Once again I blinked my eyes open. It was dark. Only a little light was shining in from what I thought was a window. I was too flustered to know what anything was. All I could think about was how getting knocked out three times in one day couldn't be good. I rubbed my head, groaning. It was throbbing, again. But, I noticed that my arms didn't really ache and I wasn't feeling as weak. I blinked to get my eyes to focus in the dark. Then everything came into play. The window with the moon and stars shining through, metal bars, dirt on the floor... Then I froze. Metal bars?! I thought. I staggered to my feet and went over to the bars. I grabbed hold of them and tugged, as if they would open. I was in a prison cell. I was captured again. I slid down to the floor, rubbing my head, wondering how long I was out. I pushed my hair from my face. Being captured can get old fast. Especially when it's by the same person. I remembered Azula and Mai grabbing me. I remember Azula knocking me out. I remember everything. I tucked my legs into my chest and rested my arms on my knees, my head on my arms. Seconds later the door to my room opened. Against the light I could only see a figure. A girl. As she walked away from the light in the hall, the moon light made it easier to see her face. I stood, instantly angry at who I saw.
"Let me out of here, Azula!" I cried. "You have no right to lock me up. I'm older then you!" I knew pulling age was lame, but I had nothing else to say. Azula smirked.
"You're really pulling age, Mei?" she asked. I grabbed onto the bars, scowling at her. Then I shoved myself away, folding my arms. She infuriated me. "How are you feeling?" she asked. "You've been out for a while." My face fell and I unfolded my arms.
"H- how long?" I asked.
"About a week." she answered, folding her arms with a smug look. I lost my breath and stared at her in shock.
"A week?" I choked out. "I was out for a week?!" I put my hand on my head. I couldn't believe it. A week! Seven days! What did I miss? How far away were we? Where were the others?
"Oh, don't act so surprised." Azula said. "You passed out three times that day. You were bound to wait longer then a few hours to wake up one of those times. Plus I hit your head pretty hard... And you put yourself through a great amount of stress. It makes sense." I shook my head then walked back over the bars.
"What do you want?" I asked. "Let me out."
"I don't think so." Azula said. "I actually have a little surprise for you. It will be here in a little while. Have a nice night." She turned and left. The loud sound of the door shutting echoed through the room, ringing off the bars. I fell back against the wall, letting myself cry into my hands.
I was awoken by the sound of the door to my room opening. I rubbed my eyes, not remembering when I fell asleep. I looked out the window. Still night. The lackey was walking towards me with cuffs in his hands. He opened the door to my cell and walked over to me. I knew it was no use fighting, so I cooperated. I let him cuff me and I walked with him down the hall. He led me up the stairs and onto the top deck. We were stopped next to smaller ship.
"What's going on?" I asked Azula. She was standing by the edge of the ship, watching her lackeys walk to the other ship. The sky was getting to be a lighter shade of blue. Morning.
"We're transferring ships." she answered, not turning. I scanned the other ship. It was smaller. Way less then Azula's ship.
"To that one?" I asked. "Why?" Azula looked back at me with a smile.
"You'll see." she said. She turned back around. "Take her over." The lackey nudged me to walk, so I started toward the bridge that was crossing over to the other ship. I walked at the drone's pace, not wanting to start anything. I would need to gain everyone's trust if I was going to break out soon. He walked me down an all too familiar set of stairs and an equally familiar hallway. Then he stuffed me into a very familiar cell. Of course, most all of them look the same.
"Who's ship is this?" I asked as he locked the door to me cell. He didn't answer. He just turned and walked out. I hated not knowing what was going on. I sat down on the floor, holding a flame in my hand for light. The sun was coming up and it started to peek through the window, but it was still too dark. I shook my hand, standing up. I hated just sitting there, staring at a flame. So, I decided to brush up on some new Firebending techniques. I worked on some old moves I already knew, but decided I would make up a new one. I held my arms in to my chest, then as I spun, moved them out, creating a big and growing line of fire around me. I kept it going, hotter and hotter and it grew around me into a huge ball of intense fire as my arms reached out to the side as far as they could. The ball actually lifted of the ground. The bars above me had to have been red with heat. When I heard a noise I stopped dead and it took a good 15 seconds for all the fire to recede. I smiled. That would work wonders on any opponent. My face fell. Other then Aang... I thought. He could block it... I fell back against the wall. I missed them so much. I missed Toph's wise cracks. I missed Aang's smile and optimism. I missed Sokka's... Sokkaness. And I even missed Katara's mothering. I closed my eyes. Then I lifted my head, a stern look on my face. I was not going to cry anymore. I wasn't going to pity myself or think about what I was missing. I was going to work hard to get out and get back to the others. I wasn't going to let Azula control me anymore. I quickly got to my hands and knees, extended my legs out and started doing push ups. I did them for a good 30 minutes straight when someone started to come in. I quickly stopped and sat down normally. It was one of Azula's lackeys . No, five of them. Dragging two people in. I stood up to try and see better.
"Don't get any ideas." one of the guards shot at me. "Sit down in the corner over there." I walked over to the far corner of the cell and sat down. The lackeys hauled the two people in I kept quiet, although I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs.
"Have fun, general." one of the lackeys said in a taunting way. When the lackeys left I leapt up and rushed over to one of the prisoners. I hugged him tightly.
"Uncle Iroh, what happened?" I asked. I pulled away and looked him over. Then looked over at Zuko. "Are you guys okay?"
"Yes, Mei, we're fine." Uncle Iroh said. "What about you?"
"I think I'm okay." I answered. "I haven't really had time to find out. I was knocked out twice and passed out once in one day. So, I don't know how my brain is doing." I smirked, trying to make it light hearted. Uncle Iroh didn't smile. I sat back, watching him. "Why did she do this?" I asked.
"She's evil." Zuko answered. "She doesn't care about anyone but herself." I wanted to ask how she managed to get both of them into here, but I already knew. Being a prodigy, me and Azula have the power to control lightning. Of course, you don't need to to be a prodigy to bend lightning, but it comes to us easier and quicker. I sighed, twisting around and leaning against the wall. This isn't awkward at all... I thought, glancing at Zuko. I didn't have to fight Zuko while Katara tipped over his boat while he tried to capture me...
"So, how are we getting out of here?" I asked. "We can't just sit here and wait for Azula to do whatever she wants." Uncle and Zuko didn't answer. I stood up. "I don't know about you guys, but I'm sick of letting Azula do stuff to me. She already forced me to hold open the wall of Ba Sing Se so she could invade. She knocked me out, twice and made me pass out once. She threatened my friend, she put me through the hardest thing I've ever done, she captured me, which is getting annoying and she teased me. So, I am not going to sit here and wait. I've escaped from a cell once, I can do it again." Zuko looked up at me.
"How did you do it the first time, anyway?" he asked.
"I Firebended the bars then pulled them to bend them away from each other." I said quickly. "Now, let's do it." I took Uncle's hand and he stood with a pleased smile. I walked over to Zuko and held out my hand. He looked at it like it was his enemy. He stood without taking it. I held back an eye roll.
"Okay," I said. "With all three of us doing it at once, heating the bars wont take half as long." We all stood side by side and sucked in a breath. We moved our hands back then shot them forward, sending fire from them in onto the bars. All of us doing at once created a huge and very hot flame. It burned as we did it for five minutes. Then, keeping our hands flaming, we each grabbed the bars and pulled. With all of us pulling we bent the bars so much that Uncle Iroh was able to get out with plenty of room. And no offense to him, but he's got quite a gut. Me and Zuko squeezed through before him. I peeked out the window and scoffed.
"She didn't even put a guard there." I said. "She trusts us to much."
"Okay, so there is no guard," Uncle said. "But, how do we open the door?" I made a thinking face.
"Hm, well, before I made the guard come in here." I said. "So, what do we do?"
"Break it down." Zuko said. "If we all kick it at the same time as hard as we can, I'm sure it will break down." Me and Uncle looked at each other and shrugged. We all stood side by side like before.
"On the count of three." I said. We lifted out legs. "One... Two... Three!" All together we shoved or feet into the door as hard as we could. It bent in, but didn't break.
"Again." I said. We lifted out feet again. "One.. Two... Three!" Again we shoved our feet into the door. It broke away from the hinges and fell to the floor with a loud clank. We all smiled and stepped over it. Azula's lackeys must have heard the noise, because they flooded around us. We all stood, backs facing each other, facing a different section of lackeys . There must have been fourteen surrounding us.
"Men, do you know why I was called 'the dragon of the west'?" Uncle Iroh asked. Me and Zuko glanced at each other, knowing what he was about to do. Suddenly, Uncle opened his mouth and circled around, breathing fire at the lackeys . They ducked away and we all made a break for it. We raced to the top deck of the ship and looked around. Zuko's ship was sailing next to us. Azula must have had some of her lackeys sail it.
"I knew it was only a mater of time until you escaped." Azula said, walking up to us from behind. We spun around. Me and Zuko took fighting stances, but Uncle just stood there. "Though I thought you would have taken much less time then that."
"Then why didn't you put guards in front of the door?" I asked. Azula shrugged.
"It's more interesting this way." she said. "Just like olds days, huh, Mei?"
"Only this time I'm not fighting for you." I answered. Back when we were kids me and Azula used to gang up on Zuko. It was always us against him, or Zuko against me. Me and Azula almost never fought.
"Pity." she said, taking her stance. "We made a great team." I really wasn't in the mood to fight, but I knew I would have to. I was about ready to send the first attack when Ty Lee and Mai came up behind Azula. My eyes widened, then narrowed in anger.
"Can't fight alone, Azula?" I asked.
"Well, neither can you, by the looks of it." she answered. "You need a fat old man and a self-loathing moron to help you." I furrowed my eyebrows. Then I stood up.
"You know what?" I asked. "You and me. Alone." She stood up straight.
"You and me? Fight? Each other?" she asked with a smirk. "Well, that will be a first."
"And it will be harder then you think." I answered.
"Oh, really?" she asked.
"Yes!" I cried as I shot my hand out and sent lightning straight for her. This caught her off guard, but she was able to dodge it in time. She smiled at me.
"Nice shot." she said. She shot out her fist, sending her blue flames my way. I grabbed them and swirled around, sending them back with more force. Then I reached out and grabbed Earth from under the water. I lifted up a huge boulder and sent it at her. She ducked out of the way. When I was trying to grab more Earth, not paying attention for only a second, she shot out a huge lightening bolt to me. Uncle Iroh quickly jumped in front of me. As I looked back over he was redirecting the lightning away from me and into the sky. I gasped, holding a massive chunk of Earth up. Then I grew angry. I moved the Earth back then flung it forward and bam! It hit her smack on. I didn't wait to see what happened to her. I bended a bridge of Earth over to Zuko's ship and we raced on. Azula's lackeys were quick to come towards us. I held both my hands in front of me, lightning going from one to the other.
"You really want this?" I asked.
"You work for us now." Zuko said.
"Y- yes, sir." one of the lackeys said. I intensified the lightning. "Er, and ma'am!" he cried quickly. I smirked, stopping the current. Then I faced Zuko.
"So, I guess you're going to capture me again, huh?" I asked. "Make it so I can't get back to Aang and help him." Zuko looked away. After a second he answered, "No." MY eyes widened in shock.
"Really?" I asked. He looked back at me.
"You helped us to get out of there." he said. "I wont take you back to the Avatar, but I will take you to shore and let you go." I smiled and latched onto him in a hug.
"Thanks, Zuko." I said. He awkwardly pat my back and I pulled away.
"It will be a while, though." Zuko said. "So, plan on spending the night." I nodded and turned, walking away to find a bedroom. I was so happy that he was going to drop me off. That was so unlike Zuko. But, I was glad. I entered into one of the rooms and sat down on the bed. I couldn't wait to see everyone again. I yawned. It was still night, probably a few hours from morning. So, I pulled down the blankets of the bed and fell asleep almost immediately.
Hours later I awoke. I turned in my bed, eyes still closed. I thought I was home. I could almost hear my mother calling me.
"One second, Mother..." I mumbled to myself. I yawned and sat up, rubbing my eyes. I move hair from my face and looked around. My heart jumped a little as I realized I wasn't home. Then I sighed, remembering. I brushed my hair and stood from my bed. A knock came at the door. Then door slowly opened and one of Zuko's lackeys poked their head in.
"May I come in?" he asked.
"If you must." I answered irritably. Three lackeys walked inside and started making my bed. One of them offered me fruit. I waved him off and left my room. Secretly I was happy. I liked having other people do my work for me. When I walked out to the deck I stopped short. Zuko and Mai turned around.
"What are you doing here?" I asked, eyeing her hand. She was holding tight to Zuko's.
"It's okay, Mei," Zuko said. "She's on our side." I folded my arms.
"Your side." I corrected, reminding him we were still kind of fighting.
"Whatever. She's not working for Azula anymore." Zuko said.
"Yeah, I'm with Zuko." Mai said. "I have no interest in fighting you."
"You have no interest in anything, Mai." I replied. Which was true. Everything seemed to bore her.
"I have an interest in being rid of you." she snapped. I scoffed.
"And how are you going to do that?" I asked. She was about to take a step forward, but Zuko stopped her.
"Come on," he said. "Just stop. We wont be reaching the shore for probably another day or so, so you'll have to get along." I sighed.
"Fine." I said. I turned and walked away. I walked to the other side of the ship and leaned against the railing. Suddenly I missed flying on Appa. I missed watching his tail go up and down as he moved forward. I missed being within arms reach of the person next to you at all times. I missed being within arms reach of Aang, Sokka, Toph and even Katara. I missed being within ten feet of them. I sighed, looking up at the sky. I remembered the first time I saw them. When Katara dropped her canteen on my head and I looked up and saw Appa flying away. When I set a bush of fire and out came Momo. When I went to take food from them and Toph stopped me. When Sokka said he couldn't believe he wanted to train a Fire Nationer. Then I realized, Sokka never even trained me. I pushed my hair from my face and sighed. I would have to ask him to as soon as I saw him next. Whenever that would be... Man, Mother and Father would be so worried if they knew what I'd been through. They would be worried... I paused. They really would be worried if they knew what I been through. They would be going crazy trying to find me and make sure I was okay. I stood up straight, realizing something I never wanted to realize. When I left it probably really hurt them. I wondered if they had cried. I wondered how long it had taken for them to send out their guards to find me. I wondered what they were doing right then. Were they worrying? Were they just going about their lives? Were they searching for me themselves? No, they would never search for me themselves... I thought. I don't mean that much to them. I pulled a small bit of Earth from under the water. I sat down, my back against the railing, and plaid with it. I twisted it into different shapes. Aang's face. Katara's face. Toph's face. Sokka's face. I took a deep breath, trying to relax myself. I flattened Sokka's face between my hands. Just stop, Mei. I thought. You'll see them soon... Soon... I tossed the rock into the water and stood up.
"Do you need anything, miss?" a lackey asked. I sighed. Why not milk it while I have the chance?
"Yes. I would like updates on our progress to shore as they come up." I answered.
"Of course, miss. Anything else?" he asked. I made a thinking face.
"No, that's all." I answered. He turned and left. I sighed with a smile. I liked having people wait on me. Even if they just asked me if I needed anything, it was nice. I used to have that at home. One of the things I missed. I closed my eyes tight, shaking my head. Stop thinking about home, Mei. Stop. I told myself. But, it was harder then it seemed. Moments later Zuko walked up to me. I folded my arms.
"Where's Mai?" I asked.
"She's taking a nap." he answered. "We need to talk." I turned away, resting my hands on the railing and looking out at the vast ocean.
"What?" I asked. He walked up next to me, staring out at the ocean, too.
"Why did you go with the Avatar?" he kept his eyes on the water. "You knew I needed him to go home." I sighed. I knew that question would come up sooner or later. I looked down at the water sloshing against the boat. It made me think of Katara. The way she would Waterbend soup she made for lunch, or how her and Aang would be training in a pond.
"Because," I answered after a second. "I wanted to. You and I haven't gotten along in a long time. I wasn't about to go and do something nice for you."
"But, we're family." he said, looking at me. I looked back at him. I looked deep into his golden eyes. His right was traced by an awful burn scar. "You should have brought him to me. You knew I couldn't get home without him. And that I couldn't restore my honor."
"I didn't want to bring him to you. He's my friend." I said. "And I wasn't going to after what you said." We both looked away from each other, remembering what had happened that day. The last day we saw each other up until he captured me.
"Zuko, stop!" I cried, shoving him away. "That was really close to my face!"
"So?" Zuko asked, shooting yet another blast of fire at me. I moved it away before it hit me.
"Knock it off!" I cried. "You're such a pest!" I turned and started walking away.
"Wimp!" he cried. I stopped dead in my tracks. I turned slowly.
"What are you going to do about it?" he taunted.
"You don't want to know." I said. "I'm a way better Firebender then you." I gave him a once over. "I have chores." I said. I turned back around and started walking away again. Not wanting to deal with such a child.
"No wonder aunt Ni Zai likes Shoza and Shoa more then you!" Zuko cried. "You're worthless!"No one calls me a wimp." I said dangerously. He assumed fighting stance.
I hadn't spoken to him in years since then. It was nice seeing him again, but it did evoke some bad memories.
"I'm sorry." he said quietly. He turned and walked away.
"Me too..." I said to myself.
Later on I was sitting in my bed room when someone knocked. Figuring it was one of the lackeys I called them in. The door opened and in stepped Mai. She closed the door behind her.
"I'm not in the mood to fight, Mai." I said. "I'm tired. Maybe later." She walked closer to me and sat on the edge of my bed.
"I'm not here to fight you." she said. "I'm here to help you." I scoffed.
"Right. That's funny, Mai." I said.
"No, really," she insisted. "One of Azula's men is planning on taking to back to her. I heard overheard him say he was going to sneak of the ship after you and take you back to Azula so she can bring you to the Fire Lord." I swung my feet off my bed, looking Mai in the eye.
"Really?" I asked, not knowing if I could trust her. We didn't get along for years, so I was never sure when I could trust her word or not. When we were kids her I would tease her about Liking Zuko. So, one day she got really angry at me and started a fight. Of course, being a Firebending prodigy and her not bending at all, I won. We've been fighting ever since. But, she seemed to be telling the truth.
"Really." she said. "His name is Quin Lee." My eyes widened.
"Quin Lee?" I asked. "He's the one who dragged me out to open the Outer Wall of Ba Sing Se! Oh, I hate him..." Mai stood up.
"I just thought I would warn you." she said. She went to leave, but I stood and stopped her.
"Thanks, Mai." I said. "And... I'm sorry." She gave me a smirk.
"For what?" she said. She walked out, closing the door behind her. She was right. It was so long ago it didn't even matter.
After a few minutes I walked out of my room and searched for Quin Lee. One of the lackeys noticed me.
"Miss?" he asked. I turned to him. "Do you need help with something?"
"Yes, where is Quin Lee?" I asked.
"Out on the front deck," he answered. "Talking with Zuko." I quickly turned and raced to the front deck. When I got there he was walking from Zuko. He stopped upon seeing me.
"Oh, hello, Mei." he said. "May I get you anything?"
"Oh, no, Quin Lee. Thank you, though." I said. "I would like to speak with Zuko in private, though." He eyed me.
"Of course, miss." he said. He walked away and I went up to Zuko.
"Zuko, you need to do something for me." I said. He glanced at me.
"What now?" he asked.
"Make sure Quin Lee is in your sight after you drop me off until you're safe from shore." I said. He faced me, giving me a suspicious look.
"Why?" he asked.
"Mai said she overheard him talking and that he said he was going to follow me off the ship and bring me to Azula." I explained. He gave me a look like he agreed, then turned away. I took a deep breath and went off. I hate Azula... I thought. She always ruins everything for me.
I tossed and turned in my bed, trying to fall asleep. I turned to my side and opened my eyes with a sigh. I was tired, but I couldn't fall asleep if my life depended on it. I threw the covers off of me and stood up, leaving my room. I walked to the front deck and stared out at the dark ocean. I could see land. We were almost there. We would be there by the afternoon. I looked up at the star studded sky. I took in a breath of cool night air. For once I was able to think of something other then Aang and them. I thought about how beautiful the sky was. How nice it was of Mai to warn me of Quin Lee's plans. How nice it was of Zuko to drop me off on land. I exhaled, feeling relaxed for the first time in a while. But, it was all shattered by a shove to my back. I was sent off the boat and into the water with a splash. I struggled to get up to the air. I gasped for breath as I looked up and saw Quin Lee standing off the side of the boat.
"Have fun getting back." he said. He turned and left. I shivered in the cold water and looked around. It would take me probably a whole day or more to get to shore. But, I had no choice. Shivering and losing feeling in my feet and hands, I started swimming towards shore. I tried not to gulp down water as I sucked in sharp breaths. It felt like I was being encased in ice. I shook my head.
"Th-th-this is r-rid-d-icul-lous." I stuttered, not being able to breath right. Trying to get myself as straight as possible, I lifted my hands into the cold night air and shot fire all around me. It took a few seconds for my body to stop shaking as the warm water brought my body temperature back up. I was able to swim a ways before it got cold again I did the same thing. I did this over and over again while I swam. It was taking forever, but I couldn't deal with the cold. I took a deep breath as I bended the water again. Then I stopped quickly and ducked under the water until it was just under my nose. I saw a light approaching me. As it got closer I realized- it was a boat! With people! I started swimming towards it.
"Help!" I called. "Please, help me!" The people came up to me and stopped. They shined the light on my face. It was hard for me to see theirs. But, before I knew it they were pulling me from the water an wrapping a blanket around me.
"Now what are you doing in the water in the middle of the night alone, little missy?" a man asked. I swallowed.
"I- I was throne from my ship, sir." I answered. "I'm just trying to get to shore."
"Well, we'll take you there, sweetie." a women said. "Don't you worry." The man set the lantern back down and I was able to see their faces. They were Earth Kingdom. They seemed sweet. "Where are you trying to get to?" the women asked.
"Well, I'm trying to find my friends. They may be in the Fire Nation, or- or they could be in the Earth Kingdom... I don't even know where I am." I answered, realizing for the first time I wasn't sure exactly where I was.
"Oh, well, we're in the Earth Kingdom, dear." she answered. "We're right on the edge of the Fire Nation boarder, though." I sighed. Good. I thought. "What's you name?" I faced the women. She has long brown hair and sweet smile.
"Mei." I answered. "Mei Kozai."
"I'm Kenji and this is my wife, Song." the man said.
"It's nice to meet you both." I said. "Thank you for picking me up."
"Oh, not at all." Song said. "You just rest." I moved to the back of the boat and leaned back. I finally fell asleep.