Beyond the Veil

By Rebecca Danielle Rojas

Other

Full Moon Bay

The trip out of the desert was a quiet one, even though it had started off rather animatedly, as the events that occurred in the Library played vividly in the minds of the young teens. Gaara and Naruto were faring well enough; death was something they had grown around and were trained to do, being disconcerted over such a thing would not fare well in their dangerous lifestyle. The other teens, who had not been opened completely to the horrors of war, being so young, were taking it as best as any civilian could. Sokka was distracting himself with reading all he could out of the scrolls he had obtained whilst in the library, trying to find something that would help the group end the war quicker and with as little casualties as possible. Katara busied herself with going through small water-bending exercises, her chi flowing as calmly as she could while focusing on the single task rather than leaving a man to die in the library. Aang was by far taking it the worst even as he tried to busy himself with Momo and flying Appa. They had all seen, or at least known, death, of that both shinobi were sure, but this type of death was unknown to the children. More than that, the shinobi could sense that Aang was at a loss; a loss with what he was supposed to do as the Avatar.

Kurama and Shikaku had explained that due to the fact that the Air Nomads were eradicated before Aang had turned the appropriate age, he knew nothing of what being the Avatar entailed other than he was supposed to master all four elements and return balance to the world. The two tailed spirits had no doubt that his past lives had helped him to some extent, but past lives had a knack for filling explanations with riddles, leaving you with more questions than answers. Thought, with the treat of the Fire Nation growing stronger by the day, there was a chance that they were more helpful than usual.

Either way, Aang knew nothing other than the fact he was supposed to master the four elements in proper order, and then defeat the Fire Lord and effectively end the war.

"Oh yes, that is much to go on." Shukaku projected scathingly. He was by far annoyed that they had a duty to teach the little brat. He was optimistic and idealistic...two awful combinations in the heat of war. War required realists, and at times, pessimists, in order to do things properly and effectively move to the end of a war, or any battle really.

Or so was his belief.

Kurama wasn't any happier at the prospect of having to hold the Avatar's hand for a long while yet. She knew they would have to for a certain amount of time, given the fact that the boy was so young compared to the grand majority of his past lives. Of course, it wasn't the first time they had a young Avatar leading the world toward balance...he was simply the first one that the world couldn't afford to lose.

"We will have to reveal ourselves eventually,"Kurama stated with a small almost silent sigh, "but for now the two of you must act for us. Teach him, and the others, what you know of war...and of sacrifice."

"That wars will not be ended with pretty words, but metal clashing upon metal, and sadly, with the death of many good men and women." Gaara thought out to them. Having grown up with assassination attempts on his life at least once a week, he knew the harsh realities of life better than most.

"They are still young." Naruto thought. "They will either break, or grow stronger... we cannot allow them to break."

"No, we cannot. Nor shall we allow them to."

"It is not in our hands, but with the wills of these cubs. Whatever happens, is what happens, though I'm sure you will do everything you can to help them." Shukaku thought somewhat annoyed, though his voice was softer than usual.

"We need to get supplies before we go to Ba Sing Sei." Katara finally said, breaking the silence that had fallen over the small group.

"Still don't know why we have to go to that stuffy place. It's just like with my parents." Toph said, none to thrilled at the idea of going to the Earth Nation stronghold.

"We need to get this information to the Earth King no matter what and as soon as possible." Sokka said logically. "With this information, we can begin preparations for an invasion force during the solar eclipse."

"I know that...but...ugh!" Toph grunted in a resigned tone, lying flat on her back and looked blindly into the sunlit sky as it dimmed to darkness.

"Hey, Naruto, Gaara?" Katara asked turning to the blonde and red head.

"Hm?" Naruto hummed lightly as he turned his attention to the Water-Tribe girl, while Gaara acknowledged her with his dark eyes.

"What did you get at the library?" she asked.

Gaara and Naruto shared a discrete look, knowing it was better to leave the young teens ignorant to their true situation and the fact they had taken copies of scrolls and tomes with information possibly leading to their successful return to their home-dimension.

"What makes you think we took anything?" Naruto asked lightly with an innocent look in his bright sky-blue eyes.

"You mean you didn't take anything?" Sokka asked surprised.

"We did not break our word to the All Knowing Spirit, Wan Shi Tong." Gaara said honestly, gaining nods from the four other teens on the Bison before they let topic drop. Whilst they hadn't lied, Gaara hadn't truly answered their question, a deception tactic of the oldest kind.

They landed down back in the desert town they had begun their journey into the desert and picked up small things they would need until they made it to a more supplied area in the Earth Nation. Gaara and Naruto told them they didn't need to worry, as they could easily procure much needed supplies if need be.

"How can you do that?" Sokka asked curiously.

"We grew up moving around a lot. Sometimes, we didn't have money to buy things, so we learned to make a lot of stuff, and we're exceptional hunters, so food is never any trouble." Naruto answered for the both of them. It was pretty much true after all, with the missions they took that sometimes caused them to survive out in the wild with little more than a kunai and some ration bars if things got tough.

"Great! Now we don't need to buy too much meat!" Sokka exclaimed happily at the prospect that he no longer had to hunt alone. No one other than him knew how to hunt. Though Katara had no trouble plucking fish out of rivers, sometimes they strayed off far enough from them that hunting forest animals was necessary if they wanted to have some protein in their system from something other than nuts and berries - not that Aang ever complained.

Once the group traveled far into a rather secluded and serene area, fit with a waterfall and trees where they could scavenge for supplies, the group took a well needed break from flying. Naruto chose to join Katara and Aang as they enjoyed the water, watching fascinated as Katara and Aang showed him a couple of water-bending techniques, whilst both Toph and Gaara chose to actually rest and somewhat meditate. Sokka was the only one who was actually looking at the scrolls he had taken from the library.

"Water-bending ball!" Katara screamed as she jumped off the high cliff where the water-fall began. Gaara had already anticipated this and formed the correct seals to create a rock dome over his head; he did not need to be soaked and have his sand armor cascade down him in glops. Toph and Sokka, however, were not so lucky and became soaked to the bone.

"Sure." Sokka said sarcastically. "Five-thousand year old scrolls from the spirit library...just splash some water on them."

Naruto and Aang were propelled from the blast that came from Katara's "water-bending ball" and landed in a heap on land near the trio who chose not to swim. Toph, Aang, and Naruto laughed at Sokka's sarcastic tone before Katara's voice rang through.

Sheepishly, she said, "Sorry." before water-bending the water out of the scroll effortlessly.

"So, did you figure out what route we're going to take?" Aang asked as Sokka placed the map down on the floor for everyone, save Toph, could see clearly.

"Okay, so we just exited the desert" He began pointing to the map. "So we must be somewhere around here. The easiest way is to remain on the other side of this little sliver of land called the "Serpents pass" so that we won't be spotted by Fire Navy ships.

"You're sure that's the best way to go?" Toph added with her arms crossed. She didn't know, but the name "Serpents pass" didn't seem to scream "a walk in the park" sort of travel, even if they were on the opposite side of where the Fire Nation would be patrolling.

"It's the only way to be safe." Sokka said determined.

"Then off to Ba Sing Sei we go." Naruto said with a light fist pump into the air. Both Gaara and he were rather excited on see another city other than the ones they had come to know. To see the differences in their world and this one in terms of culture, government, technological advances, and the like would be at the least informative, and if anything, be a great boon into helping their home once they figured out how to re-create the seal that had brought them here.

Just as they were going to head back to Appa and be on their way to see the Earth King, a man's voice screamed and caught their attention.

"Hello there fellow refugees!" the man exclaimed while he waved at the group of teens, though his eyes were on the older looking Naruto and Gaara... if it was just because of their rare hair colors, or the fact they were older than the others, they didn't quite know. The refugee was a trio, compiled of the man, a very pregnant woman, and another woman who looked to be the sister of the pregnant woman.

"Hello." Naruto said in a polite greeting.

"So are you guys headed to Ba Sing Sei, too?" Aang asked as the traveling trio stopped in front of them.

"Sure are." The man said. "We are trying to get there before my wife, Ying, has her baby." It was rather heart-warming to see the man, who so clearly loved his wife, rub her swollen stomach affectionately. She looked about ready to give birth, but still maintained a motherly glow about her that was a treasured sight in the Shinobi Nations.

"Great, we can travel together. We're taking Appa across the water, but I don't think he'll be able to fly all of us..." Katara had begun strongly before her voice turned into a small mutter at the end of her sentence.

"Fly?" the wife, Ying, asked curiously.

"Yeah, Appa, he's my flying bison." Aang said with a wide boyish grin. "Appa, come here boy!" he called out to his bison who lightly yawned in response before walking over to the group. The refugee trio stared at the six-legged creature with hanging jaws and awed expressions.

"That...he is an amazing creature." The husband said after finally composing himself. "We thank you, but we are actually headed to Full Moon Bay, ferries take refugees across the lake. It's the fastest way to Ba Sing Sei...well, aside from taking a flying Bison I assume."

"And it's hidden, so the Fire Nation can't find it." Ying added with a slight shrug and a happy smile.

"Oh, forgive me, I am Cheng, and as you know, this is my wife Ying, and her younger sister, Ling."

"A pleasure to meet you all." Gaara said politely, nodding his head in acknowledgement. " I am Gaara no Subaku, and this is my brother in all but blood, Naruto Uzumaki-Namikaze. This here is Katara and Sokka of the Water Tribe, Toph of the Beifong family, and Aang of the Southern Air Temple, the Avatar." when he introduced Aang, the three travelers looked awed once more.

"Avatar Aang, it is an honor to meet you." The three bowed to the twelve year old boy who in turn became pink faced and looked sheepish.

"Er, it's nice to meet you too." He said finally, scratching the back of his head.

"So you are headed to Ba Sing Sei for a better life as well?" Cheng asked politely.

"Actually, we need to see the Earth King." Katara said, and as she was about to continue, Sokka hushed her.

"We can't tell every passer-by what we're planning to do!"

"Sokka, though your caution is appreciated, they are mere travelers, refugees, and obviously not related to the Fire Nation, as I doubt they would send a pregnant woman and her family to fight you." Gaara explained in a low voice that wouldn't reach the three who had just joined them. Such obvious suspicion was down right rude, especially with someone who was obviously innocent.

"I see, yes as the Avatar I am sure you have much to speak of with the King." Cheng said lightly. "We hope to start a new life in Ba Sing Sei, for my family and this little one coming into the world soon." Once again, the man rubbed his wife's stomach with a loving gaze that caused the group to smile slightly.

"In dark times, such as these, hope is our most powerful advantage over those who would do away with us, for with it, our will of fire never dies." Gaara said to the group, his eyes closed as he sat in an almost meditative position.

The others stared at him, wondering why such a young man could sound so knowledgeable of the world, while Naruto merely smiled at his friend while petting Kurama. Shukaku stared at his ex-vessel with a bored gaze, knowing how he secretly enjoyed causing other's jaws to drop at what he said. It was one of the perks of being Kazekage that he truly enjoyed.

"We will accompany you to the ferries, or at least I will. I would feel much better if I knew you made it safely to Full Moon Bay." Naruto said gaining a nod of approval from Kurama and Gaara whilst Shukaku merely barked lightly.

"We can all go to the ferries." Aang announced. "Maybe it'd be better if Appa took you three to Ba Sing Sei, it'll be safer for you with him. Maybe one of us could go with them?"

"I'll go, you look just about ready to give birth, Ying, I have experience if that happens while we're traveling." Katara said, readily agreeing to help the three over to the main land and Ba Sing Sei.

"That would be wise, though I believe that Naruto should go as well." Gaara suggested. "He is well versed in more than simply bending, an can help protect you all alongside Katara should anything occur while on your trip."

"That's a good idea." Sokka said. "You five take Appa and we'll meet you at the ferry docks on the other side."

"Thank you very much, Avatar Aang." Cheng said sincerely.

The small group made their goodbyes as Naruto and Gaara spoke quietly to each other.

"Take care, my friend." Gaara said to his brother in all but blood. "I have a bad feeling about what is to come."

"You would be right to feel such. There is a foul taste in the air..." Kurama commented as she sniffed the air distastefully, her snout scrunching up in a snarl.

"Be careful." Shukaku advised the blonde and his sister. "and keep that pup safe. She's far too curious for her own good."

"Come on, it's a simple trip across a lake, what could happen?"

Kurama growled at him when he projected that thought. "Better hope you're not eating those words later, kit."

"We'll be fine. Now I better go, you guys be safe over there."

"See you soon."

Gaara, Aang, Sokka, and Toph all traveled at a decent pace to Full Moon Bay, and were happy when they discovered the hidden entrance guarded by no less than four Earth Nation soldiers.

Once they were inside, Aang gaped at the amount of people that were piled inside the cave.

"I can't believe how many people's lives have been uprooted because of the war..." his voice came in, softer than a whisper.

"In war, there are many who lose their lives, many more whose lives are destroyed because of it...may times, they are innocent civilians." Gaara said before placing a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Count these people lucky, Aang, for they have the option for at least trying to find a better life. Many do not have that option."

Shaking his head at the details in war that were almost always ignored, Gaara continued. "Come, we should get tickets for the ferry lest we wish to make the others wait around too long for our arrival."

As they entered the line and quickly moved closer to the ticket-lady, the group had to contain a shudder as they heard the woman screech at a man before her.

"I told you already!" she hissed, "No vegetables on the ferry! One cabbage-slug could destroy the entire ecosystem of Ba Sing Sei! Security!" she screeched, pointing at a harmless wagon of cabbages before it was torn apart by a platypus-bear.

"MY CABBAGES!" the poor man wailed, dropping to his knees and freezing from shock that the security officers had to drag him away.

After the man was hauled away, Aang approached the intimidating woman and asked, "Umm, four tickets for the Ferry to Ba Sing Sei, please."

The woman, not even deigning Aang with so much of a glance demanded, "Passports."

Aang looked confused and said, "Umm, no one told us anything about passports..."

Sokka chose this as a perfect time to cut in and exclaimed, "Don't you know who this is? He's the Avatar!"

"Gah! I see fifty Avatars a day. And by the way, not a very impressive costume." she said while pointing to her left where a small group of "Avatars" stood in poor "Avatar" costumes. Aang took one look and smiled happily; it was good to see he inspired people.

"Besides," the woman continued. "No animals allowed." she said looking at Momo who had chosen this as the perfect time to come out from hiding on Aang's back. "Unless, you want me to call security?"

One look at the platypus-bear, and Aang quickly backed off. "That won't be necessary..."

Before Aang could say anything else, the woman screamed, "NEXT!"

Toph took this time to walk up to the woman, whom didn't intimidate her in the least, and said to her friends, "I'll take care of this."

Once she stood directly in front of the woman's booth, she brought out her passport and said, "My name is Toph Beifong, and I'll need four tickets."

The woman stared at her with a scrutinizing gaze before it landed on the beautiful flying boar seal of the Beifong family.

"Ohhh, the golden seal of the flying boar! It is my pleasure to help anyone of the Beifong family." she said with a respectful bow to the small child before her.

"It is your pleasure." Toph said with a superior attitude. "As you can see, I'm blind, and these two imbeciles are my valets, and the red-head is my personal guard."

The woman continued unsure, "But, the animal..."

"Is my seeing-eye lemur." Toph finished her sentence with a tone that said it was the end of that argument.

"Well, normally it's only one ticket per passport, but this document is so official...I suppose it's worth four tickets." she said as she stamped four tickets to the ferry before passing them to Toph.

"Thank you very much." Toph said as she walked away, her friends close behind.

Once they were a bit ways away, Gaara said, "Your personal guard? I am glad to see that you finally realize that I am stronger than you as you need someone to guard you." His voice was clearly teasing, though he did catch a slight color change on her cheeks that merely widened his smirk.

"Wipe that smirk off your face, sand-man. I don't need anyone to guard me, I can take care of myself." she answered with a stomp of her foot.

"Yes, and that is exactly the lie you told the ticket-lady."

Gaara, Aang, and Toph turned when they heard a strangled cry from Sokka and saw a guards-woman demand for their tickets and passports.

"Is there a problem?" Sokka asked a bit unsure and slightly scared.

"Yeah," the guard continued. "I've got a problem with you. I've seen your type before. Probably sarcastic, think you're hilarious, and let me guess, you're traveling with the Avatar." The group looked at the guard with wonder and curiosity on their faces.

"Do I know you?" Sokka asked staring at her with a raised eyebrow.

"You mean you don't remember?!" the guard exclaimed, grabbing onto Sokka's collar. "Well, maybe this will remind you." In all honesty, both Sokka and the group thought she was going to slug him a good one, and were equally shocked when she kissed him affectionately on the cheek.

It took about a millisecond after the soft kiss that Sokka exclaimed, "Suki!" before hugging her happily.

The Guard, now dubbed Suki, smiled and hugged him back with equal force. "Sokka! It's good to see you!"

"Wow, you look so different without your make-up!" Aang exclaimed as he realized it was Suki in front of them and not a stranger.

"Um, hello? Have no idea who this chick is over here." Toph said with her arms crossed.

"Oh, sorry you two. This is Suki, she's a Kiyoshi Warrior from Kiyoshi Island we met a while back." Sokka introduced. "Suki, this is Gaara and Toph."

"Nice to meet you two. Hey Sokka, where's your sister? And why aren't you taking Appa across?" Suki asked curiously.

"Katara, and our other friend, Naruto, are taking Appa and three refugees across the lake. One of the refugees was really pregnant, so we thought it would be safer for her to get across to Ba Sing Sei as fast as possible." the water-tribe boy explained. "Katara went along with them because she knows about giving birth."

"Oh, that makes sense." Suki said with a smile.

"Are the other Kiyoshi warriors around?" Aang asked.

"Yeah, after you left Kiyoshi we wanted to find a way to help people. We ended up escorting some refugees and found ourselves here every since."

"We should go, the ferry will be leaving soon." Gaara said. "It was a pleasure meeting you Suki." Gaara said with a bow of his head. He no longer bowed to anyone, and never would again since he was a Kage. It wasn't a matter of superiority, but merely that of habit.

"Oh, right." Sokka said with a slighlty glum tone before brightening up completely. "You should come with us!" he said. "You could help us when we talk to the Earth King about the war."

Suki pondered over that thought for a while before she nodded slowly. "I would love to come, Sokka." she said with a smile. "I'll go talk to the crabby lady and see about getting a ticket. Be back soon!" she took off, knowing that neither Sokka or Aang would leave without her.

"Well, it seems we have a new companion." Gaara said with a small smile. It was clear that the teenage girl was a fighter, for it was in the very way she held herself as she walked and stood. He was sure that Naruto would appreciate another sparring partner, one who had a style that they had no idea about; it would deal an interesting challenge to the blonde, one that he was certain his friend would appreciate.

It didn't take long for Suki to come back, dressed in the Kiyoshi Warrior uniform rather than the guard one she had donned earlier. Though both Aang and Sokka had to agree that without her make-up, the outfit definitely looked incomplete. When she nodded at the question of whether or not she were ready, Gaara turned and began to walk to their designated ferry.

"And now, we are off to Ba Sing Sei."

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