Eruption 58: Connections
Dinner took place in relative silence without the usual cheer. Tenzuh knew he had received all the information he was going to get and didn't inquire further. At least no one protested, instead being filled with relief, when he expressed wanting to go to sleep early, though it was rare for him.
The young prince guessed they wanted to discuss this mysterious thief in private. He didn't like being kept out of 'adult business' how would he learn if he wasn't there to listen? He would become an adult knowing noting still and he was impatient to learn.
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That night, Tenzuh still was unsure of what was really happening, but he had promised Angel to meet her and he didn't want to wait another month to attempt to learn multiple element bending. He was sure the security was being exaggerated anyway, it would be okay to go out for a little while. Besides, he knew about some underground passages that would lead away from the guards, it was a place he had seen his father visit before and since then he had taken it upon himself to uncover all the secrets of the palace.
Maybe the guards patrolling were actually a good thing, their footsteps would disguise his in a sea of vibrations and he wouldn't be caught unless his mother was searching for him and she had no reason to. He wouldn't take anything valuable along that could be stolen, and with that thought he removed the royal head-peace from his hair, setting the golden flame down on a table in his room. He would be alright; he was technically not breaking the rule of leaving the palace alone, because as soon as he stepped out Angel would be there. Determined, the young prince set off out of the royal palace.
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Tenzuh stepped lightly but hastily, making his way through the dark passages under the palace. He could hear the steps of the guards steadily patrolling right above, and tried to match his own small steps to theirs as closely as possible. The tiny flame in his hand was his only light, which he was ready to extinguish if he had to hide all of a sudden.
He came to the end of the passage, moving the heavy stone covered door, made to look like part of a wall from the other side, out of the way just an inch. He peeked out through the small opening and thought he heard some steps getting closer, with voices discussing the current situation. He got rid of the light and pulled the door into place, listening quietly.
"Do you think she'll really come here?" One of the guards on patrol outside spoke.
"Maybe, I mean, this place is well guarded but she's insane and dangerous. I bet she'll want revenge on the Fire Lord. I know this looks exaggerated and maybe it is, but maybe its not."
"That's a scary thought, let's just hope we actually have the chance to fight back if it comes to that, I wouldn't want Azula to take over and certainly not easily." The two guards continued their walk as they spoke, patrolling the area in pairs, no one was left to patrol alone. Azula, the name sounded familiar, so familiar that something suddenly clicked in the prince's memories.
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That time long ago, Tenzuh was on Ember Island with his parents, the house was full of paintings and souvenirs; it was a very comfortable place to be. He went up to the attic where many things were piled up as if they had been hastily stuffed up there when the house was cleaned and refurnished.
Tenzuh, like the curious little boy he was, had began to dig around as if searching for treasure. He found many old things, but nothing of interest, except for a fairly large scroll that revealed a picture painted inside. The picture was old and faded, but the man looked a lot like Ozai, whom he only briefly knew about, conscious that the Fire Nation would have to fix his serious mistakes and offenses, though still not knowing exactly how terrible they had been.
The woman he recognized as Ursa, his grandmother, he had three grandmothers, though only one of them still lived. Ursa was one, another was grandpa Iroh's wife, who had been his great aunt, but would have been like a grandmother since Iroh was like a grandfather to him, and grandma Bei-Fong who often came to visit with grandpa Bei-Fong from the Earth Kingdom.
There were also two children on the picture, a boy and a girl. He had placed his tiny hand on the dusty surface of the boy's face in puzzlement. He felt as if he was looking at a black and white mirror, but that couldn't be him, then he realized the boy must be his father when he was younger. People really meant it when they said he looked like his father.
Who was the girl then? She was the only person in the picture that he could not identify. He turned the scroll over and examined it, spotting a small line of writing, faded with age. He squinted at the writing, trying to make out the words. There was a date, but anyone would be able to tell the scroll was old just by looking at it anyway. There were also some words, "Fi- Lo- -zai, Fire Lord Ozai," his guess had been correct.
"La-y U-sa, Lady Ursa, Pr-e Z-k-, Prince Zuko, P-... P-s... Azula," her name was the only thing that survived the test of time clearly, but what about the word in front of her name? Who was she? A guest maybe, or a noble from a far off land visiting the Fire Nation royal family? No, she was dressed as if she were a Fire Nation royal, plus why did she look so much like the others in the picture, so much like his father, Tenzuh did not understand.
"Ten, it's lunch time!" Zuko had gone to find his son; Toph sensed he was up in the attic, which Zuko found odd, the beach seemed much more fun then a stuffy old attic, but Tenzuh if left to his devices for a few minutes, always managed to get himself where one would lest expect him to be. He had been quite a handful when he first learned to walk and did not want to stop, thank goodness for Toph's ability to sense vibrations.
"Dad, who's this?" The young boy pointed at the painting of a girl in the scroll, he seemed to already be aware of who the others were.
Zuko paled for a moment then finally spoke, "that scroll is very old, she's not here anymore, but who knows, maybe she'll come back someday." It was obvious he didn't want to talk about it, so Ten left it at that.
Afterwards the young prince curiously tried to find more information in secret, but didn't find much, except for a more recent, albeit still old, scroll tugged away in a storage room in the palace, the name Azula also on it. Then he was taken to visit a far away secret place and after the excitement of being able to meet and even play with a baby dragon, the mysterious Azula was all but forgotten.
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Angel looked like Azula, save for the color of her hair, but he did remember one of aunt Suki's Kyoshi warrior friends, Ty Lee, having had brown hair one day and golden blond another after dying it. She was also older but the resemblance was undeniable and the scroll was just about old enough to have been painted when Angel was that age. That's where he had been her face before, that's why she looked so familiar. But they couldn't be the same; the guards spoke of Azula as dangerous and Angel was good. Besides, why would a criminal be painted along with his family so long ago? Sure Ozai was mean, but the girl couldn't have been bad, she didn't look evil in the picture and was still very young.
Maybe it was all a random coincidence, the Azula in the picture and the Azula who was a thief had to be different and Angel was also an entirely different person. Yes, there was no way they could be the same, the resemblance had to be a coincidence. Tenzuh forced himself to focus on the present, he had to sneak away and meet Angel. It would be alright, he would return before anyone noticed and he would not run into either Azula, it would just be him and Angel having a nice training session, a successful training session.
With that to look forward to, Tenzuh listened to make sure the time was right, and opened the heavy door just enough to go out into the courtyard. He dashed into some bushes before he was seen and watched the patterns of patrolling guards, taking into consideration the position of the torches providing extra light to an already clear night. If he timed it right, he could run and sneak out unseen through a small hole, just big enough to crawl under in the fence in the far corner of the back courtyard, behind some bushes.
A puppy once snuck in through that long forgotten hole and went back out when Tenzuh tried to approach it; that was how he learned of it, though he never understood why the little dog had been so frightened of a human. He never saw it again, so he assumed it simply did not like strangers and went back home. There was no way an adult could squeeze in through that hole and it would be difficult for him, but he knew he could manage to get through.
When the timing was right, the little prince dashed over to the wall, he was surrounded by guards but he was not seen. "Analyze all possible moves, predict what your opponent will do, take the unexpected path, snatch victory away in any situation no matter how hopeless it may seem, there is always a way," it was during a Pai-Sho lesson when Tenzuh learned this, though it seemed to apply to just about any situation that required some sneaking around.
He crawled out, making his way quickly and quietly to the alleys behind the palace where the guard was much less than in the palace itself. He had made it out, everything would be okay now, he was out of range to be sensed and he felt proud he had managed to sneak out. He would tell Angel about it, she would be impressed, he worried that he had disappointed her with his lack of progress in the previous lessons, after she had taken the time and effort to teach him.
The meeting place was in sight, the lonely alley was dark and silent, but sure enough she was there, a woman in a black cloak, she removed her hood revealing her face, so similar to the younger face painted in the scrolls. Her expression was quite different from her usual forced calmness, her eyes had even more fire in him and her features were twisted by rage.
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It all happened very fast, Tenzuh had been captured, knocked unconscious and taken away. A blast of fire alerted the guards and made them run towards a small square in town behind the palace. The word spread of the prince's captivity, being held hostage rendering the guards helpless.
Toph was angry at herself for not keeping her senses on her son, it was Zuko's turn to give reassurance telling her it was not her fault, though it didn't help that he blamed himself instead. Zuko, Toph and Iroh were there in minutes, in the square at the center of which stood Azula with the captive young prince.
"Azula, let him go, it's not too late!" Zuko pleaded, but it didn't look like Azula would listen.
Tenzuh woke up, realizing his hands and feet were tied and he was being held tightly by Angel with one arm, her other hand pointing at his heart as if she was about to shoot him with lightning. "Angel, why are you doing this?"
"Angel? Anything but that," Azula mocked, "don't you know who I am? It seems little Zuzu didn't tell you about your poor aunt Azula who he banished and imprisoned!"
"My aunt?" Tenzuh's emerald eyes went wide; she was in the picture at Ember Island because she was his father's sister.
"I had no choice! I didn't want you to stay locked up but you-"
"Tried to kill you? I was dangerous?" Azula interrupted Zuko. "But Zuzu, you deserve to die, you stole everything from me, you stole the Fire Nation from me, you stole all the glory, you stole everything and for what? For the Fire Nation to serve the others instead of being served how it should be? So you could poison the royal line with Earth Kingdom blood?"
"You won't get away with this!" Toph yelled in frustration, her senses were blurry around Azula, she could hardly see her and would not recognize who she was if she didn't already know. Even so, Toph could at least see that one false move would cost her son his life.
"Azula," Iroh was just as alarmed as Zuko and Toph, but maintained his outer impression of relative calm much better. "Let him go, you're surrounded, letting Ten go is your best choice right now and you know it. There's nothing you can do."
"I know," Azula laughed insanely, "I know! You've already taken everything, there's nothing left except revenge. I'll do to your son what father should have done to you; you took everything from me so I'll at least take him!" Azula was surrounded by lightning with a wild expression.
"No!" In a split second Zuko shot lightning towards them, pulling Azula's electricity with his own towards himself, just barely managing to redirect it to the sky.
The ground shook and Toph dashed forward, but suddenly Azula was engulfed in flames along with Tenzuh, feeling the heat, though her senses were a blur, an expression of terror took over Toph's face. Yet just as fast as they came, the flames were gone with the young prince relatively unharmed, affected only as much as regular sunburn would. Zuko had told Iroh about the ability to steal heat, which he had accidentally discovered long ago, they perfected it together and while Zuko was recovering, Iroh took away the heat from the flames Azula made, as well as some of her own natural heat.
Trembling from the chilling cold that invaded her, Azula once again tried to use lightning. As Zuko pulled the electricity away with his own; Toph focused deeply to see past the static and the stone floor of the square rose to separate Azula from Tenzuh, a giant hand of stone holding her in place.
Azula screamed angrily and futilely tried to fight back, her face distorted by absolute rage. She summoned the remainder of her strength and pushing her cold body to the limits, she produced lightning once more, but nothing came out. Without the needed focus to control her power, her own lightning circled through her body and pierced her heart.
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It was a sunny summer day; a young man looked to the distance, standing on the very spot where exactly ten year prior ashes were thrown to the wind. "I'll continue to do my best to make sure no one is ever pushed to hold such painful anger in their hearts..." The scent of incense was in the air as he looked to the skies, his deep emerald eyes becoming almost golden.
Disclaimer, I don't own Avatar. It's finally the end! Oh and just so you know, I don't hate Azula, she was a well played out character with an interesting background, just thought I should clarify.