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The days came and went, the sun and moon rising and falling in their usual pattern in the walled country of Ba Sing Se. Through those days, Katara became far more secluded ever since her "little incident" back at Anju's house. She didn't bother going to the party because of her sudden discovery, worried that the same action will occur with more witnesses. Lucky for her, Anju and Bipin didn't tell anyone else about it, which'll probably get them in trouble with the Dai Li anyway. But as time went by, Katara's reaction to her water-bending turned from fear, to confusion, to fascination. She'd heard of water bending from her school various times before, usually in history, but she never would have guessed she would be one of them, at least in a way. Through the next couple of days, she decided to see what she could do with her special bending ability; isolating herself and practicing. Course, she didn't tell her mom about that, so the practice was only known by her, and her alone...at first, anyway.
One quiet, cool, Wednesday afternoon, Katara felt like practicing her unique ability again after school. As soon as school ended, homework in hand, Katara quickly started off to her special location, probably her only location where she could do her practice at all. Her walk to the spot was much shorter than her walk to her actual house, about 30 minutes, give or take. The area Katara went to was pretty secluded, the buildings unoccupied and abandoned. The main walkway was rather large, big enough for a wagon to go through with ease, and a waterway, going through the side of the way, was the perfect source of water to practice with. Katara looked around, to make sure she indeed was alone, last thing she wanted was a snitch to see her water bending...no one in sight.
"Okay. Let's see if I can do this," Katara thought aloud, looking down to slow moving water in front of her. The brunette focused, and aimed her hands forward to the river. It took some practice, and focus, but eventually a small orb of water slowly lifted upon command, an orb of liquid about as big as her own head, perfectly spherical, as if frozen. Katara slowly walked backwards, eyes and hands fixated on the floating orb in front of her.
"Yes, Yes! Okay, what if I..." Katara focused on the orb again, one of her hands moving to the left of her. The orb responded, and stretched to compensate Katara's command and movement. Katara continued moving her hands, guiding a calm flow of water in various directions in the air in front of her. As she was, the water turned from a water orb, to a water ring, perfectly circular around Katara's torso, like the rings on Saturn. the happy bender felt very proud of herself, despite it being dangerous just to do this at all. Her accomplishment, not to mention the beauty of her bending, was really distracting her from the world around her. After some more tricks with her water ring, she sent the water back in the river nice and easy, and calm down in a content sigh...only now did she suddenly hear someone behind her, applauding her!
"Good job, Katara! That was awesome!"
Katara spun around fast, almost loosing her footing, and noticed the familiar girl, Jin, standing by one of the house doorways. Katara didn't have any clue how long she was there for, or why she was there in the first place, but she knew she couldn't hide her water bending ability after giving Jin an involuntary front row seat to her practice.
"Uh, I uh - I mean uh -" Katara was trying to find some sort of understandable words, but Jin simply chuckled and walked over to her, that same smile she had back at the restaurant a week or so back.
"Calm down, it's alright," Jin assured her. That only slightly calmed the brunette down.
"Um... How long were you -"
"The whole time, and I gotta say, you're a pretty good bender! Question: how'd you get in here without being wanted?" Jin gave a good laugh at that, but Katara only barely joined her. Being wanted ain't no laughing matter, and the fact Katara knew Jin is wanted by now only made things more uncomfortable.
"I...I didn't arrive here..."
"You mean you were born here?" Katara nodded, slightly confused by Jin's question.
"Yes, I am. I thought you'd knew, from...well, y'know," Katara reminded, the thought of their first encounter in both of their minds.
"Oh that! Well, I'd thought you and your mother were just hiding out in disguise or something, since I saw you bending anyway. But, guess no one can really be correct, can they?"
"Since you saw me? You saw me do this before?"
"Sure, though the last 3 days, actually. I didn't bother you cuz I didn't want you to stop your practice." Katara didn't have anything to really say, Katara only hoped she didn't rat her out during those 3 days. But than again, she was wanted by the Dai Li, and showing up to tell them about it will throw herself in jail, if anything.
"Promise not to tell anyone, Jin, okay?" Katara asked, very hopeful she'll agree. Lucky for her, Jin nodded happily.
"Don't worry. I maybe wanted, but I'm not a snitch," Jin said with a wink.
"Yeah about that, Jin, aren't you worried about being wanted by the Dai Li? Seriously, those guys are very dangerous."
"I'll be fine, really. As long as the Dai Li don't leave Ba Sing Se, they're not exactly the most dangerous." Katara put that thought in mind, and she did have some sort of point. The Dai Li only serve the Earth King in Ba Sing Se, and don't go beyond the country's final wall.
"I guess, but Ba Sing Se is still a big place, and the Dai Li got a lot of authority here," Katara pointed out.
"That's true, but I won't stick around here for very long anyway."
"What do you mean? You're leaving?" Katara asked, a bit surprised at the idea. As far as she knew, Ba Sing Se (despite treatment of classes) is the safest place to be. The nations of the outside world are far too dangerous, at least that's what she heard in school gossip, and yet Jin's planning to go out there?
"That's right, got big plans with my friends, and will start going on our way by tomorrow night, so you don't have to worry about me," Jin assured her, a friendly punch to the shoulder. Katara didn't have anything else to say to her, by that point. Katara walked past her, and picked up her Book she left nearby. As she was, Jin did get a question in her head, but wasn't too sure on asking. After some thinking, she might as well give it a try.
"Hey Katara?" Jin asked.
"What?" Katara asked, picking up her book.
"You wanna come with us?" Katara nearly dropped her book on shock at such a question. The question stayed in the air for a bit, as a pause stayed around for 5 seconds until Katara spoke again.
"Jin, I can't leave here! It's the safest place to be, plus I gotta ton of planning, a lot of work, and then there's my mother I have to take care of, and -"
"Okay, okay, calm down! Just thought I ask, Katara," Jin said, not wanting Katara to go overboard with the answer she had. Clearly, her priorities kept her here, and she didn't need to lose it.
"Well, thanks, but I have to stay here..." Katara concluded.
"Well, if you change your mind Katara, you got until tomorrow night. See ya later!" With that, Jin raced off out of sight down the road where Katara came in. Katara took her words to mind, as she decided to cut her practice short, and head home...
The day went on into night, as Katara helped out her mother with house keeping, and finished her homework in record time. Her mother had the day off from her work, so she had more time to bond with Katara, which was always good for both of them. They both helped out each other in the house, and generally spent the day together. One thing she did do hat night, which recent she didn't had time to do, was update her diary. She had one since she was little, yet didn't use it all that much, yet she wanted to update it now. She took it out from her dresser, and with a candle light, began writing out her events.
This past week has been rather special for me. I'm not sure what it is, but, I'm sure I'll figure things out. remember our money trouble? I guess Raava gave us a helping hand, and gave us A TON of gold! Goodbye, debt! Now that's done, now for the odd news. Turns out my friend is nothing more than a thief, wanted by that stupid Dai Li. Seriously, she's far too friendly to try for chump change. Also, that bully Kong got his just desserts and was froze to a wall. I dunno about you, but I personally found it funny. Finally, the universe gave me a free B. And guess what?...I CAN WATERBEND! I know, it's completely crazy, but I guess miracles can come up from anywhere. It was scary at first, but, I've grown to love this new ability of mine. I feel...what's the word... Special, unique even! I even got to make a water ring, I'm getting so good! Well, I'll be back with you soon, gotta think things through.
Katara finished up her diary entry, and placed the book next to her. She was glad there was at least one way to put out her thoughts and memories without criticism from others. Katara kept her hand on the book for a few extra seconds before letting it go beside her. She blew out her candle, the light immediately disappearing upon so, and she went for another night of sleep... If only it were that simple...
A few hours pass, and the moon, waxing gibbons phase, was high up in the sky, signifying midnight. The streets around Katara's home were simply quiet...too quiet, for Ba Sing Se standards. Oddly, Katara found herself having trouble sleeping, which was actually normal for her. When the moon was at its brightest, Katara would have a lot of trouble staying asleep, and that night was no different for her. Tossing and turning in her bed, to the point of sweating in her sleep, as if having some sort of wicked nightmare! Eventually, Katara gave up on trying to sleep, sitting up. The Katara before would never made sense of why she had so much trouble sleeping, but the Katara now had at least one reasonable conclusion to it: being a waterbender. Water benders gain more power by the moon, and Katara did feel more energetic during these bright nights. Her hand, almost instinctively, whipped off some sweat from her forehead, seeing it shine off the moonlight by her bed, in her hand. Her mind began to think over everything that she had just wrote in that diary, the sudden new events that occurred, waterbending included...what should she do? If she'd stayed, she'll have more trouble with the Dai Li. If she'd left, her mother will be all alone...but then again, if she was discovered to have waterbending by any Dai Li, her mother will most likely get into even more trouble than just being isolated. She could be put upon charges for smuggling a waterbender into the Earth Kingdom, or simply hiding the truth from them at all. And as for punishment...Katara didn't even want to think about what they'd do to her...
"...Maybe I should go..."
That thought alone seemed to start a cue, as Katara suddenly heard someone...or something, from outside her room. The sound of some sort of animal, what it exactly was, she couldn't tell in the slightest, and the sound of moving jars, as if whatever had intruded was searching for something. The waterbender, with both curiosity and worry, slowly got to her feet. As she slowly and quietly began to walk down the halls to the main room, she became worried over what she would find. One foot over the other, in such slow motion down to a crawl, as the noise continued to ring out from around the house. The noise from the animal sounded like a bird, but the audible crack in the voice made that close to an impossibility. Despite her slow and steady pace, she found herself standing right at the door into their kitchen. Katara slowly peered around the corner, making sure she was just able to see. At first, Katara couldn't see anything out of the ordinary inside the room, everything in place as they were, the table and chairs in the same spot, the counters in place, and overall, everything was normal...but that was until she looked to the far corner of the room. Sitting on the counter top, by a few of their jars, something was enjoying itself on their treats, fruits, and various food items. She never saw such a creature before in her life: Large, bat-like ears; small, thin body; loose skin on its forearms; a human-like face; and a long tail. The fur appeared ghostly, pure white except for a few areas of dark brown like the face or tail tip. Katara stayed where she was, observing the animal as it ate some of their berries, not acknowledging Katara's presence. The little lemur bounded and hopped around the room, about as curious as Katara was...then it stopped, staring directly at Katara's blue eyes. Katara can note its large, doll-like green eyes staring right into her own, as if trying to see through her. It seemed to be a waiting game between the brunette and the white lemur, but as soon as Katara took a step out from the corner, the lemur yelped, and darted up, wings opened up in flight!...the lemur can fly...
Katara gave a scream as the lemur darted pass her head, knocking her back onto the floor, as the lemur flew at fast pace, wings beating in quick flaps like a sparrow. Katara jumped back up to her feet, only to find the lemur gone from slight, but not from sound. For some untold reason, Katara began chase, as the rush suddenly got her outside, the lemur flapping around like a bat escaping a hawk. Katara stood at the front steps of her home, eyeing the creature as it flew off, darting down behind the house across from her line of slight.
"That...what was that?" Katara thought. Katara took a backwards glance towards the front door of her house, before she began to fallow back to where the Lemur landed. She didn't care for being quiet now, nor didn't knew why she was fallowing such a creature in the night, but her curiosity was getting the better of her. She got pass the house, cutting the corner, eventually finding the lemur... But there was someone else, as well. Katara found the bat lemur on the shoulder of a hooded figure, slightly shorter than her in height. But before she could say much, the figure suddenly ran off!
"Wait!" Katara yelled, running after him. The two ended up in deep chase through the Ba Sing Se streets, the latter trying his best to get away from the runner behind him. Katara had even more trouble just keeping up with him, as her eyes locked onto her thief and lemur. That kept up for a while, but then, the thief suddenly shocked Katara when he made a HUGE, almost unnatural leap from the ground to a nearby rooftop! Katara tried to keep him in her sights, but the thief proved far to evadable, as the thief finally was lost from her line of sight. Katara stopped for a brief moment, panting all the while, unable to believe that she lost the thief. However, it was only by then that she realized what she'd done. Here she was, standing in the middle of Ba Sing Se roads, in the middle of the night, chasing a thief that only took a bit of their food.
"What am I doing? I've got no reason for chasing this guy, I should get back home," Katara reminded herself, about to turn around, but then her ears caught something quiet yet clear in the midnight breeze. It seemed she and the thief weren't the only ones left out here, a conversation going on nearby. Katara turned back ahead on her set path, and, actually, found herself back in her training spot, where she was that afternoon. Why was she back here? She looked around, but began to notice a slight, faint light from the main area.
"Huh? Who's there?" Katara wondered, beginning to walk over. She peered around the corner, much quieter this time, seeing a light from one of the windows. One half of her mind was screaming for her to get home before the Dai Li catch her, but her other half was telling her to investigate the situation. Unsure of what else to exactly do at that point, Katara, slowly but surely, began to sneak up on the window, being sure not to make any noise. She could barely make out some conversation from inside the room, apparently in some deep conversation on something. But she did here someone say "Hang on guys."...which apparently cause a chain reaction.
Katara took a step back, but the ground underneath her suddenly shifted, causing her to loose some balance. Barely time to react, she tried to keep from falling, but a pillar suddenly jutted out of nowhere, knocking her right in the chin! The hit knocked her to the floor, eyes spinning from the headshot, as the door in front of her suddenly opened up in front of her.
"What're you doing here?" A voice asked. Katara jumped to her feet, freaked out over what the heck just happened (and being caught, of course). The one who caught her looked shorter than the thief she was chasing, wearing earth attire, black hair covering her eyes, arms crossed in an annoyed stance and expression.
"Nothing, nothing really, I just walked by and accidentally stumbled on -"
"You're lying," the girl said, nonchalantly, as Katara froze up from the reply. How'd she find out was impossible to tell for the waterbender, as the commotion got more attention from others inside. A tall boy then came out, black hair, and a deep scar on his own face...
"What's going on out- what? Who are you?" He said, as he got outside to face Katara.
"Uh, I'm K-Katara," Katara muttered out, in sight of the other individual, as he confronted her.
"What are you doing here? A spy for the Dai Li?" He accused, anger in his voice. Katara tried to calm down, but the threatening posture the boy let off didn't make that easy.
"What? No, course not! Why would I be with the Dai Li?!" Katara gasped, insulted by such an idea thrown at her. The boy though didn't let up until a third person walked out, this one Katara actually recognizing. She came out with a smile, causing the boy to back away as Katara tried to calm down.
"Hi, Katara, we meet again!"
"Jin? What - who - are they -" Katara couldn't find words, but luckily for her, Jin already had the answer for her.
"I can see you've met some of my friends," Jin smiled her usual smile, leaving a confused Katara stood in front of their doorstep. The boy turned around, slightly surprised himself.
"You met her already?"
"Twice actually. She's real sweet, and she can water -" Katara quickly shut her mouth before she could finish. Yes, she was happy for her waterbending, but, it wasn't something she wanted spread like crazy, especially to someone like this.
"Would you be quiet?" Katara demanded, really not wanting the secret out. Katara though was grabbed and pulled back by the guy out next to her. The push was rough, yet wasn't enough to knock her back on the ground, remaining on her feet. Jin didn't expect that, and looked at Katara quite surprised, as if unaware of the trouble involved.
"Hands off her, hear me?!" The boy demanded, very firm in his voice, as Katara nodded quickly.
"Zuko, please, she's friendly," Jin insisted.
"What happened to not snitching?" Katara reminded, call back to the events earlier that day.
"That's to the Dai Li, not my friends. Besides, I thought you liked your waterbending." it was out, Katara sighed, waiting for a reaction, or someone to start running off to rat her out...but nothing happened. Zuko then stepped back, trying not to act as threatening as earlier.
"So you're a waterbender," Zuko stated, as Katara looked up to him. Instead of saying anything though, Katara instead saw a jar with rainwater in it, and used her bending, lifting up the water orb to demonstrate. It felt kinda odd doing that in front of strangers, but, guess it no longer mattered. But to be safe, Katara added "don't rat me out."
"We won't, Katara. Say, why don't you come in?" Jin asked. Zuko felt a little unsure about this, but, he didn't really say anything as Katara looked away.
"Totally! This way," Jin beamed, bringing Katara inside, much to her surprise.
Katara began looking around at the home Jin pulled her into. The place wasn't very fancy, but wasn't exactly a dump either, more in between. It had a sorta welcome charm to it, basics in furniture inside, and the floor and walls a soft brown, due to the wood. In the room were a few other faces, each one unrecognizable. One looked oddly like herself, only he was a boy, and a bit taller. His hair shorter and in a small wolf tail, much like Kong's lackee from earlier a couple of days back. His eyes were also blue as well, very close to her own. It was as if someone drew her out as a guy, and he came to life in front of her. The second person was resting on the seat, legs crossed. He looked FAR different from many people she knew of, shorter than her, completely bald, and had an innocence to rival a small child. The thing that stuck out most though, was that he had a large, pale, light blue arrow pointing down to his face, going across his head, and down the back. His grey, wide eyes was the second thing that caught her attention, as they locked with her own. The rest of the group came in from outside settled down by the others as Jin walked to her side. Katara felt like a complete stranger among the group, but that kind of feeling was replaced with annoyed realization, as a very particular lemur was sitting on the table, enjoying what berries were left from its nighttime flight.
"Wait a minute..." Before Katara confirmed the comparison, the lemur saw her, and went into hiding, fluttering over to the other teenagers nearby, as Katara got an angered look on her face. Jin however, was the first to ask "what's wrong?"
"What's wrong? That lemur stole from my house!" Katara accused, a finger aimed directly at the animal. The lemur bent its ears back in shame, as one of the kids laid down on the same seat. The bald kid gave the lemur an accustom look, furthering the punishment, as he turned to her.
"I'm sorry, sometimes Momo can't really help it."
"His names Momo?" Katara asked. That seemed to bring Jin back up to her feet, as if remembering something.
"Oh yeah, I forgot to introduce you to everyone!" Jin realized. Jin walked over to the brunette and started her intro.
"Katara, may I introduce you to Aang, Toph, Zuko, and Sokka," Jin said, pointing her attention to each person mentioned in that introduction of hers. Katara looked each one over, each one (except for Toph) looking over to Katara, as if judging her. That was the last thing she needed; judgement by strangers. One of them, Sokka, got up soon after that, and walked over to her.
"It's nice to meet you, Katara, really it is," Sokka said, as Katara shook hands with him. It took Katara a bit before replying back, still a bit surprised by the similarities between them both.
"Likewise...so, you're Jin's friends?" Katara asked, as Jin sat down next to Zuko, him smiling.
"That's right. I assume you two met already? Usually, Jin doesn't bring just anyone in."
"Yes, Sokka is it? She met me a few nights back, and practically saved me from being homeless. Though, I didn't knew she was wanted at the time," Katara admitted, bashfully. Sokka smiled, and crossed his arms.
"Let me guess, gave you a ton of money, right?"
"How'd you know?"
"Jin usually is charitable in that sense. Come here, sit down," Sokka offered, having a seat himself. Katara, feeling more welcomed, had a seat herself next to him. She saw Toph across from her, stretched out in her seat in boredom.
"So, you can waterbend, Katara. How'd you hide that in a place like this for so long?" Toph asked, picking her nose with her pinkie, cleaning it out a bit.
"Actually, I just discovered it 3 days ago."
"Sounds silly, how'd you accidentally discover a bending style your born with?"
"First of all, you're not born with bending. Second, it was by accident while I was helping my friends out," Katara explained. Toph simply yawned, flicking a booger off her finger as Katara was explaining.
"So you helped you're friends, and you somehow found out you can move rivers. Heh, better hope they don't rat you out," Toph warned, a bit scruffy in her tone.
"I'm just hoping I could stay safe at all." Aang suddenly joined in on the conversation, jumping in and sitting between her and Sokka.
"Well, don't worry, Katara. So long as you're with us, you'll be just fine!" Aang assured her. However, Katara got back up after that.
"WHOA there, I didn't say anything about that."
"Oh. Well maybe you want to?" Aang asked, a question and a statement rolled in one.
"This again, okay look I -"
"Again?" Jin then looked guilty after that was asked, as the others turned to her.
"I kinda asked her already...heehee," Jin admitted, embarrassed.
"Well it doesn't matter, I can't leave here."
"Why not?" Aang asked.
"Let's see. I still have to take care of my mother, then there's my classes, my part-time job, and to top it all off, the Dai Li will be all over my home if I'm to just leave," Katara explained. One of them turned to Toph, whom had a foot on the floor, as she nodded. Katara was telling the truth. Zuko gave a huff at that remark, regardless.
"What would it matter?" Zuko sighed. Katara, slightly angered, walked over to him.
"Excuse me? I'll have you know that my mother needs me!"
"Does she? I'm sure you took in thought if the Dai Li were to find out about your waterbending. Once they do, your mother will be put into custody. But, I'm not here to tell you what to do, now am I?"
"Then why'd you say it at all?!"
"I have my reasons." Katara just sighed in annoyance, hand on her face, but he did have a point. She was thinking of that already, and each fact can, and will, happen if she was caught...then she suddenly realized what she was doing, again.
"Oh my gosh, I forgot! Listen, it's nice to meet you, but I gotta go!" Katara said, beginning to head for the door. Before she left, Jin said to her "think about it, okay?" As if she was trying to make Katara join their group, for whatever reason. After that, she left off into the night.
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