"Ty Lee, I want you out of that room and on the training field. Right now."
Ty Lee groaned at the sound of Azula's commanding voice, slamming her face into the pillow of her bed; she just wanted to read some book that she'd found, which was a very interesting romance novel. She'd bought it off some random servant who she saw reading it. She didn't want her money to go to waste, so she was pouring her heart and soul into reading it; instead of being able to finish it, however, she was being forced out to train. She didn't dislike training, but she thought that when it came day after day, and seemed to last forever, it became a lot easier to disdain.
"Yeah..." she responded with a weak voice, "I'm coming." she assured her friend, who cleared her throat before speaking once again.
"Sorry, I didn't hear that. You're going to keep yourself stuck in there for the rest of the afternoon?" she mocked her, the acrobat rolling her eyes; she preferred to be the one making fun of Azula, despite how much it annoyed the other girl- it was something she could enjoy, when it was playful.
"Just give me a minute." she asked her, "I've got to..." she trailed off, looking for an excuse, "Find my shoes."
She pulled herself up from her bed, and let out a sigh, not wanting to leave her story just yet; she knew she could get back to it, but she just felt robbed of the emotional content by having to leave her room at that moment. She actually wasn't wearing her shoes, but they were sitting in front of her bed, and thus, she'd put them on once she stopped fumbling about.
Ty Lee turned her gaze over to the mirror on the other side of the room, and noted that her appearance was rather trim and proper; she had a feeling that it wouldn't last if she had to endure a few hours of training with Azula, who was always intent on exercising herself to exhaustion. It might have made for an easy sleep afterwards, but the acrobat doubted it would be very fun to experience the whole process.
She stretched her arms up, before stepping down off her bed, letting her toes dig into the mat below her; she raised a leg up, just to make sure she was still as flexible as usual. She hadn't pulled any muscles lately, so she wasn't worried that much about it. She turned over to the shoes she had sitting by the end of her bed, and slipped her feet into them, before she opened the door.
Her eyes met Azula's, and the Princess stood there, with her arms crossed and a single eyebrow raised, "Are you done finding your shoes?" she asked her, before turning her gaze to the acrobats feet, "Good." she noted, before tilting her head down the hallway, "Come on, let's go outside."
"No 'how are you Ty Lee?'." she observed, making the Princess chuckle, turning to face her with a rather skeptical look.
"Sorry, am I meant to want to know about every intricate detail of your life?" she asked her, the acrobat shrugging shoulders.
"It's just being polite." she corrected her, the Princess raising her chin up.
"Ha, ha." she laughed mockingly, "I've never been one for politeness, Lee. Even Sokka couldn't change that." she assured her, preserving the old idea that she shouldn't respect people for the sake of it; seeing that Ty Lee was her friend, it was a little annoying that she clung onto that, even with her.
"I got that, Zula." she nodded, knowing that she had been like that forever; if the Princess was actually polite and kind in a non-conceited way, then the world had to be ending.
There was a few moments of silence while they strode down the hallway, the Princess opening the door, before she turned back to eye her, "So I assume you were reading that book of yours."
"I was." she confirmed, Azula furrowing a brow as she let the other girl through the door.
"Well, is it any good?" she asked her, making her snicker.
"Yeah, I don't think it's your type of book, Azula." she conceded, the Princess nodding along.
"I'm more of a strategy manual person myself." she clarified, before glancing around the hallway, to check if there was anybody walking by, "How'd you pay for it?"
"I gave some servant girl the last of my money to buy it off her." she admitted, knowing that it sounded like a bad idea when she said it aloud, but the fact was that Azula would be providing for her, so she didn't really need to worry about spending that money.
"An unwise decision." she noted, before chuckling, "But seeing that you have free food and lodging at the moment, I can see why you spent it." she conceded, the acrobat nodding along.
"Yeah, that was my argument in my head." she confirmed, before narrowing her eyes at the Princess, realising that she hadn't even asked anything of her; she must have been doing something, seeing that she was only just going out for training, "What have you been doing?"
"I..." she mumbled, before turning to face Ty Lee, stepping closer to suggest that she had been doing something covert, "Don't mention this, but I stole one of Zhao's waterbending scrolls. I'm pretty sure he stole it from somewhere himself, and I doubt he'd ask me if I took it. I'm going to give it to Katara and Aang, seeing that they might find it useful when they do their more advanced forms." she explained, the acrobat's eyes widening.
"Huh, that's a good idea." she acknowledged, "Though stealing from him is a little... well, it's funny."
"I know it is." she smirked at her, "That's half the reason I did it. Just because it's hilarious that he's going to be worrying about where this scroll went when it fact, I'm taking it, just like I'm going to take his fleet."
"Ah, yeah." she mumbled, finding it to be awkward to be talking about such matters, even when they were alone; it just seemed a little too dangerous, even if Azula was whispering.
The pair made their way up to the front door of the compound, stepping out into the courtyard, where they'd be training; there was a little area off to their right, where she could see the guards, already standing dressed down for the occasion, given that they were just training their firebending rather than actually trying to simulate what real battle conditions would be like. She wouldn't be wearing anything different even if she was fighting in a battle, which she hadn't really done before. She didn't count Crescent Island, seeing how much she, Azula and Sokka outclassed the men they were fighting, given that their combined skills were unstoppable against a few mediocre firebenders and men armed with pikes.
The Princess cleared her throat to catch the attention of her guards, who were taking stances for what she assumed was a firebending set, "I'm ready to train." she declared, the guards nodding along.
"Are we going to practice our firebending with the circle test?" the Captain asked her, Ty Lee remembering that training exercise; she'd learnt of it once she started observing the guards and Azula training together.
"Let's start with that before we move into testing our firebending endurance." Azula decided, before turning to face Ty Lee, "I guess you can just do some stretches or something... unless you just want to watch, but that wouldn't be very productive."
"I'll do some stretches." she agreed with her first idea, raising her arms up above her head as she began to pull her arms out as far she could, flexing them to the point where it was strenuous.
She did the same with her legs and different positions with her arms, all while observing the Princess and her guards do their 'circle test'. It consisted of the guards all forming a circle around Azula, who would proceed to quickly attack each of them, in order with a powerful firebending attack, which they had to disperse. She watched as each of them could barely contain Azula's power, though they were able to keep their stances steady; the Princess's firebending was graceful and fast, almost like dancing, though a whole lot more deadly. The acrobat continued along with her stretches, pulling each leg up backward, touching her head with her toe-tips on both feet, though she did each one at a time, balancing on the other free foot.
Once the Princess had tested out each of her guards ability to hold back her firebending, she turned to face Ty Lee, "Ty, I'd like you to give them a challenge." she suggested, making the acrobat raise a brow, realising that she wanted her to chi-block, or at least, fight with her chi-blocking against her guards.
"You want me to chi-block them?" she asked her, the Princess shaking her head.
"No, I'd like you to spar them." she clarified, the Princess raising a finger, "You don't just use chi-blocking. You could knock them out with your fists too." she noted, making her snicker, knowing that Azula was right; she could pack a punch, if she needed to.
"Ty Lee is not like any opponent you will likely face, but you have to be ready to deal with tactics like chi-blocking." she explained to her guards, before gesturing to Ty Lee, "Don't actually burn her with your firebending, keep it weak enough to singe and perhaps apply a little blunt force." she clarified, "And Ty Lee, don't try to trip someone over and break their nose. Is that all fair?"
The guards nodded along, before Renshu cleared his throat, "Who's first?"
"I think you misunderstood my proposition, Captain. It's all of you against her." she corrected him, the acrobat trying to hold back a snort.
"Sorry, what?" she looked at her with surprise, "I'm good, but I don't think I'm good enough to fight all these guys at once. If they can face off against you, it'd be like fighting a dozen Azulas at once, right?"
"Not really." one of the guards admitted, "The Princess is more agile than us, and her bending is a lot more... well, I don't know exactly how to describe it." he conceded, the Princess cocking a smirk.
"It's better. That's the word you were looking for." she snarkily corrected him, before crossing her arms, turning her eyes to Ty Lee, "Go ahead."
"Uh, okay." she nodded, before taking form, scanning all of her opponents with a serious glare.
There were a lot of them, twelve to be exact, and she really only had one advantage up her sleeve; firebending at any range further than a direct punch or kick was liable to miss, and if she was fast enough, they'd miss every time. That meant the only time she'd come in danger was when she actually moved to chi-block them, though given her speed, she'd aim to strike each of them from behind to avoid getting hit head on by some fireballs. She gestured for them to approach, and with that, a fireball was thrown her way; she ducked under it, before she found two fire streams coming her way; she smirked, rolling underneath the attacks, forcing the wielders to move their streams, and thus, indirectly attack their own comrades.
She had yet to try and approach any of the guards, and continued to duck and weave out of the way of their firebending attacks; one of them struck her with a fire whip, and she cringed from the heat licking her arms, before she rolled toward the wielder. He attempted to throw a fireball toward her, but she jabbed him in the wrist. He grit his teeth, realising his mistake, and leapt back, he threw a fireball toward Ty Lee in his other hand, who jumped back, landing on her hands before pushing her feet into the chest of a guard who was approaching her. He grunted, and fell onto his back, the acrobat returning to her feet.
"Anybody else want some?" she cocked a smirk, realising that she was actually capable of going toe-to-toe with all of them at once, even if they were explicitly trying not to harm her with their firebending.
One of the soldiers threw a fireball her way, and she somersaulted underneath the attack, narrowly dodging another fire blast aimed at her from behind. One of the guards lunged at her with his hands covered in flames, and she rose back up to her feet, moving her hands in between his own, before she smacked his chi-lines on both arms, paralysing them, even if it didn't stop him from bending.
She ducked under another attack from behind, which then hit the guard who had been trying to hit her right in his face; he grunted as he stumbled backward, and she swung around, kicking the other attacker in the chest. Her toe tips struck him in the gut, which allowed her to block his bending, though the strike wasn't very hard; he'd get his bending back soon enough, so she'd need to take advantage of the situation. She jabbed him in the shoulders and arms a few times as he tried to tackle her without the help of his bending; he found his upper-body paralysed, and a few moments later tripped over, lying on the ground for all his comrades to see. She swore she could hear them laughing, and immediately spun around, readying a stance to take the next attacker on.
A fire stream was sent her way, as she arched backwards, allowing her to dodge it, before she spun around, flipping her body over as she surprised one of the other guards who was approaching. He found himself chi-blocked in the torso, making his arms practically useless as he tried his best to whack her while they were limp; she would admit, he was doing a good job at it, but she was a lot faster than his clumsy movements, and was able to chi-block his back, before pushing him forward into another guard who was trying to approach her.
She weaved out of the way of another fireball that was sent her way, and grasped a guard by the shoulders, vaulting over him and throwing him to the ground in the process, before she landed in front of an unsuspecting guard; he stepped back, was made a fire shield to block her attempted chi-blocking, but she was able to trip him over, though she was distracted by another attack coming her way, a fire stream sent out by the Captain of all people; she weaved around, finding it challenging to dodge the attack as he constantly moved his form to adjust to her motions.
She charged at him, knowing that was the only way she was going to be able to deal with his attacks, and somersaulted froward, dodging his attempt to knock her out with a fireball to the head; she then leaped up, moving her hands forward to chi-block him, only to find them whacked away. She narrowed her eyes, finding his movements to be fast enough that it was actually a challenge to chi-block him; she was forced to go dirty, kicking him in the shin, making him grunt and lurch forward, giving her an opening to chi-block him in the chest, which safely stopped any future bending. However, she hadn't expected him to grasp her arms, and tackle her down to the ground, holding her down to prevent her from chi-blocking him again; his physical strength was formidable enough that she could only sigh, and nod.
"Okay, you win." she conceded the fight, the Captain cocking a smirk as he rose back up to his feet.
"See, men, that's how you beat a chi-blocker." he declared confidently, his comrades looking rather disenchanted that they hadn't been the ones to defeat Ty Lee.
Azula strode toward her, and clapped, obviously impressed by what she had done, "Now, now, Ty, that's what I call a work-out." she smirked at her, "Given you could beat four of my guards before getting tackled, you're obviously the better fighter."
"Better than them... but I'm not better than you." she acknowledged, "I don't even know if I could beat you that easily."
"Well, you could try." she suggested, before chuckling, "We're not up to that yet." she admitted, before turning to face her guards, "Okay, those of you who got chi-blocked will have to sit this out, but I want the rest of you to start doing endurance tests against each other. Switch over once your partner has been downed, understood?" she asked the guards, who nodded along, "The rest of you can just do some basic exercises." she acknowledged, the chi-blocked guards moving away to train by themselves.
The Princess turned back to face her, "Well, I'm going to be paired with you."
"And what are we doing?" she asked her friend, unsure what she would be doing, given that she didn't have bending.
"You'll just be doing some endurance, just the kind that non-bender can do." she clarified, "Get upside down, on your hands." she told her friend, who narrowed her eyes.
"Uh, so you want me to do a handstand?" she asked, a little confused why she wanted her to do that specifically.
"Yes, Ty Lee. That's what I want you to do." she confirmed, the acrobat obliging her friend, pulling herself up onto her feet; a few moments later, Azula grasped her by the calves, and held her legs steady- there was no way she was going to fall over because of being unbalanced if her friend was holding her feet.
"Oh... so you want me to handstand for as long as possible?" she asked her, the Princess making an affirmative mumble.
"Huh." she mumbled herself, glancing over to the nearby wall while upside down, "I don't know how long I can do this for."
"That's what we're going to find out." the Princess told her, matter of factly.
She took a few deep breaths, feeling the tenseness in her hands grow with every passing second she spent there, her head starting to feel weird, probably more distracting than the aching in her hands and arms.
"Yeah, I'm feeling a little woozy, Zula." she conceded, before she tried to look up, only able to see her friend's hands clasped around her calves, "Uh, can we stop?"
"Does it hurt?" she asked her, the acrobat scrunching up her lips.
"Kinda." she admitted, before narrowing her eyes at her friend, "But my head feels weird."
"That does happen when you're upside down." she conceded, before letting go of Ty Lee's legs, allowing her to fall back down to the ground, planting her feet firmly on the ground.
She shook her head, feeling even more disoriented with her head back the right way, "Urgh..." she raised a hand to her face, "That was not nice." she mumbled, before she turned her gaze to Azula, "Can we do something that won't make me feel like that? Like planking? Or stretches?"
"We can, actually." she noted, before dropping down to the ground into a planking position, "Come on, let's get this done." she commanded her, the acrobat sighing, still feeling weird after her handstand, but complying anyway, knowing it was better to do that than piss her off.
She dropped into a planking position, holding herself up by only her forearms and toe tips, and glancing over toward the Princess, who was looking right toward her; there were few moments of awkward silence, and Ty Lee looked over toward the guards momentarily, before turning her gaze back toward her friend.
"Do you have anything important planned for today?" she asked Azula, who shook her head.
"No, I do not." she answered rather simply, before twisting her neck around to stretch it, "Ah, but I do need to do these exercises. I need to stay in shape, and I can't go off fighting righteously every single day."
She snickered at her suggestion, realising that was what they, that being Sokka, Aang and Katara seemed to like to do, especially the young Avatar; for a pacifist, he was very keen on intervening in other people's problems, in cases where she herself would just try and ignore them.
"Ah, yes." she pursed her lips upward, "Well, you still go and try make sure... you know who isn't doing bad stuff." she suggested, the Princess making a cringed face.
"I mean, my goal in the end is to have these forces utilised for their original purpose, that being to take the colonies from my brother's rule. They will do just that, and will not be going about massacring villages and throwing the country into further disarray." she argued, "If you want to create more rebels, that's you do it."
"Y-yeah..." she mumbled, feeling strained from the plank, but continued to hold it, "I guess that's been a problem for a while."
"A hundred years to be exact." she clarified, "The war has always been terrible, people just hadn't realised it. Most are still living in the homeland, completely unaware of what the Fire Nation has done. Even if there was righteous intent in Sozin's ideal, there is no way even I can say what ended up happening was prosperity. I know what prosperity is, and what most of the Earth Kingdom has experienced in the exact opposite of that." she explained, before breaking her plank, letting out a deep breath, "Well, I think that plank went well."
Ty Lee groaned before falling flat on the ground, unable to continue doing her own, "Ow." she grumbled, before pulling herself back up to a seated position, "So, uh, what's next?" she asked her friend, who pursed her lips upward.
"Firebending training for me." she clarified, taking a deep breath before thrusting her right fist up into the air, creating an impressively large blue stream of flames, which licked up the wall of the multi-storey compound, probably frightening anybody who was inside.
"And for me?" she raised a brow, the Princess shrugging her shoulders.
"You could go for a jog." she suggested, "That'll help you run off all that bubbling energy you have inside you." she joked, the acrobat rolling her eyes.
"Okay, Zula." she sighed, "I really wanted to read that book. I was getting to a good part." she lamented, the Princess laughing.
"Ah, don't worry, you can get back to it. I want you to work to your limit. Then whatever enjoyable thing you do afterwards will be all that more refreshing." she suggested, the acrobat shaking her head, still not agreeing with her; she would do the jog, knowing that Azula at least had a point- she would be able to work off some tension and improve her mood a little better with some aerobics.
She turned her eyes toward the gate of the compound, "So, should I just do a lap around the compound?" she asked her, the Princess nodding.
"That'll work. Come back and maybe we can have a spar, how about that?" she suggested, making the acrobat cringe.
"Are you tiring me out just so I can beat me better?"
"Of course." the Princess assured her with a smug grin, which was a way of telling her that she was lying; usually she wouldn't try and let her know that she wasn't telling the truth, but just to annoy her, she would let her on.
She shook her head with frustration, "I'll run around, and I'll beat you." she declared with a sense of growing confidence; she wasn't actually confident that she could beat the Princess, but she was confident she could disappoint her, just to rub it in her face- if she couldn't read her book, then Azula wouldn't win their spar.
The acrobat began to jog off toward the gate, which was opened up as soon as she approached; she walked through the entrance and then began to make her way, first to the left, around the walls of the compound. She increased her pace as she went along, wiping the sweat from her forehead, keeping her eyes focused ahead of her to make sure she wouldn't trip over any indentation in the ground.
As she made her way along the outside of the wall, she could see soldiers walking by, and they did, unsurprisingly, look her way; she couldn't blame them- she was an attractive looking girl, and she tended to catch people's attention, something she'd learned pretty quickly after joining the circus. She, of course, usually had to compete with her sisters for people's attention, but now, as she stayed with Azula, all of it was firmly placed on her. At times it made her feel a little uncomfortable, given that she couldn't know for certain how many people looked at her, or what they thought of her; she didn't meet or talk to that many people, at least compared to how many had to be living in the tent city surrounding the compound.
Ty Lee continued to jog on around the compound, and she glanced around, noting all of the structures that surrounded the place; there were fortifications, of course, given that it was a military base first and foremost, as well as some larger structures, resembling the army barracks that she'd come across a few times on her journeying across the Earth Kingdom with the circus. She assumed that was where the original forces stationed at the base stayed, and probably where any sailors who arrived and stayed there off duty would stay.
She wondered if anybody had better accommodation than them, knowing that Azula had gone out of the way to ask for the best of the best, but Ty lee couldn't help but be a little skeptical. Her room was smaller than the one she'd had at her old home in the Fire Nation Capital, any even there, she'd been sharing the house with six sisters, who all had their own rooms, which was a lot better than when they were all stuck living in the same tent together. She chuckled, wondering how they might be going at that very moment; probably just doing their acrobatics as they had done before, with a little more attention split between them with her out of the way.
She turned her attention ahead, moving around to the opposite side of the compound, where she could see a number of ships, docked in port, along a massive stone pier, resembling the ones she knew from the Fire Nation Capital, which had a great, impressive port; she glanced over and saw a few sailors walking by, up and down the pier, some of them heading along past her, probably to go head for whatever accommodation they might be staying in during their stay at the base. She slowed her pace, deciding that of any time she could spend eavesdropping, it would be then. The acrobat narrowed her eyes, listening out for anything of interest as the group made their way by. Unsurprisingly, a few of them glanced her way, but they didn't seem to know who she was, nor care, which was not completely unsurprising; they had things to do, places to be.
"Yeah, I gotta say, I'm getting tired of these damn patrols. We aren't finding anything." one of the sailors lamented, another one of his comrades raising a finger, with an eager look on his way.
"Didn't you hear? Commander Sheng's group spotted the Avatar." he spoke up, which was clearly of interest to Ty Lee; they were her friends, after all.
"But did they catch him?" one of them scoffed, the sailor's expression immediately souring, "Yeah, I don't think so. Nobody has a chance of doing that."
"Didn't the Princess become allies with him?" another of them asked, as the acrobat began to walk on away, lamenting the fact she'd been walking in the opposite direction; she had really wanted to hear what they were going to say.
"Yeah, but I don't think that makes a difference. What if he's trying to work with the snow-savages?" another sailor piped up, just loud enough for her to clearly make out his words.
She furrowed a brow, considering what Zhao's fleet might do if they decided to go after Aang; she thought it might have even been possible that that would prod them to attack the North Pole again. They hadn't done it for a good few months, from what Azula had told her, and she assumed that the Avatar's presence would be a good excuse for Zhao to attack- nobody wanted to go off into the cold of the North Pole and fight for a place they didn't even want to colonise.
She continued along, approaching the rear of the compound, which seemed to connect to the pier; there were another set of gates that she walked by, but she didn't try and go through them- she wasn't going to cheat her jog. She had already increased her pace again, beginning to pant because of all the running she was doing; Ty Lee was okay with getting puffed out, but she didn't want to exhaust herself so much that she wouldn't be able to read the book she had to get back to.
As she made her way back along the side of the compound, she eyed a few patrolling guards, who looked at her with confusion as she jogged by; which aspect of her presence surprised them, she was unsure, but she didn't really think about it. She was more thinking about kicking Azula's butt when she got back to the training ground, knowing that would certainly be an enjoyable experience after she dragged her out of her room. When she finally circled back to the gates, she paced back in, deciding that she wasn't going to stand for another run around the place; she approached Azula, who was doing some firebending forms, and caught her attention with a high-pitched whistle.
She turned around to face the acrobat, pursing her lips upward, "Oh, you were quick. Did you have enough already?" she asked Ty Lee, who simply moved into a fighting stance.
"Nope, I just wanted to get back here and fight you."
"Do you really want to read that stupid book so bad?" she scoffed at her reaction, the acrobat narrowing her eyes at her friend, confident that she would beat her, just off of the power of frustration.
"Yes, yes I do." she assured her, before gesturing for her friend to approach, "Come on, Zula."
The Princess smirked, taking a fighting stance, with her left foot forward and her hands in line, ready to send out a fireball or two into the acrobat's head; she did try that, but Ty Lee was prepared, and ducked under the attack. Azula then sent out a sweeping kick with her right foot, forcing her to roll to the right to dodge the wave of flames that was fired out from her foot; she reoriented herself, turning to face her friend, who began to barrage her with fireballs, which she was forced to weave out of the way of; the closer she got, the harder it was to avoid Azula's flames.
She stepped forward, hoping to hit Ty Lee square in the face with a charged fire blast, but the acrobat was able to kick her friend's wrist, sending the fire stream up into the sky above them. The blue flames were undeniably beautiful, but she remained focused on blocking the Princess's next attack, using her fingers like knives with the tips shooting out intense torches. She was whacked in the arm by her fingers, which singed her skin, making her cry out with pain; despite that, she was able to block Azula's right hand with her forearm, keeping her fingers well away from her face, which was what she had aimed for.
The Princess kicked her in the shin, making her grunt as she was forced to her knee, not even considering the hot touch of her friend's firebending licking up her leg. She rolled forward to dodge the next fire blast that she had aimed Ty Lee's way; though she had rolled into Azula, she used that to her advantage by raising her legs up to jab her friend in the gut. The Princess gasped out for air, and once the acrobat had reoriented herself upright once more, she jabbed her friend in both of her arms chi-paths, preventing her from using them.
Her eyes widened with surprise, before she stepped back, opening her mouth wide and sending out an unexpectedly powerful fire breath, which forced Ty Lee to lean back, "Argh!" she cried out, barely keeping herself off the ground by reorienting her arms behind her.
"You think a little chi-blocking is going to beat me?" her friend scoffed at her, raising her right leg up, showing that she could create a jet of flames on the sole of her foot; she forgot from time to time that Azula could bend with all of her limbs with equal proficiency, as well as her mouth.
The acrobat rolled out of the way of the fire stream she sent out of her foot, before she jabbed her friend in the knee with her toe-tips; given she wasn't wearing her armour, that actually did hurt Azula, who grunted as she struggled to remain upright. She had failed to chi-block her leg, but she was sure once she had her hands back off the ground, she'd be able to do just that.
"Not good enough!" her friend derided her efforts, before breathing out another fire stream at her, the acrobat gritting her teeth as she rolled out of the way again, getting up to a crouched position; she was forced to dart out of the way, the Princess sustained her attack for a few more seconds.
When Azula finally gave her a moment of reprieve, Ty Lee sprung into action, chi-blocking her friend in the legs, forcing her down to her knees. She left over her shoulder, before grappling her arms and holding her down, hoping that would force her to concede the fight. Without any other option, the Princess let out an exasperated sigh.
"Good job." she commended her efforts, "I'm sure you'll be able to handle any threat that comes our way." she assured her friend, who made a small appreciative smile.
'Thanks, Zula." she simply told her, before rising up to her feet, noting that the guards had been watching her beat the Princess, "Yeah, I'm tough." she proclaimed, placing her hands on her hips, the guards simply looking at her with surprised expressions, none of them denying her claim.
"Give me a minute. I can't move any of my limbs." Azula clarified, making her scoff.
"What?" she looked at her, confused that the Princess had suddenly become forgetful, "Did you think we were gonna fight again?" she asked her, before she began to stride away, intent on going back to what she actually wanted to do.
"I said I wanted to read that book."
Sokka was relieved that the people that had attacked them earlier that morning were from the Northern Water Tribe; the worst possible thing that could have happened would have been if Zhao's goons had ended up chasing them and tried to capture Aang. Of course, Azula might be able to break them out, but that would just waste time and get them away from their real goal: waterbending. Katara and Aang needed a waterbending master, and the Northern Water Tribe was the place they needed to reach. He could see icy cliffs laying ahead of them, and with them a set of tall walls, inscribed with the insignia of the Water Tribes. He could see some structures behind the walls, but they were too distant for him to think of them as anything more than igloos; they might have been more complex than the ones they had at the South Pole, but he couldn't be sure until he saw some up close.
"Wow, that's a big wall." Aang commented, the Water Tribe teen chuckling, remembering the wall they had around their village.
"Uh, yeah, it is pretty big." he conceded, before he grimaced thinking about what it was keeping out; he thought that if they had the same kind of defences at the South Pole, the Southern Raiders would have gotten utterly stomped.
As they got nearer, he noticed a number of people on the wall, who took what he assumed to be waterbending forms; suddenly, a portion of the wall lowered down, seemingly being held up by all those waterbenders. Glancing over to his sister, he wasn't surprised to see that she was amazed by it, giddy at the sight of such a powerful use of her element. Once the portion wall had dropped into the water below, it allowed them to continue on inside, revealing the massive city before them. Sokka's jaw dropped, amazed by what he was seeing, and honestly a little jealous. Though he was frustrated to admit it, he could concede that the Northern Water Tribe did really know how to build stuff; he didn't really know what to expect, only ever having seen igloos and tents at the South Pole, but the North Pole was really something else. Their city was full of canals, and their buildings were ornate and square shaped, reminding him of the Earth Kingdom, but far more Water Tribe in aesthetic.
"This place is beautiful." his sister mumbled, and Sokka chuckled.
"You say that now." he warned her, Katara shaking her head, already knowing what they were to be getting themselves into.
"Yeah, yeah, I know." she mumbled with a disappointed face, before turning to face Aang, her expression warming up a little, "How excited are you to get a waterbending master?"
"Pretty excited." he grinned at her, "With this many waterbenders, it'll be easy to find a master to teach us."
"That's right." Sokka crossed his arms, "And none of them are going to teach Katara squat. Ain't that great?" he sarcastically quipped, Aang furrowing a brow in thought.
"But the women must do something. They can't just ban them from bending all together. That'd just be horrible." he argued, Katara cringing somewhat.
"It already is horrible." she grimaced, "I can't imagine not being able to fight with my bending. With all that's going on out there, people need to be able to defend ourselves. Our tribe only has the warriors, but I know they're not enough, if the Fire Nation really tried to get rid of us."
"They wouldn't do that." Aang assured her, before wincing, remembering something, "Oh, but Azula's dad... yeah, Roku said he would do something like that."
Sokka rose up from the saddle, giving him a reassuring smile, "Aang, don't worry about that. Ozai isn't the Fire Lord, and I doubt that'll be the case... ever." he assured him, before placing his hands together, "What we've gotta worry about is how we're going to get to the palace or wherever their chief is."
"Oh yeah." Katara mumbled, before turning her gaze up the canal, "I think that's where these guys are leading us."
"Good." he cracked his knuckles, "That's where we ought to be heading."
"Don't go too fast into bonking heads." she warned him, the young Avatar turning to face him.
"I'm sure I can try and bargain with them." he argued, the Water Tribesman raising a skeptical brow.
"How exactly are you going to bargain when these guys aren't threatened by the Fire Nation?" he asked him, before he shivered, remembering something, "Oh, we could do... that." he mumbled, his sister turning to face him.
"Sokka, you don't mean what I think you mean, do you? Isn't that what Azula's trying to prevent?"
"No, she's trying to earn the Northern Water Tribe's trust and get rid of a problem person at the same time." he corrected her, "The spirits are a reasonable bargaining chip. We couldn't do anything to them, though. They're important. I'm pretty sure you shouldn't mess with the spirits that control the forces responsible for waterbending."
"Yeah, I agree." Aang nodded, "We shouldn't do that, but... I guess Azula really is our best hope if they don't agree to teach Katara."
"Well, not exactly." he acknowledged, his sister turning to face him with an almost worried look.
"You're not going to beat them up, are you?"
"Not once. I'll beat whoever's the top waterbender here up every single day until they start teaching you. I'll make Ty Lee proud with the arse-kicking I'm going to be giving." he declared confidently, before placing his hands together, "But we shouldn't worry about that, not just yet." he conceded, glancing over to face Momo, "Are you hungry, Momo? Because I sure am."
The flying-lemur chittered, and glanced around over at the buildings around them; the Water Tribe warrior cringed, knowing that at present, there really was nothing for him to eat.
"Yeah, I know that feeling." he cringed, before looking ahead, "We have to be getting close. I think I can see the palace." he gestured ahead to some kind of stepped ice pyramid, which was topped with a symbol which he believed to represent the Northern Water Tribe, or the Water Tribes more generally.
His sister nodded, and glanced over, pointing ahead, "I can see a dock. You're right, Sokka."
He smirked, but didn't decide to claim that he was more observant than anyone else; that'd be an Azula thing to do, and he was pretty sure they hadn't just merged into an amorphous blob and were still definitely two separate people. He laid himself down on the saddle, wondering what she might be doing at that very moment; he guessed either plotting or training, given that the latter was all she could really do while she prepared to enact her plan. He hoped she was okay, unsure how she was dealing without him; of course, she had Ty Lee for company, and the acrobat was sure to be keeping her in higher spirits. He smiled at the thought of the two of them arguing, with the acrobat saying something about Sokka and Azula's romance while the Princess told her to shut up because the guards were around, and he was sure that speaking about romance around the guards was the most forbidden thing to do.
He raised his head back up from the saddle and stretched his arms up as Appa reached a staircase, which he assumed they'd be climbing to reach the palace. He could see a few warriors striding down the stairs, obviously there to escort them to the palace; the trio climbed off of Appa's saddle, and Momo immediately leapt over onto Aang's shoulder, probably thinking that wherever they were going, he could get some food- that was an accurate judgement on the lemur's behalf, if that was what he was actually thinking.
One of the guards stepped forward, addressing them with serious voice and form, "Good day, Avatar, and... companions." he eyed the other two Water Tribesmen.
Sokka snickered, imagining what might have happened if he'd shown up in his fully decked out Fire Nation armour, and just acted like he was a dignitary from Zhao, trying to organise a peace treaty; it might have been a funny joke, but he was pretty sure that was a quick way to find himself thrown into prison.
"Oh, hi!" Aang waved to the warrior brightly, before glancing around him, "Are you guys here to take us to the Chief. You know, the big guy, the one who's going to get me a waterbending master?"
"Uh..." the warrior's eyes widened, glancing to the men beside him before he gave an affirmative nod.
"Yes, that's what we'll be doing." he confirmed, before gesturing for them to follow along, "Follow me. The other warriors will attend to your sky-bison and make sure he is well taken care of."
"Thanks." he grinned, before turning to face the other warriors, who had been with them, sailing in canoes, "Could you give him a wash? He hasn't had one in a while." he asked, the warriors looking amongst themselves with cringed expressions, before they nodded, confirming they'd do that.
Aang turned to face Sokka and Katara, "I think we're off to a good start."
"Don't say that." the Water Tribe warrior lamented, "You're just asking for this to go sideways."
Making their way up the staircase, he kept his focus on the impressive architecture before him; the Northern Water Tribe's palace was intricately designed, and seeing it made him think what they might have at his home after Azula became the Fire Lord. He could imagine something majestic, and smiled at the thought; something the people of his tribe could witness and know that the bad times were past them. He could see a glorious future for their tribe, one of prosperity and hope, not one of sadness and fear, as they might have experienced if not for Zuko's coup. He realised that it was that, not Azula 'changing sides' was what had really made a difference; he didn't really know, nor trust the Princess's brother, but he was under no presumption that things would have been very good if he hadn't turned against his father. His tribe would still be under threat, and Azula would never have gotten the chance to move out of her father's shadow; no matter what had eventuated at Yu Dao, he was glad that the Prince had turned against Ozai, if only for the opportunity it had provided for his sister to do the same.
As they neared the doors of the palace, walking over a small bridge, which crossed over a small moat, said doors were opened up for them, and inside, Sokka could see a long mat that led up toward the throne of the Chief. It was truly impressive, and he felt a little jealous, feeling that his people had never had anything of the likes, even before the Fire Nation attacked them. He turned to face Katara, who seemed just as impressed as he was, looking at the structure with eyes of awe. The Water Tribe teens walked with the Avatar toward the throne, where the Chief of the Northern Water Tribe sat; he was a middle-aged man, probably a few years older than his father, who looked to be friendly. He rose up from the throne, and raised his arms, obviously a gesture of welcome.
"Avatar." he addressed Aang, "It is an honour to have you come to my tribe." he bowed toward him, "I assume you have come here to master the element of our people." he acknowledged, the young Air Nomad nodding, bowing in return.
"I have." he smiled, before turning his gaze back to his friends, obviously thinking it the right time to introduce them, "This is Sokka and Katara. They've come with me all the way from the Southern Water Tribe. I was frozen in the South Pole for a hundred years, but now, I am ready to master the elements." he explained, the Chief nodding along.
"It is a good thing to see a brother and sister from the South. It has been long since people from your tribe have visited." he acknowledged, Sokka scoffing at his words; it was like he was completely ignoring the reason why they hadn't contacted the Northern Water Tribe- they were fighting for their lives, and had lost all of their benders to the Southern Raiders.
His sister pinched his hand, telling him to be quiet; he understood her caution, but unlike him, she hadn't gone to fight against the Fire Nation with the other warriors. Aang was the first sign of hope they'd had in a hundred years, and the Northern Water Tribe had weathered it all, to the point where he could even argue that it was like the war had never occurred to them. That was the greatest unfairness, and he could not remain silent toward it.
"We have... struggled." Katara put it lightly, "All of our waterbenders were taken by the Southern Raiders, except me." she admitted, the Chief's eyes widening.
"I thought that was just a rumour. So, there really are no other waterbenders?" he asked, the Water Tribe girl nodding along.
"The Southern Water Tribe has gone through a lot in the past hundred years." Aang spoke up, "The whole world has. We haven't just come here to ask for a waterbending master."
"You want me to do something?" he raised a brow, "It is not like our tribe can stand up against the Fire Nation. We can repulse their attacks, but moving against them would be insanity. We do not have the manpower or the resources to fight them like the Earth Kingdom... could." he admitted, Aang cringing at his argument, turning to face Sokka; his eyes told him that he wanted a little back-up.
"It won't just be you." he assured him, speaking up and catching the Chief's attention; the Water Tribe warrior stepped closer, "We have the support of a powerful rebel group in the Earth Kingdom, and hopefully we'll find more who will support our cause."
"And we have somebody who can solve the Fire Nation problem for you." Katara added, not forcing her brother to say it, "Princess Azula lives, and she is our ally and personal friend."
The Chief's eyes widened, "So the rumours are true. The Avatar and the Princess are working together." he gasped, "How did that happen?"
"I happened." Sokka gestured to his chest, "I tried to kidnap her a few months ago, failed, and then we worked together to survive in the Earth Kingdom. I became her most trusted advisor, and when her brother defeated her, my tribe gave her refuge." he explained, the Chief's eyes widening; he'd obviously heard about him- he would be surprised if he hadn't.
"I've heard of you." he admitted, "But now I have a name and a face to those stories. Why did you do it?"
"Join the Princess?" he asked him, the Chief giving him an affirmative nod, "Because she is not as bad people think she is. She is a smart woman, and she understands the world better than most, especially now."
"Where is she?" he furrowed a brow, "You say she is your ally, but I don't see a Fire Nation Princess in front of me." he acknowledged, Aang and Katara cringing at his question.
"We didn't think bringing her here would be a good idea." the Avatar conceded, before the Water Tribe girl spoke up.
"And she had things to attend to." she added, "Things that will help protect your tribe."
"I don't understand." he narrowed his eyes at her, the Water Tribe warrior raising a hand.
"It would be better if we didn't say. This operation she is undertaking is highly dangerous, and if it succeeds, your tribe's greatest threat will be extinguished."
"The Fire Nation?" he asked, the Water Tribesman shaking his head.
"No, Chief... oh, you didn't introduce yourself." he acknowledged, the man raising a hand to his chest.
"I am Chief Arnook." he clarified, Sokka nodding along.
"Well, Chief Arnook, the Princess of the Fire Nation is going to deal with Admiral Zhao, who has been trying to conquer your tribe for a number of years now." he clarified, the Chief's eyes widening.
"Our contacts have spoken of him. He indeed seeks to conquer our tribe." he narrowed his eyes, obviously finding distaste in the suggestion it could even occur.
"Yes, and he won't ever get the chance." he acknowledged, before clearing his throat, "Uh, and there's something we need to attend to."
"Me?" the Chief asked, the Water Tribesman cringing; he didn't even know if the Chief had the authority of what he was about to ask, but he decided that being nice about the situation first would be better than resorting to violence and intimidation.
"Yes." he nodded, "My sister here is the last waterbender of the Southern Water Tribe. She needs to become a master if we could ever hope to continue our bending art." he explained, remembering what Katara had told him of the matter; he didn't really care about it that much, that being waterbending, but he did care about his sister's dreams and aspirations, and above all what was right.
"She can learn from our healing master, Yugoda. She will be able to master that aspect of waterbending." he acknowledged, before cringing, "But I apologise, we do not teach women combative waterbending, if that was what you desired to learn."
"She's a great bender." he assured the Chief, "Please, just make an exception, so Southern Waterbending can go on." he pleaded, hoping that the dire situation their culture as whole faced would ring a tinge of sympathy from the Chief.
"I-" he began, before his eyes turned down, "I can't. The Elders would never allow it." he explained, the Water Tribesman nodding; he wasn't going to beat up some elders, given that they were probably all as old as his grandmother, "I'm sorry."
Katara clenched her fists, and looked ready to start a rant, just from the look in her eyes; Sokka intervened, placing a hand up to block her by the sternum from moving forward, "Katara, please. Let me handle this."
"I can- I can prove myself." she declared, loud enough that Arnook must have heard her.
"I- uh- don't recommend that." he warned her, "Our waterbending masters are formidable. Even if you are a natural, you will not stand a chance against the likes of them."
"No, I will." the Water Tribe warrior declared, stepping ahead of his sister, "Whoever you have... I will beat them, on the honour of my people, for all that died. All that the Fire Nation killed, and stole away." he declared with an unwavering tone of confidence, "Their deaths will not be vain, just for waterbending to be extinguished, for my sister to lose this opportunity." he declared, the anger in his voice rising, though he tempered himself, taking a deep breath, "And before you say I can't beat them because I'm not a bender... you obviously haven't heard the stories well enough." he warned the Chief, who seemed to be intimidated by his words.
"Master Pakku is the man who will teach the Avatar." he clarified, "You would have to face him, if this is really what you desire."
"Oh, oh it is." he cocked a smirk, "I will be the Chief of the Southern Water Tribe one day. Before that, I need to kick some dumb, old waterbender's butt to show my worth." he explained his intentions, before placing his hands together, "Thank you for being understanding of my wishes, Chief Arnook."
"U-uh... that's alright." he nodded with a timid voice.
"And the Fire Consort too." Aang whispered to him, making him chuckle; he didn't want to mention that possibility, given it might make the Chief second guess the Water Tribesman's loyalty- he was always going to be loyal to his tribe, even if he one day married the Princess of the Fire Nation.
"Oh, also, do you happen to have a feast or something happening because Aang's here?" he asked, the Chief raising a brow.
"I would say the Avatar's arrival is worthy of calling a feast." he acknowledged, "Are you hungry?"
"Famished." he acknowledged, "Uh, so, do you guys have any food we can eat? We were surviving off rice-crackers for the last two days there." he admitted, "I feel like I've been eating dirt."
"Uh, I'm sure we could have some food brought to your accommodation." he clarified, the Water Tribesman raising a brow.
"Do we get our own igloo?" he asked Arnook, who nodded.
"I assume you haven't slept in one in a while." he noted, the Water Tribe warrior nodding.
"A year, now." he noted, remembering that the last time he had slept in his family's igloo was before he left to fight with the warriors.
"Oh." his eyes widened, "That doesn't sound very nice." he conceded.
His tone was sympathetic, but Sokka was sure that the Chief had not endured the same as he and Katara had, though he wasn't going to complain about that; that was just the circumstances they were dealt by being born where they had been.
"Well, that's good to hear." Aang smiled at the Chief, "Thanks for giving us a place to stay."
The Water Tribe girl turned to face her brother with an understandably concerned tone, "Are you going to fight that waterbending master soon?" he asked, the Water Tribesman raising his chin up.
"I'll wait a little while. I want to see if he's worth beating up." he conceded, "I don't just beat up anybody and everybody." he argued, before crossing his arms, "Not everyone is deserving of the Jet treatment."
"Jet was." she argued, "He's an arse."
"Yes he is." he agreed, "A misguided arse." he acknowledged, before chuckling, "Now we've got stubborn and misguided people to deal with."
"Fun." she sarcastically commented, before the Water Tribe warrior turned to face the Chief.
"Uh, so where's this igloo?" he asked, the Chief raising a hand, gesturing for the warriors who had escorted them inside to approach.
"The warriors will show you there." he clarified, Sokka nodding to show his understanding before walking over to the warriors.
"Hi, sorry if you don't like me talking to your chief like that, but you know, all the shit my tribe's been through just gets me in a bad mood." he bluntly addressed his actual reason for being so cold when he spoke to Arnook, the warriors looking amongst themselves with surprised expressions.
"Don't mind my brother." Katara gestured toward him, "He's usually in a lot better mood." she acknowledged, before she gestured for Aang to follow them; he did, and with that, the warriors began to lead them out of the Chief's Palace.
The Water Tribe teen kept up his pace, trying to act as casual as he could, though he probably just came off as being dorky; he kept a straight face, posture and direction of walking. The warriors lead them across the bridge they had crossed earlier, before turning to the left, walking along through the courtyard in front of the palace toward a number of buildings, where he assumed they would be staying. The Water Tribesman turned back to face his sister, scrunching up his lips in thought.
"Well, I think that went well."
"You nearly made the Chief pee his pants, Sokka." she warned him, "Not that that's a bad thing, though. Intimidating him is probably the only way you're going to get me accepted as a student of this Master Pakku guy."
"Well, I would say fight the guy to show your worth, but that mightn't end well. You're still learning how to harness your waterbending; that'd just be dangerous and reckless. If you ended up losing, he mightn't even teach you at all, even if I do beat his butt." he acknowledged, one of the warriors looking back at him with a confused expression.
"Sorry, did you just say you're going to beat Master Pakku?" he asked the Water Tribe teen, who nodded with a confident expression, "That's not going to be easy. You're a non-bender, right?" he asked Sokka, who cocked a smirk.
"Yes." he declared confidently, "I'll beat him just like I beat the Fire Lord." he added offhandedly, making the warriors look at him with perplexed faces.
"Wait, you're the guy?" he asked him, the Water Tribe warrior nodding.
People had heard of him, which relieved him slightly; he thought Azula got away with all of the notoriety, while he had gone off unnoticed and unacknowledged by the world for his actions.
"Uh, yeah, I boomeranged him right in the head. Definitely didn't see it coming." he explained, making the warriors look amongst themselves, obviously putting two and two together.
"It's the damn 'Water Tribesman'." he entitled him, before glancing back toward him, "That's what they call you. The Fire Nation, that is."
"Oh, I thought they'd be polite to use my name." he crossed his arms, remembering the wanted poster he'd seen, "Oh, yeah, the wanted poster did just say 'a Water Tribesman', didn't it?" he asked his sister, who nodded.
"Uh, yep, that's what it said." she confirmed, Sokka glancing back toward the warriors, whose faces were filled with awe.
"Damn, now I'm nervous. I never thought you'd actually show up here." one of them admitted, making him chuckle.
"Oh, if you're wondering about me bringing chaos wherever I go, trust me, that's the Princess, not me." he assured him, before furrowing a brow, "Or is it?" he whispered to himself, unsure if it was truly the case that Azula was the one gathering all of the chaos that came their way.
"Yeah, I think that's mostly her." Katara acknowledged, making him snicker, remembering what had happened the last time she'd taken the reins.
"And who stole a waterbending scroll from a store because she thought the owner was a thief?" he retorted, his sister clenching her fists at him.
"That's because it was stolen! How does somebody from the Fire Nation get a waterbending scroll, Sokka?" she retorted with a growing tone of anger.
"Okay, okay calm down." he tried to defuse the situation, "But admit it, you know how to bring out a little chaos."
She turned her eyes away, seeming embarrassed over what she had done, or rather, how it had resulted; a very short goodbye for Ty Lee and her six sisters, and them having to run back to Appa like their lives depended on it.
"Okay, I'm sorry. I'm sure Ty Lee wasn't happy that she had to leave without a proper goodbye." she conceded, the Water Tribe warrior shrugging his shoulders.
"Well, don't apologise to me." he retorted, "She's the one you wronged," he clarified, before cracking his knuckles, "in exchange for learning how to waterbend, and thus, how to beat up whoever refuses to teach you." he acknowledged the great benefit of her stealing that scroll, "Plus, you don't think you stink at waterbending anymore, do you?"
"You're pretty good at it." Aang admitted, "She wasn't wrong. You are a natural at waterbending." he acknowledged what Azula had said, making her laugh off his words.
"I'm not that good... not yet." she conceded, her tone suggesting that she was looking forward to whatever training she would receive.
"Oh, that 'not yet' is going to become a 'yes now' very soon." he assured his sister with a confident smirk, placing a hand on her shoulder, "But first, we need to get some food. I'm starving." he declared, making her snicker, shaking her head with a bemused smile on her face.
"For once, Sokka, I'm going to agree with you there."
"Tonight, we celebrate the arrival of our brother and sister from the Southern Tribe. And they have brought with them someone very special, someone whom many of us believed disappeared from the world until now... the Avatar!"
Aang smiled at the sight of everyone applauding and cheering to his name; he was ready to be the Avatar, and he was just glad that everyone was supportive of him. There was a lot of pressure on him, but with friends like Sokka, Katara, Azula and even Ty Lee, he felt like he could do anything. The feast they had before them was bountiful, and he would admit it was good, even though he hadn't been expecting the best; Azula truly knew how to lower people's expectations, and for him, it was Water Tribe food. He was pleasantly surprised to taste it and find it wasn't that bad, though the stewed sea-prunes were not that nice, just as he'd been told. The Water Tribe siblings were sitting beside him, and both enjoying eating Water Tribe cuisine.
"Mhmmm... so good." Sokka grinned as he licked his fingers of what he assumed was splatterings of the stew he'd been eating, "This really makes me miss Gran-Gran's cooking."
"Me too." Katara mumbled, with a bittersweet look on her face; Aang turned away, feeling slightly ashamed- it was because of him that they'd been separated from their family, even if they had chosen to come with him.
She turned back his way, looking at him with an intrigued face, "Are you alright, Aang?" he asked her, "You're getting a feast called just for you."
"Y-yeah, I know that." he assured her, forcing a smile out, "I just- well, I know you guys must miss your family."
"We do." she acknowlegded, "But it's okay. We want to be here."
"You want to learn waterbending." Sokka clarified as he stuff some more food into his mouth, "If you could've avoided this place, you would've."
"Yeah, after what Gran-Gran said, I wasn't enthusiastic about coming here anymore." she conceded, before looking down at the food she was eating, "But the food is great."
"That it is." he grinned at it, "It isn't bad, right, Aang?" he asked the young Air Nomad, who nodded in confirmation.
"It's good." he assured him, "Especially these seaweed noodles." he grinned, "They're like noodles but extra-vegetarian." he licked his lips before slurping some into his mouth.
He chewed them down, before glancing over toward the chief, who was looking his way, "Avatar." he addressed him, the boy raising a hand.
"Uh, it's just Aang. You don't need to call me 'Avatar'." he assured him, making the Chief chuckle.
"Of course." he nodded, before gesturing down to the fountain, where an old man with a long goatee stood, "That's Master Pakku. Would you like to meet him?" he asked him, the young Air Nomad looking down at his meal.
"Uh, could you give me a minute? I just want to finish these noodles." he asked, Arnook nodding.
"I understand, go ahead." he pointed toward his meal.
As he chewed down on the noodles, he noted that a girl with white hair was trying to speak with Sokka, and he furrowed a brow, thinking her appearance was rather unusual for a Water Tribesman.
"Sorry, you're the Chief's daughter?" the Water Tribesman asked her, the girl nodding.
"My name's Yue." she clarified, "He told me you're 'The Water Tribesman', the one who worked for Princess Azula." she acknowledged, making Aang nervously slurp up his noodles; he didn't know where the conversation would go after that, but he didn't think it could be very good.
"Uh, yeah. Sokka is my name, by the way." he acknowledged with a nervous voice, before turning his eyes ahead, "And Azula... she's my girlfriend."
The girl's eyes widened with surprise, "Wait... so you're... so you're going to be the Fire Lord?" she looked at him with a perplexed face.
"Uh, no, Fire Consort." he clarified, "She'll be the Fire Lord."
"Huh." she mumbled, before turning her eyes away, obviously a little unnerved by that revelation.
"Maybe you shouldn't have phrased it like that, Sokka." Katara warned her brother, who shrugged his shoulders, "Fire Lord Sokka has to be about the worst thing I've ever heard." she acknowledged, Aang cringing.
"Well, he's going to get pretty close." he acknowledged, before slurping up some more of his noodles; the young Avatar didn't want to think too much about the weirdness that was going to be politics once the Princess was the Fire Lord- Sokka wanted to the Chief of the Southern Water Tribe, which made any arrangement between them kind of unusual, given they'd both be monarchs.
He turned back to face Arnook, clearing his throat, "Uh, Chief, I'm ready to meet Pakku." he clarified.
He smiled at him and rose from his seat, gesturing for the young Air Nomad to follow him; he did just that, following him along the table, before they made their way down some stairs toward the fountain in the centre of the room, where he could see the waterbending master waiting patiently. He noticed that he had been overseeing the forms of his students, who made a display before the chief gave his speech. Master Pakku turned to face them both, eyeing Aang and obviously understanding who he was; that was despite his short black hair, which partially obscured his tattoos and the Water Tribe clothes he'd put on, which were a little more comfortable to wear in the cold climate of the North Pole.
"Master Pakku, meet your newest student, the Avatar." he gestured toward the young Air Nomad, who gave him a bow.
"Just because you're destined to save the world, don't expect any special treatment." he warned the young Avatar; he seemed a little snarky, which made him feel slightly less bad for what he was about to say to the waterbending master.
"I, uh, don't." he assured him, "I need to master waterbending so I can help return the world to balance. Thank you for allowing me to be your student." he acknowledged the man, before he got onto the more difficult topic.
He eyed up to the table, seeing that Sokka was intently looking his way; even if he couldn't hear what he was saying, he knew what Aang was going to say, or more accurately what he had to say.
"You aren't going to like hearing me say this, but you have to teach Katara." he stressed, making him furrow a brow.
"Sorry, Katara?" he asked him, "Is that your friend up there, the boy who keeps eating like a cow-pig?" he asked, the Air Nomad boy cringing.
"No, uh, that's Sokka. Katara's his sister."
"In our tribe it is-" he began to say what he knew he was going to say; what Katara told him he would most likely say.
"No, I think you misunderstand." Aang stressed, "I mean no disrespect, Master Pakku, but my friend, she needs to learn waterbending. She is the last southern waterbender. Every other one was taken to the Fire Nation, to some prison where they all wasted away; they were... deprived of their humanity." he admitted, telling him exactly what Azula had told him when he had asked about it, feeling a little uneasy to discuss the matter with Katara herself, "And Katara's mother, she was killed by the Fire Nation, protecting her daughter's identity as the last waterbender." he added, knowing that couldn't be ignored.
"I sympathise with what the Southern Water Tribe has gone with, I truly do." Pakku stressed, "It is nothing less than a tragedy what happened to them, but we have traditions, rules; she cannot learn here, unless she desires to learn healing."
He cringed at the waterbending master's words, "She can't go anywhere else. There are no other waterbenders to learn from." he stressed, "And that's why Sokka, her brother, is going to beat you up, every single day, until you accept Katara as your student."
He scoffed at his words, "Are you trying to mock me?" he asked him, unamused, "I am a master of my bending art. That boy's... well, he has to be a non-bender, right? I doubt he could even touch me."
"Uh... he won't need to." he acknowledged, "Well, to deal with the waterbending part." he clarified, Pakku's eyes narrowing at him.
"Excuse me?" he asked, now sounding more aggrieved than simply frustrated, "What do you mean deal with the waterbending part? Did you not just hear what I said?"
"I did." Aang raised his hands, "The first time I met Sokka, he showed me his skills. I'm a master airbender." he pointed to his arrow, "He won. By a long shot."
The master crossed his arms, still unconvinced, "I don't believe you. You're trying to intimidate me, and it won't work."
"This isn't intimidation." he corrected him, "That's what Azula will be doing."
"Sorry, Azula?" he asked him, turning to face the Chief, "The missing Fire Nation Princess is coming to our tribe?"
"Uh, yes." Arnook confirmed, "I don't know when, and I don't think they'll tell us."
"We won't," the young Air Nomad confirmed his suspicions, "because you might throw her in prison." he narrowed his eyes at him, "That's what a lot of people want to do."
"I know." the waterbending master crossed his arms, his tone suggesting he knew more than he was saying; Aang didn't want to feel nervous, for Katara's sake.
"Uh... yeah, so please, Master Pakku, don't just refuse her. I'm the guy who likes to solve problems with words." he admitted, grimacing slightly, "Sokka likes being a loudmouth too, but he prefers his fists. And Katara, if she wants to, she'll fight you to be your student..." he admitted, before turning his eyes back toward the aforementioned Water Tribe girl.
"You and you're friends don't scare me, Avatar." he narrowed his eyes at him, "And even if you did have the Fire Nation Princess here to intimidate me, this is beyond my honour or anything of the sorts. I respect the traditions of the Northern Water Tribe, and I suggest you do too, for the sake of the world."
He sighed, feeling uncertain if there was anything he could say to dissuade him, "I'm sorry." he sighed, "I will be your student." he admitted, "But I want Katara to be your student to. I just hope you can see that she is worthy."
He crossed his arms, scoffing at his words, "We will see, Avatar." he decided, before turning his gaze up toward Sokka and Katara, "He doesn't look like much."
He snickered, before turning to face Chief Arnook, "Thank you, Chief for this opportunity you have given to me." he spoke as formally as he could.
"It is my honour to have the Avatar taught under the supervision of one the greatest waterbenders to grace our tribe." he acknowledged, before gesturing back toward the table, "Please, continue eating. I'm sure you're hungry after your long journey."
"I am." he nodded, before he paced back on up toward the table where he'd been sitting before; Sokka and Katara eyed him as he moved along, and when he returned to his seat, he straightened his posture.
The meeting with Pakku had gone as well as he expected it to, and the waterbending master at the very least sounded sympathetic with Katara's plight, though clearly, without some coercion, he wasn't going to teach her waterbending.
"How'd it go?" she asked him, the young Avatar sighing.
"Well, I guess Sokka's going to start beating him up every day now." he acknowledged, "He won't budge."
"I'm not surprised, but... urgh..." she groaned, snarling slightly as she eyed Master Pakku, "Why'd this one rule have to be here?"
"Because people love to be frustrating, Katara. Haven't you noticed that yet?" her brother asked her with a smug expression, making her roll her eyes.
"Yeah, I have." she narrowed her eyes, making a small pout; perhaps she'd been referring to Azula, and Aang guessed that's what Sokka was thinking, because his expression faltered pretty quickly, before he returned to eating his meal.
The young Air Nomad returned to his meal, sighing with frustration; he wished things were easier, but they just weren't. He didn't have a choice, and neither did Katara, so they just had to work with what they had, which seemed to be Master Pakku or waterbending scrolls, if they could buy, let alone find some. The taste of the food didn't seem as could when he wasn't happy, or hopeful; the food just reminded him that he'd be done with dinner eventually, go to sleep, and then start his waterbending training without his friend, who definitely wanted to learn waterbending more than he did- he had to learn it, because he was the Avatar, while she had always dreamt of it.
He turned back to face her, "Did you want to practice, though?" he asked her, "We still have the forms on the scroll to practice."
"Yeah, we can do that." she made a small smile, Aang smiling right back at her; he hoped that if they did that together, it would lighten both their moods- he wished she could get what she wanted, but it seemed like it was going to be a challenge for them to get there.
He continued to eat the seaweed noodles he had been chewing down, and quickly finished off the bowl; he decided that he'd go get some fresh air, feeling a little uncomfortable at the feast with so many random eyes on him. They people he didn't know, that he'd probably never know; he knew, however, Katara and Sokka, who were there by his side, and there to help him, and in return, he'd help them. Aang just wished he could do more, after all they'd done for him; they'd given him a family, something he hadn't had, not ever. Monk Gyatso was just one guy, and he was like his father; he probably did have a mother and father, but he couldn't remember them- all he remembered was the monks, and Monk Gyatso's bright smile, and the smile he'd give him in return, especially when they got up to something mischievous.
"I miss you." he mumbled under his breath, knowing that he couldn't really speak to him; he was gone, like all the other Air Nomads, and had been for a hundred years, which had passed with him stuck in an iceberg, unable to do anything and unknowing of what happened to his people.
He glanced over to the two Water tribe siblings, who were quietly eating their food; Katara seemed sad, while Sokka just seemed to be channelling all his emotions into eating. He really did love food, so it made a lot of sense. He got up from his seat, and took a deep breath, deciding that he was going to go back to their new home; he'd probably say hi to Momo and Appa, and make sure they were both fed. He was sure the flying-lemur was as hungry as they were after having almost no food for an entire day.
"I'm just going to go back to the igloo." he clarified, the Water Tribe siblings nodding.
"Uh, I'm kinda in the middle of my dinner, but I'll come as soon as I can." he assured him, his sister stepping up to look at Aang face on.
"I'll go. I'm not that hungry anymore." she admitted; she didn't even need to sound sad- he could see it in her eyes.
He nodded, before pursing his lips upward, "Do you wanna do a little waterbending before bed. I'm sure you can beat me... or try." he prodded her, hoping that she might enjoy a little sparring.
She snickered lightly, before nodding, a small smile returning to her face, "Yeah, I can try, and I'll win."
"Now, now, Katara, don't get too overconfident." Sokka warned her, "That's how to lose easily."
"I know Aang. I know what he can do and how he fights- it won't be that hard."
"I don't know." he smugly elbowed her, before striding along down the table, "You might not expect what I've got in mind."
"A trick." she crossed her arms, before following after him, "Even if you're going to make fun of me, I want to see this. It might be good practice."
The two of them made their way along the table, approaching the staircase, which would lead them down to the plaza below, where Master Pakku and his waterbenders had been showing off before their dinner. The young Air Nomad eyed the waterbending master, as did his friend, who he presumed was giving him a death-stare, which given the context, was probably deserved; when they made their way out of the plaza, they were addressed by some guards.
"Avatar." one of them spoke up, "Did you require an escort to your residence?"
"Uh, no, we're fine." he smiled, "I remember where it is." he assured them before he and Katara made their way down through the courtyard that sat in front of them.
"Urgh... I can't believe this place." she sighed, Aang pouting slightly.
"I know it's bad, but let's just hope Sokka can... uh, persuade Master Pakku." he acknowledged the threat that her brother would pose; he didn't doubt he could beat the waterbending master, who probably had never encountered a chi-blocker in his life, and thus would be completely unprepared.
"At least he'll teach him a lesson. If Pakku doesn't teach me. I'll take Sokka's route."
"Wait, what do you mean 'Sokka's route'?" she asked, the Water tribe girl cringing.
"Uh, making Azula beat me up with her firebending until I can beat her." she acknowledged, the young Avatar cringing.
"That mightn't be that easy." he conceded, Katara nodding.
"That's why I don't want to do it, but if Sokka's evidence, it's a proven method." she acknowledged, before chuckling, "I have a feeling that's how Toph's going to teach you earthbending." she acknowledged, the young Air Nomad grimacing.
"Yeah, I have no idea how I'm going to learn earthbending." he mumbled, "And yeah, she seems like the kind of person to throw rocks first and give lectures second."
"She definitely does." Katara nodded with a slight grimace, before smirking, "So, what's this waterbending trick you wanted to show me?" she asked, the Avatar raising a finger.
"Now, I can't show it, because then it wouldn't be surprising. We'll have to spar first." he explained, before gesturing in the direction of their igloo, which wasn't too far away, "Let's go to the nearest canal, and then I can show you." he explained, the Water Tribe girl raising a brow skeptically at him.
"Are you sure you want to do that, Aang?" she warned him, "I might be better than you expect."
"You're a good waterbender, but trust me, I need to try this." he assured her, not wanting to give anything away; he'd been thinking about it while they were flying on Appa's saddle for a few days straight, and now he had a perfect opportunity to test it out.
He led her along down the stairs that led to the city's canal system, and he smirked in thought of what her reaction might be; when they reached the bottom of the stairs, she strode away, taking some water out of the canal, wrapping it around herself. Aang reached out himself, and took some water to do the very same, though he took a lot more than she did; he wanted to be ready to do his trick, so he'd need some water to do it.
"Okay, so what are we doing?" she raised a brow at him, unsure what they were doing just standing there with water floating around them.
"Huh, good point. This is a spar." he clarified, "And with my new waterproof Water Tribe parka, I'm ready to go." he grinned at her, moving into form.
He quickly created a water whip, which he struck out in her direction; she raised her hand up, blocking his attack with a water shield, which she spun around her before throwing his way. He reached toward that water, and bent it around himself, creating a wide and tall stream of water, which obscured him from view. She chuckled at his move, obviously thinking that was the trick; he was still well away from doing what he had planned.
"What's that there? A really big shield." she scoffed at him, "That's very Air Nomad of you, Aang." she acknowledged, making him smirk, knowing she could see his face.
"Oh, it's not." he clarified, before flattening out the water, "Remember what Azula did at Kyoshi Island?" he asked her, the Water Tribe girl's eyes widening with shock, understanding his intentions.
"You wouldn't." she refused to believe his idea; if she thought he was going to try and firebend, she was sorely mistakened.
She threw her own water whip his way, which he bent into his growing stream of water, "Just as planned." he grinned, before he pulled his arms closer to his body, taking a deep breath; the water enveloped him, and for a few moments, he was inside the spinning mass of water, which he was able to bend into a funnel, raising himself up; using the last of his breath, he airbent a hole, allowing the young Avatar to pop out of the top of the funnel, which now towered over Katara.
"What the..." the Water Tribe girl mumbled with awe.
"I figured out this would work. If I concentrate enough, I can bend air and water at the same time." he declared with a grin, before creating two tentacles out of the funnel, the Water Tribe girl's jaw dropping.
"Okay, this isn't what I was expecting." she conceded, before taking her own form, imitating his own move; he immediately moved to stop her, using the tentacles as water-whips as she attempted to create her own funnel.
He splattered water everywhere, and threw the Water Tribe girl back, who was forced to create another water shield to defend against his two water-whips; she reached forward, and broke his tentacles apart, and Aang decided he'd used the funnel as a weapon instead, pushing it motion toward her, like a massive spinning top made out of water, with a boy straddling the very top. As he moved closer, Katara was forced to move into a defensive stance, trying to hold back the funnel, though she struggled to do so; she snarled, before throwing her hands forward, cutting the funnel in half as the water disappeared beneath him, and thus, the Avatar lost his footing. He struggled to keep himself up with airbending, as he was too focused on holding the mass of water together, which certainly wasn't 'together' any longer. He let out a squeal of fear as he fell down, right on top of the Water Tribe girl, who couldn't do much to defend herself, other than raise her hands up. He grunted as he fell on Katara, her body cushioning his fall down onto the icy surface. She cried out as well as she was forced to the ground, the two of them lying there, Aang dazed from having struck his head into her arms.
"Ow..." he mumbled, "Maybe I shouldn't... I shouldn't have tried that." he decided, thinking his prior course of action to be rather stupid in hindsight; if he was going to create a massive funnel of water, of course, Katara would be able to bend it as well.
"Urgh." she groaned, rising back up to her feet, looking at the young Avatar, whose eyes fluttered as he tried to regain his bearings.
He pulled himself up slightly, before falling back flat on his back, "Ouch." he mumbled as he lay there, too pained and exhausted to do much.
She leaned over, offering him a hand, "Maybe we should try some more practice tomorrow, Aang."
"Yeah." he nodded, grimacing slightly from the pain he felt on his forehead, before he accepted her hand, rising back up to his feet.
The young Avatar looked at all the water they'd splattered over the ground around them, and noticed that he was drenched, especially his hair, which was dripping down his face.
"I think I need to get a towel or something." he admitted, the Water Tribe girl raising a brow.
"Actually, I think I can bend the water out of our hair." she explained, placing her hand just above his scalp.
She pulled her fingers upward, drawing the water out of his hair, which felt rather weird in his opinion, but he was glad she'd done it. He touched at his scalp, and felt that it was suddenly dry and fluffy.
"Huh, it worked." his expression brightened, appreciative of the help, "Thanks, Katara."
"No problem." she smirked, before she unbraided her hair and did the same, running her hands down the length to draw out the water, which she tossed back over into the canal; once she'd done it a few times, she grasped her hair and began to tie it back into a braid.
Aang gestured up the stairs, "Uh, did you want to get back to the igloo now?" he asked her, the Water Tribe girl nodding.
"Yeah, I feel like hopping in bed now." she nodded, walking along behind him as she continued to tie her hair back up.
Making their way back up the stairs, she began to chuckle, "You know, that was pretty impressive, Aang."
"Th-thanks." he made a small smile, hoping that he wasn't blushing, "It didn't really work, though. You cut right through my funnel."
"That doesn't mean it wouldn't work against a firebender or an earthbender, though." she considered, "It's a good idea." she simply told him, "Though, I really don't know that much about waterbending."
"Yet." he added, "You will, Katara, I'm sure you will."
She snickered before pursing her lips upward, and glanced up back toward the plaza with a devious smirk on her face, "Well, I'm sure Sokka's going to beat this Master Pakku guy."
"And then he'll have to teach you... and if he doesn't, we'll still be able to rub it in his face." he declared, happy that they'd at the very least be able to teach the Northern Water Tribe a lesson; the kind of lesson he was sure Azula would be approving of.
"Oh, I intend to, Aang. I intend to."
Princess Azula was not in the mood to do anything; she didn't think that she could really get bored that quickly, but after nearly a whole week at the Fire Nation base with Ty Lee and her guards, she realised how much she missed the others. It wasn't even just Sokka, though part of her declared that she missed him more than anything; she missed her arguments with Katara, and Aang's silly antics, and all the stupid conversations they'd have together, some of which were serious, and others that were meaningless. She forgot when she thought about her time with them that she was a Princess, the Crown Princess, to be exact; the Fire Nation still awaited their rightful Fire Lord, and she still wanted the throne. That didn't mean that it was the only thing she wanted; Azula wasn't as single-minded as she had once been in the past.
There were many things she wanted, for varying reasons, though most of them just came down to her personal sense of justice. Some things just needed to be done, because she knew that they ought to be; not because they were good, but because they were right. The Dai Li had to be gotten rid of, because they were unrighteous in their rule over Ba Sing Se; Katara needed to learn waterbending, because it was right that her bending tradition, that of the South Pole, continued. There were many things she could think of that were right and things that were wrong, though the barrier between the two was more permeable than she would have preferred. There was always a choice in the matter, and it seemed that free decision making both created the chaos and destruction, as well as the righteousness in the world.
She turned her gaze over to the door of her bedroom, knowing that she ought to start training the new arrivals; the soldiers who Zhao had hand picked for their mission. The rather pointless training she'd be doing, seeing that she had no intention of the Admiral succeeding in his intentions to kill the spirits. However, the training would give her something to do, as well as an opportunity to train a few people into shape, not physically but mentally, and perhaps inspire them to follow her personally. More respect and followers was what she needed, and even if the soldiers she was to train were technically already her soldiers, they had no personal loyalty to her, at least yet. She had an opportunity to inspire some personal loyalty, and given what we sought to achieve, she thought it was something that might be helpful in the long run.
Azula stretched her arms up, and sighed, knowing she ought to get out and get her new men trained and ready for the situation they were going to face; they were in their own quarters, though he could send out a message to have them called for training at any moment. Getting out of her room was something she knew was necessary; even if she trained her bending and her guards as much as she could, there was only so much time she could spend doing it. Ty Lee had been actively avoiding her since their last training session, probably under the pretence of getting that book she was reading done. She was amused that the thing that made her rebellious was some random romance novel she bought off a servant, and not some kind of deep-seated issue she had with Azula's decision-making; that was the kind of thing she feared, and it seemed, at least for the meantime, that wasn't going to happen.
She rose up from her bed, and approached the door of her bedroom, opening it up; she glanced up and down the hallway, and decided she'd go find somebody to send the message. She guessed that it would be one of her guards that would be forced out of their quarters and off to go find the soldiers, who were probably set up in some part of the massive tent-town that surrounded the base proper. She'd been told by Zhao where they were set up, a location marked as 'position twelve seventeen', which seemed to be running off some coordinate system that would be on the maps they used and the real life locations. She approached one of the dormitories that her guards shared, and knocked on the door, hearing some scurrying inside, the guards obviously a little startled by her knocking; she then opened the door, eyeing the few men who sat inside.
"Which of you wants to volunteer to retrieve the men I'll be training for the North Pole?" she asked them, the guards looking amongst themselves, as if they were eyeing off who ought to be sacrificed to her command.
One of them, whose name she remembered to be Hong, sighed with frustration, before rising up from his bed, "Urgh, whatever." he grumbled at his fellow guards, "I'll volunteer, your highness."
"Good, you've just earned yourself an exemption from tomorrow's training session." she crossed her arms, smugly smirking at the other guards, whose expressions unsurprisingly shifted to ones of regret.
"Oh..." he mumbled, before he strode toward her, "Uh, do I have a location?" he asked her, the Princess pulling the map from her belt; he accepted it into his hands, scanning it with interest.
"Give this back to me when you return. Coordinates are position twelve seventeen, which I'm pretty sure you can see by looking at the margins." she gestured to the map, which he had already unfurled.
"Uh-huh, got it." he nodded, "I'll get it done, Princess." he assured her, before walking out of the door, smugly looking at his comrades, obviously wanting to rub it in that she'd given him an exemption to their rather arduous training sessions.
"Humility and service." she simply commented, mocking their inaction, before she closed the door behind her.
She stood there, smugly appreciating how she'd made the guards antagonise each other so simply; she missed mockery and playing with people- it was very fun, though she tended to avoid doing it with Katara and Aang, given that they weren't her subordinates, and wouldn't tolerate it. She missed her arguments with Sokka dearly, probably more than any other kind of interaction she had with him; that news might have disappointed him, but the conversations they had were always interesting and he always had his way to prove his point. He was an intelligent person, at least compared to most the people she'd dealt with in her life, and more than that, he was critical; he actually thought about problems instead of just making some smart-arse judgement of the world- he was always trying to think of solutions, ways to get around the problems they faced.
She didn't have solutions for everything, despite how often she'd like to claim the latter; she did have a plan, but she knew from experience that she couldn't just trust wholeheartedly in what she had intended. She desired the throne, but how she was to arrive there was still unknown at that point; many aspects of the situation were beyond her control, and thus, she had to wait, and observe, despite how much she'd like to act. If she thought she could win outright, she would face her brother again in an Agni Kai, but she was uncertain if he'd allow it, let alone if she'd actually win in the case such a fight went ahead.
She decided that as she would have to wait a bit, she would spend her time doing something rather unproductive, but she would still derive some enjoyment from it. Her friend was probably still reading, but all she desired to do was take up a little of her time to discuss the matters at hand, as ell as just be a little social; she enjoyed her friend's company, and she had grown to enjoy the banter she could have with her as much as did with Sokka. Her observant nature led to rather amusing comments that could be played around with; of course, sometimes her comments were absolutely embarrassing, shameful or just flat out inappropriate. That wasn't a concern as he approached Ty Lee's door, and knocked on it; a few moments later, her friend's voice calling out in response.
"Oh, Zula, is that you?" she called out, the Princess clearing her throat.
"Yes. Can I come in?" she asked her friend simply, who led out an affirmative 'mhm-hmm', which she took as a pass to open the door; she stepped inside, noting that her friend was on her bed, reading her book- she placed it down, and looked up at the Princess.
"What brings you to my room?" she asks her, "It isn't more training, is it?" she asked, making her chuckle.
"No, I'm just here to chat." she clarified, approaching the end of her friend's bed, which she sat herself down on.
"Huh, chat. That's very... un-Azula-ish of you." she acknowledged with a bemused voice, making the Princess roll her eyes, "Did something happen?"
"No." she simply told her, leaning back onto the wall beside which her friend's bed sat, "That's kinda the thing. Nothing much has happened." she admitted, 'The new airship prototype is probably going to be ready in the next day or two, but other than that, we don't have much to look forward to." she acknowledged, before sighing.
"So, Princess Azula is bored. Who would have known that was possible?" Ty Lee chuckled, before gesturing down to her book, "You didn't want to read this, did you? I could give it to you once I finish." she suggested, Azula raising a hand up, immediately refusing.
"No, I think I'll pass." she declined her offer, before glancing back her way, "Is that all you've been doing lately?"
"No. I've been doing some stretches and exercises in my room as well." she explained, before narrowing her eyes, "A little less intense than what you're used to."
"Well, I still meditate every day." she added, "And that's the opposite of intense."
"But what about your thoughts... are they intense?" Ty Lee asked her, the Princess narrowing her eyes; sometimes, when she thought back to what she did to Sokka, then she'd have intense feelings.
She didn't feel anger toward Ty Lee for what she'd done, but rather, she felt those feelings against herself, and not anybody else; she wondered if that was what it felt like to be Zuko, or at least, Zuko before he grew a spine and decided to betray their father. It was unnerving to think that Sokka was her weakness; he was the one she had opened her heart, her innermost thoughts to, and in exchange, she could feel guilt for what she did to him. She never usually felt guilty about anything; she didn't feel guilt over the Dai Li, or what she was going to do to those Earth Kingdom protesters, or trying to kill Zuko during their Agni Kai. Her perspective on those actions had changed, but she couldn't regret them.
Her past decisions she had made had brought her to where she was, just as her decision to stop Sokka from coming with them had; unlike the others, she regretted that, however, because of how powerless he must have felt. That powerlessness, the kind of weakness that Azula herself so despised that she sought his help, as well as help from Aang, Katara and Ty Lee, to feel that she could never be powerless. She had given him that powerlessness, as if she had deflected it onto him because she did not desire to feel her power threatened in the case things turned out badly; if she could not protect Sokka from Zhao, she could keep him away, at least for the meantime. Things could still turn out badly, but she was ready for that scenario; she had to be, and her friend understood that possibility.
"Sometimes." she admitted honestly, narrowing her eyes in thought, "I don't want to be weak, Ty Lee."
"I know that, Zula. That's kinda been your thing forever." she acknowledged, the Princess nodding.
"Before that Agni Kai, I thought I was unstoppable, and... I was." she reminisced to what she used to be like, "But I was wrong. Zuko is an idiot, and a foolish one at that, but if he beat me, then I have to be an even bigger fool than him." she snarled, frustrated by that fact of the matter; she was foolish for thinking she was going to win that Agni Kai against her brother without any doubts in her mind.
"You're not a fool." she assured her, "You've learned. People learn, that's just how life works." she raised her hands up, "I learned to tolerate my sisters, after I made the choice to leave my home, only for them to come after me. That doesn't make me a fool, but just somebody who had to deal with a problem. I didn't get what I expected... but it was something good."
"Sokka is good." she made a small smile, before raising a hand to her forehead, "And I might call him an idiot, but I know he's smart. He's not just going to welcome me back after all this. Even if it's right. Even if I'm keeping him safe."
"He wanted to be here." she nodded, understanding the situation as well as she did, "But he's not going to hate you because of this. He might be a little grumpy, maybe very grumpy. Let him have it. That's what he might need to do, and he'll have to, but eventually, he'll trust you again. I mean... he probably still trusts you- he gets how you think."
"Yeah, he does." she nodded, "I shouldn't have lied. I should have just been upfront with him, instead of well... tricking him. We played him for a fool, and now he probably thinks I might toss him at a moment's notice just because it suits me."
"You won't." she smiled at her, "Because you love him."
"I- I do." she mumbled, "I can't believe I do, but I do." she sighed, "I'm not good enough- or maybe... it's just I'm too obsessed with this. With the throne, with getting things done. Maybe we could have just stayed there at the South Pole... but I don't know if I would have been happy with that."
"This is your way of confronting your past." she told her, making the Princess raise a brow.
"Confronting it? You mean Zuko?" she asked her, unsure what she meant; her brother was somebody she'd have to confront, sooner or later.
"Not just Zuko- everything. You're Azula, but you're not the same Azula I used to know; you've got to reconcile the new you, with who you used to be. The Princess who wanted to conquer Ba Sing Se, who wanted to see the world ruled by the Fire Nation, who hated the other nations." she explained, "You've got to confront all that you used to be, and just... well, I don't know what you do with it. It's really up to you."
"I want to be the best Fire Lord the Fire nation could have, Ty Lee." she stated her belief on the matter, "I want to serve my country, and one day, I will rule it, but I need to... well, you're right, I need to confront what I used to be, so I can decide the kind of ruler I want to be. I'm not my father, and I can't be my father." she admitted another fact that she'd come to understand; the longer she spent away from her father, and the further away his teachings were from her mind, the more foreign they seemed, "Everything he taught me, I can either use it for what is right, or I can just use it to better myself. Sometimes, those things coincide, but I don't think they do."
"Teachings aren't just things you have to follow straight without question. If everyone followed the rules all the time, how would anything ever change?" she asked her, "Whatever your dad told you, it's just a guideline, and if you find something better, use that instead. He isn't some wise guru who knows everything about life and death and destiny." she joked, making the Princess chuckle; that was about as far as possible one could go from her father.
"Yeah, he's definitely not that." she agreed with her, before she narrowed her eyes, "If I've changed so much," she began, turning her gaze toward Ty Lee, who had a wistful look on her face, "then how am I still Azula?"
"Because you remember." she told her a fact that she understood a little too well; she could remember all the failures and mistakes she had made, "You remember what it was like when we were younger, and we were at school, and you scared all the other girls." she reminded her, the Princess chuckling.
"Ah, that was fun." she pursed her lips upward, Ty Lee making a small smile as well.
"You're not that same little girl anymore, or the Princess who went off to Ba Sing Se. You're always changing." she admitted, "I've changed as well, but I'm still Ty Lee, and you're still Azula."
"And together, we're still friends." she acknowledged, before sighing, remembering what she had done for her to be there with you, "I'm sorry for taking you away from your sisters. I know they must be worried about you now- I could tell from how pent up they were getting that afternoon."
"I don't worry about them that much. There's six of them, and they can all take care of each other." she acknowledged with a small smile, "They're annoying, but we all count on each other. Just like how you, Sokka, Katara and Aang do." she added, making the Princess sigh, remembering that they were still out there.
"I hope they know what they're doing." she acknowledged the unknown.
She could not be certain what they were doing, or where they were; she hoped they had reached the North Pole, and that Sokka had figured out a way to get Katara a waterbending master, despite the rules that she understood were in place there.
"They don't need you to guide them every step of the way. You're a good leader, Zula, but you know, they can take care of themselves." she explained, the Princess nodding; she knew Ty Lee was right, given that she'd seen the leadership that all of them could take at times, even Aang, who was only twelve years old- he understood his responsibilities, just as she did her own.
"You're right, we don't need to worry about them." she acknowledged, her friend nodding, before her expression faltered, "What is it?"
"I still don't know what's going to happen to Mai, and Zuko too. Are people going to try and kill them?" she asked her, the Princess grimacing.
"They could try. I don't think if Zuko can beat me, there's anyone but our father that could kill him. That doesn't seem very likely... given that Iroh's there with him." she acknowledged, "My uncle's power ought not to be underestimated."
"Yeah, you've said that a few times." she mumbled, before grimacing, "But I don't want Mai to get hurt because of all this. She's... well, maybe she isn't innocent, but she hasn't done anything that bad." she acknowledged, "She tried to help you and Zuko, from what it sounds like... but that backfired."
"Maybe she should have shown up to the Agni Kai." she noted, "That might have changed my brother's attitude."
"We can never know, I guess." the acrobat sighed, "I just wish... maybe if you'd come to me before all of that happened. Then maybe I could have made a difference."
"The only difference you could have made would be to teach Sokka chi-blocking a little earlier; that wouldn't have done much, unless you wanted to chi-block my uncle and brother and hold them hostage." she acknowledged, before she narrowed her eyes, realising that there was no way that fight could have ended well, "You being there... you would have just seen what Sokka did. I don't think you would have liked it."
"I wouldn't have." she confirmed, "It would have been horrible, and I would have been angry, and I would've told Zuko how bad a brother he was being by shooting that lightning back at you." she declared, with a rising tone of confidence, the Princess grimacing.
"But I was the one who shot it at him. I didn't know if it was going to kill him... but if it had, that would have been on me." she acknowledged, "I don't even know if I hate Zuko enough to kill him. I despise him, sure, but my hatred toward him, it's all bundled up in that crappy childhood of ours. That wasn't his fault, even if he was there, getting our mother's love and attention." she added, with a growing voice of spite.
She quietened herself, knowing she shouldn't ought to get angry over her past. There was no point, given she couldn't do anything about it; her mother was gone, Zuko wanted her in jail, and she wanted the throne. Maybe if things had gone differently, she might have held some kind of bond with him, as she did with Ty Lee and Mai, but she couldn't even claim that. All she had was his weakness, and all the love that he received despite it; she realised how stupid her thoughts on the matter were after the Agni Kai, given how Sokka had protected her, and cared for her, despite her failure and weakness. She and Zuko were eerily similar in some ways, even if their experiences happened at different times during their lives, and for wildly different reasons.
"You don't need to hate him. Yeah, he might have nearly killed your dad, and yeah, he might have nearly killed you, but I don't think he intended to that either time. He's not a murderous guy; he's angry, I know that. He's always had that pent up inside him." she acknowledged, the Princess chuckling.
"I wonder why." she mumbled to herself, already knowing the answer; it was because of how their father treated him, making him feel worthless.
The old Azula would have agreed with Ozai, that her brother was a weakling and incapable, and deserved all the derision that came his way; the new Azula knew that people could grow, and change, and she knew that even if it wasn't in her interests to have a competent brother, she knew that her father could have tried to make him grow. Burning his face might have been justified as achieving such, but all it did was create that spark of hatred that led to her father's defeat; whatever lightning bolt had come back her father's way, he'd certainly been asking for it. He wanted a ruthless, capable son, and he got one, though perhaps in a way that he probably didn't want.
"Father made Zuko into the man who defeated him, even if Uncle was there to guide him," she observed, before smirking, knowing there was a certain parallel she liked, "and now, Zuko has made me into the person I need to be to defeat him, even if it was Sokka who got me here."
"Without your defeat, you couldn't become the Fire Lord you want to be." Ty Lee rephrased what she said, and smiled at her, "Well, that's a better way of looking at it."
"This doesn't mean I'm into needlessly intense positivity, by the way." she warned her, before narrowing her eyes, "Speaking of which, has my aura improved?"
"Uh, yeah." she nodded, "It's better than the other day. Maybe you're getting better."
"I must be." she nodded, before rising up off of the bed, "Well, I ought to go out to the training yard. Those soldiers aren't going to become capable of surviving at the North Pole without my guidance." she declared, before smirking, "You might need some advice too."
"Oh, warm clothes, and uh... bad food?" she asked, making the Princess snicker.
"That's the jist of it." she sarcastically acknowledged, "There's a lot more to living at the poles than that. To combat the Water Tribes... if that was actually what I was intending, would require an understanding of their culture, their mentality about life, which I do actually have a good comprehension of."
"A good comprehension of Sokka's mind?" Ty Lee asked her, making the Princess raise a brow.
"Well not just him, there's Katara too. I have to consider how waterbenders think; they would be one's most threatening opponents in the case one was to actually attack the North Pole." she admitted, the acrobat furrowing a brow.
"But you're not... so what's the point of all this then?"
"To make Zhao think that I actually want to conquer the North Pole and eliminate waterbending." she clarified, "I need him to believe our loyalty, otherwise, things mightn't go as planned."
"What, like getting thrown off of the airship and falling to our deaths?" she asked the Princess, who grimaced, realising that was actually a very morbid but plausible outcome.
"Uh... yes. I might have a little more luck than you, given that I can achieve propulsion with my firebending, which might soften the fall somewhat." she acknowledged, making her friend look at her with an unamused face.
"Thanks, that's great to hear." she sarcastically commented, "We need to think of some kind of escape plan."
"Break the balloon." she simply told her, "That's how it stays in the air. In the worst case scenario, we have to send it down into the sea."
"I'd rather not think about that." she admitted, the Princess nodding.
"Well, hopefully, we won't need to think about it." she acknowledged, before she glanced toward the door, "I really should be off. It would be a bad impression to show up to their first training exercise late." she conceded, making Ty Lee snicker.
"Now, that would be really un-Azula-ish of you." she acknowledged, "Go on, I've gotta read this book anyway. I'm getting to the ending."
"Do you think there's a twist coming?" she asked her, the acrobat pursing her lips upward.
"Well, that'd make the ending better. Things went sideways in this story. The two lovers have been torn apart, and now they're trying to find themselves."
"You just told me yourself. People conflict with themselves, not just those they love." she acknowledged their conversation and how amusingly relevant it was to her story, "Perhaps they'll figure something out about themselves."
"Oh..." her eyes widened, before she pulled the book back up, "Now I have to keep reading!" she exclaimed, making the Princess snicker.
"You do that." she simply farewelled her, raising a hand to pull the door open; she stepped on out, and closed it behind her.
She made her way down the hallway, passing by a servant, who bowed toward her in respect; she ignored them, continuing along, running her finger over her hairline, just to check if everything was in place. Once she was certain her hair was how she intended it to be, she continued along, making her way out into the main hallway of the compound, walking by some on-duty guards, who just like the servant, bowed toward her in respect. Though she noted their stiff forms and wary eyes, she dismissed their deference; it assured her that she had power and respect, but that was about it.
She continued forward, making her way toward the front door of the compound, which the stationed guards opened for her, allowing the Princess to exit without having to touch anything herself, something that she appreciated. It made her feel like she was still a Princess and not just a warlord, sitting in spirit's know where in the Earth Kingdom, even if that's what she happened to be in practice- she had yet done much warring, and hoped to keep that aspect of her rule to a minimum. She eyed around the courtyard, noting that the guard that had left to find the men she was to train was yet to return
She decided to walk over into the training yard, where she and her men usually spent their mornings working on their sets and practised on their firebending endurance, which given their skill when it came to forms and power, she knew to be the most important aspect of their training. They had to be ready to deal with any threat, so being able to endure as much firebending and physical strain as possible was what she required of them. For the men she was about to train, there was a different focus she'd be taking; it was about the mental fortitude one needed to be able to deal with survival situations. Considering the worst case scenario, if a unit of Fire Nation soldiers was stuck at the North Pole and needed to survive, she was the best hope they'd have to learn how to do just that.
She sat down and crossed her legs, deciding that she'd spend whatever time left she had to wait meditating; Azula didn't really have much on her mind other than training the soldiers, as well as her lingering fears about what might happen once they actually took the airship to the North Pole. The problem she faced was that Zhao might actually get a chance to harm the spirits, and achieve what he desired to; that was the worst possible outcome, given that there was no way she'd have a chance to persuade the Northern Water tribe to help her- if anything, they might arrest her, no matter what Sokka or the others said about it.
She took a deep breath out, expelling those thoughts from her mind; she knew that they were distractions, things holding her back from achieving her goals. Fears were something that were useful, as they would allow her to avoid situations like she had in Yu Dao. Her cockiness was stronger than any fears she might have held about the duel, but if she'd really listened to Sokka, back at Pohuai Fortress, perhaps she'd be the Fire Lord at that very moment, and not Zuko.
She heard Hong's voice, which broke the relative silence of the courtyard, "Your highness, I retrieved the men." he explained, prodding her to open her eyes, seeing that he had indeed brought the soldiers she was waiting for.
They were a hardy looking bunch, though they only wore the same armour that any other Fire Nation soldiers would. It was in their eyes that she saw that wisdom, even though it really wasn't wisdom- it was an understanding of the dangers they could face as soldiers; the dangers of isolation, suffering and death.
"Good morning." she addressed them, "Is this everyone?" she turned her eyes to Hong, who nodded, before approaching her; he offered out the map he had given her, the Princess rising up to her feet to accept it.
"You may return to your quarters, if that is what you wish." she told her guard, who simply nodded, before turning his heels.
She eyed the soldiers who stood there, awkwardly looking at her, probably not wanting to address her without being spoken to; that was against protocol, she assumed, given that she was royalty.
"Do you know why you have been called back to this base?" she asked the soldiers, who looked amongst themselves, as if they were going to choose which among them was to speak to her; she guessed that it would be the man who had the attire of an officer, though a clearly low ranking one.
That man stood forward, and cleared his throat, "Uh, we were told by the message we received that our operation is on a need-to-know basis."
"Well, that is true." she conceded, "There are things that we should rather not discuss publicly." she added, which unnerved the men somewhat as she strode toward them, slowly enough that it didn't make her seem eager, "I am to be training you for your upcoming operation. All that you need to know is that you will be going to the North Pole, and thus, you have been picked out because of your survival skills as a unit."
The men looked amongst themselves with surprised glances, their 'leader' once again speaking up, "You mean when we got stuck out in the middle of nowhere?"
"Precisely. The Admiral spoke of an uprising against the Fire Nation. Could you detail your experience to me? I simply need a little background if I am to be training you all." she asked of him, the man nodding.
"Of course, your highness." he bowed toward her as a sign of respect, before he began, "We were posted in an occupied town to the south-east of here a few months ago. The Earth Kingdom locals had been agitated, I believe due to a crop failure, and our taxes were not approved of in the slightest. The locals then staged a revolt, and we lost... bad. I believe seven of our men were lost in action, but my unit was able to flee into the woods. Despite our struggles, we didn't lose any more men after that, but we were stuck out there, with the threat of bandits and hostile Earth Kingdom rebels in the area." he explained, the Princess scratching her chin.
"Well, how did you survive?" she asked, knowing that they had been out in the wilds a lot longer than she and Sokka had been.
Unlike her, they obviously didn't have the privilege of being able to sneak into Earth kingdom settlements and fool the locale; they were very right to believe they might attack them if they tried to seek refuge.
"Rudimentary hunting and gathering. We were able to survive mostly off our rations for the two weeks or so, but after that, we were forced to hunt. We encountered a few Earth Kingdom forces, but were able to hide in the woods with some camouflage we made. Once we were able to get our bearings, we signalled some ships up on the northern coast, where we were able to get picked up and head back to base here." he explained, the Princess smirking, finding their survival to be quite impressive.
"Well, I am glad you survived that ordeal. I would say you are all more than capable of handling this operation, as long as you are trained with the right precautions." she acknowledged, "The North Pole will be like nothing you have ever faced before." she warned them, the men standing firm and saluting her.
"We will do our duty, your highness." he assured her, the Princess chuckling.
She knew they had no choice in the matter, but she was going to try and earn their respect and trust; if it was the men before her who she would need to betray Zhao, then she was going to have to do just that.
"Sorry, I didn't catch a name." she addressed their leader, who saluted her once more.
"Lieutenant Dai." he gave his name and rank, the Princess nodding.
"Well, Lieutenant, I'm sure you and your men will be able to serve me well." she acknowledged, before she narrowed her eyes, "Your training will consist of both instruction and physical testing to simulate the environment you will be facing." she clarified, "The local environment is not very similar to what you'll be facing, but certain aspects of it can play way into our training."
"What is our first test, your highness?" he simply asked her, the Princess raising a finger to her chin.
"You may have to move a lot at the North Pole, and given that it is cold, and you'll be wearing thicker armour to deal with the temperature. In the worst case scenario, you'll need to cross the tundra, presumably to regroup with a Fire Nation vessel that will be able to reach the coast." she warned them, making the men grimace, "Because of that possibility, I'd like to test you with that situation. To simulate the temperature, I will have you all doused with cold water, before you have to run along the beach. There is a course I will have set up for you, and you will be required to run along it."
"Excuse me, your highness, when you say run, do you mean run?" one of the soldiers spoke up, his voice sounding afraid of the exercise rather than what she implied they'd be facing; they'd be running from Water Tribe warriors and waterbenders, who would most likely be able to catch them if they didn't.
"Yes, I do." she narrowed her eyes at the soldier, "What do you think, that the waterbenders won't just chase after you? You need to be able to outrun their bending, even if you can neutralise some of them." she warned, all of the soldiers grimacing, "You will have supplies, given that we are planning for this potential outcome, even if nobody wants it to occur. We must be ready for it, otherwise, you may freeze to death out there." she warned them, "I have been to the South Pole, so trust me when I saw that without the right equipment you may die."
They nodded along, all of them grimacing slightly, even if they didn't want to show their fears; it was a dangerous place for them to go. In terms of the terrain and environment it was nothing like the Earth Kingdom they had faced, even if the scenario they could be dealing with would be quite similar to the one they already had- in enemy territory, forced to move away with haste, with the threat of being captured or killed.
"So, now that you know what you will be facing, you can best prepare for it. I recommend you take things like cold showers, if you've had any of those to begin with. You must acquaint yourselves with the blistering cold before you even face it." she warned them, before placing her hands together, "Which of you are firebenders?"
Five men stood forward, and she gestured for them to move closer, "There's something important firebenders ought to understand when going to such an environment. When the sun is down, your bending is weakened, which is compounded by the environment. Thus you must rely on your breathing to ensure that you do not put yourself at a disadvantage."
"Breathing?" one of them raised a brow, "Like breathing exercises?"
"Not just exercises. Those are to ensure your bending is constant and you do not peter out due to exhaustion." she clarified, "What I am talking about is channelling your firebending through your breath to remain warm; that will ensure that you do not become weakened by the cold." she clarified, before narrowing her eyes, "Above the other tests and exercises I will have the rest of you do, I want you all to come here to practice your breathing with me. I will not have your bending be underutilised when you face this harsh environment."
"Of course, your highness." a few of them responded, though all saluted her, to assure her that they understood their jobs.
"Good, it seems like you all understand the issues you might be facing." she acknowledged, before pursuing her lips upward, turning to address them all, "Now, I said you had to run while drenched with cold water." she reminded them, before crossing her arms, "It's only right that you do some exercises under the same conditions." she explained, making them grimace, "I apologise if these are the only clothes you have, but this preparation is necessary."
She turned around, before looking for some water source for them to use, "Well, I believe we actually need some water first, before we can try it." she acknowledged, before she turned back toward them, "Could one of you go inside and ask where they store the water for cleaning?"
"Uh..." one of the soldiers mumbled, before stepping to the side, "I can do that, your highness." he assured Azula, who gestured toward the doors.
"Well, go on then." she glared at him, which was enough to prod him into heading right inside; she turned her gaze back toward the men, who obviously didn't like the idea of being drenched with cold water before training.
"If it's any consolation, I will be training with you." she clarified, "I too must prepare myself as well for the environment we will be facing."
"That's... uh, respectable of you, your highness." Lieutenant Dai addressed her, the Princess chuckling.
"Well, you see, I actually know how to deal with water and the cold, so I'm more than prepared for this training exercise." she assured him, before narrowing her eyes at the firebenders who she'd called forward, "I hope you all figure out quickly enough how to dry your clothes, because you may need to do it when we get there. Snow is water, after all."
"Of course, your highness." one of them nodded, "We know how to vaporise water. We were trained to do that back in school."
"But do you know how to vaporise the water in your clothes without burning yourselves or your attire?" she asked them, the firebenders grimacing, which made her chuckle, crossing her arms, knowing that she was the one with the knowledge, and thus, the power in their new relationship.
"Uh... we did not learn that." he conceded, the Princess turning her heels, glancing away; everything was going to plan, and quickly enough she'd have some soldiers who both respected her and would be ready to face the North Pole.
"That's what I thought."
Katara was seriously surprised how fast Aang was eating his breakfast; she knew that he wanted to get to his waterbending training with Master Pakku, but she didn't expect him to be as rushed as he was. She assumed that it was because they'd gotten up a little late, and with that, the young Avatar thought he'd be late to his first day of waterbending training. Even Sokka was a little amused by his quick eating, and when he had finished his bowl of seaweed stew, he gave him a clap.
"Aang, buddy, that was impressive." he congratulated him, "You must be really eager to start your training."
"Uh, I just don't want to show up late." he clarified, "If this guy is half as serious as Azula when it comes to bending, then he'll be grumpy with me all day if I show up late."
"Huh, good point." the Water Tribe warrior scratched at his chin, "Well, uh, you ate your breakfast." he gestured to the empty bowl, "Are you going?"
"Uh... I need... what did I need?" the Avatar mumbled to himself, looking like he was internally panicking; Katara placed a hand on his shoulder, noting that he was only wearing his robes, and hadn't put on his parka yet.
"Your parka?" she asked, his eyes darting to meet her own.
"That's it! Thanks, Katara!" he grinned at her, before pacing over to pick up his parka, which he quickly slung on, before turning to face the Water Tribe siblings, "How do I look?"
"Like you're pretending you're from the Water Tribe." Sokka nonchalantly commented, the twelve year old boy pouting slightly, thinking that he had made a mistake in wearing clothes more suitable to the environment.
"Don't listen to him, Aang." she stressed, "It looks fine. Your hair's a little messy though." she gestured to the black scruff on his scalp, which was just getting long enough that he even had a little fringe at the top of his forehead.
"Oh." he touched his short locks, grimacing slightly as he ran his hands through them, "It doesn't look bad, though?"
"No, it's fine." she assured him, "Just go to your waterbending lesson. We'll be there soon enough." she assured him, the young Avatar chuckling, eyeing Sokka with suspicion.
"How bad are you going to beat him, Sokka?"
"Until he lets Katara waterbend or goes crying to the Chief." he clarified, making him wince.
"Ooh... that's gonna hurt." he mumbled, looking as if he could imagine the beating Master Pakku was to receive, "I better learn something before his mood gets ruined." he acknowledged, the Water Tribe warrior letting out a hearty laugh.
"Ahahahah! That's a good one, Aang!" he commended him, which was a little funny in and of itself; he was only observing what might happen to the waterbending master, which Sokka was obviously going to enjoy.
Once he'd regained his composure, he pointed a finger at Aang, "Now, scram. You wanted to get there early? Go!"
The young Avatar nodded, before waving to them, darting out of the door of their igloo; Katara turned back to face her brother, and wondered what was going through his head- probably thinking of some lines to dish out at Pakku, knowing him and his love of a good joke. He scooped some more of the seaweed stew into his mouth, before licking his lips.
"This could've used a bit more meat."
"Do you know how much meat you ate last night, Sokka?"
"Not enough." he sighed, "I was already filled up from that late lunch we got with the igloo. These people really know how to treat us... except the waterbending part. They're just being a bunch of dummies with that." he added, the Water Tribe girl nodding, thinking her brother was right.
"Yeah, they're really generous with giving us this big feast, but they didn't give me what I actually came here for." she sighed, raising her hand up, as if she was cursing at Master Pakku himself, "What's with these people? They just think because I'm a girl, I'm somehow not capable of fighting with my waterbending. That's stupid."
"You see, the real message I've got is that the Southern Water Tribe, we're smart. We mightn't be rich, or have a fancy wall to keep the Fire Nation out, but we're ready to do what needs to be done to help our people, to become our best selves." Sokka argued, making her smile, thinking that was a nice way of putting it.
They lived lives with fairness and equity, at least compared to the other nations, and every person in their tribe was able to fulfil their potential, if they had the capacity for it; Katara didn't have a waterbending master to learn from, so she had to go to the one place where they had other masters, except they didn't even want to teach her. She wished there was another bender in the Southern Water Tribe, somebody who could have taught her how to wield her element; she never even had a chance, and it infuriated her.
"Yeah, Sokka, you're right." she agreed with her brother, before taking another bite out of her seaweed stew, "I just wish people here had even just half your brains. Maybe then someone would actually teach me."
"Did you just call them a bunch of idiots?" he narrowed his eyes at her, before scrunching his lips, "Am I an idiot?"
"N-no! That's not what I was saying, Sokka." she stressed, "I'm saying that if they were smarter, I'd have a master, because it's just stupid to not teach me because of these stupid rules."
"Uh-huh." he nodded, "Maybe we should educate them about how we civilised people live in the South Pole with respect and decency." he made a high and uppity sounding voice, which made her snicker, covering her mouth to make sure she didn't spurt out any of the stew.
"Just let me eat my breakfast, Sokka." she raised a hand, her brother smugly grinning at her for a few moments before he dug back into his meal.
She was already close to finishing her own, and she would say she enjoyed it; the opportunity to have some proper Water Tribe food again was a blessing, especially after flying on Appa with only rice crackers to eat. She glanced over to Momo, and noted that he hadn't been given any food yet; she decided to pick out some dried seaweed that they'd been given as part of their pantry of sorts. She broke a bit off, and wagged it at the flying-lemur, who turned her way with interest.
"Oh, did you want this?" she asked him, the lemur slowly approaching her, before he snagged it out of her hand, scurrying over to a corner of the igloo where he could stay warm, that being Aang's sleeping roll, and began to chew on it.
Sokka raised his arms up, and yawned, before smiling, "Ah, that was a good breakfast." he beamed, before rising up to his feet, "I feel like I'm in a beating up a waterbending master mood."
"You don't seem like you're very angry." she acknowledged, her brother chuckling.
"Oh, I don't need to be angry. I'm excited. I want to rub the smug look off his face when he thinks that he's the toughest guy around. And then I'm going to force him to apologise. It'll be funny to watch, and you'll have a master at the end of it." he explained, before stretching his arms, "Ah, I just need to get into my warrior's tunic."
"Wait... seriously?" she raised a brow at him, not thinking he was going to do that.
"Well, it was either that or walking up dressed as a Fire Nation soldier, but I think that'd be a little too... out there." he conceded the absurdity of that idea; she thought it would be funny if he did, but of course, people might take it the wrong way if he walked around looking like he was an enemy of their people, "Plus, I am a warrior, Katara." he stressed the fact, making her snicker.
"Oh, are you? I thought you were Azula's assistant." she mocked him, Sokka crossing his arms and rolling his eyes.
"Ha-ha, very funny." he sarcastically retorted, before scrunching his lips up, "Even if you're technically correct." he added with a quieter voice, before he spoke louder once more, "Anyway, I need to be dressed like a warrior if I'm going to face this guy down. This is a duel of honour, for our tribe, and for you; I'm taking this seriously."
"No, I got that, Sokka." she acknowledged, before she stretched her neck by twisting it a little, "I'm almost a little disappointed I won't be fighting."
"It's better if you avoid that. I know you're good, but this guy, at least while he can bend, will be a serious threat." he warned, "I don't want you to get hurt."
"Yeah, and what if you get hurt?"
"Ah, it won't be that bad." he assured her, "I can handle a little ice, and plus, I'll have you there to unfreeze me if things really do go sideways." he added, the Water Tribe girl nodding.
'Well, uh, I'll just wait for you to get dressed up, then." she decided, moving to sit over on her sleeping roll, idly glancing toward the water skin she had sitting beside it; she remembered Azula's first lesson, and furrowed a brow, wondering how much better she would be at just bending the water with her breathing.
She decided to test it out, crossing her legs and closing her eyes for a few moments, and reached out to the water skin; she began to slowly breath in and out, and quickly enough was able to sense the water moving with her breath. She then began to deepen her breaths, making them longer and more drawn out; she felt herself calming, her mind completely focused on the water skin, which she began to lift and drop with each breath. She smiled, imagining the water to be like waves lapping up against a beach, coming back and forth, the mass of water never moving too far in, or drawing too far back.
She remembered her faulty training session with Azula at the beach, and the golden flames she had produced; she made a small smile, knowing that love was the one thing that she knew could power bending more than anger or hate. Of course, emotions were far more important for firebending, but with waterbending, she needed to be in emotional stability too; she could derive power from anger, the kind that she felt over what happened to her mother, but she could take it from love just the same.
The smiles on the faces of her friends, the goodness that she could see in all of them, even Azula, and the care they held for each other, and the world. They wanted to do what was right, even if the Princess didn't want to call it good; that's what it was, and she was proud of what she was doing. Aang was going to change the world for the better, and they'd be there by his side, helping him every step of the way. Not to hold him up, because he required their help, but because they were stronger together than they were apart.
"Katara." she heard Sokka speak up, breaking her out of her near trance that she had been in; she dropped the water skin, and turned her gaze back toward him, noting that her brother was dressed in his warrior's garbs.
"Where's the face-paint?" she asked, remembering last time he'd put his outfit on, he'd been wearing his wolf-like face-paint.
"Not today." he conceded, "I can't be bothered, and honestly, I'd rather he see my face. I'm Sokka- Sokka is going to kick Pakku's arse, not some random warrior." he added, making her chuckle.
"Well, you will." she acknowledged, her brother gesturing to the door of the igloo, "Are we going to get going or what? I don't mean to say we should interrupt Aang's training, but we ought to get you learning waterbending as quickly as possible." he asked her, the Water Tribe girl glancing around.
"Uh... I need to do my hair." she excused herself, knowing that she actually hadn't put it yet; she could have gone without, but she didn't want messy hair getting all over the place, in case she did need to intervene and help Sokka, if Pakku proved more trouble than expected.
He stepped over to the doorway, narrowing his eyes at her, "Be quick." he simply requested, before he left the igloo, leaving her alone; she needed a few moments just to collect herself- she had to be ready to face Pakku.
She picked up her hairbands, which were in her bag, and began to braid her tresses back; with her fingers weaving around, she let her mind focus on what she was going to, or more accurately, going to witness. She had waited so long to get a waterbending master, and now she was going to see her future master get beaten by her brother, a boy who she considered in the past to be an amateur warrior; Sokka was no longer that, and he had learned more than how to fight while he was with Azula. He had become wiser, and with that wisdom, he could see the clear wrongs that they were facing; once, her brother had been sexist and ignorant, perhaps somewhat like the Northern Water Tribe themselves, though he never denied her her bending.
He was ignorant of bending, perhaps by choice; their mother had died because of bending- her bending, and thus, he probably thought it was the root of all evil. Perhaps that was the other layer to his intended beatdown; he wanted to prove that benders weren't all they were made out to be- that bending was not necessary, even if he wanted her to be taught it. She didn't agree with his argument, though she could understand it; he was a non-bender, and he probably wished he could have been born a bender, if only so he could be more able to fight- he got the crap kicked out of him by Azula, even after he had basically mastered chi-blocking.
Bending however, was her way forward, and she was going to confront Master Pakku so she could gain the skills that she knew she needed. Even though Sokka was going to be the one to fight him, she would be there to watch, and make sure she could see what excuses the waterbending master gave and how he tried to defend his stupid traditions. More than anything, she wanted to see the waterbending master falter, and then watch as he realised his ignorance. The Northern Water Tribe was wrong, and she was going to prove it.
"Come on, Katara, I'm pretty sure they already will have started. You don't want to be late." he stressed, the Water Tribe girl chuckling; her brother was assuming that as soon as he beat Pakku, he would concede and start training Katara- she thought that it would take a few beatings, and if necessary, Azula, to achieve what she wanted.
"Late?" she scoffed, before rising back up to her feet, pacing after her brother, who was already dressed and ready; when she stepped out of the igloo she looked at his attire once more, noting that he was completely unarmed barring his boomerang slung over his back.
"Yeah, late." he narrowed his eyes at her, "You actually want to, you know, go to the lesson, right?"
"Well, you're assuming that he's going to let me join after you beat him up." she acknowledged, her brother letting out a little snicker.
"Katara, I'm going to give this guy a beatdown. A serious beatdown."
"He's old." she noted, "Hopefully you don't hurt him too much."
"Oh, yeah, can I ask for a favour?" his expression became more serious.
"What kind of favour?"
"If he freezes my feet to the ground or something like that, just unfreeze them. I can't waterbend, so it's a little unfair if I'm just stuck there. A water blast to the face I can tolerate, but if I can't move, I won't be able to throw my boomerang, let alone chi-block." he acknowledged, the Water Tribe girl raising her eyebrows, a little confused by what he was suggesting.
"But wouldn't that make it not really fair?" she asked him, "In a duel, it's meant to be equal and fair, so if I help, it's pretty much cheating."
"You think I want to play by the rules?" he snickered at her words, "I just want to get you a waterbending master. That's all that matters. My dignity as a warrior can be sacrificed for that."
"Uh, thanks, Sokka." she smiled at him, glad for his dedication.
He was willing to do anything he could to get Master Pakku to teach her, and seeing that Aang's persuasion had failed, Sokka's option was the only reasonable one left; she was unsure that she could beat the waterbending master herself in a one on one duel, even if she'd gotten a lot better at waterbending over the past few weeks. The siblings began to pace along the path away from their igloo, heading toward the palace, where Aang had gone, and thus, where Pakku would be, training his students. It was rather closeby, and she could already see the staircase once she and Sokka had moved out of the complex of igloos and other houses that dotted the edge of the palace district. The staircase was rather long, but she didn't fret, the two of them making their way up them without any relent.
"So, was there anything else you were going to do today?" she asked her brother, who glanced her way with an unsure face.
"Maybe check out if Zhao's scrolls were right." he considered, "If the Moon and Ocean Spirits really are in material form in some magic pond, then I'll need to make sure I know how to get there. Whenever Azula shows up, we'll need to be ready to apprehend the Admiral."
"Oh, so we're going to capture him?" she mumbled, "Is his firebending any good?"
"Well, Zuko beat him in an Agni Kai, so he's definitely not as good as him... but Zuko beat Azula too. I don't really have a good comparison, but I'm going to guess he can't be the greatest. Enough for Azula to handle. If his men turn on her, though, she'll need some back up, other than Ty Lee, obviously." he theorised, Katara nodding along.
"Uh-huh." she mumbled, before turning her gaze up the staircase, "Are we going to train for that?"
"I don't think we'll need to. The worst case scenario is that his fleet decides to try and avenge him by attacking the North Pole, but I doubt anybody in his forces are stupid enough to try that." he declared, before furrowing a brow, "I think they'd prefer to follow Azula than die in a fight they probably won't win."
"The Fire Nation seems to love their fighting, though." she mumbled, finding it disturbing to consider how much conquering and fighting they'd done, and dressed it all up as 'spreading prosperity', as Azula loved to spout.
"Oh, they do, but they're not stupid... or at least, I hope they aren't." he conceded, before grimacing, "If Azula stuffs up, we may be dealing with something bigger than we can deal with."
"Aang's the Avatar. I'm sure he could beat them if they came here." she guessed; even if she had no evidence to really claim that, after what he'd done to those Fire Nation ships that were fighting each other, she felt confident in saying he could beat an invading fleet, even if it took a lot of time.
"Maybe." he mumbled, "We can only hope that's the case."
"Probably won't happen." she decided, "Azula's really good at scaring people."
"That she is," he acknowledged, before grimacing slightly, "but I have a feeling she doesn't want to be doing that forever. She wants to be a leader- somebody who can inspire the Fire Nation to the future she wants for it."
"The future we all want for it. Peace is... peace is better than what we have right now."
"Even if Ozai's sitting in chains, but still somehow inspiring half a country against his son." he sighed, "If only it would be that easy to get people to support Azula."
"Well, one of them is going to win eventually." she guessed, not really knowing much about the Fire Nation's civil war, but she did know things about war and fighting, "The Fire Nation will become whole, and let's just hope that whole isn't run by the guy who burnt half his son's face off."
"I think even Azula can agree with that." he acknowledged, before grimacing, "Though that's probably only because she doesn't think she could fight her father."
"Did she say that to you?" she asked her brother, who shook his head.
"Not directly, but from how she speaks about him, I know she probably doesn't want to. She doesn't agree with everything the guy has done, but he's still her dad." he acknowledged, before turning his gaze ahead, noting they were near the top of the staircase, "Here we go, Katara."
"Here we go." she smiled at him, hoping to inspire a little bit of confidence into him; when they reached the top, they both made sight of Pakku, who was showing Aang some forms, though the young Air Nomad immediately took note of them as they began to approach.
"Are you really that lazy?" the waterbending master chided his student, throwing some water toward him, which he caught, "What's so distracting?" he questioned the Avatar, who nervously pointed toward his friends.
Pakku eyed them both, and rolled his eyes, "Great, it's the 'beatdown', isn't it?" he asked his new student once more, earning a nod; he turned back to face the siblings as they approached, both of them coming to a halt once they were comfortably close enough, "Well, what are you waiting for, warrior?" he mocked Sokka, "Going to fight me?"
"Fight is the wrong word." he clarified, turning to face Katara for a moment, "A fight would be a fair battle between two people who have comparable strengths, and can defend against each other, like if Katara was to duel you with her waterbending."
"Well, if you're not a bender, you're not going to be a problem." he declared, "Unless you're some kind of strategic genius, but that smug look on your face is more telling of a cocky idiot." he deduced, rather incorrectly; her brother was cocky, but he had a good reason to be.
"Oh, I wouldn't call myself a genius, that's reserved for her royal highness." he conceded, making the master narrow his eyes at him.
"I don't know how someone like you even came to know Princess Azula, but you certainly don't look to be comparable to what I've heard about her." he declared, before creating two water whips from the pond, "So stand still... that way it'll hurt less."
"Sokka, now would be a good time to do something." Katara warned him, the Water Tribe warrior smirking, grasping his boomerang from its holster on his back.
Pakku immediately thrust his arms forward, his water whips moving to strike Sokka; the Water Tribe warrior was faster, and threw his boomerang out into the air, purposefully throwing it right past his head. The water whips ensnared his arms, and then froze, locking his arms in place while he stood there, unable to do much while the waterbending master approached.
"You didn't do anything, you just threw a boomerang." he scoffed, "I shouldn't expect better from some southern drivel." he rolled his eyes, Katara snarling, ready to pull out some water and whack him in the face for saying that; Sokka turned to face her immediately, his eyes stopping her from moving another muscle.
"Katara, patience." he simply warned her, "Patience is a great weapon."
"Okay, so you're pretending to be a strategic genius." Pakku crossed his arms, smugly looking at the two of them, "Go back to your igloo if you want your friend to continue his waterbending training, so, you know, he can-" he began to deride them, before he was struck in the back of the neck by Sokka's boomerang; perfect timing, if you asked her.
"What was that?" the Water Tribe warrior mockingly asked him, "He can what?" he asked for him to finish his sentence, turning his head to act like he couldn't hear.
"You insolent brat." he snarled, rising back up to his feet, rubbing his neck; Sokka, unsurprisingly, began to laugh, "What, you think this is funny?! I'll show you something funny." he growled at him, moving back into a waterbending stance; he motioned his hands forward, only to find that he couldn't waterbend.
"Oh, this is funny." the Water tribe warrior declared, before clearing his throat, "Katara, could you just, you know?" he tilted his head toward his frozen hands, to which she motioned her hands, unfreezing the water and allowing him to shake the liquid off them.
"Ah..." he smiled, turning his gaze to Pakku, who was still utterly confused by what was going on, "So, you were going to show me funny? I'll show you something funny, Master Pack-koo." he purposely mispronounced his name just to piss him off further.
The waterbending master stepped back, once again moving into a bending form, reaching his right hand back toward the pond next to them; he failed to pick up any water, and Sokka jabbed him a number of times in the chest, making him grunt, before his legs fell beneath his feet.
"What in the name of Tui and La is this?" he shouted at him with a snarl; the Water Tribe warrior snickered at his words, before stepping behind him.
Before Pakku could even get his hands underneath himself, so he could get back up to his feet, Sokka had planted a foot firmly on his back, keeping him there while he gave his speech.
"Now, Master Pakku, I'd like you to apologise to my sister for being a sexist arse." he gestured toward Katara, "And teach her waterbending so that one day, she can be the one doing the arse-kicking and not me."
"You bastard." he growled, "You can chi-block." he deduced, Sokka laughing, before he slapped his thigh.
"That I can, buddy." he confirmed, "Congratulations for knowing what chi-blocking is, but I'm not leaving until you submit."
"I won't break my will to the likes of you." he snarled, "Dishonest shits." he narrowed his eyes up at Katara, who glared him down with the same hateful intent.
"Oh, you think just because you're a master and you've spent all your time playing with water that means you're an authority on who should even be able to waterbend?" she scoffed at what his words had already suggested to her, "Because that's not how the world works. I need waterbending, and you need to teach me."
"I won't..." he mumbled, before Sokka pushed his foot down harder on the master's back.
"Sorry, what? You won't?" he pretended like he had trouble hearing him, "Maybe you should speak a little louder."
"I won't teach the likes of you." he spoke up louder, the Water Tribe warrior raising his left hand out to the side.
"Okay, well, Aang, get me my boomerang." he requested of the young Avatar, making Pakku growl, turning his eyes toward Aang.
"If you pick up that boomerang, you aren't my student anymore." he threatened him, the young Air Nomad cringing; he didn't want to do that, obviously enough, so the only other capable person would have to do it.
Katara rolled her eyes, reaching her hand forward, liquifying the ice beneath the boomerang, creating a tentacle of water out of the ice, which reached up toward her brother's hand, allowing him to grab his weapon.
"Thanks, Katara." he grinned at her, before gesturing his weapon down toward Pakku, "You see that, waterbending skills... all that potential, and you can teach her."
"Shut up." he snarled, "I'm not doing anything." he retorted, Sokka kneeling down on his back, making the waterbending master gasp out for air.
"Argh!" he grit his teeth, "Are you trying to kill me?!" he shouted at him, the Water Tribe warrior shaking his head.
"Of course not. This is coercion, not torture." he clarified his intentions, making his sister snicker; given her brother's skills, he probably could torture Pakku, though he was clearly above such heinous things, "Do you want to know why I'm doing this? Because you know, perspective really helps people make intelligent decisions." he asked, the master twisting his neck slightly so he could eye Sokka.
"I have no time for your sob story, boy. I will make you rue the day you treated me like this." he snarled, the Water Tribe warrior raising a finger.
"Now, now, you don't even know half the story. Yeah, you've probably heard about me from all shit Azula and I got up to, but there's more to this than her finding the Avatar."
"Hey, I was there too." Katara argued, her brother eyeing her with a slightly frustrated face.
"I'm telling the story." he raised a finger, before turning to face Pakku.
"It all started... well, I don't know how old Gran-Gran is... uh, but it must have been at least fifty years ago. The Fire Nation decided, for whatever insane reason, that they'd destroy the bending population of the South Pole; unlike here, where you have your big walls and lots of people, we couldn't defend ourselves, and pretty quickly, all the benders were taken away by the Fire Nation or killed. Katara was the first bender in our village for... well, a long time." he acknowledged, eyeing her with a sympathetic face, "First, I didn't like benders or bending, because I only knew about the Fire Nation- the Southern Raiders, who destroyed our tribe, but eventually, I came to understand it better. Azula taught me that." he explained, the waterbending master snarling at him.
"Whatever, why should I care?"
"Because I'm the last one left!" Katara shouted at him, "You think bending's important, right? Why can't you teach me?! Why can't you save our bending?!" she asked Pakku, trying to express the urgency and importance of what she was saying, but it didn't seem to get through his thick skull, because he just shook his head.
"That's not how things work here. You don't just get to learn bending here because nobody else can teach you. That's against our rules." he declared, Sokka putting his knee deeper into his back.
"Okay, another story... related to what I just told you. Our mother was killed by the Southern Raiders for Katara's sake, because they were looking for the last waterbender, and she's been wearing her necklace ever since, because that's how she remembers her. How I remember my mother is by doing what is right, which includes beating up pieces of shit, like yourself. Once I thought it was only the Fire Nation that was evil, but I've got a little perspective now... your ignorance is just as bad as some of the shit they spout."
Pakku looked up at Katara, his expression softening, "Oh... oh, no." he mumbled, the look on his face both fearful and sad, making her raise a brow, confused why Sokka's words had made his opinion change.
"Oh?" the Water Tribe warrior almost smiled upon realising his shift in emotions, "Are you going to cry for 'the sob story', now? I really thought you were a heartless piece of shit."
"He said that was your mother's necklace." he looked up toward the necklace she wore around her neck, making Katara instinctively touch it.
"Yeah, it was." she confirmed, before she narrowed her eyes at him, "Why is it important?"
"Because I made that necklace." he clarified, the Water Tribe girl looking at her brother, who seemed equally confused as she was, "There's only one reason why your mother could have had that necklace."
"And what would that be, Master Pakku?" he asked him, "Why'd you make this necklace?"
"It was the betrothal necklace I made for my beloved, Kanna." he explained, making Katara's eyes widen, and Sokka scoff.
"Oh you've got to be kidding me. No wonder Gran-Gran left the Northern Water Tribe." he shook his head, simply disappointed by the revelation, "Congratulations, your shitheaded nature is the only reason we exist." he raised his hands into the air, as to state the importance of their existence, "So, Aang, thank Master Pakku for being a dick, because of that you're out of that iceberg."
"Uh... thanks, I guess." the young Avatar awkwardly waved toward the master, who sighed, looking back toward Katara.
"So, Kanna is your grandmother?" he asked her, the Water Tribe girl nodding.
"Yeah." she nodded, before narrowing her eyes at him, "Sokka wasn't joking. It's your fault she left this place."
"It's my biggest regret." he sighed, Sokka letting his knee off of his shoulder, "I just wish I could have been a better man for her."
"Well, good luck at doing that." she scoffed, before narrowing her eyes, "Let me guess, that's what's going to change your mind."
"Y-yes..." he mumbled, "She deserved better." he acknowledged, "I have to make this right."
"Well, you can't bring back the Southern Waterbenders, or fix our tribe... though I guess you could try." she conceded, narrowing her eyes at him, "I'm pretty sure Sokka wouldn't like you to do that. And our Dad, he'd probably have some problems with that too."
"Yeah, Dad would not like you one bit." he warned him, "He's her son, by the way." he added, making Pakku grimace, before he pulled himself up with his arms to a seated position.
"But... I can teach you waterbending." he conceded, looking back up toward Katara with a regretful face, "I'm sorry."
"No." she crossed her arms, "I don't want to hear your apologies." she snarled, "You were going to deny me because of my sex, and you're only going to train me because of what you did to Gran-Gran." she simply observed the situation for what it was, "But I do want to learn waterbending, and I saw what you did yesterday. It was impressive." she conceded, kneeling down in front of him, to reach his level, "Please, teach me."
"I will, Katara." he assured her, "I must."
"Well, ain't this brilliant." Sokka sighed, crossing his arms, "I guess that does solve the problem."
"So what are you going to do now?" Katara asked her brother, who chuckled.
"Did you forget? I'm going to make sure waterbending can't be taken away." he clarified, before turning to face Pakku, "Oh, yeah, if you're wondering, I know how to get rid of waterbending, permanently."
"You weren't-" he looked at him with aghast face, Sokka chuckling.
"Of course not. Half the reason I'm here to make sure somebody can't do that. As much as I don't like bending, I'm not going to let it be taken away." he assured him, before crossing his arms, turning to eye Aang and Katara, "Well, you two enjoy your waterbending training... together."
She smiled at her brother's words, thankful for his assistance, "Thanks, Sokka." she grinned at him, before turning her gaze back to Pakku, who was getting movement in his legs once again, and from the look of the water he had in his right hand, he'd regained control over his bending.
"Uh... so, are we going to start now?" Aang asked, a little nervous after all that was said.
"Yes." their waterbending master clarified, "Just give me a moment. My legs aren't really working yet."
"So... uh, do you believe what I told you?" he asked him, eyeing back over toward Sokka, who was approaching the palace, already some distance away.
"Yes, your friend is very capable of fighting, I see that. Chi-blocking is a rare skill, but it's value cannot be underestimated." he acknowledged, "I would have preferred some warning, but I can see why you didn't. Very tactful of you, young Avatar." he commended him, "But you let this happen. I'm not going to let you off that easy." he warned him, Aang making an awkward smile.
"U-uh, yeah, okay, Master." he bowed toward him, "I'll make sure to be a good student from now on."
"As will I." Katara assured him, "Together, we'll be good students."