I was awoken by the sound of Song's voice calling my name softly. I turned over then slowly opened my eyes. I remembered where I was this time. I slowly sat up and Song was smiling at me sweetly.
"Morning, sleepy head." she said. I fixed my hair a bit and smiled.
"Good morning." I said.
"You looked like you were having a bad dream, so I thought I should wake you up." she explained. I cocked my head.
"Oh, was I?" I asked. "I don't even remember."
"Well, as long as your up, would you like some fruit?" she asked. I nodded.
"Please." I said. She reached into a sack and pulled out an apple, handing it to me with a sweet look. I thanked her and bit into the juicy fruit. The juice ran down the side of my mouth and I wiped it away. I wolfed down the apple faster then I ever had. I barely took time to chew before swallowing, then realized I must have looked like a pig. Song smirked.
"Would you like another?" she asked. I shook my head, trying to be polite.
"No, thank you." I answered.
"Good news, ladies." Kenji said. "We'll be arriving at shore in about a half hour." This took me by surprise.
"Really?" I asked. "I thought it would take much longer."
"Me and Song are fast sailors." Kenji said. "We like to get where we're going fast as we can." I liked that in a person. Get where you're going as fast as you can and don't let anything slow you down. In a weird way I knew I would miss Song and Kenji. They were happy people. Nice people. very much like Aang. No, Mei! I cried in my head. Don't ruin it by dwelling on them again... You'll see them soon... I sat at the back of the boat and watched the water move away from us. I reached my hand out, letting my fingers skim the top of the water. It was cool and refreshing instead of freezing. I sighed, twirling my fingers around in it. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked back and saw Song sitting there with a worried smile.
"Don't worry, Mei." she said. "You'll find your friends." I forced a smile. I did appreciate her kindness, but that wasn't exactly what I was sighing at.
"I know." I said. She moved back to the front of the boat and sat with Kenji. I turned back around, looking at the huge ocean pass us by. I wished I could be more like an ocean. It just goes where the wind and Moon pushes and pulls it. It doesn't care about anything, but it houses so many different creatures. A little two headed fish popped from the water for seconds before dipping back under the cold blanket of blue water. I smirked. My smirk quickly faded as I felt a drop of water hit the top of my head.
"Uh-oh." I heard Kenji mutter. I sat up and turned around to face the front of the boat. "Looks like rain." he said. Seconds later rain started falling heavily from the sky. "Yup. Definitely rain." Song and Kenji tried to cover all the food and stuff from the rain. Quickly I rose Earth from under the ocean and moved it along with us. Song and Kenji looked up at me shelter.
"Oh, thank you, Mei!" Song cried. "You've been such a joy to have around." I chuckled a bit. No one's ever said that to me before. No one ever enjoyed my company. Other then Aang and maybe Toph. I kept the shelter going for as long as it was raining. It only rained for about twenty minutes, so I let down the shelter.
"Thank you so much, Mei." Song said again.
"No problem." I said. "My pleasure."
"I'm sure going to be sad to see you go, little missy." Kenji said. It was then that I noticed we were minutes away from shore.
"Me too." I said, resting my hands in my lap. "It's been fun." I watched as Kenji jumped from the boat, up to his knees in water, and pulled the boat up onto the shore. Me and Song stepped out. Song handed me her sack of food.
"Take this." she said. I shook my head, pushing it back.
"No, I couldn't." I insisted. "It's your food."
"We have more, darling." Song said.
"You'll need that." Kenji said. "Please, take it." Reluctantly, but with gratitude I took the sack. Song hugged me tightly and Kenji shook my hand. "Hope everything works for you." he said.
"You too." I said. They climbed back into the boat and left. I turned and froze. It wasn't the Earth Kingdom. I was in the Fire Nation. My heart beat got faster and faster. If anyone saw me they would know who I was. You can't be apart of a royal family and have people not know you. I took a deep breath. Relax, Mei. I told myself. You must need to change the way you look.... Cut your hair! I rushed over to a small rock and make it very, very sharp. I brought it to my hair, ready to cut it off to just under my chin. With one last look at my long, dark hair, I pushed the rock against it and watched it fall to the ground. I exhaled. I had been holding my breath the whole time. I brought the rock back up and evened it all out. I looked down at the big pile of hair in the dirt. I sighed, closed my eyes, and burned it.
"My hair..." I muttered to myself. I sighed and started walking through the small bit of woods that led to the city. I stepped over a rock and into the city. I looked around at the place I thought I would never see again. At the place I never wanted to see again. But, it was nice to know exactly where I was and to be able to know how things worked. I walked down the road, not exactly sure of what I was doing. I didn't even know where to begin to look for the gang. But, my biggest problem, was I had no money. There were plenty of people around doing chance games, but you can't play without something to trade or money. And I had nothing to trade and no money. I sighed, slipping my hands into my pockets. How to get some money... I thought. I could find a tea shop and maybe waitress. Okay, so say that works, where do I sleep tonight? Do I just hide in the woods and sleep there? Wait. A cave! If Aang and them were here they would be hiding in a cave! I have to look for them there! I quickly turned around and started running and searching inside caves. A rush of hope filled me. Then I stopped inside a pretty big cave. I sighed. I'm sure there's dozens of caves around here... How am I ever going to find them just running around like this? I thought. I fell to the ground. I leaned against the cave wall and closed my eyes. I was very tired from what I had been through.
I was awoken this time by the best sound I had heard in days.
"Hothead!" Toph's voice called. "Hothead, wake up!" It took me no time to jump up and race over to them. We all gathered in a weird group hug.
"Oh my word!" I cried. "I missed you guys so much!"
"We missed you too!" Aang cried. "Are you okay? What happened? Where did you go? Tell us everything!"
"Don't overwhelm her." Katara said. "She's been through a lot." I Earthbended seats for everyone and sat down. Everyone sat down, leaning in to me.
"Tell us your story." Sokka said. "Don't leave out anything." I smiled at there enthusiasm and told them my whole story. How Azula and Mai grabbed me and knocked me out. How I was out for a week then moved to Zuko and Uncle's ship and we were imprisoned together. I told them how we escaped and I battled Azula and won. How I sailed with Zuko and he kindly let me leave him. How Mai was nice tome and tipped me off about Quin Lee's evil plan, but was a victim of his anyway. I told them about how I Firebended the water then got picked up by Kenji and Song. Why I had cut my hair. Aang was so worried when I told him that I was out for a week. After making sure I was okay they told me of their story. Telling me why Aang had short hair, and how Azula shot him with lightning and that Katara saved his life. It made me so angry that she did that.
"Well, it's really nice to have you back..." Katara said. I smiled, knowing she felt a little weird. I was so happy to see her, though. I was so happy to see everyone. I felt so amazing and happy. More happy then I had been in years. Oddly enough, though, something still felt empty. I touched my stomach. I couldn't pin what it was. Something inside me felt... off.
"Are you sick?" Aang asked. I looked up at him, pulled from my thoughts.
"Uh, no." I answered. "I'm fine." I gave him a smile, hoping it looked real. As the rest of them started talking I zoned out in my thoughts, suddenly realizing what felt missing. My family. I was thinking of my family. I must have hurt them when I left... I didn't mean to. I was just angry. And this is my life. Not theirs. I should be able to make my own decisions. And I shouldn't be treated like such a child at fifteen years old. They acted like I was five. And I suppose I shouldn't have been so disrespectful. I have to listen to my parents. But, when they act like that, really it's abusing power. The power of being a parent. People may not realize, but as an adult you have much power. Over virtually anyone younger then them. My parents abused that power over me. Not the twins, of course. Just me. It was always just me. They abused their power over just me. I had Firebending lessons with just me. I did chores, just me. And I left- just me. I was able to attend school with other children, but that was about it. And school wasn't exactly my favourite place to be. I asked my parents if I could leave school, but they said no. Of course, when the twins asked they said yes. I asked them why and they said, "Because." I spent most of my time outside, going over Firebending sets and feeding the turlte ducks in the pond in our backyard. I moved the tip of my fingers back and forth against my hair, missing my long hair. I remember when I was about ten I wanted short hair, and Mother had said no. She said it wasn't fitting for a lady to look like a boy. I tried to tell her I didn't want it that short, and that most of the boys had long hair in little top knots anyway, but she brushed me off and told me to go play. Now that I got to have long hair, I didn't want it. I was so used to my long hair. I missed it. But, I knew I had to do what I had to do. And what I had to do then was make sure no one recognized me.
"Mei." I heard. I blinked and shook my head a little. "You were staring at me." Aang said. I looked at him and took a breath.
"Oh, sorry." I said. "I just zoned out for a second. What were you saying?"
"We were just saying that here's a good a place as any to camp out." he answered. "You okay with that?" I smiled and nodded.
"Yes, of course." I said. "Fine with me." Aang smiled wide.
"I'm so glad your back, Mei!" he cried. "Oh! Now you can train me more!" I giggled.
"Of course." I said. Then I remembered. I looked at Sokka. "Sokka, when can we begin my training?" He looked a little surprised. Maybe that I remembered, maybe that I even wanted to.
"Oh," he said after a second. "Um, whenever you want." I smiled.
"Good. After I train Aang I'll do it with you." He nodded with a little smirk.
"Why don't we go get something to eat to celebrate us being reunited?" Katara offered, standing up. Everyone smiled.
"Flamio, Katara!" Aang said. We all walked from the cave and started down to the city. I looked at everyone who passed me as if they were ready to attack. I tried to relax, but it was hard. It was probably the most anxiety filled moment I had ever gone through. I was fidgeting and breathing rapidly, but quietly. My eyes darted around and I swallowed harshly. Katara put her hand on my shoulder.
"Are you alright?" she asked. I jumped and looked at her, exhaling.
"Uh, y- yeah." I stammered. "Perfectly fine." She nodded, though she knew I wasn't fine. We walked into town and found a restaurant with meat hanging from the window.
"Oh," Aang said. "We're going to a meat place?"
"Come on, everyone here eats meat." Sokka said. Aang shook his head.
"Nah, that's okay. I'll just go eat some lattice out of the garbage." Aang said, waving him off. I nodded.
"Yeah," I agreed. "I'm not too hungry, so I'll just go with him." Katara nodded and they went inside the restaurant. Me and Aang turned around, scanning the city. Aang once again greeted people as "Hotman". I have no clue where he got that. Then two people, a man and a women came up to us with angry faces.
"There you are." they said. Me and Aang were both scared. Him for being recognized as the Avatar, even though he was bearing a headband to cover it and he had grown hair, which I had just noticed. And me for being recognized as me. "Thought it would be a good idea to play hooky, huh?" the girl asked. "Well, maybe next time both of you should take off your school uniforms." I looked over at Aang, realizing he was, in fact wearing a school uniform. They grabbed us by the arms and pushed us to the school. Me and Aang looked at each other. He was more worried then I was, because I knew how to act. They pushed inside a class room and we stood before the teacher.
"What's this?" the teacher asked. "New minds for molding?" The man and women nodded then left. The teacher paused in front of us. "Wait a minute. You're not from the Fire Nation." Me and Aang froze. I was worried she would recognize Aang as Earth Nomad. "You have awful manners!" the teacher cried. "You must be from the colonies." My heart started beating again as I sighed a quiet sigh of relief. "In the homeland we bow to our elders. Like so." She demonstrated how people from the Fire Nation bow. Aang nodded.
"Sorry, ma'am." he said, bowing the way he knows how. The teacher cleared her throat and tapped Aang's hands. He had right fist pressed against his straight left hand. In the Fire Nation we have our fist under our straight hand. A girl behind the teacher showed him and we both bowed the correct way. "Now, do you have names, or should we just call you manner less colony slobs?" Aang giggled.
"Just slobs will be fine." he said. He frowned. "Or, uh, Kuzon."
"And I'm Mei." I said. She nodded and told us to have a seat, so we found two and sat down on the floor next to each other. I sighed quietly as I watched the old lady teach us about the Fire Nation. She told us we would be having a pop quiz. We all tried to hide our dismayed looks.
"Question one," the teacher said. "In what year did Fire Lord Sozin defeat Air Nation army?" I saw Aang pause. He looked up and raised his hand. Oh, Aang, what are you doing? I asked myself. "Yes, Kuzon?" the teacher asked in an annoyed voice.
"Well, it's just that the Air Nomad's didn't have a formal military. They were defeated by ambush." I, as well as the rest of the class, was stunned.
"Well, that's not in the history texts." the teacher replied. "Unless you were there one hundred years ago, you have no right to argue."
"Kuzon, sit." I muttered through clenched teeth. Aang smirked with a little chuckle and sat down.
"I'll just right down my best guess." he said.
In music class me and Aang were given tsungi horns. I, having gone to a Fire Nation school before, knew how to play well. Aang- not so much. He started dancing with his feet. Everyone stopped playing and stared at him. I shook my head slightly. He wouldn't last without me... I thought. Frankly, I don't know how he's lasted this long even with me!
"Kuzon!" the teacher snapped. Aang stopped and gave nervous glances to everyone.
"I know," he said sadly. "I'm a terrible tsungi hornest..."
"No, child. That hullabaloo going on with your feet. Is that a nervous disorder?" the teacher asked. Aang looked down at his feet.
"I was just dancing." he replied. The teacher shook his head. "You guys dance in the homeland, right?" Aang asked, looking at the kid next to him. The kid shook his head.
"No," he replied. "Not really."
"I know that sometimes we're so moved by our love for our nation, that we can't control our own bodies," the teacher said. I tried my hardest not to scoff. "Next time the urge hits you, you may march in place if necessary." Aang's face fell as the rest of the class continued playing. I sighed quietly and started playing again myself.
After school me and Aang walked outside. I opened my mouth to tell him something, but was cut off by the girl who showed Aang how to bow earlier in class.
"I really liked that crazy dance you were doing, Kuzon." she said to Aang. Aang turned to her and smiled.
"Thanks. I can show you again sometime, if you want." he offered. She smiled sweetly.
"I'd like that." she said. Suddenly a fire ball flew past Aang's head. He gasped and dropped his books.
"What's that colony trash?" a boy snapped. We turned to face him. He was kind of big. Probably about my age or a little older. Definitely some sort of "bully-jock". "Nobody shows my On Ji anything. Especially movements!" He went to attack Aang, and I was ready to defend him, but Aang skillfully, and without nay effort, evaded his attacks. He calmly duck and moved out of the way as the kid swung and kicked. Eventually they ended up back to back. The kid kept trying to turn and face Aang, but Aang kept moving the other way to stay behind him. It was actually very amusing. I was trying hard not to laugh. I could see Aang smiling as well. The kid stopped trying to turn and Aang bent over, knocking the kid down. Just then The Headmaster walked out and saw the kid on the ground. He also saw me and Aang standing in the middle of a group of kids.
"Beating up my star pupil?" The Headmaster asked, helping the sniffling kid up. He was obviously fake crying. It sickened me. "Are you alright, Hide?" the kid nodded. The Headmaster walked over to me and Aang. "She your sister?" he asked him.
"Uh, well-" Aang tried. The Headmaster didn't even give him a chance to answer.
"I want to see you here with your parents." he said. I stepped forward, trying to be as respectful as possible.
"We can't, sir." I said.
"And why not?" he snapped angrily.
"Well, our parents aren't here- with us. Um, we're staying with friends." I explained. I glanced around, not wanting to the play card in hand. "I'm, uh," I sighed. "I'm Meiza Kozai." I whispered. His eyes widened.
"Oh, my, well," He was shocked, but tried to hide it. He cleared his throat. "Right. Let's just make sure it doesn't happen again." I nodded.
"Yes, sir. Thank you." I bowed to him and pulled Aang away. I didn't speak to him for the whole walk until we got to the cave. I just pulled him along by his hand like the small child he was. I pulled him inside the cave and pushed him in front of me.
"There you guys are!" Katara cried. "We were worried! Where were you?" I ignored her. Aang looked at her, but I turned his head to face me.
"You are going to get us all killed." I told him. He smiled sheepishly.
"I'm sorry. I've never been to school before." he said.
"School!?" Sokka, Toph and Katara cried at the same time. I sighed deeply, stepping back and folding my arms.
"Well, you have a lot to learn." I said. "That is, if we go back."
"Somebody explain what's happening?" Katara asked. Me and Aang walked to the fire and sat down.
"Genius over here got himself a Fire Nation school uniform." I explained. "We were hauled off to school. We were mistaken for two kids playing hooky."
"It was fun!" Aang cried. "I learned a lot about the Fire Nation today."
"Nothing I couldn't have told you myself." I said.
"Well, I'm glad you had fun. But, you aren't going back. It's too dangerous." Katara said. "And we have to keep moving." Aang frowned, but nodded. I felt bad for him, actually. He never really had the chance to be a normal kid. He said that the Monk's told him he was the Avatar when we was 12. They weren't supposed to until he was 16. He's never been able to just be a kid. He's always have Avatar related responsibilities to take care of. But, I understood that he had a lot of responsibility as the Avatar. But, I knew I had to give him at least one day of being a child. Just one day to relax and be a 12-year old boy. We all stood and started packing up. We loaded everything onto Appa's saddle and led him from the cave. Then we all got into his saddle. Aang bended a cloud around us and Appa took of slowly, since he wasn't able to see. I liked flying in a cloud. It looked cool. I was used to flying, but not inside a cloud.
"I can't see anything." Sokka said quietly, squinting at the cloud.
"Ooh, how awful." Toph said sarcastically. Sokka's face fell.
"Sorry..." he muttered. Sokka was right, though. We couldn't see anything past the cloud, and I didn't like it. I wasn't able to see if my parents guards or if Azula's lackeys were behind us or not. I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself. Not being able to see made me uneasy. Katara moved towards me and put her hand on my shoulder.
"Are you okay?" she asked. "You've been through a lot, huh?" I looked at her with a tiny smirk and nodded.
"Yeah," I answered. I hadn't really thought about it much. But, I had been through so much. Not only that day, but ever since I met all of them. My life has been so unpredictable and crazy. I liked it. I didn't like being captured or knocked out, but I liked having an exciting life for once. "I have."
"Shush!" Sokka hissed. "Do you want to get captured again?" Katara rolled her eyes and moved back to her seat.
"Relax, Sokka." she said. "I don't think anyone will be able to hear us."
"Does that mean I can drop the cloud now? Appa can't really see." Aang said. Sokka sighed heavily.
"I guess." he answered. Aang let the cloud down. I smiled a bit, happy to be able to see what was happening. No one was behind us. Always a good thing. I leaned against the saddle, watching things pass us. My arm was dangling over the edge and I was looping a string of fire between my fingers. I was bored. It had been a pretty boring day.
We landed later on in the woods and set up camp again. I started a fire and sat down for a second. I looked up at the sky. Enough light to do some training with Aang and Sokka. I stood up and walked to Aang.
"Aang?" I asked. He looked at me as he dropped the sticks he was holding into the fire. "Would you like to work on your Firebending some more?" His face lit up and he nodded.
"Yeah!" he cried. I smiled and took him away into a clearing. We faced each other and bowed.
"Alright, pupil Aang," I said. "Ready?"
"Ready, sifu Mei." he answered. We assumed our stances and I took him through more of the basic Firebending moves.
"Right punch, left punch, jump, right kick, left kick." I couched. He moved swiftly and smoothly through the set. He was advancing very much. I smiled at him and stood next to him.
"Okay," I said. "Let's try something else. It's a rapid fire move." I assumed my stance, making sure that my fire wouldn't catch a tree, but would be able to burn out. I took a deep breath and started punching the air in front of me over and over as fast as I could. Left, right, left, right, left, right, over and over. Dozens of fireballs rushed from me so quickly they were only maybe 2 inches from each other. I stopped and took another deep breath.
"You try." I said. "It's hard because it's tiring. You need to focus and make sure that they come out one right after the other. Can you manage?" He smirked and nodded, assuming his stance next to me. He took a deep breath and started punching the air. He did well, but the fire had to have been a good 5 inches apart.
"Good," I told him. "But, they need to be closer. Keep trying." We drilled the set over and over until he mastered it, then we called it a day and headed back to the camp site so Sokka could start his training with me. Katara handed me the canteen as I reached for it and I guzzled it down. I exhaled as I brought it from my lips, screwing the cap back on and handing it to back to her.
"Ready, Sokka?" I asked. He stood with a smile. He was looking forward to this. We walked off together into the clearing me and Aang worked in. He pulled his black sword from his sheath- the one he made from a meteor- and handed it to me. We only had one sword, so he had to just walk me through the movements. He told me to think of the sword as an extension of my own body. To act like I was Firebending with it. Swift, smooth, quick movements. Snap it to the side- jab it forward- spin and thrust. It was intense. I was breathing heavily. Sokka seemed pleased. I wiped the sword through the air. I tried to imagine it as fire. It helped me to control it better and make it actually seem like an extension of my body. I spun it and jabbed it and flung it around. It was fun, but hard. I liked it, though. It made me feel like I had a lot of power. More power then from just Firebending.
"Wow, Sokka," I said, heaving. "That's more intense then I thought. I have to give you credit." Sokka smiled wide.
"Thank you, Mei." he said. "Not many people view this as hard. Everyone thinks it's way easier then bending, but it isn't. I mean, I understand that what you did with the wall in Ba Sing Se was very hard. And I would never have been able to pull something like that off. But, what I do- it's hard. Harder then a lot of bending." I nodded. I felt bad for him. I can't imagine people demeaning you like that.
"I can definitely understand, now, how that would be hard to take." I said. He smiled.
"Thanks." he said gently. I gave him back his sword and bowed to him.
"Thank you, sifu Sokka." He bowed back and we left for the camp site again.
The next morning me, Toph, Sokka and Aang went into town. We walked around, looking at all the different shops.
"What should we do with our last pieces of money?" Aang asked, looking at the last two silver pieces we had.
"Make more money." Toph said, grabbing Aang's arm an dstopping. We all looked down below us (we were on a higher level and the people were down below us) and saw one of those jerks who scam people out of their money by moving around the little shells under the cups.
"How?" Aang asked.
"Down there." Toph said. "Those people think they're so smart. They move the pebble at the last second. But, I can see it through Earthbending. I can win." We all smiled.
"Let's do it." I said. We all rushed down the stairs. We stood behind the small crowd of people, looking nonchalant. Toph pretended to be a hopeless blind girl who couldn't see anything. The man gave a cunning smile.
"You there!" he called. "Want to play?" Toph looked up as if she wasn't sure it was her he was talking to.
"Who? Me?" she asked, pointing to herself.
"Yes, you." the man said.
"How could I possibly play?" Toph asked. "I'm blind." She waved her hand in front of her face.
"You don't need sight to play a game of chance." the man said. Toph shrugged. She moved her hands in front of her, as if she was making sure nothing would get in her way. When she got to the table she sat down, feeling around for it. Aang had slipped her a coin a few minutes earlier. She took it and placed it on the table. The man started moving around the chells with the little blue pebble. Then on the last switch he flicked it up his robe sleeve and let another one down into a different shell. Of course, Toph could feel it, so she picked the right one. The man looked surprised.
"Very good." he said, giving her her money. "Why don't we make it a little more interesting. Say, twenty silver pieces?" Toph made a kind of thinking face.
"Make it fourty and I'll throw in this sword." she said, grabbing Sokka's sword and setting it down.
"Hey!" Sokka whined.
"Deal." the man said. He started moving around the shells again and when he would usually flick the pebble up his robe sleeve Toph could feel when it left the table. I saw her tightened her fist just a little and the pebble came back down. She pointed to the right one.
"That one." she said. The man smiled.
"Sorry, little girl," he said as he lifted it. "But-" He stopped, seeing the pebble there. His face was shocked. We all smiled. Toph grabbed the bad of money and the sword and we all ran off. We did played more of the little scamming games, winning each time, and bought plenty of food. We walked back to the campsite laughing. We set down the baskets of food with proud smiles.
"Where did you get the money for all that?" Katara asked.
"Toph won the game where the people move the shells around all sneaky-like." Aang answered. "She did with Earthbending."
"So, you cheated." Katara said. Toph was biting into an apple, the stopped.
"He was cheating." she said. "I cheated a cheater. What's wrong with that?" Katara sighed.
"Just don't make a habit of it. We're trying to keep a low profile." she said. Aang stood up. He pushed his hat back (that hides his arrow) and bowed to Katara.
"Katara," he said. "I make you an Avatar promise that we wont make a habit of these scams." Katara smiled.
"Thank you." she said.
Of course that didn't happen. We went out after that a played more of the games. We found different creative ways of getting more and more money. It was great. Until Katara started getting more and more fed up. She complained everytime we came home with money after scamming people. We all blew her off, thinking it was no big deal. Until it became one.
Sokka left one afternoon to buy a messanger hawk (Which, of course, he named Hawky). When he came back he had a poster.
Toph was counting her piles of money whe he walked up.
"Toph, when I was in town I found something you're not going to like." He pulled out the poser and unfolded it in front of her.
"Well, it sounds like a sheet of paper," Toph said. "But, I guess you're reffering to what's on the sheet of paper." I smirked. We all kind of forgot Toph was blind, at times, since she never really acts like she is.
"It's a wanted poster!" Sokka cried. "Of you! They've nicknamed you 'The Runaway'." Toph's face lit up.
"A wanted poster! That's so great!" she said excitedly. "The Runaway! I love my new nickname! Is there a picture of me? Does it look good?" At this point I was at Sokka's side, looking at the poster. There was a picture, yes. It showed Toph with creepy looking eyes and monster teeth. She looked like the devil.
"Yeah, it does look pretty good, actually." Sokka answered, comparing the picture to Toph. I snickered a bit. "But, Toph, you're missing the point. Maybe Katara was right. These scams are drawing too much attention to us."
"Don't be such a worry-wart like your sister." Tohp said as she stood, taking a small bag of coins and holding it behind her back. She walked up to Sokka. "Think of this way," she said. "Now you have plenty of money to help with the invasion plan." She bounced the bag of money in front of Sokka's face and he smiled.
"Well, that is true..." he said thoughtfully. "I had this idea of making armor for Appa." Toph opened the bag and dropped a few gold pieces into Sokka's hand.
"Here's a little extra so you can get yourself a nice map of the Fire Nation." she said. I smirked. Bribery is the best form of negotiation. And Toph was good at it. "You know what?" she said with a sweet smile. She held out the money to Sokka. "Make it an atlas." Sokka smiled wide. Taking the money he said, "I do like expensive atlases."
"Of course you do." Toph said, putting her hands on her hips. She snatched the wanted poster from Sokka and put it in her shirt. "And that's why this wanted poster is going to stay our little secret." she said. I folded my arms.
"Well, what about me?" I asked. "What's going to stop me from telling?"
"The fact that I'm your Earthebnding teacher and there isn't anyone better then me." she said matter-a-factly. I pouted.
"Fine, I wont tell." I said. She smiled happily and walked off. Me and Sokka looked at each other. Then Katara and Aang walked up. Katara sighed.
"Sokka, tell me you didn't buy a bird." she said, gesturing to the messanger hawk on his shoulder.
"Not just a bird!" Sokka said. "A messanger bird! No we can send messages all over the world. Even to Gran-Gran!" Aang smiled wide.
"Wow!" he cried. "How does it work?" Sokka's face fell.
"Hmmm..." he said. "Uh, I never actually thought about that." He looked at the bird. "Hawky, Gran-Gran!" he said, pointing. "South Pole." The bird didn't move and Sokka smiled at us. "I think he gets it." he said. Then, all of the sudden Momo leapt onto Aang's shoulder with an angry look. He hissed at Hawky then leapt over to Sokka and the started chasing each other around on Sokka's head. "Hawky, make nice!" Sokka cried. "Bad Hawky!" I shook my head and walked over to him. I grabbed Momo quickly.
"Nice job, Sokka." I said. "That's exactly what we need. More arguments." I held onto Momo and walked away.
Later me, Aang and Katara were hanging around our campsite. Katara was Waterbending soup for Appa to eat and me Aang were just sitting around. Sokka and Toph had gone out to do more scams. Ever since I had seen the wanted poster of 'The Runaway' I had thought that the scams may be too dangerous. We didn't need any extra attention us. Especially me, being in the Fire Nation and all.
Sokka and Toph walked back with two big bags. Of money, I assumed.
"Well, look who's back. Off doing more scams again?" Katara said. Toph and Sokka set the bags down.
"Yes, we were." Toph answered. Katara walked over to her.
"And I don't suppose you think what you're doing is wrong." she said.
"No, I don't." Toph answered.
"Well, then," Katara reached into the top of her skirt and pulled out the wanted poster, holding it out. "What's this?"
"I don't know!" Toph cried, throwing her hands in the air. "I mean, seriously! What's with you people?" She turned and faced Katara, pulling down her lower eye lids. "I'm blind!"
"It's a wanter poster of you!" Katara cried. "The Runaway! Is that what you're called now? Are you proud of this?" Me, Sokka and Aang exchanged glances. We could tell a fight was about to break out, and nothing's worse then two girls fighting. I would rather fight and Agni Kai with the top three Firebending masters of the world then get into a serious fight with a girl.
"Where did you get that?" Toph demanded.
"It doesn't matter where I got it." Katara answered. "The fact is-"
"You went through my stuff!" Toph interrupted. "You had no right!"
"You're stuff was messy and I was just straightening up and I happened to stumble across it." Katara said.
"You're lying! That's a lie, Katara!" Toph said, pointing her finger. I couldn't help but smirk. It must be hard to argue with someone who can tell what you're feeling and if you're lying or not.
"Fine! It's a lie." Katara said, pushing Toph's hand from her face. "But, you've been so out of control lately, I knew something was up!" Ouch. Out of control. Not a good thing to tell someone in the heat of a fight. I could see Aang and Sokka getting nervous. I was actually amused. Being a girl, I was used to either seeing or being in this stuff.
"I knew you were hiding something, and you were!" Katara said, holding out the poster again. Toph grabbed it and tossed it behind her. She had a very angry look onher face. I thougth she was going to totally explode, but she just started walking away. Katara turned and watched her leave.
"Don't you walk away when I'm talking to you!" she called. Toph stopped and turned.
"Oh, really, Mom?" she said. "Or what are you going to do? Send me to my room?" Toph really had it panged. She did sound like a mother. Like my mother.
"I wish I could." Katara said, folding her arms.
"Well you can't." Toph snapped. "Because you're not my mom and you're not their mom." she added, gesturing to me, Sokka and Aang. Ang held his bowl of food tightly and we all exchanged looks.
"I never said I was!" Katara cried.
"No, but you certainly act like it." Toph said. Which was very true, I should add. "You think it's your job to boss everyone around, but it's not. You're just a regular kid, like the rest of us. So, stop acting like you can tell me what to do. I can do whatever I want!" Katara's face grew more of a mixture of anger and maybe a little hurt.
"I don't act that way." she said. She turned to Sokka. "Sokka, do I act that way?" Sokka jumped at the sudden snap of Katara's voice.
"Hey, I'm staying out of this one." he said.
"What do you think, Aang?" she asked. "Do I act like a mom?" Aang rubbed his eyes.
"Well, I-" he muttered.
"Stop rubbing your eye and speak clearly when you talk!" Katara snapped. Aang straightened quickly.
"Yes, ma'am!" he said. I scoffed.
"You do act motherly, Katara." I said.
"Don't interrupt!" she sanpped at me. Toph turned.
"I can't be around you right now." she said as she started to walk.
"Well, I can't be around you!" Katara cried after her, walking in the other direction. We watched as the split up, walking in two different ways. I sighed. Hawky squawked.
"I know, Hawky." Sokka said. "Why can't they just get along?" We all sighed and looked at them. Toph was on one side of the cliff and Katara was on the other, just sitting and looking out at the water. Or, in Toph's case listening to the water. Then Sokka smiled.
"Do you guys want to test out my messanger hawk with me?" he asked. "I have an idea."
"Sure." Aang said. I shurgged and got closer to him.
"I'm going to write a note to Katara and say it's from Toph, who wants to apoligize." Sokka explained quietly. As he said it Aang's face lit up slightly with a smile.
"Um, that may not work." I said.
"Then everyone will be firends again." Sokka said, not listening to me.
"Uh, guys." I said.
"I gotta say, Sokka," Aang said. "You continue to impress me with your ideas." I shook my head. Whatever. If they think Toph can write, being blind, let them think it.
"Yeah, it's a gift." Sokka said. He grabbed a pice of a paper and a brush and started writing.
"'Dear Katara,'" he said as he wrote. "'Sorry for everything. Your friend, Toph.'" He smiled proudly and I rolled my eyes. He rolled up the paper and stuck it in Hawky's harness. Then he pointed to Katara and Hawky took off. Aang and Sokka waited anxiously for her to read it and respond. Katara took the note from Hawky and unrolled it. She scowled and stood up.
"I know this is from you, Sokka!" she cried. "Toph can't write!" She ripped the note. "You're all driving me crazy!" she yelled and she walked away. Aang shook his head.
"I can't believe we forgot Toph can't write..." he said.
"Yup, we're idiots." Sokka said.
"I tried to tell you." I said. Hawky flew back to Sokk and landed on his arm.
"I guess plan B is we send a note to Toph pretending it's from Katara." Aang said.
"I think we're going to run into a similar problem." Sokka said. Hawky squawked again. "Sorry, Hawky, look's like I'm going to have to do this without your help." Hawky leapt onto Aang's shoulder as Sokka stood and went over to Toph to talk to her. I layed back.
"This has been a crazy couple of days." I said. Aang nodded.
"I feel kind of bad." he said. "I mean, Toph wasn't the only doing the scams. We helped." I sat back up.
"Well, yeah, but Toph was the master-mind." I said. "She's the one with the wanted poster and she did most of the work. Aang sighed.
"I know." he said.
"You don't need to worry as long Katara isn't mad at you." I said. "She knows that we were all apart of it." Aang smiled at me.
"Yeah, I guess." he said.
A little later, after Sokka spoke with Toph, they were walking back. Katara was sitting on the ground, scratching Momo's head. When she saw them she stood up and walked to them.
"Hi, Toph." she said a little nervously. Please, let this work out. I thought. Grabbing her arm, katara said- "Um, I wanna-"
"Katara, stop." Toph said. "You don't need to apologize. I was the one being stupid. These scams are out of control. And I'm done with them."
"Actually, I wasn't oging to apologize." Katara said with a little smile. "I was going to say- I want to pull a scam with you." Toph paused and the rest of us dropped our jaws with wide eyes. We were shocked.
"What?" Toph asked. "You want to pull a scam?"
"Not just any scam." Katara said with a devious smile. "The ultimate scam." Me, Sokk and Aang all looekd at each other. We had no idea what to say. We couldn't even wrap our minds around it. We ad finally settled it after Katara got all mad, and now she wanted to pull a scam! We all fell to our backs as Katara wrapped her arm around Toph's shoudlers.
"What do you say, Toph?" she asked. "Just me and you. One last go. You in?"
"You know I'm in!" Toph cried. "Now, what's this idea of yours?" They both walked off together and the three of us just layed on the ground.
"I can't believe that just happened." I said.
"I think I had a heart attack." Aang moaned.
A while later Aang was pacing in front of me and Sokka with a worried look.
"Do you think this scam of theirs should be taking this long?" he asked.
"I was just wondering the same thing." Sokka said. I nodded.
"Yeah," I said. "It's been a long time. None of our scams took this long."
"We better check it out." Sokka said. Hawky flew off his arm and onto the pot next to him. "You two behave." he told Hawky and Momo. "Appa's in charge." I stood up and followed Aang and Sokka into town. The town was empty. No one was around. We looked around curiously. Towns weren't just empty like that. Especially not heavily populated Fire Nation towns.
"Where do you think they might be?" Sokka asked.
"Where do you think anyone is?" Aang asked.
"Yeah, this isn't normal." I said. We looked around as we walked up by the statue of Uncle Ozai. All of the sudden Aang stopped. He grabbed our hands.
"Watch out!" he cried, shoving us behind the statue as a huge explosion came right next to us. We popped up behind the statue. A huge man with a metal arm and a metal leg was standing on a roof. "It's sparky-sparky-boom man!" I looked at Aang.
"Excuse me?" I asked.
"Yeah, I'm starting to think that name doesn't really fit." Sokka said. I had no idea who this guy was or why he was chasing us, but I assumed they had seen him before. The men leapt off the roof and stood in front of the fountain. Then he took a deep breath in and sent some sort of weird explosion from an eye tattoo on his forehead to the fountain. We all jumped out of the way. We started runnign as fast as we could and we ducked inside an alley. An empty cart was in the way and Sokka crashed into it. He fell in front of it and me and Aang rushed over to him. It was hiding us perfectly of the man, but he would know we were there. Aang lifted Sokka up to his feet.
"This guy is too good." Sokka said. "He shoots fire from his brain!"
"We should split up." Aang said. "He can't chase all three of us." Me and Sokka nodded. We stood up and Sokka ran one way and me and Aang ran in another (since there was only two ways to go that didn't lead to a huge man trying to make us explode). Then the cart exploded behind us and we picked up the pace.
"Who is this guy?" I cried.
"I don't know!" Aang answered. "He just showed up a while ago and started chasing us!"
"How pleasant." I said. We both climbed up onto of house and ran on the roof right past, uh, Sparky-Sparky-Boom man, I guess. He turned upon seeing us and sent another explosion right for us. We both leapt off the roof, Aang flying farther. I landed on the ground, but he slammed into the statue of Uncle OZai and fell to the ground.
"Aang!" I cried as I rushed up to him. I helped him up slightly as the man came up to us. I had no idea what was going to happen. I braced myself, holding Aang tightly. The man took a deep breath. The all of the sudden a huge wave of water crashed over his head and turned into a think block of ice. The man stumbled to the side to show TOph, Sokka and Katara standing there.
"Get up!" Katara cried as they ran towards us. Me and Katara lifted Aang to his feet and we started running. The man was still struggling with the ice on his head until he smashed it with his metal hand. He went to send another explosion to us, but Toph lifted a rock and sent it for him. He exploded the rock, but the dirt travleed up the line of enegery and a small pebble hit his tattoo. He cried out in pain. He growled and went to send yet another explosion, but it exploded in his face. Literally. It exploded in his face and he was sent flying. By the time he got up, we were gone. Still running.
"Hey, I got it! The perfect name for that guy!" Sokka cried as we ran. "Combustion Man!"
"Good job, Sokka." Toph said. "Now, let's get out of here before Combustion Man camptures us!"
"See? It fits so well!" Sokka cried. We ran to Appa and flew off as quick as we could, landing later on to sleep. When we landed Toph asked Katara to help her write a letter to her parents. So, Katara wrote the letter and sent Hawky off to deliver it to Toph's parents in the Earth Kingdom.
"Hey," Sokka said a few minutes later. "Where's Hawky?"
"Then!" Sokka cried, standing over the fire. It gave him a spooky shadow in the dark. "As they walked down the hall they saw a door creek open." Then he made a creaking sound. "Eeeeerrrreeeeeeeeek!" Getting hire towards the end. "And they saw the murderer holding the victims hand in his! And it wasn't attached to the body!" Then he screamed really loud. "Eeeeeeaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!" We all stared at him, unphased.
"Um, good one, Sokka." Aang said.
"Water Tribe sleepovers must have really stunk." Toph said.
"I have one." Katara said. We all turned to her. "This is a real Southern Water Tribe legend." She pulled her legs in tighter. "A long time ago when Gran-Gran was a teenager, a new comer came into her village. He said he was from the Northern Water Tribe and that his name was Kodai. he said he wanted to move to the South Pole. So, naturally, everyone welcomed him as one of their own. He was quiet, and didn't come out of his house much. Gran-Gran thought it was suspicious, but no one else did. Whenever he would come out of his house he would leave the village for hours, then come back at night and go back into his house. After a while people started to disappear from the village. At first it was just one person at a time, then it was couples, then whole entire families. And it seemed as though Kodai was the only one who 'didn't notice'. So, after a while a bunch of the men from the village went to Kodai's house to investigate why he would leave and not come back until night. When they got there, he wasn't home. But, there was a note that said 'fifty feet out and thirty feet over to the right. Start digging'. So, a bunch of people tried to figure out what it meant. Gran-Gran said that maybe it meant fiftey feet out of the village, and thirty feet over to the right from that spot. So, when they went to the spot and started digging. When they got deep enough they found all the people who had disappeared. All of them dead." Everyone was shaking by that time. "And that's a true story. Gran-Gran told it to me." Katara added.
"Wait!" Toph cried. "Do you hear that?" Mei, Katara, Sokka and Aang all huddled together quickly, shaking. "It sounds like screaming." She held her hand on the ground.
"Nice try, Toph." Sokka scoffed, pulling away from our huddle.
"I'm serious." Toph said firmly. "I hear something."
"You're probably just skittish from the stories." Katara said.
"It stopped." Toph said.
"Okay, now I'm getting scared." Aang said.
"Hello, kids." we heard. We all screamed and ran to the other side of the fire. Then we saw a little old women walked closer to the fire. "It isn't safe for you kids to be staying out here in the woods. I have an inn near by, come stay there and I'll make us some tea." Katara smiled sweetly.
"Yes, we'd love that. Thank you." she said.
We all sat around the table as she poured us tea. She was really old. She said her name was Hama. She had long white hair. She was still pretty, though. You could tell she must have been beautiful when she was young. She sat down at the head of the table and looked at us.
"You know, it's not safe for you kids to be out in the woods alone during a full moon." she said. "People have been disappearing in there." My heart skipped a beat. Disappearing? "People go in, and they don't come out." she added. We all stared at her in shock. "Who wants more tea?" she asked with a wide smile. We all stared at her still, not answering. "Oh, not to worry." she said. "You will be safe here."
"Thank you for letting us stay here." Katara said. "You have a lovely inn." Hama smiled.
"Well, it's lovely having you." she said. "Now, why don't I show you to your rooms and we can all get a good nights sleep?" We all nodded and stood from our chairs. She led us down the all into our separate rooms. Momo followed me into mine.
"Oh, hey, Momo." I said as I sat on the bed. "Don't you want to stay with Aang?" He scurried up the bed and onto my shoulder. I smiled. "Alrighty then. I guess you can stay." I slipped my outer clothes off and got under the blankets. It was so warm and comfortable. It had been about 4 nights since I had slept in a bed. It was so comfortable. I imagined it must have been much longer for the rest of the group. I yawned and pulled the covers up to my chin. Momo curled up next to me. I closed my eyes. I was so tired. When I was half asleep I almost felt like I was back home. I could feel the fire place roaring next to me. I could feel my satin gown. I could hear my mother telling my sister good night in the other room. For an instant, I felt right. Until I feel totally asleep. Into a deep sleep where you don't even feel like you slept. You just open your eyes a half second later and the sun is shining bright in the window. I looked around. I gasped and sat up. Then I took a deep breath, remembering where I was. I heard a knock at the door. I turned and squinted, as if I could see through it.
"Uh, co-come in." I cried. The door opened slowly and Aang stepped inside. He stopped when he was I was only in my under garments. "It's okay, Aang." I said. "This is what I go swimming in." He smiled with a blush and stepped in further.
"Good morning, Mei." he said. "We're all going shopping with Hama." I nodded, tucking my hair behind my ears.
"I'll be right down." I said. Momo hopped out of bed and onto Aang's shoulder. He laughed a little, petting his head.
"Okay. See you down there."
I smiled and he turned and left. I was quick to put on my clothes and rush down stairs. Once everyone was down and ready we left for town to get some food. Hama took no time filling us up with food. A little while later me, Toph, Sokka and Aang overheard two men talking about people disappearing in the woods. Katara went off with Hama.
"I wonder what's going on here." I said. "Who's making everyone disappear?"
"I don't know," Sokka answered. "But, whoever it is I'm sure Aang can take care of it, Avatar style. Aang gave a cool smile and said, "Saving people... It's what I do."
We met up with Katara and Hama and Sokka took Hama's food basket.
"You kids go ahead back to the inn." Hama said sweetly. "I have a few errands to run. I wont be long." Sokka leaned into Hama, getting close to her face.
"Mysterious town you got here, huh?" he said. Hama kept a sweet smile.
"A mysterious town for mysterious children." she answered in a simple, unphased way. Sokka narrowed his eyes and we all left back to the inn. When we got inside we started unloading all of the food. Aang took the basket from Toph's head and set it on the counter.
"That Hama seems a l
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