Omashu’s postal service was renowned for its unfailing efficiency and speed all around the World. The less known aspect of it was just how fun it was.
The wind blew in Aang’s face as Momo curled up in his lap, and Bumi cackled madly behind him. A grin curled his lips. This—this was what life was meant to be. And now, because of him and his friends, the people of the World could know it again.
As the ride came to an end, Bumi and he hopped out of the wagon. Stroking Momo’s soft white fur, he turned to his oldest friend to suggest one more ride, but was interrupted by a harried-looking Omashu soldier. The man’s green armour contrasted starkly against the reddish-brown of the rock around them, his green eyes wide with exhaustion.
“Avatar Aang!” the soldier bellowed, hands curled around a white envelope.
“That’s me,” Aang said, smiling at the man, who stopped in his tracks, bowed both to Aang and Bumi, and extended the envelope to the young Avatar. “This just came for you, Avatar.”
Aang took it—the paper was soft and fine, and the seal emblazoned with the Beifong sigil. “It’s from Toph,” he said excitedly, and tore the envelope open.
As he read, the bright smile slowly began slipping off his face, replaced by determination. He turned to Bumi, eyes as hard as steel. It was rare to see the young Avatar in such a state, but anyone who has seen the boy in action should know better than to underestimate the youthful face and the sunny disposition.
(The Air Nomads may be gone, but Avatar Aang’s devotion to them is not, and it is a devotion he has heartedly extended to his friends, his family. No-one touches what is his.)
“I have to go.”
The ancient king knew better than to ask any questions. As the Avatar disappeared in a whirlwind of air—even upon mastering the four elements, the one he was born into has ever remained the closest to his heart.
Bumi picked up the discarded letter, and scanned through the neat characters, so unlike the young girl who’d dictated the words. “Well, well,” he muttered, “well, well …”
Oh for Spirits’ sake, this was the fifth. Fifth! Poppy Beifong would most certainly go distracted. If it weren’t so terribly unladylike, she would have slapped her dear husband, who’d began with this ridiculous charade in the first place.
But Poppy wouldn’t, because Poppy was a lady.
(No matter what her terribly odious mother-in-law had to say about her lineage—so what if one of her ancestors, dead for a thousand years already, was a fisherman? Certainly his ignoble heritage was not evident in Poppy herself, who’d worked so hard to be the proper lady her mother wished her to be.)
Toph had gone into the world a few weeks ago, and Poppy thought that would be the end of it. Yesterday, she’d even received a letter—delivered via a snowy owl-cat, written in the hand more suited to waterbending than calligraphy. It had detailed her arrival to the Southern Water Tribe, and the terribly unladylike shenanigans she had gotten herself into before and since.
But apparently … no.
It was really insulting, frankly, that the news reached her and Lao the way it did. One would think something like this merited informing the Great and Noble House of Beifong, but apparently … not.
Considering the terrible rumours that surrounded the monarch in question (and Poppy shuddered to even think of it—it was said he went into the streets freely and alone to spend time with the commoners, Earth King Kuei would never), it wasn’t all that surprising.
Still, as she read the transcript of the speech the King of Omashu had given his people, Poppy felt increasingly faint, and not just because she had first heard of the king’s announcement through second-hand tales and (not gossip, proper ladies didn’t gossip) information exchange with other noble ladies.
‘If I ever decide I am no longer fit to rule, and thus decide to chance my luck in retirement, it is my desire to be succeeded by one, Master Toph, Lady of the House of Beifong, the Greatest Earthbender in the World even-though-she-can’t-bend-with-her-face-yet-ha!, the Blind Bandit, the First Metalbender, the First Truthseer, the Inventor of the Seismic Sense, the Hero of the Hundred Year War, Avatar Aang’s earthbending master, the Official Advisor, Truthseer, Security Guard and Arm-puncher to the Firelord, and from today on, the Crown Princess of Omashu, with all the accompanying honours, such as unlimited access to the Omashu mail chutes, the unlimited supply of rock candy, a personalized feathered much-cooler-than-Ba Sing Se’s-dumb-hat-you-hear-that-Kuei crown, et cetera.
‘Signed, King Bumi of Omashu, the Inventor of Facebending, the Coolest Centenarian in the World, the winner of Ba Sing Se-weekly’s Most Awesome World Leader award sixty-seven times in a row.’
Poppy shut her eyes. Walked to a secluded room, far away from anyone who could see or hear her (and communicate what they’d seen to her old hag of a mother-in-law).
And indulged in some very unladylike screaming.