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Book 4 Chapter 2 – The Magnaks’ Forest

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Sad Zuko was sitting with Azula in her room. It was planned specially for her so she couldn’t hurt herself. There was everything, that young princess could want. They weren’t alone – there were always Azula’s protectors, taking care about her. Azula was dangerous. She was mad. No one really saw, when her madness began. Azula always wanted to be in charge of everything. Earlier she had two friends – Ty Lee, who now was the Kyoshi warrior, and Mai, Zuko’s past girlfriend. It was hard to call it even a friendship – Azula was using them to reach her own aims. She was behaving strange also earlier, but since Mai and Ty Lee attacked her in the Boiling Rock prison, Azula was left alone with her ambitions. When Ozai went to fight on the war, he made Azula the new Fire Lord. Azula dismissed then all her servants, thinking that she could take care of everything alone. When Zuko and Katara came to the Fire Nation’ s palace, she was very mad. Zuko won with her without any problems in Agni Kai duel and put her into prison. Happily he saw soon her madness. He wanted to help her. Avatar used his power, even Katara wanted to heal her… Zuko still remember that day. My power can’t heal mental deficits, said Katara. They decided to close mad princess in palace with special protectors caring about her all the time.

Zuko was sometimes visiting her, but he knew, that she doesn’t understand anything. He was doing that, when he had a problem and he doesn’t have anyone to talk about it. He was yearning after his uncle Iroh. What he would give to have him here! But uncle wanted to open a tea-shop in Ba Sing Se called The Jasmine Dragon and now he was the best tea-maker in the town…

-I really yearn after him- Zuko said to his sister. She was looking for something under the table. Perhaps for something, that had never exist.- Do you remember uncle Iroh?

Azula winkled. She started to laugh. Zuko didn’t like it- very high laugh of a mad person.

-Our old, fat uncle!- Azula was still laughing. She came from under the table, took a cushion, put it under her shirt. She said with fat voice:

-Would you like to drink jasmine tea? Tea will always help!

Zuko took no notice of her.

-Whole Southern Water Tribe hates me! How could I now that giving a necklace is a such bad thing? Stupid peasants!

-Peasants!- hauled Azula.- Bad brother, bad Zuzu!

-How can you still call me like that?- Zuko got angry. But only a little. He was still thinking about Katara. Her tribe turn back from her. And it was his fault.

Katara and Toph were sitting on the market-place. Blind girl was using her power to throw little stones into people standing near her.

-Yes! Another time I’ve hit!- She said, when next person groaned.

Katara didn’t say anything. Toph decided to stop her Game.

-Don’t worry, Katara- she said.- We’ll find him.

-Don’t worry? Don’t worry?!- said Katara, standing up.- It’s easy for you to say! Whole tribe took offence at me! My dad and Sokka didn’t say any word to me since my birthday! I’m worried about Aang. You said, that when he disappeared?

- When you said to Zuko that you’ll take his gift.- said Toph with bored voice.- In that moment he took his glider and flew away.

Suddenly a little white animal jumped on Katara’s knees.

-Momo!- she smiled. Katara stroked Aang’s flying lemur.- You didn’t turned back from me…

Suddenly she saw someone’s shadow behind her.

-Aang!- shouted Katara. She troughed Momo from her knees, stood up and hugged the Avatar.

-We have to talk -he said.- Toph, could you live us alone?

-Don’t disturb yourself – said Toph, sad because of Aang’s decision. – Momo, come with me. We’ll throw stones to people.

First Katara was happy that Aang returned, but now she felt anxiety. Aang wasn’t smiling, he was looking angry.

-Lets go for a walk- he said.

They went to a big forest near the sea.

-It’s a good place for a conversation- said Katara, when they stopped walking.

Aang sighed.

-Say me one thing. Why you took that necklace?

Katara was surprised. She didn’t expect that question.

-Please, Aang! You also? Everyone is thinking that I’ve done something bad. I know, what the tradition says, but times are changing. We can’t do everything, that tradition says! Besides, how Zuko could know about that? He only wanted to be kind, and it seems that he came to my birthday party to stir up the tribe!

Young Avatar listened to her carefully, looking at her gesticulations. When Katara was getting angry, she was very dangerous. And convincing.

He became happy and started to laugh.

-It’s okay, Katara- he said, putting hand on her arm.- I’ve behaved stupid. But understand me, Katara… There, when I heard all this people… When Zuko was putting on you that necklace… I’ve believed in that, what they were saying. That you will be with him for ever.

Katara listened to him with astonishment. She got redden.

-Why you thought like that? Did I ever gave you any reason to be jealous?

Aang turned back. He gave her answer after a while, very quiet.

-It started long time ago. First was the cage after Ba sing Se. When Iroh and I found you, your hand was on his face, you were looking like…

-Aang!- she stopped him- I told you about it many times. I wanted to heal his scar.

-And later, when Zuko joined to us? How could I know, what happened, when you went together to retaliate on that guy who killed your mother? When you returned, you were so strange! So kind…

-Because I’ve forgiven him- Katara got angry.- I had bad feelings to whole Fire Nation, to him also. Earlier I couldn’t forgive him his betrayal in Ba Sing Se. It’s so hard for you to understand this?!

-And say me- Aang continued, taking no notice of Katara.- Why, when the last battle started, when the Sozin’s Comet gave to the fire benders such big power, and I almost died in the duel with Ozai, why you wasn’t with me? You were with Zuko, like he could have no chance with his mad sister!

-How dare you, Aang!- shouted Katara. You’re the Avatar, and you wasn’t alone! You had Sokka, Suki, and Toph! Did you want to live Zuko alone? You know, that he almost died! Or maybe that would be better for you? In that case you could be the Fire Lord, and I would be with you?

Then Katara realized, that she said too much. She knew that looking on Aang, who seemed very bad surprised.

-I would never think like that, Katara. Never. How could you even say that?

She wanted to say something, but she couldn’t find good word for it. She genuflect.

-I don’t know, Aang. I’m sorry. I’m sorry about everything.

Aang couldn’t be longer angry on her. He sat near her.

-I’m also sorry. I love you, and because of that I’m so jealous.

They hugged for a while and Aang stood up. He gave her hand, but Katara shock with her head.

-Go. I’ll turn back alone. I have to think.

-But It’s everything okay with us?

Katara smiled.

-Yes. go.

There are some days, when everything is against you. You have enough of live and you want to run away and never come back.

Zuko didn’t think, that ruling the Fire Nation will be easy. But he thought, that it will be easier. He was sitting on a branch of a big tree and listening to birds. The forest was full of live and so loud! He was coming here, when he felt bad, coming to this small forest near the sea. The voice of waves was calming him.

He looked on the beach. It should be empty, because it was late. But it wasn’t.

There was sitting a girl with long hair. Waves were going far into the beach, but they were passing her far away. The girl was only making circles with right hand.

Zuko leaned out. There was only one waterbender on his lands.

First he wanted to go off the tree and go to Katara, but he recalled her behavior yesterday. She must to hate me, he thought. Then he sat more comfortable on the branch and started to watch her.

In few minutes the sunset started and ended. It was very dark. Zuko knew, that he should go, because nights in this forest were dangerous. But Katara was still there. Happily in few minutes she stood up and went to the forest, strait on his tree.

He moved, trying to be quiet. Katara was now on a path going under his tree. He went lower to see her better. Unfortunately, he chose too thin brunch. He heard a loud crash and the Fire Lord fell strait on Katara. She shouted. Katara immediately took some water from plants around her and looked on her enemy, ready to attack.

-Zuko?

He stood up and tried to look astonished.

-Katara! What are you doing here?

-It’s a quite strange question for someone, who fell on you from a tree -she said. – Are you tracing me?

-No -said Zuko.- I was sitting on this tree. It’s my… place to meditation. I saw you when you was sitting on the beach.

Katara looked at him sternly.

-I come here always, when I feel bad – he said quietly.

Katara’s face got benign.

Zuko smiled carefully. He came near Katara.

-Don’t worry. I’ll convince your tribe that I didn’t try to steal their waterbender.

Suddenly they heard growl from a bush.

-Zuko! What was that?- Katara was scared.

-Stay behind me- he said.

Katara touched him with her back ready to attack. They were walking carefully, looking for their enemy.

-There is probably more than one – said Zuko, when the growling became louder.- I knew that sitting in forest at the evening is a bad idea!

-No one ordered you to wait for me – said Katara.

-Oh yes, I could go away and leave you this monsters’ dinner. Sorry. Next time I’ll do it…

A big, heavy beast jumped on him from the darkness.

-Magnaks! Hide somewhere!- shouted Zuko, covering her.

Katara shouted. She attacked the beast with a water whip. It only made the magnak more angry and he call other monsters.

-Don’t attack them with water!- shouted Zuko, trying to avoid other beast’s teeth.-They’re scared of fire! It makes them blind, so they attack only at night.

Katara listened to him. She inclined behind Zuko, when he was attacking magnaks by fireballs. It looked like a dance – dangerous moves between monsters, avoiding their teeth and attacking their eyes with fire.

Fire Lord was fighting like that by a moment. Some of magnaks run away, but on their place came other beasts.

-Hide behind a tree- Zuko shouted to Katara.

-But…- she protested.

-Do, what I said!

Katara listened to him. When she went deeper in the forest, Zuko took a bigger breath and threw his arms out. His hands released flames, making a big ring of fire, who hurt all magnaks. When he finished, no beast left.

-Zuko!- shouted Katara. She run to him.- Everything is all right?

-No. But we have to go. There’s dangerous… And I have lots of work in the palace.

-Work?

-Letters, documents, pacts. I hate it. Usually I leave it for evenings, but I’m starting to think that it isn’t a good idea.

Katara decided in one moment.

-I’ll help you.

Zuko looked at her surprised.

-You aren’t going home?

-Home?- asked Katara.-In my home no one said even one word to me, even looked at me since my birthday.

-I now, what you’re talking about- sighed Zuko. He smiled. With Katara this work shouldn’t be so bad.

Zuko made some place for Katara at the table covered with red material. He showed her a pile of letters.

-These need only my signature- he said, signing under one of them. -Could you copy it?

-With power of water?- Katara smiled, transferring drops of ink from one letter to another.

-I think that I’ll employ you- said Zuko, laughing.

He took from a silver tray rolled letter with big stamp. He became worried.

-Another letter from King of Omashu.

-From King Bumi?- Katara was astonished.- It’s Aang’s friend!

Zuko looked at her surprised.

-But he has about hundred years!

-And Aang one hundred and fourteen years. They were friends before the Avatar disappeared in the iceberg for hundred years.

Fire Lord opened the letter.

-Something bad has happen?- asked Katara.

-During the war my sister turned Omashu in New Ozai. It’s ruler was some governor…

-Mai’s father?

‘My past girlfriend’s father’, thought Zuko. It was stupid thought, so he threw it away.

-Yes. They settled there, and with them many other people from the Fire Nation. They built their houses there and they didn’t want to go back to Fire Nation lands. People from Earth Kingdom still don’t tolerate them… There is getting worse. I don’t know, what I could do.

-Hmm… maybe you could convince them to you? People from Omashu have never seen you. It’s possible that if they will see that you’re different than Azula, they’ll accept the Fire Nation and believe that everything has changed.

-It’s not such bad idea, Katara. But think… I… Would my visit change something?

-Not official. Show other people, that you are good ruler, and you could see, what is the real problem.

-What I would done without you- laughed Zuko.- Maybe I’ll really employ you us my adviser?

Katara became sad.

-You could, if I wouldn’t go back to the South Pole.

-You don’t want to return?

-No. I’ll be there far away from everything: big cities, other people… Even from my brother. Sokka want to leave South Pole and live with Suki on Kyoshi Island.

-And… what about Aang?- asked Zuko cautiously.

-Aang wants to go with me- said Katara. She was astonished. She should be happy! She will finally go home, were was standing now a beautiful palace. And she will be with Aang. For ever…

Zuko returned to reading scrolls. He didn’t know, what to say. He didn’t want to be urgent or inquisitive, but he perceived that Katara’s destiny isn’t living on the South Pole. Even with Aang.

He was thinking about it for some time, browsing a pile with scrolls. After a while he looked at Katara. She was leaning on her chair. From her hand were falling drops of ink. She was sleeping. Zuko stood up us quiet us he could. He took Katara on his hands. He was still afraid that she will wake up. He took her to his bed and covered her carefully with coverlet. He looked at her and went to sleep on a big armchair in the next room.

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