Title: Virtually a Princess
Summary: AU Katara is discovering a new virtual reality game that Sokka himself invented. Her relationships with her gaming group is complicated enough already, but with the in-game romance and relationships, reality and the game world is starting to mix. When a rogue hacker invades the system and Sokka disappears, Katara must find a way to seperate the reality from the fiction and find a way rescue her brother with the help of her allies from the game world.
In the original folktale the stone bowl of the Avatar is the stone bowl of Buddha.
Sorry this chapter took so long. I had finals and essays to write. Thanks for your patience with me. I expect the next chapter to be out a lot sooner.
Mamouru: a Japanese verb that means to protect.
--Virtually a Princess--
++Level 3: The Ace of Hearts++
There are items on the Earth that will buy passage for the creatures on Earth to get to Heaven. Kaguya had sent out her loyal Knights to find these fabled treasures.
"Hakuturi, my Monk," Kaguya had said, "Use your knowledge as a monk to search out and find the stone bowl of the first Avatar. That bowl has been touched by divinity, and in it, I can carry enough food to reach the Heavens.
"Mikoto, my Hunter, use your bow and arrow to slay for me the fabled sparrow that carries a cowry shell within its stomach. This shell shall guide me through the skies and into the Heavens.
"Akka, my Magician, use your magic to lure the fire rat from its blazing home. Its fur is impervious to flame, and, when made into a cloak, it can protect me from the heat of the barrier that divides Heaven and Earth.
"Sai, my Scholar, use your wisdom of the world to find the fabled yet sacred Mount Horai. On the summit of this mountain, you will find a tree whose trunk is gold and whose branches are silver. Instead of flowers and fruit, this tree bears pearls and gems. I shall present this at the gates of Heaven to prove that I am worthy of being allowed into Heaven.
"Mamouru, my Protector, whose name suits you so well, use your courage and strength in combat to slay the dragon that resides in the sea and wears in its forehead a gem that radiates five colors. Take this gem and bring it to me for it shall give me the ability to fly back to Heaven."
Thus she spoke, and the Knights rose to the task, retrieving these fabled items. The Empress, however, was waiting at every turn, trying to stop the princess and her Knights.
Upon exiting the Temple Cave, Katara was greeted with the sight of a sprawling forest spread out below her. Looking up, she realized that the temple was built into the side of a blue mountain, and she stopped to admire the towering structure that curved elegantly into the sky. A small sound of appreciation escaped from her lips, and Sokka huffed at her.
"Let’s go!" he moaned.
Katara frowned at him. "I’m admiring the scenery."
"Geez, Katara, you act like you’ve never seen a volcano before," her brother shot back.
"Yeah," Jet approached her, that strange infectious, infuriating grin on his lips. "Mount Fuji, from the legend. I’m glad you like it. I was the one who designed this part of the landscape."
Katara’s brows knitted together, and she began to ask what legend he was talking about. Another thought took precedence, however.
"I thought Sokka designed the game."
Toph laughed and said, "You think Sokka could do all this on his own?"
"Sokka—" Katara’s voice was angry. Why had Sokka left so much about the game? She felt like an idiot.
"Wait, Your Royal Moon-ey-ness," her brother said hastily in an obvious attempt to distract her. "You haven’t met Toph’s character yet." He wrapped his arm around Toph’s shoulder and pulled her towards Katara.
She noticed a blush stain the pale girl’s cheeks, and she watched Toph push Sokka roughly into the dirt.
"Ow!!!" Sokka complained loudly, but Toph approached Katara.
"He’s right you know. I haven’t introduced my character yet, Sugar Queen." Toph bowed sarcastically and said in a voice of fake sweetness, "I am Mikoto, The Hunter, and I hope my services please the Almighty Moon Princess."
Katara heard some of the others snicker, but Sokka’s laughter was the loudest from where he was brushing the dirt off of his jacket.
Jet joined in on the charade, a teasing smile on his face. His voice had a hint of sarcasm but still managed to be entrancing. "I, Mamouru, The Protector, used my infinite skill in battle to defeat the dragon whose forehead held the jewel that radiated five colors." He bowed his head and peered up at her through his lashes. He chuckled and leaned close to her, pressing his hand into hers. "Surely, dearest Heavenly Maiden, I shall be your most precious companion."
Katara blushed deeply, but she was too entranced by Jet’s silky voice and flirtatious smile to be angry. His hand was warm in hers, and even if it wasn’t real, she reveled in the feeling.
Laughter rang out again, and pleased with the response, Jet bent his head with the clear intention pressing his lips to her knuckles. With his hot breath on her hands, Katara’s blood thrummed faster in veins, but before his lips touched her skin, Sokka’s voice rang through the air.
"Gross, Jet!! Get your hands off my sister!!"
Katara, embarrassed, snatched her hand back from Jet, and she hoped the heat in her face would fade soon. The sensations she had felt as Jet touched her was so life-like, so real, so intoxicating. She began to stomp away on the only road leading down the volcano, fleeing from the awkward situation. Snickers were heard from behind her, and she thought she heard Jet say, "Aw, jealous Sokka? Would you rather I kiss your hand instead?"
Her face reddened again, and she sincerely hoped Jet hadn’t just hit on her brother. She heard more laughing and her brother’s sounds of disgust, but she continued walking, hoping to suppress her blush before she returned to the others.
She snuck a glance behind her at her traveling party, and a blur of white and pink disentangled from the group, leaping into Katara’s arms. She realized that the bundle of pink was hugging her, and she hesitantly hugged the small girl back. Katara’s eyes found Sokka’s over the mage’s shoulder, but he just shrugged. The mage pulled back a little and peered at Katara with wide, innocent eyes.
"I haven’t introduced myself yet," she said, a pout tainting her chirpy voice. "I’m Akka, the Magician! But you can call me Tennin. You’re Katara, right? Sokka’s sister?"
Katara nodded hesitantly, still confused by girl’s closeness.
Tennin smiled widely and clutched Katara’s hand in her own. "I think we’re going to be great friends, Katara."
"Um, yeah. Great friends." Katara smiled back at the girl, trying to fake some semblance of forbearance of the girl. Katara would have probably liked the girl more if she flirted with Sokka less. She loved her brother, but she never quite understood all the feminine attention he always seemed to get.
Tennin gave Katara another swift hug and skipped gleefully back to Sokka’s side. It was only then that Katara realized that the whole group had given up their conversation to watch the mage’s strange yet slightly adorable behavior.
When Tennin began a soft conversation with Sokka, the others returned their attention to each other. Sufficiently recovered from her embarrassment, Katara fell back into step with the group.
"Hi, Katara!" Aang said happily. "It’s been awhile since we gamed together."
Katara smiled at the boy and nodded in agreement. "Did you help Sokka design the game too?"
He nodded fiercely. "I designed the animals and monsters in the game. I love animals so much, and I’ve travelled around looking for interesting ones so much that Sokka thought it was the perfect job for me. Did you know that I rode the giant koi fish off the coast of Kiyoshi Island?" The excitement in his voice rose with every syllable, and he obviously enjoyed his role in designing the game.
Katara loved playing with Aang, because he was so happy and spirited almost all of the time. "No," she responded. "I didn’t know about that."
Aang proceeded to regale her with all the details of his adventure, sometimes leaping and bending the air around him in his enthusiasm. The road down the volcano was long but somewhat narrow, giving the young monk plenty of time for his tale. They met no monsters when walking down the volcano path. Katara thought that this was likely because the path was much too narrow for battling.
As she walked and listened to the boy’s tale, she glanced around at her companions. Jet seemed to be listening to the animated monk’s tale, nodding and laughing at all the appropriate times. Katara was sad to see that Toph kept shooting distracted glances at Tennin and Sokka who were talking in low imperceptible tones. Toph had a bit of a crush on her idiot brother, but Katara knew that it would be a long time before he ever realized it. He was sometimes rather oblivious to things like that.
She turned her eyes to Axel last. He hovered at the back of the group, not seeming to look at anything in particular. He had a solemn almost tense look about him, as if he took the game more seriously than was really necessary. Suddenly his gold eyes snapped up to meet her purple ones, and she was mesmerized by them. She wondered vaguely if that’s what his eyes were like in real life. His eyes bore into her, and she felt seared by the intensity. Flushing, she turned her attention fully back to Aang.
Aang was wrapping up his story, his blond curls bouncing around his wide gray eyes. The ground was leveling out, and a large temple gate lay ahead of them. Aang’s large eyes turned happy, and he grinned at Katara.
"Here’s where the fun will really starts," he said, joy on his childish features. "Let’s go!" he shouted, exhilarated. He grabbed her hand, and they were running. The sensation of running like this with Aang was very different than running with Jet in the caves. Then, her heart had sped up, and she had been entranced by Jet's voice. Now, with his small hand in hers as they raced down the hill, she felt younger and more childish, and she laughed with him as he ran on feet that were lighter than air. When they were almost to the gate, the boy tripped, his hand wrenched from hers as he toppled the remaining way down the hill and hit one of the pillars roughly.
"Oomph," came the muffled cry. Katara rushed forward to help him, but the boy was on his feet almost instantly.
"Are you okay?" she cried in concern.
Sokka sighed in exasperation somewhere behind her. "Of course he’s fine. Or do you think that I made the game so you can feel intense pain like that? What do you think I am, Katara, a masochist?"
Katara turned towards her brother and gave him a sour face. "The only reason I don’t know what’s going on or how this game works is because of you. You suck at explaining things."
"Hey, don’t complain to me! I gave you the easiest character to control. If you can’t handle that, then that’s not my fault."
Katara’s brow ticked dangerously. "Easiest character?" she asked, her voice unnaturally calm.
"Yeah," Sokka replied. "All you really have to do is stand there, and if you get into trouble, you have big strong guys to save you. It’s kind of sickening, actually."
"What am I supposed to do if you wanted me to end up in someone’s arms in every single cut scene?" she said, her voice getting louder with every word.
"Oh don’t give me that, Katara. You love the attention," he said shaking his head. When he continued his voice was high-pitched, an attempt to mimic his sister’s voice. "Oh, Axel, you’re so strong and handsome and wonderful. Never let me go!" Sokka hugged himself and made exaggerated kissing faces in the air. Toph and Jet laughed from where they were standing, watching the quarrel.
Katara made a strange sound of disgust and embarrassment. Her eyes snapped in Axel’s direction, and she saw that he was mortified and turning a strange shade of violent pink. She was at a loss for words, and for a moment she could only stare mutely at her brother.
"Can’t even deny it," Sokka said at her continued silence, a triumphant smirk on his features. Katara surreptitiously looked around for water to bend but found none. She began to approach him, heat rising up her neck. Obviously, her stormy expression frightened her brother as he fell back a few steps.
Suddenly she saw Axel stride purposefully forward. She noticed that his features had reddened further, and as he passed by Katara, he grabbed her roughly just above her elbow and dragged her the remaining few feet to the large gate.
She struggled against his hand as she stumbled along next to him. She heard Sokka shout in triumph as Axel tugged her away from her brother.
"And you," she shouted, jerking fruitlessly in his tight grip. "You’re just making things worse."
Why was everyone dragging her around anyway? It was as if they were in competition for her attention. Or maybe fighting over possession of her. She wasn’t really sure why all the guys in the group felt like she must be lead around like a lost helpless kitten.
When the small electronic voice in her head said, "Cut scene initiating," she understood his intention. He was using the cut scene to end an uncomfortable conversation.
Axel wrapped his arms around her as the red in his cheeks faded, and his expression suddenly became more regal. She felt her face relax into a gentle smile, and she looked up at the golden-eyed emperor that had his arms around her.
Maybe this was the wrong cut scene to end the argument she had been having with Sokka.
"The road to the capital city. The first step towards a bright future." His voice still had that rasp that she was quickly finding that she rather liked, but his voice was softer than she had ever heard it.
She nodded at him, happily. "Our bright future." Her voice was gentle, loving, and almost foreign to her own ears. She wondered if she’d ever find someone in real life that would coax that strange blissful voice from her lips.
Jet came up behind them and smiled sadly at Katara. "Don’t forget about us. We’ll be there for you too."
Katara felt a strange pang of sadness, and her lips pulled down into a frown. His hand brushed hers for a brief moment, and he walked ahead of them into the forest. Inside her head, Katara sighed as she realized that the game was setting up for an unrequited love side-plot. This would only further complicate her relationships with her strange little gaming party.
"I’d never forget any of you." The words were pulled from her lips and filled with sadness and regret. Katara’s voice was low, but Axel’s character seemed to hear it.
"Don’t worry, my dearest love. He’ll understand some day."
"Maybe," Katara heard her voice say sadly. She turned a small, sorrowful smile up at the emperor. "If we’re together, I’m sure it’ll be okay."
Katara was horrified as she leaned up on her tiptoes to press a chaste kiss to Axel’s lips.
As Katara regained control of her character, her lips were still pressed to Axel’s, and with her cheeks heating up, she was uncomfortably aware of her heart jumping strangely in her chest.
--End Level 3--
A Jet/Sokka joke slipped in there. How odd.
I hope you guys enjoyed it. This chapter was pretty fun to write, but it took a while to get it right. I rewrote several parts of it before I thought it was good enough to post. Comments and criticism is always nice.