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|More from Azulazulazula||Reality||PG (Mild-Mediocre Violence)||Highly Positive|
|Departure, Reunification, and Engagement|
Book One: Aang's Story
Departure, Reunification, and Engagement is the fifth chapter of And Everything in Between. Released on October 3, 2011, the chapter focuses on Sokka's and Toph's departure to find Suki, and Aang and Katara's visit to the Fire Nation Capital, to find interesting news from Zuko, and to have a dinner which turns bad quickly.
Sokka finds out that Suki left Ba Sing Se, and sets out to ind her, with Toph, who forcibly tags along. Elsewhere, Aang and Katara pay Zuko a visit, where they learn a lethal secret, and have a dinner, which derails quickly.
"Ugh, we have been flying for hours! And I can still taste dust in my mouth. Does this desert have an ending?" Toph demanded, her mouth bone-dry.
"Oh, yeah Toph. This is so easy for me, isn't it? I'm sick of flying already, and I'm sick of getting sand in my eyes. But I have to find Suki. I can't lose another girlfriend. And I..." he began, stuttering, his eyes welling with tears. Toph's did the same as the thought of Wei Bei reentered her brain.
She remembered the days when they would play together, standing in the courtyard, playing Earthball. They always had so much fun together, and at the end of the day, they were best friends. But then, Wei Bei ran away, promising her that they would meet again. Yeah, we did. Toph thought. But we'll never meet again. Sokka's voice broke Toph's train of thought.
"I love her. And I need to be with her. I can't stand not having her with me anymore. I love her, and I have to find her." He decided, helplessness straining his voice box. Toph turned away at this. But I want you! She thought, jealously, her lips perched.
Six Hours Earlier:
"I...Suki is...she left," Toph blurted.
"What?!" Aang and Katara screamed. Sokka remained paralyzed in shock. "What do you mean she's gone?"
"She flew with me on Appa, and I let her off at the end of the Serpent's Pass. She was determined to go home." She explained. Everybody remained silent, as Toph turned her attention to Sokka. "At first, she was really sad that you left, and she wanted to find you. But when she started packing, she said that if you two could break up over something that easily, and you could get so mad about something, you two weren't ready to date, or even at all." Sokka's eyes thinned in sadness, and a teardrop left his eye. "I'm sorry, Sokka."
Aang patted him on the back, and Katara walked over to give him a hug. He turned away, and spoke only three words. "I'm gonna find her." He decided. The others looked at each other, their eyes wide.
"Sokka, I know you're upset, but that happened hours ago. By now, Suki's probably somewhere out in the middle of that sandy wasteland! She could be anywhere. If you go on foot, you won't be able to catch up with her. If you take Appa, you won't be able to see her! Now are you seriously going to chase her?!" Katara said calmly, yet with a firm intimidation in her voice.
"I have to try. Suki is my girlfriend, and I...I...I love her," he declared. Toph's ears perked up.
"Then I'm coming, too. And don't try to stop me!" she screamed, a mad expression on her face.
"O...k...did you drink some cactus juice or something?" he asked with a raised eyebrow. "You guys coming, too?" he asked, turning his attention to Aang and Katara.
"Well...um," Aang began. Katara finished his statement, with more power.
"We would, but we promised Zuko we would visit him and see how he's doing as the Fire Lord."
"Yeah...sorry," Aang said, smiling nervously.
"Well, I think Toph and I are gonna look for her on Kyoshi. We could drop you off at the Palace City," Sokka suggested.
"Uh, okay. But keep in mind, Suki won't be through the desert by the time you get there. There's no guarantee that..." Aang began.
"That she'll what?" Sokka demanded, more determined than upset now.
Aang sighed. After a long pause, he spoke. "That she'll ever...make it out of the desert," he finished, refusing to even glance at Sokka. Sokka took a long pause, then spoke.
"She'll make it. She's too strong not to. And even if she didn't make it, I couldn't find her anyways. Like Katara said, I couldn't catch up with her on foot, and on Appa, I couldn't see her. It's better that I just go to Kyoshi Island. She'll go there when she makes it out," he decided. His face showed no fear, but beneath his determined exterior, his heart ached with pain, with worry. She'll make it. He fibbed to himself. She will. But his heart said otherwise. His heart said only, "She has to."
"G'luck on finding Suki!" Katara yelled as she jumped from the back of Appa. Aang looked up at Sokka, and spoke to him silently. They read each other perfectly. I hope you find her. Good luck. Aang's silence told Sokka. His eyebrows responded. I don't need it. I'm gonna find her. But his eyes said otherwise. Me too. Thanks, Aang. As Toph told the pair goodbye, Appa soared off out of the volcano.
Aang and Katara began their short stroll up to the palace gates. The silence was akward, unbearable. Aang was the first to break it, but he soon learned talking was no better than the former. "So...do you think they'll find her?" he questioned, hoping for a comforting response.
Katara remained silent for a while. What had, no more than a month ago, seemed like a pit of death, with the tyrannical leader of a merciless empire at its core, now was a gingerly spring meadow, inhabited by the kind king of a nation dedicated to repairing what it had broken. With a quick survey of her surroundings, she finally replied. "Suki's strong. If anyone can cross that desert, it's her," she told Aang, trying to reassure herself at the same time. They glanced at each other, each seeking comfort, each seeking reassurance. But neither found it in the unsure eyes of their other half.
As they walked down the streets of the capital city, the sidewalks hopping with activity, Aang looked around. A pagoda stood tall over the barn of an elderly man, a pristine scarlet house sitting next to it. Aang glanced inside the barn. A Cow-hippo hovered over a tiny possum chicken, it's legs closed. As the large beast lowered its head to take a bite out of the poor creature, Aang turned his head. He threw his left arm around Katara's neck, and she smiled. Her beautiful smile illuminated the darkness of the peaceful, yet creepy Fire Nation city. The couple approached the Royal Palace. As the wind blew across Aang's arrow, Katara spotted Zuko, meandering around the streets, Mai clinging to his arm.
Katara's face now featured a wide smile, as she screamed at the scarred Fire Lord. "Zuko! Zuko, over here!" Aang glared at Katara, as if she was crazy, and then he noticed Zuko and Mai, approaching them.
"Aang! Katara! You made it!" Katara threw her fragile arms around Zuko, and he returned, whilst Mai and Aang exchanged friendly handshakes. After each pair greeted each other, the friends traded. After all greetings were finished, Aang and Katara questioned Zuko about his new job as Fire Lord.
"It's difficult," he explained. "We've been at war with everyone for so long, and now there's so much to do. It's hard, but it's my duty. It's...it's my destiny."
"Yeah, I know what you mean," Aang declared. "Try having to defeat the all-powerful Fire Lord with the full power of Sozin's Comet on his side."
"Right...so, anyways, I have some news," Zuko said, changing the subject. He glanced to Mai, seeking her approval. But her squint greeted him with a handful of rejections. "I...uh...Azula escaped her mental facility!"
"What?!" Aang and Katara exploded in shock. "How could she escape?!"
"I guess I underestimated her abilities when she's...y'know...insane. She knocked all the guards out easily and melted through the metal bars. Next thing I knew, she was running out of the city. And then she was gone," Zuko defended, guiltily.
"Look, Zuko, Azula tried to kill us...a million times over," Katara pleaded.
Aang interjected. "She did kill me."
"Exactly! We can't just have her wandering around the world, stalking us. It's only a matter of time before she finds us."
"What am I supposed to do? I already have search parties out looking everywhere for her! On top of that, I also have that bounty hunter...uh, June looking for her. They haven't found her yet. I'm doing everything in my power to bring her home," he defended, praying for forgiveness.
"Care to join us on our walk?" asked Mai, reluctantly.
"Sure. Let's go," Aang decided, taking Katara by the arm and walking alongside Zuko.
Upon return from their walk, Zuko ordered a servant to show Aang and Katara to their room. The servant led them up the stairs, through an elaborate series of passageways, and what Aang thought to be a secret passage before they finally reached their room. Unlocking the door, the servant exposed the wondrous bedroom. Atop one of the beds hung a painting of a wild herd of Buffalope jumping through a meadow. Another depicted a sunset over the wall of Ba Sing Se. "You may each choose which bed you would like." The servant bowed, and slowly backed out of the room. Aang plopped down on his comfortable, classy bed, and broke through the silence in the room.
"So, you excited for our first real, uninterrupted date tonight?" he asked, a cute smile creeping onto his face as he poked fun at their previous disastrous dates.
Katara giggled, then let out her thoughts. "Hey, don't speak so soon! We've got Zuko just a few blocks away from the restaurant and a mad Firebender on the loose. And knowing our luck, one of the two is going to ruin our date," she chuckled. Aang walked up to her, and caressed her neck, leaning in for a deep kiss.
"C'mon. Let's go look around the courtyard," Aang suggested. Katara nodded, and they left their room. "Do you think Mai's a Snail-Sloth in disguise, or is she just that boring?" Katara gently slapped Aang on the arm, and smiled as they strolled outside.
Aang exited the massive palace, stepping out into a vast wonderland of fresh air. A gorgeous enclosure, the courtyard boasted a most-impressive collection of every possible natural phenomenon: from the glistening pond of Turtle-Ducks, to the massive tree, exhibiting chlorophyll-deficient leaves, falling to the ground, and the birds which lay in its many nests, Aang had never seen anything so beautiful. "Wow..." Aang tried to say, but found his lungs emptied of oxygen in the incredible sight. Across the way, Aang and Katara could see Zuko kneeling, with Mai, boredom in her eyes, staring blankly ahead.
"Mai, I love you. Will...will you marry me?" he asked, intimidation filling her voice. Surprise entered the immovably bored Mai's eyes. The surprise was not just surprise; it was shock. But it's happy shock. He told himself. A small smile crossed Mai's face, as she mumbled the word, "Yes."
Zuko's eyes glimmered in the sunlight, excitement filling them. Delight filled even his massive scar, and he threw his arms around Mai, her hand now boasting a large Jennamite ring. The moment was interrupted when Aang strolled over to the pair, Katara's head on his shoulder. "Hey guys!" Aang called out. "Beautiful courtyard, eh?"
"Uh...yeah," Zuko replied, grinning slightly at Mai. Mai held up her hand, boasting her white teeth in a radiant smile. "Really?!" Aang's eyes burst as he yelped at Zuko.
"Really?!" Katara echoed.
"Yeah," Zuko replied non-chalantly. His expression remained calm, but his eyes glowed with excitement.
The quartet hugged each other, and enjoyed the beautiful day in the courtyard.
"Aang, this place is amazing!" Katara declared, cutting her smoked Sea Slug with her sharp knife.
"Well, Zuko recommended it. I just booked the place," Aang explained, digging into his salad.
"It's amazing. So, how is..." Katara began, before seeing flash of blue burst through the massive front window. Dismayed, Katara froze, even her hair loopies paralyzed with fear. Sorry, Aang. But our date's gonna have to wait.
- This chapter reveals Sukka's true inner instabilities, which eventually leads to their breakup.
- This chapter was originally planned to be the final part of the direct continuation of the series in Book One: Aang's Story, but I decided the end would do better in two parts.
For the collective works of the author, go here.