Sinking Deep Within
Azula still couldn't seem to move. She'd lost track of time.
She tried desperately to move something…anything.
She put all of her energy into trying to wiggle her pointer. Her face bunched with the effort.
That worked too. "Mother." Her whisper was horse…strained.
Ursa brushed her daughter's hair behind her ear. "Yes sweetheart?"
"How long has it been?"
"I've lost my concept of time years ago."
And so Azula sighed and went back to her thoughts. She was growing impatient, she wanted to get a move on. This destiny was a load of shit, she'd rather continue trying to pursue the throne. However, that didn't seem to be an option. At least the Firelord destiny was clear cut. This one was a murky and hard to swallow.
A sudden pang in her arm had Azula bolting up right. She cried out and grabbed her elbow. The markings on it now glowing an angry red. The pang flared up and churned into a burning sensation. One that flared up into her head.
Azula squeezed her eyes shut and fell to her knees, head pounding, uninvited tears prickled at the corners of her eyes. She quickly wiped them away.
"What is this?" She yelled at her mother.
The woman examined the glowing marks on Azula's arms and shook her head. "I've never seen anything like this."
"She's been like this for hours." Zuko motioned to his sister—still sitting cross-legged on the floor. "It's almost nightfall."
"I know." Aang nodded.
"Well then? Why isn't she waking up?"
"I…I don't think she knows how to. She didn't exactly give me a chance to explain." Aang cringed in preparation for Zuko's flaring temper.
"Can't you wake her up?" He asked.
"I tried. The spirit world is just as—well it's actually bigger than our world. I don't know where she is."
"Then how is she going to get back?" Zuko's voice was slowly rising.
"She's going to have to find a way to do it herself."
"She's…how's she supposed to eat?"
Aang didn't respond. "Just don't try to wake her up or she'll be trapped in the Spirit World forever."
"Wait, wait…so she's stuck like this?" Toph asked.
"Yes." Aang replied.
"…And she won't even notice any outside forces?"
"Well…yeah. Why?" Aang asked.
Toph shot him a devious smirk. "Hey Sokka? You still have some of that berry-made fingerpaint?"
"As a matter of fact, I do! Are you finally going help me paint Appa?"
Before Aang or Zuko could protest the earthbender was sliding down towards Sokka.
"So what do we do?" Zuko questioned.
"We just have to sit here and hope that Azula can figure it out on her own." Aang frowned.
Toph shoved her way past, bowl of berry mesh in hand. "Whoa, I didn't even start smearing the berry on her face yet…" Toph remarked.
Zuko 's head snapped in Azula's direction. "Aang, what's happening to her now?"
Azula was now slumped over, her entire body covered with strange glowing red marks. Her body swayed slightly from side to side. She opened her eyes and cocked her head to the right. "Zu-zu…" It wasn't her voice—not her voice alone with her anyways.
She heaved herself upright. Her body unbalanced.
"I thought you said she wasn't supposed to move?" Zuko hissed.
"I don't know! I was just basing it on the Avatar State." Aang confessed.
The spirits swarmed around her. Butterflies.
Loads of spirit butterflies.
Swirling around her body.
They fluttered next to her and formed the shape of a man—each individual butterfly forming a different part of his body. In one fluid motion he placed his hands on her shoulders. Azula tried to push him away but her hand went right through.
She gasped. The spirit butterfly-man seized the opportunity and to make a takeover. Each individual butterfly turned to a vaporous smoke. It drifted into her mouth. Azula stumbled backwards into a tree let out a strangled cough.
Her nails dug into the tree bark. "Mother?" She muttered.
But the woman was fending off a demon of her own…and she wasn't doing a very good job at that.
Azula's vision went fuzzy. "Zu-zu?"
The Spirit World faded in and out as an unwanted voice drawled in her head. It's command was simple; kill yourself.
And she had no choice but to obey.
She found herself nearing the pond, legs working on their own.
"Azula!" Her mother's voice was the last sound she heard before her hearing grew muffled by the water.
She had to stop. Somehow. She had to get it out of her head. Out of her body. If she was dying in the Spirit World, she could only imagine the disaster happening in the real world.Lower. The voice prompted. And she found herself sinking deeper.
Her eyes stung. Her lungs burned. She didn't have much longer.
With more effort than she had put into moving her weakened limbs, she tried to regain control of her body, tried to stop herself from sinking deeper.
Azula's efforts were useless. Gaining control of her body was just as imposable as taking control of her mind…
That was the key.
Every time she tried pushing the spirits out, she'd tried to take control of her movements. She had to take back her mind before she could take back her body.
And she was going to have to hurry, she didn't have much time left. She squeezed her eyes shut again and tried to think about something. Something that made her who she was. Something the spirit couldn't take from her.
She settled on a memory of Ember Island. It was a silly one; she and Zuko were just kids. She thought it would be funny to drop a shrimp crab down his trunks. She was right, it was absolutely hilarious. Whilst her mother didn't really think so, it seemed that her father shared her sense of humor.
A scratch formed at her brow.
The spirit was angry.
She was winning.
And so she picked out another memory. Her seventh birthday and then her eighth. The last thing she saw before the Spirit World went dark was a swarm of butterflies exiting her body.
Azula couldn't help it—the corner of her mouth curved up wards.
She knew how to block them out.
At least she'd die victorious.
Her body was now seizing and twitching violently. Zuko to the best of his ability caught her head before it could contact the stone floor.
"Aang, get her something to keep her from hitting her head." Zuko motioned to one of the sleeping bags folded over a rock.
"On it!" Toph answered for him. She stomped her foot; the rock jutted up sending the sleeping bag into the air. Aang guided it into place.
"Need me to do my thing?" Chan asked pridefuly.
"We don't even know if it's a spirit problem." Zuko snapped.
"Okay, okay. Sheesh." He backed off with his hands up.
Blood began to trickle from Azula's nose. Her body still jerking and jolting. Her eye lids fluttered. Minutes dragged by and then her body went limp. Her back met the pavement with a soft thud, head lolling to the side.
"Is she…" Ty-Lee muttered.
"No. No. No." Zuko shook Azula's body. "You can't just die. Azula wake up."
He received no response.
He never thought he'd ever long to hear Azula's tormenting words. But right now he wanted them more than ever—a snappy 'get off me Zu-zu' or an 'is this any way to treat a princess?'
But the girl didn't even stir.