Azula thrashed at the smoke until her energy had drained. It became apparent that the smoke wasn't going anywhere. At least not on Azula's accord. The dark cloud was content to move after Azula stopped fighting it.
And it had moved itself into the strange pond, disappearing beneath the surface. Azula held her breath and waited. She couldn't get her feet to move.
The pond began to bubble and ripple.
It was resurfacing.
Resurfacing in human form and with an arm extended to Azula.
"I'm not going in there if that's what you want." Azula declared.
"That's up to you." It said as the last of the ooze fell away.
"Mother!" Azula backed away.
Ursa reached out again. "Please don't run again."
"You're not my mother, you're an ominous cloud of smoke." Azula pointed out.
"This is how all, or at least most of us human spirits look here."
Azula looked at her mother. "How? How am I supposed to know that you're telling me the truth?"
Ursa pulled Azula into a hug. "Because I love you."
Azula tried to push away. "But the Avatars don't appear as smoke."
"Because they—at birth—were just as much a part of the Spirit World as they were in death. And so are you."
Azula wormed her way out of her mother's embrace. "No. No, I have to leave."
"And you will." Ursa brushed Azula's hair out of her face. "After you close the bridge from This World to Yours."
"How? I was supposed to learn how to do that by coming here." Azula practically shouted. "So tell me how to do it. And while you're at it you can tell me how to get rid of these ugly marks." She found herself rubbing at her forearm again.
"I wish I knew the answers. As far as I know the markings are part of your spiritual body."
Azula wasn't too fond of that response. She really needed to find someone who knew what they were talking about. That person…spirit, wasn't her mother.
"However I do know that this is your destiny. And you will find a way to fulfill it." She paused. "It's a very important job." She placed a hand on Azula's shoulder. "You are special Azula. You always were."
"Then why didn't you love me." Azula's voice was barely a whisper.
"I did love you. More than anything."
"Anything but Zuko." Azula pouted.
"I love both of you so much Azula."
"Then help me."
"I will, to the best of my ability. And the best of my ability may only be to simply keep you company."
"I need to get through these trees." Azula pointed out.
"That, I can help you with." Ursa offered Azula a reassuring smile before taking her hand. Her body turned, once again, to smoke.
Before Azula could ask how that was going to help her tingling sensation shot up her arm, it seemed to grow weightless. A quick glance down at it, revealed that it truly had done so.
She was becoming the smoke.
She closed her eyes and let it happen.
She felt free.
It was exhilarating. To be honest Azula didn't think she'd ever fell such freedom again. If it wasn't the straitjackets at the asylum it was her newly found 'destiny'. Whatever this smoke state was, it seemed to allow her to just let it all go.
Azula opened her eyes—or whatever granted her sight in this form.
The world around her seemed to have a new glow. It was brighter, more vibrant. She could hear a sort of music; a flute-like melody that seemed to come from the trees. The smell of wild berries and freshly cut grass prickling her senses. She could practically feel the scents.
And upon taking a moment to take it all in, she realized she could feel the world around her. Their energies pulsing within her mind.
Azula eased herself between the wall of trees until she found herself on the other side.
"Come over to the pond." Ursa's voice simmered into her head.
They were connected.
To each other.
To each other, and all else around them.
Azula didn't want to leave this state of being.
"To the pond." Ursa repeated. "Or you won't get return to your human form."
"But I like this." Azula replied.
"And you can do it again when the time is right…when you leave your physical body for good."
Azula sifted towards the pond.
"Beneath the surface. Count to seventy and come up again."
Azula drifted down beneath the strange waves. At first she felt nothing at all. She began her counting. Slow and stedy; one…two…three…
By sixty she could feel a thumping sensation—her arm had just taken form. Her entire body had taken from, for that matter. And then came a rippling sensation beneath her skin.Sixty-eight…sixty-nine…seventy…
She pushed toward the surface. Her face reaching it first. She sucked in much need air.
Her mom reached out again. This time Azula took her hand. The woman pulled her out of the water.
"I can touch you?" She remarked before she found herself falling to the ground.
Her limbs feeling all too heavy for her body, as if someone had strapped boulders to them. She tried to roll over. The attempt was useless. Every fiber of her being felt tense and weighted.
Ursa knelt down. "Try to relax."
Azula tried her very best to scream out and inform her mother of just how hard that was, however her lips even seemed to have an added weight to them.
"This is…normal. A side effect of feeling so weightless. It'll pass." Ursa lifted Azula's limp body up and cradled it against her own.
Azula's ability to protest still not found. So she simply stared at the light filtering through the trees.
It was all too bright.