I know it's been awhile, but finally here's the 19th chapter! Hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own AtlA
Katara gradually drifted wake, safe in her bed back at the academy. She slowly pushed herself up with her hands. Her eyes flew up as she groped her head, trying not to scream from the agonizing pain on the back of her head. She started to become dizzy so she lowered herself back in her bed. Her eyes went out of focus for a few moments, until she squeezed them shut, which sent a shock of pain through her temple. She moaned softly, trying to remember what could possibly make her feel this awful.
Her memory was hazy at best. The only thing that remained crystal clear was the gut-wrenching pain of leaving Aang in the Waterbending arena. Even through the fog of her headache, she could still remember Aang's shocked face as she withdrew her hands and walked away from the boy of her dreams. A tear started to well in her eye, but she vicious wiped it away. She continued sifting through her memories. She left the academy to lose herself in the bustle of Ba Sing Se, and lose herself she did. She gradually remembered entering the shady part of town. Then it all hit her in a flash. A giant, a thin one, kidnapped and gagged, and then… saved? But by whom? Someone had saved her from that Crunk and Rata, but she couldn't quite remember. She vaguely remembered his face and voice. She definitely remembered trying to fight him. But what was his name…M-something.
A soft knock came at the door, and Suki slipped in without waiting for a response. She silently closed the door behind her and realized Katara was finally awake. "Thank the spirits, you're finally up!" Suki exclaimed.
Katara winced at the sound, as pain shot through her ears and settled on her brain. She groaned loudly while gently massaging her temple, "Please, not so loud," she said, barely audible.
Suki's eyes widened slightly as she whispered, "Oh. I didn't realize it would be that bad."
The Waterbender slowly opened her eyes again, letting the sunlight flood her pupils. She groaned again, this time at the intense light bursting into the room. "What is that bad?" she moaned.
"Your head, of course," Suki said, as she quietly tiptoed to get a better look.
Katara's fingers slowly made their way to the back of her head, where a bandage was cake with dried blood. She drew in a quick breath at the pain that emanating from the bandage. The room started to swirl around her, and she forcefully shut her eyes, met again with searing pain in her temples. She slowly relaxed her body and her breathing until the aching subsided.
Suki stood frozen while Katara winced in agony, and the Kyoshi Warrior didn't dare move until the Waterbender seemed better. Then she finally made her way quietly to bedside, where she looked at Katara's pained face. "What…what happened to you, Katara," she asked in a whisper, "We spent the whole night looking for you and then you just appeared in your bedroom…" Suki trailed off, unable to comprehend where she had been and how she had received such a blow to the head.
Katara mumbled what she could remember to Suki, who stared at her in disbelief. "So how did you end up back here?" Suki asked incredulously.
"I…I don't know. All I remember is being carried by that guy and then I woke up here. My head's starting to hurt, Suki, I need some rest," Katara said, closing her eyes.
"Sure, sure. Rest up, Katara. Tell me if you need anything. Maybe you should visit the infirmary. I'm sure some soothing Waterbending could ease the pain of—" Suki stopped as Katara's soft breathing filled the room. She was already asleep before the Warrior could send for any help. Suki sighed softly, wondering why Katara would've wondered off into Ba Sing Se in the evening.
When Katara opened her eyes again, the soft afternoon sun peaked through her wooden windows. She took a deep breath in and smelt the scent of dinner being prepared for the student. But something much stronger overtook that smell. The sweet odor of sugar-mint burst into her nose and her eyes opened widely when she realized someone was in the room with her. She slowly sat up in her bed, noting that the man's back was to her. She moved the sheets silently and tried to stand up, but before she could, he turned around. He wore a gleaming grin with pieces of green sugar-mint sticking to his smile. His muscles were toned and his skin a little bit lighter than hers. He shuffled forward and Katara stared back with look of terror; she was not strong enough to fend off someone like this. The man recognized her fright and quickly put up his hand and said softly, "Whoa, whoa there, Katara. No need to freak out. It's me, Mundi. Remember?"
Her brow furrowed as she briefly remembered the name, but not much else. She couldn't even remember his face, only his deep, silky voice. She slowed her breathing a little, realizing that he was one that saved her from the two man back in the alley. "Wha—what? How are you he—?" she stammered, trying to form a complete thought through her pounding headache. She starting to lose consciousness, so Mundi quickly rushed forward and gently laid her head on the pillow. "Don't move, Katara. You took a pretty bad blow to the head," he said in a whisper.
Up this close she could fully see his face in the afternoon sunlight. His eyes were a light gray and his hair was a thick and brown, tied up neatly in a short ponytail. A shadow of beard grew on his strong jaw line with a straight scar across his left cheekbone. His eyebrows were bushy and his nose was small but flared with energy and defiance. He lips were looked as red as a watermelon-peach and stood out against the white of his teeth and the tiny specks of green of the sugar-mint that he was constantly chewing. He backed off once he carefully laid her head down. He wore a dark blue, almost black sleeveless shirt, with a single white stripe of fur running diagonally from his shoulder. It clung to his sculpted chest, which rose and fell with each breath. She could see the fabric of a necklace, but the pendant was tucked under his shirt. Her eyes traveled to his arms, which were laced with veins and light brown hair that glowed in the sunlight. He wore black pants with more white stripes of fur running down the outer seams, which connected to his thin-soled shoes. Katara lost her breath when she realized just how handsome of a man was standing before her in the soft sunlight.
"Are—are you okay?" Mundi asked self-consciously.
"Hm? Oh yea. I'm just a little lightheaded is all," she replied, turning her head to hide her burning cheeks. Mundi smiled and asked, "How are the new bandages holding up?"
She quickly brought her hands to the back of her head and she realized it was no longer caked her blood. A new bandage had been wrapped all the way around her head to secure it.
"I'm sorry about the first one. I know it was pretty pathetic, but it was all I had at the time. Hopefully, this one holds up better."
"So it was you!" she said with a smile. And then it hit her, this boy is a complete a stranger. "How the hell do you know where I live? And how—how do you know my name?!" she started to raise her voice, completely aghast that she acted so cool while a total stranger was watching her sleep.
"Whoa, whoa! Hold on there, don't scream, Katara! First of all you'll hurt your pretty little head and second of all, I don't want the others to know I'm here."
"Well then, you'd better explain, and fast!" she said, contemplating if she could call out for someone.
"Okay, okay," he said, defensively. "Where to start…" he asked himself, in a barely audible whisper, tapping his forefinger against his red lips. "I have been roaming around the alleyways for quite sometime, and I've made many friends along with many enemies. We call that place the Labyrinth and my friends and I have done what we could to brighten it. It's plagued by disease and thieves, but it's so far away from Palace and the Upper Ring, that no one seems to care. Those two people who attacked you, Rata and Crunk, are a small part of the problem. They just wander around stealing things and wreaking havoc, but this time it was different. The way they followed you around and hide behind corners and in the shadows was something I've never seen them do before. Honestly, at first I didn't know what to think, but when I saw who they kidnapped I knew they had to be working for someone; someone who was pulling the strings. Normally, I wouldn't attack them, considering how big Crunk is and how surprisingly skilled Rata, but this time I just to; their prize was far too important to let them get away with it." He stopped to let these thoughts sink into Katara's pounding head.
She took a moment to process the information and then choose only one question to ask, one that truly bugged her: "How do you know who I am? I never told you my name and I've never even seen you before, so how do know me and where I live?"
Mundi took a deep breath in and chuckled softly with a smile. He shyly brought his hand to scratch the back of his head and said, "I've heard the rumors about you and what you've done and whom you're with. Those who fear you call you the Ice Queen; those who admire you call you the Water Princess. And the King to your majesty is the Avatar himself, the one who set the world free, the one who brought world peace to a scarred planet of warfare. Even though you both may be as young as I am, I still think you have chance to completely change our world for the better." He stopped when he realized the depressed look on the beautiful Waterbender's face.
The King to your majesty, she thought, looking down with a slight scowl, that's definitely not the way I would put it…
Aang snapped back to reality when he felt the tree start to sway. "Do you fe—?" Aang almost asked Ty Lee but was cutoff by the increasing violent shaking of the ground and tree. Aang landed hard on his side and forced himself back onto his feet. He looked to his left and there Ty Lee was standing, as if nothing had even happened. Aang saw her bow slightly with her hands together, and he looked forward with a puzzled face. When his eyes come upon a rather pissed Bumi, he too followed Ty Lee lead. Bumi chuckled a little and said, "You seem a little slow, Aang. First one to fall and last one to bow. But that's not why I'm out here. I'm out here because you shouldn't be out here in the first place. Might I ask you what is on your forehead?"
Aang rose from his bow to delicately touch his forehead, feeling for anything out of the ordinary, but he didn't feel anything. Bumi let out a disappointed sigh and said, "That big blue arrow is a dead giveaway of who you are and in case you have forgotten already, you are not supposed to reveal your identity. Now quickly you two, back inside."
Aang walked quickly back with his eyes downcast while Ty Lee strutted gracefully with a slight smile and a twinkle in her eyes. Bumi followed the youngsters and sighed at their eager foolishness. When they returned to the house, he closed the door harder then necessary, which caused Aang to jump slightly. The Avatar slowly turned around and raised his eyes to meet Bumi's, who seemed angry.
"I'm not angry, Aang, just disappointed," the old king said, "You, too, Ty Lee. You've been here longer and should've known not to go prancing in public like that."
She replied defiantly, "Prancing in public? Bumi, we live in the Upper Ring where there are barely any people and we were up in the tree, no one could see us! And even if they did, the people love to keep their privacy so I'm sure they wouldn't say anything to anyone anyways! They a bunch of stuck up, perfect families up here," she ended, fuming. She stormed into the other room, leaving Bumi and Aang looking uncomfortably at each other.
"Well, that was certainly odd," Bumi said, rubbing his chin while watching Ty Lee stomp away. "Aaanyway," he said, glancing back at Aang, "perhaps we should get down to business."
Aang tensed up, terrified of what Bumi would put him through now that they were on dry land. He nodded cautiously, but to his surprised Bumi simply sat straight down. The old king saw Aang's tension and chuckled softly, "Not all business and training is physical, Aang. You should have learn that from my riddles. In this case, how 'bout a history lesson, hm? And no wisecracks about my age because you, too, are over a hundred years old, Mr. Avatar." Aang looked at the ancient man sitting down before and he slowly lowered himself to the ground and prepared himself what was sure to be a long lecture.
Bumi tapped on his chin with his forefinger, "Where to start, where to start? How 'bout some background, eh? As you know, while you were frozen for a hundred I was indeed searching for you. And this search led me to some very interesting places across the world. Naturally, I started with Southern Air Temple, hoping to find you hiding in the many rooms of the temples." Aang cut in, "Wait, how did you know I was the Avatar and how did you even get into the Southern Air Temple, it's for Air Nomads only," he said, doubtful of what Bumi was saying.
"How silly of me not to mention; first of all, I was looking for the Avatar, I was looking for a dear friend."
Aang's face burned with embarrassment.
"And as for how I managed to get into the temple, it is true that the Air Temples are rather exclusive, but they are always open to those who seek knowledge and guidance. And trust me, I needed plenty when I found Guru Pathik, and he saw that in me. I just a young boy when stood at the bottom the immense Patola mountain range. And Pathik, thankfully, was taking a walk on the trial when he found me. He saw me staring up at the mountains and he offered to take up there if I promised him something. He never said what that was for a long time… not until he…" Bumi let out a heavy sigh. "Perhaps now is not the time. How 'bout you find Ty Lee and find out what's wrong with her, hm?
Aang could see the grief written across the old king's face and he decided this moment was not the right one to ask what was wrong. He stood up, bowed, and left the room to search for Ty Lee.
"Is something wrong, Katara?" Mundi asked, afraid he had already said something to offend her. She looked back at him, smiled quickly, and shook her while saying, "Hm? No, no. It's—It's just my head, I think I should go back to sleep; my head's starting to hurt.
"Oh," he responded, "yes of course, I'll leave you to it. Just please don't mention me to your friends." Before she could say anything more, he deftly leapt through the window into the afternoon sun. He seemed disappointed in the abrupt change in Katara. One moment seemed intrigued and shocked regarding the havoc in the Labyrinth, but he was stupid thinking it would that easy to have someone Katara come help him. He stealthily navigated out of the academy, careful not to cause any attention to himself. Then he slowly walked back to the place he called home.
The next morning Katara forced herself out of bed and slowly stumbled into the kitchen to find the rest of Gaang already eating. She silently walked in and gently sat down next to Sokka who was noisily slurping up his breakfast. Suki sat across from him and waiting patiently for Sokka to put down his bowl and realize the Waterbender's presence. When he finally did, he shouted, "Katara! You're alive!"
She clamped her hands over her ears and moaned, "Not so loud, Sokka."
"Oh, sorry," he replied softly, "Do you want anything to eat?"
Her stomach growled loudly in response, "I haven't eaten anything since I came back, so yea I'm hungry!" she snapped back.
"Okaaay," Sokka responded, looking at Suki for any indication of what he had done wrong already. Before he could serve her, Katara grabbed Sokka's bowl and finished off the rest of his breakfast. He sat there wide-eyed as his sister sucked down all the food he had painstaking laid out for himself, but he didn't say a word. When she finished, she laid the bowl down with a satisfied sigh of a contented stomach. Everyone waited for her to speak, to reveal some information about what had happened last night. Before long, Toph became irritated and open her mouth to yell, but Teo quickly covered her mouth. She grumbled and pushed his hand away and settled back down.
Katara drew in a breath and said, "I have no idea what happened. All I remember that I left the academy in the afternoon and ended up back here with this bandage on my head and killer headache."
"Well let's start with the bandage," Suki said. She scrutinized the bandage, it seemed like had been change recently, but she really couldn't remember. Katara debated telling them about Mundi, but he seemed paranoid about them knowing for some reason; so she decided against it.
"I told you guys, I don't remember anything. Trust me, if you could feel the way my head throbs you wouldn't be trying to use it either. Just let me eat my breakfast in peace and then I'll stop by the infirmary and hopefully will feel better."
"Um, Katara…" Sokka said, "It's dinner."
Their dinner was catered by the maids and servants, which made Aang very uncomfortable. The three of them sat at the large dinner table with many empty seats between them and they ate in silence. Bumi still seemed distracted and barely ate the food in front of him. Aang and Ty Lee stole glances at each other throughout. She would wink at the Avatar and balance food on other food and drift off into space. Aang sat there quietly and eyes the servants that lined the room.
Afterwards, Bumi called Aang into the old king's room. He sat down on the floor with his feet crossed and Aang followed suit. Without any introduction, Bumi picked up from where he left off hours ago: "He guided me along a hidden path up the mountains. I would look at flying bison and Airbenders with admiration and a little bit of jealously. As I slaved away walking up those mountains, the bison and benders would casually fly upward through the clouds. Some of the younger ones would even point and laugh. Anyways, with the Guru's guidance I eventually made it up the mountain absorbing so many hard learned lessons from him. When we finally did arrive, I searched every nook and cranny of them temple and found nothing; well that's not completely true, I found many a-thing in those wise walls of the Air Temple. But unfortunately, I didn't find you. I stayed there for only a few weeks, mostly in the company of the Guru, but I did also meet a very good friend of yours. Let's see, what was his name… Monkey Otso?" Bumi saw Aang's face light up at the mention of his old teacher, "Hehe, yes he was quite a character; very similar to you actually. When I asked about you, he darkened up a little and only said that you left for Eastern Air Temple. So naturally I left the Southern Air Temple to continue my search. I almost couldn't believe that Guru Pathik agreed to go with me. I didn't even think of asking him, seeing as how he was a member of the Southern Council of Elders. I was very honored and also quite nervous actually; someone that wise choosing to leave his station and help my find a no-name Airbender was quite shocking to me." By this time it was growing dark and Bumi was growing equally tired. "Perhaps we can continued this in the morning, Aang." He grunted as his got back on his feet. what it would be like for Bumi and Monk Gyatso to meet.
Aang silently walked back to his own room, wondering why Bumi was telling him all of this now. He was also concerned about Bumi's paranoid behavior about him and Ty Lee being outside. When Bumi sent Aang to find Ty Lee before dinner, he found her in the vast backyard. It was guarded by trees and somehow Aang managed to find her in one at the far end. Before he could jump up to join her, she slid down gracefully and silently. "Sorry about leaving that way, it's just this place gives me the creeps sometimes. I tried convincing Bumi that there's nothing to worry, but that's more for my ears. Truth is, sometimes I feel people staring and watching, and not just in the Upper Ring. We've been to the busy market in the Lower Ring and I swear I've seen shadows duck of out sight where ever I looks," she started talking faster and faster as the fear travelled through her body. "It just everywhere I go, I can feel the presence of something looking at me. I—I think it be the D—oh never mind," she caught herself before she continued. She let a sigh, "It's—It's probably nothing. I've been stuck in this house for a looong time with almost no one to talk to. Bumi's nice and all, but his not exactly the talkative type. Although, I suppose neither are you," she said, eyeing the silent Airbender.
He let out a soft chuckle and said, "I prefer to listen most of the time. Thing will be different from now on. It'll be us two and Bumi's impossible riddles."
Ty Lee laughed and replied, "You should have seen the way his face lit up when I suggested he riddled you! I can only imagine the kind of nonsense he came up for you!"
Aang looked at her with wide eyes, "You…you did this! You have no idea the random stuff he threw at me and I'm sure he still has more in stock!"
Leave a review and tell me what you thought about this chapter. It's the beginning of two new friendships for Aang and Katara.