First, I would like to apologize to the readers of Winter Dreams. I will be continuing that by the end of June. Coz I can't get Zuko and Toph out of my head.
Second, this is my first ATLA fic. I have read numerous fics about Zuko and Toph and fell in love with the pairing. Mostly because both of them are my favorite characters! Hahaha!
This fic is inspired by a picture I saw on drawn by Tobulshi entitled Lady of Bei Fong which was inspired by the "Beauty Dance" scene from House of Flying Daggers. Interestingly enough, the Beauty Song kinda refers to Toph very accurately. Since the words "From the north" is pronounced in Chinese as BEI FONG. I also used the song "Jia Ren Qu" as a reference to this fic.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Part I: Tamborine
There is a Lady from the North
Beautiful beyond compare, she stands alone
With a single glance, she can topple a city
With another glance, a nation falls
How easily I know those cities and nations fall
For true beauty is hard to find.
"Hey, squirt." Crown Prince Zuko flopped down on the grassy earth beside Toph Bei Fong. She was feeding the turtle-ducks in the pond in front of them, a foot dipped into the cool, clear water.
"Hey," she answered, taking another small piece of crumb from the loaf she had in her hands. "No meeting today?"
"No," he told her, leaning back against the tree behind them. "Uncle says he doesn't want me to bore myself while I still had the freedom of being carefree, so he cancelled the meetings today."
"Wise Uncle Iroh," hazy green eyes brightened at the mention of their common advisor.
It was five years since Ozai had been defeated. And it had been five years since Iroh had been crowned Fire Lord. The Gaang had grown up, what with Sokka and Suki getting married and settling down, travelling between Kyoshi Island and the Southern Water Village. Aang and Katara started to roam around the world, in search of Air Nomads which Aang was hoping to find still alive.
He himself had grown up as well. His hair had grown longer, reaching a few inches below his shoulders, half of it arranged in the traditional top knot that was kept in place by the hair piece that once belonged to the Avatar Roku. He now wore the robes that showed his status as the Crown Prince, but it did little to hide his broad shoulders and his lean chest.
And Little Toph. Not so little anymore, Zuko noted. She was still a tomboy, but a grown up tomboy. She now wore her hair loose, letting it drop past the small of her back. She was wearing clothes that were similar to the ones she wore when he first met her. But at the age of seventeen, her curves had developed, and her baggy clothes failed to hide her true gender unlike before when she was twelve. As always, she never wore shoes, her bare feet were never to be parted with earth.
"Thanks for letting me stay here this long, Sparky." She smiled up to her companion. She didn't want to go back to Gaoling after the war ended. She just didn't want to be kept in a gilded cage again, to be treated like a porcelain doll, to be hidden from the world she loves. So, when the Fire Lord and his nephew offered for her to stay in the Fire Nation, she didn't hesitate to accept.
"You know you're welcome here, Toph." He smiled at her, she was the only one that could get away with calling the Crown Prince "Sparky". He knew she had nowhere else to go, for sure she wouldn't want to go with Aang and Katara, she'd be a third wheel just as she would be if she decided to go with Sokka ang Suki. Then, he reached out a hand on her shoulder, "Uncle and I like having you around."
"Yeah, thanks." She turned her hazy jade eyes to him, replying with her own smile.
Taking a parcel from his pocket, he started, "Toph, I-"
"My prince," a servant cut him off, bowing to the Fire Nation Prince. Zuko hesitantly put the parcel back in his pocket. "The Fire Lord asked for you and Lady Bei Fong to be prepared for tonight's festivities."
"Better get going, Sparky." Toph inclined her head to the servant's direction.
"And you?" Zuko asked, standing up. He held out his hand to her, which she accepted and he hauled her to her feet.
"I'll be fine." She smirked, brushing him off and headed to the direction of the room they had provided her. "I'll see you at dinner, Princess."
Shaking his head and smiling to himself, Zuko walked off to the direction of his own room. But not before turning to the servant who was with him, "Give it to her handmaiden and have her wear it tonight." He instructed, handing the servant a small parcel Zuko had pulled out from his pocket.
"Yes, my prince." The servant bowed.
"He wants me to wear it?" she stared up at Ling, her handmaiden, holding up a comb decorated with a Lotus flower. Iroh and Zuko had made sure that she was well taken care of. Even though they knew Toph could very well take care of herself, she still needs someone to remind her to take a bath sometimes. Ling was tough enough to handle the spitfire earthbender that resided with them.
"Yes, my lady." Ling answered, helping Toph with her hair. She had just finished bathing and was now seated in front of a large vanity dresser where her handmaiden was now brushing and styling her hair, still wearing the silken robes she wore after bathing. "Wan Lo had told me that the Prince was firm when he said you should wear it."
"He knows I don't like wearing this stuff." Toph huffed, fingering the hair ornament in her hands. It was made of ivory, Ling had told her, crafted by one of the best jewelers in the Fire Nation. The Lotus décor was carefully hand painted a shy blush of pink at the tips of the petals and that the leaves were made of Jade.
"Perhaps the prince wanted to see you dressed up for tonight." Ling gave her Lady a smile, knowing the earthbender could sense it. "The Lords and Ladies of Ba Sing Se are visiting."
"He usually doesn't care what I look like," Toph sighed, slightly disappointed that he was starting to dress her up like what her parents used to do.
"Perhaps, his highness has figured you had grown up and would like to dress up?" Ling offered, finally putting in the last pins in her hair and taking the comb gently from her Lady's hand. After placing the comb on the side of the elaborate bun she had created, Ling moved to the bed and took the simple silk robes that were sent for the Lady Bei Fong.
"At least I get to choose my dress." Toph rolled her sightless eyes as her hands traced the plain cloth of the robes being assembled on her petite from. Though she was seventeen, Toph was still shorter than most girls her age.
"Toph," she heard him call out to her, and felt his strong footsteps as he approached her. "Ling finally released you, huh?"
"I thought she would never let me out." Toph managed a small laugh, accepting the arm that Zuko had offered her.
"My, my, isn't that my little Toph?" both benders turned to face the man who addressed her. It was the Fire Lord, smiling gently at the couple. Reaching out, he took Toph by both hands as Zuko nudged her forward. "You look beautiful tonight, my dear."
"Thank you, Uncle." She bowed her head in respect to the old Fire Lord. She has always been close to Iroh, ever since he offered her tea when he ran into her.
"I will leave you and my nephew to enjoy the rest of the evening." He patted her right hand and joined it with Zuko's outstretched one. Then he turned away from them, "The king of Ba Sing Se and I have a lot to discuss."
"Of course, Uncle," Zuko smiled at him, then turned to Toph. "I'll make sure she will."
"You don't have to bother with me, Sparky," Toph shook her hand free of his as she moved towards the balcony, away from the crowd. "It will be good for you to join Uncle with his meeting with the king. After all, it'll be you who the king will speak to after you become Fire Lord."
"Are you sure?" Zuko walked after her, his brow creasing by the way she moved away from him.
"Yes," she replied with a smile, taking the goblet that was handed to her by one of the servers. "I don't want to be all over the place anyway. I hate introductions."
True, she always did hate it. The way people react to her name, Bei Fong. "Poppy and Lao had a child?" "I didn't know the Bei Fongs had a daughter." Their hushed whispers when they thought she wouldn't notice. "I can see why they hid her, she's blind." "Poor thing, I can only imagine how scary the world would seem to her."
"Alright," Zuko hesitantly turned away from her, knowing he could not convince her to go around the hall with him. "I'll send a servant to get you when it's time for the meal."
"Don't bother, Princess," she gave him a laugh. "You of all people should know I can take care of myself."
"Ok," he sighed, and started to walk away. "If you need something though, just call."
"Yeah, yeah." She waved her hand as she turned to lean on the marble railings of the balcony.
"Why if it isn't the little poodle monkey." A most annoying voice sounded from behind her. "I would never forget someone so ugly."
"Where is that water bender that was with you?" a second voice sounded. It didn't take long for Toph to recognize who they were.
It was five years ago since she heard those voices. On a small bridge in Ba Sing Se. Right after she and Katara had their girls' day out at a local spa. The girls that insulted them as they walked by. The day she had so desperately tried to convince herself that she didn't need anyone's approval when it comes to her looks.
"Why do you think she's here, Star?" the third one asked as Toph turned to face them.
"Why does that concern you?" Toph practically spat.
"We saw Prince Zuko here a moment ago," Star walked closer to her. "Then quickly left, probably realized how disgustingly ugly you were."
"Yeah, why would the prince bother himself with someone like you?" the girl on Star's left put in her two cents.
"She's probably a servant here and the prince had just given her orders." The third girl laughed along with her friends.
Toph gripped the goblet so hard, her bending had crumpled the piece of metal. The balcony shook at her anger, getting insulted by the second by these stuck up nobles. Now she was reminded the other reason she didn't want to go back home.
Her hand came up to the hem of her very simple dress. She had asked the tailors not to put embroidered fabrics that they had shown her. She wanted it to be just plain. Just a few pieces of green silk cloth sewn together to make a dress. She realized she probably looked like a servant. And the fact that she was barefoot didn't help either.
She sighed, wanting to bang her head against the nearest wall. How could she have been so stupid? This was the reason why Zuko wanted her to wear something as beautiful as the comb in her hair. He knew nobles would be there and he didn't want anybody insulting her. This would also cause him shame if they were to know she was his friend.
The Crown Prince of the Fire Nation has a friend that looked like a pauper. Unheard of.
"You're not even worth it," she shook her head as she stopped bending, walking past the girls and heading straight to her room. He was probably trying to save face by dressing me up. With her mind made up, she entered her room and started to pack.
"Where is she?" Crown Prince Zuko glared at the Ling who stood before him. The woman looked like she was about to pass out, staring fearfully at the enraged prince before her.
"She… She…" Ling stuttered, unable to get a hold of her tongue. She was as strong woman but Zuko's hands were visibly coming aflame. Who wouldn't be scared if their prince was ready to burn them alive?
"Zuko, calm down." Iroh put a hand to his nephew's shoulder, trying to quell his anger. "Stop scaring Ling so she could answer your question."
The prince took a deep breath and the flame on his hands disappeared. He faced the woman again. "Where is she, Ling?"
"She left, my prince."
This will be a three part story. I hope the first part was interesting enough for you to take notice. Hehehe. Reviews are definitely welcomed. Feel free to point out any inaccuracy or mistakes in grammar and spelling.