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Book 6: Tales of the Irrevocable Times
Chapter 15: Stranger in the Woods
Xiaoyu was in front the palace saying her goodbyes to Sokka and Sandy. She was going to visit her daughter Sayuri and see how she was doing considering she is pregnant. She then planned on returning back to the Fire Nation in order to patch things up with Zuko. Yue was also coming with her. Since Sandy and Sokka wanted to send Yue to the Fire Nation, they thought it would be best if she went with Xiaoyu. Before they were able to leave, they noticed coming up towards the icy palace.
"Delilah..." Sandy said. Delilah looked like she had been crying for days, without any food or water. She walked up the icy steps and knelt before Sandy and Xiaoyu.
"What do you want?" Xiaoyu said unhappy to see Delilah.
"I came to apologize...for all the trouble I have caused you both. I did not mean to hurt you...it was just, a job given to me," Delilah said lowering her head, and regretting her actions.
"I suspected that when I found you here..." Xi replied.
"The Earth King, asked me to wreck the royal families, and it would be a distraction from the war, and he paid me as well," she explained.
"The Earth King came up with that? I thought he was an idiot," Sokka said surprised.
"Actually, I do believe it was his cultural minister, Wang Ru..." she replied.
"Makes more sense," Sandy said.
"Do you expect us to forgive you, just because you came here to apologize?" Xiaoyu asked. Delilah did not answer; she just looked up at them with watery eyes.
"I think it was very noble of you, but I can't forgive you so easily," Xiaoyu added. Delilah nodded, and then looked at Sandy. Sandy didn't say anything.
"Yue, be good with Xiaoyu, I will miss you, and bye Xi, I'll see you around," Sandy said giving them both a hug.
"Bye guys," Xiaoyu said walking down the steps with Yue beside her. Sandy and Sokka were about to go inside, until Delilah stopped them.
"Wait!" she said. Xiaoyu, Yue, Sokka, and Sandy all stopped in their tracks and looked at Delilah who was still kneeling on the floor.
"What is it?" Sandy said her voice harder than usual. Delilah stuttered a bit. She then looked Sandy in the eyes.
"I have a question..." Delilah said standing up, now face to face with Sandy. Sandy didn't reply, she just looked at Delilah intensely.
"Was your mother named Summer?" Delilah asked. Sandy eyes widened, she almost couldn't move.
"H-how...how do you know my mother?"
"Do you know your mother's brother? Saru?" Delilah also asked. Sandy nodded.
"I am Saru's daughter. His sister Summer, is my aunt...I am your cousin..." It was quiet for a moment. Yue couldn't believe she was related to that filthy whore, Xiaoyu and Sokka were also surprised as well, but no one was as surprised as Sandy. There was an awkward moment of silence, until finally, Sandy said something.
"I don't care if we are even related by blood; you are not my family..."
Sandy walked inside with Sokka following behind her surprised at Sandy's words. Delilah stood there, not knowing what to say, or how to react. The words Sandy spoke left running through her head like a bad dream. She then turned around and looked and Xiaoyu and Yue. They looked away, and began making their way to the Southern Air Temple.
(In The Fire Nation)
"Aunty Kat, what's going on?" he asked as Katara came out of the war room, he was waiting for her outside.
"You will know very shortly, because, you are going to play a very important role in the events we are planning," Katara explained.
"Is Toph in there too?"
"Yes, we don't want to take any actions until Xi gets back, but from the looks of it, she won't come back soon. I was going to take Appa to the air temples seeing that Zuko mention she was visiting there. I was going to bring her back myself," Katara told him.
"What role will I be playing?" Wei asked.
"Tomorrow is another meeting, and you are to come so you will know what to do. I won't be there since I'll be leaving for a short while, but I already got the run down of what is going on, and who is doing what. Wei nodded.
"I said my goodbyes to everyone, so now I should say goodbye to you. Sokka and Sandy would probably kill me for leaving, but you're with Zuko and Toph, so you'll be fine. Be good," she said giving him a tight hug.
"Be back soon," he replied. Katara smiled and patted his cheek. The reason she left was for Xiaoyu, but little did everyone know, she was homesick. She had been away from The Southern Air Temple since Wei came to start his training, and she had been caring for him, and had been behind him every step of the way. After all, it was her nephew, not to mention, the reincarnation of Aang. She felt the need to spend as much time with him as possible. She went to the stables and patted Appa on his head softly.
"I know you grow weary easily Appa, considering how old you are. I'm pretty old myself, and here we are, still fighting. Will it ever end? Can we ever rest in peace?" she told Appa. Appa gave a lazy grunt, and Katara smiled.
"I knew you would understand Appa, you were always a great listener," she said. She climbed onto his saddle.
"Yip-yip," she said. Appa slowly took off into the sky. Their next stop, was the Southern Air Temple.
"Meanwhile, Xiaoyu and Yue were also on their way there. They rode on Sasuke's dragon, Lu Ten.
"How long more Aunt Xi?" Yue asked.
"You don't have to call me Aunt, it makes me feel old," she replied.
"That doesn't answer my question, you are old," Yue said crossing her arms. Xiaoyu lowered her head and sighed.
"You're right, and the older, the wiser, so you should listen to what I say and not call me Aunt," Xiaoyu said tauntingly, and a bit irritated at the same time.
"All I wanted to know was how long more we have before we get to the temple!" Xiaoyu sighed again.
"We should be there by early tomorrow; the day is almost over, try and get some sleep."
"Yeah...like I can sleep peacefully on a dragon..." Xiaoyu lowered her head. Yue and she never had a problem getting along, but when Yue was in a bad and testy mood, it was hard to please her.
"Yue...I know you're kind of...upset...because you're parents are sending you with me, but believe me when I say, they only want what is best. Do you want to live with your parents forever, unhappy? You have not found happiness in the water tribe. They feel you might find it somewhere else; they just want you to be happy," Xiaoyu explained. Yue lowered her head.
"I know, mom told me that already...but...maybe I don't want happiness."
"That is the silliest thing I've ever heard. You wish to be miserable for the rest of your life?"
"I couldn't feel happiness anymore after Itachi died..." Xiaoyu closed her eyes and bowed her head, biting her lips.
"That was...sixteen years ago Yue."
"I know, but I can't help it...I was in love with your son, I don't know why. I thought he would be the one for me."
"Do you think of him often?" Xiaoyu asked.
"Yes...all the time," Yue said lowering her head.
"I do as well. He was my first son. He is always in my thoughts; the littlest thing reminds me of him. I know he is happy, and he's waiting for us," Xiaoyu told her. Yue gave a weak smile.
"Itachi wants you to be happy. I never noticed...I mean, I thought you two were just friends, and used to hang out. I had no idea; you guys were in love, what kind of mother am I?"
"Itachi chose to keep it a secret, I guess he didn't want people to know he could fall in love, he was stupid like that," Yue said laughing a little. Xiaoyu turned around to Yue and smiled. Yue reached into the pocket of her coat and pulled out a betrothal necklace. It had a red ban, and hanging from it was the fire and water symbols intertwining with each other almost endlessly like a maze, carved out of a red and blue stone.
"What is what?" Xiaoyu asked surprised.
"Before he died, he gave this to me, and promised me when we got older, I would be his bride, and I've kept it with me always." Yue said holding it close to her heart.
"I...didn't know about that either...no wonder you couldn't let go..."
"I showed it to my mom...he was still alive at the time, and she was thrilled."
"Of course Sandy would be thrilled, her first daughter was engaged...but what about Sokka?"
"Dad...well, he didn't like the idea since I was sixteen at the time..."
"I was sixteen when I was engaged."
"Yeah, well, when Itachi died, they both knew why I was so crushed."
"Yue...I am sorry, it's hard to lose someone you are in love with. However, moving on, doesn't mean you will stop loving him, he wants you to move on, not to dwell, and he will not forgive you, if you pass away unhappy," Xiaoyu said looking back at Yue, her eyes staring intensely at Yue.
"It's just so hard..." she said hiding her face behind her hands, beginning to cry. Xiaoyu looked back again and caressed her hair, letting her know things were going to be ok. Yue put her hood up, and rested on Xiaoyu's back, and eventually cried herself to sleep. Xiaoyu tried her best, to hold back her tears. They rode on for the rest of the night.
"Come on boy, you can ride a bit more can't you," Katara said steering Appa, as he headed downwards slowly.
"I guess we are going to have to rest, sorry for pushing you so hard," she said as they landed in the middle of the forest. She patted his head and then slid off.
"It's been forever since I camped in a forest, too bad I'm here alone...just used to be Aang, Sokka, and me at first. Until Toph and Xi joined the group...I guess you can say Zuko and Iroh joined for a short time as well...Azula too...but she was crazy...no not Azula, the bad really wasn't knocked out of her...she was faking...ugh, I'm rambling to myself, I guess that's what old people too. Can you believe it? I'm still talking to myself, stop it Katara! Oh geez, I did it again, I should just shut up...right Appa?" Appa gave a small grunt, Katara sighed. She lay on Appa's tail, slowly drifting off to sleep. Before she could, she heard rumbling from behind the bushes. She sat up slowly and looked at the bush ahead of her.
"W-who's there?" she said. There was no answer. After a few moments, a young man came running out of the bush, he tripped on a twig and fell at Katara's feet. He had dark brown hair, and fair skin, and the lightest green eyes which reflected the moonlight nicely. He was dressed a refugee, carrying a large backpack, with who knows what. Laying face down on the floor, he looked up at Katara and began scream, Katara began to scream as well. They both continued to scream for some time, until they realized, they weren't going to hurt each other.
"I-I'm sorry for disturbing you ma'am..." he said bowing down to her.
"No need to bow, you do not know who I am, it's ok, it's dark out, one can easily be frightened. Please, sit, I'll start a fire for you, you look like you haven't eaten for days," she said going on Appa's saddle and taking out some food she had taken from the fire nation for her trip. She handed the container to the young man. She then piled together a bunch of twigs and branches lying around and started a fire.
"Thank you miss, this is very kind of you," the man said to her.
"Don't mention it, it's no trouble at all, although, you shouldn't be traveling if you are not prepared," she replied. The man laughed.
"I have been out here for days, I ran out of food, I didn't think I would be out here so long, but I got lost. I take it you are from the air temples because of your bison, but you are dressed like water tribe woman. Ah...I see, you are Lady Katara of the air temples, you had married the previous avatar..." he said. Katara nodded.
"Yes, I am she...I was actually heading to the air temples, but my bison is old, and grows tired easily."
"I see, it is an honor to meet you Lady Katara, my name is Renshu, I am from Ba Sing Se originally..." he said bowing his head. Katara inched away a little.
"I know, the other nations are probably not fond of Ba Sing Se, but if it means anything, I am totally against the war, it is meaningless. The Earth King would not even go to war if it wasn't for his minister Wang Ru, but no one is braves enough to say anything."
"You seem to know a lot about what goes on in the Earth Kingdom," Katara replied.
"I guess you can say I am a well read man..."
"I have trusting issues...so sorry..."
"Its fine, but honestly, I just want to see the Earth King fall. I know its wrong of me to ill-wish his highness, but I feel strongly about it," he said clutching his fists.
"Did he...do something to you?" she asked interested.
"Um...I'd rather not talk about it," he replied lowering his head. Katara lowered her eyes, perhaps she could trust him. Not all people from Ba Sing Se were bad, it was only the Earth King, his minister, and whoever was placed under their command. Katara then looked at him, she saw a weary traveler, and she felt the need to take him with her, to give him shelter. He was still pretty young, although she gave him a meal, it would not be enough. If she left him, he would perish in the wilderness.
"Listen...Renshu. After Appa is well-rested, I will be leaving to the air temple. It would feel wrong for me to leave you, so would you like to come with me?"
"Oh my, to think someone as high as you offer to shelter me, I am honored. However, I would not want to impose or anything. Your kind gesture of giving me this meal is enough, no need to do more for me, a mere stranger," he said to her. Katara didn't know how to reply. The boy was in fact a bit charming, she couldn't argue with him.
"Oh...I see, well if you insist," she replied.
"Ah yes. I'll be off then, I thank you for this small meal, and this will help me move forward. I am happy to have had the chance to meet you Lady Katara, if I may say. A ruler should not be found in the woods alone; don't you have escorts of sorts?"
"I prefer to travel alone. I can fend for myself, and this way, it doesn't endanger anyone else."
"Ah I see, but shouldn't it be the people you command be willing to risk their life for your sake?"
"Yes, but this is a matter I must attend to myself, no need for escorts. Thank you for worrying, but I will be fine."
"Ok Lady Katara, I bid you farewell and safe travelling," he said to her.
"The same goes for you kind stranger, it was nice to meet you," she replied. He bent down and gently took hold of Katara's hand and kissed it.
"I hope you don't mind..." Renshu stood up.
"Oh no...not at all," Katara said, blushing. Katara stared as we walked away disappearing in the distance.
Who is that boy, he's quite charming. He seems too educated to be just a traveler.
(The Next Day)
The sun had shone bright onto Yue's face. As she opened her eyes slowly, she found herself on a bed in one of the old rooms within the Southern Air Temple. As she sat up, and slid off the bed, Sayuri came in with a tray of tea and some bread.
"Ah good, you're awake Yue, good morning," Sayuri said happily.
"Uh...good morning, it's been a while Sayuri," Yue replied.
"It has, how have you been?"
"Good...where is Xiaoyu?" she asked.
"Still asleep, mom needs her rest anyway; she is older than she looks you know," Sayuri said, she then began holding her stomach.
"Is something wrong?"
"Oh no...the baby...is kicking."
"When are you due?"
"Very soon, in a month or so," Sayuri said rubbing her belly, she then looked at Yue.
"Would you like to feel?" Yue nodded. Sayuri took Yue's hand and placed it on her large stomach.
"Incredible..." Yue said smiling.
"Hopefully one day, you can experience it too," Sayuri told her. Yue nodded and lowered her head.