We walked back to our campsite where Katara and Toph were hanging out.
"Where's Sokka?" I asked.
"Oh, he went off to by yet another thing he doesn't need." Toph said. I walked over and sat next to her. "How's Firebending going, Aang?"
"Great!" Aang cried. "I did it! I didn't get it right away... But, I did it after a little while."
"Oh, Aang that's great!" Katara cried. "I'm so proud of you!" Aang smiled and sat down.
"Couldn't have done it without Mei, though." he said. I shrugged.
"I'm sure you could have found someone else." I said. "There's lots of Firebenders around."
"Yeah, but I'd rather be taught by a friend." Aang said. I paused and looked up at him.
"Oh." I said. I held back a smile. He called me a friend. I was finally in with everyone. Except Katara. We were a little strained. But, I could work on it. Katara scowled.
"Anyway," she said. "We should head out after he gets back."
"Why can't we stay here for a little while?" Aang asked. "We've been rushing off a lot lately." Katara glanced at him.
"Yeah, well, we have a lot of ground to cover." she said.
"I'm sick of leaving everywhere all the time!" Aang whined as he fell backwards onto his back. "I just want to stay here for a little while. Besides, Appa could use a rest."
"That's a good idea." Toph said. "I'm sick of flying."
I nodded. "Yeah," I agreed. "Let's stay." Katara's face feel and her eyebrows twitched.
"Fine." she said sternly. "Come on Aang, we have Waterbending training." Aang stood and followed the angry Katara as she walked away.
"We should train too, Mei." Toph said.
"Okay." I said. She stood up and faced me. I admired her for being blind, but still, in a way, being able to see. She didn't let her disability get in her way. She was strong. Stronger then me, in fact. And I'm older and not blind.
"First," she said. "I need to blindfold you." Before I could say anything she had grabbed a blindfold and was holding it over my eyes. I took it from her hands and tied it behind my head. "This way you can feel the vibrations, like me. It's very important if you want to be a master Earthbender like myself." she explained. "Ready?" she asked. I assumed my stance.
"Ready." I answered. She assumed her stance and stomped the ground. I copied her. By stomping the ground it was like sending out some sort of radar. I could see everything, but yet, I couldn't see anything. Quickly I moved out of the way of one of Toph's attacks. She was lifting big pieces of Earth, and I dodged them quickly. I heard her lift a ball of Earth. I heard it come after me. I grabbed it and sent it back to her.
"Very good, Mei!" she cried. "Visualize, then attack!" We went on for a while. I dodged, ducked and attacked her. When we were done she told me I was doing great. I tried to focus on her, but all I could think of while she was talking was how I couldn't tell Aang my secret earlier. And that I had to tell him soon. I gave her a Mmhm and a Yeah every so often, keeping the illusion I was listening. And I was trying to. But, it was so hard for me. I felt awful for not telling him. And for not telling Toph. We went back to the campsite and saw Sokka had returned. Him, Aang and Katara were all sitting around talking.
"Hey," Aang said. "How's training?"
"She's doing awesome." Toph said. "I've started her on the blindfold, like you." Aang smiled wide.
"It's scary, huh?" he asked. I nodded. I could feel my cheeks getting pink. I rubbed them. I sat down in between Sokka and Aang.
"So," I said, clearing my throat. "What are we going to do today?" Toph fell backwards.
"I don't know." she sighed. "It's a boring day."
"Yeah." Aang said. "What can we do?"
"Well, Aang," I said, glancing at him. "You could- think fast!" Quickly I tossed fire at him. He yelled and grabbed it. He glared at me with a smile and tossed it back. I tossed it away and stood quickly, lifting a rock and swinging it to him. He punched it to Toph. It landed right next to her head. She sat up.
"No fair!" she cried. "That was an aerial attack!"
"What are you gonna do about it?" Aang asked. Toph stood up and stomped the ground. Me and Aang quickly got into our stances. She swung her hands out and up, making the Earth under us lift suddenly. Me and Aang yelled as we were sent flying into the air. He Airbended himself down as I quickly raised the Earth up to me and let myself down. Aang grabbed water from the near by lake and swung it at Toph, soaking her. Katara laughed.
"You think that's funny, sugar queen?" Toph asked. Katara nodded.
"Yeah." she said. "I do." Toph lifted the mud off the ground and flung it at Katara.
"Ugh! That's it!" Katara cried. She lifted the mud off of her and grabbed some water. She started flinging it at all of us. I used Fire to keep all the water from me, and I Earthbended attacks. We went on for about twenty minutes until we all fell in exhaustion.
"That was random." Sokka said, watching us gasp for breath. We all started laughing.
Sokka and Katara laid in their sleeping bags. They had fallen asleep a few minutes before. Toph was safe inside her tent. But, me and Aang were sitting on a rock by the shore. We sat in silence, watching the Moon push and pull the tides, like the first Waterbenders had done.
"Aang," I said. "I think we need to talk."
He looked down. "I do too." he said.
"What's happening between us?" I surprised myself with that question. I had planned on telling him the truth about myself and where I'm from. But, instead my mouth decided to talk about what's happening between us and between him and Katara.
"I don't know." Aang answered.
"Katara doesn't seem to happy that you and me are friends." I pointed out. "Or that me and Toph are friends, for that matter." I looked at him. "Are you and Katara like... together?" Aang made a thinking face.
"Um... I don't think so." he said. "I mean, I think I might like her, but I don't know." I closed my eyes. I didn't want to talk about it anymore.
"Aang, I'm Fire Nation." I blurted out. He looked at me.
"I know that." he said. "You told us your Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom." I shook my head, pushing my hair from my face.
"No, Aang." I said. "I'm really Fire Nation. I lived there my whole life. I never even knew I was part Earth Kingdom until last year." He was watching me. His face seemed a little surprised, but it was hard to tell exactly in the Moon light. "I'm wearing Fire Nation clothes because I'm Fire Nation. I Firebend because I'm Fire Nation. I left home because my father supports the war. He wants us to win." I was starting to tear. I looked deep into Aang's eyes. "But, I don't Aang." I said. "I don't want us to win. That's why I'm here with you. To help you win." I buried my face in my hands and started to cry. I hated myself for showing so much weakness in front of Aang. I wiped my eyes and sniffed. "I'm sorry..." I muttered. I stood up. "I hope you can understand. I hope you can forgive me." He stood too and looked into my eyes. I got lost in his. He took my hand and kissed me.
"I understand." he said. "And thank you." He gave me a small smile and walked away. I stood, motionless, then turned and watched as he kept walking away. I can't even say how happy I was that his reaction was what it was. I washed my face with water from the lake and walked back to our campsite. I climbed up onto Appa and fell asleep in his saddle.
I was taking a walk down a path. A narrow path. I was holding tight to my necklace. I smiled remembering how nice it was of Katara to buy it for me. I loved the necklace so much. I looked down. It was in my hand. I looked over the stone. As I was about to bring it back to my neck it burned to ashes. The little bits fell to the ground. I gasped. But, as I reached down to grab it the ground fell from under me and I was sent spiraling down. I landed in a cage. The door swung closed and locked. Katara, Toph, Sokka and Aang stepped in front of us.
"You lied to us." Katara said. "You lied to us."
"I'm sorry!" I cried. "Really, I didn't mean to!"
"Traitor." Aang said. My eyes watered. Black tears fell. "Traitor." he said again. The cage fell through the floor and plunged into darkness as I screamed.
I gasped, jerking up straight. I wiped sweat from my forehead. I was breathing heavily. I swallowed and looked down. Everyone was awake, eating. Aang looked up at me. He smiled. But, something about it... It wasn't right.
"Morning, Mei." he said. "Fruit?" I exhaled, nodding. I climbed down from Appa and sat next to Aang. I eyed him like he could attack at any moment. He handed my an apple and I bit into it. It was crisp and fresh, like I used to get every morning. It was hard to swollow. I choked on the peel. Aang smacked my back.
"Mei? Mei, are you okay?" he asked. I cough roughly, then nodded. I cleared my throat.
"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. It's okay, Aang." I said.
"Are you sure?" Aang asked. "You look really uneasy."
"No, no, no. I'm fine." I said. Get it together, Mei! I screamed in my head. I took a deep breath and stood up. "We should go." I said. They all looked up at me.
"Why? Toph asked.
"We've spent enough time here already." I said. "We have work to do." Aang nodded, standing too.
"We should get going, I suppose." he said.
"Good idea. It's nice to be ahead of schedule." Sokka said as he stood too. So, we all packed up, loading everything onto Appa, and we left. We soon were flying over ocean. It was so big and beautiful. It made me want to be a Waterbender. I sighed, feeling relaxed.
"Uh-oh." I heard. I looked over and saw Katara looking over the edge of Appa's saddle on the other side. I crawled over and looked down. A Fire Navy ship! I gasped.
"What is it?" Toph asked in a panic.
"A Fire Navy ship!" Sokka cried.
"Yeah, but just one." Aang said. "Why is there only one?"
"There's only one answer to that, Aang." Sokka said. "Zuko." My eyes widened. No! No, no, no, no, no! Not Zuko! Why Zuko? How could it be Zuko?! This is the worst thing ever! I tried to keep myself from diving into the ocean and swimming away.
"We should fly the other way." I said. "We need to get away from here. Fast." Aang shook his head.
"He knows we're hear. He'll just follow us." he said.
"How do you know he sees us?" I asked. Aang pointed. We looked down and saw one of those stupid fire balls headed for us. We screamed and Aang tried to pull Appa away. It was so close to striking us and Appa lost his composure. He started falling for the ocean. Katara and Aang worked together to bring the water up to us, so we wouldn't hit with such force. We hit the water and held on tight. Appa managed to float on the water safely. Some of the crew on the ship tossed net after net over us and Appa. We tried to get away, but we couldn't. We were too caught in the net as they dragged us off Appa and into the boat to realize which way was up. They pulled all of us onto the boat. I could see Zuko walking up to us and I struggled to hide my face.
"Hello there." he said.
"Let us out!" Aang cried. "Mei, Firebend us out!"
"Don't bother." Zuko said. "It's a special type of Fire proof netting." He looked over his shoulder at some of his crew members. "Take them to their cell."
"Yes, sir." one replied. Two men rushed over and started to drag us off. For an instant me and Zuko locked eyes. His eyes widened in shock.
"Wait." he said quickly. The men stopped and looked at him. I closed my eyes. No... I thought. "When you get them in the cell, bring me the girl." he said.
"Uh, which girl, sir? There are three." one of the men said.
"The one in the red." Zuko answered. "My cousin." I could feel the others shock as the men agreed and started to drag us off again. They tossed us into the cell and quickly chained everyone but me to the wall. They started to drag me off by the arms. The others looked sadly at me, but didn't say anything. They turned their heads away. They didn't protest or even try to get away. They just let the men drag me off. I struggled, I kicked, I pulled, I yelled, but they kept dragging me. The pushed me to my knees as they chained my hands behind my back. Zuko stepped in front of me, looking down at me with his hands behind his back as if he was still prince. I kept my head down. Even though my cousin was evil. Even though he was heartless and cruel and I hated him. It still hurt me to see his scar across his eye. It wasn't right what Uncle Ozai did to him.
"Well, well, well," Zuko said. "Little cousin Mei. How lovely to see you again."
"You too, Zuzu." I replied. I could feel his anger. Me and his sister, Azula used to call him that to aggravate him as a kid. He shot a huge fire ball directly next to me.
"Don't call me that!" he yelled. Then he composed himself and stood with his hands behind his back.
"What are you doing with the Avatar?" he asked. I closed my eyes, keeping my head down. He grabbed my chin lifted it. "I asked you a question." he said. I kept his gaze as firmly as I could without answering him. "How dare you hang around the Avatar! We're family, Mei! Family!" I ripped my head away from him. He grabbed my arms and lifted me up roughly, shoving me against the wall. "You know I need the Avatar to return home, Mei! You know that and you still didn't bring him to me!"
"How do you know I wasn't going to?" I spat back. He stopped talking, still staring at me with an evil look. He looked like he wanted to kill me right then and there.
"Were you?" he asked in a dangerously quiet voice. I sighed, knowing I was defeated. I'm strongly against lying. No matter what.
"No." I confessed. He yelled and threw me down to the ground. I landed on my back with the grunt. It knocked the wind out of me.
"Take her away!" Zuko cried. "Separate her from her little friends." The men forced me to my feet and started dragging me away.
"Just remember, Zuko." I called as they forced me to walk. "According to you, we're family. Think about the war, Zuko." They walked me down the hall, down the stairs and shoved me into the cell across from the others. They didn't bother chaining me. I fell into the corner and rested my head against the wall. I couldn't believe this was happening. I was captured by my own cousin. My friends were locked and chained in the cell across from me. And there was nothing any of us could do. We were locked in all metal cells and the others were chained to the wall. And the cells were like small cages inside rooms. So, I couldn't even see them. And they couldn't see me. No one could. So, I gave way to crying.
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