ignoring you."
"That is…quite alright." She told him, trying not to be insulting to him. "These two are Ty Lee and Mai." She introduced the two girls at her side with a wave of her hand.
"Hi!" Ty Lee chirped. Mai just gave a wave of her hand in greeting.
"My family is honored to have you in our house, Princess." The mayor told Azula.
"Yes, I saw that when your daughter tried to attack my bodyguard." She replied. She was still annoyed at what she had seen, and not just from the fight the two had.
"Hey, he saw me coming." Kori protested. Naruto always seemed to know when she was about to attack. She had tried to figure out how he did that at one point, but gave up when she couldn't find a good answer.
"Quiet, little girl, the adults are speaking." The princess told her, trying to keep her quiet.
"I'm older then you are. I am sixteen!" She fired back.
Naruto could see that things were not going well between the two. "We should probably go and unpack the mongoose dragons." He said to everyone. "I'll head back outside and start the process. Kori, do you want to come along?" He asked her. She nodded in agreement (after throwing a smug look at Azula that she thought he hadn't seen). He knew it probably would've been better to take Azula, but she had to inquire about the state of affairs in Yu Dao (as was protocol). And he also wanted to catch up with Kori.
As the two of them turned for the door behind them, Ty Lee spoke. "Mr. Mayor, what did Naruto do when he was assigned here?" She asked the man, curiosity evident in her voice.
"Why do you even care?" Mai asked in a bored tone.
"I'm just curious. Wouldn't you want to know what Zuko did at his first assignment?" When she didn't answer, the acrobat turned back to the mayor. "So, what did he do?" She repeated her question.
The mayor shrugged. "I assigned him to be my daughter's guard." He answered like it was a simple thing that didn't need a lot of thought.
Both Azula and Naruto went stiff as boards but for different reasons. "Of all the things he could've said, he went with that!?" Naruto thought in a small panic. When he took a chance and looked behind him he saw Azula giving him a look that said "Explain, now." He could feel the tension getting very, very thick. At that point, he decided to beat a hasty retreat from the room.
Aang decided to try out Master Yu's Academy. He didn't think much of it and told the rest of the group that after the so-called lesson was over. Team Guy silently agreed with him. They had listened in when they heard the Master offered to put Aang in the next belt if he had paid for an entire year's worth of lessons. At that point, they were ready to destroy the Academy. They hated places like this, where you could buy a rank if you enough money. Sokka managed to calm them down before they did something stupid. They didn't any more trouble than they usually got. As this all happened, the other students were leaving the Academy. "I think the Boulder's gonna win the belt back at Earth Rumble VI!" They heard one of the other students tell his friend as they passed.
"He's going to have to fight his way through the best Earthbenders in the world to even get a shot at the champ!" The other guy replied.
Aang perked up when he heard the word Earthbender. "Excuse me but where is this Earthbending tournament exactly?" He asked the two as he ran up to them. If the best Earthbenders were going to be there, his teacher might be there too.
"It's on the island of nonya, non-ya business!" The first one told him. The two of them began to laugh as they walked away, turning the corner at an alleyway.
"I gotta remember that one." Sokka noted as he watched the two leave. It was a good one, if it wasn't used too much.
Katara shared a look with Tenten and they both nodded. "We'll take care of this." She told Aang. "Hey, strong guys, wait up!" She called out as she went after the two guys. Tenten was right behind her.
Meanwhile, Sokka was looking at the bag he bought. "What was I thinking? I don't need a new bag. Why did you let me buy this?" He asked Aang, only to not get an answer. He dropped the bag on the ground and looked away. Momo had been sitting on Sokka's shoulder up until that point. He jumped into the bag and proceeded to get comfy. As Momo did this, Akela watched him and as he did, he began to smile. Sokka looked back and noticed what he was doing. "Akela, we've had this talk. You can't eat the flying lemur." He warned.
By this time, Katara and Tenten were running back to the group. "You ready to find an Earthbending teacher?" Katara asked. "We're going to Earth Rumble VI."
"How'd you get them to tell you?" Aang asked. He would've thought that those two boys would've kept the information to themselves.
"A girl has her ways." Tenten simply stated while tossing a kunai. The rest of her team shared a knowing look between them. If they were to look into the alleyway where the two students went, they would find that said students were frozen to the wall and had icicles stuck in the wall just below the one place no man wants to be hit or stab in.
(Location: Earth Rumble Arena)
As the night fell, the group headed into the giant cave that held the Earth Rumble arena. They went down one of the many staircases surrounding the ring, looking for a good spot to watch from."Hey, front row seats!" Aang announced he looked at the seats. "I wonder why no one else is sitting here." He wondered aloud as they all sat down. As soon as those words left his mouth, a huge boulder crashed into the seats right next to Sokka.
"I guess that's why." The Tribesman answered. That had been way too close for comfort. A couple more inches and he probably would've lost his head.
They turned to face the ring. A man in the middle of the ring bent the earth around him to create a shower of big rocks (which the boulder had come from). He then bent the earth beneath him to raise him up onto a pillar and then bent it back down into the ring, showing how supposedly good he was at Earthbending. "Welcometo Earth Rumble VI! I am your host, Xin Fu!" He declared.
Katara gave a bored sigh. "This is just gonna be a bunch of guys chucking rocks at each other, isn't it?" She asked, restraining the urge to roll her eyes at the ridiculousness of it all.
"That's what I paid for." Sokka answered. He, on the other had, was looking forward to it.
"Indeed! This should be a most youthful event to watch!" Lee chimed in.
"The rules are simple!" The host continued. "Just knock the other guy out of the ring and you win." He leapt up to a ledge as a bell went off. Standing in the ring was now a big, heavily-muscled man with a badger-mole tattoo on his back and a really big man who was missing his front teeth (both top and bottom). "Round 1: The Boulder vs. the Big Bad Hippo!" Xin Fu announced to the cheers of the audience.
"Listen up, Hippo." The Boulder called out as he pointed to his opponent. "You may be big but you ain't bad. The Boulder's going to win this in a landslide!"
"Hippo mad!" was the Hippo's reply, stomping a foot into the ground and causing a crack.
The Boulder quickly bent a chunk of the ring at the Hippo. It slammed into the Hippo, creating a bit of a dust screen. It cleared away, showing the Hippo looking no worse for wear and with a big rock in his mouth. He proceeded to bite down on the rock, shattering it and began to chew on the piece that was in his mouth. He spat it out and began to jump up and down, causing the ring to act like a see-saw. "Unbelievable, ladies and gentlemen!" announced Xin Fu. The Hippo is rocking the boat!"
The Boulder staggered back across the ring and almost fell off. To save himself, he bent a flat piece of rock out of the side of the ring to balance himself. Grabbing hold of the piece, he whipped his body forward and hurled the piece of rock at the Hippo. The Hippo turned to glare at the Boulderwho jumped away from the edge. The Boulder got into a stance and slowly but surely, bent the ground beneath the Hippo upwards. It caught the Hippo by surprise and the Boulder used that to hurl the rock, with the Hippo on it, out of the ring.
"The Boulder wins!" Xin Fu announced. The Boulder drank in the applause of the crowd, proud to have won.
"How about the Boulder?" Katara suggested to Aang, looking at him. "He's got some good moves." She didn't know much about Earthbending, but he looked pretty competent.
"I don't know." Aang replied, feeling uneasy about the Earthbender. "Bumi said I need a teacher who listens to the earth. He's just listening to his big muscles." He looked over at Sokka. "What do you think, Sokka?"
"I think we should keep watching. But the Boulder is looking like a good candidate." Sokka answered as they couldn't be picky about their options regarding teachers. Then He noticed Aang and Katara giving him a weird look. "What?"
"Well, you made gave your opinion in calm manner and with an analytical eye." His sister noted.
"Yeah, it's really not like you." Aang told him.
"What? Were you expecting me to be on my feet and cheering like a hardcore fan that had lost his mind?" He asked the two of them.
"Yes." They both answered. They were certain that was what he would've done. But instead, he gave a calm and reasoned reply. It wasn't like him.
"Don't worry, Lee's about to take care of that." He pointed to the spandex wearing shinobi, who was staring down at the ring intently.
Tenten looked at her teammate "You alright, Lee?" She asked.
"This is so…" Lee muttered before standing up with tears flowing freely from his eyes. "It's so very, very YOUTHFUL! OH, HOW I WISH COULD BE AN EARTHBENDER, THAT WAY I COULD JOIN THIS MOST YOUTHFUL COMPETITION!"
"Would you calm down? You're attracting attention!" Neji hissed, pulling his teammate back down to his seat. Other people nearby were looking at them strangely. After they had finally managed to get Lee to calm down, the matches continued and the Boulder dominated. He went through all of his opponents like they were nothing. The Fire Nation Man, the Gopher, the Gecko, and the Headhunter, all were easily beaten by the Boulder.
Finally, the lights in the cave had dimmed, save the one shining on the Earth Kingdom emblem in the middle of the ring. "Now, the moment you've all been waiting for." Xin Fu said to the quiet audience. "The Boulder versus, your champion…the Blind Bandit!" A light shined down upon a girl in a green shirt and pants with a white tunic over them and a studded belt around her waist. She also wore dark green bands around her waists and her ankles. She wore a headband in her hair that was green and yellow with a white puffball attached to it just above each ear. She held up the championship belt above her head as the crowd cheered her on.
"She can't really be blind. It's just part of her character, right?" Katara asked. The girl's eyes were a light green color but were also unfocused, like she was just looking straight ahead.
"I think she is." Aang answered, looking at her.
"But then, how can she fight?" Neji asked.
Sokka suddenly remembered something that happened in Omashu, when Naruto had beaten Team Kurenai.
"Sokka, allow me to show you something of Earthbending that Paragons can use. Think of it as a lesson." Naruto took a strip of cloth from his pocket and tied it around his eyes. "Now then, let's begin."
"I think I know how." The Tribesman told them.
Before anyone could ask him, the Boulder spoke out. "The Boulder feels conflicted about fighting a young blind girl."
"Sounds to me like you're scared, Boulder." The girl taunted.
He scowled slightly. "The Boulder is over his conflicted feelings and now he's ready to bury you in a rockalanche!"
The girl pointed at him "Whenever you're ready, the Pebble." She insulted him and then laughed. Aang's eyes went wide at its sound. He had heard that laugh before. He had heard it back in the swamp. She was the girl in the fancy dress.
"It's on!" The Boulder announced. They had a bit of a stare off (which was redundant when one of them is blind). He made the first move by stepping forward. He brought his right foot down and brought the other foot up. The girl went into her stance and waited. When the Boulder began to bring his left foot down, she just simply kicked the ground, sending a line of rocks towards the Boulder, but not directly at him. As the Boulder brought his foot down, it landed on the rock-line which then curved to the left. The end result was the Boulder doing the splits (which, apparently, he couldn't do). "OOOOOOOOOOOH!" cried out the Boulder in pain. The girl quickly followed up with a hand chopping motion, causing three rock columns to jut out of the ring behind the Boulder, hitting him hard and sending him out of the ring.
"Your winner and still the champion, the Blind Bandit!" announced Xin Fu. The girl smiled and raised a fist as the crowd cheered.
"How did she do that?" Katara asked. She had never seen anything like that before.
"She did the same thing Naruto did at Omashu." Sokka told her. Granted, the blonde had done with boots on, but it was still the same thing.
Aang nodded in agreement. "She waited…and listened." He said with a smile.
Xin Fu leapt back into the ring. "To make things a little more interesting, I'm offering up this sack of gold pieces to anyone who can defeat the Blind Bandit!" The entire cave was dead silent. "What, no one dares to face her!?" Xin Fu demanded. He wasn't surprised. No one really wanted to fight her. She was the champion, after all.
"I will!" A voice ranged out. Xin Fu turned to where the voice was coming from and saw Aang coming up the steps and into the ring. He didn't say anything. He just leapt to his ledge.
The girl looked in Aang's general direction. "Do people really want to see two little girls fighting out here." She taunted. The audience responded to her taunt with an "ooooh" sound.
"I don't really want to fight you. I want to talk to you." Aang told her. He took a step forward and she smirked. She bent the ground beneath Aang to form into a column that jutted out of the ground. Aang leapt off the column and landed off to the side.
"Someone's a little light on his feet." The girl stated as she swerved to his general direction. "What's your fighting name: the Fancy Dancer?" Aang just grinned in response. The girl took advantage of that and tried to throw Aang off by shooting up the ground from underneath him. Aang just leapt forward off the rock. The girl had a small look of confusion on her face. "Where'd you go?" She said to herself.
Aang landed a good distance behind her. "Please, wait!" He begged of her.
"There you are!" She turned around, bent a chuck of rock out of the ground, and hurled it at Aang. He responded by bending the air into two streams, one deflecting the rock and the other sending her out of the ring. That move shocked everyone in the arena.
While the crowd was cheering, Aang went after the girl who was leaving the arena. "Please listen!'' He pleaded. "I need an Earthbending teacher and I think it's supposed to be you."
The girl continued to walk away. "Whoever you are, just leave me alone." She opened up a hole in the wall, walked through it and closed it just before Aang reached her. As the group got the winnings and Sokka took the belt, he remained downcast. He might've won the fight but he might've just lost his teacher. And he didn't even know who she actually was.
(Location: Yu Dao)
It was six in the morning and Azula was feeling irritated. She didn't know why she felt irritated. She was a princess and a princess never gets irritated. "Why am I so frustrated?" She asked out loud as she paced around the room she was given. Hearing footsteps, she turned to look at the door and saw her two friends there.
"Do you really want that answered?" Mai asked as she leaned against the door frame. Ty Lee stood just outside against the wall.
"What is it?" She asked, deciding to change the subject. She wanted a distraction.
Mai shrugged. "She wanted to ask you something." She pointed to Ty Lee, who bounced forward.
"You wanna go see Naruto train the soldiers?" She asked with a grin. "I think they're done with the warm ups and the run." She wiggled her eyebrows suggestively. She wanted to see Naruto train (torture) the soldiers, that much was true. But she also wanted to see if they would get sweaty and take off articles of clothing.
Azula looked at her for a minute. "Fine," She finally answered. She wanted a distraction, now she had one. Ty Lee's grin got even bigger. She grabbed both Azula's and Mai's hands and charged off.
The training grounds were in a small valley that was next to Yu Dao. It had once been a part of the city itself, but had been destroyed by a fire more than a hundred years ago (that day was always remembered as a tragedy for Yu Dao, for the number of lives lost in the fire. If one knew where to look, they could find scars of that fire's destruction). It was circular in shape, having practice fields for both weapons training and Firebending. It had two entrances, one led back to Yu Dao and the other led into a trail that split into two separate directions. However if someone went in one direction, they would eventually come out through the other one. It was used for exercise runs and for punishment. If a soldier were punished, they had run a number of laps on the trail under a time limit.
If you knew where to look, just near the entrance to Yu Dao was a path that led up to a ledge that encircled the training grounds. "How did you find this?" Azula asked as they made their way to the top of the ledge.
"Somebody told me." Ty Lee replied. They crept to an edge that had a natural barrier. If they knelt down, no one would notice that they were there.
"Why am I even here?" Mai wondered.
"Because you were bored, that's why." Ty Lee told her with a smile. She just rolled her eyes in response.
"Shush! Here they come!" Azula hissed to them. Sure enough, the soldiers were coming in through the trail entrance with Naruto in the lead. As soon as they hit the practice fields, they stopped and all but collapsed.
"Well now, wasn't that refreshing?" Naruto asked them. The large amount of people behind him just groaned. "Oh come on, it wasn't that bad." He told them.
"You call doing forty laps on that trail with weights after an hour and half of push-ups, sit-ups and Agni know what else not bad!?" One of the men, who looked to be an officer judging by his armor, demanded.
Naruto just looked at the person, who looked to be a year or two older than him. "You're green, aren't you?" He asked. His question confused the officer.
"He's fresh out of the Military Academy, Lord Naruto. This is his first posting." One of the foot soldiers supplied.
"Ah. Well, that says a lot." He looked at the officer. "What's your name, boy?"
The officer was enraged. "My proper rank is lieutenant and you address me as such!"
"I asked you for your name, not your rank." Naruto told him, keeping his voice calm and leveled. "What's your name?" He repeated
"My name, you filthy little peasant, is something you will never hear." The officer said with a sneer. The rest of the soldiers there, including the older officers, now knew that the he was screwed.
Naruto did not even look outraged at being told off. "I'm a filthy little peasant, am I?" He asked, raising an eyebrow in question.
"He's going to get now!" Ty Lee whispered gleefully. It seemed like all but the young officers (who apparently shared the same belief about Naruto).
"Yes, you are a peasant who does not know how to talk to his elders or betters. I don't know why the foot soldiers think you're a lord but they are obviously mistaken. Once I'm done with you, I'll fix that attitude." He promised.
"Done with me? Are you going to challenge me to an Agni Kai?" The Fire Paragon kept his voice mild as he spoke.
The lieutenant scoffed. "I know all about you. You think you're some hotshot because you manage to beat the princess in Agni Kai when you're not even a Firebender. Well I have news for you, I could beat you easily."
"Oh? You think you can beat me when the princess of the Fire Nation couldn't?"
"She's a woman, so her Firebending is pathetic. I could beat you without even breaking a sweat."
At this in point in the conversation, unbeknownst to them, both Mai and Ty Lee had to restrain Azula. "Let him go. I'm going to kill him!" She demanded. No mocked her Firebending and anyone who did would pay.
"If you do that, Naruto will know we're here and we don't want that, remember?" Ty Lee reminded her as she held her back.
"I don't care! That fool will burn!"
"Relax, Azula. Naruto will take care of it." Mai told her.
She calmed down at those words. "He'd better." She said as she stopped struggling to get free.
"So you think that you can defeat the one person who was able to beat your own princess, who is a well-known Firebending prodigy and will be able to do that easily?" Naruto asked, still not acting like he was insulted.
The lieutenant smirked. "I already told you, it would be easy. In fact, I'm surprised that you were able to get that job with all those deaths on your hands." Everything went silent as everyone looked at him. "What? No, come back. Yeah, I know about all those deaths, I read the records. I'm surprised you're still in the military with all the men you lost. Not that it matters." He said with a careless shrug of his shoulders. "They were nothing more than trash and they would've never amounted to anything more than trash, just like you."
The general thought among the soldiers and older officers was "He's fucked." The younger officers agreed with him on some points, but not all of them. Naruto just smiled. But to those who knew the blonde, that particular smile was the one he gave when someone had gone too far and was about to be humiliated. Without warning, he buried his fist in the lieutenant's stomach, making him double over with a sound of agony. Not wasting any movements or moment, Naruto withdrew his fist and then slugged him across the face.
As the lieutenant lay face down on the ground, moaning in pain, he felt a swift kick to the ribs, feeling them crack, and then a foot pressing down on his back. "I can take any insult you can throw at me. I've heard them all before." He heard the blonde say as he stood over him. "But don't ever insult the people I've lost. They were worth much more than you on any day. You do that again, this will feel I had hardly touched you." He pressed his foot down. "Got it?" The lieutenant didn't say anything, as he had passed out. "Does anyone else want to insult the dead?" Naruto asked everyone standing there. They all shook their heads in the negative. "Good. Get him to the infirmary." He ordered, pointing at the body. It was quickly done.
After that, the girls just watched as Naruto split them into two teams and fight each other, seeing how well their coordination and teamwork was. "He's seems to be doing fine, can we go now?" Mai asked after watching fifteen minutes of the fight. She was getting more and more bored by the second.
"Yes." Azula said as she watched one soldier get knocked out. They made their way quietly down the ledge (Ty Lee was a little disappointed).
They headed back down to the entrance to Yu Dao. As they came down, they saw someone else heading back to Yu Dao. "Who's that?" Ty Lee asked.
The person turned around, noticed them, and began to run. Azula reacted quickly by leaping at the person, making the both of them fall to the ground. "Who are you!?" She demanded as she struggled to hold the person in place.
"Get off of me!" The person demanded before bending a chuck of rock from the ground and throwing it at Azula. Azula rolled off to dodge and came up into a fighting position. When she looked at her opponent more clearly, she saw that it was Kori.
"What are you doing here?" The daughter of the mayor asked.
"I could ask the same of you." Azula replied.
Kori blushed. "Tha-that's none of your business!" She stammered, trying to not lose her composure (which wasn't really working).
Ty Lee gave a mischievous grin. "You were watching the guys, weren't you? You were watching them get all hot and sweaty and hoping they take of their shirts so you look at their bodies." She had wanted to see the same, but she wasn't going say that aloud.
"N-no, I wasn't."
"Yes, you were." The acrobat said in a singsong voice.
"No, I was not!"
"Would you stop lying? You were right there." Mai told her.
"Alright, fine!" She stated. "I was there to watch the guys, okay?" She turned around to walk away. "I'm going back to the village, good bye." She wanted to get out of there before things got worse.
You didn't come here to watch the guys, you came to look a guy, didn't you!?" Azula demanded, making her stop.
"So? What's it to you?' She asked without even turning to look at the Fire Nation princess.
"You were watching Naruto!" She glared at the older girl with jealously in her eyes.
'So what if I was watching him? I love him!" Kori stated, finally turning to look at her.
She just stood there with a shocked look. "You what?" She asked. She couldn't believe she had just heard those words.
"I love him, I love Naruto."
"He is my bodyguard!" She shouted, and she would be damned if she was going to lose him to her.
"He was my bodyguard first and he actually cares about me!"
She snarled. She wanted to attack the girl in front of her. But she knew that wouldn't be a very good idea. "Get out of my sight!"
Kori simply turned back around and headed back to Yu Dao. "Um…Azula?" asked Ty Lee. "Are you okay?" The look on her friend's face was full of anger and rage.
"I'm fine, why do you ask?" She growled as she stared at Kori's back, wishing that she could just send a lightning bolt through it.
"Probably because that was the first time we have ever seen someone who wanted the same thing as you." Mai told her. As far as she could tell, that had never happened before.
She threw a glare back at the two of them. "I'm going back to Yu Dao." She told them. She wasn't going to let that girl anywhere near her bodyguard.
As they watched her leave, Mai looked at Ty Lee. "She's taking it well."
Ty Lee nodded in agreement. So far, nothing had been set on fire. "I just wondered how long it will be until she confronts Naruto. You know she's a little possessive of him."
"Yeah, I remember what happened." Last autumn, a noble's daughter had offered Naruto the job of being her bodyguard right in front of Azula during a formal party. He declined. Angry at being denied (something that had never happened to her) she made some non-too subtle questions about his I.Q. and whether Azula had found him in a kennel or just off the streets. Azula challenged her to Agni Kai on the spot. After that, she had to be treated for second degree burns all over her body (it would have been third degree, had Naruto not stopped Azula and told her to calm down).
"Do you think Naruto knows?" The acrobat asked.
Mai looked at her friend. "Knows what?"
"About Kori," Ty Lee answered.
Mai began to walk back to Yu Dao. She wanted to make Azula didn't set anything on fire. "If he doesn't already know, he'll find out soon."
Ty Lee followed her. If they had stayed a little longer, they would've heard someone sneezing and a chorus of voices saying "Agni bless you, Lord Naruto!"
The group headed down a street to the Earthbending Academy. "I gotta admit, now I'm really glad I bought this bag." Sokka told them as they walked. "It matches the belt perfectly." The championship belt of Earth Rumble was now fastened securely around his waist.
"I cannot believe he can say that." Neji said.
"But he is right." Lee told him. Even he could see it.
"Yosh! Lee is most correct." Guy announced stated.
"That is a big relief." Katara deadpanned. She couldn't believe they were actually talking about that.
"If we want to find the Blind Bandit," Aang said. "The Earthbending Academy is a good place to start."
As they walked through the entrance of the Academy, they saw the two same boys from before doing an exercise. The two looked up. "Oh great, you again." said the first one.
Katara threw a glare and Tenten reached for her holster. The two guys yelped and flinched back. "Yeah, I didn't think so." Katara said smugly.
"Nicely done," Sokka complemented. Akela barked in agreement.
"Hey, you're the kid who beat the Blind Bandit." The second boy said, pointing at Aang.
"We need to talk to her." Aang told them. "Do you guys know where she is?"
"The Blind Bandit's a mystery, she shows up to fight and then disappears." The first boy said.
"Let me handle this." Katara told a downcast Aang, she went up to the second boy. "You're not telling us everything!"
"N-no, I swear it's true! No one where she goes or who she really is." He told them.
"That's because we're asking about the wrong person." Aang realized. "In my vision, I saw a girl in a white dress with a pet flying boar. Know anybody like that?" He asked the two boys.
"Well, a flying boar is the symbol of the Beifong family. They're the richest people in town, probably the whole world." The first boy told them.
"I know a few Hyūga elders who would deny that kind of statement with a passion." Neji thought to himself. If it had been any other time, he might've let himself smirk.
"Yeah, but they don't have a daughter." The second boy chimed in.
"Flying boar is good enough for me. Let's check it out." Aang told them before heading out of the Academy.
"Yeah, you'd better leave." The first boy whispered.
"Hey! I've got my eye on you two." Katara told them as she left.
"If I were you, I'd listen." Sokka told them. "You don't want to end up like that last guy."
"What last guy?" They asked. Sokka had already left.
(Location: Beifong estates)
They crouched down on a small ridge just outside the main gate. Above the gate was the family symbol. "That's the flying boar from my vision, come on." Aang told them before they crawled away from the ridge.
"We should be careful." Neji said, but Aang had already left.
"Sorry about that." Sokka apologized. "He's excited." And an excited Aang was an impatient Aang. And an impatient Aang tended to rush things.
"It's alright." Kami knows he and his team had dealt people like Aang before.
"Look, I have an idea. Aang is probably going to try and go over the wall. If we don't get in, can you guys try knocking on the front door?" The Tribesman asked.
Team Guy just looked at him. "And how exactly is that supposed to work?" Tenten asked with a mystified expression.
"Hinata once told me that the Hyūga clan was a noble family. You're part of the same clan, so you'll be able to talk like a noble." He looked over to where Aang was running off to. "I better go and catch up. Akela, stay," He told the wolf.
As Sokka left, both Lee and Tenten looked over at Neji. "You think you can do this?" Tenten asked him.
"Yes, I probably could. But if Lord Hiashi finds out about this, I am a dead man." He answered.
Aang, Katara and Sokka had gone around to the side, over the wall, and into the garden. They tried to move quietly but the earth beneath them suddenly heaved upwards, sending the three of them into the air. Both Aang and Katara managed to land on a bush but Sokka landed face first on the ground.
Aang had landed on his back. He tilted his head back and in his upside down vision, he saw the girl he was looking for in a familiar dress. "What are you doing here, Twinkle Toes?" She demanded.
"How'd you know it was me?" He asked.
"Don't answer to Twinkle Toes, it's not manly!" Sokka told him from where he lay on the ground.
"You're the one whose bag matches his belt." Katara pointed out as she got back on solid ground.
"Touché, sister," He replied, standing back up.
"How did you find me?" The girl asked Aang.
He started to explain as he got off the bush. "Well, a crazy king told me I had to find an Earthbender who listens to the earth and then I had a vision in a magic and…" As he tried to explain, the girl's face got more and more skeptical.
Katara stepped in before Aang's explanation got any weirder. "What Aang is trying to say is the Avatar, and if he doesn't master Earthbending soon, he won't be able to defeat the Fire Lord." She said.
The girl put her hand in front of Katara's face. "Not my problem. Now get out of here or I'll call the guards." She ordered as she walked away.
"Look, we all have to do our part to win this war and yours is to teach Aang Earthbending." Sokka told her.
The girl stood with her back to them in silence for a few seconds. Then she turned around. "Guards, guards help!" She suddenly cried out in a voice that sounded little and weak, rather than her usual confidence. The three intruders panicked and left.
As the three of them ran out of there and back to a wall, the guards ran in. "Toph, what happened!?" One of them asked.
"I…thought I heard someone. I got sacred." The girl now known as Toph told them, still using the same voice.
"You know your father doesn't want you wandering the grounds without supervision Toph." The guard told her as they led her away.
Aang scowled, but then had a thinking look on. He grinned and then climbed down the wall. "I've got another idea." He told the other two before heading back to where Team Guy was.
"Hang on Aang." Sokka said as they got back to the ridge. "We tried an idea of yours and it didn't work. Now it's my turn."
While Aang pouted, Katara looked at her brother. "What's your idea?" She asked him. He pointed to the main gate, which Team Guy was approaching.
"Halt!" One of the guards demanded. "Who goes there?"
Neji stepped forward. "Greetings, I am Neji Hyūga of the Hyūga clan. These are my teacher and my fellow students." He gestured to the rest of the team.
"What do you want?"
"We heard of the Beifong family when we passed through Gaoling. Seeing as it was almost dark, we had decided to pay our respects and ask the master of this estate if we could sleep here tonight." He told them.
"The Hyūga clan?" repeated the second guard. "I've never heard of them." And he had heard of several noble families and clans.
Neji gave a bow. "My apologies, the Hyūga clan is not from the Earth Kingdom. My teacher is taking us on trip around the world to study different styles and methods of fighting."
"Then why are you talking and not your teacher?" The first guard asked him. It was odd to see the student talk and not the teacher.
"Because my teacher does not really know how to speak to nobility, since I was raised as a noble before becoming his student, I know how." Neji explained. Meanwhile in his head he was thinking "I'm such a dead man!" He would be dead the moment Hinata's father heard about this.
"We will let Lord Lao know of you and your request." The guard told him. He turned and walked into the compound.
At this point, Sokka decided to walk up to the gate. "There you guys are!" He greeted Team Guy. "Sorry, but the market didn't have what you guys were looking for."
"That's okay, are the others still at the market?" Tenten asked, deciding to play along.
"No, they should be right behind me."
Taking that as their cue Aang, Katara and Akela appeared from the bush.
"Who are they!?" The remaining guard demanded.
"Not to worry, my good sir." Neji told them. "These are also our traveling companions. The bald one with the arrow tattoo has a station that's apparently of great importance." He looked at Aang. "Tell me, what was the title you were given again?"
Aang looked confused for a minute but then caught on "The Avatar." He said promptly.
The guard looked flabbergasted.
(Location: Yu Dao)
That night, Naruto, Azula, Ty Lee and Mai sat down to dinner with Mayor Morishita and Kori. It was an informal meal, so a banquet table wasn't used. Instead, it was a small enough table for them to see one another clearly. "Please dig in!" The mayor said.
"Sir, if you don't mind me asking," Naruto said as the others began to eat. "But where is Mrs. Morishita?"
"My wife went to go see her family, but I believe she will be back before the night is out."
"Hey, Naruto," Kori said. "How do you think this war will end?" With news of the Avatar returning, the war was brought back to the front of everyone's mind. The gossip in town ranged from how long the Avatar would take to actively challenge the Fire Nation to if he even existed at all.
"It will end with the Fire Nation winning, obviously." Azula answered. Unlike the people in the city, she firmly believed that.
"You don't know that, Azula." Naruto told her. "The Avatar could very well defeat the Fire Lord. But even if he does that, this conflict will not be over." And he could see the future problem perfectly.
"What do you mean, my boy?" Mayor Morishita asked. He was curious to hear what the blonde had to say.
"If the Avatar wins, he'll declare the war over. The he'll try to 'restore balance to the world'." He said using air quotes. "That will mean that, eventually, he'll set his sights on the Fire Nation colonies."
"Us?" asked the mayor. "Why would he look at us?" He was sure that the colonies themselves hadn't done anything against the Avatar.
"The Avatar is a kid. He believes that for the harmony to be restored there has to be four separate nations. When he looks or hears about the colonies, he doesn't see two different nationalities working together, he sees Fire Nation people on Earth Kingdom land."
"But that's absurd!" Kori shouted. "I am Earthbender but I am also a Fire Nation citizen, not just one or the other!" She was proud of her heritage and she damned anyone who said anything about.
"For once, I actually agree with her." Azula said. It would be absurd for the Avatar to do that, if he won.
"I know you two see it that way, but the Avatar doesn't. If he wins, odds are he'll try to have the colonies removed." He could see the idiot doing just that, without a care to what the colonists would say or think about it. He would just that it was for the best before shepherding them back t the Fire Nation.
"He can't do that! This is my home!" Kori slammed her fist on the table. She wasn't going to let anyone take her from her home.
"Kori, behave yourself!" The mayor said He turned to Naruto. "What do you think will happen?"
Naruto sighed. "I don't know. A lot of things can happen and a lot of factors can change. The only thing I am certain of is that if things go wrong and the Avatar messes it all up, we'll dragged into another war that could be much worse than the current one."
The table was silent for a few seconds. "Well, I guess we just have to hope that doesn't happen." Ty Lee said. She silently hoped that wouldn't happen.
"Or the Fire Nation could destroy the Avatar and win the war." Azula stated. Was she the only one in the room who was thinking that?
"You seem pretty confident that the Fire Nation will achieve victory." Kori commented. Everything went still as the two girls looked at one another.
"Well, of course, we are the greatest nation there is."
"And yet you're not even fighting." Instead, she was right here, having dinner.
"I am the Princess of the Fire Nation, I don't need to fight." Her father might want her to be the best of the best, but he wouldn't risk that by letting her near the front line (or even the supply line).
Azula threw her a look. "And what's your excuse for not fighting."
"In case you haven't noticed, I'm an Earthbender. I can't exactly fight with the Fire Nation."
"You're right. You wouldn't be of any help to the military." They wouldn't let her even near the army or the navy. They would be convinced that she was a spy.
"At least I would try to help my nation!" Kori yelled as she suddenly stood up from her chair, sending it crashing to the floor.
"But you can't, can you? You're stuck in this colony wishing away on things like trying to fight or hoping that one boy will finally notice you." Azula replied as she too stood up.
"Azula, what are you doing?" Ty Lee and Mai thought as they watched this scene play out. This wasn't like her. She was always the one who remained calm and even-tempered in situations like this. But now, she was on the verge of losing her temper.
Both Kori and Azula looked like they were ready to attack each other. Then everyone there heard a chair being moved back. Turning their heads, they saw Naruto standing quietly. "Azula, Kori." He said, looking at the two of them. "Come with me." He turned around and walked away into a corridor. The two girls followed him. Once they were a good distance away from the dining hall, he turned around to face them. "What's going on between the two of you?" He asked.
"What do you mean?" Azula asked. She was trying to get back to being calm and even tempered, but it wasn't really working.
"Ever since this morning, you've both been acting like you want to kill each other. So I'll ask again: what's going on between the two of you?"
"Well, why don't you explain yourself first, Naruto." She asked him.
"What do you mean?" He asked in return, confused by her words.
"I mean why you never told me about her and you being her bodyguard!?" She snarled, pointing at Kori.
"It was only for a month, Azula, and it was my first assignment. Yes, I do visit whenever I am sent to the front and nearby." He frowned slightly and looked at her. "But that's not what's got you mad, is it?"
"If you were only there for a month and only visited afterwards, HOW IS IT THAT SHE IS LOVE WITH YOU!?" yelled Azula, pointing an angry finger at Kori.
The silence was almost suffocating after what she had said. "What?" Naruto asked.
"You heard me." She said, her voice going from a snarl to a growl.
He turned his head to Kori. "Is this true?"
She nodded her head. "I love you, Naruto. I've loved you since you were my bodyguard." And she hadn't stopped, not even after he had left.
He dropped his head and gave a sigh. "Why is this happening?" He silently asked himself (the fox did not comment). "Kori, I do love you…but I don't love you in that way. I'm sorry." He said to, raising his head.
Kori looked like she was about to cry, tears began to well up in her eyes. "I think you three had enough excitement for one day." A voice from behind them said.
Naruto turned around. "Mrs. Morishita! I thought you were to be back later."
"I had picked up my pace when I had heard that you had come to visit, Naruto." The wife of the mayor said as she stood before the three of them with her arms folded. "But I see I've come at wrong time."
"No, ma'am," He replied, his voice relieved. "If anything you came at the right time."
She went over to her daughter. "Then I shall take Kori to her room." Her hand came to rest on her daughter's shoulder.
"I'll be right along. I have to make sure Azula gets to her room." He turned and gave her a look that said to not say a word. She wanted, but she didn't. The two groups left one another and went their separate ways.
(Location: Beifong estate)
After an introduction to both Lord Lao and Lady Poppy (who were Toph's parents) Aang, Katara, Sokka and Team Guy joined them at dinner. They were initially worried about Akela, but Sokka reassured them that he was well behaved.
During the dinner, Aang told them that he still needed to find an Earthbending teacher. Lao suggested Master Yu, but Aang tried to subtly tell him that Toph was supposed to teach him (at least, as subtle as the Air Nomad could be). The end result of that was food was flung everywhere while both Aang and Toph had a staring contest. At that point, Poppy asked if they wanted to move to the living room for dessert. "I'm sorry about that." Neji apologized as they sat in the living room. "Sometimes, Aang gets a little excited and does something rash."
"That's quite alright." Poppy answered.
"Tell me, Master…Guy, was it?" Master Yu asked. Never had he heard such an odd name before.
"That is correct." Guy answered. During their time there, he had made an effort not to show his youthfulness. Instead, he tried to act like a serious teacher in front of their hosts. As it turned out, it wasn't hard. He had a more difficult time trying not to show his outright disdain of the Earthbending teacher.
"What is it exactly that you teach your students?" He asked. "Seeing as the four of you are not Benders, I wonder what there is to teach them." Both Guy and his students could hear the condescension in his voice and see it in his smile.
"I have trained Tenten in the usage of weapons and have helped Neji with his family's martial art style. Both are considered to be geniuses." He replied.
"And what of your third student?" asked the Earthbending master. "If you did not call him a genius, then it obviously means that he isn't one."
At this point, both Neji and Tenten had to subtly restrain Lee from attacking Master Yu. "I have trained Lee in my own style, the Gōken." Guy told him. "He is a genius, a genius of hard work. Personally I believe that a genius of hard work can beat a genius at their own game at any time."
He chuckled like it was all somewhat amusing. "Please, if he is not a natural genius, then he cannot beat one. That is his fate."
At this, Neji smirked. "Master Yu, what you just said reminded me of someone I knew." He said.
"Oh? And who was that?"
"Myself." Looking at the confused looks he was getting from everyone except for his team (and Toph), he continued. "A couple of years ago, I had believed what you believe. I believed that fate controlled everything. That it was inescapable and everyone had a destiny. I was full of pride, but I was also full of hate at the role that destiny had given me. I lashed out at people because of my hate."
The room was silent. "What happened?" Lao finally asked. He felt like he was hearing a story.
"My hatred had grown too much. In a tournament that our village hosted, I lashed out at a member of my own family and had almost killed her. I felt no shame at what I had done." His tone turned sorrowful as he remembered what he did. "Then a boy, one I had deemed a failure, swore an oath on her blood to win against me when we would face each other in combat."
"A blood oath?" asked Aang. "Wasn't that a bit…much?" It sure sounded like it to him.
"Not to him, it wasn't. Soon, the day came when we fought each other. I struck him down again and again, trying to tell him that fate and destiny couldn't be broken. But no matter how many times he fell, he would always get back on his feet and continued to fight back. Finally I asked him why he kept trying to defy his destiny to lose at my hands."
"What did he say?" Sokka asked.
"He said 'Because people called me a failure. I'll prove them wrong.' it was at that point he beat me. After the match was over and I couldn't move, he came over to where I lay on the ground. He said that if a failure like himself could successfully change his destiny, what could be a so-called genius would be able to do. After that, I had renounced my belief in fate and destiny."
"What happened to the boy?" Poppy asked.
Neji shared a look of sorrow with his team. "A few months later, he left the village behind with no explanation and no intention to return. One of the reasons we are on this journey is so that we can find him and ask him why he left." And see if they could convince him to come back.
"What was his name?" Toph asked from where she sat. She was curious about the person she had just been told about.
"Naruto…Naruto Uzumaki." The answer made Aang, Katara and Sokka share a look. One of their enemies, quite possible the most dangerous one, had that kind of effect on Neji? It was hard to believe.
"As interesting as that story is," Master Yu said. 'What exactly is your point?"
"Fate does not control you. If Lee is a genius of hard work, then he is a genius of hard work. There's not a doubt in my mind that if he could, he would be able to beat me."
As Master Yu took this all in, Sokka turned to look at Lao. "Excuse me, I have a question." He said. "When we walked in here, we passed a small room that had an urn on a pedestal. Is it important?" When he had glanced at the urn in passing, he had gotten a weird feeling, like he should know what was in it.
Lao nodded in realization. "That room is a shrine and the urn holds the ashes of the first Beifong." He answered. "Why do you wish to know?"
"I was just curious, that's all." The Tribesman replied. He reached out to have some more tea. As he did, the Medallion somehow managed to slip out.
Both Lao and Poppy noticed it and knew what it was immediately. "You are a Paragon?" Toph's father asked him.
Sokka look down at his Medallion. "Yes. Do you have something against them?" He remembered what Fong has said and wondered what could've happened to earn that kind of response.
"Not at all, we greatly respect the Paragons." Poppy told him, bowing her head in respect to him. "Tell us, what do you know about the history of the Paragons?"
"Nothing, really," He answered. That was something he hoped to correct. "Was the first Beifong a Paragon?"
"No, not just that," Lao said. "According to the family history, our ancestor was the first Paragon of the Earth Kingdom."
Both Aang's and Sokka's eyes went wide at those words. "So…your ancestor was there at the beginning," The Paragon of the Water Tribes said, almost to himself. Lao simply nodded.
"Do you know why the Paragons were created?" Aang asked.
This time, Poppy shook her head. "I'm sorry, but no. While the history of the Paragons is just as long as the Avatar, the actual facts about why they were created have been lost." The silence in the room was almost deafening. "Perhaps it's time we all went to sleep." She suggested. Everyone agreed with her.
Later on in the room they were given, Aang was bidding Appa goodnight while Katara sat on the bed and Sokka sat against it with Akela at his side while Momo sat in the bag. Team Guy had been given a separate room, one close to the one they were in. Hearing almost silent footsteps walking to their door, Aang turned around and saw Toph leaning against the doorframe. He gave a small cry of panic and went into an Airbending stance. "Relax." Toph told him. "Look I'm sorry about dinner. Let's call a truce, okay?" Aang put his hands down. "Follow me." She ordered. She left the room and he followed, silently telling Katara and Sokka that he would be fine.
She led him out into the garden. While Aang walked on the bridge she walked on raised edge of the bridge. "Even though I was born blind, I never had a problem seeing." She explained. She jumped down to the ground. "I see with Earthbending, it's kinda like seeing with my feet. I feel the vibrations in the earth and I can see where everything is, you, that tree, even those ants."
Aang looked around for the ants that were mentioned until he finally saw them. "That's amazing." He told her.
"My parents don't understand. They've always treated me like I was helpless." She said as they walked near the wall.
"Is that why you became the Blind Bandit?" It was beginning to make sense to him.
"Yeah," She answered.
"Then why stay here where you're not happy?"
"They're my parents. Where else am I supposed to go?" She couldn't think of anyplace else but here.
"You could come with us." He offered outright. She got to be free of her parents and he got an Earthbending teacher.
"Yeah, you guys get to go wherever you want. No one telling you what to do, that's the life…it's just not my life." She then turned to her right, then knelt down and placed a hand to the earth. "We're being ambushed!" She exclaimed before grabbing Aang by the hand and running off.
As they ran, a dirt trail appeared behind them. It quickly caught up and then cut them off. Popping out of the tunnel that caused the trail was someone Toph knew: the Gopher from Earth Rumble VI. Before they could fight back, the two were trapped in cages, specifically metal cages. As Aang looked out through the bars (Toph was a little short to do that). he saw people he did not expect. "I think you kids owe me some money." Xin Fu told them with the rest of Earth Rumble VI members behind him.
(Location: Yu Dao)
Kori lay on her bed with her mother sitting next to it. A knock was heard coming from the door. Mrs. Morishita went over to the door and opened it slightly revealing a person's face. "Naruto," She said, looking at the blonde.
"Ma'am," He greeted. "Can I come in?"
"Young man, I have half a mind to take you outside, give you a thorough beating and then bury you in the earth." She threatened him. She tried to make sure her daughter came to harm and yet, it had happened.
"You have every right to do so, ma'am." He replied. "But I would like to talk to Kori before you do so." He wanted to get everything out into the air and try to clear it all up. To do that, he needed to talk to her.
"You broke her heart." She told him, quiet anger filling her voice.
"And now I want to explain myself, she deserves that."
Mrs. Morishita was silent for a few minutes. "Yes, she does." She agreed before quietly opening the door.
"Thank you, ma'am," He told her as he walked in. "Can you do me a favor and go talk to Azula?"
"The princess?" She asked as she narrowed her eyes. "Why?"
"She's gone too long without a lecture from a mother figure." He answered. To anyone else, it would've sounded odd and cryptic. But she understood what he meant.
"…Very well, I will go talk to her." She went past him and out the door, closing it behind him.
Once he knew that she had left, he turned to the bed. "Kori?" He called out.
"What do you want?" was the response he got.
"I wanted to talk to you." He told the bed.
"I don't want to talk to you." She sounded upset and stubborn. But he wasn't going to let that stop him. They needed this.
"Tough, I'm going to talk and you're going to listen." He replied with a firm voice.
"Why should I!?" She demanded as she took her face away from her pillow. He could see the tearstains on it and on her face.
"You need to hear what I have to say." He walked over to the edge of the bed and sat down. "Why are you in love with me?" He asked, looking straight at her.
"What?" she asked with confusion in her voice. She had never expected that kind of question to come from him.
"Why are you in love with me?" He repeated. It had to be asked and he knew it.
"I…I don't really know why. You're best at everything, you're smart, and you look so cool." She listed of the reasons.
He frowned at the words and shook his head. "That's not love Kori, that's a crush." He told her gently.
"But a crush can turn into love!" She protested. That's what she had been hoping for all this time.
"Yes, it can." He admitted. "But that only happens when you realized your crush has imperfections." And Kami knows he had imperfections.
"You don't have any imperfections Naruto." She couldn't see reason he would've any imperfections. He was perfect.
"And that's why you're not in love with me. You only have a crush." He told her.
Tears began to form in her eyes again, threatening to fall. "I a-am too in l-love with you," She said. She wanted to believe that with all she had.
Naruto noticed the tears and gave her a hug. "Trust me, you're not." At that point, she lost control and began to bawl like a baby. She held onto him as she cried, her body shaking with each sob. He waited for the crying to turn into sniffles. "Kori, I told you that I did love you, remember?" He asked her. She nodded, not trusting her voice. "There are many kinds of love, and the love I have for you is that of a sibling."
"What?" She said.
He pulled away from the hug so that he could look at her face. "I love you like a sister. That's important to me."
She stayed quiet for a minute and then smiled. "Well, it's not the love I wanted, but I'll take it." She could be happy with that.
"Kori, to me, a family is most important." He assured her. "The ones you love always become a part of your family."
"I guess…I guess you're right. Mom and Dad already consider you a member of the family." They had done that back when he had been posted in Yu Dao.
He smiled. "You see? That's it right there. Just do me a favor, Kori."
She grew curious. "What?"
"Find someone who you'll be able to fall in love for what they are and not what they can do. I've seen what a crush can do to a person and it doesn't usually go anywhere."
"Speaking from experience, are we?" Kyūbi asked with dry sarcasm.
"Yes, we are. I had a crush once, remember?" Naruto silently answered.
"Of course I remember. I was there." And he remembered every single thing that had happened.
He ignored the fox and brought his attention back to Kori. "Are you feeling better now?" He asked her.
"Yeah," She answered. The sadness was gone now and she felt strangely…happy.
He got off the bed. "That's good." He started to walk towards the door.
"Where are you going?" She asked him.
He stopped and turned around to look at her. "Now I'm going to go talk to Azula."
(Location: Azula's room)
She heard a knock on the door. Getting out of bed, she walked over to the door and opened it, revealing Mrs. Morishita. "May I come in?" The wife of Yu Dao's mayor asked her.
Azula shrugged and stood to the side so that she could come in. "What do you want?"She asked.
Mrs. Morishita turned around to face her. "What is it exactly that you have against my daughter?" She asked, her voice filled with a quiet and dangerous tone.
She scoffed. "Why would I have anything against your daughter?" It sounded completely ridiculous. She was the princess of the Fire Nation. She does not become jealous of anyone.
"Maybe it's because she had something that you thought was yours and yours alone. Or maybe because she has something you don't."
"What could she have that I don't? I'm a princess, I have everything."
"Really?" asked Mrs. Morishita. "Then where is your mother?"
Azula stiffened. "Excuse me?" She asked. She was fairly certain she had heard what the mayor's wife had said. But she also didn't want to think she heard what she heard.
"You say you have everything. Where is your mother?" She asked again.
"Why do you care?" The princess growled. It wasn't her business. It wasn't anyone's business to pry into such matters.
"No mother would ever let their child turn out like this."
"Shut up." She ordered. She didn't want to hear this. Not from her. Not from anyone. They had not right to speak of it.
"If your mother let you turn out like this, she wasn't a very good mother." Mrs. Morishita stated with a severe frown on her face and strong disapproval in her voice.
"I said SHUT UP!" Azula yelled. "What's it matter to you anyway? You're not my mother! Besides, she never cared about me. Zuko was her favorite." Zuko had always been her favorite. She never really cared about her. Not when she wanted it, to hear her say that she was loved.
"Nevertheless, she was your mother and she did care about you." Mrs. Morishita told her. "I have a question for you, young lady. If your mother saw how you acted today, what do you think she would say to you?" She left Azula alone in her room, not waiting for an answer.
While she just stood there, absorbing what she was told, Naruto appeared at the door. "I take it Mrs. Morishita already talked to you?" He asked her as he walked in.
Azula turned to face her bodyguard. "Where were you?" She demanded with anger in her voice.
"I went to talk to Kori." He answered.
She gave an annoyed huff. "Whatever." She said in reply. She turned her back to him and looked out the nearby window (or at least, pretended to).
"What's wrong, Azula?" He asked her. They had to get this all out. And the only they would be able to do that was if they talked.
She stood there silently for a few minutes, still pretending to look out the window. Finally she turned back to face him. "Why do you care so much about Kori?" She asked him. She wanted know why he did.
Naruto had a mystified look on his face, like he was confused by her question, but decided to answer anyway. "I was the first one to treat her like a normal person." She was visibly confused, so he continued. "When I was first assigned here, everyone knew her as the mayor's daughter, not as Kori. She hated that, and so she kept constantly getting in trouble. The problem was that nobody would punish her for what she did."
That sounded very similar to what she had been like three years ago. "So what did you do?" She asked.
He smiled. "The first time she got into trouble when I was her bodyguard, I made her do twenty laps on the trail and she had to do it in ten minutes. Every time she got into trouble, hard training was her punishment. She hated me for that. She had threatened to murder me almost every time she did laps. In response, I just told that she had to start over."
"Her parents let you do this?" Azula asked. She was surprised, but she also knew that Naruto could be a hard taskmaster. He hadn't treated her any differently than the soldiers at the training field when he had been teaching her (which would've probably made her father very anger, if he had been told).
"They told me that so long as I didn't kill her, I was fine." He answered. "And so, every time she turned her frustration and anger at me, I trained her to the ground."
"That's all you did? You trained her?" She almost found it hard for her to believe the mayor's daughter would fall in love with him just because of that.
"Why do you think she tried to attack me? She's been trying to beat me ever since I trained her. It's her way of trying to prove that my training worked." Of course, he thought that she didn't need to do that. But who was he to argue?
Azula just stood there, reflecting on what he said. She then walked through the door and out into the corridor. She walked right pass Ty Lee and Mai. "Azula, where are you going?" Naruto called out to her.
"To Kori's room," She called back.
"What for?" asked Ty Lee.
"I'm going to talk to her."
As they watched her go down the corridor, Mai turned to the others. "So, who's getting the fire flakes?" She asked him. There was probably a show (or a fight, take your pick) about to happen and they should try to get good seats.
"That's not funny Mai." Naruto told her, disapproval in his voice.
"Do you see me laughing?" She asked back in deadpan.
(Location: Kori's room)
Kori heard the knock on her door, making her look at it. "Who is it?" She called out.
"It's Azula." The voice of the Fire Nation princess said through the wood. "May I come in?"
"As you wish," She answered. Who was she to deny the princess of her country? Azula opened the door and walked into the room, stopping about a foot before the bed. "What do you need?" Kori asked her.
"I wanted to apologize." She said. She was almost embarrassed to say the words, but she had and they were already out there.
Kori looked at her. "I'm sorry?" They daughter of the mayor had not been expecting that kind of answer.
"I want to apologize for my behavior to you." She explained. As she spoke, she found the words were becoming easy to say, somewhat.
Azula stood silent for a minute. "I was jealous of you. I had thought that Naruto was only my bodyguard. Then you appeared and practically tell me that he was yours as well. I was jealous and I took it out on you." She bowed her head. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay. I know what you're talking about." Kori smiled. "Naruto does that to you, doesn't he?"
Azula chuckled at that. "Yes, he does." She gave Kori a long look. "By the way, you can never tell anyone about me apologizing. If people found out, my reputation would be ruined."
"Yes ma'am!" She gave a mock salute, making the both of them laugh.
"You know…now that I think about it, it was Naruto's fault for making us act like that." Azula said after they stop laughing.
Kori thought about it. "Yeah…you're right."
The princess of the Fire Nation smirked. "Want to get back at him for it?"
The daughter of Yu Dao's mayor smirked in return. "I already have an idea."
(Location: Beifong estate)
Sokka stood in front of two very shallow craters in the ground with Katara and Team Guy nearby as well Lao, Poppy and Master nearby. Reaching down, he pulled out a dagger out of the ground, attached to the dagger was a message. "Whoever took Aang and Toph left this." He said as he held it out to Katara.
She took the message of the weapon. "If you want to see your daughter again, bring five hundred gold pieces to the arena." She read aloud. "It's signed Xin Fu and the Boulder."
He looked at the message. "You know, the Boulder has got a nice autograph." He commented before noticing the looks Katara and Team Guy were giving him. "Hey, I am just saying."
"Master Yu." Lao began. "I need you to help me get my daughter back."
"We're going with you." Katara told him.
"We are indeed." Guy said.
Poopy knelt in front of the craters. "Poor Toph, she must be so scared." She said.
(Location: Earth Rumble Arena)
"You think you're so tough!? Why don't you come up here so I can smack that grin off your face!" Toph told Xin Fu. Both she and Aang were still in the cages but were now held in the air by chains, over the ring.
"I'm not smiling." Xin Fu replied. Instead, he was frowning.
"Toph!" cried out a voice. Xin Fu turned around and saw Lao, Master Yu, Katara, Sokka, Akela and Team Guy standing on the other side of the ring.
"Here's your money!" Sokka announced holding up a sack of money. "Now let them go." He dropped the bag and Master Yu bent it across the floor to Xin Fu's feet. He picked up the bag and checked the contents. Once he was satisfied, he gave a signal and Toph's cage was lowered. The Boulder (who had standing close to Xin Fu) opened the bottom and Toph came out. She ran over to her father and they began to leave with Master Yu behind them.
"What about Aang?" Katara demanded.
Xin Fu held up a wanted poster of Aang. "I think the Fire Nation will pay a hefty price for the Avatar." He told them. "Now, get out of my ring!"
Akela gave an angry snarl and charged at Xin Fu. Before he could even get close, the Boulder stepped up and bent the ring to jut out a column beneath Akela, sending him up into the air with a yelp. "Akela!" cried Sokka.
The Boulder then bent a big chunk of rock out of the ring and threw it at the airborne wolf. It hit him, sending him crashing to the floor in front of Sokka. "The Boulder did not come here to play with half-grown mongrels." He said in a bored voice.
Katara quickly checked Akela. Thankfully the injuries were not serious. Once he knew that, Sokka turned and glared at Xin Fu and the Boulder. "You son of a half grown…" He reached for his boomerang, but the other members of Earth Rumble VI appeared, severely outnumbering him.
"The Boulder dares you to finish that comment." The Boulder taunted him.
Both Katara and Sokka stared at the group. Even with Team Guy beside them, they didn't know if they could take on that many Earthbenders all at once. "Go, I'll be okay." Aang told them. They turned and left the ring with Akela behind them (padding gingerly, as he didn't want to hurt himself any more).
They managed to reach the other group in the tunnel. "Toph, there's too many of them. We need an Earthbender, we need you!" Katara told her, pleading with her.
But Lao wasn't having any off it. "My daughter is blind." He told them with anger in his voice. "She is blind and tiny and helpless and…fragile. She cannot help you!"
At this point, Toph had had enough. She jerked her hand free of her father's grip. "Yes, I can." She began to walk back over to Katara and Sokka.
"Lord Lao," Guy spoke up as he waited for the others to head back out of the tunnel. "Sooner or later, your daughter will want to be free of your protectiveness. Perhaps sooner is better than later?" He then turned and followed, walking leaving Lao to ponder his question.
Meanwhile, the members of Earth Rumble were also leaving the place (just in the other direction). Aang was being held by the Hippo. As they approached the staircase, a wall of earth sprang up in front of them. They all turned their heads to see Toph on the other side of the ring with Sokka and Katara behind her (Team Guy had decided to hang back and wait). "Let him go!" She ordered. "I've beat you all before and I'll do it again."
"The Boulder takes issue with that comment." The Boulder responded. The Hippo tossed Aang's cage away and they all charged forward.
Both Sokka and Katara moved forward to fight but were stop by Toph. "Wait!" She told them before concentrating a bit, feeling the vibrations of her opponents' feet. "They're mine." She went into an Earthbending stance and forced the Earth Rumble members back while also creating a dust screen. As her father watched with worry from the stands along with Master Yu, Team Guy and Akela, Toph entered the dust screen. The first person she encountered was Fire Nation Man, who was doing poses. Once he noticed that she was there, he tried to bend a stream of dust at her. She simply smirked, sidestepped and sent the Fire Nation Man out of the ring and crashing into the floor by way of a rock line.
As the fight went on, Sokka and Katara, who had skirted around the dust screen to get to the other side of the ring, were trying to get Aang out of the cage. "Hit it harder!" Aang told Sokka, who was banging on one of the locks with a rock.
"I'm trying!" He replied.
Meanwhile the Gecko, who had been moving through the dust screen, looking for his opponent, was hit on the head by a small pebble. Looking at where it came from, he saw Toph and immediately reacted by leaping up off the ring floor with rock-balls in hand and hurled them at her. When they got near, she just grabbed them and tossed them behind her. As the Gecko was coming down due to gravity, he was hit by a column which sent him flying again. He got hit again by another column and then a third, each time gravity took over his flying abilities. The third sent him flying out of the ring and straight into Fire Nation Man, sending the two of them back onto the ground.
The Gopher tried to sneak up on Toph by tunneling. He popped up behind her and threw a rock-ball at her. However she knew he was coming. So when the rock-ball reached her, she whipped around, grabbed the rock-ball and threw it back. The result was the Gopher was being hit and flew out of the ring and crashing into the Gecko and Fire Nation Man.
Sokka finally managed to break open the lock letting Aang free. He popped out of the cage ready to fight, only for Sokka to shake his head and point. His finger pointed to the Hippo, who was swinging a large rock emblem at nothing, coming out of the dust screen. Soon afterwards, the Boulder flew out of the dust screen with a shout. The two of them quickly turned back around and saw Toph follow them out of the dust screen.
The Boulder growled and the Hippo thumped his chest. The two charged forward with the Headhunter swinging in from behind with rock in hand and screaming as well. The screaming tipped Toph off. She was standing on the Earth Kingdom emblem in the middle of the ring and so when the Boulder and the Hippo also reached the emblem, she literally bent the emblem to twist it around. The end result was the Headhunter crashing into the Boulder and the Hippo. Toph took advantage of that and sent them flying out of the ring and into the Gopher, Gecko, and Fire Nation Man.
"I never knew." Master Yu said to Lao. "Your daughter's amazing."
"People you least expect it from do that to you." Neji stated. He knew that from experience.
Toph now stood at one end of the ring with the dust screen covering the other side. Bringing her hands down, she bent the dust away, revealing Xin Fu standing there. He loosened some muscles in his neck and took his stance. Toph simply hocked one in response. She then got into her stance and slowly they circled each other. Xin Fu started it off by bending a barrage of rocks at her. Toph bent the ring to form two triangular slabs in front of her, making a shield. The barrage of rocks hit the shield, but nothing broke through. She then bent one of the slabs forward at Xin Fu.
He twisted up into the air and to the side in order to dodge the incoming slab. He stuck his hand into the ring while in midair and hurled a rock-ball at Toph. She simply took one step to the side and let the rock-ball fly right past her face. She retaliated and sent Xin Fu out of the ring and landed squarely between Lao and Master Yu.
"She's the greatest Earthbender I've ever seen!" Master Yu told her father as Aang and the others gathered around Toph.
(Location: Beifong estate)
Toph stood in front of her parents while the others sat behind her. "Dad," She began. "I know it's probably hard for you to see me this way. But the obedient helpless little blind girl that you think I am just isn't me. I love fighting. I love being an Earthbender, and I'm really, really good at it! I know I've kept my life secret from you, but you were keeping me secret from the whole world. You were doing it to protect me, but I'm twelve years old and I've never had a real friend. So, now that you see who I really am, I hope it doesn't change the way you feel about me."
"Of course it doesn't change the way I feel about you, Toph." He told her. "It's made me realize something."
"It has?" She asked, her hopes rising.
"Yes…I've let you have far too much freedom. From now on you will be cared for and guarded twenty four hours a day!" He told her, his wife nodding in agreement.
"But Dad!" protested Toph
"We are doing this for your own good, Toph." Poppy told her, stopping her from making any more arguments.
"Please escort the Avatar and his friends out." Her father commanded. "They are no longer welcome here."
As the group was being led away, Aang looked back. "I'm sorry, Toph." He told her.
"I'm sorry too." She replied. "Goodbye Aang."
Guy also looked back. "Lord Lao, you never answered my question." Lao didn't say anything and looked away. "This is most unyouthful of you." He accused her father as they were lead away. No one noticed the tears coming from Toph's eyes.
(Location: Outside the Beifong estate)
Aang stood on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Beifong estates. "Don't worry." Katara told him, trying to be reassuring. "We'll find you a teacher. There are plenty of amazing Earthbenders out there."
"Not like her." He said in reply. They climbed aboard Appa where Sokka, Momo, Akela, and Team Guy already were. They were about to take off when Aang heard something behind them. Turning around, he saw Toph in her causal gear running up to them, a traveling pack slung across her back. "Toph!" He said in joy. "What are you doing here?"
"My dad changed his mind." She told them as she stopped beside Appa. "He said I was free to travel the world."
While Sokka and Katara shared a look of confusion, Team Guy did not believe a word she said. "Well…we better get out of here before your Dad changes his mind again." Sokka said.
"Good idea." She replied.
"You're gonna be a great teacher, Toph" Aang told her. He had no doubt about it.
"Speaking of which, I wanna show you something."
"Okay." Aang hopped off of Appa but just as he landed on the ground, Toph sent him into a tree via an earth column she bent out of the ground. "Now we're even." She told him. "Um, I'll take the belt back." She said, holding out her hand.
Sokka took it off and tossed it down to Toph. Unfortunately, he forgot she was blind so the belt landed on her head, sending her to the ground. "Sorry." He apologized just before Aang fell out of the tree.
Soon enough, Appa was flying through the night sky with a new passenger on board.
(Location: Yu Dao)
"That was a good workout." Naruto said as he came out of the bath adjacent to his room. He had just gotten back from the morning exercises with the military. Clad only in his pants, he headed back to his bed to get the rest of his clothes when he notices the door was knocking. "Who is that?" He wondered aloud as he walked to the door. He opened it and was immediately bombarded with high-pitched squeals of "It's Lord Naruto!" He slammed the door shut, locked it and put his back to it so that they wouldn't get through easily. "It's the Fangirls!" He thought in a panic.
"Yes, it is." TheKyūbi noted, slightly fearful. There were a few (a very few) thing in this world that could frighten a Bijū. And Fangirls (or Fanboys, depending on the Jinchūriki) were quite high on that list.
"How did they find me!?" He demanded, mostly to himself. "I didn't tell anybody about where I was sleeping except for…" He went still as the notion went through his head. "They didn't."
"Apparently, they did."
"Those two are so dead when I get my hands on them!" He promised. He knew that he might've unintentionally been the source of anger between them and he knew that he should've expected some kind of payback. But this was going too far!
The thumping on the door was getting louder, as were the cries of "Please let us in Lord Naruto!" and "I want your babies!" It brought him back to the realty he was currently in.
"Kit, right now you should probably focus more on getting out alive." TheKyūbi told him. The fox had lived long enough and had been sealed into enough people to know the horror of Fangirls (and Fanboys!). He was in no particular hurry to see it again.
Naruto looked around the room for an exit, only to find none. "Of all the rooms I had to choose, I had to pick the one that didn't have windows!" He bemoaned the fact.
"Then make one! The door won't hold for long!" His Bijū urged him. The two of them could hear the door starting to crack against the relentless pounding.
Quickly making a one-handed Rasengan, the blonde charged to the wall he knew led to a room that had windows. He burst through the wall into the empty room, opened the window, and leapt out just as the Fangirls broke through the door. "I'm safe!" He thought in triumph as he landed on a nearby rooftop.
"Uh…kit? Don't look down." The Kyūbi warned him.
He, of course, did lookdown and saw Fangirls in the streets. He could tell they were Fangirls because of the banners that said "We love Lord Naruto!" "Dear Kami! How many are they!?" He wondered in fear and horror. Before the fox could answer his question, the window he had leapt from was filled with Fangirls who looked like they could make the jump. That was when he remembered he was only wearing his pants.
"Lord Naruto!" They cried getting attention from the streets, which amplified the cry many times over. Suddenly, there were Fangirls on the same rooftop as him.
"Gaki, I just have one word of advice: run!" And so Naruto did. He ran and the Fangirls followed. If one had stayed behind and looked up, they would have seen four girls sitting on the edge of the roof of the mayor's house, eating fire flakes and happily watching the choas.
(Location: Mayor Morishita's dining room)
Azula, Mai, Ty Lee, and Kori were sitting down at the table and were about to enjoy a light lunch. It had been about five hours since the Fangirls had been set on Naruto. Since they didn't hear the Fangirls celebrating in the streets, they had assumed that the blonde was able to get away. As they were about to start eating, the door to the dining room opened and in came a fully clothed Naruto. "That was not fun." He declared as he closed the door behind him and walked to the table.
"What's the matter Naruto? Didn't you enjoy your run?" Azula asked, making the girls burst into giggling.
"Let's cut to the chase, shall we?" He told them. "Kori, Azula, I know it was the two of you who did this. As a prankster, I commend you. But I must also prank you back." He turned to Azula. "And since you gave me no warning, I shall do the same to you. Since I lost the Fangirls two hours ago, I went to see some people. They should be arriving soon." He looked over to Kori. "I must admit, Kori. I did not know you had them. It was quite a surprise."
Both Azula and Kori began to get nervous at his words. "Who's coming?" Kori asked. She was beginning to think that she and Azula should run for their lives.
Soon they heard a knock on the door. "I think that's for you two." He told them, before going back to the door and opening it. "Here they are." He announced, holding the door wide open (oddly enough, the area beyond the door somehow looked like a black void).
"It's Lady Kori and Lady Azula!" They all heard come from beyond the door.
Azula and Kori both knew that kind of voice. "Fanboys!" cried the two of them in horror as the first came through the door and saw them. They ran to a nearby opened window and jumped through it, not really knowing where it would (and not really caring). The Fanboys soon chased after the two girls, coming through the door and leaving through the window, leaving the dining room empty except for Naruto, Mai, and Ty Lee.
"Um…Naruto?" asked Ty Lee. "Wasn't that a bit much?"
"Not at all," He replied as he sat down at the table. "I let them off a little easy."
"How so?" asked Mai.
"I could prank them in a way that would force them to strip to their undergarments, and then I would've introduced the Fanboys." He explained before helping himself to the lunch. Both Mai and Ty Lee just stared at him. The two of them, as well as Azula and Kori when they heard about what he said later, had learned a good lesson that day:
You don't prank an Uzumaki. They will prank you back.
Author's note: Thank you for all the reviews you've sent me. I never thought I would hit triple digits in reviews.
Now you've got a little history on the Paragons. More will be coming up. Also coming up is a conversation between Naruto and Sifu.
For the record: this is not going to be Naruto/Azula/Kori, it's just Naruto/Azula, those of you who want a threesome can and will get over it.
For those of you who find my descriptions of Earthbending difficult, I apologize. It's not as easy as describing the other Bending arts
If you want to know what a spike meteor hammer is, it's the weapon Kori uses in the comics.
Also, those are the actual stage names for the Earth Rumble members. I did not make those up.
Now, I am not going to do Zuko Alone because, like The Cave of Two Lovers, it's a little pointless for the story. However I will be doing a Zuko-centric chapter that also reveals what happened to Naruto while he was on Ember Island.
Yes, I did change Sokka a little bit in this chapter. But considering he's gotten a little more serious, I felt it was necessary.
I'll see you all next chapter!