The Return @tubendo
Chapter 5

She expected a decaying ruin, but instead, when Azula bore witness to the Southern Air Temple, she was unnerved by what looked to her to be a place of tranquility; that peace was obviously wrought from the destruction of the Air Nomads, which made it all the more chilling. She guessed that the Air Temples had always been secluded and peaceful, away from the concerns of the world, but now they were isolated in a far more disturbing way; she was unsure if any people had lived in the Southern Air Temple ever since the destruction of the Air Nomads all those years ago, though she guessed some hardy adventurers had taken the treacherous journey up the mountain to reach the towers of the temple, her brother included in the ranks of those few who were either crazy or desperate enough to try it.

Of course, it was a lot easier for them to get there, taking the traditional method of transportation, that being sky-bison, to reach the grounds of the temple; she turned her eyes toward Sokka, who was both in awe of the majesty of the place they had arrived at, as well as unnerved by the dark story that would forever haunt it. The young Avatar, however, was far less concerned than they were, seeming giddy to have returned home; he had been gone for a century, and probably wanted to see how it had changed, but she knew that he would not like the changes, not one bit.

"There it is, Southern Air Temple." he simply gestured to it, "I'm glad we're back home, buddy." the Air Nomad patted the neck of his sky-bison, who groaned in response, "Yeah, yeah, I know you were born at the Eastern Air Temple. I wasn't born here either. It's the memories that count." he argued; whether he was just joking around or actually thinking that Appa could communicate with him was beside the point, as it seemed to be rather childish in her point of view.

Katara, however, seemed to hold a different perspective on his childishness, and actually laughed along with him; Sokka was indifferent, his eyes more so focused on the massive structure they were approaching rather than the young Avatar's comments.

"It's amazing, Aang." the Water Tribe girl acknowledged, before she turned around to face the other two, with a similar look on her face to that which her brother had; she didn't need to utter a word, because they could all see it in each other's eyes.

As they got closer to the temple proper, Aang directed Appa down to land by the base of the temple, which truly showed the enormity of the structure as the towers of the temple soared above them, making Azula's eyes widen; it was far bigger than her old home, the Fire Nation Royal Palace, which she thought was one of the largest structures in the world.

Being reminded of what the Air Nomads built only made her feel more uneasy by what she was seeing; she didn't know what had happened after Sozin won, but she would have expected her great-grandfather to tear down the temples, but she realised that she might have been projecting her image of her father onto him. Perhaps he just left the temple to rot, as a reminder of what once was; a reminder of the world that existed before he decided that the home islands weren't enough for the Fire Nation. She agreed with his ideas in principle, knowing that the colonies, one way or another, were the only way to deal with the overpopulation that had begun to occur in their homeland, and that the development of the Earth Kingdom, would in the end, benefit the people who remained, But she wasn't under the idiotic presuppostion that wiping out the Air Nomads, who were pacifists and would have left him alone to complete his conquests, was a sound idea that was completely justified by the ends. Ironically, if the boy who was leading them into his home had been there when it was attacked, perhaps his people might have survived, instead of all of them being killed under the pretense of getting rid of him, all while he was frozen at the South Pole, out of Sozin's reach.

As Appa settled down by the base of the temple, Aang jumped off of the saddle, gesturing to the rest of them to follow, "Come on, I'll show you around. This place is a lot bigger than your village." he told them, the Water Tribe teens looking at each other with slight unease.

She knew why, knowing that their tribe had nearly befallen the same fate as the Air Nomads; losing all their benders was, in the end, a mercy they had received, instead of the complete destruction of their tribe. She climbed off of the saddle and landed on the ground beside Aang, glancing up the pathway with interest.

"And what exactly are you going to show us?" she gave some interest, knowing that she ought to distract him from the fact that his people no longer existed.

"Oh, well, there's so much stuff here." he beamed at her, before pointing up the path, "Most of it is up the path... including the sanctuary, so we'll go this way." he explained, the Princess nodding before turning her eyes up to the two Water Tribe siblings; she didn't need to say anything, as they immediately climbed down off of Appa's saddle, and followed after her and Aang as he led them along the winding path that would take them to the top of the temple.

As they followed, Katara cleared his throat, beginning what she guessed would be a long tirade of questions for the young Avatar, "So, did other people come to the Southern Air Temple when you were around here... or was it just all monks?"

"Well... I heard that past Avatars came here to train in airbending, but usually, the mountains are too treacherous for others to climb. Without a flying bison, it'd be... well, almost impossible." he admitted, Azula considering for a moment the kind of power the firebenders who attacked the temples might have wielded; she guessed that Sozin's Comet made all of them powerful enough that they could fly up with their own bending.

When the comet had passed about two years prior, she hadn't taken much notice of it, the situation of her father leading the conquest of Ba Sing Se being a far more pressing issue at the time, but she didn't relent to test out her bending at the time; she wasn't surprised to see that her already potent firebending was immensely powerful. She had sent a fire stream above the courtyard that probably lit up the entire city below a bright blue; it was both amazing and terrifying at the same time. The most exhilarating bending experience she had ever had, but all the same, it showed her the pure power of firebending, in all its destructive force. She had always been controlled in her forms and techniques, but on the day of the comet, her bending had been uncontrollable. To think what might have happened to the Air Nomads, when far less competent firebenders came up to fight them; she was sure that it would have been a very one sided fight.

"And what did you guys eat?" Sokka raised a brow, making Azula snort; his mind always seemed to go to food.

"Oh, lots of things. Fruitcakes, nuts, berries and anything else we can grow. The mountains are cold... but there's still a lot of life here." he told him with an eager smile, although it faltered, probably thinking over his statement about 'life'.

"They're not that cold." Azula retorted, gesturing to her body, and the fact that she was no longer wearing her furs, "This is the warmest place I've been to in six whole months outside of a tent and those Southern Raider ships."

"Huh... I guess you have a point." he mumbled, "Not as cold as the South Pole, but it's pretty cold." he conceded, before he began to increase his pace, "Come on, we can go faster."

"And why didn't we just land Appa up here?" Sokka retorted as he struggled to follow behind uphill.

"Because you're not meant to land your sky-bison anywhere. That's just being rude." he argued, making the three outsiders look at each other, all with the same thought in mind; it didn't exactly matter about being rude if there was no one there.

"But... uh- back to what I was saying, where can I get something to eat?" the Water Tribe boy reoriented their conversation, making both sister and girlfriend look at him with the same faces.

"You're lucky enough to be one of the first outsider ever to visit an airbender temple, and all you can think about is food?" she asked him, the Water Tribe teen gesturing up to the sky, which was almost a blood orange as the sun set behind the mountains.

"It's dinner-time, Katara. I got off of Appa thinking we were about to get some food."

"There will be food!" Aang assured him with a grin, "We just need to get up to where the fruit-trees are. Then you'll have nothing to complain about." he told him, his tone nearly passive-aggressive; the thought of a twelve-year-old telling off her boyfriend made Azula want to laugh at him, but she refrained, knowing that she was concerned about greater things than her own amusement at that moment.

As they climbed up to the top of the long path, Azula took note of the expansive grounds of the temple before them, where she could see a stadium filled with numerous tall poles, as well as a number of courtyards filled with trees. The whole place seemed rather peaceful, and the autumn leaves painted the ground orange, but she found it to be eerie, with no people present whatsoever. She would have expected some native wildlife to be crawling about, but she didn't see any of them either.

"So, that's where my friends and I would play airball," he gestured to the stadium, "and over there is where the bison would sleep," he then pointed to a number of cavities in a rock face that seemed rather Appa-sized, "and..." he cut himself off with a sigh, looking around at the grounds with a saddened expression.

She stepped up beside him, unsure what to say; to her luck, Katara spoke up before she made a fool of herself, "What's wrong?"

"This place used to be full of monks and lemurs and bison. Now there's just a bunch of weeds." he admitted, his voice dropping as he continued to lament, "I can't believe how much things have changed."

"That's what a hundred years does." Azula simply commented on the fact of the matter, "I'd be happy if I were you. At least no one has ransacked the temple."

"At least?" he raised a brow with confusion, "What do you mean at least?" he asked her accusingly, the Princess clearing her throat; she didn't want to reveal what she knew, but she wasn't feeling in the mood to flat out lie to a boy who had lost everything- he at least deserved to know what had become of the other Air Temples.

"According to some documents I read during my short time as Princess Regent of the Fire Nation, the Northern Air Temple is inhabited by a number of Earth Kingdom refugees who are being coerced by War Minister Qin to make weapons for the Fire Nation. They've supposedly rebuilt the place to make it more suitable for their needs... so, they're tearing down the temple."

"Wh-what?" he gasped with shock, his surprise shared by both Sokka and Katara, who never learned about the Northern Air Temple, although that was because she never thought it had been relevant until that very moment, "That's horrible. Why would they do that? Do they know how many generations of monks they're disrespecting?"

"Probably not. Most people are a lot more ignorant than me." she admitted, "If it's any consolation, they've probably been evicted ever since this whole civil war began, seeing that my brother would probably want to seize said weapons for himself." she explained, making Aang sigh with frustration.

"Huh..." he mumbled, "I guess this is better than that. At least I can see the place I remember, even if no one's here."

"That's both good and bad news." Katara voiced her opinion, "Why didn't you mention that at all? Did you not think he ought to know what had happened?"

"I didn't think it was relevant until now. But seeing that you'll probably want to go there on your journey north, I made an effort to tell you." she explained herself, the Water Tribe girl narrowing her eyes at him.

"Wow, yeah, an effort." she mocked her words, before she turned to Aang with a more sympathetic face, "Sorry about her."

"No, you don't have to be sorry. At least she gave me the honest truth. It would have been a bigger let down to arrive, see that there's people and then realise that it's a bunch of people who have just ruined the place I remember." he sighed before looking down at the cliff-face, before Sokka cleared his throat.

"Maybe we should go get Appa. If we're camping out here, we're going to need our things." he suggested, the young Avatar's eyes widening.

"Oh, yeah, of course." he nodded, glancing back toward the empty temple grounds for a moment, "There's probably a lot of free space now." he admitted, before he turned around, "We'll need to walk all the way back down."

"Really?" the Water Tribe warrior asked him in an exasperated tone.

He raised a brow in thought, his eyes widening with realisation, "Wait!" he exclaimed before he face-palmed, "I completely forgot." he pulled out his staff, "I can just glide down. Give me a minute."

"Oh... I forgot as well." Sokka admitted, before they got out of the young Avatar's way as he ran back down the path, using his airbending to launch himself off of it and into the air; he flew around with a giddy look on his face, showing off his airbending skills before he made his way back down toward his sky-bison.

Azula looked toward the two Water Tribe siblings, who both sighed with uneased looks on their faces, "I'm trying to ease him into it here. You don't want to throw him into the depths here." she warned, Katara raising a brow at her.

"Sorry, I'm bad because I want to try and make sure he's feeling happy."

"If that happiness is bound to fall eventually, then you should at least let him know beforehand. Who knows what might happen if he gets all angsty?"

"What are you so afraid of?" she narrowed her eyes at the Princess, who sighed, returning around to look out over the empty temple grounds.

"To be blamed for something that I'm not responsible for."

"No one's saying you destroyed the Air Nomads, Azula." she retorted, making her clench her fists.

"My ancestor did all this. He's responsible, and because I'm his descendant, I bear the weight of his actions. I get the chance to be Fire Lord, but I also get to hold the burden of every past Fire Lord. Do you think he'll trust me when he sees what Sozin did?" she questioned her, with a growing tone of unease and anger; Katara shrunk back, realising that she had struck a nerve, but Azula didn't prod her for a response, she simply began to walk away, up along the path toward another part of the temple.

She heard Sokka's footsteps behind her, and although she considered demanding that he leave her alone, she decided to relent, knowing that she needed his advice more than ever, "Azula, wait."

She stopped in her tracks, turning her heels to look at her boyfriend, who approached her with a concerned look on his face; if he had been thinking about finding food before then, he no longer was, as his focus was directed right to her. That level of focus was something that made her know that he truly cared; if he loved food so much, and was willing to ignore it for her, that meant that he cared for her even more. It made her feel a twitch of anger, knowing that the first person to truly care for her above all others was someone not even from her nation, let alone someone who had such a different worldview to her. He was a Water Tribe peasant, but even then, he still cared for someone like her.

"Just spit it out already." she demanded, the Water Tribe boy stepping toward her slowly, offering out a hand.

"Aang won't blame you. He's a nice kid. Even if your great-grandfather was the one who caused all this, that doesn't mean you're the same person just because you want his job." he assured her, "And I don't blame you. This isn't your fault. It's a horrible thing, sure, but you don't have to be angry about something you had no choice in the matter of."

"It's not my fault, but that doesn't matter. Even if Aang forgives me, there's a whole world out there who knows my name. Princess Azula, the crazy heir of Fire Lord Ozai, thank the spirits she's not on the throne."

"I'm sure there isn't anyone saying that." he tried to reassure her, making her snicker.

"Oh, you've only met a few higher-ups in the Fire Nation. There's a thin line between fear and respect, and I know that I was far more skilled at scaring people than getting them to like me." she admitted bluntly, "It's the same idea, but in the end, which person are they going to prefer as their Fire Lord, huh?"

"The one who can run the country the best?" he questioned her, ignoring her words and giving her the answer that she would have preferred; she was clearly more competent than her brother, and thus should be by virtue running the Fire Nation.

"Oh, how I wish that was the case. You think, Mayor Morishita only joined us back in Yu Dao because he was more afraid of me than he trusted Zuko." she recalled, making the Water Tribe teen grimace.

"I mean, you can't be-" he began to suggest, the Princess raising a hand.

"Cut the bullshit, Sokka." she growled, "I know where I fucked up. Could you at least acknowledge it as well?"

"You want me to tell you your faults?" he questioned her skeptically, "I don't need to tell you your faults. You're a smart woman, you already know them. I need to tell you what's good about you, because you need to know that. Everyone's their harshest critic, and... you're pretty harsh on others." he tried to reassure her, before closing the gap between them, as he placed a hand on her shoulder.

"I don't need your pity." she narrowed her eyes at him, "I need a way to fix this." she gestured to her own face, "I've fucked my own life into nothingness. I became no one, and now, if I ever return to my homeland, I'll be hunted down and thrown into prison. I need to become the Fire Lord that people will respect. The Avatar, the commoners, the Earth Kingdom, and even the Water Tribes. That's the only way that I'll ever be... as good as him."

"You're better." he retorted, "You're so much better. Yeah, he beat you in a duel, but a duel that you went into without the knowledge that he could even redirect your most powerful technique." he added, before narrowing his eyes at her, "You were going to do right by your nation, and the world. You want to be a better Fire Lord, to be better than you might have been otherwise. You already are better by admitting your flaws. How much introspection do you think your brother's doing now?"

"Probably a lot. He's stuck with Uncle, remember?" she reminded him, the Water Tribe boy's eyes widening.

"Okay, fair point. But has your brother experienced what you have?" he asked her a better question, to which she nodded, more impressed by his ability to find a positive angle rather than actually with the fact of the matter; she didn't like the fact she had been shipwrecked, or forced to prevent a Dai Li coup, or exiled herself to the Southern Water Tribe, even if all of those things gave her insight into being a better Fire Lord.

"No, he hasn't." she declared, the confidence returning to her voice, "You're not completely stupid, you know?"

"Oh, I'm aware." he smugly declared, before kissing her on the cheek.

The peck was only light, but it made her chest flutter, knowing that he was being honest and caring at the same time; it was only with him that those two things only ever seemed to come hand in hand. She rose to look into his eyes with a small smile on her face, before she turned around to look back to where Katara was standing by her lonesome.

"Perhaps I should apologise to Katara. This time, I was getting angry at her for no reason... actually... scratch that, she didn't apologise to me for before." she admitted, making Sokka snort, clearing amused by their little spat.

"Oh, what comes next ought to be a show." he declared, the Princess raising a brow.

"Are you suggesting that I fight your sister? That's quite bold, even for you, Sokka." she admitted with a surprised voice, the Water Tribe teen raising a hand.

"I didn't say that." he admitted, before smirking at her, "But that doesn't mean it won't happen. Katara's... well, you saw her yesterday." he reminded her, making Azula sigh.

"And I thought that I was demanding." she narrowed her eyes, "Your sister really needs to learn that just because we're around the same age doesn't mean she can demand I follow her principles. It's not like I'm nine years old or something."

"If you were nine I doubt you'd listen then either." he joked, making her smirk.

"Oh, from experience, I can confirm that." she declared, remembering fondly her times with Mai, Ty Lee and even her brother, which more than often led to her being told off by her mother; she didn't seem to understand her own definition of fun, which others might call bullying, but if she could see Mai and her brother now, Azula would declare that she was responsible for their little romance.

Comparing Katara to her mother was rather unnerving, although she didn't feel anywhere near as conflicted about ignoring her will, seeing that unlike her mother, the Princess had no desire to make her love her, seeing that she was not her mother. At the very most, in a far off future, she might be her sister-in-law, but that was about it. When she began to walk toward the Water Tribe girl, she found her attention drawn by Appa, who suddenly rose up, flying past them to continue climbing up the height of the temple; her eyes widened, realising from an alternate perspective how agile the sky-bison actually was. She heard him groan as he approached a nearby courtyard, forcing her to turn around and head back the way she had just gone; she and Sokka quickly made their way around to the courtyard where the sky-bison had landed, Aang already standing waiting for them.

"So, did you want to go find some berries to eat?" he asked them, Sokka salivating at the mention of food.

"I'm not a berry man, but I'm willing to give it a shot." he admitted, before he followed after Aang, who led him along in another direction, away from Appa.

The Princess rolled her eyes at her boyfriend's reaction, amused by the fact he could divert his attention so quickly when food was involved; she approached the sky-bison and patted him on the neck.

"Please don't sneeze on me again." she asked him, before she sat down, leaning up against one of his legs, which was covered in thick fur.

She sighed as she rested her legs, which were slightly sore from having to walk up the hill; lying around all day and then doing intense physical activity was not the most enjoyable experience, she had learned, closing her eyes for a moment while she leaned back on Appa's leg, letting herself be covered by the orange light of the setting sun.

She found her momentary peace broken by the sound of Katara's voice, "Where'd Sokka and Aang go?" she questioned, the Princess opening one eye, which she turned to gaze at the Water Tribe girl, who was standing in front of Azula with her hands resting on her hips.

"To find berries. I'm just resting for a bit while they do that." she explained herself, before closing both her eyes once more.

"Huh... so you're not going to unpack."

"Ever heard of apathy? You should try and use it some time. Might make you less of a tightarse." she suggested, making the Water Tribe girl stomp a foot on the ground; although she wasn't looking at her face, she guessed that her expression would have become very sour after hearing that.

"I'm not a... tightarse." she responded with a less eager voice than she expected, before she heard her back sliding up against one of Appa's other legs, sitting herself down nearby.

"Not in an argumentative mood, I see." she simply observed, Katara making a barely audible, but negative sounding groan.

"I don't want to argue. I just want to make sure Aang doesn't... you know... get all upset about his people."

"I don't think you can stop that from happening." she argued, giving her opinion bluntly without any insults on the side; though she wasn't going to apologise to the girl beside her, that didn't mean that she wanted to endlessly antagonise her.

"I'm guessing you're really experienced in lying." she guessed, making the Princess simply nod, glancing back toward the WWater Tribe girl as she opened her eyes.

"I am. I don't lie unless I have reason to do so, however." she admitted, making the Water Tribe girl raise a brow at her.

"That's what a serial liar would say." she narrowed her eyes at her suspiciously.

"You're not wrong... I guess you just have to trust my word." she raised a hand toward her, offering a rather simple choice; she could trust Azula, or she could not, and there was nothing that the Princess could do about her decision.

"So then, how do I not lie to Aang?" she simply inquired, the Princess sighing; the principled one wanted advice on how to avoid something that was rather hard to.

"You can avoid the truth, but it will come around eventually. It always does." she told her with an indifferent voice, "If you're going to tell the truth, you can be ambiguous. Ambiguity is a good way to make people believe the best; people love to believe the best possible outcome."

"Like how Aang wants to believe some Air Nomads must have survived?" she asked her, the Princess nodding.

"Exactly like that. Even if I told him to the contrary the day I met him, he will take any shred of doubt he can and hold onto it as hope. He wants to believe the Air Nomads lived on, that he is not the last of his kind." she told her, with a rather stern tone, trying to mask the unease she had begun to feel about that turn of events, "Sure, it's possible that there are some people today descended from Air Nomads, but it's impossible to say whether there's anyone around like him." she clarified, before turning away from Katara.

"So... he'll see... eventually. That's what you're saying?" she asked, the Princess shrugging her shoulders.

"Once he sees undeniable proof, then he'll understand. I wouldn't want to be around when that happens."

"Why is that?" she asked her, the Princess narrowing her eyes.

"I read about the Avatar having a certain power, where they channel their past lives to become even stronger; bending all the elements at once, overpowering everyone, like some kind of god." she explained, before she turned to Katara,

"The pain he might feel from learning the truth, that might lead to his past lives taking over... and then there mightn't be a temple standing afterwards." she suggested, making Katara's eyes widen with shock.

"Really?" she mumbled, looking terrified as she darted her eyes back the way Sokka and Aang ran off to.

"Yes, really." she confirmed, before sighing, turning her eyes back toward the setting sun, "I don't want to be around to see that, and you shouldn't either."

"We need to do something."

"I've already done something. I've told him everything truthfully. I've lessened the blow, and hopefully, he is able to accept what happened, and maybe even channel that pain into something useful." she suggested, filling her palm with a few small embers.

"Channel his pain..." she mumbled, before her eyes turned to her, now less afraid and more concerned, "What do you mean?"

"He needs to do his duty as the Avatar." she simply told her, before the flames in her palm grew bright, "The same as me. I need to do my duty as a Princess of the Fire Nation."

Katara looked at her silently for a few moments as her flames slowly petered out, "You're not going to let that go." she commented with a stoic glare.

"What do you take me for, a quitter?"

"You know, the berries you gave me were pretty good."

Aang's expression brightened, glad that Sokka was appreciating the food that they had gathered the night prior; he was thinking perhaps, being almost a carnivore, that he would find the berries gross, but instead, he found their sweetness to be great. He had gotten all giddy and made the others try it; he smiled at that memory, thinking it was the closest thing to a fun dinner that he'd had in while. Dinners weren't always fun, but when they were, Aang would savour them, more than the food they were eating.

"Oh, thanks Sokka. I'm sure that the-" he began to respond, only to find himself cut off by the Water Tribe boy.

"But nothing beats good ol' Water Tribe seal jerky!" he grinned before having a bite of the jerky.

"It's not that good, Sokka." Azula retorted, perhaps for the sake of it, and not because she didn't like jerky.

"Yeah, there's more in the world than just salted meat." Katara added, making her brother cross his arms.

"Well, I, for one, like cured meats. Though fried meat's good too." he admitted, before licking his lips, "Oh, as much as I don't want to get arrested, I'm really looking forward to going back to the colonies." he admitted, Aang raising a brow at him.

"Because you like Fire Nation food?" he asked in clarification, the Water Tribe warrior grinning at him.

"I sure do! They've got fried meat, spicy meat, fried and spicy meat, as well as a lot of things that aren't meat that are spicy!" he declared, making Azula face-palm, looking to be embarrassed by association.

"Urgh... yes, it's spicy." she sighed, before her eyes darted up to Katara, "I should have asked to take more of those Fire Nation rations." she lamented, before raising a brow, "Or stole some off of that Southern Raider ship." she conceded, before turning to face Sokka, "Remind me to do that if we run into them again."

"If I get to eat some too, I promise I won't forget to." he assured her, before he took another bite from his jerky.

"So then, other than talking about food, what were we going to do this morning?" Katara asked the group, Aang raising his head, remembering exactly what he had intended to do in returning to the Southern Air Temple.

"I need to go to the sanctuary." he explained, before standing up, "We can go there right now. It's not far." he assured them, the three others looking at each other, Sokka's lips pursing into a pout.

"But what about jerky?" he mumbled, his girlfriend wahacking him on the back of the head.

"You can take the damn jerky with you, idiot." she chided him, before she turned her eyes toward Aang, "Show us the way."

Aang gestured for them to follow, beginning to walk toward the staircase behind them that led into the temple proper; they had been camping around a courtyard, sleeping in nearby rooms. The young Avatar had already been to his old room, but he didn't want to sleep in there, knowing that the memories he had only made him feel regret for his cowardly actions. He had fled the temple, and for all he knew, the Air Nomads had been destroyed because he couldn't save them. He hadn't seen much evidence of a struggle, of the massacre which Azula suggested to have occurred, which was heartening at the very least, suggesting that perhaps his people had been forced to flee, and now were in hiding. That was what he hoped, but he was unsure if his thoughts were too optimistic. He did, however, know that entering the sanctuary was a step he needed to take, just as Monk Gyatso had told him to do; he was ready at that point, more than ever, knowing that his guilt outweighed his fear. He wasn't afraid of facing the world as the Avatar any more, as much as he feared the danger that might come along with it; that was his burden to bear, in the end of it all. As they made their way around the desolate grounds, he spotted the stairs, and thus, the corridor that would lead to the sanctuary. He guessed that no one had been inside there since the last Avatar died, which must have been around a hundred and fourteen years ago, if Azula's guess was accurate. When he reached the corridor, he saw the massive ornate doorway, as the lock that covered it, which could only be opened by an airbender, meaning that the Fire Nation couldn't have gone inside, even after a hundred years.

"That's an- uh- impressive door." Sokka commented, the Fire Nation Princess beside him nodding in agreement.

"Indeed it is. The Air Nomads might have lived simply, but I'm sure they knew how to make some complex things." she commented, the young Avatar turning to face her, nodding appreciatively of her compliment toward his people.

"We do." he confirmed, "Though, I don't know who made this." he glanced back toward the door as he continued to approach it.

"So... how do you get in there? I don't see a handle." Katara observed, the Avatar raising a finger.

"Airbending." he clarified, "That's why I'm sure that whatever or whoever is in here, it's probably still waiting. The Fire Nation didn't burn the door down." he gestured to it, making Azula look his way with a surprised expression.

"Huh, good point." she commented, before Aang turned his attention toward opening the door; he took a stance in front of them, holding his hands close to his body as he took a deep breath.

As he exhaled, he moved his hands out, pushing air into the tubes at the base of the door; the current of air pushed through the pipes, pushing each lock tube open by twisting it around, each of them sending out a high pitched stream of air. Once the last tube was turned around, the doors began to slowly open up, and the light from the corridor filled the sanctuary, which was still dim enough that he could barely see much further than a few strides ahead of himself. His eyes widened as what was inside was revealed to him; statues, all lined up before him. When he looked at them more closely, he narrowed his eyes, feeling an odd sense of a familiarity with them; he didn't know how or why he felt like that, but as he looked at them, he took note that they were all lined in a spiral. On a few of the statues he could take note of airbending tattoos, but others seemed less familiar, and he turned back to his friends.

"There's a lot of statues in here." he admitted, Sokka looking around with confusion.

"Yeah, thanks for the update, Captain Obvious." he sarcastically commented, before he narrowed his eyes at them, "Why does the spiral end with this guy?" he pointed to a statue of a man with a long beard, who Aang recognised out of the blue- Avatar Roku.

"That's... that's Avatar Roku." he simply responded, somehow recognising him, even though he'd never met him.

"The last Avatar. He's your predecessor." Azula noted, "Then... these are the other Avatars." she concluded, glancing at the statues that followed after him in the pattern, which he realised was the Avatar Cycle; going backward, he could see fire, earth, water, and then air.

"All of them." Katara added, her eyes widening, "There's... hundreds of them," she gasped, before turning to face him, "your past lives."

"There's so many." he looked up, taking note of all the statues as they spiraled around him.

"Past lives?" Sokka skeptically questioned, stepping forward, "Do you guys really believe that stuff?"

"How else do you explain that there's only one person alive at a given time who can bend all four elements?" the Princess retorted, making him slouch over, realising that it was pretty hard to argue against her point.

"Okay, fair enough." he conceded, before his girlfriend walked up to stand beside Aang, who was still focusing on the statue of Avatar Roku; he didn't know how to communicate with him, but he was pretty sure that he was the person Gyatso wanted him to see- he couldn't speak with a statue, that was for sure.

"Is he who you need to speak with?" she asked him, the young Avatar breaking out of his trance-like stare.

"Uh, I think so." he nodded, before the Princess stared down the statue.

"I think I... I think I know how you might be able to do that."

"Wait, really?" he turned to her with surprise, "Do you really know that much about the Avatar?"

"No... I remember learning through my duties as Crown Princess that the Fire Sages had statues, even a whole temple dedicated to Avatar Roku. Why weren't they taken down by Sozin after his whole... well... you know, I'm unsure, but they definitely still exist. Perhaps one of them might help you communicate with him."

"But there's a statue right here." he narrowed his eyes at her, the Princess gesturing to it.

"Well, can you communicate with him here, right now?" she simply asked him, Aang glancing back toward the statue.

"I don't think so. I think I'd feel something... but I only feel... well, my connection."

"That makes sense. You were him... a hundred and fourteen years ago." she conceded, before raising a finger to her chin, tapping it in thought, "When I think of it, I actually never learned how he died."

Aang looked at the statue for a moment before he felt an odd feeling in his chest; anguish or disappointment, he couldn't tell exactly, but then as he looked to Azula, he felt a sense of hope. Whether in himself or the Princess, the feeling was there, nonetheless; that was as close as he could get to talking with Avatar Roku, it seemed, feeling what he did.

"I don't think it was a peaceful one." he conceded, taking that observation from the feelings that he had just experienced.

"Are you guys done being weird with the statue?" Sokka questioned them, making the Princess turn her head around and snarl at him.

"I'm not being weird. What are you talking about?"

"You were staring at it, or like a good minute there." he stated his observations, the young Avatar turning around.

"Well, I think she had a good idea. We need to go find this statue of Avatar Roku... wherever it is. Maybe then he can help guide me."

"The closest one would be at the temple on Crescent Island." she clarified, making Aang raise a brow.

"Which direction is that?"

"Still in the way we want to go." she assured him, before turning to face Sokka and Katara, the latter of which was still glancing around at the numerous statues of his past lives, "Are we going to go now? At least out of here... unless you wanted to- uh- meditate or whatever." she glanced back to the young avatar, who shook his head.

"Uh... not really." he conceded, "Meditation is boring... and I want to do something fun."

"Like what?" the Water Tribe girl stepped closer.

"Airball!" he exclaimed, "It's really fun... though, all of you aren't airbenders, so it might be a little hard."

"I'm up for the challenge." Azula declared, pursing her lips into a confident smirk, "Always."

"So that's your excuse for playing games?" Sokka prodded her with an amused tone.

"What? It's not like I have anything better to do today. It's better than sitting on a sky-bison all day." she declared, Aang grinning at her.

"That's the spirit!" he cheered her on, before he gestured for his friends to follow, "C'mon, let's go!"

Aang began to increase his pace, making his way down the corridor once more, heading back toward the courtyard that sat outside of it; he glanced around, recalling the exact route he would have to take to get to the airball stadium. He conceded that he could pretty easily glide down to it, but he would rather lead his friends on foot. As he made his way along through the grounds of the temple, he walked on past Appa, when he noticed that the bag of food that had been sitting by the small campfire they had set up was splayed over the ground, and some of the foot was on the ground.

"Huh..." he mumbled, "Sokka's going to get annoyed by that." he concluded, before he approached the bag, filling it back up; he guessed it might have been knocked over by the wind, but a few moments later, he turned his head around to see the cause.

By a tree, a flying lemur was sitting down, with a few of the fruits that ought to have been in their bag in its hands, gnawing away at it, "Lemur!" he exclaimed, catching its attention as its ears darted upward, "Oooh! You're gonna be my friend!" he declared, walking up toward the creature with an eager grin, "Just don't eat all of the fruit. Sokka might not like you if you do... but I'm sure you'll be friends." he told the lemur, which darted away as soon as he got close enough.

"Come back!" he pleaded, the animal ignoring his words as it began to run off; he sighed, before giving chase, "Please! I'm not going to hurt you!"

He had already gotten the attention of his friends, who looked at him with confusion as he went after the lemur, "What are you doing?!" Katara called after him, Aang simply responding with the first thing that came to mind.

"I need to get my new friend!" he told her, before he dashed after the lemur, following it down the pathway, before it took flight, gliding straight off the sheer cliff face; Aang grit his teeth, before he jumped up into the air to follow after him, using airbending to cushion his fall down to the next portion of the air temple grounds, which was a wide open area, nearby, incidentally, where he had originally wanted to go to, the airball stadium. He spotted the lemur still running, now to his left, where he raced off to, using his airbending to speed himself up.

"Come back!" he called on the lemur, shouting in a friendly tone as he could.

"Aang! Where'd you go?!" he heard Sokka's voice call out from above, the young Avatar, waving up toward his friends.

"Down here!" he shouted, gaining his friends attention, Katara's head peering over the edge.

He returned his gaze to the lemur, and continued his pursuit, following him around the winding path that curled around the girth of the temple; the lemur once again jumped, and Aang followed once again, breaking his fall with a few ledges that sat between him and the ground that the little creature was gliding down toward.

"Hey, come on! I can get you more fruit if you like!" he tried to reason with it, though it seemed that the lemur didn't understand him as it darted into an old decaying structure, through an old and brittle set of drapes, "Come on buddy." he softened his voice as he approached the drapes, pushing them open, only to see that the lemur had gone deeper inside, past another set of drapes.

He approached the next set of drapes, pushing them aside to try and find the lemur, only to find something else, something far, far worse than he could have ever imagined. Corpses, scattered across the room, the bodies of what he could tell were Fire Nation soldiers; and in the middle of them all, pushed up against the rear wall was that of an airbender. He gasped with shock, trembling as he stepped closer.

"Firebenders? They were here?" he questioned, knowing that no one would answer; the answer was right in front of him.

Azula was right, and he regretted not truly believing her; he wanted to doubt her words, but he now realised she was right. Why would the descendant of someone responsible for such a heinous thing admit it? He realised why as he saw it. The countless dead, and in the centre of them, an Air Nomad, who had warded them off, but clearly perished in the fighting. As he looked closer, he noticed the necklace around the body of the Air Nomad, which he immediately recognised- it was Gyatso; Aang trembled, realising what had happened, unable to say anything but the name of his mentor, the closest thing he had to a father.

"Gyatso." he gasped his name, dropping to his knees and he realised what he had done; not what the Fire Nation had done, because he knew that they would have done what they did, no matter if he had been there or not.

He had left his people, left his duties, left his mentor, and they all died; Gyatso died fighting firebenders, unknowing of Aang's own fate, only of his cowardice. He hated himself for it, knowing that he could have done something; even if he didn't win against those firebenders, he could have done anything other than run away. He felt something inside him, just like he had when he was in the sanctuary, only this time, it was so much stronger; Aang was angry, at himself and at the world, and for perhaps the first time in his life, he was ready to let it all out. Then he felt all of them; his past lives calling out to him, all at once, almost like they were screaming at him. The power he felt surge through his body reminded him of the truth; he was the Avatar, and he was not just himself, but the hundreds, maybe thousands that lived before him. And they were all angry, all at once, in a symphony of rage; that anger lit up his chi, his very being, like he guessed the comet Azula spoke of powered those firebenders. Aang was more powerful than any mere comet, or any nation in and of itself; he was power, light and order incarnate, the instrument of balance and peace.

The sound of a powerful gust of wind was enough to tell Katara that something had gone terribly wrong; when she reached the edge of the courtyard she was walking through, she could see a ball of air down below them, and inside of it was Aang, and his tattoos were glowing brightly, as were his eyes. She trembled with fear and awe of the power she was witnessing, but she could only guess that it had come about because of some immense pain or trauma, which she knew would have come from finding the inevitable, as Azula had most accurately described it. She glanced back at the Princess and her brother, who raced up behind her, looking down at the same thing as she was.

"What in... that's what you meant by glowing?" her brother shouted over the sound of the wind that was being pushed out in all directions away from the young Avatar.

"I told you so." Azula simply commented, her words directed to both of them; she truly had a knack for efficient quips.

Katara pointed down toward their friend, "We need to calm him down."

"Yeah, that's obvious enough." Sokka noted with an unamused glare, before he gestured toward the path to their left, "We need to head down there first."

"And not get knocked off the mountain." she added, before leading the way, running as fast as she could down the winding path.

The three of them made their way down the length of the path, taking the first corner, at which point she got a good look at Aang, who was now rising into the air, still glowing as his body moved into an almost meditative pose; seeing him like that was disturbing to say the least, seeing that the probably anger and grief driven power was the polar opposite of the tranquility such a pose would ordinarily portray. She sprinted down the path, moving as close to the rock face as she could to avoid getting blown off of the mountain, as she had warned the others; not that she was feeling awfully morbid, she just wanted to avoid such a tragic outcome to what was simply a moment of grief and tragedy for the young Avatar. The power of all the Avatars was immense, and she knew that none of them could reasonably face up to it, though she still hoped that it was possible to calm him down with words; she'd rather than over fists or something even worse. When they reached the base of the path, with Aang not that far ahead of them, floating up in the air, she took a deep breath, unsure what to do or say; she didn't know how to calm someone from their feelings of anguish. She knew how he felt, in a way, but the idea of losing everyone he knew was something far greater than her loss of her mother, even if that was a very personal loss to both her and her brother.

"I have an idea." Azula admitted, making both her and Sokka turn back to face her.

"What?!" her boyfriend shouted out, trying to speak over the wind gusts that Aang's bending was creating in all directions around him.

"Remember the first time we ever met?" she questioned him, his eyes narrowing for a moment before his eyes widened.

"N-no! No! No!" he demanded with grit teeth, "You're not shooting a twelve-year-old kid with lightning!"

"You want to what?!" Katara turned to her with a furious expression.

"It'd only knock him out!" she assured them, before pointing to the floating Avatar, "Do have any better ideas?!" she questioned them, the Water Tribe girl glaring at the young Air Nomad with determination.

"Yes, yes I do." she told them, before she began to approach Aang, putting her arm in front of her to push through the powerful gusts that were between her and her friend.

"Aang!" she called out to him as she approached, "I know you're upset and I know how hard it is to lose the people you love." she told him, unsure what to say next, "Your people, even if they're gone, that doesn't mean there isn't people that care for you!"

The young Avatar still floated above her, and Katara looked back to her brother and his girlfriend, the two of them looking on with awe and fear at the boy who floated above them; she had to say something else, something to calm him and assure him that there was still hope.

"We're your family now!" she shouted out, "Sokka, Azula and I. We're here for you. We're going to make sure you're never alone! I promise!" she called out, the young Avatar slowly descending, his tattoos and eyes still glowing as his face remained emotionless.

As he lowered down to the ground in front of her, the winds began to die down, and the sphere of air that surrounded him disappeared; she approached him, looking at him with a sad expression as his body continued to glow, placing a hand on his shoulder.

"We won't let anything... anything happen to you." she assured him, her brother stepping up beside her, placing a hand on his shoulder.

"And if anyone tries anything, we'll beat the crap out of them. Promise."

"Sokka!" she glanced at her brother, thinking his words to be rather absurd.

"We will. We're going to keep you safe." he added, the young Avatar's face turning sad, as he closed his eyes, his tattoos returning to their usual blue colour.

He collapsed with exhaustion, falling into her arms, "I'm sorry." he mumbled, the Water Tribe girl smiling at him reassuringly.

"It's okay. It wasn't your fault." she told him, the young Avatar looking up at her.

"But... it was." he admitted, looking over toward Azula, "The firebenders attacked this temple. That means they attacked the others... all while I was locked in that iceberg." he admitted, sighing as he fell down to the ground, "I'm the last airbender."

"You couldn't have done anything. You might have crazy magical powers, but you aren't a fortune teller or something like that." Sokka assured him, the young Avatar looking up at them.

"But, I did. Monk Gyatso said it. They all said it. I was just... too much of a kid. I just wanted to have fun, and keep my life like it always was. Instead... this happened." he admitted, before Azula knelt down to his level.

"Everybody makes mistakes." she told him, narrowing her eyes at him, "And trust me, I know about making mistakes." she raised a finger, the Avatar nodding; he had heard her story, just like Katara had, and perhaps he could see that she, unlike her and Sokka, could understand the feeling of making a decision without seeing the implications of it, "You can't change what happened, but you can do something else."

"Wh-what?" he mumbled, the Princess tilting her chin up.

"You need to do what you couldn't. Learning from your mistake so you don't make it again." she simply told him, "That way, you can become the best version of yourself."

"Become a better Avatar?" he asked her, the Princess shaking her head.

"You aren't defined by what people call you. You're Aang. You're the last Air Nomad, and you're going to fix the world, because that's what you want to do, know because you have to do it." she told him, smiling at him with the smallest of grins, "Because you're better than most."

"Th-thanks." Aang mumbled, Katara turning her head with shame.

She always antagonised Azula, calling her out for her hypocrisy and mean personality, but she realised that she was still just like any of them; someone who had been hurt, by her own actions or by those of others, and wanted to become better. And more than that, she actually wanted Aang to be the best version of himself; she wanted them all to be the best versions of themselves.

"Are we going to get out of here?" Sokka asked them, before glancing around, "This place just doesn't... feel right."

"You're right, Sokka." Aang agreed, before he rose to his feet, "Let's... let's go do something else. I- uh- still didn't find that lemur."

"That's what you were chasing after." Katara noted, remembering that was actually what he was doing before he had his experience.

"Yeah, it was." he nodded, before his eyes darted around, "I wonder where he went off to." before he began to walk back toward the path they had taken down, "Do you guys want to help me find him?"

"Sure!" Sokka made a rather boisterous response, almost a little too positive,

"Let's go find us your lemur buddy-friend." he gestured to the young Air Nomad, the two of them making their way toward the path, while Katara turned to face Azula; once the other two were out of earshot, she decided to tell her how she felt.

"Uh... that was nice of you." she admitted, the Princess's eyes narrowing at her.

"Nice?" she almost scoffed, "I was telling him not to give up on himself because of pain. Pain is a weapon that can be utilised very effectively if aimed correctly." she noted, making the Water Tribe girl grimace; perhaps she shouldn't have acknowledged her, and then remained under the presupposition that she had an inch of kindness in her heart.

"You know... you don't have to act all cynical and cold all the time." she suggested, Azula crossing her arms.

"I am just that. Take my words seriously, Katara. Aang did." she simply gestured in the direction the young Avatar had gone; she sighed, knowing that despite her attitude, she was actually trying to help, even if she was trying to frame it in a way to retain her absurd sense of pride.

The Princess stretched her arms out, before turning to face her with a disinterested face, "I'm not chasing after a lemur. I think I'm going to do some training. Do you want to join me?"

"Do you want to beat me up?" she raised a brow, curious as to her exact intentions."

"I would have said spar in that case. Training is something every bender should do, even one who doesn't know any forms or techniques." she explained, making Katara sigh, reminded of the fact that she knew next to nothing about waterbending.

The only things she did know were from her grandmother, who had taught her a few things about waterbending from what she had witnessed, having lived before and during the raids.

She looked back up at the Princess and gave her an affirmative nod, "Y-yeah, I guess I can do that."

Azula tilted her chin up, a haughty smirk forming between her cheeks, before she gestured to the path that Aang and Sokka had taken, "Let's head up to a courtyard instead of standing around the... corpses." she admitted, gesturing to their left, where Katara could see some skeletons, or what remained of them after Aang's wind ripped through the ruined building they were standing inside.

She nodded, following her up the path, making their way up along the winding route toward the courtyards; the Water Tribe girl kept her eyes away from the ruins they had just seen, feeling unnerved by the thought of bodies just laying there, in place, for a hundred years. The Fire Nation may or may not have disposed of the bodies of their dead, or that of the Air Nomads, but she ultimately had no idea, and honestly, would prefer to not find the truth. The same could be said for the other Southern Waterbenders, who had been taken away by the Southern Raiders, assumingly to some horrific prison where they would never see the light of day again. She glanced forward, noticing Azula's pace and stance, which suggested to her that she was feeling more emotions than she was letting on.

Whether it was guilt, for what the Fire Nation did to the Air Nomads, or residual anger towards her, she couldn't tell, and she knew that she wouldn't get a straight answer; that seemed to just be how it was with the Princess. She knew what she wanted, because she was rather vocal in declaring her intentions, but she had no concept of what was really going through her head. Katara didn't know if her brother even did, even if she was more honest to him than she was to her. When they reached the top of the winding path, they found themselves at an open area of the temple, where stone tiles covered the ground, and there was a number of trees giving shade. Azula approached the trees and glanced around them, before nodding.

"This is a good place to meditate." she admitted, before narrowing her eyes, "I guess that's why they made all these places." she theorised, sitting herself down with crossed legs; she glanced up toward Katara, who looked at her with surprise, seeing that she was just going to sit there and meditate instead of setting something on fire, "Are you just going to stand there or are you going to join me?"

"U-uh, join you." she confirmed her intentions, stepping closer before sitting beside her under the shade of the trees while the morning sun shone through, making an array of complex shadows, "So, are we meditating."

"Yes." she told her, before raising a finger, "You are expected to not talk during meditation, but this time, I'll make an exception. You ought to at least learn how to breathe correctly."

"Breathe correctly?" she looked at her skeptically, "I breathe just fine."

"You breathe, but not with the vigour that is required to master your bending." she clarified, as she turned away, closing her eyes, "Close your eyes."

Katara did as she was told, and found herself sitting in darkness, although her other senses remained just as able to comprehend her surroundings.

"Now, what do you hear?" she questioned her, the Water Tribe girl raising a brow.

"Uh... the wind?" she told her with slight uncertainty, unsure exactly what she wanted her to say.

"Yes, the wind." she agreed, "Now, neither of us are airbenders, but you can hear how the wind flows." she furthered, making her focus on the sound of the wind; it was flowing, almost like a song, though far more erratic than any melody she had ever heard.

"Kind of like music." she mumbled, Azula clearing her throat.

"You could say that. Airbenders are like wind. They flow and move around things; they dodge obstacles, specifically." she explained the concept of airbending quite succinctly.

"So, what does that have to do with my waterbending?" she questioned, unsure exactly where she was going with her exposition.

"Airbenders need to harness their breath to bend correctly. You saw Aang open the door, didn't you?"

"Yeah, he had to take a deep breath and concentrate to bend the locks open." she recalled.

"You need to do the same with your waterbending. Water flows, just like fire and air do, though in a different manner. They are all unique."

"What about earthbending?" she raised a brow, unsure how that bending art fit into the scheme of her idea of breath and flow.

"Ignore that." she tersely responded, Katara almost wanting to laugh, but restraining herself as the Princess continued, "You need to remember how water flows. Explain it to me." she simply requested, the Water Tribe girl closing her eyes once more.

"It ebbs and flows. The tides, they come in and go out." she tried to explain what she knew of water, or more specifically, the ocean, "And it rains, and snows, and there is blizzards. Water's everywhere."

"Indeed it is, especially in the South Pole." she acknowledged her words, although her own voice showed a slight disdain to her home; she came from a far warmer place with less ice and snow, so she could empathise a little with her feelings toward it, "So, then how does it flow? How does it change?" she asked Katara, who took a deep breath.

"It always changes, and is constantly moving." she murmured, Azula making a positive sounding mumble.

"Yes. It does. Just like fire and air. What sets it apart?"

"How it moves. It goes around, in a circle. Back and forth. Like waves and whirlpools." she explained, before taking another breath.

She needed to breathe like how water flowed- in and out, up and down; with that in her mind, she began to breathe slowly, imagining the water lapping up against the shore of her village. It was always light, but noticeable, the water moving up and down, like her chest did when she breathed.

"You've got the hang of it." Azula commented, before pulling out something from her belt, Katara noticing the sound of her untying something from her belt, "Now, take this." she placed something hard in her lap, though as she felt it, she realised that there was water inside it; a water skin, her water skin.

She opened her eyes, glancing toward the Princess, "You want me to bend this water?"

"Yes." she told her, "But I don't want you to just throw it around. I want you to focus on it, and bend it to your will."

"How can I-" she began to question her, Azula placing a finger over her lips to shut her up.

"Just breathe." she told her with a stern tone, reiterating what she had already said, "Focus on the water in this skin and breathe. The rest will come naturally." she told her, before snapping her fingers, a small, blue flame appearing on her finger tips, "Look at this flame." she simply told her, before she took a deep breath; the flame did not falter, but instead, grew larger as she inhaled, and then shrunk for a moment before growing as she exhaled.

"It follows." she observed, before narrowing her eyes at the flame, "It almost looks alive."

"That's because a firebenders flame is in sync with their body." she explained, pulling her arm out slightly, "Feel my pulse."

"Y-your..." she mumbled, confused for a moment, before she just followed through with her request; as she felt her wrist, she could faintly feel her heartbeat, and her eyes moved up to the flame, noticing that although it expanded and contracted with Azula's breath, it also moved with her heartbeat, flickering brighter with each beat.

"So it's like a little heart." she tilted her head, thinking the idea to be kind of cute.

"Uh..." Azula mumbled, before she extinguished the flame, "Yes." she acknowledged her observation, before gesturing to the water skin, "Now try and see if you can bend."

She nodded, feeling more confident by what the firebender had taught her, before she closed her eyes, focusing on her breath first; she made sure it was slow, air flowing in and out of her lungs in a rhythm that was calm, just like the waves that touched the shore of her village. She then felt the water skin in her lap, not with her hands, but with her mind; she could see it, not literally, but in the sense that she could feel the water, and thus, she could reach out to it. She felt her slow breathing connecting with the water, which began to slowly but surely, move with her breaths, she water inside the skin flowing around as she inhaled and exhaled. The sound of sloshing was proof enough that it was working, and she felt her connection grow stronger; she then felt the weight of the skin off of her lap as she continued to feel it moving, before she felt the weight suddening appear once more, shocking her and making her open her eyes. Looking down, she noted that the water skin was still closer, and that Azula was looking at her with an approving smirk.

"Moving something with your breath is easy. It's natural. Making something move how you want it to requires more precision and focus, but from what I just saw, I am sure that you'll be able to achieve that." she admitted, before she stood up, "Now, I'm going to do my sets. Whether you want to watch or follow along, that's your choice. Just don't get in my way, unless you're in the mood for getting your eyebrows singed off." she warned her as she took a fighting stance.

Katara watched on as the Fire Nation Princess began to move forward, making a number of sweeping kicks and punches, sending flames out all over the courtyard, although they quickly petered away; she then finished her moves with a powerful kick that sent a stream of flames out away from them, striking into the rock face in the distance.

"Wow..." she mumbled, unsure how to respond to the show of raw power that Azula had just made.

"I do desire to inspire awe." she cocked a smirk at her, before returning to her sets, turning around and making a similar set of attacks, although this time it was more focused on quick jabs that sent flames out in multiple directions, as if she were intending to fight off half a dozen people at once.

She then jumped up into the air, back-flipping before she sent a stream of flames out of her right heel, landing on her feet in a low stance; she winced slightly, before turning her eyes toward Katara.

"I really shouldn't have tried that with these boots. They're too soft." she conceded, the Water Tribe girl raising a brow.

"Maybe you should put some metal on the heels?" she suggested, Azula looking back at her skeptically.

"And where am I going to get that?" she quipped in response, making her furrow a brow.

"Huh, I don't really know." she conceded; one could obviously buy metal, although she didn't actually know where from.

"I'm better off buying some new boots when we get to some market. Knowing Sokka he's going to demand we buy some random trinkets along the way."

"Or rare meats." she added, making the Princess snort, before laughing.

"He will." she sighed after laughing, "He always will."

She then, almost out of nowhere, turned around, kicking out a stream of flames right above Katara's head, making the Water Tribe girl cringe downward with fear; the warmth of the flames was surprisingly intense, despite the fact she was lying on the ground. Once the flames dissipated, she raised her head back up, narrowing her eyes at the other girl, shaking her head slightly to move her hair loopies back into place.

"Are you sure you aren't trying to spar with me?" she questioned, the Princess shaking her head with an indifferent look on her face.

"You were in the way." she simply told her.

"You could have just told me to move." she retorted with a slightly agitated voice, making Azula chuckle.

"Oh, what's the fun in that." she allowed herself to smile, making the Water Tribe teen sigh as she stood up, wanting to get out of the way of her next set; perhaps it had been intentional, and she had just feigned ignorance.

"I'm moving." she stressed, stepping over to stand beside one of the trees in the courtyard while the Princess moved into a different stance.

She took a deep breath, reminding Katara once again of the importance of breath in bending, he then stepped forward, sending a number of kicks of fire, as if she were fighting off multiple opponents from the front; this was all while she conjured a fireball in her hands, which began to glow in intensity as it formed a ball in her hands. She then directed the charged fireball out, up in a diagonal direction with her right hand, which then formed an impressive stream of flames which moved up into the air, colouring the entire courtyard a blue hue as her flames momentarily became relatively brighter than the morning sun, which was shocking enough that Katara almost fell back from her spot leaning on the tree behind her. She then augmented the remains of the flames around her arms, coiling them back out as she turned around, sending what looked almost like a whip outward; it dissipated a few moments later, but had already reached out nearly to the other side of the courtyard.

"That was pretty cool." she conceded, the Princess smirking at her, before pointing at her chest.

"Trust me, with the right teacher and proper attitude, you will be able to become a great bender, like me."

Although she was flattered by her suggestion that she would one day be a great bender, Katara was unsure why she would assume something like that, "How can you be so sure?"

"Because I believe that skill can run through blood. Your brother has been shaped into a great fighter in little over six months, at least compared to what he once was. I think you could do the same." she admitted, the Water Tribe girl girl's lips pursing upward as she considered a day in the near future where she could say she could waterbend like her ancestors did.

"That's all I could ever hope for."

Sokka knelt down beside the flying lemur, who was currently munching into their quickly dwindling supply of fruits; Aang had been so eager to find him, so he couldn't refuse to help, and did just that. They tracked him back to the place he had first found him, Appa's saddle, where he was still rummaging about to steal some of their food. As much as he wanted that food for himself, he would admit that their new little friend was quite cute. He chirped at Sokka, who was taking a bite from a piece of jerky, which he had decided to eat, seeing that he thought it was one thing that the lemur, who seemed to be a vegetarian like Aang, wouldn't eat. He shook his head, raising a finger to try and refuse him.

"You won't like it." he assured him, "You can keep going at the fruit." he gestured to the stash which Aang was eating from, seeing that it was about lunch time. He hadn't seen Azula or Katara, and was slightly worried that they might have started fighting each other; they seemed to do that more often than not, but he wasn't that worried. They had all been so concerned about Aang that their petty disputes had probably been pushed to the side, at least for that morning. He still felt a little concerned for the young Air Nomad himself, knowing that the kind of anguish he must have felt was extremely saddening; he revealed to him after they found the lemur once more that he had actually seen Monk Gyatso's body, and that was what had triggered his Avatar powers, which Sokka neither understood, nor wanted to. They scared him, more so than any Princesses who could shoot lightning bolts from their fingers or Fire Lords who could redirect said lightning bolts; he knew that the Avatar had powers unlike any bender, making him a force to be reckoned with, even if he was only twelve years old.

"Oh, so you found the little lemur." he heard his sister's voice, making Sokka raise his head up, glancing over to see her and Azula, who were returning from whatever they had been up to, "Does he have a name?"

"Sokka Junior." he joked, making his sister shoot him a glare.

"No, no, his name is Momo," Aang clarified, raising a peach into his hand, "because he likes peaches." before said lemur raced over to him, grabbing the peach out of his hand; Aang began to laugh giddily at the lemur's actions, Katara smiling at him, obviously approving of his clearly better mood.

As she and his girlfriend approached their little campsite, he raised a brow, still curious as to what they had been doing, "So what did you two get up to?"

"Uh... Azula taught me how to breathe." Katara clarified, making him snort with amusement; he was sure she meant it in the sense of regulating her breathing, but the idea of her having to learn how to breathe was utterly hilarious to him.

"It's pretty easy, Katara. Just in..." he raised a finger, inhaling deeply, holding his breath with a smug grin before breathing out, "and out." his sister's expression remaining unamused throughout.

"Shut up, Sokka." she growled at him, making Azula snicker, the first sign of emotion she had shown since she entered their campsite; she moved to sit down nearby him, picking up one of the last remaining fruits and taking a bite.

"Hmph- these are sweet." she acknowledged, "Did your people use these kinds of fruits in their food?" she queried Aang on the spot, the young Air Nomad's head darting up when he realised he was the one being questioned.

"Oh, yeah. Of course. We'd make pies and cakes with these. Anything you think you could make with fruit, we probably made it." he assured her, before she glanced his way, taking note of the jerky in his fingers.

"Even with all this fruit, you still go for the jerky." she chided him, "You're going to eat it all pretty quickly." she warned him, the Water Tribe teen shrugging his shoulders.

"Soon enough we'll be in the Earth Kingdom and then I'll be able to buy what I need to eat." he acknowledged, before raising a finger, "Let me savour it."

She narrowed her eyes at him, before shrugging her shoulders, "Fine then. Don't start complaining when you run out."

"He will start complaining." Katara assured them, making him tilt his head so he could look at her directly, frowning at his sister's comment.

"Hey..." he growled, unsure how to argue; they were probably right, as he would complain if they had no jerky, but he'd complain even more if they had no food, "Actually, that gives me an idea." his eyes brightened, standing up, "So we don't run out of fruit before we get to our next stop... seeing that a certain someone has started eating it all." he eyed the flying-lemur, who had a visibly full belly from eating a large quantity of fruit, "maybe we should go out and collect some more."

"I guess we could do that, but were we planning to leave today?" his sister questioned, Aang's attention being garnered by that question.

"Well, that was my idea." he acknowledged, his expression becoming sadder, "I don't feel like staying around here. Not after... well, what happened."

"What about talking to Avatar Roku?" Katara raised a brow, reminding them all of what he had been doing in the sanctuary- staring at a statue of Avatar Roku, that was.

"Azula had a pretty good idea. We should go to the temple dedicated to him." he suggested, "It's in the Fire Nation, and on the way to the North Pole. That's what you said." he turned toward Azula, who gave an affirmative nod.

"Yep, it is." she explained, Sokka raising a brow with unease.

"You want to go into the Fire Nation? I don't mean to burst anyone's bubble, but one of us here is definitely a fugitive, and two of us are probably not very welcome." he suggested, the former being the Princess, who was the main contender to throne beside her brother, and the latter being Aang and himself, seeing that one of them was the Avatar and the other a key supporter of Azula, who had knocked out the Fire Lord himself to prevent him taking his sister into custody.

"It's not like we're going to the palace. It's on an isolated island in the east of the Fire Nation." she explained, before raising a brow, "Though there is a chance that Zhao and Liang are still fighting over the Mo Ce Sea. That might be a problem."

"Well, ignoring any naval battles we might encounter, we've still got the problem that there's probably going to be some people loyal to your brother in that temple."

"I can disguise my identity." she suggested, before she gestured to her hair, "A haircut would do it. It's not like every Fire Sage in the country knows my face."

"Okay..." he mumbled, deciding to halt his argument there, before chuckling, "So, are you really ready to cut your hair again? I remember a certain someone complaining about her 'bad' haircut for a few months." he smirked, Azula narrowing her eyes at him.

"Well, it's a fact of the matter. My haircut was shit." she told him with a serious, slightly annoyed expression, before turning to face Aang, "There won't be an issue going to this temple, trust me."

"Uh, okay." the young Avatar gave a reassuring smile.

"Now, before you decided to divert our conversation to an argument, I was asking if anyone wanted to come with me to get some more fruit for us to eat while we travel to the Earth Kingdom." he asked the group once more, Azula rolling her eyes before standing up.

"I guess I'll go. I'd rather do that than sit around."

"You really like exercising." Katara observed, the Princess nodding after a moment of considering her comment.

"If that was an insult, you failed." she simply pointed her finger toward her with a smug look on her face, turning her heels to follow after Sokka, who had already picked up a bag nearby, slinging it over his shoulder.

"Come on, let's go." he prodded her, the Princess following after him as he made his way across the courtyard toward a path that led down to a lower portion of the temple; he was unsure exactly where to find more fruit, so he decided he would just walk around until he found some.

"Do you actually know where you're going?" she questioned him, the Water Tribe teen forcing a grin.

"No idea." he told her, making her groan as she rolled her eyes.

"Brilliant. Now, I'm going to spend the afternoon walking around a place whose former inhabitants were all slaughtered, looking to steal the fruit from their trees."

"Hey, it's not stealing if no one's going to stop you." he raised a finger, before furrowing a brow, "And plus, it's not like they own the trees or anything like that."

"I concur." she admitted, "I just... well this whole place doesn't sit right with me."

"Same here." he agreed, before he darted his eyes forward, trying to make sight of some trees to pick fruit from, "But, I guess we can talk to distract ourselves from that fact."

"Ah yes, talking, your greatest skill." she told him with a tone that he couldn't discern whether to be sarcastic or not.

"Well it is. I'm not too good at public speaking, though." he conceded, making the Princess raise a brow.

"Is that why you made me or your dad tell the tribe about your ideas?" she questioned him, before raising a hand, "Of course that's why." she answered her own question, "Maybe you should practice."

"Practice?" he asked her with interest, before raising a brow, "So... just start blabbering off in front of you about my plans to return the Southern Water Tribe to its former glory."

"Glory would be a slight overstatement." she commented, making him narrow his eyes at her, "But then again, glory is relative." she corrected her statement.

"Me defeating you on my Royal Barge meant little to me at the time, but I'm sure that if you had returned home with me in chains, that would have been a great glory for your tribe." she conceded, making his eyes brighten; she was giving him arguments without him even having to think of them.

Sokka was unsure whether she was just in a good mood, or if she was just feeling talkative, knowing that talking was better than mulling over whatever else was in her head. His eyes narrowed, unsure how to feel about such a reaction to the understandable emotional response she got to the fact of her ancestor's actions. Even if she was the most ruthless, determined and matter of fact person he knew, she still had feelings, and even with all her pride, she could still feel guilt, and regret, the latter of which he had seen her almost drown in after her defeat by Zuko; she lacked any motivation to fight, for some time, and even if she did so at Pohuai Fortress, it had been to protect him rather than to actually achieve her own goals.

"I guess we're all looking for glory." he admitted with a sigh, "A way to feel good about ourselves."

She looked at him with a stoic face, and then he realised that he might have said the wrong thing; Azula didn't want to talk about things like why she acted like she did, or why she even wanted to be Fire Lord in the first place. He did know that behind her mask, behind her insane plans and desires, there was a genuinely kind person, even if she wasn't kind in the same way that Katara, or Aang were nice. She was nice because she could believe in possibilities; of people and of causes. She wanted to see things achieve their greatest potential, because that is what she wanted for herself. She had trained him for months, and he was a better fighter than he had ever been, all because she had demanded the best of him; he was more than willing to oblige and when he considered it, she was tempered enough in her training that he felt no ill will because of it.

"I desire great things for myself because I know I am worthy." she told him, breaking the silence, before turning her eyes into a slight glare, although it was not necessarily one of anger, "You are worthy as well. You might think you're just a nobody from the South Pole, but I am certain that you will achieve great things."

"You're just saying that because you're the one guiding me." he prodded her; he didn't exactly believe in his own quip, but he said it nonetheless, hoping that he could get a response from her.

"I'm not the only one. Your father, Katara, even Aang. We're all looking out for you. Not because you're some child, but because you will be great. All you need is a goal."

"I do have a goal." he assured her, raising a finger in gesture, "To make sure that all my friends stay safe why we travel the world, and above that, to make sure you get what you need."

"I'm glad that you're so concerned for me, but I am in no need of anyone's sympathies. I can get what I want myself."

"Not alone you I can't." he retorted, the Princess shaking her head.

"I didn't mean it that way." she told him chidingly, although given the context, it was more of a reassurance that she didn't intend to just up and leave them when an opportunity for power arose, "I need to find a way. Once I have that way, then we can all get what we want."

"Isn't the Avatar good enough a way to find peace?" he asked her, the Princess shrugging her shoulders.

"He can make peace, that's for sure, with all those powers he has locked up inside him... but I don't think he can just overthrow my brother, nor would he want to. That's something I have to do by myself."

"No you don't." he assured her, "I can help. I helped before."

"You helped me when I didn't need the help. I would be more surprised if you didn't want to help." she admitted honestly with a small smile, before she glanced up and around, "Now, where are these fruits you keep yammering on about?" she asked him, Sokka turning his attention toward a small grove of trees that were situated by a nearby cliff face, "Maybe over in those trees." he suggested, the Princess nodding before the pair made their way toward it, scanning the branches of the trees, only for Sokka to be disappointed by the fact there was no fruit.

"Aw, man." he sighed, "I wonder if this lemur has already gone through them all. That'd just be annoying."

"Another glutton to add to the group." she joked, making him frown.

"Hey, I'm not a glutton. I'm fit." he declared confidently, making a flexing motion with his arms which were mostly obscured by the thick parka he was wearing.

"Sure looks like it." she told him with sarcastic enthusiasm, before she walked over closer to the cliff-face, "Wait a minute." she raised a hand, "What about down there?" she gestured below them, down to a lower portion of the temple, which was most desolate with a few bushes and trees about.

He knew there might be fruit down there, but getting there was part of the problem; he for one, didn't want to walk all the way around the other side of the temple to get down.

"I can't see a path." he simply stated the obvious, "We'll have to keep going."

"Great." she sarcastically acknowledged; he was starting to feel a little upstaged by her sarcastic comments, when he was the one who was meant to be the sarcasm guy- that was his whole thing, along with loving meat and his boomerang.

He continued along through the grounds of the temple, looking for any signs of fruit, berries or just about anything that they could use to stock up on food; he sighed as she realised he couldn't see anything, and would have to walk even further into the temple. He took note that the path they were taking ended with a small courtyard, beyond which was a sheer drop. He took note that there was an entrance into the main complex of the temple to their right, which he gestured to.

"I mean, this might take us down to that other area." he suggested, the Princess tilting her chin up.

"We don't have much of a choice. I'm certainly not listening to you complain about no food for a day or two."

"If only you could selectively listen to me." he joked, making the Princess narrow her eyes at him.

"It's pretty hard to. You're obnoxiously loud." she commented, the Water Tribe teen raising a hand to his chest, "I'm what?" he asked her in an exaggeratedly loud voice.

She narrowed her eyes at him before chuckling, "Oh, your wit is unsurpassable." she conceded, although whether it was a genuine compliment or another sarcastic mocking of his character, he was unsure; he knew that she loved him, but that didn't mean that she wouldn't deal down hard truths if he was acting up.

They entered the dark corridor that led them into the temple, making Sokka shiver, and not because he was cold, seeing that he was wearing his parka, but because it seemed eerie. On the outside, the temple seemed like it was simply abandoned, but he could almost feel what had happened a hundred years prior inside the walls of the temple; sure there were no burn marks crossing the walls like he would have expected, or masses of skeletons. Of course, there were skeletons, and Aang had found them, but Sokka had a feeling that the Fire Nation had cleared out most of the bodies after their attack, seeing that they would have wanted to confirm they had gotten them all. It was so disturbing to think of someone even trying such a thing that he felt sick in the stomach. As he and Azula turned a corner, they found themselves at a staircase, at the base of which he could see what he guessed was the burned remains of an Air Nomad's staff; it was blacked and split in two. He didn't see a body, and that unnerved him more than accidentally running into a skeleton.

"This place is seriously creeping me out." he admitted, the Princess continuing to walk forward.

"It is what it is, Sokka. You should know what to expect." she warned him, the Water Tribe teen gulping with fear.

"Should I?" he mumbled, her eyes momentarily darting back toward his.

"You saw what happened to your tribe. This is no different, although the timescale was condensed dramatically." she admitted, before gesturing down the hallway, where he could see some sunlight peeking through over the floor, "I think there's an exit back outside down this way."

He shook his head, trying to dispel both the thoughts of what happened to the Air Nomads and the memories of what his tribe had experienced; he didn't find himself having much luck, but continued along the hallway nonetheless, following after his girlfriend as she moved nearer to the exit.

She turned another corner and glanced back his way, "Here it is."

Sokka approached her, and glanced around the corner, taking note of a clear opening out toward the exterior of the temple, giving him a good view of the mountains that surrounded it. He then approached the exit, glancing out around outside, looking for some sign of food; he took note of a few bushes that were situated just by the exterior wall of the temple, making a grin as he realised they had finally found something.

"There we go!" he exclaimed, pointing toward the bushes, "That's what I'm talking about!"

"That's the most excited I've seen anyone get about a bush in my entire life." Azula observed, before he raised a finger in defiance of her mockery.

"I have a pretty good reason." he argued, "There's no reason to not be happy about more food."

"Fair point." she conceded, "As long as we can store it somewhere, it's helpful." she acknowledged, the Water Tribe teen nodding, before he gestured for her to follow.

"Come on, let's go pick them and then we can relax for a bit." he suggested, making her raise a brow at him.

"We've only been walking around for what... ten minutes? And you want to take a break."

"When I say a break, I more meant like sparring or something like that." he suggested in turn, knowing that if there was anything that would improve his girlfriend's mood, it was giving her an opportunity to beat him up.

"Oh..." she pursed her lips upward, "Now, that's the kind of break I'd be interested in. I already warmed up with Katara."

"You fought her?" he asked her with a concerned voice, obviously unsure if his sister would be safe facing off against her.

The Princess shook her head, "I'm not cruel enough to try and spar a girl who can barely bend as it is. I showed her some techniques to better harness her bending, that's all. Then I did a few sets." she simply explained herself, before she walked over to the bushes, picking off a few berries, before she had a bite of one; she raised a brow before tossing one into his hands.

"Take a bite. They're not that bad."

He complied, eating the small berry whole, chewing it down and having a taste of it; it was sweet, but not too sweet, with a slight sour tinge to it. He thought that it would be better complimenting some proper food, that being meat, but he knew he couldn't get everything he wanted in life. He'd have to work to get himself some meat; the thought of the two of them hunting in some random Earth Kingdom forest again wasn't very heartening, but he knew that they had the skills amongst them as a group to get themselves some food, even in Aang was a vegetarian.

He then moved over to the bush, pulling out a few berries, before placing them in the bag he had slung over his shoulder; Azula placed a few in the bag as he lay it down between them as they picked berries from the bushes. Once they were finished with the first one, they moved over to the next, picking more berries off and putting them into the bag; he began to realise that due to their small size it would be more challenging than not to fill the bag up all the way like he had hoped to. He sighed, but knew that there wasn't much else he could do other than search for more places to find food; quickly enough, they had taken each of the three bushes that sat by the wall and cleared them of berries, filling the bag about a quarter way full of them.

"Hmph... that isn't as much as I'd like." he voiced his frustration, the Princess grabbing the bag from him and walking away with it, much to his surprise.

"What are you doing with that?" He questioned her, his voice rising with confusion; she simply turned to face him with a smug look on her face as she dropped it by the doorway through which they had entered the relatively desolate courtyard.

"Putting it to the side so we can do that spar you suggested." she explained herself, making him chuckle.

"Oh, this is going to end with my parka getting set on fire." he mumbled, realising that Azula was more than likely going to win their fight; no matter how much he improved, he couldn't match her speed and quick tactics.

Chi-blocking was a powerful tool, but it was only as powerful as his opponent was ignorant, and Azula, unlike most people, had become well adapted to dodging his chi-blocking attacks. Sokka lamented that he didn't have a weapon that could go toe-to-toe with her; his boomerang, no matter how awesome a weapon it was, wasn't very effective in close-quarter sparring that they tended to do. Sure, it could be used to knock out a deck full of Southern Raiders, but he'd be lucky if it hit Azula just once when thrown in their sparring sessions. He pulled his parka off, knowing that it would just slow him down, throwing it off to the ground beside him; the Princess scratched at her chin as she eyed him getting into a stance.

"You are quite fit." she conceded, recalling her comments she had made earlier, before she took her own stance, "But that won't stop me."

"I didn't think it would." he retorted, already well aware that he was the underdog in their fights.

She immediately began by spinning her fingers around, charging up two bolts of fire on each of her hands, before spinning out, firing them at him in quick succession; seeing that he had ample time to prepare, he had already drawn out his boomerang and used it to cut through one of the attacks while he ducked under one of them. He then threw his weapon in a wide arc, which at the very least distracted her for a few moments while he raced toward her, ready to use his chi-blocking skills as intended. She was ready to stop him, sending an arc of flames toward him by swinging her arm down as if it were a blade; to dodge the attack, he lunged to the right, falling right into Azula's next attack, which was a kick. He grunted as he rolled back, glad that her attacks were only light, meaning that he wouldn't get burnt, even if it still felt like he had been kicked in the chest by an actual foot; her purposefully avoiding to actually harm him was something that warmed his heart, but it also made him more afraid, knowing that she could win all the same. Then his boomerang arrived, returning from its arc, Azula literally turning around and grabbing it as if it were a snowball being tossed at her; she smirked confidently, making Sokka realise that his plan had failed. Luckily, he always had a back-up plan, and that currently involved taking advantage of her triumph; with her eyes focused on his weapon, he sent his left leg into her own, tripping her over, making her face immediately shift to one of fear as she tried to muffle a squeal, falling flat on her face.

"Made you look." he mocked her, the Princess gritting her teeth.

As soon as she had gotten her hands underneath herself, she raised upper body up from the ground, sending a fireball toward him at point blank range; he expected that, and already had lifted himself up, before he grabbed her left arm as she tried to use it to send another fire blast at him. She still fired it, but he was able to angle her hand so it fired away from him; she then opened her mouth, aiming to breathe fire at him, which he only realised when he saw the flames heading toward him; he felt the heat coursing above his head as he lunged forward, jabbing her in the gut and then in the left shoulder to chi-block her. Even though he had momentarily paralysed her left arm and bending, she still took the chance to send a fist into his abdomen, making him cough as he fell onto his back.

"Ow." he grumbled, before reaching for his boomerang, which she had dropped on the ground nearby them.

He found himself jumped on by his girlfriend, who tackled him back onto the ground, although he took advantage of her attack by rolling around, and forcing her to the ground. As Azula looked up at him with a mixture of pride and frustration, he tried to think of something witty to say while he was holding her down in such a compromised manner.

"This was all part of my plan." he declared, although his words didn't have the desired effect, as his girlfriend began to cackle, laughing at him mockingly.

"Really? This was your plan?" she smugly questioned him, the Water Tribe teen raising a brow.

"Well yeah, I tackled you. You can't bend. What else could you do but surrender?" he asked her, curious as to why she hadn't conceded the spar yet.

"Because I can bend again, dummy." she grinned at him, before she punched him in the side with a flame-covered fist, Sokka shouting out with pain as he felt his muscles contract in an unnatural way from the hit.

"Argh!" he screamed out, before he fell to the side of Azula, who was already getting back up.

"So, maybe you're in the mood for surrendering?" she quipped with a smug tone; he wanted to continue fighting her just to spite her mockery, but he knew that he was in enough pain that she'd force him to yield eventually anyway.

"Fine. You win this round." he mumbled, the Princess standing up above him triumphantly for a moment, before she offered him a hand.

"Come on, let's get some more fruit." she suggested, making him groan with frustration, remembering they still needed to fill the bag all the way up.

"Ah... shit." he mumbled under his breath, before accepting her hand, and allowing himself to be pulled up back to his feet.

"You said it yourself, if you don't want to be complaining in a day or two about no food, now is the time to get it." she reminded him, Sokka narrowing his eyes in thought as he glanced toward the bag full of berries.

"If Momo eats all this fruit I'm going to have a fit."

Lifting one of the last remaining bags onto Appa's saddle, Azula wiped the sweat from her forehead, relieved that they were finally about to leave the Southern Air Temple. The place unnerved her more than any place she had visited before that, and she was glad to be leaving it once and for all; she knew that the young Avatar had held the place dearly, but even if he was unwilling to continue staying. It was the not the same place he knew, after a hundred quiet years, and she felt the smallest shred of empathy for his misfortune of being the last of his kind; everything he had known, he had lost, and she felt a certain kinship to such a feeling, even if her loss had not been in the same starkly permanent fashion.

She had lost her throne, her title, her pride and her purpose; that was all that mattered to her, and as such, she felt that even if she could regain those things, she still felt the shattering realisation, the same Aang had when he saw Gyatso's body, that everything he had held dear was gone. She wished that perhaps he could have the same possibility to find his people once again, but she was further disturbed by the fact that death would be the only thing to reunite them in the Spirit World, something she doubted the existence of to begin with.

"Alright, are we all ready to go?" she heard Katara ask the group, Aang standing up beside her, holding a tent bag in his hands.

"Just this." he told her with a slightly exasperated tone as he raised the bag up, before using his airbending to levitate it over onto the saddle, the young Air Nomad sighing once he did so, stretching his arms out, "Well, now... I guess we leave." he mumbled, his voice clearly showing the sadness he felt over what had happened.

Momo chittered, climbing up onto the Avatar's arm, making him giggle, before he glanced around the desolate temple, "You, me and Appa, we're all that's left of this place." he told the lemur with a bittersweet smile, "We have to stick together." Azula clenched her fists upon hearing his words, knowing what had happened was her family's responsibility.

"Do we need to leash the lemur to you?" Sokka questioned, obviously jokingly, though that went over Aang's head.

"What?! No, of course not. Momo can do as he pleases."

"As long as he doesn't eat all the fruit we collected." he raised a finger, "We'll have no issue. Isn't that right, Azula?" he asked her for back-up, the Princess shaking her head.

"I don't care. It would have been a waste of my time to get the fruit, but... I'm not going to be the one complaining." she retorted, making her boyfriend look at her with an aghast expression, as if what she said was paramount to betrayal.

As the Princess climbed up onto the saddle, she was offered a hand by Katara, who helped pull her up before she sat down beside her boyfriend, who had his arms crossed, trying to show his offence as visibly as possible.

"Oh stop it. You know I'm right."

"This is one of the times where being right is a relative thing." he retorted with a snarl, "That fruit's important to me."

"As important as meat?" she smugly questioned, the Water Tribe teen raising his eyes up, looking to the sky above them.

"No, it isn't." he conceded, "But we all want to eat."

"I don't know why you're making such a big deal out of this, Sokka." his sister intervened in their conversation, making him groan with frustration.

"Urgh!" he leaned himself back onto Appa's saddle, "I can never win! All I want is a little certainty I'll have something to eat tomorrow."

"How about you cuddle up with a peach instead of your girlfriend?" Katara suggested, making Azula glare at her; she was crossing into territory that would easily agitate her, so she would stop her right in her tracks.

"There's no peaches in the sleeping roll." she declared, "Though it'd probably smell better than him."

"Hey!" Sokka gasped, his jaw dropping wide open, "I clean as often as I can."

"Clearly not enough." she added, making him face-palm.

"Am I the butt of everyone's jokes or something?" he asked with an exasperated voice.

"Only the harmless kind." she raised a finger, making him glare at her with contempt.

"My pride can be harmed." he clarified, making Katara snicker, obviously amused by his reaction; whether she thought he had little to be proud of or she just little making fun of him, the Princess felt a small moment of camaraderie with her.

She made a sarcastic face of surprise "Oh, sorry, I forgot about that."

He crossed his arms, turning his head away from her, "You can't help yourself." he mumbled, making her grin, knowing that he guessed right; she enjoyed mocking him, although she preferred when it was a proper argument rather than her just throwing insults.

"You're right about that, Sokka." she smirked at him, before Aang caught their attention, now sitting at the front of the sky-bison.

"Are we all ready to go?" he asked them, Sokka raising his hand into the air.

"Just fly already." he grumbled, still annoyed by being ganged up on by his girlfriend and sister.

"Don't mind him." Katara assured the young Air Nomad, "He's just being sour."

"You won't be sour when we're riding giant koi fish!" he declared with a grin, before turning to face ahead of them, "Appa, yip-yip!" he called on his sky-bison, who groaned, making Momo chitter uncomfortably, the flying-lemur jumping over to hide between Sokka and Azula, making both of them lean back in surprise.

"Ah!" her boyfriend yelped, "Go find your own place to hide!" he told the lemur, who then proceeded to jump into the tent bag, hiding in there as they began to fly up into the air with increasing speed, racing away from the grounds of the Air Temple.

Azula glanced back toward the temple, watching as she was able to appreciate its enormousness one last time before it began to recede away; she glanced back ahead of her, seeing that Aang was looking the same way with a sad look in his eyes. As much as he wanted to be giddy, he probably couldn't help but feel sad, or even guilty, about what had happened. She knew Sozin's actions couldn't be undone, but maybe she could do something to make sure that the Avatar wasn't the last of his people. She didn't know how he would repopulate the Air Nomads just by himself, but the thought of a twelve-year-old doing such things made her feel as disgusted as she did by Sokka's odours. The Princess was certain, however, that something needed to be done, and she felt a certain sense of obligation to at the very least help the young Avatar achieve both peace, but return the Four Nations to being four, not three, as they had been for a whole century.

"Don't worry." Azula assured the young Avatar, drawing his attention to her.

"Huh? About what?" he mumbled, confused by her sudden words; he hadn't realised that she was watching him, which made his confusion understandably.

"It's not like you have to defeat anyone that powerful." she admitted, making Katara raise a brow with confusion.

"Wait... who is Aang defeating?" she mumbled, the Princess raising a finger.

"All the Fire Nation renegades that continue to rule over the Earth Kingdom. Then if need be, my brother. That won't be that hard, trust me."

"But didn't he defeat you?" the young Avatar looked at her with slight concern, making her raise a finger.

"Oh, you see, I learn from my mistakes. I'm not teaching you lightning-bending." she explained herself, Aang looking at his friends with a perplexed face.

"It's not like I want to shoot lightning out of my fingers or anything." he admitted, making her chuckle.

"That's good to hear. Without lightning-redirection, my brother doesn't stand a chance against you once you've learned all the elements." she explained, making Katara raise a brow.

"But isn't it going to take ages for him to learn the elements? Does that mean the world is still going to be at war until he does?"

"Just because he hasn't mastered the elements doesn't mean he can't try and help reassert balance." she clarified, "You're the Avatar, Aang, not some random person who thinks they know better than everyone. People ought to listen to you, because you've got... or should have, the wisdom of all your past lives.

"And then something something Fire Nation colonies." Sokka mumbled, making her shoot him a glare, "What? I'm not wrong." he added, making her sigh, knowing that was still technically correct, as was the power of derisively vague wording.

"You're not, but you're grossly over-simplifying the situation." she admitted, "The Four Nations mightn't be four by the end of all this... but at the very least, there might be some peace and stability."

"That's what I want. I think that's... what everyone wants." Aang admitted, before he raised a finger to his chin, "I'm guessing everyone in the Fire Nation thinks 'peace' is a little different to what I'm thinking of."

"Correct." she conceded, "I'm accepting of the fact that the four nations need to exist apart, but there's a bit of an overlap problem at the moment. The Fire Nation colonies are the most obvious case, but Earth Kingdom refugees moving all over the place probably hasn't made the locals of the peaceful areas very happy." she explained, before furrowing a brow, "I don't think it's possible to relocate everyone, but it might be possible to at least help everyone move on from the war and become more... prosperous... um..." she began to mumble, realising that she was paraphrasing Fire Lord Sozin himself.

"What's wrong?" Sokka asked her, "Did prosperity suddenly become a bad thing or something?" the Princess shaking her head, before she looked out back toward the Southern Air Temple as it receded from view.

"The last time someone from the Fire Nation had the same idea I had... it caused that." she pointed back to the temple, "Maybe I'm just being optimistic, but I believe that if the world is set right, then maybe people won't need to kill each other to try and find prosperity. Because that's what the Fire Nation has been doing for the past hundred years."

"That worked out brilliantly." Katara sarcastically remarked, making her sigh.

"For many in the Fire Nation, it did. The nobles and industrialists have become so much more wealthy from the war effort and new resources in the Earth Kingdom that I'm surprised the Fire lord hasn't started handing back tax money to the people."

"Could he do that?" Aang raised a brow with surprise.

"If he's not spending that money on ships, tundra tanks and whatever stupid things War Minister Qin is coming up with, then yes, there's enough money in the treasury to just hand it out to the commoners."

"What if they gave that money back to the people the Fire nation has harmed?" Aang asked her, making her scoff.

"Did you miss my whole 'rebuild the Southern Water Tribe' argument?" she questioned, before she realised that he hadn't actually heard that specific idea she had, "Oh... uh, when I become Fire Lord, or even just gain control of the colonies, I will be able to do just what you suggested. I want to make sure the Southern Water Tribe is a great nation once again, on par with their Northern neighbours, and even my own nation. The Earth Kingdom will get their fair share too, of course, as soon as their country is... fixed."

"The Dai Li and all that?" he asked her, referring back to the story she had told him about her and Sokka's adventure.

"Pretty much. They have to be dealt with. So do the Fire Nation rebels who want to rule the Earth Kingdom like tribal warlords." she added, making all of them look at her with confusion; they obviously hadn't read the history of the Fire Nation, which was full of much war and bloodshed, much of it perpetrated by just that, tribal warlords, "That's a Fire Nation history reference."

"Okay." Katara mumbled, slightly confused by what she was trying to say, "So, what you're saying is that we're going to make sure the Fire Nation's wealth is spread fairly back to the rest of the nations."

"To the benefit of them all, through the power of investment." she clarified, glad that she had scrubbed up well on her economics tutoring back when she was still in the palace, learning how to become Fire Lord.

"Anyway, we don't need to worry about that." Aang assured them, "That's a long way away. I haven't even learned airbending, or met these people Chief Hakoda told me about." he conceded, "But there is something we do need to worry about."

"What is that?" Katara asked him with bright-eyed curiosity, the young Avatar pointing toward the rear of the saddle where all their bags were lined up.

"Uh... we might need the map." he admitted, making Sokka chuckle.

"Ah, yes, giant koi fish." he recalled, leaning over to pull the map out of Aang's bag.

He unfurled it out in front of them, pointing down to their current location, which was the Southern Air Temple, "So we're here, at the Southern Air Temple, and we've got to go to... where?"

"Uh... it's in the Southern Sea. By an island." Aang gave him a rather unhelpful answer, the Water Tribe teen placing his fingers on his nose bridge as he sighed.

"There's a lot of islands. Could you narrow that down? How long did it take you to get there from the Southern Air Temple last time you went there?" he asked, the Avatar raising a brow.

"Uh... I think five... six days." he admitted, making the Princess sigh.

"Okay, we're going to have to land at some point and get more food. This fruit will not last us six days." she conceded, making Sokka groan.

"At least we know that now." he admitted with a sour tone, before he scratched at his chin, "So, if we travelled from here," he pointed to approximately where they thought his village was located, before pointing, "to here, in about three days, a six day journey would be in this area." he circled around the map, pointing out a large area, before he gestured to a few islands by the Earth Kingdom coast, "I'm guessing this is where you wanted to go?"

"Uh... yeah, I think that's about right." Aang glanced down at the map with a smile.

"At the very least it's in the direction we were aiming to go. Bato said the rebels were near a city... uh- Obashu?" he mumbled, unsure about what he was trying to say.

"You mean Omashu." she clarified, making him nod, Aang's brows raising with interest.

"Omashu? I have a friend in Omashu." he explained, before his tone quietened, remembering that a hundred years had passed since he had probably been there.

"Yep, that's the one." Sokka corrected himself, "In the mountains he said. Because earthbenders can defend it well or something like that." he recalled with a tone of uncertainty, making the Princess chuckle.

"Oh, it's not called Omashu anymore, by the way." she admitted, the young Avatar raising a brow.

"Huh... who renamed it?"

"Uh... I'm unsure exactly who decided on the new name, but it was named after my father. New Ozai." she explained, making Sokka snicker.

"Oh, that's funny. I wonder if your brother still rules it. That'd stick out like a sore thumb on his maps."

"Well, then he'd have two Ozai's under his thumb." she retorted, the Water Tribe teen cackling.

"I know I shouldn't be laughing, but I'm pretty sure you Dad's not a nice guy, so I feel a little less bad about it." he admitted, before raising a brow.

"Calling my father nice would both be offensive to him, and completely false." she conceded, making Katara and Aang look at each other uncomfortably.

"Who exactly is your Dad, other than being the last Fire Lord?" Aang questioned, making her chuckle.

"Somebody you would never want to meet, I can assure you." she conceded; even if she didn't personally hate her father, no matter how stupendous some of his worldviews were, she knew that her father would be disgusted by the very existence of Aang- airbenders were vegetarian pacifists, the antithesis of his very being.

"An evil guy?" he asked her, assuming most correctly her father's nature.

"I mean, he's not the most sadistic person I've met. There's people in the Fire Nation government far worse than him, but he has the most... extreme way of viewing the world. He mightn't enjoy bringing suffering to others, but he certainly believes that my nation ought to rule over all others, and sees all those inferior to him." she admitted, trying to give the most positive spin on her father she could.

She was sure that people like General Bujing, the man who had inadvertently gotten her brother banished, were far more uncaring for the lives of his countrymen, than her father, who genuinely prided himself on protecting and bettering his nation and its citizens.

"It sounds like we're lucky then... your brother's the Fire Lord and not him."

"Well, you're lucky. I'm less advantaged by this situation than you are." she admitted, before sighing, glancing out toward the mountains that surrounded them on all sides, "But I don't think he would have approved of my actions, anyway." she conceded, "I'm not the most dutiful daughter."

"Isn't everything you're doing trying to fulfil the very role your father wanted you to have?" katara questioned, "You want to be Fire Lord. That's what he wanted."

"Yes, it is. Our interests align, but I do not intend to rule like my father."

"How do you, then?" the Water Tirbe girl prodded her, the Princess pursing her lips into a smirk.

"I won't be taking advice from idiots, for one. I intend to make my nation as efficient as possible in achieving more wealth for its citizens, and then, for the world. War is not the best way to do that, by a long shot." she admitted, before glancing toward Sokka, who was rather in awe by her proclamation.

"So... development?" he suggested, recalling what he had told her would be the best policy to deal with potential rebellions in Ba Sing Se.

"Yes, Sokka. I didn't forget your advice. If we're lucky, those soldiers didn't forget it either and the Dai Li didn't take over Ba Sing Se again." she admitted, making him scoff.

"Yeah, I don't think my advice would have helped that much." he conceded, "But maybe we can change that."

"Change what? Have you got some new-crazy-overthrowing-somebody plan again?" his sister asked him, the Water Tribe teen looking back at her smugly.

"Of course not, I just need to get my good friend the Freedom Fighters to do it."

"Sokka. A bunch of angry teenagers won't overthrow the Dai Li. They can't." she argued, the Water Tribe warrior raising a finger.

"No. They can't, but I'm pretty sure they can persuade a lot of angry refugees in the Lower Ring to do it."

"That sounds like a... what do you call that?" Aang raised a brow, unable to find the word to describe what Sokka had just suggested.

"A revolution. Or, as my father would call it, 'a mob destroying the institutions of society'." she explained, before tensing up, realising that wasn't the best description.

"How about, uh... mass liberation?" the Water Tribe boy gave her a better description.

"Brilliant. If only the Fire Nation could liberate themselves en masse from my brother and save me a whole world of trouble."

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