A/N: Yes, I know, I said the last chapter that I'd not disappear. And what do I do? I Disapparate instantly. Sorry. Finals, moving out of the dorm, writing, visiting Mexico...stuff. Life.
So what have we here? This is the transition chapter, hence why it's so short compared to the other chapters. And it really does nothing for the transition, it just adds a bit of back story that I had a great time writing tonight. As this story stands, I haven't written anything more for it yet. So this is the last upload for a few months, at least until classes start again in late August. By that time, I'll hopefully have more material completed, and my semi-monthly updates will commence as usual.
Review if you feel so inclined!
Earth Kingdom towns were so…quaint. She fought the urge to yawn as she appraised her surroundings. Clean stone buildings, built directly from the ground below them through bending. There was nothing special about them, no irregular architecture or specific design, even though there should have been. The Fire Nation was much more decorated, even without the ease of creating walls at will.
The town center was even more of a disappoint: a few shops surrounded a small green patch in the middle, atop of which a well sat. Quaint.
What she wouldn't give to burn it all down right then.
A voice came from the creature walking beside her. "Are we there—"
A quick glare stopped it from continuing. Stupid creature. But, she supposed, it had helped her escape her imprisonment, and with it, she would be the most powerful woman in the Four Nations. Destroying it wasn't an option.
And, who knew? It might prove to be an unlikely ally. Never a friend, though. After Ty Lee and Mai…no, any supposed friend would just go and betray her again.
Night was descending, and this town, dull though it was, would have to suffice. Taking a deep breath, Azula shouldered her pack and walked toward an elderly woman, who was sweeping dirt off her doormat.
The woman didn't notice her immediately, but she did when Azula grabbed the broom from her wrinkly old hands. "I…yes?" Her voice was paper-thin, and it wavered worse than a friend's loyalty.
"Excuse me," Azula repeated; she flipped the broom in the air and caught it. Unnecessary, but it felt good to show off to someone so…so inferior. "I was looking for lodging."
"Well, dear, there's the inn, that building, there," the elderly woman said, motioning a trembling hand toward the other end of the street.
Azula nodded. She looked at the ground and swept some more of the dirt off the doorstep; then, broom still in hand, she walked toward the inn.
The room was cheap; no wonder the place looked like a pigsty. However, it was a bed, and a hot meal and fresh water and a night away from peering eyes, and, for that, she could find little argument. She only had a few more days' travel before she reached Ba Sing Seh—journey by foot was tiredly long compared to flight or lizard. If only the stupid cat would evolve…but, no, it always said that would happen later. When she was worthy, or something of that nature.
It would pay, for making her walk this distance, for making her cross the ocean as a worker on a naval ship. That had been amusing, serving roast to captains that had helped dethrone her. One move, and they wouldn't have been laughing over that wine anymore…
But then wasn't the time. She needed an army to back her. An army dedicated to her. She couldn't trust anyone, she knew that now, but she could use anyone.
After the boat was the journey, across the continent. It hadn't been easy, but nor had it been difficult. People didn't recognize her as the Firelord anymore, or even as the princess. She had lost both titles when her brother had taken back the throne. He wouldn't have it for that much longer.
Her hair was chopped evenly, and it had grown out while she had been in prison. It wasn't as full a color as it had been, but it would be. Her skin was dry, and no amount of moisture ever helped, but that was the single imperfection. She was thinner, not as muscled, but she wasn't weak. And, if nothing else, her eyes shone more brightly than before.
No, people didn't recognize her, because they all assumed she was still in prison. She had escaped easily enough, once her egg had appeared. It was strange, that egg. Pure white, with black and yellow dots all around it. At first she had thought it to be a sick sort of joke, but, still, when the guards came with her meals, she had hid it beneath her, much as a mother hen would lay on its own egg.
That night, it had hatched.
Escape was so simple, after that. She hid the creature until it understood her, until it evolved once, twice more of its own accord. Things came to visit her. Creatures, like her own, but not. Hers attracted them, its dark fur calling them to it, somehow. Ghost-like idiots that named themselves Bakemon. Others called through the walls, complaining to be too big to enter. She gathered her army, piece by piece, sending her creature out to call them together. And then, she made her move. When the pair of guards came to give her food, her creature had attacked.
And the best part was, they had no idea she was missing. She hadn't killed them, much as she wanted to. That would be suspicious. No, the Bakemon worked wonders, even with as little wit as they possessed. One sat in her cell, morphing himself to be replicate her. Another had pretended to be a guard, and forced the story that the two real soldiers-turned nurses, with bumps on their heads, had had too much wine.
They were dismissed from service at the asylum prison, but that was no concern of hers. She was free.
Her room in the inn was lacking anything but a bed and a dresser, and the soup was cool and thin. She gave most of it to her creature, who sipped it demurely in a corner, licking its paws regularly.
"Mistress?" it purred, after the meal had been consumed and the dark was almost absolute outside. "What are your plans? Our plans?"
"There is no 'our,'" Azula said sharply. "There is only me and my accomplices. And only I matter." She was silent for a time, and then she continued. "I continue on, to Ba Sing Seh. There was a prophecy, you said."
The cat-like creature tilted its head. "Yes. It should be simple, once you have the devices, or so the Geckomon said…"
"Am I advancing on mere hearsay?"
"Perhaps," the creature answered briskly. It had an attitude, but Azula didn't mind it, usually. "But it's better than where you were before, you have to admit."
It had an unfortunate point. Clever creature.
"Here," Azula said, tossing the broom at the creature.
Within seconds, the broom was nothing more than a few pieces of wood lying on the ground. The cat licked its claws, which glinted sharply, even in the dark.