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I do not own anything from The Knife of Never Letting Go or Chaos Walking! All rights go to Patrick Ness and Candlewick Press!
Zuko tries one more time to convince Mai to let Azula live in the palace. Aang and Viola encounter countless enemies in the Spirit World.
Fire Nation Asylum
"Mai? Mai!" She looked at me, her eyes shooting daggers. If looks could kill. I flinched and pulled back. "Please talk to me." I pleaded.
"Fine, tell me why we're here for the second time in a week?" She radiated hostility as she stared out the window of the carriage. I opened my mouth to speak but Mai put her hand up. "Never mind. Nothing you do can convince me, and this time I mean it, Zuko."
"Mai, what if we just ask Azula if she wants to come live with us?" Mai stared at me like I was the crazy person.
"Let me get this straight... You plan to ask a mental patient where she wants to live for the rest of her existence."
"Yeah. You and I have been arguing about this for awhile, but we don't know if the person we've been fighting about even wants to leave. If Azula says no, then I'll drop it and never talk about it again. If she says yes, then we'll take it from there," Mai regarded me warily, then shrugged, leaned over, and kissed me.
"Fine. Let's get this over with," She opened the door of the carriage and stepped out, devoid of her usual grace due to her oversized stomach. I sat there, stunned at how easily she had been convinced. Mai turned around.
"Come on, Zuzu!" She said, sarcasm practically dripping from her voice as she grinned.
"You think she's going to say no, right?" I said as I clambered out of the carriage.
"You know me so well. Now c'mon, let's go visit your crazy sister."
I slammed into the ground, knocking all the breath from my lungs-
Then a heavy thing crashed into me from above, driving away any air I had left-
A muffled sorry drifted down to my ears, and then the heavy thing got off me. I lifted my head and gasped for breath. The first thing I noticed was the fact that I didn't need the air. I was panting on reflex. The second thing was that Viola was standing next to me, her broken leg healed and looking at me with concern. The final thing was the trees, big and small, black and white and everything in between, that cast dappled, altering shadows everywhere you looked.
"Where are we?" Viola said, turning and staring in wonder at nothing in particular.
"I'm guessing it's the Spirit World, but it's not any part I've seen before," I scratched my head. "I wasn't even trying to get here or bring you with me. Guess you were just too close."
"You didn't come here by accident, if that's what you're saying," A tired voice groaned from the tree next to us. Viola walked over to it and looked up.
"Oh, look! It's a monkey that talks," She said dryly, crossing her arms.
"You sound skeptical, my girl. I thought you'd seen talking animals before," An ape's head lowered from the lowest bough of the tree. Its hair had gone grey with age and deep wrinkles cut through its skin. It turned its brown eyes on me and nodded once. "I apologize for my rudeness, I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Jia, and this is my little part of the Spirit World. I assume you're here looking for your friend?" Viola's eyebrows furrowed.
"Boy about your age, maybe a little older with a brown shirt and says 'ain't' a lot?"
"Yeah, that's him." A small smile bloomed on her face.
"The boy came through a little bit ago, and no, I can't say exactly when... All I know is that he went that way..." He pointed towards the path leading out of the clearing.
"Thanks," I said as I stood up. Jia's head pulled up into the tree, out of sight, but came back down again.
"By the way, you might want to hurry. Faces from another world are a high commodity here," I felt my eyes widen as Jia pulled up and loud snoring rattled the tree.
"What did he mean by that?" Viola was looking at me in confusion.
"Bad things. We need to move fast." I took her hand and pulled her out of the clearing.
I narrowed my eyes as I watched the Avatar and the girl leave the woods. Acting nice to humans? Unthinkable. I shifted back to my natural form and shuddered in exhaustion. Shifting and staying that way was becoming more difficult, and it was all Sen and Kekka's fault.
And by the way, I wasn't lying about Koh wanting the otherworlders' faces. The Avatar's face would be valuable too. And with luck, they were headed right for him.
Ah, revenge is sweet... I thought drowsily as I drifted off.
Fire Nation Asylum
"I have to apologize in advance, Firelord. The patient is being- difficult today," The doctor clicked his tongue as he pulled out his keys. "Maybe seeing you will have an effect on her." I nodded and took a deep breath.
"You're not going to chicken out on me, are you Zuko?" Mai sniggered.
"You're enjoying this way too much."
"Let's see... You're going to ask your crazy and 'difficult' sister whether she wants to come live with us and decide our whole argument, maybe in my favor? Yeah, I'm enjoying this." I scowled as the door swung open. Azula immediately swung towards the sound, her eyes wide, and then continued pacing wildly around the room. I looked at Mai and shrugged, then walked into the room, with her right behind me. As I got closer to my sister, I noticed she was mumbling under her breath, but then she stopped and grabbed her hair in her hands. "But what does it mean..." Azula whispered, then turned and looked at us. I raised my eyebrows at the crazed look in her eyes. "What do you want?" She growled.
"He needs to ask you a question," Mai said quickly then nudged me.
"Azula, we've been arguing about you a lot, because I want you to come live in the palace." Her gold eyes wandered around the room and settled on Mai's face.
"But she doesn't want me to," Mai looked uncomfortable under Azula's unwavering stare. Azula blinked and lurched back as if she had been hit. She slammed against the wall and slid down it, holding her face in her hands. She started rocking erratically and panting, then threw her head back and wailed shrilly. I stepped back towards the door with Mai and Azula stopped, jumped to her feet, ran towards us, and grabbed me by the shoulders.
"DON'T TRUST THE DECIVERS FOR THEY TELL YOU ONLY LIES!!" She screamed as she shook me. "HE WILL LEAD YOU ASTRAY WITH FALSE PROMISES!!" The door opened, and a nurse came in, cradling a small glass vial in her hands.
"Miss, miss, please calm down!" the nurse shouted over the screeching. Azula whirled around and with stunning precision, knocked the vial from the orderlies' hands. It shattered against the wall nearest Mai and a sickeningly sweet stench filled the room immediately. Mai gagged and held her nose.
"That is foul!" She yelled as she darted from the room. I followed her down the hall before she leaned against the wall, breathing heavily. Mai looked at me as I ran up, and then threw up on the floor. She fell against me, still gasping and shaking. Mai threw up again and sick splattered the floorboards. I saw two doctors hurrying towards Azula's room with a straitjacket, and loud yells and shrieks were echoing across the hallway.
"I think we should leave now." Mai nodded then retched again. I turned her towards the door, but a loud scream came from just across the hallway. I turned towards the noise, and Azula stood there, staring at me.
"Don't leave me here, please don't leave me, don't leave me, DON'T LEAVE ME!!" Her voice rose until she was screeching madly.
"We'll come back. I promise." Mai said hoarsely. Azula looked at her and nodded, then sank to the floor, rocking. The two doctors we saw before ran up to Azula and dragged her away.
"Remember your promise!" She yelled after us as we left the chaos.
"How long have we been walking?"
Aang looked back at me. "A long time," he said shortly.
"Thanks for that, master of the obvious." I said irritably.
"Hey, I'm sorry, but time is weird here. I can't tell how long we've been here because I don't know," I muttered something under my breath, and Aang whirled around. "What did you say?"
"Nothing, I just thought this was your job and I thought you might have some answers about something!"
"Sorry, but leading people from a different world around another world wasn't exactly in my job description," He huffed. "If you want to help find Todd, then you need to be quieter." Aang turned back around and continued walking.
"Fine..." I followed him, but promptly crashed into his back when he stopped. Aang swore.
"Dammit! This is Koh's realm! The monkey tricked us!"
"He's the spirit that steals faces. That's the thing Jia was talking about."
"Wait, how can he steal..."
"Don't ask me how, but we need to get out of he-" Aang was cut off by a violent scuttling noise then a loud crashing. His face mirrored the complete panic I felt inside. "If we can't get away, then don't show any fear or emotion. That's when he steals your face." He walked carefully towards the two trees that seemed to mark the entrance of Koh's realm with me in tow-
The crashing and scuttling got closer-
My heart seems like it's going to burst out of my chest-
Then the crashing came from right behind me-
I held my breath and turned around slowly-
A painted face framed by black pinchers stared me down, smiling-
I bit my cheek to keep my face from contorting wildly with fear-
"Hey Koh," Aang said next to me. I looked over and his face was completely devoid of all emotion.
How is he doing that? I bit down harder and blood spilled into my mouth-
"It's been a while since I've seen you. And you've brought me a new face," Koh slithered over and looked me directly in the face. "A child, and an otherworlder no less... You, my dear, shall become a rarity in my collection... Along with your friend, that is."
"You stay away from Todd."
"Or what? It's not like you could stop me if I tried," His eye blinked, and woman with long brown hair stared at me. "I also suppose it isn't really your fault. After all, you weren't brought here by your choice... And those hypocrites say that's what they are protecting." The woman let out a harsh bark of a laugh.
"Who's protecting what?" Aang asked.
"It's none of your concern. I'm sure you'll see them eventually. That is, if you make it past me first." The woman smiled smugly. Behind Koh, I saw Jia pop up and give me an evil grin before miming a face being taken off. I barely managed to keep my fury under control as I stared at him.
"What are you looking at?" Koh frowned and turned around. Aang glanced too and a look of anger briefly passed across his face before returning to blankness just as Koh turned back around-
"Oh, you two are tricky..." The woman clicked her tongue as the face changed again. "Normally Wangji's tactics work. He sends me all sorts of faces in return for him being the only one I can't steal," The smooth voice sounded odd coming out of a baboon's mouth, but my face didn't move. "Oh well... I was hoping I wouldn't have to resort to this one." Then Koh's eye blinked again and my heart about stopped as my eyes widened and my mouth opened in horror-
Because his face is staring back at me, smiling-
Koh reared back and Todd's mouth screamed-
Fire Nation Royal Palace
I gagged as we walked inside the Palace.
"Are you going to be sick again?" Zuko's voice was full of concern.
"Nah, I think I'm good." We walked in silence for a minute, then he spoke again.
"Did you really mean what you said?"
"I did. No one deserves that, Zuko, no matter how horrible you've been. I smelled that medicine from a little aways and it made me barf my guts out. Imagine what that would have been like under your nose and in your mouth," My voice was cold. "No one deserves that." I repeated under my breath. I felt a slight nudge in my stomach, as if the baby was agreeing with me. I smiled, but was interrupted by a guard running up and bowing.
"Sir, the Avatar's bison arrived a couple minutes ago. They're at the West Gate and are requesting to see you immediately."
Aang swore, his face dropping as he realized my mistake and sprinted one way while I ran the other-
I tore through the swamp, not caring where I was going, only as long as I got away, away, away-
Then a large white tentacle came down and wrapped around my torso-
Whipping me up so fast and high that my head almost snapped back-
Depositing me on a high tree branch so big that it would have taken three of me to encompass it fully-
A girl in red grabbing me and steadying me-
"You okay?" she said. There was an undercurrent of laughter in her voice.
But also something else-
"What was that thing that pulled me up?"
"Oh, it was me. Koh was right on your tail, you know. So I helped you out." Her bright red hair bounced in a breeze that blew just for her and crimson eyes stared me down. "Now it's time to watch the show..." The girl got on her hands and knees "Hey, asshole!" She shouted. I grabbed her shoulder.
"Why are you baiting him?"
"Another disadvantage to his big, ugly, bug body..."
"... Is that he can't climb or jump." A second girl popped out from the shadows next to the tree's trunk. I started and she raised her pale brows. Besides everything being white, she looked exactly like the first girl, only a lot cleaner.
"Shut up Kekka! I want to see what he does..." The first girl whined as she parted branches with a wave of her hand. I peered down and saw what looked like a giant centipede staring up at the tree. I shuddered as I saw that Koh still wore Todd's face.
"You do know that's not Todd's face, right?" Kekka asked, kneeling next to me.
"Yeah. That's some poor soul that wandered in here by accident..."
"... A couple centuries ago. He just looks enough like Todd..."
"... That he was able to trick you." They finished each other's sentences seamlessly. I watched to see how Koh would react to the insult, but he simply scuttled away in the direction he came.
"Damn... I wonder why he left... Unless..."
"...Something more valuable was the other way." They stared at each other and then swung towards me.
"Which way did the Avatar go?!" They shrieked together. I pointed wordlessly towards the way Koh went and they jumped off the branch, seeming to float slowly towards the ground.
Two tinny whispers came back to me."Stay here. We'll come back with the others."
Fire Nation Royal Palace
Katara looked frazzled as Zuko and I came into the courtyard. She jumped down from Appa once she saw us with Toph in tow. They both had purple bags under their eyes and stumbled around like they had been flying for a while, but they smiled at us as we got closer to the huge furry beast.
"Hey! Where's Aang?"
"He's gone." Toph interjected, but Katara rolled her eyes.
"She doesn't mean it like that. We came here to warn you about something and we would have gotten here sooner, but things went crazy."
"Why don't you be the judge of that?" Appa put his rudder-like tail down with an almighty grunt and Zuko and I climbed up. In the saddle, Aang and two other children were on their backs, eyes closed.
"Who're the other two?"
"The girl is Viola and the boy is Todd. They're... special."
"What do you mean?"
"Long story. The bad news is that Aang and Viola have been in the Spirit World for two days now, and Todd's been gone for even longer than that," Katara rubbed her eyes with her fists and sighed. "When we left the Western Air Temple yesterday, Toph noticed his heartbeat slowing down. I'm afraid that if Todd doesn't wake up soon, he'll die."
"Isn't there a way to wake them up?" I asked. Toph shook her head.
"We tried a couple times, but nothing worked."
"But when I had Aang at the North Pole, he woke up within a couple hours. What's so different about this time?"
"Aang wasn't trying to go into the Spirit World; He just went, and Viola was pulled in along with him."
"So if he can't control the way in, he can't control the way out?"
"I think so."
I watched as Viola's face dropped and twisted into something that resembled pain-
I started running as soon as Koh screamed-
I thought Viola was following me, but when I looked behind me, all I saw was an empty swamp-
I turned back, but then I ran straight into someone else-
I stood up, wincing-
The person got to their feet grumbling-
He looked at me and squinted-
"Why're you bald?" Todd said, blood trickling from his nose.
"Why are you here?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. I fell here awhile ago," Todd tilted his head up, pinching his bleeding nose. "How do you know me?"
"I'm Aang. Your body's with my friends." His eyebrows rose in surprise.
"Oh! Yer that Avatar kid!"
"Yeah, but how do you know that?"
"Sen told me. She said my body was with Viola and a kid named Aang," Todd's eyes narrowed. "I imagined you older."
"Lots of people say that." I grimaced.
"So how's Viola?"
"...And we're glad you're safe too." Twin voices came out of the trees, and then two girls in red and white came floating down from the branches. They settled gently next to us.
"Sen? What're you doing here?" Todd asked.
"Koh came this way after we made sure Viola was safe. I'm just glad we beat him." The girl in white flipped her hair over her shoulder and scanned the trees around us.
'Wait, where is she?"
"She's up in a tree..." She declared nonchalantly.
"... Because Koh can't climb..." The girl in red added.
"...By the way, she's Sen..."
"... And she's Kekka..."
"... And we're the Spirits of Choice..."
"... And Consequence..."
"... We were trying to call you here earlier..."
"... But someone beat us to the chase..."
"... And Wangji got to you first..."
"... The bastard." They said together. My head spun as Todd and I stared at them.
"Do you know how annoying that is?" he asked.
"What?" They said together.
"Never mind," I said quickly. "Shouldn't we be worrying about Koh?"
"Yeah, we've got it under control." Kekka waved us off. Sen rolled her eyes and flung her arm up. A dazzling white rope sprouted out of her hand and wrapped around the branches above us.
"Climb up," She joked, and then floated upwards with her sister. They alighted on one of the branches nearest the white rope and watched us expectantly.
"You wanna go first?" Todd asked.
"Sure..." I climbed up quickly with Todd close behind, the rope dissipating as soon as we jumped onto the branch. The sisters watched the ground anxiously, then burst out laughing as Koh scuttled into the clearing. Sen waved cheerfully as Kekka smiled.
"What's up!?" Sen called. Koh started screaming insults and death threats, which just sent them into further hysterics.
"Keep dreaming, bastard!" Kekka screamed. Todd and I exchanged glances.
"These girls are wild," He said. I nodded back.
"Okay..." Kekka sighed.
"... let's go..."
"... We left Viola back a little ways..."
"... So we'll go get her..."
"... And then we need to talk...
"... To all three of you," Sen breathed deeply. "Just jump with us. If you slip, we'll catch you." We left the screaming spirit and went on our way.
Fire Nation Royal Palace
"So you're saying that Todd and Viola are from another world?" Mai asked suspiciously.
"I swear we're not making this up." Katara pleaded.
"Sadly, I wish we were." Toph said, running her hand across the stone floor of the room we had moved to. The three bodies were on a mat at the far end of the space, and we sat ourselves facing them, watching for any signs of life.
"How do you know?" I asked.
"One, Aang had a dream about them. Two, they don't look like anyone else on this planet. And three, check out this stuff Viola had in her bag." Katara held out a thin metal tube and showed it to us, then flicked a switch and a thin beam of light shone around the room. She pointed it towards my face and switched it off, then pulled a small box out of the bag. Katara handed it to Mai.
"Look through the lenses." Mai complied and smiled.
"Cool, but why is everything green?" Katara shrugged. Then she went for the bag again and pulled out a thick book covered in leather with a bloodstained hole through the center. She flipped through it and slanted, joined writing unlike anything I've seen filled every page.
"I couldn't make heads or tails of it. Maybe you'll have better luck." Katara handed the book to me. I took it and flicked gingerly through the yellowed pages, selected one at random, and scanned it quickly. I shook my head as I read, then handed it back to Katara.
"No. Can't understand any of it."
"You believe us now?" Toph asked. Mai and I looked at each other, then nodded.
"So what do we do now?" Mai said.
"We wait." Katara murmured simply.
- Stuff in the bag:
- flashlight- obvious
- Binoculars- freaking awesome "binocs" that let you see in the dark and over long distances. The green was because of the night-vision mode
- the book- Todd's mother's diary. The hole was from when Aaron stabbed Todd and the book caught most of the knife.
- This is one of the first chapters with Mai's point of veiw.
- This chapter has the most changes in points of veiw so far.
- This chapter is also the longest so far (8 pages in Word)
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Avatar: Choices Chapters|
|Book One: White Bones|
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