A/N: And here we are at chapter 12, with the introduction of two new characters, Nioh-An and Huaike, the newest set of antagonists. A million cool points if you can tell me what anime these two come from. If I feel generous, I may even write a fic for you. NOTE: This is not a crossover on the literal sense of the word. I just borrowed their names and minor likenesses from them. Anyway, ON WE GO!
A loud yawn pierced the morning air as Sokka began to wake up. Crawling out of bed, he smiled sleepily at the others as he stretched himself. “Morning all!” he called out to the others, who were in the middle of breakfast. A chorus of grumbling was their reply. Sokka walked over to where they were, humming softly as Iroh gave him a share of the porridge that all were eating. “Thanks!” he said brightly as he began to gratefully eat the food.
“Why are you in such a good mood this morning, Sokka?” Katara asked the boy.
“I don’t know,” Sokka said truthfully. “Good dream, I guess.”
“Oh?” Katara asked inquisitively. “What was it about?”
“Well, that’s no fun!” she exclaimed. Changing the subject, she turned to the others in the group. “When we’re done with our food, what do you say, that we all train Aang at the same time, so he gets used to the idea of changing elements in the middle of a battle?”
“Sounds like a good idea,” Aang said as he slurped down his food.
“Well, it’s settled then,” Katara said without asking any of the others. “Hurry up, guys! I want to get this done as soon as possible.” And so they continued eating, exchanging little joking insults at one another occasionally, until all were done with their food. Katara rushed the benders through a quick series of stretches. Sokka could barely keep back his stifles of laughter. It was humorous when his sister, usually kind and steady, forced people to do things. The girl began to bark like a poodle monkey at anyone who tried to dissent.
Soon enough, though, the five other people were ready for a morning spar. Aang stood in the center of the five benders, who circled him menacingly. He watched with minor interest as Toph took a heavy step. The earth rumbled as a fissure began to race its way to where Aang was. The Air bender jumped high into the air, where he was almost struck by a barrage of flame blasts. Lee fired the blasts without moderation, trying to hit Aang. The boy managed to dodge the attack easily, but was caught by surprise when a trail of water wrapped roughly around the boy’s ankle, tripping him. The boy’s hands hit the ground, and in the space of a second, kicked two large-sized rocks at Katara. The girl dodged them with a quickly improvised ice shield.
Sokka yawned, losing interest. He stood up and walked off a ways, sword in hand. “May as well do my own little practice,” he said to no one. After he was a good distance away, he drew his sword, breathing steadily like Master Piandao had taught him to. After the breathing exercises were over, he began his practice routine. He thrust out with his sword before slashing it in a sideways arc. He moved through the rest of his practice as such, a voracious pattern dance that proved how much skill the boy had gained in the time since the Fire Nation. As time went by, and he continued the flowing pattern proper to the style of a Jian straight sword, he began to feel a little bit more relaxed, despite the fact that his heart was pounding in his chest. At last, he finished the dance, and with a bow, sheathed his blade.
Sokka began to walk back to the campsite, feeling much higher in spirit, when a rustling was heard behind him. Turning around, he came face-to-face with a girl he would have sooner forgotten.
He didn’t even have time to react as he lost control of his body.
Lee fell backwards onto his back, onto a soft patch of grass, much like the young Earth bender girl did when she would lay down. The spar had drained just about everyone there. His muscles gave off the dull and welcome ache of a good physical exertion. About now, Sokka would probably come up and talk about how amazing they were, just like he did with just about everything…
Where was Sokka? Sitting up, he looked around to see everyone else lying down like he was, but the strategist of the group was strangely missing. He said nothing, however, and lied back down. If the Avatar and the boy’s sister hadn’t noticed, it was probably something the other did frequently. Just then, his suspicions were confirmed as Katara spoke up. “Where’s Sokka?”
“Dunno,” Aang said. “I haven’t seen him since we started training.” A similar response was given by the others.
“Do you think we should look for him?” Toph asked the others.
“Probably,” Aang said with an edge of worry in his voice. “It’s been a while.”
“Where will we look?” Katara asked the others, while she looked around in every direction, as if her brother would pop up over the next bend.
“How about you, Iroh, and Aang look over there,” Toph said, pointing into a thicket of trees, “While Lee and I go look for him that way?” She pointed off in another direction.
“Good idea. We’ll meet back with you guys in about in hour, if you can’t find him.” And with that, the three were off. Lee looked down at the girl nervously before walking off in the designated direction. She followed behind him, staring (he assumed) at his back. Thoughts of the previous night’s conversation came unbidden to his mind, and in exasperation, he turned around to see her giving a knowing smile.
“What?” He very nearly yelled at the girl. “Why do you keep on looking at me like that? It’s annoying!”
“What are you talking about Lee? I can’t even see, so how can I be looking at you?” She said in a slightly sarcastic tone. Le groaned in frustration and started walking off. “But I do wonder why Sokka is of so much concern to you.”
Lee’s blush came back again. Turning around, he asked her, stuttering, “What do you mean?”
“Well, I’m just wondering why every time Sokka’s name comes up in a conversation, your heart gets all fluttery and you start stuttering like a girly-girl with a crush.”
“I DO NOT ACT LIKE A GIRLY-GIRL WITH A CRUSH!” Lee yelled at the girl. Smoke issued from his mouth as he punctuated each word with his trademark temper.
“Whatever you say Lee, but-,” she stopped then, a serious expression growing on her face. “Do you hear that?” she asked the Fire bender. Shaking his head, Lee looked slowly around the slightly wooded area they’d walked into. All he heard was the wind whispering through the trees, laced with the occasional rustling of small animals through the brush.
“Watch out!” Toph suddenly screamed, and before Lee could react, the earth beneath him shifted, making him lose balance. As the boy fell to the floor, he saw a boulder fly through the air, in the area he’d just occupied. Panic seized him as he brought himself to his feet. When he did manage to get up, he saw a young man, probably in his mid-twenties, standing in front of a particularly dense patch of trees. He wore the green and brown of an Earth Kingdom native, which was backed up by his slightly tanned appearance. In this tall man’s hands were a pair of war hammers, one of which was still on the ground. He lifted it up and smirked at the noble and the Water Tribe boy.
“Who are you?” Lee demanded.
“My name’s Nioh-An. I’m a mercenary who was hired to kill the Avatar.” His voice was low, almost baritone in its deepness.
“Where’s Sokka?” Toph interrogated, stepping forward.
“Do you mean the Water Tribe peasant?” Nioh-An inquired. “He’s safe. My associates are looking after him.” He readied himself once again. “But that’s no concern of yours.”
“Tell us where he is!” Lee yelled. A stream of blazing fire shot out of his hand like a serpent from Hell.
He wasn’t tied up. That was one of the first things that came to Sokka’s mind as it gained coherency. He tried moving, but soon found it was a futile effort. It was then that his memories came back to him. Ty Lee and two men had ambushed him. The acrobat paralyzed him, at which point one of the men put him on the back of a Komodo Rhino. With what little ability his body had, he sunk his teeth into the leathery hide of the beast. It gave out a horrendous roar and nearly trampled the smaller of the two men, an archer from the looks of him.
The taller one managed to calm the animal down before damage was done to his companion. Afterwards, he went back to the smaller one and began to coddle him, much to Sokka’s disgust. It wasn’t that they were gay or not, but he was never one for watching romantic situations. Mercifully, Ty Lee put an end to his conscious state at about that time.
And now here he was, laid up against a tree, unable to move. He could see Ty Lee and the archer off in the distance, talking candidly about stupid things, most likely. Their conversation was laced with the playing of the man’s flute, which, while beautiful, quickly got annoying.
It was a while later when at last the two stopped talking, and even the flute playing ceased. He heard some shouting, some fighting, and a moment later, the familiar dark face of his younger sister was in front of him.
“Don’t worry, Sokka,” the girl said calmly. “I’ll help you.” ‘Help’ was Iroh slinging him over his back and carrying him back to camp before dumping him unceremoniously next to Appa, where Momo proceeded to poke him in places where lemur paws were never intended to go. Lee and Toph returned a while later, drenched in sweat and panting like they’d just run a marathon.
“Is he ok?” Lee asked nervously, looking down at the paralyzed boy.
“He’ll be fine,” Katara told him. “But we need to go before Ty Lee and her friend come back.”
“Make that friends,” Toph corrected. “We ran into her Earth bender buddy a minute ago.”
“Whatever. We still need to leave.” They quickly packed up their belongings onto Appa. Lee and Sokka got on last, with the dark-skinned boy being carried by the Fire bender. Once again they were off. Sokka was still paralyzed as they sped across the forested valleys between the shoreline and Gaoling. Lee didn’t leave Sokka’s side, even when the boy fell into sleep.
“How long does this usually last?” Lee asked Katara. The Water Tribe girl turned around to look at Sokka, then at the odd expression on Lee’s face.
“I don’t know,” she told him. “It usually lasts several hours. His paralyzation could be over right now, and is just asleep.”
“Maybe,” he said lowly. Katara turned back around, and Lee smiled at Sokka’s prone form. He really did look beautiful. His eyes widened at this sudden thought, but waved it away. It snuck up on him, but he couldn’t deny it anymore. He definitely had a crush on the younger teen.
“I knew it,” a low voice said next to his ear. Lee turned to see Toph sitting next to him in the setting sunlight. “You do like him.”
“Yeah,” he said, chuckling slightly. “I guess I do.”
“Just don’t start getting all mushy around Snoozles like the Sugar Queen does with Twinkle Toes.”
“Snoozles?” he inquired, chuckling. He had to admit, the name fit the boy perfectly.
“Kyoshi Island’s just ahead!” Aang’s voice cried out. Lee turned, and sure enough, the mountainous island was in sight.