"Zuko, listen to me," he started in a low voice. "You've come out of your illness a changed man, a better man. Don't throw away all that good progress. We both know that Azula is evil and anything she says is a lie-"
Azula always lies
"-and she's got something planned to take you down if you join her. You are the master of your own destiny, Zuko. Don't let your good heart be overthrown by promises of false honor or love. You have love and more honor than you know. What you did for the Avatar was very honorable, whether you believe it or not. And from what I saw when I found you, it seems like I may not be the only one that shares that love for you. It may take her a while, but she'll see it too. Think about it and choose wisely, my nephew."
When he stopped, I looked up at him. I could feel the conflict inside, half of me begging to join Azula and regain father's love, the other half going on about joining the Avatar's group and bringing peace back. I didn't know what to do. "So what should I do?"
"Follow your heart."
"What should I do, Uncle?"
He went silent, then a smile crossed his face and I knew he had a plan. "If you really want to hurt her, go along with Azula's little game. Fight against the Avatar and Katara, but make sure you don't hurt them too badly. Just make it seem believable. She'll think you've fallen right into her trap. If things get too bad I'll protect them and let myself be captured. Be very wary of her once you get back to the palace. Don't fall for her tricks. If you have to, go to dramatic measures to take her down. Come for me and together we'll escape before the Dai Li even know what happened. If you're lucky, perhaps you could play Azula's game and manipulate the Dai Li like she apparently has, or just find a weakness in there. Now go before something happens to them."
My uncle is a genius. I smiled at him and ran through the cave after Azula as fast as I could. When I came into another big part, I could see the Avatar and Katara on either side of my sister, both ready to take her down. I took a deep breath and fired a huge fireball a little closer to my sister than I intended. That got everyone's attention. Oh, how I very much wanted to fire at Azula, the payback for all she's done to me over the years a mere fireblast away. But I had to remember the plan. I looked at the Avatar and he knew what was coming. I fought with him as my sister fought with Katara.
I fired blast after blast, eager to be using my firebending again. He kept dodging and sent a gust of wind at me. I'm really surprised that I got up from the blow that sent me hurtling into the green crystals. That hurt. When the Avatar jumped up on a column, I shot a giant fireball at him. He tried to pull up some crystals to block it, but it was too powerful and shot him back. It'd been so long since I could firebend that it all came out more powerful than I expected. Fire whips came out of my hands and I whipped at the Avatar, pushing him back. He jumped down and the ground gave way beneath him, sending out a shockwave that pushed me closer to the other fight.
It was then that I noticed Azula was having trouble handling Katara. I so admired her for being able to do what I never could, but I had to free Azula if she was going to think I was on her side. I cut through Katara's water and freed my sister, then watched as she went after the Avatar and Katara turned on me. Both of us fought with our opposite whips and were evenly matched.
"I thought you changed!" I heard her yell at me.
And I answered honestly, "I have changed." If there had been time to sit her down and tell her the plan, I would've, but all I could do right now was fight with her and hope she forgave me afterwards like it seemed she was trying to do earlier. I was trying not to hurt her, but Azula knocked the Avatar back and helped me team up on her. She wasn't strong enough to handle both of us and got knocked back against the crystals, her hair coming loose from her normal braid. I thought it looked better that way anyway.
Just then a wave of stone came at us with the Avatar riding on top, but he was knocked off when Dai Li agents caught him offguard. Azula and I turned to him and prepared to attack. I saw him looking past us and glanced over my shoulder to see Katara doing a weird waterbending form I hadn't seen before. It reminded me of an octopus. Either way, it was proving mildly effective for she was taking out the agents that surrounded her one by one.
"I'm sorry, Katara," he whispered almost inaudibly. I seemed to be the only one who caught it.
He surrounded himself in the green crystals and I relaxed from my stance, wondering what in Agni's name he was doing that he had to be sorry for. When the crystals started glowing even more, I assumed it was the Avatar State but I still didn't get why he was apologizing. It's not like he hadn't done it before. The agents behind me gasped and back up and I followed suit.
He burst from the crystals and looked down at us. I knew he was only 12, but his Avatar State scared me inside. He looked evil. Suddenly, electricity engulfed him and he fell motionless from the air. I watched in horror as the world's hope and my last chance for real honor died with the boy. I would seriously be surprised if he lived through that. Azula's evil smile was clear as day as smoke rose from her fingertips behind him.
I saw tears in Katara's eyes when she saw and I quickly looked away. I couldn't bear to watch her cry. I could hear cries behind me and before I could turn around again, I was washed up hard against the remains of the Avatar's crystal tent. Katara caught him before he hit the hard ground and everyone closed in on them. I jumped back as flames erupted in front of me. Uncle Iroh jumped out and stood in between us.
"Get out of here! I'll hold them off!" he yelled, looking over his shoulder at the two.
He turned back and started firing and dodging the stone gloves that were trademark of the Dai Li. As soon as they left his line of sight, he stopped firing and let himself get captured. I looked at him worriedly, hoping that our plan was going to go alright. And he did his part in looking ashamed. I hope it fooled Azula.
He was taken away by the Dai Li agents and Azula and I trailed behind them walking straight and proud as ever, the air of royalty surrounding us like fog. When we got back to the palace, Azula took a seat on the throne as I stood beside her.
"We did it, Zuko. It took 100 years, but the Fire Nation has finally conquered Ba Sing Se."
I didn't even look at Azula as I still felt like I betrayed Uncle even though it was planned. I wasn't sure what was going to happen between now and when I finally got to him. "I betrayed Uncle."
"No, Zuko. He betrayed you."
Blah, blah, blah, I know your game you evil bitch. It won't work. I grew up with that game, that stupid game of "Guess the Real Meaning Behind My Words." Guess what, baby sister? I finally learned how to play. "But I didn't catch the Avatar. What if father doesn't restore my honor?"
"He doesn't need to, Zuko. Today, you restored your own honor."
In other words, "Your fake honor will keep you here so I can take you down in your sleep and the throne will be mine." I shrugged her hand off my shoulder and looked past her, hoping I looked remorseful. I saw her smile out of the corner of my eye and looked down, excusing myself to my room for the night.
"What are you doing here?"
I looked up to see Mai standing in a doorway with an all-too-cheerful Ty Lee bounding up behind her. "Zuko!"
"It doesn't matter why I'm here, why are you two here?"
"We've been traveling with Azula to capture you and General Iroh!"
I watched as she flipped out into the hallway before me, facing me fully. She cocked her head at me as curiousity filled her grey eyes. I knew she was silently asking me what was going on. "Azula and I have taken the city for the Fire Nation and General Iroh is currently being held in the holding chambers below."
"So you're on our side now?" Mai asked, still leaning against the doorframe of her room, a brow raised with the same curiosity that gleamed in Ty Lee's eyes.
"I have my honor back. That's all I care for," I replied coldly. "Now if you'll excuse me-"
"What are they going to do with General Iroh?" Ty Lee cut me off, stepping in front of me before I could walk around her. Her normally cheery demeanor had fallen to a sadder one and it seemed as if she were on the verge of tears.
"Ask my sister."
When I moved to walk around her this time, she didn't stop me. I stopped in front of my room down the hall to look back at her. I heard her whisper something to Mai that sounded like "going to kill him", but I shrugged it off for now. I knew I could get to him before that happened. But if she was talking about me.. well, the years of living in exile does wonders for your sleeping habits.
I walked into my room and checked around thoroughly, making sure there was nothing out of the ordinary. When I was satisfied with it, I removed my outer robes and fell back on the soft bed. What surprised me was they were soft enough to rival my bed back at the Fire Palace. For the first time in months, I felt like royalty again. I suddenly felt disgusted with myself as I thought of Uncle Iroh probably chained to a wall in the dark, damp cells of the palace dungeon. No, I like holding cell better. It doesn't sound as bad.
I flipped over and groaned into my silk-covered pillow, feeling the tug of sleep threatening to pull me into unconciousness. I struggled against it, denying my body the rest it needed for fear of a guilt-ridden dream, but in the end sleep took over anyway.
I opened my eyes and looked through the wall of flames out over the bowing people before me. A strange sense of déjà vu washed over me as the blue and red dragons encircled the posts on either side of my throne.
Sleep my lord. You look tired. You deserve a nap.
I felt my eyes start drooping as the blue dragon spoke to me, but was instantly awakened by the loud yell of the red dragon.
No, Fire Lord Zuko! You must not give in to the blue dragon!
Sleep, Fire Lord Zuko..
I shook my head, knowing I'd been through this before. I stood up and ran through the halls, ignoring all the servants that bowed as I passed. I ran until I came to an unfamiliar part of the palace. Where my old room, my safe-haven, was supposed to be was instead replaced by two red and gold double doors. I hesitated for a second before opening them only to see it covered from floor to ceiling in blood. Not just any blood. My eyes widened in horror as I peered around the room, trying to grasp exactly what had happened in my own home.
You killed her, Lord Zuko..
My eyes continued to scan the room, finally landing on the red lump in the center of the floor. I closed my eyes and shook my head in disbelief, but it was still there when I opened them. I didn't do this, I muttered, slowly stepping to the deathly still body. I examined it carefully as I approached, my heart aching enough to kill me as I caught a glimpse of blue on the neck.
When I woke, I was careful not to move just in case. I listened hard for any noise that would give away the position of someone who might be in my room. After a couple minutes, I deemed it safe to sit up, wiping away the thin layer of sweat on my forehead. That was a horrible dream, I thought to myself. But who was that on the floor?
I threw the thought aside for now and untangled my legs from the silk sheets so I could get up out of bed. I had to get some air. It became unbearably stuffy all of a sudden. I made up the bed to look like I was still in there just as an extra precaution before I snuck out of the room with the stealth I'd acquired running around as the Blue Spirit.
That's it! I yelled inside my head as I passed the girls' room. That's how I'm getting Uncle Iroh out. The Blue Spirit can help.
I crept down the hallways and through the giant front doors right through the palace gates. I'd have to make sure Azula knew her guards weren't doing their jobs. Right now I just headed to Lake Laogai where I'd given up my alias. Luckily I wasn't as far away from it this time as I was last time. When I got there, I saw the platform still sticking up from the water, but it was crumbled and the opening was no longer there. I assumed they destroyed it. I looked out over the water, lit up by the full moon, and felt a calming peace settle over me. Being around water always reminded me of the waterbender. She always baffled me because she has the attitude and ferocity of a firebender, much like the Dai Li as Azula pointed out, but the compassionate and forgiving nature that associates with the Water Tribes.
I hadn't actually planned on finding my mask there because I certainly wasn't about to dive into that freezing cold water to fetch it, but luckily I didn't have to. I saw a dark spot on the sand at the edge of the water. My mask. I dusted it off and slipped it on, but still didn't feel complete and knew what I was missing. I headed back towards the city. When I got to my old apartment in the Upper Ring, I climbed in the window and retrieved my swords from the bedside table in my old room. I put them on and felt complete and invincible. Nothing could touch me now.
After a couple hours, I was done running around the city and decided to head back to the palace. I kept my eyes peeled for any other rooftop crawlers, aka the Dai Li. I didn't feel like I was being followed, but it was just precautionary. Back at the palace, they were standing watch at the gate again and I wondered where they were earlier. Probably sent to assassinate me, but I wasn't there! I'll just have to check my stuffed replacement when I get back.
I snuck quietly over the wall and through the front courtyard. I had some trouble climbing up the side of the palace to get in a window to avoid the Dai Li at the front door, but I made it. I found myself in an empty hallway that wasn't familiar, but it wasn't hard to find my way back to my room. I pressed my ear to the door before I entered, but no sound emanated from it so I assumed it was safe. I was prepared for anything, but everything seemed to be in order. After safely storing the mask and swords under the bed, I crawled under the sheets and flopped back on a pillow, but it wasn't the same.
I sat up and examined the pillow. It still had a silk pillowcase, but it was more firm than the pillow I'd sunk into before I left a couple hours ago. So they had been here. They must've attacked what they assumed was the sleeping me I'd set up and replaced everything they destroyed before I got back. That would explain why they weren't at their stations when I left. I'll have to keep that in mind. With that thought, I fell into a light dreamless sleep.
The next morning, just as I was about to open my eyes, the wind was knocked out of me. My eyes flew open to a blur of green sitting above me. For a moment I thought it was Azula, but as my vision cleared and my breath came back, I noticed it was Ty Lee.
"What the hell was that for?!" I yelled at her, the temperature in the room rising noticably. She seemed unfazed by it.
"I was just trying to wake you up, silly. Breakfast is ready," she said, jumping up off my bed and bouncing out of the room.
I growled and flung the sheets back, which I noticed were also a slightly different shade of green than yesterday, and put on some clean clothes before heading down to the royal dining hall. Mai was back in her usual dark clothes, but Ty Lee and Azula still wore green. I figured for sure they'd be back in red.. or pink for Ty Lee.
"I wonder where the really cute Water Tribe boy went," I heard Ty Lee say to Azula as I walked in.
"You're weird. He wasn't all that cute," Mai told her. Apparently they hadn't noticed me yet, so I stayed back for a minute.
"That's only because you're in looooove with Zuko!"
I held in a sigh. Since childhood, I'd known Mai has a crush on me but I'd hoped she'd outgrown it when I ran into her again. Finally I heard Azula speak. "Ty Lee, stop pestering her. But honestly, Mai, surely you could find someone better than my traitor brother to have a crush on. Though I have to admit his hair does look better now than it did in that wretched half-shaved ponytail."
Well, I guess I'll have to remember to keep my hair like this. I think it looks better too, and it's easier to keep up with. "I liked the ponytail, but his hair now is okay. It makes him look younger," Mai said.
"I think so too," Ty Lee grinned.
"Well, I'm glad I have the honest opinions of Fire Nation noblewomen," I spoke up, stepping out of the shadows towards the table they were all seated at. Azula smiled as if she already knew I was there, Ty Lee giggled, and Mai's face turned red and she looked down.
"Good morning, brother. I trust you slept well?"
I let a false smile play on my face for my sister. "Like the dead." I took a seat across from Azula and the other two looked nervously between us as I grabbed some food. "By the way, I think you need to have a talk with a few of your agents."
"Oh? Why is that?"
"They weren't standing guard at the gate last night."
"I'll speak with them this afternoon about that."
"Thank you. Agni only knows what kind of people would be able to get through to try to assassinate one of us if they weren't there."
"I know what you mean. Perhaps I should station extra guards just in case?"
"That would be wise."
I smiled at the façade I put on for her. I think Ty Lee and Mai could sense the hidden meaning behind both our "friendly" words. An uneasy silence fell over the table as we ate, but I preferred it over the word duel between Azula and myself. I had to admit, I was getting better at it though. I was never good at it back in the Fire Palace and she always got the best of me. Not this time. This time, I'll have the last laugh.
"So, what're you planning on doing with General Iroh?" Ty Lee asked timidly, as if treading on a soft subject and breaking the silence.
"I've been thinking about that," Azula purred, folding her hands neatly under her chin. "The way I see it, we have two options. One, we could send him back to my father and let him do what he wishes with him, and we all know what he does to traitors. Two, we kill him, and to prove Zuzu's loyalty to the Fire Nation, he can do it."
I hid my shock behind the mask of indifference I normally held. I knew she would've tried something like that, but luckily for me I planned on escaping before then. I wouldn't harm my uncle intentionally even for my father's love. Uncle Iroh has been more of a father than my own ever was and he's been there throughout my banishment, regardless of the fact that he was under no obligation to stay.
"So what do you say, Zuzu?" Azula's sly voice slid into my thoughts.
"You're in control, do what you think is best," I told her casually, taking a bite of my rice. Ty Lee actually jumped when I said that and even Azula held a look of surprise for a second. Mai was still looking down so I couldn't read her reaction.
Azula smiled, but she couldn't hide the surprise that still lingered in her eyes. "Really?"
I forced myself to nod at her. Mai finally looked up at me and I could see she was shocked and confused and perhaps even a little upset. I could understand that. Like I said before, I've changed. Not in the way my dear sister believes, but rather in the fact that I have a heart and I care for the well-being of others more so than before. I will rescue my uncle. I may not care for the useless antics and random proverbs and the never-ending love of tea, but my uncle is my family and that's more than I can say for my little sister.
"Well, dear brother, it seems I don't know you as well as I thought. You really have changed, haven't you?"
"For the better, I hope."
Azula chuckled under her breath as if sharing a secret with herself. "Father would be proud, Zuko. You've finally seen and eliminated your weaknesses and helped your nation in its greatest victory yet. We've seized the last Earth Kingdom stronghold, killed the Avatar, Uncle is locked up, and gods only know what happened with the king and the Avatar's gang of peasant filth."
I bit my tongue before I could retort, but no one seemed to notice. I was going to remind her of how easily the waterbender almost beat her. Actually, I let go of my tongue. "And I saved you as well, sister."
She looked up from her bowl and I saw the sidelong glances thrown by the other two girls at the table. "Did you now? I don't recall that. Would you care to refresh my memory?"
"The Water Tribe girl." As soon as I said it, her eyes widened just a bit as if recalling it now. "She would've had you beat had I not cut you loose. Prodigy versus prodigy."
"Please, that peasant was no prodigy," Azula scoffed. I could tell she was resisting the urge to roll her eyes.
Ty Lee cocked her head. "I don't know, Azula. She's pretty good."
"Yeah," Mai agreed. "She almost had me beat in Omashu, but Ty Lee jumped in and did her pokey chi-blocking thing."
"Plus, she's the Avatar's teacher. I know that little earthbender girl they travel with now is a prodigy. We found the door to her cell laying in the middle of the hallway. She knows how to bend metal."
"And she trapped you in the floor while you were trying to teach that stupid bear how to walk on its hands."
I finally cut in. "I've battled with her many times, before and after the North Pole where she got her training. She's had her victories against me and now almost you too."
"Okay, okay, enough about the stupid girl," Azula said, finally giving into her urge and rolling her eyes. "You all talk about her like you're in love with her."
"She is pretty," Ty Lee giggled, then a second later, "but not as pretty as us."
I smirked, rolled my eyes, and continued eating the last couple bites. "Speaking of which, why aren't you two back in your old robes?"
Ty Lee's eyes lit up at the question. "I really like these clothes! They're not pink, but I think they're so comfy! I'm going to have some of these made in pink."
"They're more comfortable than the armor I've been wearing," Azula admitted. "And unfortunately red is hard to come by in the Earth Kingdom.
"I think green suits you, Azula," Ty Lee grinned. "The gold on the outfits match your eyes!"
"Well, I'd love to stay and chat about the latest thing in fashion, ladies," I said as I stood up, "but unfortunately there are things that need to be done."
"Like what, pray tell?" Azula asked, looking up at me as I started past her.
"First, I'm going to talk to the maids about their midnight sheet change," I lied. "Then I'm going to check up on our dear uncle and see what he has to say about his punishment and most likely sit through a speech about choosing the wrong path and betraying people and such."
"Ah, well you have fun with that and I'll speak with the Dai Li about that little mishap last night for you okay?"
"Fair enough. I'll see you ladies for lunch?"
"At noon, and try not to be late Zuzu. I won't send Ty Lee for you next time."
I tipped my head towards the girls and left the room, grateful that I found an excuse and she didn't question it. I knew I'd have to be very careful though. Azula had eyes and ears all around the palace, and hopefully in time they would bow to the better sibling.
I quickly made my way to the holding cells below, passing the cell Ty Lee had mentioned before still missing its door. I excused the guards on either side of the door and looked through the bars to see my uncle chained to the wall.
"How is everything going so far?" he whispered so no one would hear.
"Luckily for me, I'm paranoid. They tried to take me out last night, but I wasn't there and they killed my stuffed replacement and replaced the sheets before I got back."
"Where did you go?"
"To find myself," was all I told him. He didn't question me. Part of me thinks he already knows.
"You should be more careful now that you know their intentions."
"Uncle, I have to get you out tonight."
"No, it's too soon and I know you don't have a plan."
"I'll think of something, but tomorrow you're supposed to die." I didn't tell him how. It didn't matter because he wouldn't be there.
His eyes widened and he put on a toothy grin. "Well then you'd better do an old man a great favor tonight."
I looked around, making sure there were no eavesdroppers even on the ceilings. I've seen how those Dai Li agents cling to walls like flies. They could be anywhere. I was about to say something when he cut me off.
"I don't suppose you brought any tea with you?"
"No, Uncle. I think someone is coming. Start the speech!" I hissed.
"You could've been happy here!" he nearly yelled, making me jump a little. "You could've lead a normal life in the Upper Ring of a peaceful city and you would've been happy!"
"That's not my life!" I countered. "I can't live a humble life like you! My life is in the palace, it's where I belong! Don't you understand that? I did what I had to do. I have my honor back! The Avatar is no longer an issue! I am my father's son! I can finally go home."
"And you will," came a honey-covered voice down the hallway.
I turned my head to see Azula walking towards us. I stepped back and glared through the door at my uncle, who in turn gave me a sad, disappointed look. Perfect. "Come to hear a lecture as well, Azula?"
"Oh, don't mind me. I just came to watch yours, brother. I actually wanted to see the look on his face when you tell your once-beloved uncle his punishment."
"You mean you're not going to kill me by tea deprivation?" he asked sarcastically. The corners of my lips twitched, but I held my smirk.
"Oh no, Uncle. We've got something a bit more.. disappointing."
"What could be more disappointing than being deprived of my tea?"
"Seeing the face of your executor tomorrow," she told him with a smile, glancing over to me.
I shifted uncomfortably as his eyes landed on me. I didn't want to tell him for a reason. I wasn't sure how he'd react if he knew I agreed to that. "Zuko?"
"He didn't tell you? You're not losing your touch already, are you Zuzu?"
"No," I growled, looking at her. "And stop calling me that. I knew you'd want to be here when I told him so I decided to get the speech over with to give you time to get here."
Azula's smile grew a bit. "How considerate of you, brother. Uncle, tomorrow morning at first light, you will no longer be an issue. We decided to get it over with and have your favorite nephew kill you here instead of sending you back home and letting your brother do what he considers fair. We figured you would prefer it this way."
"How nice of you to think of me," he said dryly, pulling a bit against the restraints on his wrists.
"Of course, Uncle! If you need anything to make your stay a bit more.. comfortable, send for me."
"Could I get some tea?"
"You know me that much at least."
"I'll make that a last request for you."
"You're too kind, Princess Azula."
Azula nodded to me before turning and walking away. I couldn't believe she was actually going to get him some tea! I looked back in at Uncle and he seemed pleased with himself. I rolled my eyes at him.
"Would you like some poison with that?"
"She wouldn't do that when I'm to die tomorrow anyway."
"I wouldn't put it past her. I need to sort things out right now. I'll come back later when I have a plan."
"Be careful, nephew."
I scoffed. "You're the one who's about to drink tea made my Azula."
He chuckled and I turned and walked back down the hall. There were two Dai Li agents in front of the doorless room now, pondering on how to get it back on. I heard them settle on just getting a new door.
"Can't bend metal?" I taunted. "Some earthbenders you are."
I could feel their glares on my back as I continued down the hall, hands folded behind my perfectly straight back. I could tell they wanted to say something to that, probably something like "Can't bend lightening? Some firebender you are," or something to that effect. I'm just happy they knew better. Since I've been allowed to firebend again, I've felt so much more powerful than I remembered. I headed out to the training arena behind the palace. There were scorch marks signaling Azula had already been there.
Taking a deep breath, I got into the first stance of my warm-up exercises. I launched a fireblast into the ground before me, then jumped and did a spin-kick and shot flames from my heel towards the columns in the corners of the arena. I dropped to the ground and pulled off a roundhouse and, much to my surprise, it all came out a furociously deep orange red color. I punched at the two columns in front of me and one behind me on my right, sending bright blasts of fire at each and actually damaging two of them.
"It seems you've gotten better since our last couple battles. Need a sparring partner?"
I didn't stop practicing as Azula stepped up into the arena with me. I pretended to be too concentrated in my bending to notice her. I continued on to my first set, jumping up and shooting flames from my fists and feet simultaniously. I landed and spun around, kicking up a wave of flames directly at where my sister was standing. I took control of them and stopped them before they reached her.
"Sorry, Azula. How long have you been standing there?"
She seemed slightly frustrated that I didn't take notice of her before, especially since she'd complimented me, but brushed it off and walked up to me. "I don't supposed you've mastered lightening yet, have you brother?"
As soon as she mentioned it, Uncle Iroh's words rang through my head. "You will not be able to master lightening until you have dealt with the turmoil inside you. You must let go of your feelings of shame if you want your anger to go away." I pondered these words for a second, then realized something I hadn't before. The turmoil was gone when we decided to help the Avatar's friends with the plan we'd come up with. I knew that maybe I really was ready this time.
"Actually, I haven't tried it." In a while anyway, I added in my mind. "I know the moves and that you have to seperate the energies. Hmm.."
I got into the proper stance as Azula watched curiously. I took another deep breath to calm myself and thought about the seperate energies I'm supposed to be directing. Moving each arm in the correct motions, I concentrated on the sudden energy that flowed through my body and the sparks jumping off my fingertips. When my fingers touched, I quickly shot my hand out at the sky and lightening followed. Shock took over my face and my sister's jaw had just completely dropped to the ground it seemed. She looked at me and I couldn't bring myself to wipe the shock from my face. I was still staring at the sky, waiting for it to throw something back at me.
"Impressive," she finally said, snapping me out of my reverie. "Maybe I've underestimated you after all."
I smirked at her, thinking to myself how much easier this plan just got. I would be sure to brag to Uncle when I went back down there with the plan. The plan! I'd forgotten that that's what I came up for. I shook my head quickly and looked up at the sun. Still a couple hours until noon.
"So, how about that spar?" I asked her, surprising her a little. "I need the practice and these columns don't fight back."
She chuckled quietly to herself and walked to one end of the arena as I placed myself in a stance at the other end. I smiled an amused smile as I saw her going through the motions for her own lightening. I adjusted my stance, preparing for it. The lightening came flying directly at me. The energy filled me. Azula's face dropped once again.
A whole four hours after lunch and I had the entire plan mapped out in my head. I couldn't risk writing it out on something in the chance that someone could find it. Twilight was approaching rather fast today. Actually, the whole day seemed to be going faster than normal as if in anticipation of tonight's secret escape. I'd had Azula station two agents outside my bedroom door and after she left them to me, I invited them in. As her brother, they couldn't refuse me.
I asked them a couple of questions about what they knew of Azula and what made them decide to betray their country by following her. Simple enough questions with simpler answers. One of them said she was terrifying and inspirational at the same time. The other, which I'd noticed had a scar across his cheek, was trembling ever so slightly. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't have noticed, but this time was different because I was looking for a weakness in Azula's army that I could use to my advantage. The one thing I was glad that I shared with my sister is the impecable ability to sense weaknesses in others. I believe I'd found my weakness.
"You can go," I said, pointing to the one who apparently admired my sister. He bowed his head slightly and stepped out of my room. The other one seemed to be more nervous now. "You are a weakness in the Dai Li," I stated simply.
"N-no, your highness. Please, I'm loyal-"
I held up my hand to quiet him. "I could use you. They're planning to assassinate me after my uncle's execution, am I right?"
He seemed hesitant at first, but answered quietly, "Yes sir."
"What do you know of the Avatar's group?" I asked, surprising both him and myself.
"I-I was brought to the Avatar and his friends by General Iroh right before the coup took place. I told them where to find you and the girl they were looking for."
"And where do your loyalties lie?"
He grew less nervous when he figured out where I was going and answered honestly, "With you and the Earth Kingdom, my lord."
"You will help me with my mission tonight, understand?"
He nodded and I told him my plan. Not once did he interupt or argue, simply nodded his understanding and agreed to everything. I was thankful to find a weakness. The Dai Li always seemed so solemn and impenetrable like their city, but luck has been on my side since I made the biggest decision of my life in the crystal catacombs under the palace. He was loyal to me. Perhaps, if luck really was my friend now, I would win the loyalty of more like Uncle told me to try to do.
"Did you enjoy your poison, Uncle?" I asked jokingly as I approached his cell, dismissing the agents that stood guard again.
"Did you know Azula makes a wonderful Jasmine tea? She said she made it herself."
"Of course, because she's so good at everything she does without trying."
"Is something wrong, Prince Zuko?"
"As a matter of fact, Uncle, everything is right. I think I've made a friend among the Dai Li and I surprised myself and Azula today."
"Please, do tell."
I leaned against his cell door and looked at his hopeful face through the small window. "I finally got the lightening to work. I remembered what you told me and I finally did it. You should've seen Azula's face when she saw it," I laughed. "It was even better when we sparred and I redirected her lightening. She didn't know what to think."
"I told you she didn't know that move," he reminded me. "That's something you will always have over her. Now, about this friend.."
"He said he's met you before. You took him to the Avatar and his friends and questioned him about me and the waterbender."
"Yes, I remember him," he said quietly. "He had a scar on his cheek. I thought Miss Toph had left him stuck in the rock slabs on the porch of their house."
"He's going to help me tonight."
"Then you have a plan this time?"
I glared at him, but answered, "Yes, I have a plan this time. I'm not going into something this big without one."
"So this is bigger than capturing the Avatar in the North Pole? Because I seem to remember you didn't have a plan-"
"I know, Uncle! That was a long time ago. I've learned from my mistakes. Just listen up. An old friend is coming to save you tonight. The agent I talked to knows a couple others that are a little shaky on their loyalty to Azula considering their own loyalties to their nation and he's agreed to convince them to help. They know what to watch for tonight and will provide the necessary cover in case its needed. I'm doing what you told me, Uncle. I'm turning the Dai Li against her, slowly but surely. We'll be out of here in no time and the city will be free."
"Then we still have the issue of finding the king. I believe he may be with the Avatar's group, but I can't be certain."
"We'll worry about that later. Right now, just-"
"I knew you wouldn't betray him."
I jumped around and cursed myself for not hearing her sneak up. "What are you doing here, Mai? What did you hear?"
"Enough to know that you aren't as bad as I thought you were this morning. And I brought General Iroh's dinner." Mai slowly approached with a tray of food and a set of keys in her hand. I took the tray and she fumbled with the keys before finally gaining control of her hand and opening the cell door. She took the tray from me and I noticed a tinge of pink on her cheeks before she turned away. I followed her into his cell and helped her feed him. Of course, there was always something he had to say.
"What, no tea?"
Mai smiled. "I believe that was your last request and Azula fulfilled that this morning."
"You aren't going to tell her, are you Mai?"
"Please, just call me Iroh."
She paused for a second and I could tell she was about to say something I wouldn't like, so I cut her off before she could say it. "Mai, please. Don't tell her. You never heard a thing about this. We're trying to make things right in this world again and we need all the cooperation we can get."
She looked between me and my uncle as if in thought, then she sighed. "I won't tell."
I let out a sigh of relief. "Thank you so much, Mai. We appreciate it."
"I need to go now." She picked up the empty tray and started out; I followed behind her. She locked the door and before she turned the corner, I barely heard her say, "Good luck."
"I'll see you tonight, Uncle," I whispered as I started off the same way Mai left.
When I got back to my room, the two guards nodded to me as I walked in. I thought I saw a wink from my insider as I passed him. Maybe it meant something. I'll talk to him later. I stripped down to nothing and let the bathtub fill up in the adjoining washroom. Luckily it was already heated to the perfect temperature and I sank into the water, letting it go up to my chin. I sat there and enjoyed the comfort of the bath before I started scrubbing my body clean and preparing for what would possibly be my last decent dinner for a while.
I walked back into my room and looked in the wardrobe to find something nice to wear. I was surprised to find some robes in there that weren't mine and assumed Azula had them brought up for me, though I really didn't see the point in them if I was to be assassinated. That's because she's trying to play with my mind, I reminded myself.
I picked out a deep green and gold robe and dressed, checking myself over in the mirror. Granted I wasn't in red, I still looked like royalty. I shook my head to settle my hair before walking out of my room.
"No one goes in except me," I told the guard with the scar, though I glanced at his partner as well to make my point.
Dinner went smoother than I expected it to. Mai had been true to her word and not mentioned anything to Azula. Ty Lee kept telling me how good the green robes looked on me. Azula seemed the only one out of place as she was picking sparingly at her food.
"Are you okay, Zula?" Ty Lee asked her.
"I received a letter from father today," she said, looking up at me. "He said he's proud of the both of us for bringing down the last stronghold of the Earth Kingdom. He wants me to stay here and rule this city and wishes for you to go home and pick up where you left off in your lessons and training."
That was a flat out lie. She'd tried something like this before, but there was always the chance it could be the truth. Maybe father was proud. Maybe he did want me to come home because the Avatar was no longer an issue thanks to Azula and me. Maybe he did still want me to take the throne when he passed.
Azula looked back down and Mai looked up at me, noticing the conflict I hadn't realized was in my eyes. She cleared her throat lightly and took another bite of her dumplings, but didn't take her eyes off me. I narrowed my eyes and realized what she was trying to tell me. I had a plan to stick to. Azula always lies.
I called the guard into my room after dinner. I was growing anxious, anticipating the mission I was to pull off tonight, and I had to know how my chances were looking with the Dai Li. I was nervous and paced back and forth across the room, making the agent nervous as well.
"I got 27, Prince Zuko, sir, including the other at your door."
I pondered this number for a minute, then, "Out of how many?"
"70, your highness."
"You don't have to use the formalities in here. So, we have a good number of men. I'm proud of you and my uncle would be too. You've served your nation well."
"Thank you, sir."
"Now, tell me that speech that she gave again."
"Which one, sir?"
"The one she gave when the head of the Dai Li, the idiot, tried to double-cross her."
I sat and listened to what he said, memorizing it so I could possibly use it later against her. Wouldn't that be a sight? To see the look on my little sister's face when she learns I've been playing her own game under her nose. I was proud of myself. I've learned so much since my banishment, but only in these last couple months, and I intended to use it.
I pulled out my mask and showed him what to look for. Because of the lack of war in the city, he didn't know the history behind the mask and I didn't tell him. He seemed to understand why I was going to hide my face. If I could've had a meeting with the 27 men who've chosen to go up against the "terrifying but inspirational" princess, I would've. I think Azula would've suspected something if I'd just up and decided to do meet with nearly half her agents. Uncle would be proud that I'm thinking this through so thoroughly.
"Tell the others to be prepared at midnight. I'll need some cover, maybe about 4 or 5 ceiling crawlers including you two at my door, to follow me down to the holding cells and the others should be on guard nearby just in case. Make sure at least half the guards at his cell door are ours. He may be under extra protection tonight considering what tomorrow is. After we get him out safely, we're going after Azula. I may only need your help to get past the rest of the Dai Li, but Azula is mine. You trained with them, you know their moves, use that against them.
We'll be outnumbered, but only by a few because some of them will be guarding others parts of the palace. With any luck some of them may be hesitant to battle their own, but from what I've seen of you guys I doubt luck will go that far. If you can, keep an eye out for the two girls. If they're alerted, I'm not sure what Mai will do but Ty Lee can do anything from taking away your bending to knocking you unconcious. She'll be the one jumping around doing flips and such. If you beat them, good. If not, at least keep them all busy for as long as you can so I can take on my sister. Got it?"
"Good. Now go tell the others, but make sure no one else hears. If word gets to Azula, we may have a problem tonight."
He bowed to me and walked out, leaving me alone in my room. I was tempted to visit Uncle Iroh, but decided against it. Instead, I went to my wardrobe and looked at the things that were in there. The few new robes that Azula had gotten me, the older but still somewhat new ones that Uncle had bought me when we got in the city, a couple different pairs of boots, and.. slippers? I decided I wasn't taking those.
I left my room, nodding to the guards, and walked down the hall. Ty Lee's door was open and she noticed me as I walked by. She grinned and hopped out into the hall in front of me.
"Where you going?"
"I left some things in my apartment and I'm going to get them," I replied nonchalantly, moving around her.
"You need some help? I could use the fresh air!"
If Mai understood.. and Ty Lee seemed much more innocent than her.. what would Azula think if both of her friends sided with me? With a sigh, I answered, "Sure, come on."
She giggled behind me and cartwheeled to catch up. Once we left the palace grounds, she glanced up at me. "I talked to Mai."
"She is your friend, I don't see why you wouldn't."
"No, I talked to her. I know."
"She said she wouldn't tell."
"She said she wouldn't tell Azula. I'm just going to play dumb on this one. I never wanted to be a part of this, but I won't dare go up against her. Mai and I are going to be out tonight on "patrol" so we won't be around to get dragged into it."
"So, what are we getting?"
"Leaving already?" I gave her a questioning glance and she caught it, responding with a quiet, "Oh."
"Did you think I was going to stick around afterwards?"
"Someone needs to until the king is found."
"And I'm going to be the one to find him. That's why I'm leaving. Uncle Iroh said he may be with the Avatar's group outside the city somewhere, but he isn't sure."
"Isn't the Avatar dead? I thought Azula killed him in those crystal caves."
I looked up at the sky, silently praying to Agni that he wasn't. "Everyone thinks he is, but there's no way to be certain. It would take a lot to have lived through that and, Avatar or not, in the end he is still just a child. Whether he is or not, his friends are still out there and most likely have the king with them, still planning on going through with the solar eclipse attack."
"Where do you think they're going?"
I stopped in front of a familiar building for a second before walking inside. "You ask a lot of questions. If they were smart, they'd head back to the North Pole to plan the invasion. That place is more impenatrable than the city that's actually named "Impenatrable City"."
It looked as if she were about to ask another question, but she closed her mouth and followed me up the stairs. I opened the door to the apartment and started gathering things up. Ty Lee came in slowly, looking unsure of what to grab. I walked in my room and grabbed my bag, stuffing things in as I went. I walked back out and tossed it to Ty Lee, then went after Uncle's stuff. I, being the nice person I am, even grabbed his teapot and cups. I scanned the place one last time before we left.
"You really have changed," she said about halfway back, breaking the silence between us.
"And everyone feels the need to point that out."
"Sorry, it's just that.. well, I didn't know what to think when you agreed to General Iroh's execution. You and Azula have always been at each other's throats, even as kids. You've grown up a lot since then and you're more level-headed and think things through better."
I laughed. I couldn't help it. "Yeah, and that only happened recently. Uncle says I've undergone a metamorphasis. I had a spiritually induced illness after I set the Avatar's bison free and came out of it a better man. I seem to be one of the few in the Fire Nation who see the wrong behind this war, especially now that I've been on the receiving end of it and I've seen what it's done to others."
"I've seen too." She sighed and kicked a loose pebble across the almost empty street. "Did you ever wonder how we got in here? In the city?"
"Outside the city, we followed a trail of the bison's fur and found him with a bunch of girls in green. The Kyoshi Warriors, I think they called themselves. The Avatar wasn't with them but we fought them anyway because Azula said that any friend of the Avatar's is an enemy of ours. We kind of beat them, stole their clothes and passports, and used them to get into the city."
I looked down at her and could tell she felt bad for it, but who's going to argue with Azula? "Are they okay at least?"
"Yeah, we just tied them up and left them out there."
"I've fought them before. They ambushed me and my soldiers on Kyoshi Island while I was tracking the Avatar. Worthy opponents. I think that Water Tribe boy was dressed in their warrior outfit and fighting with them."
She giggled. "The make-up and everything?" I nodded. "Did it look good?"
"He looked like a girl except for his shaved head and that ponytail."
"I wish I could've seen it. He's so cute!"
She followed me through the palace gates and into my room. One of the guards gave me a funny look, but a glare straightened him up. Ty Lee was only in my room for a couple seconds to set the bag down, then she waved goodbye and left, wishing me luck as well. I sighed and started throwing things into my bag, making sure to leave the slippers in there. It was getting dark outside, meaning it was almost time. I was more nervous than I had been in a long time.
My door didn't make a sound as it gently opened to reveal the blue oni mask I loved. The two guards at the door acknowledged me, then climbed up the wall to the ceiling where I noticed 3 more waiting. I nodded to them before moving silently down the hall, my trusty swords strapped to my back. There wasn't a single noise in the hallway, so I had to be extra careful.
My agents followed me down to the holding cells still on the ceiling. As we approached my Uncle's cell, one of them, the one with the scar, joined me. He seemed to know what he was doing, so I didn't question him. There were 6 guards in front of the cell and when my guy nodded to them, 4 of them moved and used the stone gloves to knock the other 2 out. This relieved some of the nervousness I was feeling about tonight and I relaxed a little as one of them unlocked the cell.
"Ah, the Blue Spirit has come to rescue me," Uncle said quietly as the cuffs on his wrists and ankles fell to the ground. "I appreciate the help from the Dai Li agents who know what is right as well."
The one with the scar stepped forward. "General Iroh, there's an agent waiting just outside for you. He's going to take you to a safe place to hide until Prince Zuko comes to get you after it's all over."
"No, I can help," he argued.
The agent looked back at me and I sighed. I knew there was nothing I could do to keep the Dragon of the West away from this battle. I nodded to him and started out of the cell. The 4 guards that were guarding the cell crawled up on the ceiling with the rest of them and followed us back into the main hallways of the palace. Azula had taken over the king's bedroom, which wasn't all that hard to find but there were Dai Li agents everywhere. Luckily for me some of them were guarding the gates and the main entrance so we weren't that badly outnumbered.
As we approached, I saw something move down another hallway on my right. I looked that way and just caught the length of a braid disappearing behind the wall at the end. I assumed it was Ty Lee running away before the battle really started.. but I knew someone else who had a braid. It couldn't be her, she's probably too far away by now.
I turned my attention back to the bedroom down the hall in front of me. I looked up to make sure my back-up was still there and found that more had joined them. They looked down at me and I waved them forward, then crept up myself with my uncle close behind me. It seemed some of them were waiting for us because I swear I saw a smile on a couple of their faces. Some of ours, maybe. Funny that she stationed some of my agents there. That proves I'm better at this than I thought.
There were a total of 10 Dai Li agents standing guard in front of her door. When they all took stances, my men came down from the ceiling and 3 out of the 10 before me turned on their group. That means that as of right now, they were outnumbered by my men. That didn't mean they gave up so easily though. I fought my way through the giant battle to the doors. My "friend" noticed where I was heading and earthbended the doors open for me before returning to his own battle.
Now, if I know my sister at all, I knew she wouldn't be in her bed especially after all that noise. Luckily I wasn't stupid enough to just rush into the room. I stood at the entrance and scanned the room with my eyes. I looked behind me just in time to dodge a rock fist coming at me, then the guy who threw it went down as someone yelled "For the Earth Kingdom!".
They were done with their battle before I went in the room, so I had two of them climb in the room and look for my sister. After a couple minutes, they came back with nothing. Just then, I heard a noise behind me. I turned and, lo and behold, there was my sister.
"Funny, I thought for sure Zuko would've been part of this," she snarled as she stepped closer with the rest of the agents right behind her, including the ones from the front gate it seemed. "The Blue Spirit, huh? I've heard a bit about you. You broke into a heavily guarded Fire Nation fort, rescued the Avatar from the late Admiral Zhao, took out most of the men there, and all with the two swords you hold in your hands. Now you've broken into my palace, rescued my pitiful uncle I assume, and turned some of my agents against me. It's such a shame that I have to kill such a skillful warrior, but an enemy is an enemy."
Apparently some of my agents were in the group behind her because there weren't 27 behind me, so I pointed my finger out towards them and all the Dai Li agents started fighting each other. I'm surprised they knew who was on who's side because they all looked alike.
I held steady with my swords gripped tightly in my hands, staring Azula down. She smirked and finally made the first move. Blue flames shot out of her fingertips, but I was quick and rolled on the ground to dodge them. I jumped up and ran at her, swords behind me as I prepared to strike. She moved to the side as I swung one sword out at her and it barely grazed her upper arm. I heard her growl and could see the motions for lightening. That made me glad I'd covered the grips of my swords with rubbery stuff because it doesn't conduct lightening.
I kneeled down and put the tip of one sword on the ground then, as the lightening raced at me, I crossed the other sword over it with the tip in the air to catch the lightening and redirect it into the ground. She grew frustrated and started firing blast after blast and I dodged all of them, even using my swords to slice through a couple of them.
Little did I know I was unconciously using my firebending to control her flames and keep them from hitting me. I didn't notice it, but someone did.
"So, you're not only an excellent swordsman, but you're a firebender," Azula said, readying another stance. "Funny, I heard you were a waterbender. So, an enemy and a traitor. My father will have a field day with you."
I smiled behind my mask at her threat, but also scolded myself for not noticing it sooner. I figured since she knew, there was no need to hide it. My swords erupted in deep red flames, contrasting to the blue of my mask. Both Azula and I were surprised. I mean, I noticed hints of red during practice, but I hadn't been able to do anything that powerful yet.
"Hmm, a powerful firebender it looks like," Azula scoffed, "but not as powerful as me!"
She jumped up in the air and did a spin-kick, sending a wave of blue fire at me. I moved one red sword up and cut through the flames, only to have to cut through a barrage of attacks on the other side. She was getting more and more frustrated at me because I was proving to be a challenge, therefore making her moves a bit sloppier. I could tell she was getting tired already while I hadn't even broken a sweat.
I thrust my swords down, the red flames jumping off of them, then sliced them at Azula. One by one, she dodged the fire discs that came at her, then she dropped down and kicked her blue flames at my feet. I jumped over them and threw another barrage of discs at her, this time managing to get two hits to her upper right leg.
"Where are Ty Lee and Mai?" I heard her ask herself over the sound of the battles.
She flipped in the air a couple times in a tight ball with blue tracing her feet, then the flames burst from her and headed straight for me. It was a powerful attack that I managed to come away from with only a shallow wound on my left arm, but I didn't let it affect me. I thought to myself that it was about time she got a blow in. I concentrated harder and noticed the flames traveling up my arms. With the proper breath control, the red flames consumed my entire body, dancing harmlessly along my costume without burning it.
I noticed some of the Dai Li agents take off running at the sight of me; someone even said that I was the great Agni himself reincarnated. That was quite a compliment considering who I was fighting at the moment. Azula seemed to have heard it too because her blue flames lit up the hallway in their direction, catching a couple of the tapestries on fire.
She looked at me, anger written across her golden eyes. "Who are you?!"
I shook my head and smiled behind my mask. I positioned my swords, one in the front and one behind me with the blades facing outwards. I took a deep breath, then spun, letting my blades slowly pull away from me as the strength of the fire increased. When I felt as if I were going to explode, I clamped both of my swords together and swung out towards Azula, an incredibly powerful and giant fireball blasting from my swords and heading right for her. And she wasn't prepared for anything like that.
It hit her square in the chest and flung her back into the wall, a sickening crack echoing through the halls as her head hit. I looked back at the remaining Dai Li agents, who were just standing there now almost in awe it seemed. My sister didn't move. I walked up to check on her, letting the red flames die down but keeping my swords at the ready. I noticed a small pool of blood gathering on the floor and seeping into her green outfit. She was still alive, but wouldn't be for much longer if she didn't get some help.
There were cries from behind me and I turned around to see all my agents frozen to the walls on either side of the hall and the fire on the tapestries put out. There stood the owner of the braid I'd seen. She looked almost menacing as she glared down at Azula, but gave me a questioning glance.
"What happened here?" she asked quietly.
I put my hands up to show her I meant no harm before I pulled my mask off. She gasped and was about to go for her waterskin, but I stopped her. "Wait, please."
"Why should I? Why should I trust you again? You betrayed us."
"I didn't. I told you I changed and I meant it. I knew there was no way to beat her, especially when she had the Dai Li on her side, so my uncle and I came up with a plan to take her down from the inside. I'm sorry, but I had to make our fight seem believable."
She looked back down at Azula. "You did this? You beat your sister?"
"This city belongs to the Earth Kingdom again."
She knelt down beside Azula and gathered some water in her hand. "I need to heal her or she'll die."
Her hand starting glowing blue as soon as it rested on the back of Azula's head. A minute later, she brought her hand away and let the water fall to the floor. "She'll be okay in a couple weeks. She lost a lot of blood so she won't be concious for a few days at least."
"That's a wonderful ability you have, Miss Katara," Uncle Iroh said, coming up from behind us.
"Where were you during the fight, Uncle?" I asked, just a little ticked off that I hadn't seen him anywhere.
"I found her for you. I saw her running down that hall and went after her. I didn't expect she'd be healing your sister instead of you," he chuckled.
"You found them, Sugar Queen! Aw man, you guys already fought!"
The little earthbender girl stalked up to them with her arms crossed. Katara giggled. "Sorry, Toph. They just got done fighting when I got here, so I missed some action too."
"Can you please unfreeze us over here?" yelled one of the agents.
"Oh right, sorry!" Katara called the water to her and held it around her. It looked like too much to carry in her little pouch and I assumed she just carried it in from outside so she'd have more to fight with.
"What are you doing here?" I asked them, though it came out a little hoarse for some reason. I cleared my throat and tried again. "I thought you'd be halfway to somewhere by now, taking care of the Avatar's body."
"We're camped right outside the outer wall. I left my brother and the king to watch over Aang and me and Toph snuck back in to do some investigating, get a good layout of the palace, and hoped to kick some butt."
Uncle, being curious as always, asked, "So, the Avatar's okay?"
"Thanks to my special water," Katara sighed, looking directly at me. I knew what she was thinking. She was talking about the water she almost healed my scar with.
"We should get the king in here first thing in the morning," I told them, finally sheathing my swords. "Does the Avatar still need a firebending teacher?"
Katara's eyes widened. "Are you serious?"
"I wouldn't have asked if I wasn't."
"Yes, he does. But I'm telling you now, we work as a family. That means you have to respect everyone, even my brother, and help out around our camps too."
I looked over to my uncle, who held up his hand. "Don't look at me, nephew. I have a tea shop to open up again here. An old man like me doesn't need to be traveling the world anymore. You will go and make your own destiny with the Avatar. You will save the world."
"We'll come back to visit," Toph said, punching Uncle Iroh lightly on the arm.
"Thanks for all your help, General Iroh." Katara bowed to him and smiled. "Even when we were enemies, you helped us save the world once. I'll make sure the king knows of you."
Uncle bowed back to her, then enveloped me in a hug, which I returned. "There is greatness in you, Zuko. Show the world how the 4 nations should work together by joining them. Come back and visit when you are Fire Lord."
I closed my eyes and a tear ran down my cheek, but I wiped it away quickly. "I'll come back for you, Uncle. I promise. And when you find Ty Lee and Mai, make sure they go back to the Fire Nation with Azula unharmed because they stayed away from all this tonight." I looked down at Azula, then kicked her foot. "True power, the divine right to rule, is something you're born with. That's what I was born with, little sister."
With that said, I turned and walked away from the last of my real family and followed Katara and Toph into a completely new one. I finally passed the crossroads of my destiny. I finally know where I should be. I finally feel like I belong.
I would totally keep this going, but alas it's a one-shot. I have enough to worry about with my other stories. I really hope you liked this. It kind of took my mind off of what might really be going on in the finale. It took me long enough to write it too lol. R&R!