Chapter 11: The Journey Begins
Two years after Zuko was banished and sent to find the Avatar.
Azula has just turned 14 years old. Korra doesn't know when her birthday is, but she is sure that she is exactly the same age as Azula.
It was in the afternoon and they were in Azula's room.
Azula and Korra trained together every night, similar like in Ember Island. Korra has practically mastered all of her familiar elements, including bloodbending. However, she still can't airbending, and that's what gets both of them pretty frustrated.
Korra admitted defeat, she hung her arms and complaint “I still can't airbend. No matter what I try, it just doesn't work."
Azula held her chin while she ponders aloud "Well, to learn an element, you need a master of the element."
"Yes, but there is no Airbender alive."
"Well that's true, but maybe there are still some scrolls of their airbending techniques."
That aroused Korra’s curiosity "Is there really something like that?"
Azula rubs her chin “Probably, unfortunately nobody knows where the air temples are. The Airbenders liked to keep hiding back in their time."
Azula rolls her eyes, "But I know of another place where we can get the scrolls."
That in turn aroused Korra’s interest again.
Azula smiles. "Have you ever heard of the Wan Shi Tong Library?" Korra shakes her head. Azula says “This is the largest and biggest known library in the world. Every knowledge of this world is in this place. This probably includes scrolls about airbending and the story about the Avatar."
Korra’s eyes shine "Do you think there are books about Avatar Kyoshi too?"
Since Azula's uncle gave them Kyoshi's logbook, there has hardly been a day that Korra has not read the book. She was very fascinated by the life Of Kyoshi. She even drawed loads of pictures based on the book, such as pictures of her old training methods, how Kyoshi killed Chin the conqueror, the island where Kyoshi lived, the familiar animal of Kyoshi, pics of Ragni, the best friend of Kyoshi even portraits of Kyoshi herself, however what Azula liked most, Pictures of the legendary lion turtles. The pictures looked like they could have been taken by a professional.
Azula smiles softly, "I'm pretty sure of that."
Korra jumps up and takes Azula's hands in her own hands. "Then let's go right away!"
Azula took her hands off Korra and said,
“It's not that simple. The library is lost. We have to go to the person who rediscovered the library first and ask him about the map."
Korra scratched the back of her head
“Oh, that makes sense. Well ok, who is the person who discovered the library?"
Azula ponders “As far as I know, there were two men. One of them was General Zhao. The other one was, as far as I know, Hiroshi Sato..."
Korra stiffened when she heard the name.
Azula does not notice Korra's stiff posture and adds. "And Hiroshi Sato is the one who has the map."
Korra started to hyperventilating, she could hardly breathe. She collapsed.
Now Azula began to notice Korra's behavior. She ran quickly to her and grabbed her shoulders. "Korra what's going on?! Talk to me!"
Korra held her head as tears came to her. She was trembling all over.
Azula ran quickly to her bed and took the blanket. She covered Korra with it, then pressed Korra’s head to her chest.
Azula circles with her hand on Korra’s head while she softly whispers,
“Everything will be fine. You can trust me with everything that worries you."
Korra slowly began to calm down.
Azula asks sadly "Is it because of something I said?"
Korra takes a deep breath "I-it's ... be-because ... o-of Hiroshi Sato ..."
Azula raised a brow "What about him?"
Korra breathes in and out, she thinks she can tell her right away. “Hiroshi Sato is a monster. In the past in the slave compound, he made me suffer day after day." She took another deep breath. "He put me every day in a pillory and incited my own tribe against me. He promised them food every time they threw stones at me. On other days, he hung me by my ankles in his office for hours. But the absolutely worst was that he kept putting me every now and then in a small underground cell for at least a week. There was no light at all, it could even have passed months without me noticing. Whenever the guards took me out of the cell, they would lead me straight outside and put my eyes straight into the sun and then open them. I was then always blinded for days, if not weeks. Since then I have been very afraid of going to underground rooms."
Azula was shocked to hear that the director himself commissioned to torture her friend. She waited a few extra minutes for Korra to calm down and asks the only question she can think of? "Why? Why did he let them torture you, of all peoples?"
Korra is trembling. She stops shaking when Azula holds her hand. Korra sighs "Because I befriends with his daughter."
Azula's eyes widen.
Korra explains, “Hiroshi's wife and daughters brought us food and medicine whenever they could. One day when I was just 4 years old we started making friends. The friendship meant a lot to me because it showed me that not everyone from the Fire Nation is evil." Korra sighs as if what she wants to say now is very difficult for her." But then, 2 years later, Hiroshi has figured it out. He forbade his daughter to interact with peoples from my Tribe and made my life a living nightmare. I haven't seen Asami since that day."
Azula didn't know what to say, so she took Korra in a hug. They sat like this for a few more minutes.
After Korra's breakdown, Azula wanted Korra to rest and she let her sleep in her bed.
Azula was walking alone down the hallways to the throne room. She wanted to talk to her father, so that she can go on an expedition. Of course she doesn't want to tell him what she's actually up to.
As she entered the throne room, she saw her father sitting in his usual place. General Zhao stood in front of him, with a handful of soldiers, with the 5 Fire Sages in chains.
Azula raised a brow, wondering 'Why are the Fire Sages in chains?'
General Zhao seemed to be coming to the end of his lecture, "This is why these traitors of the Fire Nation are before you today."
The Fire Lord stares down the Fire Sage "Is it true what General Zhao told me?"
The High Sage stepped forward, bowed and replied "Fire Lord, as I have told General Zhao countless times, only Shyu helped the Avatar."
That piqued Azula's interest. She moved closer to listen better. However, she stayed behind one of the pillars to stay out of sight.
The Fire Lord turns a skeptical eye in Shyu's direction "Is it true?"
Shyu, without showing fear, replies, "Yes, I did. It was the job of the Fire Sages to serve the Avatar and it still is."
The Fire Lord asks "Oh, is that so?"
Shyu raised his head "Yes."
“Then you have sealed your fate. You will all be executed tomorrow at dawn.” Ordered the Fire Lord.
The other Fire Sages look in shock, but Shyu wasn't afraid.
"Let this be a lesson to any traitor who opposes the Fire Nation and the Royal Family."
"You are the traitor," Shyu says without fear.
He made everyone in the room breathless with this statement.
Zhao was the first to come to, "What are you saying?!"
Shyu stepped out "You all heard me..." He looks directly at the Fire Lord "You are the greatest traitor of the entire Fire Nation. A traitor who sits in his cozy palace while others fight and die. A traitor who banished his own son simply because he wanted to protect the lives of his own countrymen. And a traitor who steps over the corpses of his own family to come to power."
Shyu now looks into the crowd “Now tell me who is the real traitor here? We? ..." He now looks back at the Fire Lord
They all stood in silence until the Fire Lord broke the silence with his sinister laughter. "Those are the last words you will ever utter ..." He commands his soldiers, "Go get them all out of my sight, and put them in separate cells."
The soldiers grabbed the Fire Sages and got them out.
Azula looks after them. She really wants to know what was going on and decided on a plan for the night, but she has to go to Korra first.
Later in that full moon night, Azula and Korra, put each a mask on and wore completely black clothes. A full bag was with them. They crept to the cells not far from the palace.
Each of the Fire Sages was on a different level. However, Azula quickly found out where Shyu was. They went through the prison hall looking for his cell.
After a while they found his cell, but it was guarded by two guards.
They stayed around a corner out of sight of the two guards.
Korra asks "How do we want to get past the guards?"
Azula thinks briefly “How about you knock them out with bloodbending?“
Korra stares to the side in shame. "Are you sure, you know that I don't like to use it."
Azula put a hand on Korra’s shoulder. "I wouldn't ask you if it wasn't important."
Korra sighs “Alright.” She prepared her bending stance and waved her arms towards the guards.
Shyu stares outside his bars at the two guards. He wonders if there could be any way to save his friends lives and his own.
He was about to lose hope when he noticed how the guards suddenly became very stiff, as if they were being raised by some strange force. They writhed a little until they fell unconscious to the ground.
Shyu stopped at the bars to see what happened. He sees that the two guards are still breathing. He averts his gaze from the guards when he heard footsteps. He looked in the direction of the steps and saw two masked girls walking in the direction of his cell. He notices that one of the two girls is from the Water Tribe.
His eyes widen when he thought he recognized the girl. He asks astonished
“Katara is that you? How did you get here?"
Korra raised a brow. She looks at Azula who just shrugged.
When Azula and Korra come to a stop in front of the bars, they took off their masks. Azula says "You seem to have mistaken us for someone else."
Shyu stepped back in shock. "Princess Azula, what are you doing here?"
Azula stares him straight in the eye and says, “I want some answers. And you are the only one who can give them to me."
Shyu says "What if I gave you the answers?"
Azula shrugged "It depends on how I like the answers, then we'll see."
Shyu sighs, he has nothing to lose anyway.
Azula asks "Tell me what you meant when you said you helped the Avatar?"
Shyu looks confidently into Azula's eyes and tells her the story of how the Avatar and his two friends came to the Fire Temple to look for answers on how they could end the war. They planned for the Avatar to talk to Avatar Roku, but for some reason it didn't work out the way they wanted it to. Shyu also shared how he stood up against the Fire Nation soldiers just so the Avatar and his friends could escape on a flying bison.
Shyu sighs "And now I'm locked up here and waiting for my execution."
Azula and Korra were amazed. They looked each other in the eye.
Korra was the first one to ask "Why do you think this boy is the Avatar?"
Shyu raised a brow “Because he's the Avatar. He is the last Airbender in the whole world."
Korra stepped back astonished. "There is still an Airbender out there?"
Korra looks at Azula as if to ask her if she should tell him. Azula held up a hand and shook her head.
Azula stepped closer to the bars. “Before we talk any further about the Avatar, I have another question. You called my father a traitor who steps on the corpses of his family. What did you mean by that?"
Shyu says without a hint of fear, "Your father commissioned your grandfather's murder."
Azula shrugged “I already know that. The question is, how do you know it?"
Shyu stares straight into her eyes. "Your mother told me."
Azula hastily grabbed the bars. She had a panicked expression "You talked to my mother?!"
Shyu nodded “She came to me 6 years ago. She was on the run."
Shyu started talking about how Ursa came to the Fire Temple 6 years ago. She was exhausted and had been on the run for days. She had neither money nor provisions. He tells Azula how he helped her by sending her to his friends. They got Ursa out of the country and helped her by giving her a new identity.
Azula took a few steps back, tears in her eyes. She almost collapsed if she wasn't caught by Korra.
Azula yells “You are lying! If you are really telling the truth then prove it! "
Shyu reached into his robe and pulled out two scrolls that were well hidden in his robe. He hands the scrolls to Azula.
Azula took it and saw that each scroll had a name on it. Her name was written on one and her brother's name on the other. Azula noticed immediately that the names were written in her mother's handwriting.
Shyu mentions “Your mother gave me the scrolls just before she disappeared. One of them is for you, the other for your brother. I carried them for years with me in case, that I will ever see you or your brother."
Azula hands her brother's scroll to Korra while she opens her scroll and begins to read.
“My dearest Azula, if you read this it means that we will probably never see each other again. I'm sorry I couldn't personally say goodbye to you and your brother. It was very difficult for me to leave you, but I had to in order to save both of your lives. Your father intended to have you both killed on different nights. I was able to get him out of it by killing your grandfather. I beg of you not to follow the footsteps of your father. He is a monster who would even kill his own children for nothing more than the chance to be the successor of your grandfather. However, you are not a monster, you are my little girl and always will be.
I don't know if we will meet again one day, but I know that even without your mother you will grow up to be a beautiful young woman. I also know that you will be in the best of hands. Whatever your choice in life will be, I will always love you.
Azula trembled tears drip on the scroll. Korra had to stabilize her so that she wouldn't collapse.
Azula covers her mouth with one hand and whispers “She loves me. My mother loves me."
Korra smiles slightly as she lightly strokes Azula over her hair.
Korra notices something shiny at the end of the scroll. She shows it to Azula.
Azula's tears flowed stronger when she took it from the scroll. At the sight of it she smiles softly "It's my mother's favorite hairpin."
Azula presses the hairpin to her chest.
Out of respect, Shyu waits a few minutes in silence until he asks "Did I answer all your questions?"
Azula stands up and rubbed away her tears.
Azula turns to Korra and nodded as if to give her an ok.
Korra took a step closer to the cell. She clears her throat “I have one more question. Where did the Airbender and his friends fled to?"
Shyu shakes his head "I'm sorry, but I'll take the secret with me to the grave."
Korra grabbed the bars "Please, I urgently need an Airbender teacher."
Shyu raised a brow "What do you mean by teacher?"
Azula sighs "You didn't sacrifice yourself for the Avatar, but for an Airbender."
Shyu shakes his head. "That can't be right. He's been airbending in front of my eyes, he told me that he was frozen in an iceberg for 100 years. He has to be the Avatar."
Azula shakes her head "No, I'm sorry. He is definitely not the Avatar."
Shyu went closer to the bars. "How do you want to know that?"
Azula points in Korra’s direction with a thumb and says "Because she is the Avatar."
Shyu first stares at Korra until he burst out laughing "Ok, you almost had me."
Azula smiles slyly as she says "Korra."
As if it were a request, Korra opened her palm. She light a little flame with her hand. Shyu's eyes widen. Korra puts out the fire and bend the water from her flask.
Shyu took a few steps back and whispered "By the flameo, she is the Avatar."
Korra says with a satisfied grin "I can earthbend too."
Shyu fell back to his rear end. He raised a hand in Korra’s direction. "If you are really the Avatar, why are you staying in the Fire Nation? And why weren't you killed?"
Azula answers his questions "I'm the only one who knows that she is the Avatar."
Shyu is afraid to ask the next question "Then what are you two going to do?"
Korra looks in Azula's direction "I don't know."
Azula took Korra’s hand in her own and let out a long breath “I suggested that she become my bodyguard so that she can lead a slightly better life. But now that I've read my mother's letter, I'm not so sure anymore."
Shyu rises up "If you would allow me, maybe you should hear about this prediction before you make a decisions..." after having the attention of the two girls, he says "Sozin's comet, with which Fire Lord Sozin exterminated once all air nomads, will return at the end of the summer..."
Before Shyu could continue speaking, Azula interrupted him. Azula waved "Yes, yes, every Firebender in the world knows about it."
Shyu sighs, "Yes, but did you imagine what someone like your father would do with the power of the comet?"
Azula's eyes widen “The last time an entire nation was wiped out. Only the spirits knows what he is up to with this power."
Shyu closed his eyes. "He will probably want to wipe out either the Water Tribe or the Earth Nation."
Korra stepped back in shock, she covers her mouth with her hand. "No."
Azula stares at the hairpin in her hand. She squeezed her eyes shut. She has made a decision. "He won't do any of this shit," Azula says firmly.
Korra knows this look and is waiting eagerly for the idea that came to Azula.
Shyu, on the other hand, has no idea what the Fire Nation Princess means.
Azula clenched her teeth "I will not allow him to put his insane plan into practice..." she now turns to Korra "I will not allow him to cause the world any more pain than before. I'll see to it that the war comes to an end..." Now she looks Korra straight in the eyes and asks "would you help me?"
Korra had the biggest smile she's ever seen. In a flash, Korra took her in a tight bear hug and shouted “Of course I'll help you! I would follow you to the end of the world!"
Azula feels pain and joy in that very second.
Korra broke the hug. She smiles and asks "What is our first step?"
Azula turns her gaze to Shyu "First of all we will free Shyu."
Shyu's eyes widen.
Korra searches the guards who are still unconscious for a the keys. She found it and gave it to Azula.
Azula opens the cell. Shyu is happy and just wanted to get out of his cell, but he is pushed back into the cell by Azula.
"I thought you'd get me out of here?" Asks Shyu
Azula smiles devious and replies "You didn't think we'd get you out of here through the front door?"
At Shyu's questioning look, Azula went to the opposite wall and said to Korra "Show us some earthbending."
Korra smiles and broke the wall like nothing.
Shyu knows that she is the Avatar, but was still amazed.
The three of them left the cell through the hole. Korra put the hole back together so no one would see how Shyu fleed.
The three had to avoid a lot of guards. After what felt like an eternity they arrived at a stable full of Ostrich Horses.
Shyu was out of breath, he couldn't walk any further.
Azula looks down the streets to see if there are any guards walking around. She saw nothing and turned to Shyu.
"Since we are alone now, we still have a lot to discuss before we part ways," says Azula.
Shyu was too exhausted to react immediately.
Azula took the bag Korra had been carrying the whole time and handed it to Shyu.
Shyu asks when he opens the bag "What's in there?"
Azula counts on “A cloak, some money, and something to eat and drink. The food should be enough until you get to the next town."
Shyu took off his old robe and started wearing the new cloak.
Shyu smiles and asks "How did I deserve this?"
Azula shrugged "I must have liked your answers."
"What if you didn't liked my answers?"
"Then I would have left you to your fate."
Shyu was about to mount an Ostrich Horse until Korra stopped him.
Korra says "Wait, before you go, I would like to know where the Airbender had fled?"
Shyu sighed “I don't know. He didn't tell me. But I could think that he and his friends flew to Ba Sing Se."
"He thinks he's the Avatar, maybe he's trying to plan a battle plan with the Earth King."
Azula rubbed her chin "That might even be true."
Shyu now mounts an Ostrich Horse. He was about to leave until he thought of another problem. "Wait a minute, I can't leave yet, the other Fire Sages are still locked up."
Azula raised a brow “Why? They tried to kill you?"
Shyu sighed "Yes, but I can't leave them to die while I'm free."
Azula groaned. She rubbed the bridge between her eyes "If I promise that I'll get them out of their cells, will you disappear in the night?"
"Yes, but what are you going to do?"
Azula smiles slyly “Just leave that to me. I promise you on my honor that they will be free by tomorrow."
Shyu doesn't know why, but he believes her.
Shyu bows to the Avatar and the Fire Nations Princess “Farewell and thank you for everything.” With that he rode out of town.
Azula and Korra turned back to the palace and started walking in the direction of it. They held small talk on the way there.
"How are you going to get the four old men out of jail?" Asks Korra.
Azula replies with confidence, "Wait and see, then you'll know."
The morning after Azula and Korra had their breakfast, Azula went to her father alone to discuss a delicate matter.
“YOU WANT WHAT?!” shouted the Fire Lord, who is sitting in his usual place.
Azula rolls her eyes. This outbreak might have startled one of the servants or one of the guards, but not her. "As I said, we should let the Fire Sages go back to their temple."
"Why should I release even one of these traitors?"
Azula plays as if she's amazed "Oh, just say you haven't heard the news yet?"
Ozai raised a brow "What news?"
"Oh nothing too wild. One of the five broke free yesterday and disappeared,” says Azula calmly.
The Fire Lord suddenly stood up. "WHAT?! HOW DID HE DO IT! ”He yells.
Azula shrugged “Who knows. But he left the others behind. That proves that he is the only traitor of the gang."
“I don't care, the four will be executed anyway!” Judges the Fire Lord.
Azula crossed her arms "Then let me explain it to you. What is easier to find one new Fire Sage or five?"
This statement came as a surprise to Ozai, he hadn't even thought that if he executed the old Fire Sages, he would have to appoint new ones. Not to mention the time behind the appointment of the new Fire Sages. It could be weeks if not months before he replaces them. The time he would waste on the appointment could better be wasted in the war.
Ozai doesn't want it to look like his daughter has beaten him up and waits a few extra minutes before giving his verdict. "I've made my decision, the 4 remaining Fire Sages will be spared." He turns to one of the guards standing in front of his throne. “You there, release the Fire Sages and send them back to the Fire Temple immediately. They can appoint a new Fire Sage themselves.” The soldier salutes and disappears to carry out the order.
Azula sighs "When that's all I go back to pack for my big journey." She counts down from three inside.
"Wait." Says the Fire Lord "which Journey?"
Azula turns to her father with a mock, puzzled look. “Have you already forgotten? We talked about it last week."
The Fire Lord raised a brow “Are you going to fool me? We didn't do that."
‚I don't have to fool you, you're doing that for me,‘ thinks Azula.
Azula raised a brow “Wow, you really forgot it. Then let me explain it to you again. We had agreed last week that I would do a kind of world tour today in order to become aware of the weak points of the Earth Kingdom."
'You don't need to experience my true motive.' She thinks.
Ozai yells “That's a lie! I never agreed to that!"
This is what Azula has been waiting for, she took a scroll from her belt and said "Yes, you did, I got it in writing from you."
She hands him the scroll.
Ozai was amazed when he reads the words on the scroll. It was definitely his signature, but he couldn't remember writing it. What finally convinced him that it came from him was the royal stamp imprint on the corner.
He rolls the scroll back up and hands it back to Azula. “All right, we had this conversation. I hope for you that you have prepared yourself for it."
Azula smiles triumphantly. "Of course, my slave is packing my things, but I’m still waiting for the money.“
“Well, the money that we agreed for the trip. Do you want to read your official letter again?"
Ozai waved a hand “It's okay, I'll give you 200 gold pieces for your trip.” Ozai snips his fingers, then a servant came out of the background and hands over a full pouch to Azula.
Azula smiles as she takes the pouch and says “I didn't expect more. If that was all, then I still have to pick up my slave and be on my way."
Azula walked confidently out of the throne room.
Outside the throne room, she thinks, 'Idiot.' And walked comfortably in the direction of her room.
Azula has come back to her room. Korra had just finished packing.
Korra turns to Azula and asks excitedly
“Did it work? Did he fall for it?"
Azula smiles and replies "Yes, he fell for it."
Azula and Korra had decided to leave the palace, they planned it in the night. Azula had the idea that they were forging a letter in Ozai's handwriting. Since Korra is a good artist, she showed Korra an old letter from her father so that she could copy his handwriting. The easiest part was the stamp, which Azula simply stole from the war room.
Azula looks at the contents of the bag. There were clothes, Azula's favorite book and Kyoshi's logbook. Then there is the sketchbook from Korra and some provisions.
Korra smiles like a little child, she asks with anticipation "When do we start?"
Azula turns to the door and says "Right now."
Korra grabs the bag and follows Azula.
They got into a carriage pulled by two Ostrich Horses.
Korra took the reins in her hand and asked Azula "Where are we going first?"
Azula had already thought about where they go first, in that night. She takes out a map and shows Korra a spot on it. The passage looks familiar to Korra, but she doesn't know why. Azula says with a determined look, "We'll go there first."
Korra asks as she is about to set the carriage moving. "Why there?"
Azula smiles when she looks Korra in the eyes "Because I want to fulfill my promise a little earlier."
Korra was shocked. Her tears came slowly. She threw herself into Azula's hands and whispered the words "Thank you very much." Meanwhile, Azula smiles and strokes Korra's hair.
After the hug they continue their journey, and the first stop will be the place Korra fears most, but cannot wait to get there either.
They were on their way to the slave compound.