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The bed was soft.

That was the first thought that popped into her mind as she woke up to a new day. Judging by the sound or lack thereof coming from the two windows within the room, it was still early. The morning chill was still there and she had to actively resist the urge to burrow deeper into her bed.

Well, her temporary bed.

That thought made her sigh before sitting up to peer around the room. A rather basic room with just the bare minimum to live in; a table, four chairs, a night stand, and a counter with a basin along with its vast of clean water set to its side. It was a small room, but it was a room.

It was nowhere compared to the royal chamber or that gilded cage, but Azula found herself liking it. The thought itself made the girl wondered if perhaps she really did take too much hit to the head during training. Who can blame her though? Zuma was quite demanding, and he went by the concept of "learning through experience," or in his coarse manner: "Come here so I can teach you while kicking your ass."

Direct quote, word for word; she wasn't lying on that one.

Shaking her head to clear that train of thoughts least she accidentally trigger some anger or depression (not that she'll ever admit to the latter), Azula swung herself off the bed and was just about to stand when her felt the arms around her waist. It made her remember the other occupant within that bed.

Looking over her shoulder, Azula observed Ty Lee's sleeping face with a raised eyebrow before remembering the girl was rather clingy in sleep. She should have recalled that immediately, having slept over with her before as well as having shared the same tent for the better part of almost a week.

It was only reaffirmed for the past four days with the two sharing a room to cut down on their budget consumption…

The Fire Colony Yinzoh was not something Azula expected. It was bustling with activities, but that wasn't what surprised her. What surprised the Fallen Princess was the lack of tension within the air. It was as if the place wasn't in "hostile" territory with citizens from both the Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation mixing. Like water flowing in a river, the place worked like a charm.

It made no sense, and Ty Lee thought so as much as well, having talked to Azula about it the second day they arrived. They recalled the letter Ty Lee received from her big sis Mei Lee mentioning unrest, but there was no sign of it within the city.

In fact, it was too peaceful. It was so peaceful that Azula couldn't help but feel that something dangerous was brewing. It was that calm before the storm, a feeling Azula learned to hate during the war. This calm never meant anything good in her experience because something usually happened when it did hit.

Even Zuma seemed tense, and if that idiot of a sifu was uneasy then Azula would bet her royal bloodline that there will be trouble. It was one amongst a list of reasons why they have yet to seek out Ty Lee's sister. The white haired man felt that it would be better if they wait and see what was brewing before approaching the center of it all: namely, Ty Lee's sister Mei Lee and her husband the governor.

Speaking of her sifu…

XXXXXXXXXX

After having untangled herself from Ty Lee (an amazing feat because that girl had a hell of a grip) and getting cleaned up for the day, Azula went to the inn's ground floor in search of her sifu. She held no illusion that the man remained within the room adjacent to them. It was something Azula discovered through several bucket of water to the face that he woke up early; way too early in her opinion. Regardless, the man tends to be up before the crack of dawn and as his pupil she was expected to at least wake up not too long after him. It was a small mercy on the man's part, but it was still annoying.

It was a good thing she picked up that habit through force (and several buckets to the face) by day one within the colony. The place's water was surprisingly cooler than those of the wild.

Azula's pondering was ground to a hold as she spotted her sifu sitting by a chair near the entrance of the inn. The counter next to the entrance already had a clerk working and he appeared too busy to pay Zuma any mind. The white haired man in contrast was just sitting there, sipping away from a cup of steaming tea and lazing about looking at the street, where people were just beginning to emerge. Next to his chair rest a table with another chair on its opposite side. On top of the table was the pot that held the steaming tea and another cup, one which Azula picked up as she plotted herself down into the chair opposite her sifu.

The tea was still piping hot in it, and Azula had no doubt that it was just poured not too long ago. Her sifu seemed to have this sixth sense that told him when people were coming. Still, the ember eyed one just sipped at her tea, wondering if she should say something or if she should wait for her sifu to start. The man could be quite spontaneous at times, so it was never a sure thing in regards to him.

His love for noodle was not questioned though.

"Alright," the man started without warning, catching Azula's attention immediately mid sip. She immediately swallowed her tea and set it down. "I know what I want you to do today."

Ah, it was just like the previous days before. The man would contemplate what he would have her do for the day, and she would do it. Azula had long since stopped questioning why she listened to the man; not since having left Kiyoshi Island. Still, for her mental and physical health, it would be best to err on the side least he sent her on a suicide exercise. "Yes sifu?"

Her question was immediately answered by a pouch of money landing in her unprepared hand. The girl fumbled for it for a moment before securing it in her hands. Judging by its weight, there was quite a sum in it, and Azula wondered just how much money the man carried on himself. "What's this?"

"Money of course." Zuma answered her like it was the dumbest question ever. A vein throbbed on top of Azula's forehead at that. It only throbbed harder when Zuma gave her a cheeky grin in return. "Jokes aside, I'm giving you the day off to enjoy yourself. Bring Ty Lee with you while you're at it."

"What? No laps around the colony? No ridiculous amount of physical exercises? No mock sparring matches in the name of pounding me into the ground?" Azula asked in surprise before catching herself, though it was certainly ridiculous when one said it that way.

"Not today. I'm giving you a day off since I have a few things I need to do today. You know; errands."

Azula absent mindedly nodded as she stared at the pouch of money. Another small toss told her of the substantial amount contained within. A quick peek inside confirmed her suspicion that it was indeed filled with a large sum of coins. Unsure just what to do with it, Azula raised her head to ask a question only to close her mouth and blinked.

The buffoon was not there anymore. The only evidence that he was ever there was the empty cup of tea sitting next to a seemingly reheated pot of tea. While the tea was appreciated seeing as how the day was still new and thus the chill still lingered, Azula wondered just what did her sifu had in mind today. He appeared quite elusive strangely enough considering how straight forward he was for the past few days.

Well… she wasn't complaining. It did make Azula rather suspicious of the man. It reminded her of the fact that there may in fact be a mastermind that sprang her from her cage and gave her a man powerful enough to do so with no trouble. Perhaps he was going to contact some messenger or even report upon her progress. Whatever it was, Azula couldn't help but feel a foreign yet familiar tightening of her chest. It was similar to when Mai turned upon her to help her brother escape from prison and the moment Ty Lee struck her down in defense of Mai.

What was it called? Ah yes; that feeling of betrayal. The question of when she came to trust Zuma so was never voiced, but rather why she was so angered by it or why she even felt that betrayal in the first place when he was but another pawn in the grand scheme of things. Azula was no stranger to the game of manipulation, having played it and played it well herself. So she really shouldn't be feeling such pain or anger over it. Zuma was there for her to milk for all she could until his usefulness expired. Then she should have a plan in motion and…

Strange… it felt like a lifetime ago, that game of manipulation. Had jail really dulled her to such a degree that she was losing her touch? What plan? She made no plans whatsoever since having been spirited away from her gilded cage. She was still so very lost to what to do really. In all reality, she was probably still that lost little girl with no idea how to run a kingdom her father just dumped upon her all those months ago.

…Was she still that lost little girl with no idea of what to do and no one by her side?

…No, that wasn't quite right. There was someone there with her before. What was her name? That one servant with black hair and brown eyes…

"Ah… 'Zula? Where did Zuma-chi go?" A familiar voice, still slurred with sleep came from behind her. The ex-princess peered over one shoulder to see Ty Lee still rubbing her eyes of sleep. A smile graced her lips upon the sight, and all thoughts about Zuma's elusiveness and the possible conspiracy that came with the man as well as her own issue were tossed out the proverbial window. Why worried about it? Worst case scenario Azula, who was just as lost as she may be now, would have to fight her way through some rebellion with plans of dethroning her brother and replacing her father back only to have him act as the puppet while restarting the war that lasted for the past one hundred years.

She'll worry about that if or when it arrived. Now though, the puzzled half awake Ty Lee was top priority.

Jiggling the pouch of money in her hands once more, Azula's smile grew to a mischievous grin. Perhaps it was time to get that small tour they never had.

XXXXXXXXXX

Having left a note for Than and Ying by the clerk, it wasn't long before Azula and Ty Lee were wondering the busy market that was slowly but surely getting even more crowded. It wasn't even near noon yet, but the place was already busy with hollers shouting of their wears or merchants bargaining for a suitable price. Children could be seen dodging left and right, playing a game of tags or some other while others run from store to store in search of one thing or another.

It was as expected of a market place, and being the busy place that it was, no one paid Azula a second glance other than perhaps a pretty girl with some striking ember eyes accompanying another girl with sparkling eyes. Dressed in a simple robe-and-skirt combo in the traditional Earth Kingdom color, the duo wandered about as they inspect for any eye-catching trinkets. Well, Ty Lee was anyway. Azula found herself enjoying the strange feeling of not being recognized by every single person that laid eyes upon her.

It may be the armor, or perhaps the crown, or even the escorts that once accompanied her. Princess Azula was someone who people notice and bow to only to shuffle out of the way least they get burned. That was someone who cut an intimidating figure, demanding both respect and fear. Now though, the ex-princess smiled at the way people spare her but a glance before moving on to their own business. There was no bowing, no shuffling to get out of the way, and no shenanigans of a random noble trying to win some favor through her. She was just a girl moving through the street with no destination in mind, being no different from the next one or the enthusiastic one beside her. It was very refreshing.

Certainly, it came with the hassle of being bumped into by just about everyone in their quest to navigate the street, but with the way Ty Lee seemed to be dodging left and right with no wasted moment, Azula figured that it might as well be served as some unorthodox training method to improve her balance. It may also come in handy sometime in the future; being able to dodge through a crowd without disturbing anyone to lose potential pursuers was a skill not to be underestimated.

Well, that was still a way off, but the Fallen Princess wasn't complaining. She drew the line at groping though, but thankfully no one dared to try cop a feel… yet.

"Oh, oh, 'Zula, look at this! It's so pretty!" Ty Lee's exclamation caught her attention, and she blinked at the stall they somehow navigated to in this crowded place. The gymnast was currently inspecting what appeared to be a wooden hair pin, its head carved in the likeness of some type of bird and ending in a dull, slender tip several inches down. It was not a jade pin, nor was it made of some precious metal, but it was well crafted nonetheless with amazing details.

"You friend has good eyes." The owner of the stall, a woman in her thirties with the beginning of crow feet by her eyes smiled at her. "That was one of my husband's finer works. He was quite proud of that one I tell you."

Giving it a second glance, Azula had to admit that it was quite well made. Picking another one up to get a closer look -seeing as how Ty Lee doesn't appear to be relinquishing that one anytime soon- Azula looked at the one held within her hand. Just as the pin her friend held, it was made of wood and finished in a dull, slender tip. The head however was but a simple circle with a spiral pattern carved into it. "What of this one? It looked quite plain in comparison."

The woman laughed good-naturally and said, "That was just a something my husband made in the spur of the moment. Then again, his inspiration comes and goes like the wind. I never knew what he'll make for his next project." The woman then perked up and dipped under her stall before coming back up with a wooden box. Setting it down, she opened it to expose a pair of fox-antelopes carved on a single block of wood no larger than Azula's palm, saying, "Just like these pair. He made them suddenly one day with no explanation. Just inspiration he said."

"Oh my… they're very beautiful." Ty Lee mumbled in awe. Azula had to agree with her, seeing the carving of two fox-antelopes curled around each other and lying side-by-side. Turning her attention back to the pin in her hand and the one still held in Ty Lee's hand, Azula thought for but one second before asking, "How much for these two pins? And while we're at it, how much for this carving?"

Ty Lee turned her head to blink at Azula in surprise while the woman raised her eyebrows before smiling and giving her a sum for the two pins before giving her a separate sum for the carving. A quick inquiry told her that the box was extra, but if she would like, the woman would wrap the carving in some paper. A quick search of the market stalls nearby produced a small cloth pouch just large enough for the carving, and a quick bargain had the girls walking away with the pins and the carving in hands. A little pause had Azula pinning Ty Lee's pin into her hair, which was gathered into a bum on her head while her own pin disappeared into her sleeve pocket. The carving and its pouch was tied securely upon the sash holding Azula's robe-and-skirt combo together, gently bumping her legs with each gentle sway of her hip.

A quick stop by a stall that sold little incense bags had the two picked up a pink one with "Hope" stitched on it (1). It was an easy decision from the two to present as a gift to Ying later… well, mostly Ty Lee's idea while somehow managing to pull a reluctant Azula into it.

The beaming smile upon Ty Lee's face and her own small upturn of the lips told of how satisfied the two were.

XXXXXXXXXX

All was well for the two, having enjoyed a quick but well made lunch in the local restaurant. They have since escape from the chaos of the market place and instead now wondered the street that sold more refined items. Unlike the market place where all the products being sold were either food ingredients or home-made wares and trinkets, here the shop sold delicate pottery, paintings, china, pre-made cloth, and knick knacks one usually wouldn't find in the market place.

In short, it was the street for the upper class so to speak; for those who had the money to spend on luxury as oppose to the daily necessity. For the two girls it was more of a familiar sight, more so for Ty Lee than Azula. It lacked the crowd in the market place, but it was still filled with people.

It was also here that Ty Lee seemingly paused and then traveled down an out-of-the way alleyway. As her friend, Azula followed a step or two behind, wondering just what it was that caught her companion's attention. Her unvoiced question was answered in a surprising way as they arrived within a clearing, or rather in a surprising who.

There was her idiot of a sifu, Zuma playing with several children. His huge bulk was in term lathered with giggling bundles as he stumbled around foolishly while making outlandish half-moan-half-roar. With his face twisted into the expression of a fool and his tongue hanging out to the side, Zuma tipped one way and then another, hopping on one foot to the other in some strange dance. It made for quite the interesting sight and it made Azula blink in astonishment. Whatever lingering thought of betrayal and doubt she had before in the back of her mind was dispelled in this instance.

That did not mean she knew how to react to this. Thankfully, she didn't have to think much on it.

Ty Lee came to her rescue by skipping up to the white haired man and asked, "Zuma-chi, what are you doing?" With her hands folded behind her and bending forward at the slightest, the acrobat made the perfect image of a curious girl. Azula had half a mind to ask her if she did it purposely or unconsciously, because she sure had the form down to perfection.

In response, the ludicrous expression upon Zuma's face disappeared to be replaced by his usual grin as he answered, "I'm playing with the children of course!"

A little girl hanging on Zuma's left bicep asked, "Hey, hey uncle, do you know this pretty big sis?"

Ty Lee blushed prettily at the praise while Zuma chuckled and say, "Of course I do. That is Ty Lee. Say hi to Ty Lee!"

The children complied, ending in a chorus of high pitched giggles that had Ty Lee giggling as well. Then Zuma turned his eyes, sparkling with mischief upon the Fallen Princess, and said, "And over there is my stupid pupil, Zula-chi. Say high to Zula-chi!"

The children did so as well, down to the –chi part, though they laughed at the blush of outrage that sprang up on Azula's face rather than the ridiculous nickname. In response, the Fallen Princess marched up to the man and jabbed a finger into Zuma's chest, saying, "Who are you calling your stupid pupil you fool?"

"Eh? But Zula-chi, you ARE my pupil! That makes you my stupid pupil doesn't it?" Zuma replied, his grin stretching all the way large before his face scrunched up in mock confusion, saying, "But if you're not my stupid pupil, then I couldn't introduce you as my stupid pupil now could I? But seeing as how you ARE my stupid pupil, then why ask in the first place? I mean, if you're my stupid pupil, then why ask me who my stupid pupil is? Because if you're not my stupid pupil, then I can't say that you are, but yet you ARE my stupid pupil so that means I can… Hmm…" At the end of that rather 'spectacular' rant, no one was sure exactly how to react to it. The man that was responsible for it just continued his mock confusion, his face scrunched up in thought. He was completely ignorant of the gaping expression directed at him from all direction, though Azula suspected that he knew what he did.

"Uncle Zuma, I'm confused." Another child, this time a boy, said in a pained tone. His face too was scrunched up in confusion, though his was real as oppose to Zuma's mockery. "Besides, you shouldn't call people stupid. Stupid is a mean word."

Zuma laughed good-naturally at that. "I guess it is. Then how about I just call her Zula-chi?"

Azula continued to gape at the man before scrawling and exclaimed, "I thought I told you not to call me that?"

"But Zula-chi is such a cute name!" Ty Lee rounded on her in that instance, and Azula knew for a fact that they were now having fun at her expanse. It did not help her temper at the teasing grin that stretch across the acrobat's face.

Before she could explode though, she felt a hand tuck at her right sleeve. Looking down, she found herself peering down at a girl no older than four, who gazed up at her and asked, "Why are you called Zula-chi big sister?"

Whatever anger she felt before was annihilated in a horrible but silent death as she blinked down at the little girl. It was such a sudden and random question as well as new that Azula was simply at a lost on how to explain. "Err… I'm actually not called that. My name is Zula, yes, but not Zula-chi." Azula responded, making sure to keep to that alias even though it was to a child. Children tend to lack control upon their tongues after all.

"Then why do they call you Zula-chi then?" The girl asked again. Azula raised an eyebrow, trying to find a way to respond to that. In the past, she would simply kicked the girl aside and spat in anger for daring to waste her time with such trivial question. But now she was different… or she wanted to be different. Maybe it was having spent time with Hope, or maybe it was something else, but Azula found that she had kneeled down to the girl's level and asked, "What's your name?"

"I'm Tintin! And I'm four years old!" The girl exclaimed happily and proudly, holding up the appropriate numbers of finger. A smile stretched upon the ex-princess's lips despite herself.

"That's a nice name." Azula said, as if in a trance, before asking, "Does other call you by other names though?"

The little girl's face scrunched up in annoyance and her lips jutted out in a pout as she said, "Yes. Everyone keep calling me little wind-chime, because my name go tin-a-ling. My name does not go tin-a-ling, and I'm not a wind-chime!"

Ty Lee's giggle to that was tickling her own, but Azula held it in and said instead, "See? It's like that. It's called a nickname." Pausing to think about it for a second more, Azula said, "Sometimes people give it to you because they like you, and at other times it's because they don't like you. However, you should be happy, because I think little wind-chime is a very good nickname."

The girl just pout some more and said, "Well I don't like it. It's stupid."

Humming, Azula said, "But it is not. A wind-chime can make very pretty sound. Do you think you make pretty sound?"

Before Tintin could answer though, a boy piped up. "She sings good. Very good."

Another added, "Yeah. Tintin likes to sing, and she has a very good voice."

A girl nodded her head enthusiastically next to Zuma's leg, saying, "Tintin has very pretty voice!"

Grinning despite of herself, Azula turned her attention back to a blushing girl and said, "See? It's a good thing. It means you are beautiful, and your voice only makes you prettier."

The blushing girl shuffles a little before waving Azula closer. Complying with her request, the Fallen Princess was surprised when the girl gave her a kiss on her check and said, "You are very pretty too!"

A warm fuzzy feeling bubbled up in the pit of her stomach, and Azula blinked, unsure of how to act to such alien feeling. Contrastingly the heat that was associated with a blush of embarrassment, which is becoming more and more familiar to her in the last few days spread across her face. It was made even worst when Ty Lee hopped onto her back and circled her arms around her neck while nuzzling her cheek against her own, saying, "Aww! That was so sweet!"

"T-Ty Lee! What are you t-talking about?"

"Just what I said! It was so sweet that you would do that for her!"

"I have no idea what you're talking about! Now get off me you!"

"But Zula-chi! It was such a beautiful thing! You shouldn't lie that you don't like it! I can see it in your eyes!"

"T-Ty Lee! I'm gonna get you for this!"

"Ah! You gotta catch me first!"

Just like that, a rather impromptu game of tag began. The pair of teenage girls spends the rest of the afternoon chasing children and in term was chased by children. None noticed when Zuma slipped away into the shadow, where an old woman sat, smiling happily.

XXXXXXXXXX

Zuma plotted himself down next to the old woman, folding his arms and leaned against the wall. He continued to grin as the scene in front of him and chuckled as Azula found herself on the bottom of a dog pile consisted of a bunch of giggling children. He paid enough attention just to see her having tossed a cloth pouch, the money pouch, and some wooden pin to Ty Lee before that. The acrobat in return tossed them in his direction -whether consciously or subconsciously remained to be seen- before joining the pile of limbs to the surprised squawk of Azula. Rather than paying further mind to that, Zuma only safely stashed the items given to him away in his sash.

The old woman's chuckle reached his ear just as Zuma decided that a quick nap was in order, and instead he turned just enough to see the old woman smiling down at him. A quick glance at her direction told Zuma enough that he did not need to do anything further to question her. There was no need to ask for anything really. Her eyes said it all. "Ah… you recognize her."

"Of course. Despite my age, I am quite proud of my memories. It is a requirement to keep track of all these children after all." The old woman replied gently. Zuma nodded as he conceded to the point. It was often a job in itself to keep kids under control, let along keeping track of where everyone went. Nodding once more, he then asked the one question that did bug him.

"These are…?"

The old woman seemingly understood his question without further prompting, and answered, "War orphans from both side. The colony was teeming with them near the end of the war. The government could only do so much about them with the limited resources available during that time. Don't' even get me started on after the war. The reconstruction movement consumed so much resource that I wondered where it all went."

Zuma made a mental note to check that out somewhere within the foreseeable future. Resources don't just disappeared without knowing where it went, and often times such massive amount of consumption either meant a large project was going on or a more sinister purpose was at work. "Oh? So you are running an orphanage with your own pocket?" He questioned, not giving any hint as to his thoughts only to receive a gentle smack to the head. "Okay, that wasn't right."

"The government did allocate fund for these things. I receive a stipend monthly for them children. It isn't much mind you, but it is enough to put food on the table for several hungry mouths." The old woman replied with a shrug. "Still… this is unexpected. There had of course been rumors… but you know all about rumors don't you?"

The white haired man nodded as he waited for the woman to finish, not reacting to the way she stirred the conversation back to the original topic. When she did not continue, he asked, "You must elaborate on those rumors. Like you said, there had been rumors…"

The old woman hummed. "They said her father did something to her, made her mind flimsy and unstable; the work you may say."

"Ah… that one."

"Yes… that one. But as my own eyes can see, she is quite lively if not a little unsure of herself. It's good for her. A little bit of misadventure never did anyone harm. She'll come out stronger for it." Pausing, the old woman turned a pair of knowing eyes upon the man and said, "I suspect this is the will of something beyond my understanding?"

Raising an eyebrow, Zuma stared back questionably. They stared at each other for a few more seconds before the man simply shrugged. The old woman shrugged as well before turning her eyes back to the pack of children and the two teenage girls.

A silence fell between the two, though it was far from silent where they were sitting. They watched as the youngsters played all sorts of game before then separating into two groups, the boy going with Ty Lee and the girls landing in the fumbling hands of Azula. It wasn't long before the girl group resorted to taking turns braiding each other's hair while the boys were taught the wonders of flips and cartwheels (under Ty Lee's mindful eyes of course). So far, the boys were doing fine if a little clumsy at places, though if their large grins were any indication, they were having the blast of their life.

It was Azula, who now sported two giant braids looped into a surprisingly elaborate hair style working on Tintin's hair that was perhaps the most unusual sight of all.

There she was, kneeling on the dirt with a four years old sitting eagerly on her laps. The two were humming in sync to what appeared to be some childhood lullaby taught to the teen just a moment before. Zuma was sure that if someone told the pre-comet Azula of this nearly a year ago, they would be laughed at, and then perhaps would sport a rather nasty burn to go with it.

"Her mother would be quite proud." The old woman sudden voiced out. It clued Zuma in a little on how she was able to recognize Azula so quickly, though nothing was quite concrete yet. If there was another clue to this puzzle, then perhaps he could figure it out the puzzle that was the old woman sitting contently by his side.

He didn't have to wish so hard however, as said clue comes in the form of someone important.

"I'm sorry granny Suirin for not visiting recently. Things had been quite busy as of late what with all the court stuff. I swear, it was as if they're here to talk my ears off! Please forgive me for… Ah? Ty Lee?"

"Hmm? Oh my! Big sis Mei Lee!"

Oh yes… very important indeed.

XXXXXXXXXX

Yinzoh's airport…

By the newly constructed airport, a grand clearing with the necessary warehouse and stations commissioned during the war but was never put to use to due to the comet, something was happening.

Or to be more specifically, someone was happening.

Stepping off the ramp with his other half by his side and an escort of elite guards, a very important figure dressed in robes fitting of his station scanned the gathering in front of him. A line of soldiers with civilians behind them; it was a typical sight that he long since got used to. The person instead focused his gaze upon a man in his late thirties to early forties.

He was imposing, with his broad shoulders and tall statues adding to his already awe-inspiring figure. Black hair slicked back and a well groomed beard framed his intense brown eyes, which held a fire that burn brightly within them. Dressed in robes that were not flamboyant or overly compensating, the man stood tall and proud with his hands folded behind him. This was a man who gets his job done, and who maintained his moral and belief while doing so.

This was a man who despite his pacifist policy was respected within the military during the war, and that respect only increased after it. If there was ever a hero in this age and era, this man could easily be considered one, having kept the colony standing and running smoothly despite the chaos of war, amidst hostile territory. For him, the people come first, for without them there would not be a nation.

Fire Lord Zuko immediately knew that this man was someone who wasn't afraid to tell him what he was doing wrong. This was someone that he could use more of in the court.

Walking up to the man, Zuko was greeted with a firm handshake, a significant gesture if any. Not a bow, but a handshake. While it may appear disrespectful, and would certainly earn his father's wrath, Zuko was not deterred. The meaning was easily conveyed by the man's eyes. It told Zuko that while he accepted the young man as Fire Lord, his opinion of him and his worth were still to be determined.

"Fire Lord Zuko, Lady Mai. I welcome you to the Fire Colony of Yinzoh."

"It is my pleasure to be here, governor." Zuko replied with a smile, his eyes never leaving the intense stare down the governor was giving him. A slight light of approval appeared within the governor's eyes, and Zuko's smile widened slightly.

Yes, this was a stern man; one who would make him work to be worthy of his title.

And Zuko would not have it any other way.

XXXXXXXXXX

Author's little corner:

First off… sorry for such a delay. I have no excuses… that I would give you guys seeing as how it really doesn't matter. Excuses are at times just that, excuses. Besides, I doubt you would like me to bore you with how my life is going.

Truthfully, this had been sitting in my hard drive for a while now… so I should really just put it on.

Next off, this may come a quite a change of pace, but I thought that perhaps rather than dragging things on by spending time on the forest or furthering Aang's quest, I would further along the plot. However, I need something to break through that stalemate, and this is my way of doing it. If it seemed lacking, then I apologize. But free writing isn't easy. I admire those authors who can free write with existing materials while creating something entirely new without crossing the line and make it ridiculous. I am trying to emulate that, but I may appear I'm failing.

It may not seem important, but I assure you that the day spent in the market and little play with children is important, because honestly, would the Azula of old do that? Further character development will come into play in the next chapter, where I'm going to further explore Azula's transition. I used some specific words to show that even if subconsciously, Azula was still struggling with herself; trying looking for them. I am trying to show it as gradual as I can, so bare with me if I seem inadequate at it.

And finally, the only thing that I think you would like to know: the little (1) in the chapter. The incense bag is something I am familiar with growing up, not to be confused with those bags of herbal essence sold here in the US. It is, as far as I know, part of Chinese/Taiwanese culture, and perhaps stretching to Korea and Japan. I'm not sure if it is in India and the other neighboring countries. Either way, it is a little piece of cloth, often in bright and warm colors (though cool ones do come into play) that was either treated with herbal solutions or soaked in scented oils to produce the welcomed smells. They can be small, or they can be the size of a lucky charm; it depends on the creator. It's the same thing with their designs. Either way, they're tiny little knick knacks that's just something I figure would probably appear in the Avatar Universe if given enough space to work with.

Well that is all. Hope you guys enjoy the chapter. A review to tell me what you think of it would be much appreciated.

Until next time! APH out!