Later we were all gathered by the fire at night, eating together. I was sitting next to Aang and Zuko. I was eating quietly, trying to ignore Katara's death looks. She was giving them to me and Zuko. Since I was the old me again, it was all I could no tot explode at her. I tucked my hair behind my ears.
"So," I said. "Toph, Sokka, are you guys still interested in training me?" Toph smiled.
"As far as I'm concerned, Hothead, nothing's changed." she said. Sokka nodded.
"Same here." he said. "We're back to normal. Of course I'll train you."
"Me too." Toph said. Haru gave me an 'I told you' smile. I smiled back.
"What training?" he asked. "Not a good enough fighter on your own so you need a twelve year old and-" he glanced at Sokka. "Sokka to help you?" I scoffed.
"Yeah, right." I said with a smile. "Toph's teaching my Earthbending and Sokka's teaching my how to sword fight. I can fight perfectly well without them. I'm just widening my horizon." Haru smiled more and I took a bite of my food. "Did you practice your Firebending more today, Aang?" I asked after a second.
"Yeah, I did." he answered with a smile. "And it all came back!"
"That's great, Aang!" I said. "I knew it would. You just got nervous again, that's all." I looked at Zuko. "I know what I'm doing." I said. Zuko looked awya angrily.
"I'm picking up some tension between you two." Sokka said. I smirked.
"Zuko lost his Firebending and he wont let me teach him." I said. "He's embarrassed."
"I am not embarressed!" Zuko snapped.
"But, you're very angry." Toph said. Zuko groaned and left. I sighed, setting down my food. I stood up and followed him quickly. He sat down on the fountain, hanging is head. I walked up to him, standing in front of him. When he didn't look up at me I sat down next to him. We sat there for a few moments in silence. I felt bad for him. Not only for losing his Firebending, but for everything he went through and has to go through. He already had no idea what happened to his mother, and the he was helping the Avatar train to take out his own father. I had come to accept that that was what needed to happen. Of course I was still a bit upset, but I had accepted it. I figured if Zuko could take it, I could. The poor kid went through so much, now he loses his bending and is about to lose his father. I felt bad feeling bad for my own problems.
"Zuko," I started.
"I'm not ebarressed." he snapped before I could say anything else.
"I know." I said, looking at him. "I was only kidding before." He looked away and I sighed. "Zuko, if you want me to help you regain your Firebending, I will. But, honestly, I think you lost it because you've changed sides." He looked back at me, interested in what I had to say. "Your Firebending before was fueled my rage and anger and hate." I continued. "Now that you aren't a bad guy anymore, there isn't much left to power it. You need to learn how to Firebend while relaxed." He looked down at the ground.
"Firebending while relaxed..." he said. "I don't think I've done that before."
"It's easy." I said. I took a deep breath, exhaling fire.
"Maybe for you." he said, standing. "But, I'm not a prodigy. I'm not as good as you, Mei. And I never will be." I stood up.
"Zuko, you don't have to be a Firebending prodigy to relax." I said. He looked away.
"You just wouldn't understand." he said. I scowled, growing suddenly furious.
"I wouldn't understand?!" I cried. I could feel the other silence themselves as I yelled, even though I couldn't see them. "Don't you dare say I wouldn't understand! I've lost everything I ever had, Zuko! I've lost just as much as you, if not more! I've lost my father, I lost my mother and siblings long ago, I lost my friend's trust! And I'm about to lose the only person who kept caring for me after Shoa and Shoza were born." I was starting to tear. Not tears of sadness, but of anger. "Uncle Ozai loved me more then you!" I cried suddenly. Zuko froze, his facial expression shocked and hurt. "And I'm going to lose him." I added more quiet. I turned and quickly walked away, afraid I would so something I would regret even more. I walked inside one of the buildings and sat down in a corner. I set a broken off piece of the wall on fire for light and warmth. I wiped my face, drying it from the tears. It took quite a bit of rage to make me cry tears of anger. And I hadn't done it in a while. It wasn't exactly something I enjoyed doing. I took a deep breath. The fire in front of me grew bigger in smaller with every inhale and exhale. I leaned up against the wall, replaying what had happened in my mind over and over gaain. I felt bad for saying that Uncle Ozai loved me more, but it was true. Something that should have been left unsaid, but true. I sighed. I was hoping me and Zuko wouldn't fight anymore, but at least Firebending didn't have to come into it this time. No one was dodging blasts of fire for their life.
The next morning I was awoken by the sound of flames. Someone was Firebending. I yawned and stretched then stood up. I walked out tot he fountain, hoping I would see Zuko finally Firebending, but it was Aang. I smiled anyway.
"You're doing good, Aang." I said. He stopped when he heard me.
"Oh, hi, Mei." he said. He rubbed the back of his neck. "Uh, doing okay?" I looked from side to side.
"Uh, yeah, why?" I asked uncertainly.
"Well, uh, we all kind of heard you and Zuko last night." he said nervously. "Things seemed to have gotten pretty heated." I sighed and lowered my head.
"Yeah, things went farther then they should have... On my part, anyway..." I admitted. He looked at the floor the back at me. I sighed. "Do you know where Zuko is?" I asked.
"He went up on top of the cliff." he asnwered. I turned and left, walking up to the edge of the cliff. I leapt down off of it and used Firebending to propel myself up ontop of it. I landed gently on my feet. Zuko was a few feet in front of me trying to produce a decent flame.
"Can I talk to you?" I asked. He shot his fist forward. Nothing.
"Why? So you can yell at me some more and tell me no one loves me?" he asked. I blushed from embarrassment and held my bad arm.
"Uh, well, that's sorta what I wanted to talk to you about." I said. "I'm really, really sorry for what I said. I shouldn't have said it." he stopped and faced me.
"But, you believe it." he said. I paused.
"What?" I asked.
"You believe it." he repeated. "You think my father loved you more." I didn't know what to say. Of course I did. It was true. But, no way was I gettin ginto that again.
"Uh, well-" I tried.
"You believe that my father would rather have had you has a daughter then me as a son." he said. I paused then scowled.
"Now, wait a minute. I did not say that." I said sternly.
"You didn't have to." he said, turning to walk back to Appa (who flew him up to the top of the cliff). I trotted up and grabbed his arm.
"Don't walk away." I said. He tore his arm away from me and wipped around.
"I'm not going to stand here and listen to this, Mei." he snapped. "I know that my father has always loved you more. And I was always jealous of you because of it. I was always jealous of you for a lot of reasons. And I'm sick of it." Zuko? Jealous? Of me? I never even thought of that. It made sense, but I never thought of it. He jumped onto Appa and grabbed hold of the reins.
"I'm Sorry, Zuko." I said sincerely. He just looked at me then flew away. I rolled my eyes, walking back to the edge of the cliff and Earthbending myself some steps to get back down. I was in no modd for Firebending. Aang was stretching by the fountain.
"Did you talk to him?" he asked. "How did it go?" I looked over at Zuko who was getting of Appa. He stormed away madly. I looked back at Aang.
"Does that answer your question?" Aang smirked.
"Give it more time. He'll forgive you. Everyone else has." I was about to smile at him when Katara stood.
"Not everyone." she said before leaving. Me and Aang both frowned and I walked back to where I had spent the night. I planned on staying in there for a while.
Come on, Mei. You can do better. More fierce. Make it hotter.
"What's wrong with you, Mei?" I asked myself quietly. I shook my head with a sigh. "It's probably just stress." I tucked my feet under myself, sitting in the meditating position. Momohopping inside and over to me. I smiled down at him and scratched the top of his head. "Hey, Momo." I said. "You wouldn't know what's wrong with me, woud you?" He cooed at me. "Didn't think so." I said. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. In through the nose, out through the mouth. In through the nose, out through the mouth. I could feel my pulse and heartbeat slow a little. I gave way to a little smile.
"Thinking about me?" I heard. I opened my eyes and saw Haru standing in front of me. I blushed, standing quickly.
"I- I didn't hear you come in." I stuttered.
"Did I interrupted something?" he asked. I shook my head, waving him off.
"No, I was just doing some breathing exercises." I answered. "I have a lot of stress."
"Well, you know what relieves stress?" he asked.
He gave me a devious smile.
"An Earthbending tournament!" he cried. I laughed a little. "You, me, Aang and Toph." I narrowed my eyes, still smiling.
"You're on." I said. I gave him a once over. "You don't know what you're getting yourself into." He smiled and we walked out together. We walked back to the fountain where Katara was doing her final healing session on Toph's feet. She stood up, dropping the water.
"That's it, Toph." she said. "They're all better."
"Yes!" Toph cried. She leapt up from the fountain. Momo, who was sleeping by the egde of the fountain, leapt up with a screech. With a little grumble he walked away, finding a new place to sleep.
"Toph, we're going to have an Earthbending tournament." Haru said. "You in?" Toph punched her palm.
"You know it." she said.
"Aang?" Haru asked, looking at him. He was sitting on the ground, back tot he fountain. He stood up and nodded.
"Sure." he said. "Sounds fun." So we all (and I mean all of us. Me, Toph, Aang, Haru, Katara, Zuko, Teo and The Duke) went up to the top of the cliff. We decided Katara would be the referee. Zuko, The Duke and Teo all sat a few feet from the rest of us. Katara stood in front of us Earthbenders.
"Okay," she announced. "The first game of the first Team Avatar Earthbending tournament is the rock toss. Each Earthbender will be given a large rock and they must throw it. Whoever throws it the farthest is the winner of the game. The rules are simple. You have to give it your all, and no other forms of bending may be used. Are you ready?" We all cheered.
"Okay. Toph, get four boulders and make sure they're all the same size." Katara said. Toph steped forward. She stomped the ground, sending one boulder up and slamming it down in front of Haru. Then another for Aang, another for me and one for herself. She stepped back behind her boulder.
"Okay, Haru, you first." Katara said. Haru took a deep breath, assuming his stance. He stomped the ground and the boulder lifted into the air. Then, with a grunt, he slammed his fist forward and sent the boulder flying. It landed very far away. I smiled. He was so strong... The 'audience' cheered for him. I gave him a joking evil look and he smirked.
"You're up, flower princess." he said. I scoffed.
"Go ahead, Mei." Katara said. I took a deep breath. I assumed my stance. Don't Firebend, Mei. I reminded myself. I pulled my fist back, then shot it forward and up. A pillar of Earth came up under my boulder and sent flying probably just unches farther then Haru's. I cheered, throwing my hands in the air as the 'audinece' cheered too.
"Okay, so Mei got hers farther then Haru!" Katara announced and everyone cheered more. I smiled at Haru.
"Told you." I said. He rolled his eyes jokingly.
"Aang, you're next." Katara said. Aang nodded. He took a deep breath, hitting his fists together. Then he stepped back, then forward and sent the rock into the air. Only he accidently used Airbending at the same time. It went much farther then mine and Haru's, but he used Airbending.
"Sorry, Aang." Katara said. "No Airbending. You're disqualified from this game." Aang groaned, tightening his fists. He took a few steps back and Toph went on to her turn. She cracked her knukles.
"I'll show you sissies how it's done." she said. She stomped the ground, lifting the boulder in front of her. She stepped back and with a loud grunt punch the rock. It went flying, landed maybe two or three feet in front of Aang's. The 'audience' went wild and she stood there proudly.
"Well, I think it's obvious who the winner of this game is." Katara said. She walked over and lifted Toph's arm in the air. "The blind bandit!" Toph laughed.
"Haven't been called that in a while." she said. Katara smiled.
"Okay, onto the next game." she said. "Rock sculptures. Each bender must make a sculpture out of rock, and the judges- that being Teo, The Duke and Zuko- will rate them. Whoever scores highest wins. Aang, you can go first this time." Aang smiled and stepped forward. He stomped the ground and thrust his hands out. Then he sowly raised them. The ground shook a bit as a huge rock started coming up. He shot his fists out three times and made certain parts fall from the rock until Katara could be seen. Katara blushed.
"Oh, Aang!" she cried. "It's beautiful!" Aang put his hands on his hips, smiling proudly. Katara turned to the judges. "Your scores?"
"I give him an eight." The Duke said.
"I say nine." Haru said.
"Eight point five." Zuko said. Katara nodded.
"So, Aang has twenty five point five points." she announced. "Mei's up next." I glanced at Haru before stepping forward. I stretched my arms to the side. I raised them, then lowered them back down straight, clenching my fists as I did it. Certain parts of the ground lowered beneath me. I took a few steps back. The 'judges' walked over to it, looking it over. I smiled. Haru, Toph, Aang and Katara stepped forwad too. They all looked shocked. I had made a dragon in the ground. A huge intricate dragon.
"Ten." Teo and The Duke said together. Zuko frowned.
"Four." he said. I scowled.
"Okay, so Mei has twenty four points." Katara said. I stepped back with a proud smile. "Haru, you're up." Haru walked forward. He stomped the ground, sending up a boulder. He put it in front of him and shot out his hands. Parts of the boulder crumbled, showing my face. I could feel my face get beat red. He turned to me a smile in a satisfied way. I scowled a little, not able to be fully angry with him.
"Wow, that's really good, Haru." Teo said. "I give it a nine."
"I say ten." The Duke said.
"Six." Zuko said. I rolled my eyes.
"Zuko, will you just-"
"My turn!" Toph cired, cutting me off. I exhaled sharply and stepped back. Toph took a few steps forward. She swooped her arms back and forth, moving different parts of the ground. When she was finished she stepped back. "Someone put my name down there." she said. Aang reached forward and moved the ground, signing her name. Toph msiled proudly and we all walked over to see what she had done. We all kind of laughed to see she had done the simple Earth Kingdom logo. The way she looked drawing it, it seemed like she would have made something amazing.
"Okay, I have to give it a eight." Teo said.
"I'll give it an eight point five." The Duke said.
"Seven." Zuko said.
"Alright, Toph has twenty three point five points." Katara said. "So, Aang wins this round!" I rolled my eyes. I wasn't angry that I lost. This was just supposed to be fun. I was angry because Zuko was rating everything involving me really low. I would have won if he wasn't such a baby. I sighed, putting my hand on my hip. Haru walked over to me.
"You're doing pretty good." he said. I smiled.
"Better then you." I replied. "And I can only use one arm." He smirked.
"It wont last." he said. "You wait. I'll beat you." Walking by him I gave him a once over.
"We'll see." I said.
"Alright, this is the final round." Katara said. "This is a test of strength. Whoever lifts the bigget boulder wins. Mei, you first."
"This isn't fair!" I cried. "I only have one arm!"
"So, you forfeit." Haru said. I scowled at him.
"No way." I said. "I'm not letting you off that easy." I turned and faced Katara. I took the deepest breath I could. I thrust my hand down, then slowy up. It shook as a massive boulder came up from the ground. It had to be at least six yards high and five across. I struggled to lift it with only one arm, but I did my best. It probably got about two feet of the ground before I had to drop it. The 'audience' cheered and I smiled, breathing heavily.
"Okay, Aang, you're turn." Katara said. Aang walked over to my boulder. He lifted about five more big chunks of earth and put it in my boulder to make it bigger. His took a deep breath, exhaling slowly and steadily. He bent his knees, holding his arm low. When he slowly raised them the rock shook. He grunted and it came up about a foot. He would have been better, but I don't think he was really motivated enough. And he still needed a bit more training, like me. He dropped it seconds later and the 'audience' cheered again.
"Good job, Aang." Katara said. "It was bigger then Mei's, and you lifted it."
"But, I lifted mine higher." I said.
"But, his was bigger." Katara said. "It's not about how high you lift it. It's about how big the boulder is." I sighed. Aang jokingly stuck his tongue out at me.
"Careful, you're face could freeze that way." I said with a smile. Aang smiled back and stood next to me.
"You did good for a one-armed try." he said. I snickered.
"Thanks." I said. Toph stepped forward for her turn. She took two huge boulders and slammed them into me and Aang;s boulder, making it way bigger. She took a deep breath. She thrust her fists down then slowly up. The ground under the boulder shook and started lifting. Toph was grunting, trying to lift it higher. Once she lifted it about three feet from the ground, she quickly dropped the ground beneath it and caught the boulder in mid air. She held it up for seven seconds at the most before dropping it. It made a loud crash when it fell and we all wobbled. Haru looked a little nervous, but he hid it quickly when he saw me smile. He stepped in front fo the massive boulder and took a deep breath. He lifted a few more decent sized rocks, adding them to the boulder. I cleared his throat an dtook another deep breath.
"Don't slip up, Haru." I said with a smirk. He glanced at me then held his hands out. He tried to lift it with a grunt, but it didn't move. He kept glancing at me, looking nervous and maybe a little embarrassed. I sighed. I couldn't see him go through this. I discreetly helped him out a bit. Only a little. I made it so it came about an inch from the ground. When I stopped helping the rock slammed back down to the ground. Everyone cheered loudly.
"Haru wins!" Katara cried. "Good job, Haru." I put my hand on my hip.
"Yeah, good job, Haru." I said. He looked at me and smiled.
"I told you I was better." he said. I nodded.
"You sure did." I said. "You beat me." We all started over to Appa to go back down below the cliff. His smile started to fade.
"I did." he said. "I won." I nodded.
"You sure did, Haru. Good for you." I said. Aang pulled me up onto Appa. "Coming?" I asked. Psyching people out was so much fun. He walked over and I pulled him up. I kept an innocent, content smile on my face.
"Why do you look like that?" he asked. I shrugged.
"I don't look anyway, Haru." I said sweetly. "Man, your arms must be tired, huh? I mean, that boulder sure looked heavy." He narrowed his eyes then smiled.
"What did you do?" he asked. I looked away.
"Nothing." I said. "I didn't do a thing." Appa landed and we all got off again. I started walking then Zuko shoved past me. I looked at him as he walked in front of me. I shook my head. Don't get into it, Mei. I thought. What would Uncle Iroh tell you? Then I paused. I ran over to Zuko.
"Zuko, stop." I said. He turned to me with an angry look.
"What do you want?" he snapped. "I'm not in the mood to be yelled at."
"Would you shut up?" I asked. "Where's Uncle Iroh? You were traveling with him." His anger turned to sadness and he lowered his head.
"He was- he was in prison last time I saw him." he said quietly. My eyes widened.
"What?!" I cried.
"He was put in prison after I-" He stopped for a second. "After I betrayed him. I left him for Azula and my father." I took a step back. I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
"You what?" I breathed.
"I'm so ashamed of what I did..." he said. "I feel so bad... He escaped. I know that much." I shook my head.
"And you got after me for what I said." I said. "What you did was much worse, Zuko. I can't beleive you."
"Look, I said I was sorry." he said. "I wish I could change what I did, but I can't. I was fighting for my honor. For my father's love!"
"That's no excuse, Zuko!" I cried. "What you did was awful! He loved you more then Uncle Ozai and Azula put together and you just betray him?" I shook my head again, taking a few more step sback. "That's just- twisted."
"You've done bad things in the past, too, Mei." he said. "No one's perfect. We all make mistakes." I scowled, stepping forward again.
"Not like that, though!" I cried.
"You betrayed everyone here!" he cried loudly. "You betrayed everyone here! I only betrayed one person!" The anger built up inside me. With a loud grunt I shot my fist out, send fire at him. He quickly defending himself with his own fire and I kept attacking. He used mostly defence with few attacks. I sent balls of fire and lines of fire and tunnels of fire that he evaded all of. I backed him near a wall and he grabbed my fist as I swung it to him. Then he grabbed the other as I did it again and he twisted me around, pinning me to the wall. I was crying tears of rage yet again. I tried to pull away, but I couldn't. By this time everyone was watching. After a second he released his grip on my wrists and pulled me into a hug. I hugged him for a second before pulling away.
"I'm sorry, Zuko..." I said. "I am." I sniffed and ran off, not wanting to be seen.
Later on everyone was gathered around the fire eating and talking. I was sitting a ways away by Appa. Momo was curled up next to me, asleep like usual. I quielty ate my rice, feeling awful about what had happened. I looked up and saw Zuko and Sokka walking away from the others. The got a bit closer to me, till far away so I had to strain myself to hear.
"If someone was taken as a war prsioner by the Fire Nation, where would they be taken?" Sokka asked. I paused. I had forgotten about the adults. They all would have been captured and put in jail. I thought for a second, remembering everyone, then listened again.
"My guess is they were brought to the boiling rock. It's the highest security prison in the Fire Nation." Zuko said. "It's on an island in the middle of a boiling lake. You guys actually passed it on your way here."
"Okay." Sokka said. "Juts knowing makes me feel better." He started walking away and I knew that wasn't why he asked. When Zuko started to follow him I shot out a line of fire in front of him to get his attention. He stopped and looked at me, then scowled. I gestured for him to come here. I saw him sigh then he started walking over. I set my bowl down and stood up.
"I don't like fighting with you." I said to him. "We fought most of our lives and I thought it was finally over."
"Yeah, well, it would've been." he said.
"Hey, you have temper problems too, you know." I said. Then I stopped and took a deep breath. "I don't want to argue again. Can we just start over and try to be like normal cousins again?" He looked away, seemingly thinking. Then he looked back.
"I guess." he said. We hugged quickly and he walked back to the fire with the others. I sat back down and started eating again.
I fell asleep a while later. I had moved more enar the dimming fire after everyone else fell asleep for a bit of warmth. I was sleeping peacfully when I was shaken. I yawned and rubbed my eyes. When they focused I saw Zuko standing over me.
"Come on." he said quietly. He took my hand, pulling me up and leading me to Appa.
"What's going on?" I whispered. It was still in the middle of the night.
"I think Sokka's going to try and leave to go to the boiling rock. He wants to break his father out." It took me by surpirse. Sokka's schemes didn't work out most of the time.
"He is?" I asked. Zuko nodded. We climbed up onto Appa and waited. Sure enough Sokka came creeping up. When he saw us he yelled a little and fell backwards.
"Not planning anything, huh?" Zuko asked. Sokka sighed.
"Fine. I was. Don't try to stop me." he said.
"I wasn't going to." Zuko said. "We're going to help you." I paused.I told myself. I was practicing Firebending moves inside the temple. My form was off and my fire was weak. I stopped and took a deep breath, trying and failing to relax. I faced the wall, closing my eyes. Then I punched the wall as hard as I could with a blast of fire. I saw a hole in the wall after the smoke cleared. I shook my hand the rubbed my knuckles. The wall was hard. I groaned a little, falling against the wall then sliding down to the floor.
"Um, we are?" I asked.
"You wont be able to get their on Appa." Zuko said. "They don't have bison daycares at the Boiling Rock."
"Well, then how are we getting there?" Sokka asked.
"We can take my war balloon." Zuko answered. Me and him got off of Appa and we all went to his war balloon. We wrote a note and left it with Momo, saying we left for a bit na dwould be back in a few days. We climbed in and Zuko used Firebeding to make it go. We flew through the sky, a little awkward. We were all quiet, not knowing what to say.
"You know, a friend of mine invented these balloons." Sokka said after a few minutes.
"Oh. Cool." Zuko said.
"Yeah... A balloon... But for war..." Sokka said.
"Yeah. That's something my father's good at." Zuko said. I raised my eyebrows.
"No argument there." I said. After a while me and Sokka stated to doze. We had been flying for a while and it was still the middle of the night. My head bobbed forward, each time waking me up. I yawned and stood up.
"Want me to do that?" I asked Zuko. "You've been at it for a while." He looked at me and smirked. He sat down and I started to Firebend so the balloon stayed up. Soon we were at the boiling rock. Sokka had woken up and was looking on eagerly.
"There should be enough steam to give us cover." Zuko said. And that was certainly true. A lot of hot steam was rising from the boiling lake. When we were submerged in it the balloon started falling quicker and quicker. Me and Zuko were Firbending together, but it kept falling.
"It wont stay up!" I cried in a whisper.
"The air on the outside is the same temperature as the air on the inside! It wont fly that way!" Sokka said.
"What do we do?" Zuko asked. Sokka shrugged.
"I dont know! Crash landing?" he said. We all braced ourselves as the balloon started skimming the lake. Water splashed up and burned Sokka's finger. He grabbed his hand and held in a scream. When the balloon stopped moving we climbed out.
"Well, how are we going to get out of here?" Zuko asked. Sokka glanced at him.
"We'll figure something out." he said. "I suspected it might be a one way ticket." Sokka stood and walked over to the crumbled balloon. He started picking up the cloth and draping it inside itself.
"You knew this would happen and you wanted to come anyway?" Zuko asked.
"My dad might be here!" Sokka said. "I had to come and see."
"Unlce always said I never thought things through." Zuko said.
"You never did think things through." I said.
"Well, I would have for something like this! This is crazy!" he said.
"Hey, I never wanted you to come along in the first place." Sokka said, turning to face us. He turned back and dumped an arm load of cloth onto of the balloon. "And for the record, I always think things through." He shoved the cloth inside the basket of the balloon, pushing it down as far as it would go. "But, my plans haven't exactly worked, so this time I'm playing it by ear." He paused. "So there!" he added. He put his hands on the rim of the basket of the balloon and pushed. He whined a little, pulling his hands back and shaking them. The balloon was really hot. He lifted his foot and kicked the balloon into the lake.
"What are you doing?" Zuko asked.
"It doesn't work anyway." Sokka replied. "And we don't want anyone to find it."
"I hope you know what you're doing." Zuko replied. We all turned and looked at the massive metal wall in fron tof us. "There's no turning back now."
We made it inside the prison. We were able to stay out of sight while we looked for the room with the gaurd uniforms. We opened yet another door and smiled to see all the uniforms.
"Finally." Sokka said, stepping inside. We all grabbed the uniforms that looked like they would fit us best and put them on.
I slowly took of the sling around my arm, wincing at the pain. I bent it out as much as I could, putting the uniform on.
A couple of hours passed. I had passed the time by working on Firebending forms, without actually Firebending. Then the doors to the cells opened and gaurds told me it was a free time. We were allowed to walk around inside the prison, but not out in the yard. Me and Zuko walked out together and found Suki.
"Hey!" she cried. She ran over to us and hugged me. I forced a smile. I wasn't angry to see her, I just wasn't too touchy feely. I hugged Zuko when I was enraged and upset and sorry for what I had done to him. But, in general, I don't don't touch.
"Hey, Suki." I said. She pulled out of the hug.
"Make yourselves useful." a passing gaurd said. He grabbed three mops and tossed them to us. "Clean up." We all glanced at each otehr and started mopping. Sokka was soon to show up. He looked at Zuko and Suki.
"Oh, good, you've met already." he said.
"Actually, we've met a long time ago." Suki said.
"We did?" Zuko asked.
"Yeah. You kind of burned down my village."
"Oh... Right. Sorry about that. It's nice to see you again." We all wlaked into a small hidden space between a staircase and a wall and ducked down.
"Okay, so I have a plan to escape." Sokka said. "I was looking at the cooler when that gaurd told me to bring Chit Sang in there with him. It was designed to keep the cold in. In order to keep the cold in, it needs to keep the heat out. So, it's perfectly insolated. I tested it already. There's a blind spot out by the wall inbetween two gaurd towers. If we leave there, the current will float us to the other side." He was about to go on whe Chit Sang walked up.
"Heard you talking about hatching an escape plan." he said. "I want in." We all looked at each other.
"Um, no, we weren't hatching an escape plan." I said.
"Yeah," Sokka said. "All we're hatching is... eggs?" We all sighed and shook our heads.
"I want in." Chit Sang said. "Unless you want me to tell the gaurds."
"Fine." Sokka said. "I guess we have no choice. You're in. Anyway, like I was saying. If we can unbolt the cooler from the inside we can take it out and sail it across the lake." He slipped Zuko a wrench when he said 'from the inside'.
"Can I do it?" I asked. Sokka paused.
"Why?" he asked. I glanced at Zuko.
"Uh, well, Chit Sang was sent to the cooler when he Firebended. And uh-" Zuko looked away and held out the wrench.
"Oh, right." Sokka said, remembering Zuko couldn't Firebend at the moment. I took the wrench and slipped it inside my shirt. "Chit Sang, can you get her into the cooler?" Chit Sang scoffed.
"Please," he said. "Of course I can. I'll walk out there and you come out, mopping. Hit me with the mop, we fake a little fight, then you can Firebend at me." I nodded. He stood and walked out into the open. I grabbed a mop and started mopping (with one hand) in his direction. He was walking backward and I bumped into him.
"Hey!" he cried. "Watch where you're going!"
"Watch where you're standing!" I cried. He thew out his fist and I dodged it. We shoved each other a little, and I eventually had to 'resort' to Firebending.
"Hey!" a gaurd called. "No Firebending. Take her to the coolers." Two other gaurds came and grabbed me. They weaved there arms up under mine, making my arms fall over the back of theres, restricting me and putting me in excruciating pain. I winced, trying not to show I was in too much pain. They took me to a cooler and pushed me inside, closing the door. It was freezing. The walls were packed in ice. I rested my bad arm against it for just a second. I shivered like crazy, pulling my arm off. I took a deep breath.
"Cold can't keep me from Firebending." I whispered quietly to myself. I used a technique Uncle taught me. It's called The Breath of Fire. You breath fire and it warms your whole body. He told me it could svae my life one day. So, I inhaled and exhaled rapidly, sending out fire each time I did. Then I sighe and grabbed the wrench. I was here for a reason. I started unbolting all the bolts as quick as I could. As I unbolted the bolts I dropped them into my folded up shirt. When I was finished I stayed in the bent position, not actually sitting, and kept my knees close to my chest. I kept using The Breath of Fire to warm myself. Not soon enough Sokka came and opened the door to the cooler. Zuko was standing behind him.
"I can take you back to your cell now if you've learned your lesson." Sokka said. I looked up at him and exhaled fire.
"Oh, I have." I said. I dropped my shirt a bit, showing all the bolts. Sokka smiled.
"Suki and Chit Sang are already waiting for us outside." he said quietly. "I brought Zuko because I knew you probably wouldn't be able to lift this with me. You know, the bad arm and all."
"Yeah, yeah, I get it." I said, standing. "Hurry." Then I stopped. I yanked Zuko and Sokka inside the cooler and closed the door in time for two gaurds to walk by and not see. I opeend the door ever so slightly to hear them.
"We got some new prisoners coming in tomorrow." a girl said.
"Oh, anyone interesting?" the man asked.
"Just the usual. We have some war prisoners coming in." the girl answered. We all looked at each other.
"War prisoners." I said.
"That could be your father." Zuko said. Sokka looked down. "Do you want to stay?" Zuko asked.
"Is it right to stay?" Sokka asked. "Is it right to risk Suki's freedome on the chance my father might be coming in?"
"It's your choice Sokka." Zuko said.
"Yeah, this is your mission. It's your father and your girlfriend." I said. Sokka opened the door and walked out. Me and Zuko walked out from the cooler and Zuko and Sokka removed it form the wall. They lifted it up and did what I could with my one arm. As queitly as we could we brought it outisde. We dropped it on the ground and stood in front of it. As it rolled down the hill down to the lake, we planted out feet on the ground, stopping it from going out of control. It was harder then it looked like it would be. When Suki and Chit Sang saw us, they rushed up and helped. Finally it was down by the lake. And so were two people I'd never seen.
"This here is my best friend and my girl." he said. "They're coming too."
"Okay, fine." Sokka said. "Just get in." We pushed the cooler into the water and the girl and the guy got in. Sokka walked over to a rock and lifted it up. His regular clothes were underneath. Me and Zuko walked up to him.
"Are you going to stay?" I asked. Sokka sighed.
"I don't know if I want to risk all of this because my dad might be coming." Sokka said. "It may not even be him."
"Your dad?" Suki asked. Sokka nodded. "We have to stay! Sokka, it's your father." Sokka stood and looked at her.
"What about you?" he asked. "This may be your only chance to escape."
"Don't worry about me, Sokka." Suki said. "We're staying."
"Well, I'm getting out of here." Chit Sang said, stepping into the cooler. The cooler started drifting off out into the lake. We all sighed as we watched it float away. Then we heard the gondola that takes the prisoners onto the island coming closer. We moved in closer to see it.
"Alright, everyone off." a gaurd said. A few people got off and one stood there for a second. A real nasty looking guy with a nose ring.
"Is that him?" Zuko asked. Sokka scowled at him.
"My father does not have a nose ring." he said. We looked up and no one else was coming off. "No," Sokka whispered. "That can't be all."
"Hey, you!" the gaurd called. "Get off the gondola!" Then, seconds later, Hakoda stepped off the gondola! Me, Sokka and Suki smiled.
"Dad." Sokka said. Me, Suki and Zuko knew that if we were staying longer, we would need to get back to our cells. Sokka rushed us inside to our cells, then back out to watch his father, pretending The Warden wanted him there. I wished I could be there to see, but I knew if I was caught I would be sent to the cooler again. Not fun, even if you know how to warm yourself up. And Sokka wouldn't have been there to get me out. I walked over to the wall that was between mine and Zuko's cells and knocked.
"Zuko?" I asked. "Can you hear me?"
"Yeah, I can hear you." I heard him say. I smiled.
"How do you think we're going to get out of this one?" I asked.
"I have no idea." Zuko said. "Maybe Sokka and his father can think of something."
"I hope so..." I muttered. A second later a said, "Zuko, I just want you to know- I forgive you and I'm sorry."
"For what?" he asked.
"Well, I forgive you for what you did to Uncle Iroh and for what you did to me..." I said. "And I'm sorry for what I did and said to you." Silence. "Zuko?"
"Thank you..." I heard. I sighed and sat down on my little cot. I had no idea when- or really if we'd be getting out. I had faith in Sokka and his father, but this wasn't a very easy place to escape. I walked over to the door and looked out the little window. Guards passed by and I could see other cell doors. But, it was a small window, so I only had a small window of sight. All of the sudden gaurd started rushing by as fast as they could. I reached my fingers out through the bars in hopes Sokka would be one of the passing gaurd and see me. Suddenly one of the gaurds stopped and came over to me. He lifted up the cover to his eyes and I saw it was Sokka.
"Sokka, what's going on?" I asked.
"Chit Sang was caught!" he said. "We've been called to get him and his friends. We're going into a lock down."
"Have you spoken to your father?" I asked.
"Yeah, I did." he answered. "We haven't figured out a plan yet. But, I'm going to talk to him and Suki later." I nodded.
"Just hurry." I said. "I hate it here." He nodded.
"I'll try. I have to go, though." he said. He rushed off, leaving my peering out the bars alone.
Up against the wall, my arm shook a bit from standing on them. I was standing completely on them, my head off the ground, my arms stretched as far as they could. I moved one hand forward, then the other, again and again. I did it slowly, so I wouldn't fall. When I got into the middle of my cell I bent my arms. Down and up, down and up. I fell back, landing on my feet, then pushed myself up into a standing positon. I exhaled sharply and leaned against the wall. I wiped a bit of sweat from my forhead and took a deep breath. Being confined in the small cell was so frustrating. I had been in smaller cells, but it was just the thought of being stuck in a small room once again. I was starting to go a little stir crazy. I was sick to death of being controlled.
I heard Zuko's cell door open.
"Come on, Prince Zuko," a gaurd said. "Someone wants to see you." I rushed over to my window and peeked out. Two gaurds were leading Zuko away. I wondered who wanted to see him. I hoped nothing bad was going to happen.
"You be nice to him!" I called.
"Shut up!" a gaurd called back. I scowled and stepped away from the window. I was debating wheather or not to break out. I knew that somehow I could escape. Somehow I could make it back to the Wastern Air Temples, get Appa, come back and save everyone. Seconds later I heard Azula talking. I rushed over to the window. If I could trick her somehow into lettin gme out, I could save everyone. As she approuched my cell I called to her.
"Azula!" I cried, sticking my hand out through the bars as far as I could. "Ty Lee!" They both walked up and stopped in front of me. Azula's eyes widened, but she was smirking. She was pleasantly surpirsed.
"Mei?" she asked. She scoffed a bit. "What are you doing here?"
"It's a long story, princess." I said. I hoped that maybe treating her as if I actually viewed her as higher then me would help my case. "Please, you have to get me out."
"Why would I help you?" she asked, folding her arms. I winced a bit as I leaned toof ar against the door and my arm hit it.
"Because, Azula, I've changed." I said. Again, using my deceitful technique. I was telling the truth, but I wasn't saying I had gone to her side. "Please, you have to help me. We're family." Azula made a thinking face.
"I believe her." Ty Lee said with the same girly, optimistic smile she always had. I forced a smile.
"Please, Azula." I said. "Forgive me for everything I've done in the past. Let's just put that behind us, okay?" I winced against as I hit the door with my arm again.
"Why do you keep wincing like that?" Azula asked.
"I broke my arm a while ago." I said. "And I don't have my sling anymore." Azula sighed.
"Fine, you can come with us as long as you behave." she said. She walked away to get a gaurd. Ty Lee walked up to my window. Her smile had faded.
"I know you aren't serious." she said. "I know that you're tricking Azula to get you out." I paused.
"What are you talking about?" I asked, trying to make it seem like I didn't know.
"I know you, Mei." she said. "I know that you're totally against lying. If you were serious you would have told her you wanted to help her. And you didn't." I sighed and rested my forehead against the bars on the window.
"You're going to tell her now, aren't you?" I asked. Ty Lee shook her head.
"No, I'm not." she said. I lifted my head, surprised.
"Really?" I asked. "Why not?"
"Becuase what you do with your life isn't any of my business." she said. "I'll let you do what you need to do." I smiled.
"Thanks, Ty Lee." I said. Azula walked up after a second with a gaurd. The gaurd opened the door and gave me an evil look. I gave him an even more evil look.
"Have a nice day." I said spitefully. I walked off next to Ty Lee, behind Azula. "Why are you here, anyway?" I asked.
"We're here for Zuko." she said. "It's time I put him in his place." I swallowed.
"Oh." I said. "Okay." I glanced around as I trailed behind them. I still didn't know exactly what I was going to do. I was just waiting for it to hit me. Then I got it. I tucked my foot behind my other foot as I walked, making myself trip. I slammed into Suki's cell door. Azula and Ty Lee stopped and turned. I straightened out a little. "Sorry, Azula." I said. "I tripped." She narrowed her eyes and they turned, starting off again. I looked in at Suki and winked, letting her know it was just a plan, that I wasn't actually on Azula's side. She paused for a second, but I saw her face soften before I walked off after Azula. I had to think and I had to think fast. There had to be a way off the island so I could get Appa. I just wanted to make it as easy as possible. My eyes darted around, trying to think. I knew that the only way out was to get Azula to decide to leace Zuko in here and take me with her. I would have her drop me near the Western Air Temple, giving her some excuse of why, the race to the others, grab Appa and maybe some backup, and rush back. "Azula," I said.
"What?" Azula asked with annoyence in her voice.
"I was just thinking- what would killing Zuko really accomplish?" I asked. She stopped and looked at me. She had a dangerous look in her eye. Like I was a small child testing her patience.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"Well, I was just thinking that killing would mean he was dead. Just gone." I explained. "But, if you leave him here then he'll be alive and miserable. And you'll still never have to see him again." Her face softened and I think I almost saw a smirk. "He'll be alive to feel the anger and pain of you being the Fire Lord." I smiled. "Think about it." Azula looked at Ty Lee. I was praying it would work.
"You know she's right." Azula said.
"She does have a point." Ty Lee said. Azula sighed.
"Fine. He can stay here for now. But, I haven't made a definate decision yet."
"You don't need to." I said. "You have as long as you want to decide if you want to take him out or not." Azula smiled.
"You're not so bad after all." she said. On the outsdide, I kept cool, but on the inside I almost died of relief. As we headed for the door out to the yard where the gondola was I saw who I thought was Sokka. He paused slightly when he saw me, so I knew it was him. He walked up to us and stopped me.
"Excuse me," he said. "Who gave you permission to leave?"
"I did." Azula snapped. "Hands off her." Sokka put his hands by his side.
"Yes, princess." he said. "Carry on then." He looked at me. "You behave." he said.
"I dunno." I replied. "I'm thinking about messing with the Western Air Temple." I was hoping he would understand what I was trying to say. "I think that would do a lot of damage to the Avatar. Then maybe I'll bring some of his friends here." His mout opened slightly, then it closed. Azula turned and started walking. I kept my gaze on Sokka for a few more seconds, then followed behind her. We walked outside, onto the gondola, and onto Azula's war balloon. My plan was working so far. I hoped it would continue.
Sitting in her big war balloon, Azula told one of her lackeys to Firebend more. I don't think she knew that the more fire means the higher- not the faster you go. But, I let it go. I looked over the edge. The Western Air Temple wasn't too far off.
"Azula," I said. "Would you mind dropping me off at the Western Air Temple? I have some- business to take care of." Azula looked me over.
"Like you told that gaurd?" she asked. I nodded. "What are you going to do?" I paused. Don't lie, Mei. I thought. You can think of something... Earthbending! You will be Earthbending when you get back there! Tell her something like that!
"I think it would a lot of fun to practice some Earthbending." I said with an evil smile. She smiled back.
"Maybe me and Ty Lee and lend a hand." she said.
"No!" I said quickly. Then more slowly added, "No. You can't. I want to do this one alone. It's personal." She seemed a bit suspcious. I swallowed. "You can come back later and see my work." Already a plan for that was cooking in my mind. It was going to be great. "I promise." I said. She sighed.
"Fine." she said. "You're starting to freak me out anyway." She turned to her lackey. "Set a course for the Western Air Temple. And hurry it up. We don't have forever, you know."
"Of course, Princess." the lackey said. The Air Temple got closer and closer as we approached in the giant war balloon. The lakcey brought us down to the top of the cliff and I stepped out.
"Thank you, Azula." I said. "Come back in a while and see what I've done."
"Oh, I will." Azula said. "I assure you."
"Can I stay here too?" Ty Lee asked. I froze. Azula looked at her.
"Why?" she asked.
"I want to help Mei." Ty Lee answered. She hopped from the balloon. "I'll see you later." Azula sighed and they Lackey made the balloon take off. I looked at Ty Lee.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"I'm done with Azula." she said. "I want to help you." I smiled.
"Awesome." I said. "Come on." We both rushed over to the side of the cliff. I Earthbended stairs for us down to the temple. When we got to the floor everyone turned to see us.
"Mei!" Katara cried. "Quick! Ty Lee followed you!"
"Katara, relax." I said. "She's with us, now." Aang walked over to us.
"Mei, where have you been?" he asked.
"Wait!" Katara cried. "You missed something. She said Ty Lee is with us! Am I the only one who knows this is a trick?"
"It isn't a trick." Ty Lee said. "It's true. I'm sick of Azula. She's mean and rude. I'm with you now!"
"That's not what's important right now." Haru said, stepping forward. "Though it's great you've come to our side. The point is- where's Sokka and Zuko and where have you been?"
"It's a long story." I said. "Katara, before we go I need another healing session. A really powerful one. And hurry." I rushed over to the fountain and sat down.
"Before we go where?" Katara asked.
"Back to the Boiling Rock to rescue Sokka, Suki, Zuko and Hakoda." I answered. Katara froze.
"Dad?" she asked.
"Yes, now hurry."
Katara picked up water from the fountain and molded it to her hands, putting it on my arm. It felt more powerful then it had the first few times. The pain was starting to ge littler and littler.
"What's the boiling rock?" Aang asked.
"It's a very high security prison in the Fire Nation." I answered. "Sokka's there pretending to be a gaurd and Zuko, Suki and Hakoda are all prisoners. I was pretending to be a gaurd along with Sokka and Zuko, but me and and Zuko had to blow our covers to save Sokka from getting caught."