So here it is, my first Avatar related Fanfic! ^^ this fic takes place after The Search, but I won't delve too much into whatever happened there, since I have no idea of what they found out about Ursa… therefore I'm not going to mention much about her! I don't plan on dragging this one too much, since it merely was an idea based on the creation of Pro-Bending, and the idea of having Aang fight his own Pro-Bending match… Anyhow, just read it, you'll find out everything you want to know while you scroll down this little fic ^^ Sorry if it's too long, I tend to ramble on since I don't feel like I can handle characters, they're pretty much free to do whatever they want, I merely nudge them in the right direction xD
In matters of pairings, it's a Kataang, Maiko, Sokkla/Azukka/Sozula (don't know the official name for this ship), Tyru/Ty Laru sort of odd fic XD haven't paired anyone up with Toph because I'm not sure of who'd be good enough for her! Still, romance ain't the center of this little fic XD So yeah, this must be taking place around 2 or 3 years after the original series… and I guess that's it! I hope you like it! ^^
Zuko wasn't particularly excited while he walked all the way to the chamber he'd been summoned to. He was Fire Lord Zuko, and he did not appreciate his sister requesting his presence as if she were the sovereign of the Fire Nation. At times he wondered if letting her out of the Mental Hospital was a bad idea, but after traveling throughout the entire world while searching for their mother, she'd regained a great deal of her usual self, which was a good omen, since it meant she was getting healthier, but all the usual bossy attitude came back all the same as her sanity, despite Zuko's wishes. As he approached the room he sighed slightly, wondering what to expect when he entered… she wouldn't try to overthrow him now, would she?
He was pleasantly surprised at seeing most of his friends inside the room, it probably meant there wasn't much danger to expect from Azula on this occasion. Aang sat next to Katara on a very comfortable couch, Ty Lee was lying across a red divan and Mai was standing next to her. Toph immediately stopped leaning against the left wall of the room at the instant he arrived and greeted him by holding her hand up. Zuko nodded at her and stared directly at the woman who sat comfortably on a throne-like seat, opposite to the door. To his slight disgust, Sokka was smiling stupidly at Azula, who smirked when she finally caught sight of her brother.
"Well, it was about time you showed up. Being so late to an appointment does not speak highly of your performance as Fire Lord, Zuzu" she mocked him, in the same way she always did, the way that made him lose his nerve at her.
"I got here as soon as I could. Besides, it's not as if you could just get away with summoning me anywhere just because you want to"
"You say that, yet you're here. It seems I got away with it alright"
"Azula…" grunted Zuko, snarling at his sister
"Keep your peace, will you?" said Mai, walking towards him "You've been controlling your temper very well lately, haven't you? Don't get carried away by everything she says, please"
Azula wasn't pleased to hear Mai speaking of her as if she were nothing but a misbehaved child. After her betrayal, it'd been especially hard to forgive her; it hadn't been so difficult with Ty Lee, they were definitely best friends and she'd genuinely been sorry to see how everything had fallen apart between the three of them. Mai, on the other hand, would hardly ever talk to Azula directly and never professed any particular regret at the way their friendship had been strained. Azula knew she wasn't to expect an apology from Mai, but somehow she wouldn't be able to say sorry herself; she knew her temper and angst had gotten the best of her when she'd thrown her friends in jail, but her pride was still strong and she'd never bow down to anyone, especially while knowing that apologizing to Mai would hold no meaning, since the girl clearly didn't care for their friendship anymore. Still, to summon Zuko anywhere meant she'd come too, so Azula had simply sent her a note about the meeting, with the simple purpose of avoiding any extra issues with her if she dared walk in uninvited.
"Fine" grunted Zuko, while Mai took hold of his hand "Well, why did you call us all here? Do you have anything important to say?"
"Indeed" muttered Azula "I believe there are some issues we need to tend to. I was recently reading some scrolls related to the Avatar cycle and all its customs… and I was wondering, did you know the Avatar is supposed to pass a test of mastery of each element?"
All of the occupants of the room stared at her, dumbfounded.
"W-why are you bringing this up right now?" asked Aang, surprised
"Because I'm not entirely sure if you're actually a master of all elements, little Avatar" replied Azula, smirking at him
"Hey! I beat down Firelord Ozai!" exclaimed Aang "Why would you need further proof of my skills?"
"It's merely for the purpose of making everything official, little Avatar" said Azula "I'd rather you play by the rules than by saying you're a full-fledged Avatar only because you defeated my father"
"But he did beat him" said Katara, staring at her with outraged eyes "And while Sozin's Comet was carrying out its effects, which made your father much stronger; Aang defeated him while using the four elements, and also energybending. What else could you possibly ask for? What exactly are you plotting this time, Azula?"
"All of what you said is true" admitted Azula "But there's a small detail you seem to have missed: he performed all of that while in the Avatar State, did he not?"
The whole group fell into silence once more, most of them wondering what Azula was getting at, but Aang frowned slightly. He hadn't known much about the Avatar customs, but he was fully aware that his skills were supposed to be tested by a master bender of each element by the time he was considered strong enough to stand a fight against the most talented benders. He also understood that he wasn't supposed to recur to the Avatar State unless it was absolutely necessary, and total mastery of the elements was a must for the Avatar.
"Still…" muttered Aang "What exactly am I supposed to do? I'm pretty good already, aren't I? Do you think my bending still need much more work?"
"As I've said, your earthbending isn't at its best just yet" said Toph, shrugging "But I don't understand why are you bringing this up now, Azula. What are you after?"
"I merely wished to convey this issue to the little Avatar" said Azula "And recommend you to take a test against the greatest masters of all elements as soon as possible. That was all I had in mind"
Zuko stared at her in disbelief. He knew his sister much better than that, she had to hold an ulterior motive to suggesting something like this.
"And what's your idea?" asked Zuko "You want him to fight masters of all elements, is that all there is to it?"
"What else could there be?" wondered Azula, staring at him with slight irritation "Your distrust of me is getting annoying, if you want me to be frank. Even when I try to help your gang you treat me as if I were a criminal. What could I possibly gain by having the Avatar fighting bending masters?"
"Maybe you're trying to get him killed" accused Katara without any sugarcoating.
"Hey!" exclaimed Sokka, who had remained silent during the whole meeting "Don't say something like that without any proof at all!"
"You want proof? She's been after Aang for all this time, and she probably wants to execute revenge on him after losing everything because of him" grunted Katara
"Funny you say that, Water Tribe brat" answered Azula "If I were to take revenge on anyone, it'd be on you. You were the one to freeze me and chain me, or is your memory failing you already at such young age?"
Katara couldn't help clenching her fists. She knew Azula wasn't the same as back during the times of Fire Lord Ozai, but she probably annoyed her even more nowadays.
"I am not attempting to hurt the Avatar" said Azula, sighing dramatically "I merely want to help. I know how unbelievable it is for most of you, since I know most of you despise me and believe I'm absolutely unchanged. Maybe you're not entirely wrong, but a part of me has changed. The Avatar helped me and Zuko figure out the truth about Mother, you could see my actions as a way to thank him for what he did"
"All that's fine, Azula" said Ty Lee, while lifting her legs above her head in one of her usual stretch out routines "But who will test Aang? And how, exactly?"
"That's the reason you're all here. I figured you'd all want to help the Little Avatar out to find out how to reaffirm in a more official manner his status as a master of all four elements"
The entire group fell silent for a moment, but Sokka interrupted it after a while
"All he needs is to battle out and beat the masters of all four elements, right?" he asked "Well, it's pretty simple! Have him fight the best benders of each type and that's it!"
"I don't believe that's all there is to it, Sokka" she muttered "If he were faced by a very powerful firebender, for instance, he might go into the Avatar State"
"Well, I can avoid doing that" said Aang
"I doubt it" replied Azula "If he fights with all his will and you find yourself cornered, you'd fight back with anything you've got, and that means Avatar State. You're supposed to be in complete control of yourself while undergoing these tests, or so I believe, and you must only use the same element the master's proficient at"
"But that's no fun" commented Toph "I'd best Twinkle Toes in a heartbeat if he can't use his airbending"
"Actually, there's another problem with that" added Zuko "He could be tested by masters on Waterbending, Earthbending and Firebending, but there are no Airbending masters left"
"Well, technically I wouldn't need one" admitted Aang, with a crooked smile "My tattoos are proof of my mastery on Airbending, so I don't have to fight anyone to prove I'm a master Airbender. In fact, I'm the youngest person ever to master it. Cool, huh?"
"No need to brag, Little Avatar" said Azula "Well, that's one element down, then. How about the other three?"
"Why not pull off one test with all the three elements?" asked Ty Lee out of the blue, surprising the others.
"What?" said Azula, staring at her in confusion "How exactly…?"
"It's not a bad idea, actually" said Sokka, smiling slightly "It could work out wonders! That way Aang could prove his mastery on the three remaining elements while fighting only using those! Airbending would be ruled out, sure, but he'd still have the chance to fight off with the other three"
"I'm a little lost here, guys…" admitted Aang
"Don't worry, I'll deal with this myself! I've got a great idea coming up!" exclaimed Sokka, with a broad smile.
Azula stared at him with some distrust at first, but she shrugged afterwards.
"Do as you wish. But make sure to tell me whatever you're plotting first, alright?"
"What about telling ME?" asked Aang, a little worried "It won't be a pop quiz of some sort, or will it?"
"Of course not" denied Sokka "Don't worry; I'll brief you all before we go for it! But first… no matter what we do, you need three masters of each art, don't you? Who'll be the ones testing you?"
Azula frowned and stared at Katara at first.
"I believe we can trust little Miss Water Tribe to be the Waterbending Master, but she'd better give this her all; any hesitation could ruin the whole test, since the idea is the make sure the Little Avatar has what's required. If she promises she won't let her feelings get in the way, I'd say she's the best choice for that role"
"Well?" asked Sokka "Are you going to go all sweet and loving on him, or will you fight like a man?"
Katara stared at her brother without attempting to hide the contempt on her face. He was a great brother alright, but he got on her nerves with so much ease that it made her want to freeze him for a day or two to make sure he'd quit being such a jerk.
"I'll fight like a Waterbending Master, thank you very much" she muttered, teeth clenched "And I'd better not fight like a man, because every time you say something of the sort you get beaten down in seconds, don't you?"
Sokka felt a twinge of irritation, but he sighed and stared at Azula, trying not to let his sister's words get to him.
"Well, she's all in for it"
"The Earthbending Master should be the Blind Bandit, I believe we all agree to that. She surely wouldn't go easy on the Little Avatar" said Azula, staring at Toph, who smiled at her words.
"Oh, yeah! I'll make sure he gets the Earthbending showdown of his life!"
Aang swallowed. He knew Toph really well by now, but he was sure she would do everything in her power to trash him with her amazing skills; she was the greatest earthbender of the world, no doubt about that.
"And who'd be the Firebending Master…?" asked Sokka, staring at Azula with interest.
Naturally, everyone in the room expected her to smirk and claim herself the most adequate person to take upon testing the Avatar. And indeed, she smirked.
"Oh, I believe a very powerful and strong firebender has to take such important honor… And since he still must be at odds about his old lost honor, why not you, Zuzu?"
"W-what?!" said Zuko, absolutely surprised "W-wait a minute, why me? Why not you?"
"I'd rather have you do it" said Azula "I have no idea of what Sokka's plotting, but I rather doubt those two girls would want me on their team. You three have worked together before, you can do it again, or can't you?"
Zuko eyed his sister with distrust. He knew she'd changed, but to give up an opportunity to prove her first-rate skills as a firebender, not to mention a chance to beat up Aang, was something extremely rare. Was she really after something, or had she actually become someone different in the inside?
"Why, though…? I don't get it" claimed Zuko and Azula rolled her eyes.
"You're so dumb. How hard is it to believe I have no other ulterior motive?"
"Well, you're not exactly known to be the most honest person out there" said Katara "People even call you Master of Lies"
"Master of Flies?" asked Ty Lee, confused
"She said Lies, not Flies" grunted Mai, staring at her friend with slight irritation
"I'm not hiding anything this time, honestly" said Azula "You could even say I've undergone a 'change of heart' or something along those lines"
"Well, I believe her" said Toph, shrugging "It sure doesn't seem like she's lying to me. Besides, what exactly would she gain from this? Not to mention, Sokka's the one who'll be doing the plans, not her"
"She could have had some influence on him by now, for all we know" muttered Katara bitterly
"C'mon, Katara" said Sokka, crossing his arms "You really think I'll let a girl change me that easily? I'm the one who'd be changing them instead!"
"Or so I'd have you believe" claimed Azula, smirking cruelly
"W-what?! Hey! Don't make my argument invalid! You should be siding with me here, I'm trying to defend you!"
"I doubt it's really necessary" said Azula "Your sister has a very bad image of me, and I doubt your words will be able to change that. Rather, you're actually making it look as if I'd brainwashed you somehow"
"You haven't brainwashed me, darn it!" exclaimed Sokka, losing his patience "Urgh, I'll just go make my plans, you all can stay here and bad-mouth me for all I care! And to think I'm trying to help you all…"
With that claim he exited the room while walking in his usual exaggerated style, and Azula shook her head, but couldn't refrain from smiling slightly.
"Well, I believe there's not much more to deal with for now. If we need anything else, I'll send you all another message" she said, standing up in a signal of dismissing the group "But I do suggest you get some training done, Little Avatar; there's no way to know what sort of demented idea is in Sokka's head by now"
Aang nodded and stood up as well, leaving the room with Katara right after the rest of the group had left, who didn't seem at all convinced after all the discussion they'd just undergone.
"Are you alright, sweetie?" asked Aang, a little worried.
"I am, but… are you sure she's not lying yet again? I can't trust her, no matter what you all say…"
"You managed to forgive Zuko, didn't you?" asked Aang "Why is it so hard to forgive her too?"
"I don't know, Aang… I just can't forget about all the things she did to us back then. Zuko did seem like he'd changed, but she still feels the same to me…"
"But Sokka's absolutely sure she's changed" said Aang "Why don't you believe him instead?"
"Sokka's been totally blinded by love, Aang" muttered Katara "Well, if that's actually love. It seems more like a one-sided obsession or something"
"Are you guys talking about me?" asked Toph, staring at them from ahead
"What gave you that idea?" said Aang, smiling
"You said someone's blind" grunted Toph
"No, no, it's a different kind of blindness" said Katara "It's Sokka's, actually"
"Why do you think he's blind? Is it because he's with Azula?" asked Toph "I think he's really in love with her… actually, she seems to rather like him too. Whenever he spoke I could feel her pulse accelerating"
"W-woah… really?!" asked Aang
"But she doesn't even seem to treat him like anything other than another peasant or whatever it is she always says others are…" said Katara, absolutely surprised after Toph's comment.
"Maybe that's the way it seems on the outside" said Toph, smiling "Behind the curtains she might actually be a different person"
"Well, as Sokka himself said back when we didn't want Zuko in… I'd rather wait until she's a different person outside as well" grunted Katara, crossing her arms.
Aang sighed and shrugged. He knew better than to argue with the girl, she was pretty stubborn when it came down to anything concerning Azula. Maybe in time she'd be able to accept the Fire Princess… but then again, there were other things to be worried about. What exactly could Sokka have come up with? Would it be a really hard test? He didn't know the answer to those questions at the moment, and there was only one thing he could do for now: train with all his might until the day of the infamous test came knocking on his door.