The Story of the Moral

An Azula-centric fanfic.

Disclaimer: "Avatar: The Last Airbender" was created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino.

Author's notes:

I wrote this fic because I find Azula to be an interesting character psychologically. For that reason, this fic is very analytical. However, most fics concerning this topic are much too angsty for my tastes, so this one is a little bit more light-hearted. The hard part is getting her in-character while acting very differently due to different circumstances. I would really like comments on how I succeed with that, and I like discussions about the characters and the reasoning behind their actions. I'm not afraid of criticism.

I started writing without any intention of redeeming Azula, nor pairing any specific characters up. This allowed me to focus more on a natural plot development, rather than something forced. What actually happens is another matter, though. You'll just have to read to find out. And I'll have to write to find out...

The fic will be updated once a week, probably Fridays or Saturdays, depending on my time. I had originally planned 10-15 chapters, but there will be a few more, due to plot additions.

/ Another Duck




The sound of a door opening stirred the sleeping princess awake. Soft footsteps came closer to where she was lying in a familiar bed.

"Oh, are you awake, Mistress?"

The voice was gentle, and Azula instantly recognised it as one of the servants'. This brought some confusion to her mind, still heavy from sleep. Didn't she tell all her servants to leave? Something wasn't right with this. Too tired to do something about it, she planned on waiting to see what the situation was. Had her father won against the Avatar and reinstated the servants to take care of her?

"I will tell the Fire Lord you have awoken."

Tell the Fire Lord? Wasn't she the Fire Lord? They couldn't have lost, could they? She'd be in the dungeon by now if they had. This was her own bed. She let out a sigh, trying to clear the cobwebs cluttering her mind. Was she ill? She sure didn't feel like she used to in the mornings. The sun normally gave her strength to just jump out of bed, ready for any battle in an instant, but right now, she just felt like doing absolutely nothing.

"How are you, Azula?"

It was her brother who asked that. Her exiled brother. When did he enter the room? She shot out of her bed like a catapult, or she would have, if she hadn't almost blacked out from the sudden movement. As she fell back down she heard him say something, but the blood rushing around her head prevented her from hearing anything. She took a few breaths to calm herself and tried to think.

How did he come to be here, and why did he sound so... nice... and caring? This had to be investigated before she would decide how to deal with it. It wouldn't do her good to rush into something without even the most basic of intelligence. She opened her eyes again to look at him, and a recognisable figure faded slowly into view.

"Zuzu? What's going on here? How did I get here?"

"A lot of things have happened. You've been asleep for many days now. The most important things are that the war is over, and that you are safe."

He sounded as if he tried to comfort her. She knew he had some odd ideals about right and wrong, but wasn't she on the other side of that? If she didn't know better, she'd believe he was sincere. It made her want to flee, but at the same time, she realised there were no place to flee too. If they had lost, she wouldn't have anywhere to flee to, in particular considering her current state. Might as well find out as much as possible.

"The war is over? Who won?"

"I would say we all did. Aang defeated our father. I took over as Fire Lord, and declared peace."

The thought of her father gone struck her with something resembling terror. But, she noted, it wasn't as bad as she had thought. Her curiosity quickly took over when she found that there were pieces missing. There were a lot of feelings she had expected that just weren't there. Yes, she was scared about the consequences, but she didn't feel particularly sad over the loss of the one person she'd looked up to her entire life. Maybe she was just too tired to care, but it didn't make any sense. Little did at the moment.

Sitting down on the bed, he placed a hand over hers. "Relax, sister. I told you you are safe, and I meant it."

"Didn't I kill you?" The question left her mouth before she fully realised what it meant. Something seemed true about it, but he wasn't dead. It really made no sense at all. She couldn't be talking to a dead person. She was many things, but crazy wasn't one of them.

"You did. Katara told me I had been far beyond what she could heal."

"But how...?" A vague memory flashed before her eyes. It was Zuko lying motionless on the ground. She had hit him with one of the largest lightning blasts she had ever managed to generate. She didn't remember actually doing it, but she knew she had. Somehow.

"You saved me. You brought me back."

She blinked. She blinked hard. "I'm insane, aren't I?" It was the only logical explanation she could find. She'd lost her mind, and this was all some kind of hallucination. Lifting her hand, she pinched his arm.

"Ow! You're supposed to pinch yourself to check if you're awake."

Despite his claim that she used the wrong method, it worked for her. This was apparently reality. If only she could make sense of it. Her father was dead, Zuko was Fire Lord. It was too much, too early in the morning. Too much that didn't make sense.

"I need to rest." She closed her eyes and drifted off almost immediately. He probably said something else she didn't catch.


No one was around when she awoke next. It took her a few minutes, but eventually the previous day came to her. Or at least, she thought she had slept another day. It was hard to tell. Time was still fuzzy to her, as many other things were. Apparently, she was safe, because Zuko was the Fire Lord, and he didn't want to kill her any more. That was good. Her father was dead. That was... not sad. It wasn't much of anything. It was empty.

She was going to be the Fire Lord once her father retired, or he messed up enough for her to take over anyway. She looked up to her father, and now he was gone. No, she didn't look up to her father. She looked up to the Fire Lord. Her brother became the Fire Lord. Did she look up to him? She didn't know. She didn't know where her life was now, or where it would lead. Her carefully planned future was gone. Empty.

What was she to do now? Who cared about her? As of on cue, words flew past her mind. "Your father doesn't care about you! No one does! You killed the only person who did!" Where did the words come from? Who said them? They sounded motherly, but angry. Was it her mother? No, she was gone. Azula could just conclude one thing.

"No one cares about me." Her father didn't care, and he was dead anyway, so who would? She'd done so much to gain his love, but in the end, it didn't even matter. He didn't care about her. No one did. The thought ran through her mind, over and over again. It didn't make her sad, just lost. So very lost. What would she do? Who was she? It was too much, but sleeping more wasn't an option.

Her stomach growled.


Zuko watched his sister enter the dining room, still wearing her night clothes. Her hair was loose and out of place, something he'd only seen once, and that was at the last Agni Kai. Her dark, golden eyes resembled Toph's more than anyone else's. The colour was as shining as ever, perhaps even more so than usual, but the focus was just dull, like she wasn't home. Her movement was much the same. Almost gliding over the floor, she came to her usual seat next to the Fire Lord's place at the head of the table.

A servant placed breakfast in front of her as was expected, and perhaps even more anticipated, she didn't react at the food. Zuko didn't really like seeing his sister like that. Even her evil smirk would be better.

"Are you hungry?" Truthfully, he was more concerned about how she was feeling in general, but he thought a more casual question was more appropriate. However, he didn't get an answer. Instead, she looked down at her food, inspected it with the same dull look that hadn't left her face the entire time, then just began eating mechanically. "Are you in there?" Sarcasm could help sparking at least some emotion, he hoped. Even more than that, he hoped he was just sarcastic.

She gave him a look. Her expression still didn't change, nor did the lost focus in her eyes, but he knew her well enough to determine she at least wasn't completely gone. Probably mulling over the situation. He was fairly certain she wasn't plotting anything, though. She always hid that with something to distract people from any thoughts about plans, unless she actually wanted to look like she knew everything anyone would do in the forthcoming week, or more.

"You're free to go where ever you wish, although I'd recommend against leaving the royal grounds. People still think you were a great leader, but they like peace more, and you were a military leader to them. I'm afraid there might be someone who want you ill."

As he spoke, she listened; he was sure of it. Not that she gave any reaction, but he preferred to think that she did. Meanwhile, she finished what was on her plate. When she noticed there was nothing more to eat, she tapped the table gently, and her plate was changed for a full one moments after. Now he really was sure. Maybe she wasn't doing great, but she was recovering. At least she was hungry.

"I'm glad to see that you're eating. After the time you've been asleep, you must be starving."

He thought she nodded, but the gesture was so slight it might just have been his imagination.

A door opened, and a servant entered. "Your attendance is requested in the throne room, Fire Lord."

"Azula, do you need anything of me?"

This time, she did shake her head.

"Okay, just call for me if you need anything."


He didn't see her after that until just before dusk. She was sitting on the edge of a balcony, staring out towards the descending sun. Her hair was done up as perfectly as he remembered it always be, and she wore her usual uniform, even if she didn't wear the armour. Walking up to lean on the railing she was sitting on, he cast her a glance.

"Hey. You're not planning on jumping, are you?" It was rather far down, and while he could probably survive it, he wasn't sure she would in her current state, in particular if she didn't make the effort.

"No. Thinking."

"About what?" She was talking. That was always a plus. Monotone, but she was still saying something.

"Everything. Nothing. Emptiness."

"I think I understand, at least partially. You cared about father, and you thought he cared about you. I know what that feels like." She didn't say anything, so he just continued. "When I realised that pleasing my dad wasn't what I wanted, and that no amount of redemption would be enough in his eyes, I left. The time between the realisation and when I decided to leave was the hardest in my life. The goal I had since I was born wasn't there any more, and I wasn't hunting the Avatar either. It felt like there was nothing left for me. No one who cared about me. I had betrayed the only one who did care."

"I killed the only person who cared about me. No one cares about me."

"I still care about you. I haven't always liked you, but I've always cared."

She turned to him with something that could be interpreted as a shadow of a smile. She didn't say anything, but instead went back to watching the glowing orb in the distance after a while. The silence lingered, but it was a comfortable one. He felt there was something on her mind, but didn't want to push it. She'd talk when she was ready, as always. Time went on, and he considered turning in, but as soon as he moved, she spoke.

"I don't know what to do. Everything is so... hazy."

"Get some practice. That has always helped you focus." He wasn't quite sure if that was true or not, because she always did practice, and she was always focused at what she did. There had to be a connection, he figured.

Nodding, she swung her legs back to the balcony and walked towards the courtyard where their Agni Kai had taken place. Wanting to make sure she was okay, Zuko followed. When they arrived, he stepped a few paces away from her to give her room for whatever form she'd choose to do.

She took a few breaths to prepare herself mentally, then faced her brother with a determined look in her eyes. She was a warrior at heart. If life was a battle, she could overcome anything. Sadly, her life had balanced on only a few pillars, namely her father, her two friends and possibly Zuko himself. One by one, they had been taken away from her, leaving her to face all the pressure alone. Her bottled emotions had surfaced and almost destroyed her.

He knew she could handle pressure, she'd shown that before. He also knew she had never had to handle as much as he had. Her life hadn't been easy, but she had a talent for it. He had to fight his hardest for everything, which in the end made him the stronger of the two. But right now, it was about fighting, and he had always envied her for that. Right now, he sincerely hoped it would prove to be the pillar she needed.

Her moves were strict. One could say they lacked spirit, but it was impossible to say they weren't perfectly correct. Sharp and swift were her kicks. Her punches were defined and powerful. There was just one thing lacking. Fire. She normally threw fireballs with almost any attack while practising, but this time, none came. Stopping at the same spot she started, she closed her eyes and bowed her head forward.

"I can't bend any fire." Her voice was depressing, like she had lost a part of herself. Zuko had never heard her so dejected, so resigned.

He had an idea of why. After all, he ran into the same problem when he first started teaching Aang. She didn't have the same goals, if any, as she did before, and she was rather lifeless in spirit. "Try lightning." Even if both flames and electricity were firebending, they worked on different principles. He never managed to bend the energy in the air, but Azula managed even when she lost her mind, something that sounded theoretically impossible as far as he knew.

She stepped into the middle of the area to get more room. Drawing two fingers in a circular motion, she seemed to be confused at the blue sparks that followed. A rather decent bolt of lightning shot out when she pointed skywards. There didn't seem to be any problems, so why was she perplexed?

With renewed vigour she drew more and more circles, in an increasingly complex pattern. The pale streaks were woven all around her, forming a cage of electricity. Soon Zuko noticed that his hair stood on end, and he was getting uncomfortable with how the air felt.

Eventually she stopped, frozen in concentration, and in the blink of an eye, a humongous flash struck down at the centre of the courtyard with a deafening crack. He had to dodge behind a pillar to avoid some large pieces of rubble that flew his direction. A deadly silence followed.


Author's notes:

Thus ends the first chapter of the story. I rather liked how this one turned out. I hope Azula's personality is logical following the series, and considering the events written and alluded to here. That's going to be the main point I want to hear about for the rest of the fanfic. Please let me know what you think.

/ Another Duck