We walked into one of the stores and looked around at the different things. Weapons, clothes, food, little trinkets, maps, books. Everything. I didn't find much interest in looking, since I had no money. So, I walked from the store to wait for them. Katara trotted after me.
"Mei," she said. I turned to her. She was holding out a necklace with a beautiful blue-green stone. I gasped slightly. "It's for you. I thought you'd like it." Without me saying a word she slipped it around my neck. She stepped back and smiled as I gently touched it.
"Thank you so much, Katara!" I said. "I love it, it's amazing!"
"Yeah, yeah, it's wonderful. Now let's get some food." Sokka said, coming out from the store.
"Hey," Toph said. "Where's Twinkle-toes?" Katara turned and looked inside the store. Me and her walked inside to see Aang dressed up as an Earth Kingdom guard.
"Come on, Aang." Katara said with a smile.
"I'm not Aang!" Aang announced. "I'm a Royal Earth Kingdom guard!" Katara shook her head, still smiling. She removed Aang's helmet and told him we needed to go. He laughed, removed the clothes and followed us out. I kept my hand on my necklace the whole time, like if I let go it would break. We went to a local market and shopped around. As I was looking at some vegetables, Momo hopped onto my shoulder. I smiled, petting his cute round head.
"Hey, little guy." I said. "Glad you decided to come around." Momo cooed. (He kind of sounds like a pigeon)
"Aw, he likes you." Aang said. I smiled at him.
"I scared him the other day." I admitted. "I heard rustling and I was worried it was someone else. So, I set a bush on fire, and out came Momo." Momo perched on my shoulder, looking at the berries below.
"No wonder he was so scared of you." Aang said.
"I feel bad..." I told him. "But, I would never do that to him now."
"I know." Aang said with a sweet smile. I smiled back, trying not to blush.
After we went shopping we took a food break by a pond, making sure it had plenty of rock, too. Toph said me and Aang had training. Sokka said I had training.
I had a lot of training.
I did Earthbending first.
We went to a nice private area and practiced raising rocks and punching them in the air. Now that I knew how to Earthbend, it came pretty easy. Toph was happy with me. Aang was too. Toph told us to keep practicing while she went and got something to eat. We re-did the movement over and over again while she was gone.
"You're really advancing, Mei." Aang said. "You're doing very well." I blushed.
"That means a lot coming from the Avatar." I said. And it really did. I mean, he's the Avatar! He's the most skilled bender in the world, and he's complementing me on my bending!
"Don't think of me as the Avatar." he said. "Just think of me as your friend." I smiled.
"I like being your friend." I said in a shy voice. I could see him blush.
"I like being your friend, too..." he muttered.
"No talking, lovebirds." Toph said as she walked up. "You need to focus. Especially you, Hothead. You're getting a bit sloppy." I nodded, focusing harder on what I was doing. I smashed rock after rock into the cliff in front of me until Toph told us we had done enough. She said we would work on raising the actual ground tomorrow, instead of rocks. We bowed to her and Aang went off to Katara.
"I'm ready, sifu Katara." Aang said. They bowed to each other and waded into the water. I was watching from a dry rock.
"Alright, Aang," Katara said. "We're going to try the same thing we did yesterday." I watched them for a while, admiring the way they moved together. They way they felt the water. I wished I could Waterbend, but I knew it was impossible. I stood from my rock and went to lay with Appa for a while. I pulled myself onto his saddle and laid back. I touched my necklace and smiled. Katara was so kind to me. Even though I think she might be jealous of me. Just as I started to relax I heard a noise behind me. I turned, sitting on my knees and looking around. I squinted, trying to see off in the distance. Then I saw it. Two of my parents guards were looking for me. My eyes widened and I leapt off of Appa. I rushed back to Katara and Aang. Toph and Sokka were watching them and talking on rocks.
"You guys, we have to go!" I cried. They all stopped and looked at me.
"Why? What's wrong?" Aang asked.
"Fire Nation men are coming!" I said quickly. "We need to go now." Aang looked at Katara who nodded. They all rushed out of the water and we all got on Appa.
"Hey!" One of the guards, Shoji cried. "That's her! Get back here!"
"Appa, yip yip!" Aang cried, snapping his reins. Appa lifted off into the air and the guards looked amazed.
"Who are they?" Aang asked. Toph knew. But, no one else did.
"My parents guards..." I admitted. "They must have sent them after me." Katara looked at me. Sokka did too.
"They must want you back." Sokka said.
"Yeah," Katara agreed. "You're fortunate to have parents that love you and are around." They looked at each other sadly. I shook my head.
"You don't understand." I told them. So, I explained my situation to them. Not missing a detail.
Katara and Sokka explained their situation to me, too. They said the Fire Nation had killed their mother and that their father, along with the men of their tribe, left to help stop the war. I tried to feel very bad for them. Losing a mother that loves you must be a terrible thing. And not being able to see the father you love for two years must be awful. But, it was hard for me to imagine it. My parents never loved me enough. Only my siblings. So, I can't imagine being much too upset if they left. Of course, if one of them died, I would be sad they died. But, I would be sad for them and the people that loved them. I don't know how I would feel for me personally. But, I tried to show I was sad for them.
"I'm so sorry." I said. "That must have been awful." Katara and Sokka were huddled together, comforting each other.
"I miss Dad so much..." Katara said. Sokka rubbed her arm, telling her they'd see him soon. I scrunched into a corner of the saddle. I tried to think of Mother and Father in a positive way. They fed me, clothed me, gave me a bed and roof. But, none of that mattered without them caring for me.
Maybe it was just because-
"It's Fire Nation!" she cried.
"Great, just what we need!" Aang cried. "Appa, yip yip!" With a grunt, Appa flew up higher, dodging and ducking the fire balls. As they would come up to us to I would put them out, to be sure no one got burned by them. As for them flying at us, I couldn't do much.. I scowled at the ships below us. Just the sight of them made me so angry. I thrust out my hands and sent a huge blast of fire all the way down. Hoping it would destroy something
"What about Earthbending the dirt under the water?" I asked Toph.
"That can be really hard for a beginner." Toph answered. "And I can't see anything to help."
"And I'm flying Appa!" Aang called. I decided I had to try anyway. I stood up, surprised I kept such good balance on Appa, since he was flying crazy. I took a deep breath. Come on. You can do this. I thought. They're Fire Nation and they're trying to hurt your friends. So, trying to get the Earth to rise up and throw the ships over, I reached my hands down, and shot them up in the air. I heard a big splash. Them more splashes. The ships turning over. I smiled, looking down at my work. A huge island stuck up out of the water. I did that!
"Mei!" Katara cried with a smile. "That was amazing! You just sunk all those ships!" I was breathing heavily. That was very hard. I smiled.
"Wow," I said. "I've never done anything like that before!"
"I told you it can be hard." Toph said. "But, you did it!" I smiled and sat back down.
"Good job, Mei!" Aang cried. "You saved us!" I blushed. But, I was curious why none of them did anything like that. Hadn't they run into the Fire Nation before? Maybe they just didn't think of it. Thankfully, I had. It made them accept even more.
Later on we landed so we could all get some sleep. It was dusk by then and Appa was getting tired. We unpacked some food for supper and Sokka gathered wood for a fire. He dumped the wood in a pile and we gathered around it. I set the wood on fire, making sure to make it big so we could stay warm. Katara passed out food for everyone, making sure not to give Aang any of the meat. We were sitting and talking when Aang stopped.
"Did I just feel a rain drop?" he asked, holding his hand out. We all looked up, and sure enough it started raining heavily.
"Save the meat!" Sokka cried, trying to shove all of it in his shirt. Me, Toph and Aang stood quickly and made a giant Earth tent for shelter. It worked perfectly, keeping all of the rain out. Then we moved to Appa and created an even bigger one for him and Momo.
I reset the fire and Katara and I rung out our hair. Sokka and Toph started ringing out their clothes. Aang stood up and slammed his fist into his hand, sending a huge gust of wind at all of us, drying us perfectly. He smiled at all of us. We frowned at him and smoothed our hair.
"Thanks, Aang." I said. He chuckled and sat back down. We fixed our hair and huddled around the fire.
"So, you've come a long way with your bending, Mei." Katara said. "You're doing really well."
"We can continue training tomorrow." Toph said.
"I don't think she'll need it!" Aang said with a joking smile. I blushed.
"I'll start you on sword fighting lessons, too." Sokka said. "Starting tomorrow." I smiled. I had a lot on my plate, but I liked it. I like keeping busy. With things I like to do.
My mind wandered back to home. Mother used to make me do all of the chores in between Firebending practice. I had different sets I had to master. Which wasn't too hard. But, she never made the twins do anything. She liked them better, for whatever reason. So, I was always busy with stuff I didn't want to do. Other the Firebending. I loved that. I still do. I can express all my anger and no one knows.
"You have a lot to do, huh, Mei?" Aang asked. I smiled and nodded.
"I like it, though." I said. He looked down at his lap. I could tell something was on his mind. No one else seemed to notice. I stood up and walked in front of him.
"Will you walk with me for a minute?" I asked. I saw Katara's facial expression changed. She was surprised. And I could see a little anger.
"It's raining." she said. "You could get sick."
"I can keep the rain off of us if she wants to take a walk, Katara." Aang said, standing up. "We wont be long." We walked from the shelter and Aang Waterbended the rain away from us. We walked for a minute in silence until I was sure the others wouldn't be able to hear.
"Aang," I said. "Is something on your mind?" He looked over at me.
"I thought maybe something was on your mind." he answered. "Since you wanted to walk with me... In the rain." I watched my feet for a second.
"Well, just the way you looked..." I said. "It looked like you had something on your mind." I glanced at him. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"Well," he started. "I just have a question for you." I looked at him. He seemed a little nervous.
"Maybe, if you wanted, you could teach me-" he paused. "You could teach me Firebending." This took me by surprise. I would have never expected him to ask me to teach him Firebending. I had the opportunity to teach the Avatar Firebending!
"Of course, Aang!" I cried. "Why would you be nervous to ask me that?" He shrugged, shuffling his feet.
"I don't know." he said. "I just was." I smiled and patted his shoulder.
"I would be honored, young Avatar, to teach you Firebending." He giggled and faced me. We bowed to each other, not caring that he had stopped bending for the moment. We stood back up and started laughing.
"Let's get back." he said. I nodded as he started bending the rain again to keep us from getting more soaked. I wouldn't have cared if he hadn't. But, he did. And I let him.
We walked back into the shelter and sat down. I started ringing my hair out again. Katara eyed me like I was dangerous. Like I was a threat. And I was. To her being with Aang, I assumed. Aang stood and walked in front of me. Jokingly and I leaned back away from him. He laughed a little and said, "Don't worry. I'l be gentle." I giggled and leaned forward again. He kept a wide smile as he gently dried me with a small gust of wind.
"Thank you." I said as he walked back. I couldn't help but giggle again when I said it.
"Um, we should probably go to sleep." Katara said. Aang yawned.
"Yeah." he said. "Good idea." Katara and Sokka slipped into their sleeping bags. Aang curled up on the ground and Toph made her Earth tent. I looked around at them. They all seemed cozy. Usually I would sleep in Appa's saddle, but I didn't feel like walking through the rain. So, I scooched back and leaned against the rock wall, trying to get comfortable. I could feel someone watching me. I kept my eyes closed, trying no to notice. I shivered. It was really cold. I curled up more, trying to keep myself warm. Next thing I know, I feel something warm land on me. I opened my eyes just in time to see Aang walking away. Shirtless. His blue tattoos swirled around him. I closed my eyes before he could see me watching him. I felt something I had never felt before. Just because he gave me his shirt to keep warm. I didn't quite know what the feeling was. I chalked it up to gratitude. I settled down against the rock and fell asleep after just a few minutes. Something other then Aang's shirt was keeping me warm.
I woke up early. I looked around to see everyone else still sleeping. It had stopped raining. I stood up and took Aang's shirt. I looked at him, happily remembering what he had done the night before. I squeezed the shirt in my hand and walked over to Aang quietly. I gently set it over him, then walked out of the shelter. I stretched in the sun. All the clouds had cleared and it was a beautiful, warm day. I looked at the others. They seemed dead asleep. I walked into the pond, raising the ground as I went, so my clothes didn't get wet. Then I made a sheet of rock facing the others, so I could bathe in private. I slipped off my clothes and hung them over the wall. I lowered the ground, so it was even under the water, and I was up to my chest in clean, cool water. I dunked my head back, soaking my hair. I ran my fingers through it, getting all of the dirt out. I went under the water and threw my head back up. I rubbed the water from my eyes and smiled. It was so relaxing. Then I heard splashing. I peeked around the corner and saw Aang coming into the water.
"Oh, hey, Mei!" he cried. I shrieked and lifted three more walls, totally hiding myself. "Oh, sorry, Mei!" he cried after. "I shouldn't have... I didn't notice- I saw the wall and didn't..." he stammered. I couldn't help but smile at his innocence.
"It's okay, Aang." I said. "I probably should have put up four walls, anyway."
"No, no," he insisted. "I should have called out when I saw the wall. I'm sorry." I smiled and blushed.
"Go ahead and do your thing." I said. "I'm safe in here." I didn't hear anything but the sound of water splashing. I quickly finished bathing and brought down the wall ever so slightly so I could grab my clothes. I raised my whole covering so I was out of the water and changed quickly.
"Is it safe?" I called.
"Yeah, I'm decent." Aang called back. I lowered the walls, still keeping myself safe from the water. Seeing his face smiling at me I suddenly felt a pang inside me. It took me a second to realize what it was. I felt awful for lying to Aang. He was so nice to me and I hadn't been totally honest with him. I felt guilty. Raising the ground as I walked, I walked towards him.
"Aang," I said quietly. "I have something I feel like I should tell you." He looked up at me.
"Can I say something first?" he asked. I sat down on my little rock and nodded. "I'm so happy you came with us." I froze. Don't do this, Aang... "I'm so happy that you're going to teach me Firebending. But, I'm just so glad that you're hear. You've been so great to have around." The pang inside me got worse.
"Thank you, Aang." I said. "I think that's the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me." He smiled wide.
"So, what was it you wanted to tell me?" he asked. I paused. I couldn't tell him after that!
"Oh," I said. "Um. Just that you have a lot of work ahead of you with Firebending!" His smile got even wider.
"I'm ready for it, sifu Mei." he said. Sifu Mei. I got flutters. The Avatar called me sifu! I cleared my throat.
"Alright, pupil Aang. Finish up and meet me by camp." I said. We bowed to each other and I left pond. Minutes after I sat down by Katara Aang came rushing over. He slid to a stop near me and acted calm. He bowed to me.
"I'm ready, sifu Mei." he said. I smiled and stood up.
"'Sifu Mei?'" Katara repeated. I turned and looked down at her.
"Yeah," I said. "I'm teaching Aang Firebending." Her face fell slightly.
"Well, what about Waterbending?" she asked. "We have to do that today too, Aang."
"I know." he said. "I'll have time. Practicing with Mei will only take a little while."
"If you catch on." I said with a joking smirk.
"Oh, I will!" he cried.
"But!" I yelled. "Can you keep up?" He looked at me curiously, but before he could say anything, I dashed off. I heard him laughing as he started after me. I looked back only to see him using Airbending to run faster. He smiled as he got up to me and ran straight passed me. I scowled, determined to win. I smiled wide. As I was running I through my hands together, then whipped them out to the side, casting a big line of fire towards Aang. He fell. On his face. I laughed. When I reached him he was clearing dirt from his face.
"You okay?" I asked, holding back laughter. He smiled at me.
"That was cheating!" he said as he stood up, brushing off his clothes.
"You were cheating!" I cried. "And besides, I wasn't trying to beat you. I was trying to teach you. You of all people should know to always be alert. Firebending isn't like Earthbending. It's different from just lifting a sheet of Earth to stop your opponent. Fire isn't solid. But, it's powerful and hot. And alive." Aang looked like he was crept out.
"A- alive?" he asked. I nodded, bending a table and chairs for us to sit. As we sat I explained further.
"It breaths. It needs oxygen to live, just like us. And it grows, just like us. And if you crush it, it dies-"
"Just like us." Aang finished.
"Exactly. You need to be stealthy. Alert. Strong. You can't depend solely on the element itself. You have to depend on your skill, too."
Aang nodded, drinking in every word.
"We get our power from the sun," I went on. "You need to focus on the heat. The energy. Pull the fire out of nothing. Make it grow in the palm of your hand." I held my hand out and demonstrated. A nice flame flickered in my palm and Aang smiled. "Can you manage?" I asked. He nodded. "Hold out your hand and make a flame." I instructed. He held out his hand by mine, staring at it as if that was going to make the flame appear. He took a deep breath and I waited. I waited for about 20 seconds.
"I can't." he said. "It's not working."
"Keep trying, Aang." I said. "Just like Water, Air and Earthbending, it takes practice." He sighed and nodded. "Focus." I said. "Think warm thoughts." He closed his eyes, I assumed imagining. "Think heat. Think fire. Hold the fire in your hand. Create life, Aang." After about 10 minutes of silence, of us both sitting with our eyes closed, of us imagining, of me holding the same flame in my hand, Aang said, "Hey, I think it's working." I opened my eyes and looked at him. His eyes were still closed. "My hand is starting to feel warm." I smiled.
"Why don't you take a look at that warm hand?" I asked. He opened his eyes and looked down.
"Oh my gosh!" he shrieked. "Fire!" I laughed at his shrilly cry.
"Very good!" I cried. "Make it bigger, Aang! Make it grow!" Sticking his tongue out he focused on his hand. And surprisingly, the fire grew! He held it in two hands.
"Throw it!" I cried, trying to get his adrenalin pumping so he could achieve more. "Throw it, quick!" He looked at me, then quickly threw it with a grunt. A huge line of fire traveled until it burned out. We both cheered.
"Yeah, Aang!" I cried. "You did it!"
"Yes! I'm a Firebender!" he said. We laughed and hugged. Then we paused.
"Oh." we both said, pulling away. He scratched his neck and I pulled at my shirt nervously.
"Wanna head back?" I asked.
"Yes." he answered quickly."Whoa!" I was cut off from my thinking by a huge flaming ball shooting up beside us. Katara looked over the saddle.