Summary: Toph finally gets her field trip with Zuko, only this time it is to the most feared place in the Fire Nation and an entire nation is depending on them.
A/N: Written for my duel against Yules. The prompt: Zuko, running in the rain, hint of romance, ostriches. I wrote this quickly, and though I scanned through it, there are most likely mistakes. I plan to be reuploading this chapter a few times throughout the next week.
And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you
-Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
To say that the night that Zuko snuck out of the Fire Nation Royal Palace was a rainy one would be an understatement.
A downpour would be a more apt word, with the rain pattering loudly against the ground enough that a quick step outside would have anyone (except maybe a waterbender) drenched and the wind was wildly blowing, giving anyone (except maybe an airbender) a promising bad hair day.
But that night, Fire Lord Zuko put on not his usual royal garments, but some simple pants and a shirt, not unlike what he wore when he travelled with the Avatar.
He placed his swords behind his back and carefully walked across the palace, barely making a sound. When he reached the entrance, successfully avoiding any guards, he slowly stepped outside. Or at least that had been the plan.
"Where do you think you're going, Sparky?"
Zuko had not expected the voice and speaker smiled when she saw his muscles tighten suddenly and then relax when he realized just who it was.
Of course, to anyone else, it would have seemed like the Fire Lord had remained absolutely still. Amazing what insight you could gain on your friends when you never saw what they looked like.
Toph was in a small space between two pillars, leaving her invisible to others, or so she assumed. It was about a foot off the ground, so she hopped off, walked over to Zuko, and smiled widely at him.
He didn't smile back. "I could ask the same thing about you, Toph."
Toph began to stare at her fingers as she picked out some small rocks in them. He wasn't buying the innocence act, but she didn't care. She wasn't innocent or frail or anything else, and he knew better than anyone that just because she was from a noble family didn't mean she wasn't possibly the toughest person in the world.
Plus, he was the Fire Lord. If he had been fooled, she would have had to personally go in search of a replacement.
"I don't' know," Toph said and decided to yawn. "I was just sleeping when I couldn't help but feel your big feet get up and start moving around, and I thought to myself, 'now why would the Fire Lord be walking around at this time of the night?' And then I realized that Zuko only would do that if he was up to something."
"I couldn't get to sleep," Zuko said, but he didn't even try to make the lie believable.
Toph scoffed. "Yeah, well that's not what my feet saw when you were snoring away. You have a different heart rate when you're asleep, genius, and not even the world's greatest firebender could control their breathing enough to change it. Then you woke up, walked to the overview of the ostrich horse stables, but not before you made a quick stop at the kitchen. And then you started heading this way. Which brings to question: why is a firebender going out on a rainy night like tonight? Doesn't make much sense, does it?"
"I was just going to go for a walk. It won't be for long."
"You should really learn to stop trying to lie to me. It never works."
"What do you want from me, Toph?" Zuko asked exasperatedly. He leaned again the wall and ruffled his hair. "I'm going to go do something!" He was getting angry. She could tell from his pumping heart and anyone else could tell from his surly expression.
"She shrugged. "Suit yourself. Goodnight Zuko." She didn't look in his direction when she left as she walked up the stairs. She didn't need to.
She felt as he left, though the rain left her sight slightly muddled. As soon as he was out the door and cleared the entrance to the palace grounds, he took off running.
And then she did the natural thing. She took off after him.
She didn't run much- as a general rule, no one in their little gang really ran. Of course she could, however, and she had her earthbending to give her an extra boost in each one of her strides.
She could still see Zuko, and she could feel as she got closer and closer: her earthbending doing the trick.
And she could feel the rain pounding as hard as ever against her skin.
"Sometimes I'm really glad I can't see," she muttered to herself, "or this would be a real mess. No wonder Zuko's going so slow." She took a small minute to smile to herself before adding another boost of speed.
Finally, Zuko began to slow down and went into a small cave for what Toph presumed was either to rest or wait out the storm- it had been getting progressively worse. The wind buffeted her but she was and would always be a rock to stand against it.
As she got closer to the cave, she slowed her pace and sauntered into it. Zuko looked up as soon as he heard her soft footsteps.
"I've always had good hearing," he said softly.
Toph smiled. "Surprised to see me?"
"Not really. I'd be more surprised if I didn't."
"So now that I'm here, you gonna tell me what this is all about."
Zuko sighed and ran a hand over his face. "I guess I don't have much of a choice. If you're up for a story, that is."
"You know. Always up for a good story. Just don't bother describing things in colors."
Zuko shrugged. "You know about the war meeting I interrupted. Well that's not all there is to the story. One of the commanders in the room heard my idea and sided with it. He passed the wrong information to his troops. Of course I was long gone by the time this happened."
"Was he banished too?"
"I don't think so," Zuko said. "His name was Commander Huang, he was popular among the people. They say he was killed in battle. But the thing is, I was looking through my father's old files and I saw reference that he was being punished somewhere. The word he used was confined."
"So is he in a prison or something?"
"No," Zuko said, "my father was too smart to put a man with that many supporters in prison. Too many ways for the nation to find out. But my father had a few places where he liked to hold people."
"Is there a reason you're going after Huang now and not later or sooner?"
Zuko nodded solemnly. "His family really needs him right now. And he was a good general. I could really use his support. Also, he was skilled in healing: spiritual, physical, psychological, you name it. I was thinking he could be useful for some certain…people. And he doesn't deserve to be punished any longer- not for something I did. And he, uh, may be the only person who knows where some information is located that is absolutely necessary to the Fire Nation and the world."
Zuko paused and shrugged. "Plus nothing important is happening today or tomorrow. Last night was the best time to sneak out."
"I see," Toph said. "You know, it sounds like the rain has cleared up a bit, maybe we could head out to get him now. And what about Mai in all this?"
Zuko blushed softly, not that Toph could see it. "She knows, she's actually covering for me. She and Ty Lee are taking a trip to a local spa. Ty Lee's idea. They're saying I'm with them and not feeling well. It's actually kind of sad that I'm missing it. Who knew being the Fire Lord would be as stressful as it was?"
"Not to mention you never know who's at the spas," Toph pointed out. "You should have gone to keep on eye on her."
Zuko laughed. "No one is going to mess with the Fire Lord by taking his girlfriend. Plus, with Ty Lee by her side, she's not going to get any attention. And even if there was a guy, I'd like to see how she deals with him." Zuko smiled dreamily and Toph felt his heart rate speed up just a bit.
She coughed. "We should get going, if we want to save Huang."
Zuko nodded. "Right, let's go."
The two set off through the forest covered mountains, Zuko making sure Toph avoided any tree roots that could have become obscured by the rain, and her doing the same for him. She didn't trust eyesight almost as much as he was still wary of feetsight.
They began to climb a steep mountain. Finally, when Toph was seriously beginning to get a little tired (and she never got tired!), Zuko stopped, holding his hand out to bring her to a halt as well.
A strange feeling overcame both of them. Toph shivered, the air had gotten colder and suddenly she could begin to make out places deep underground- places that she hadn't noticed just a moment ago.
"What is this?" Toph asked. They stood at the mouth of a wide cave. "I can sense miles of passages and networks…but I can't see them."
"We call it Tartarus," Zuko said. "It's one of the most spiritual spots in the entire Fire Nation, but no one ventures deep inside it. They say it was cursed by a vengeful spirit."
"Do you think that's true?" Toph asked.
Zuko shook his head. "No. But I do believe that if there's a secret in the Fire Nation, especially a dark one, it'll ends up in this cave."
"So that's why you're looking for the commander here? Because you think that if he was being held, it would be here."
Zuko stared into the cave deeply. "My father was particularly fond of this place. He liked to send his enemies here. Some people say I'm lucky I wasn't sent here."
"I'm glad you were sent to look for Aang," Toph said. "I don't like this place."
"No one likes this place. If you stay in the first few caverns, it's good for a spiritual retreat, or so they say. They also say it's a good way to become mad. But no one ever goes beyond that. Except my father. And us."
Toph nodded and together they stepped in Tartarus.
The cave was dark, as all caves are, but it was unnaturally so. Zuko conjured a small flame with two fingers- for his use only- to see, but it only lit a small amount of the cave. Even a larger flame did little good.
The cave had a way of changing its sounds with each step- one place you could hear a frog croaking, the next step the frog would be silent. There were drips of water in the distance, and at times they could swear they heard the moans of the Earth.
The ceiling would change drastically at the start- from low to high to low, but as they ventured deeper, it became lower and lower with the passages narrower and narrower. Though there was always enough space for Zuko and Toph to comfortably walk side by side and Zuko to stand at full height.
They walked for almost an hour in silence, until all of a sudden, Toph's head whipped to one side and she held up her hand to cut Zuko off. "Did you hear that?" She asked.
He shook his head no and started speaking but she hissed at him to be quiet. Without their talking, the cave became completely silent with the exception of water dripping in the distance. Zuko could hear his breaths and Toph's breaths. Everything and anything that changed: a bat flapping its wings, a bug crawling up a wall. He wondered if this is what Toph felt at all times: able to pick up the patter of rat's feet and a slight breeze.
"It's gone now," Toph whispered after a while. "And don't say anything. I know what I hear, and I heard something."
"I believe you," Zuko said as he help up his hands. "Hearing has saved my life more than once."
They began walking again and Toph got a contemplative look over her face. "I'd believe that even if I didn't know you weren't lying."
Zuko laughed. "Yeah, these pirates tried to bomb my ship once. I hate pirates."
"I've always sort of wanted to meet one," Toph said. "I think we'd get along. And if not, I'd have them doing whatever I asked within a week."
Zuko was about to answer again when suddenly Toph put her ear to the wall again. He instinctively closed his mouth and again the cave seemed to follow their silence, again becoming unnaturally still.
"I don't like this," Toph whispered, and this time, Zuko felt inclined to whisper back.
Toph shook her head. "That's just it. I don't know. I mean, I hear something, but it's not like it's a scream…more like a beg."
"You hear someone begging?" he whispered.
"Yeah, I do," Toph said. "But it's different, somehow. We've got to keep going."
Zuko nodded and they began walking again, this time in a strained silence that they cave seemed to echo. Even when Zuko strained, he could no longer hear drips, or bugs, or bats. Just footsteps and his own thoughts.
As they walked on, his ears picked up on a strange sound. He felt more than saw the way Toph tensed up, knowing this was the sound that she had been hearing. He understood how she could call it begging, but it wasn't begging at the same time. It was different, more primitive than begging and quieter but not weaker.
"It's more of a sensation than a feeling," Toph whispered a minute after it had finished. They had both stood stalk still for a while after the pleading had subsided, but then started to move again.
They walked for about half an hour in silence until suddenly they were walking on something other than the cave floor. Zuko stopped and touched his hand to the ground. Instead of rocks, they were walking on a thick bed of roots.
"Oh no," Toph said. She stomped her foot into the ground and did it again and again until Zuko put his hand on her shoulder. "I can't see," she said and he could have sworn he heard panic in her voice and saw it in her face in the dim light of his fire.
"That's okay," Zuko said. "I can."
She nodded and reached her hand to his upper arm and held on as he walked. Zuko slowly stepped, making sure that Toph wouldn't trip as she walked now that she was truly blind. But the roots were all uneven, and he lost track of how many times Toph almost fell before he caught onto her and pulled her up.
"I hate being blind," she mumbled.
He didn't say anything and didn't bother to nod, but kept going. Eventually the roots smoothed over until the ground became planks of wood that made a hallow sounds as they walked. Toph still held on to Zuko's arm with a grip that was getting tighter and tighter (even though she was out of danger of tripping over a root) but he didn't even notice.
The ceiling got lower, and then, out of nowhere, a wind came forth and extinguished his fire. He stopped (causing Toph to crash into him) to try to bend it back, but there was no flame that came about from his efforts.
"Are you okay?" Toph asked. She rubbed her nose from running into him, not that he could see it. He didn't reply right away as he did some basic firebending techniques, trying to get his bending back. Nothing would be successful.
"My firebending is gone," he grunted.
"So I guess we're both blind then, huh?" Toph asked.
"I guess so," Zuko said. They walked with their outer hands outstretched, touching the cave, until suddenly the wall expanded and disappeared from their grasp. As they walked, they heard the rush of water, obscuring their footsteps and most other sounds.
"It's taking away our senses," Toph said. "One at a time."
Zuko nodded and the roaring of the water got louder and louder until it was nothing but a wave of sound in their ears and they couldn't even speak to each other over the noise.
They crashed into the door and landed on their backs. They couldn't see, until they both pushed the door open to a blinding light and hard stone floors. The sudden change left both temporarily confused. They were in a square, well lit room that had water pouring down the sides into pools. To be honest, it reminded Zuko of the catacombs of Ba Sing Se.
At the opposite end of the room, there was a door. But as they got closer to the door, they began to move slower and slower.
"There's something…bad there," Zuko said, motioning to the door.
Toph nodded. "I don't like this place. But we've got to go through it."
He took a step towards the door, and slowly opened it. It was as if a switch had been flicked. All of a sudden, Toph shrieked and Zuko stumbled back. The floors felt as if they were on fire, the air itself was like daggers, keeping his eyes open was causing his head to split in two, and breathing was suddenly impossible.
They both struggled on the floor, unable to do anything for fear of making it worse. It was the worst pain imaginable, and was it Zuko's imagination, or did his scar burn just as much as it did the day he got it?
Toph had fallen onto her knees and then landed with a thump face down on the floor. Tears were streaming from her eyes, as they were Zuko's. It was the first time either of them would have seen the other cry, except neither of them noticed anything other than their own bodies.
Finally, the vision of Zuko (and Toph, if she had been able to see it) grew dark and they both passed out into a long sleep.
When they awoke, the pain itself was gone, but the echoes of it was still fresh and they could feel the aftereffects every time their heart beat. Toph was the first to move, as she crawled over to Zuko.
"That wasn't fun," he said when she reached him. She shook her head and slowly pulled herself up into a kneeling and eventually standing position. He followed her lead.
The room they were in was almost pitch black, and would have been if it wasn't for the door that they had originally come from, which was drawing a small bit of light into their room. There was a small wooden door on the opposite end, the only thing truly illuminated.
Zuko looked at Toph. "Do we want to do this?"
Toph didn't shudder, but if she had, Zuko would not have though any the less of her. Instead, she stared straight ahead and nodded. "Let's get this over with."
He grabbed onto her arm, a sign of friendship: a sign that they were in it together. Then, he kicked open the door. The other room was completely dark, unlike the room they were currently in, semi-permeated with light.
He felt her grip his arm back, and together they stepped into it.
Neither could tell when they lost consciousness again because of the darkness, but they both remembered waking up again. And then they remember screaming.
Zuko reached a hand up to his scar gingerly, making sure it was a scar and not a blistering scab as it had been. Making sure it was cool to the touch. Reassuring himself that Ozai and Azula were both in prison and Aang had been victorious. Toph meanwhile checked her feet, making sure they were still there, she could still see.
"Did you just…" Zuko began.
"Yeah," Toph said. "I guess we experienced our worst memories or fears or whatever." She spit onto the ground. "But that won't break us."
"I'm just worried what's behind that door," Zuko said, pointing to a door. Toph couldn't see it, but it was different than the rest of the plain wooden doors that he had found. It was wrought iron and larger. And the same sense of dread surrounded it, only more powerful than any of the other rooms combined.
He led Toph to it, and placed her hand on it. "It's metal," he said.
She smiled and nodded. Then she bit her lip and in one fluid motion swung her hand back, taking the door with it. But instead of another room, they saw a torrent of water running down.
"We have to get wet?" Toph asked when she reached a hand out to feel it. "This wasn't in the deal when I signed up for a field trip!"
"You never signed up," Zuko pointed out. "You followed me. And experiencing your worst fear and unimaginable pain wasn't?"
Toph shrugged. "It's a field trip in the Fire Nation. I counted on the pain. But I didn't think the Fire Nation was big on water. I wonder what's behind it."
"I know a way to find out," Zuko said. "On three?"
Toph nodded. "Sounds good to me. One."
They both leapt through the waterfall, which was thicker than they expected. It pushed them down and they had to crawl and squirm and fight to even have a hope of getting through it.
Finally, however, they made it. They coughed and sputtered and wiped their eyes. It was Toph who looked up first. Her eyes widened and she made a small choking noise.
This got Zuko's attention and he looked up suddenly. "Toph!" he shouted, "are you okay?" Ironically, even though the waterfall emptied out into a small pool, it could not be heard.
At the sound of Zuko's question, she started coughing harder. He ran over and slapped her back and she coughed some more before finally getting her breathing under control. She took a few more deep breaths before turning and looking Zuko exactly in the eyes.
"You know, for someone who complains about a scar all the time, I sure don't see it."
"Of course you don't," Zuko said. "You've never been able to see it."
Toph shrugged and then suddenly reached out to punch Zuko. He reacted by easily sidestepping her punch with his arms out in the attack positions. She broke into a grin. "Made you flinch. You should have seen the look on your face!"
Zuko immediately put his arms down and schooled his expression.
And then: "Wait a second. I should have seen the look on my face? How would you know what it looks like? Unless…no."
Numbly, Zuko reached up a hand to touch his scar. Or at least where his scar would have been- and had been just a few moments ago.
"My scar is gone," he said.
Toph blinked, "yeah, I'll say. You look a lot different than I imagined." Her eyes were moving back and forth, examining every inch of the room. She was transfixed by the waterfall so much that she unconsciously walked foreword to touch it. "So this is water."
Zuko came to stand by her side. "Yeah."
"You know, I've always imagined what seeing would be," Toph said, "but I never thought it would be like this. Even when I dream, I dream with vibrations."
Zuko looked at the water, which made a sort of mirror. Impossible…and yet truly happening. And he saw himself looking back, like he had so many times before. Only this time it wasn't really himself. "I've always dreamed of what I would look like without the scar," Zuko admitted.
"So what do you think?" Toph asked.
"I don't know." He reached up to touch his eye again. "It's been a part of me for so long, I can't imagine myself without it. People recognize it, even when it's on the wrong side of my face."
Toph laughed and stared at his face for a while. "You're more interesting than a waterfall," she said at long last. Then she was silent for a while before hesitatingly (a word that did not describe Toph often) asked, "is there a way to show me what it looks like."
Zuko bent down and scraped some dust off of the ground before applying it around his eye. Somehow, there was different colors of dirt in the room, something he had not noticed before, though Toph seemed to have and he couldn't tell if it was because of earthbending or her new found sight, taking everything in.
Gingerly, he worked around his eye, checking his progress in the water fall that would show his reflection. Finally, he saw himself staring back at him.
He turned around to Toph, and to her credit, she didn't even blink. "Now you look about the same as I thought you would," she said. "The scar seems more you, if you get what I'm saying."
He smiled and let her walk around, staring at him for a few minutes. "You know, I'm the only person who knows what you look like without the scar now. And I'm blind!"
"Not right now, you're not."
Toph shrugged. "I want to remember you face though," she said. "Because this is the only chance that I'm going to get."
Zuko nodded and stared at the waterfall that was somehow reflecting. "Nothing about this cave is natural," he said.
Toph absentmindedly shook her head. "Nope. Not even the tunnels are completely natural. They were made by something or someone, though I'm not sure what it was. Could have been an earthbender for all I know. Of course nature did the most of it."
Zuko listened as he gently wiped away part of his scar, revealing him. He saw clearly in the waterfall, Prince Zuko, heir to the Fire Nation throne. But it was also Prince Zuko, son of the Phoenix King. He had never been banished, he had never caught Aang. And he wasn't happy.
"You know, in a lot of way, being banished wasn't that bad," Zuko said. "It led to a lot of good, didn't it?"
"Yeah, yeah," Toph said carelessly. She looked in the reflection too. "Who's that?"
Zuko's eyes were drawn to the waterfall first, where, clear as day, he saw a woman on top of an ostrich horse. The woman was dressed in rags, but he would recognize her anywhere.
"Mom!" He breathed. He turned around quickly, ready to run for her, but where she had been in the reflection, she was nowhere to be seen.
Toph rubbed her eyes. "Maybe I'm just getting used to this seeing thing, but I could have sworn I saw someone over there. I thought mirrors were supposed to show you what was really there."
"They are," Zuko said. "But not this one."
Toph turned to him. "And what about you calling that person your mom?"
"She looked a lot like my mom," Zuko said. "But it couldn't have been here. It was just the cave playing tricks on us."
"I don't like this at all," Toph said. She then examined the waterfall closely, or, more specifically, her reflection in the waterfall.
"Is that what I really look like?" she said in wonder.
Zuko quickly compared the two Tophs. They were exactly the same. "Yep."
Toph continued to look at herself for a few minutes before finally punching the waterfall, and suddenly the mirror effect was destroyed. "This is stupid!" she shouted. Then she calmed down.
"I mean, it's not like I'm miraculously cured or anything. I'm still going to blind when we leave here. And I've always been blind, it doesn't bother me, but now…now I know what it's like to see."
Zuko nodded and rubbed his smooth skin for the umpteenth time. "I know what you mean."
"Let's get out of here," Toph said, and turned to leave, but then stood absolutely still. Zuko saw that out of the corner of his eye there were two people he assumed to be Toph's mother and father. They were hugging each other, and motioning her to come to them. Toph began to move, but he put his hand on her shoulder.
"They're just illusions."
Toph's face, which had been turning into wide-eyed shock, scowled and she picked up a rock and threw it at the illusions. It passed right through them and they slowly faded away.
"Let's go," Zuko said. They walked through the cavern, and he ignored, out of the corner of his eye the images of Iroh and Mai and the memories of his mother. Toph had her eyes firmly closed, though he could only imagine what she was feeling. Her hand clenched against another rock.
When they got to the door, he put his hand to his face for the last time and Toph opened her eyes. As they slowly walked through it, he could feel the skin getting rougher and he knew that Toph would probably see her vision fading away.
They walked through the door and didn't see any new horror awaiting them, but proceeded with caution anyway. They were silent. There was nothing to be said. Zuko tried to firebend again, and it worked, though faintly, just enough to light their next steps.
Eventually, they came to a point where they had to make a decision. "Two different paths, huh?" asked Toph.
Zuko bent down and examined the ground. "What are these marks?" he asked. "I can't firebend well enough to light them up."
Toph bent down by them and ran her fingers over them. "They look like ostrich horse tracks." She looked up at him. "You don't think that-"
"I don't know," Zuko said. "My mother disappeared when I was a kid; no one has seen her since. But I do know she's alive…somewhere."
"So you think the tracks may lead to her."
"I don't know. It's the best lead we have. But right now our goal is to find Huang."
"He's that way," Toph said, pointing to the opening without the tracks. That's the only cave I can sense someone. I can't make anything out of the other one: everything too far away is fuzzy."
"We'll check this way then," Zuko said, starting for the path Toph said would take them to Huang.
"Are you sure that's okay," Toph asked.
He looked away, not that it did him any good. "Huang's family needs him. The Fire Nation needs him. And we can always come back. Let's go."
They walked down the cave to the left for a while until they came to a smaller cavern. "We'll turn right soon," Toph said, "and he should be there."
Where the door was supposed to be, there was only stone, but Toph took three deep breaths and punched it out of the way.
Zuko and Toph walked through the newly created doorway and saw a small bed with a small man on it. He was frail and thin and cowered when Zuko stepped forward. "Are you Huang?"
"Yes, but who are you?" Huang asked.
"Fire Lord Zuko."
Huang's eye flickered in recognition. "You're Ozai's son. What happened to him?"
"The Avatar," Zuko simply said.
"And what do you want with me?" Huang asked. "To finish what you father started?"
"We're friends with the Avatar," Toph said, "We're here because your nation needs you. You're being rescued."
Zuko held out his hand and Huang took it, still not believing. "I'm only doing this because there's nothing more that can be done to me."
"That's perfectly understandable," Zuko said. "Now let's go."
They began walking through the cave, an exhausting process that required many stops for Huang. However, the cave seemed to have changed to offer them a more linear path without any of the chambers they had entered through.
Finally, Toph said that she felt the opening of the cave coming up. Huang was instantly revitalized by this news and sprang ahead to the very exit of the cave before waiting for Toph and Zuko to catch up.
They all came out of the cave to see sunlight streaming across them. It fell across Huang's face and he stopped to take a deep breath. He slowly positioned his arms, and then quickly punched, followed by a stream of flames.
A smile lit up his face and he turned to Toph and Zuko with his wide grin.
"Welcome to the land of the living," Toph said and punched Huang in the arm. "It's been a while."
Huang smiled and spread his arms out, feeling the sun for the first time in too long.
Zuko, however, turned to face the cave.
What other secrets did it hide?
T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far...
and Grace will lead us home.
A/N: So, a few things I wanted to mention. One, was with the ending quote, from Amazing Grace. I didn't think about basing this story off of Amazing Grace, but on more than one occasion certain parts of the story reminded me of the song. (Particularly: "was blind but now I see," etc, etc). Also, I know I left the ending sort of open, but as of right now, I have no plans to write anymore chapters/sequels. It was a blast writing this though.