Chapter Thirty-Six:

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Ruka (1)

I groaned as my eyes slowly opened. I was staring up at the sky and the trees that had light shining through their branches.

I turned my head and widened my eyes when I saw who was next to me. Zuko laid unconsciously with the blue dragon mask and dual swords next to him. We were both laid down on a pile of green leaves.

I tried to sit up but Aang stopped me, "Ruka! You're alive!"

"Sh, sh." I said, nudging my head to Zuko. "Let's not wake him up."

"While you were both out, I was trying to come up with what to say to Sokka and Katara. You lost a lot of blood. I thought you weren't going to make it. It's a miracle you're alive."

I wearily smiled, "I'm a strong person. I've been through worse."

He nodded, "Does your leg still hurt? A little while ago, I took you to a town that was pretty far from here. A lady cleaned your wound and stitched it."

I gently placed my fingers onto my wound and he was right. "I'm okay. Thank you."

"I'm going to stay and make sure he's okay." Aang said, looking down to Zuko. I turned my head to him then looked back to Aang. "In that case, when he wakes, he's going to try something. I can't walk so you'll have to carry me again. I'll just slow you down."

"What are you saying?" He asked.

"Leave without me."

Aang shook his head quickly, "I can't."

"You have to. The only reason he saved us was so he could have you for himself. Sokka and Katara are still sick. They need those frogs. So you have to leave without me. We'll see each other again Aang. I promise."

Aang hesitantly nodded before helping me sit up and pulling me into a hug.

We waited for about a half-hour. Aang sat with his knees to his chest on a tree root and I was sat up, looking down to my stitched wound.

That's going to leave a pretty gnarly scar.

When I heard a deep huff, I looked down to see Zuko squinting at Aang. I didn't move nor did I say anything.

"You know what the worst part about being born over a 100 years ago is?" I looked up to Aang with no expression. "I miss all the friends I used to hang out with. Before the war started, I used to always visit my friend Kuzon. The two of us, we'd get in and out of so much trouble together. He was one of the best friends I ever had... and he was from the Fire Nation, just like you." He looked down to Zuko.

"If we knew each other back then, do you think we could have been friends too?" Aang finished with a small smile.

I slightly frowned. Poor kid. He shouldn't have to go through this.

A second later, Zuko got on his knee and bent out a stream of fire at Aang. I gasped while Aang jumped and dodged it. He jumped from branch to branch, escaping Zuko.

I sighed in relief.

Zuko turned around to me with a somewhat relaxed expression. "He left you."

"I told him to."

"Why?"

"I'd slow him down."

Zuko nodded before leaning down and grabbing his dual swords and mask. He put his dual swords back in their sheaths on his back then handed me his mask.

I took it from him then looked down it, trailing my fingers down the details. "Where'd you get it?"

Zuko put his arms under me and lifted me up. He ignored my question while he walked down the path of the forest.

"We have a doctor on the ship. I'll have him check you out to make sure everything is okay."

I nodded. "Thanks."

The rest of the way was quiet. Zuko had tied up his small boat to an abandoned dock that was maybe an hour away. On the boat, Zuko changed into his armor and hid the other clothes. I was turned away the whole time. 

When Zuko finished, I turned back around and held up the mask. "I'm guessing you'd like to keep this a secret?"

Zuko nodded then looked away from me.

When we made it to the ship, the boat was pulled up from the water. Zuko once again carried me up onto the deck. Iroh was seated on a stool with a tsungi horn in his hands. Next to him was a small table that held the funky monkey he bought at the merchants awhile back. He was surprised to see me, however, didn't question it. Instead he asked, "Where have you been, Prince Zuko? You missed music night. Lieutenant Jee sang a stirring love song."

"I'm taking her to the doctor then I'm going to bed. No disturbances."

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