Azula would be lying if she said her legs weren't trembling as she neared the briars.
She wasn't all that thrilled to see a thousand eyes feasting upon her…or a thousand tongues for that matter. Moreover, the possibility that Shade was right about the light reflecting her terrified her.
Azula ducked her head under the first line of jutting thorns. A sense of dread overwhelmed her. The hoard of eyes were now closed. That was a rather welcomed change. The tongues however, were still thrashing about, rapid fire.
She could soon see tiny rays of light filtering through the opening. The fluttering arose in her stomach as it's warmth kissed her cheek. What if it didn't accept her? She crawled closer despite the risks. Dying at the hands of the light had to be better than at the hands of Shade.
Azula emerged from the distorted thickets. The sun glaring in her eyes. It was almost too much. Her head spun. She could always retreat back into the dark…
The familiar dark…
Azula took two staggered steps forward.
The forest seemed to lurch and swirl. The faces etched into those strange trees now wore a distinct frown as if objecting to her presence.
"Xin." Azula took two more steps forward feeling dizzy and nauseous. She stumbled towards the tree and leaned against it for support.
She instantly flinched away, the tree had sent a wave of unease and despair into her head, feelings that manifested themselves into a physical stabbing pain that jolted through her entire body.
The jabs continued to tingle through her body.
Azula slowly lowered her body to the ground and waited for the pain to ease up.
Contrary to her hopes, the grass seemed to have the same effect as the trees, sending pain prodding over her body.
Azula jumped to her feet. The quicker she found Wan, the quicker the pain would come to a stop.
Azula did her best to follow the path Xin had lead her down the last time she was here. Aside from the persistent physical agony the task was fairly easy.
She pounded on his door.
No answer seemed to come, so Azula turned to leave. It was then that she heard a soft pop. The door slid open.
Wan's brows furrowed. Azula couldn't be sure if he was happy to see her or not.
"Make it stop." Azula hissed. "The pain. Make it stop."
He gave her a quick once over and grabbed her wrist. It was still scarlet red and the three puncture marks from where Shade clawed her were still very much present. "Beacon…what did you get yourself into? Xin said he had some grim news for me…"
"I…I married Shade." Azula burst.
"I married Shade. I thought that if I got some of his power I could take him down easier. I didn't think that our souls would…am I really part of the darkness now?"
Wan placed his hand on her pounding forehead. Slowly the pain seemed to ebb away.
"You're only one of the dark if that's where your heart truly lies. Despite what you think, Beacon, you're not a bad person. Fate wouldn't allow such a gift to fall in the hands of someone who'd abuse it." He led her inside. "However, Shad isn't going to take this lightly at all. You have a lot of preparing to do and only a week to do so."
Azula sat down on a nearby cushion.
"What are you doing back here? Change your mind already? Find out your husband was abusive?" Xin shot her a nasty scowl.
The kind that would have scared her, a week or so back.
"I was never on his side you know…"
"Save it." Xin clenched his teeth.
"I went with him because I thought it was the right thing to do. It sounded good at the time…better than letting him force me to attack the people who have been trying to help me." Azula continued despite his wishes.
The ghost boy simply turned his back on her.
"Xin, you're being a bigger pain in the ass than I am!"
That earned her a snicker—despite Xin's attempts to hide it.
"Xin, I didn't betray you. Or anyone."
"That's a lie." Xin shrugged.
Azula slammed her fist on the table.
"You're betraying Shade right now." He raised an eyebrow.
"I hate you."
"Also a lie."
"If you don't mind me cutting in." Wan spoke. "I have a plan in mind. I have told the Avatar of his task. He will be ready to close the gate from the outside when you give him the go ahead." He looked to Azula. "His cue to pay attention will be the fall of Shade. If my theories are correct, after you defeat Shade all of his powers will go to you—you'll have full control. With that full control you can command the spirits back into the gates. Once the last spirit has entered the gate, and then you and Aang will simultaneously close it."
"As reckless and stupid as your move was…it was smart and played out well." Wan remarked. "I expected nothing less from the fire princess."
"So, human princess…" Xin started. It was then that she realized just how much she missed his stupid pet name. "Whenever you're ready, Wan and I will start training you to fight Shade."
"I'm ready now."
"Assemble your team, bring them into the Spirit World." Wan instructed.
"Yeah…that would be a good place to start." Azula shrugged. "How do I do that?"