Chapter Four
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Trust Yourself When All Men Doubt You




Ty Lee/Mai



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Chapter Four

Ty Lee lay awake in her darkened cabin, her eyes closed as she tried to let the gentle back and forth sway of the ship rock her to sleep. It wasn't working. Too much stuff had happened, and once again she found herself being pulled into a massive crisis, one she couldn't escape. She sighed, rolled over and tried to get to sleep again. After a few moments, she opened her eyes, getting up and throwing her blanket off her before putting a dark green cloak on,.

Maybe taking a short walk will allow me to clear my head, she thought to herself as she put the hood over her head, and opened her door. She had stepped outside before she thought to reach behind and retrieve her sword from its resting position next to her door and buckle it on.

She tiptoed gently through the torchlit corridor as she made her way to the deck, her eyes warily scanning every shadow, her hand never far from the hilt of her blade. Finally she saw the door that led outside and pulled it open, stepping on the wet, slick deck plating, a lifetime of ships keeping her footing sure on the slippery surface as she walked to the railing and leaned out, breathing in the sharp salt smell and feeling the seawater hit her face. She let loose a breath of contentment as she breathed the smell of the sea, she could literally feel her tensions melting away.

"Ty Lee?" a voice said from behind her, barely audible in the spray, and she looked to see Mai standing there, a curious look in her eyes.

Removing her head from the spray she looked back and said, "I take it you couldn't sleep either?"

"You think?" Mai retorted, annoyed.

Ty Lee sighed. "I know things are difficult, but you have to believe Zuko loves you, and that he'll always love you no matter how this mission turns out."

"My heart knows that," Mai said, "but my brain is having difficulty accepting it when you know he's taking another woman's maidenhead right now to validate the marriage, even if it is a political expedient."

"You know they could be pretending to consummate the marriage," Ty Lee postulated. "Zuko could be cutting his arm or something and putting the blood on the sheet to 'prove' he took her."

"He actually suggested that," Mai said, sighing. "I told him to just get it over with for real. The odds of Ursa having been pregnant with another one of Ozai's progeny at the time of her disappearance are slim to none, meaning that that marriage is going to have to produce children eventually. To be perfectly honest, as much as Toph doesn't deserve to be roped into a political marriage, she deserves to have her first time be...poorly done even less."

Ty Lee gave her a quizzical look. "You're a very understanding woman, Mai. I'm surprised, you I'd expect to be pacing her quarters like a caged beast."

Mai gave her another look. "I've been pacing like a caged beast. Though, as long as we're on the topic of surprising behaviors, I'm surprised at yours."

"What do you mean?" Ty Lee asked.

"Why you were so willing to put off you going to your new home to go on a wild goose chase that now has the future of the Fire Nation riding on it."

"I explained my reasoning earlier," Ty Lee pointed out, the knot of questions and anxiety she had when it came to Ursa coming to the fore. "What happened to Ursa's bothered me since I was seven. I'm fifteen now. I'm an adult and damn it all if I don't want to do something about it now. Though I'm sure part of it, is still the anxiousness of a girl who knew that if an adult could disappear in the dead of night, a child could."

"That's not what I meant," Mai pointed out, and Ty Lee knew where she was going, and she could feel the anger and hostility rising in her gut. "What I meant was," and she dropped her voice an octave. "You seem awfully willing to help the Fire Nation after all that happened in the Rock. If I were you, I'd be doing this for Zuko. Screw the Fire Nation."

Ty Lee, angry now, and no longer the woman who kept her feelings in check to keep herself alive, turned and glared at Mai, wrestling down the urge to smack her friend. "You don't think I haven't felt that? I put my life on the line for my people. Fought for them, and for saving your life they repaid a lifetime of dedication with the Boiling Rock. Where I saw for the first time what we were doing to our own people, to say nothing for the rest of mankind, and that I'd helped perpetuate it." Her hands gripped the railing hard, her knuckles whitening as she fought the urge to attack something, anything, when she thought about what she'd witnessed and suffered. "So, yes, most of the time I can recognize that the average Fire Nation citizen and soldier had nothing to do with what my people did." She looked away, and out over the sea. "But there are some nights I go to bed, and for a few moments when I'm drifting off to sleep, I genuinely believe that I would die a happy woman if I knew that the Fire Nation would be destroyed and the ground salted so nothing would ever grow again. I hate myself when those moments pass but there it is."

Mai, her eyes wide, nodded slowly and turned to look out at the moonlit water. After a moment though, she wheeled around and said, her tone shocked and angry. "I'm amazed that so many people just went along with what happened in the Rock. I don't understand what slime pit Medora got all the monsters she used to run the damn place."

Ty Lee shook her head. Damn it all but Mai just didn't pay attention to other people like she did. "Maybe you didn't see it? But most of those "monsters" weren't the evil fanatics like Azula, Ozai, and Medora, possessed of some malevolent hatred that drove their actions. They were just ordinary men and women like you and me, and not monsters in human skin."

"What?" Mai blurted in disbelief. "I'm sorry, I just don't see how you can witness those horrors, take part in those horrors, and not be a monster."

Ty Lee shook her head. "Come off it, Mai, you were raised in the same twisted system I was, the one that genuinely believed that we were spreading the fruits of our civilization when we were really serving the self-aggrandizement of the previous three generations of Firelord. The state convinced them that the horrible, inhuman, barbarities they were doing weren't beyond the pale. They were convinced, blood and bone, that what they were doing was a normal part of everyday life so they simply went about their duties."

Mai opened her mouth to say something, then stopped as what she was saying clicked in her head. She closed her mouth as she continued to stare at her, shocked by the enormity of what she was saying.

"Do you understand now, Mai?" Ty Lee said, brutally pressing her point, meeting her eyes and holding hers with a glare "Do you understand why some nights I despise my own people? Because I can't for the life of me understand how perfectly ordinary people can so blindly follow the will of the state that they believe murdering and enslaving people is normal. And for the record, yes, I do hate Azula and Medora.." She sighed, and leaned over the railing. "But I at least know where Azula is," her voice soft again. "What scares me more than anything in the world is that Medora is still out there, doing spirits only know what in the chaos that has gripped the world since Ozai's fall."

"Zuko's forces we'll find her," Mai said. "She can't run forever."

"That's just it, Mai," Ty Lee said, looking at her. "Medora is a fanatic. Wherever she is, she's stopped running."

"I know. I just hope we don't encounter her on this mission."

Ty Lee nodded along. I hope we do, she thought to herself. What I wouldn't give for a chance to bring that monster to justice.

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