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The fourth chapter, entitled Life, in the-mini series Passion by Ruen.


The trio arrived at the entrance of the secret bunker a day later. Appa was exhausted, having pushed himself to his limits, by his own accord, to get there as fast as they could. Aang hadn't said a word though. He didn't turn around once. He just starred out ahead as Sokka and Toph could only wonder what was going through his mind.

Sokka jumped off Appa as they landed and looked around before spotting a familiar face. "Zuko! What are you doing here? And how did you know about Azula and the hiding place?"

The entrance was that of a hatch in the ground, surrounded by vines and forestry. The hatch itself had nothing around the top, suggesting it's recent usage. Zuko sat next to it, before rising to greet his friends.

"Shh. Keep your voice down. This is definitely the place so they might have people outside spying on us." His eyes shifted, looking carefully for anything to give away someone presence. He turned to Sokka as he spoke. "After returning to the Fire Nation, I went to visit Azula. That's when I found out she was gone. As for the bunker, it was a last resort for my father during the war. It just so happens a few of his personal guard knew. I don't know for sure she has Katara though, but I know Azula is definitely here."

Toph jumped off Appa and down to the ground below. "Aah... land, finally." Lifting her leg slightly she slammed it down to dig it into the earth. "Yep, this is definitely the place. I can feel... there's a lot of people down there and it's not too far down." Her seismic sense giving her a clear view of the way down and the people below.

Aang slipped off Appa and made his way toward the hatch. With little effort, he ripped the entire hatch off the ground with earthbending and threw it aside, leaving a large hole in the ground.

The group all peered down below, but saw nothing but darkness.

"Well... I guess we're going down there. Who's fir-?" Sokka was cut off as an orange blur dropped into the hole below. Aang descended and disappeared into the darkness. "Well I guess that answers that... We better hurry, he might need our help."

The remaining trio began to climb down the ladder on the wall, leaving Appa alone to wait.

After a minute of climbing, the three reached the bottom. Sokka was first, followed by Toph, and then Zuko. Stepping off the ladder, Sokka began to search for Aang but he was no where to be seen. "We better hurry, Aang seems to have gone off on his own."

As Toph's feet hit the ground she realised something had changed. "Hey, guys! Those people I sensed earlier? Gone. I can't sense them anymore."

Sokka turned away from Toph and stared down in to the tunnel, a look of worry dawning on his face.

The ladder had reached a long narrow tunnel that had only one direction to go in. As the three walked down the narrow passage way they found Aang standing in front of a large door with strange markings. "Aang, what are you doing?"

Zuko received no response as the three approached Aang and stood beside him, inspecting the door.

The door was made entirely of metal except for one small column that was made of earth. The column of earth had an arrow pointing down on it. The markings were actually inscriptions imprinted on the metal, showing two people. Both appeared to be firebending toward the arrow.

Sokka moved forward to inspect the door more closely. "Hey, Zuko. Do you think you could do some bending and try to open this door?" Sokka stood back out of the way as the Firelord got into a firebending stance. "I think you need to shoot fire at the ground where the arrow is pointing."

The earth began to heat up as Zuko fired a sustained fire blast at the ground. From the side, Sokka could make out a hole appearing below the fire as the ground burned away. The hole appeared scorched and burned from recent use.

"Yeah. My sister is definitely here." Zuko punched forward once more to let out a final intense blast of fire.

The door shook and began to open. The hole in the ground disappeared, covered by a fresh piece of earth.

Aang was the first to enter, followed closely by Toph, Sokka, and then Zuko. As soon as they entered, the door slammed shut behind them.

"So, you finally found me." The voice echoed all throughout the room.

"Azula..." Zuko whispered to the others.

"Yes, Zuzu. It's me, Azula. Finally come to get the Water Tribe peasant back?" The voice pounded on their eardrums as the room continued to echo with her cold words.

Sokka stepped forward in front of Aang, pulling out his sword. "Where is she? You better give her back or else..."

"Or else what?" Azula's voice returned, interrupting Sokka. "How would you like to meet my new friends. They know just where to hit you to stop you in your tracks. Perhaps you'll remember the effects from my old friend Ty Lee. That traitor..."

Suddenly the room didn't seem so empty anymore as it filled with men in masks that began to surround the four-man group that dropped from above.

"Let's see you beat them." Her voice disappeared with a shrill laughter following after.

Toph and Zuko both entered bending stances as Sokka readied his sword. The three moved forward in front of Aang, who continued to stand motionless, not reacting at all to the events around him.

"Hey, Aang. I know you're not feeling yourself right now but... we could really use some help." Sokka's words only fell on deaf ears however, as the chi blockers began to close in around them. "Aah... whatever. If I have to go through you guys to get my sister back then I will!"

Sokka leaped forward into the fray as both Toph and Zuko began to bend their respective elements.

Toph lifted up a large rock in front of her and stamped forward, sending the rock flying into a group of chi blockers and slamming them into a wall, before turning her attention to another group. Zuko pulled out his swords and enveloped them in flames. Jumping through the air he began to spin and sent out arcing whips of fire. Two chi blockers were sent flying backward, knocking others down on the way. Sokka approached his own share and began attacking with full force. His fierce sweeps of his sword only pushed the chi blockers back temporarily as they dodged the strikes, while more chi blockers approached to strike Sokka from behind.

Sokka was the first to fall. Unable to move, he could do nothing but watch helplessly as his friends dropped one by one. Zuko became quickly overwhelmed with the numbers. His left arm was taken out first, his swords crashed to the ground as he lost his grip, losing their fiery enchantment. Toph held her own for the longest, using her seismic sense to dodge the chi blocking jabs. But before too long, she too was unable to handle that many and finally, one jab made contact. Her earthbending stopped momentarily as she took in what happened, but it didn't take long for her to be overwhelmed as well.

Sokka could do nothing but watch as his Zuko and Toph both fell to the ground, completely immobilized too. Only Aang remained standing, having not moved from his spot since he had entered the room.

"Well, that didn't take long. I thought you especially, Zuzu, would last longer than that. I guess you really are just a failure." Zuko's face contorted with rage but was unable to act as Azula approached out of the shadows. "And you, Avatar. Standing there like a lost dog." She let out a laugh that cut deep in the fallen trio as she moved toward Aang. "You are nothing anymore, you're just an empty shell of what was."

Azula, now standing in front of Aang, glared down at him as he showed no response. "Aang! Get away from her, she's going to kill you!" Sokka attempted to move again, but his limbs refused to obey.

Azula stared at Sokka as he spoke, before returning her gaze to Aang as an evil grin spread across her face. "He's right, you know. But, don't worry. I promise you... it will hurt." Azula pulled her arm back before slamming it forward to punch Aang in the stomach.

Aang flew back across the room, landing on his hands and knees as he coughed up blood.

Azula approached him again. "How did my father lose to you? I guess I was always the brains of the outfit. All it took was one thing: take the thing you care about most. Who knew something so simple could end up being the most effective way of beating you."

She knelt down to lean in close to whisper in his ear. "She used to mention you all the time. She kept saying you'd come for her. But that didn't last long. She soon realised just how much of a failure you are. She gave up long before I put her out of her misery."

No... it can't be, Sokka thought as he heard Azula's final words, trying desperately to hold back his tears.

Azula stood to look down at Aang as a wide smile stretched across her face. Lifting her leg back slightly she began kicking him in the stomach. Every blow made Aang cough up more blood.

Sokka and the others could do nothing but watch in fear and anger as their friend was beaten to a pulp in front of their very eyes. They were powerless to help.

"You were never the Avatar. You're just a child who thought he could be something. But you are nothing." Every word was punctuated with a resounding blow until the final strike.

Shrouding her foot with fire, she struck, and sent Aang crashing backward. His back collided with the wall, a resounding crunch echoed throughout the room.

Aang fell to the ground and Sokka knew, even before Azula's cold words reach his ears.

"It's over!"

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