Lost in the screams of pain is a chapter story,
All the stories are about fragments out of Zuko's and Iroh's lives.
This story happens after [Book 3, ep.12: The Western Air Temples].
Mai returns home, her world falls into pieces while a new world opens for Zuko. Iroh finally sees his friends again.
Iroh is sixty-five,
Jeong Jeong is sixty one,
Zuko is sixteen,
Mai is fifteen,
Aang is twelve,
Toph is twelve,
Katara is fourteen,
Sokka is fifteen.
Lost in the screams of pain,
Chapter 68: A new world opens.
The vandals were evacuated out of the capital and brought to the nearest prisons. Fire Lord Ozai had declared his country as safe again, all his noble residents could return to their homes.
The airships neared the Capital City as Lady Mai glared calmly out of the large windows and noticed the havoc at the harbor. There must have been a serious battle here the day before yesterday. The young girl thought as she glared over the grave damage. She knew Zuko was safe inside the Royal bunker but she couldn't help to feel a little bit worried about him. She knew how inconsiderate he could be at times and that danger always lurked over his shoulders.
Mai crossed her arms; she couldn't wait to see him again and to start their normal day rituals all over again. She sighed as she glared calmly over the other noble people who stood nearby her, panic described their faces. The girl rolled her eyes with misunderstanding and looked to the other side as the airship went down. She couldn't understand all that brouhaha, the attack was over… The Fire Nation won, like they always did and always will. These people need to get over it.
The door of the airship fell open, the guards and soldiers guided the inhabitants outside. Mai walked quickly through the city, she was almost sure her boyfriend was already waiting on her inside her home. The girl couldn't wait to see him; she opened the door and heard nothing. Mai frowned a bit as she closed the door slowly. "Hi? Are you fooling me?"
The young girl shrugged, perhaps there was an emergency meeting with his father otherwise he would be here. Mai had to keep patience, Zuko was the crown Prince and he's certainly very busy right now. The young lady rushed upstairs to the bathroom, to change some clothes and stopped in the middle of the corridor as she noticed something strange.
Her bedroom door stands wide open, she was sure she had closed it before she left. The young girl blinked her eyes with a tiny smile, she knew he was here. "Being sneaky Zuko?" Mai spoke out with enthusiasm as she tried to surprise him but to her surprise, there was nobody. She glared over her empty room, her eyes stopped at a scroll that lay on one of her pink pillows. The girl gritted her teeth and shook her head slowly. She almost knew for sure what this was, it was bad news. The only answer it could gave, was level of bad news it truly was.
Mai held her breathe as she grabbed the piece of paper and opened it. Dear Mai, I'm sorry that you have to find out this way, but I'm leaving. The girl stopped reading and sat down on her bed. She couldn't continue to read, her eyes were too wet. As how much she tried to hold herself strong, this time it didn't work. Her lips trembled, a moan escaped her lips. She had to admit her feelings for the first time in years and this time she did. Mai let her tears flow and didn't care.
Mai, I've tried to tell you but I didn't knew how. This isn't my place any longer, I can't be someone that I am not; I am not the Prince my father's sees. That's why I've come to this important decision, I'll leave the Fire Nation and I'll look for my true destiny outside the Fire Nation. The young girl gasped for air as she read those words and dried her eyes on her gloves. "Argh, Zuko… Do you even know what you're doing? Fool…"
I hope you'll somehow understand, even though I know I've hurt you now deeply. Mai, I will never forget you and I hope to see you again in the near future and find forgiveness.
Zuko. Mai closed her eyes and tried to think as she finished the letter, she didn't knew what to think about this. She truly didn't understand him right now and how could she ever forgive a traitor to his own Nation?
Aang glanced over the ground with doubt; he couldn't believe what just had happened. Combustion Man attacked them today and now he's … exploded. All his friends could be death if Zuko hadn't tried to stop that creature. Prince Zuko, a boy who seemed a bounty hunter in the beginning, a teenager who Aang feared for the past year and who now saved them. "I can't believe I'm saying this... but thanks Zuko."
Sokka looked up with a frown. "Hey, and what about me? I did the boomerang thing."
The young ex-Prince walked closer towards them and peeked unsure into their young eyes. He wasn't sure about this, it felt so weird. "Listen, I know I didn't explain myself very well yesterday. I've been through a lot in the past few years, and it's been hard. But I'm realizing that I had to go through all those things to learn the truth. I thought I had lost my honor, and that somehow my father could return it to me. But I know now that no one can give you your honor. It's something you earn for yourself, by choosing to do what's right. All I want now is to play my part in ending this war. And I know my destiny is to help you restore balance to the world."
Zuko bit his lips softly as no one replied and stared at the young blind girl. "I'm sorry for what I did to you." The boy bowed. "It was an accident; fire can be dangerous and wild. So as a fire bender, I need to be more careful and control my bending so I don't hurt people unintentionally."
The young Avatar's expression changed, he now understood. Zuko is young as he is and he makes mistakes, sometimes even the same ones as Aang. "I think you are supposed to be my fire bending teacher. When I first tried to learn fire bending, I burned Katara. And after that, I never wanted to fire bending again. But now I know you understand how easy it is to hurt the people you love. I'd like you to teach me."
The young Fire bender smiled warmly at Aang, he truly hadn't expected this. He bowed to the Avatar and accepted. "Thank you. I'm so happy you've accepted me into your group."
"Not so fast. I still have to ask my friends if it's ok with them. Toph, you're the one that Zuko burned. What do you think?"
Toph raised her head and thought, she somehow liked this boy. She felt something special inside of him. "Go ahead and let him join. It'll give me plenty of time to get back at him for burning my feet."
The water boy closed his eyes and lowered his head, he totally didn't like Zuko but Aang needed him. "Hey, all I want is to defeat The Fire Lord. If you think this is the way to do it, then I'm all for it."
Aang nodded towards Sokka and then turned towards Katara. "Katara?"
The girl crossed her arms and frowned, she didn't knew what to think of him. Zuko betrayed her in the catacombs, why should he help them now? "I'll go along with whatever you think is right."
"I won't let you down, I promise!" Zuko replied excited while the others turned and walked away. The boy smiled a bit as he glared over the group and knew he would have a hard time, they certainly wouldn't accept him right away and maybe they will never but as long as he kept his promise and saved this world, everything would become a bit better.
The boy followed the groups through some hallways and stopped as Sokka opened a door and showed his room. "So here you go, home sweet home. I guess, you know, for now. Unpack... lunch soon. Uh...welcome aboard?" Sokka replied unsure.
Zuko turned his head and gave Sokka a tiny smile. Sokka frowned deep and felt really uncomfortable, he only could think about that Prince Zuko who invaded the Southern Water Tribes but this Zuko seemed so odd. "Yeah, ok, this is really, really weird." The boy whispered toward Aang.
Aang glared up and shrugged. "Give him a change, he's maybe very different then we all thought."
Zuko ignored the gossips from outside and grabbed the picture of his uncle out of his bag; he really needed that man right now. He felt so vulnerable at the moment and he had no one to talk with, he only had the good memories.
The boy shocked out of his thoughts as he heard someone, he turned his head and noticed Katara. The girl who once wanted to heal him in Ba-Sing-Se. "You might have everyone else here buying your 'transformation'. But you and I both know you've struggled with doing the right thing in the past. So let me tell you something right now. You make one step backward, one slip-up, give me one reason to think you might hurt Aang... and you won't have to worry about your destiny anymore. Because I'll make sure your destiny ends right then and there... permanently."
The girl walked away and slammed the door;
Zuko stared at the closed door and felt truly alone.
A few miles farther, nearby Ba-Sing-Se.
The camps were all neatly organized as the Grand-Lotus arrived. Iroh grinned wide as he stopped his eel hound and glared over the members. "You all received the letter on time?"
Piandao stopped his duties and walked closer. "It's nice to see you again, Iroh!"
Iroh nodded to Kisho, who grabbed the eel hound by his cord "Thanks, Kisho…" the man whispered as he walked closer to his friends. He stopped and stared over Jeong Jeong, Piandao, Pakku and Bumi. They were all high ranks in the order of the White Lotus as they were all gifted masters. "It's nice to see all my old friends here."
"Come and join us." Bumi replied with much excitement. The retired General rushed to the campfire and sat down, he truly felt like a teenager again. Sitting around a campfire with your best friends, chatting, laughing, these were the things he had missed.
Bumi glared up to the stars and smiled wide. "So, we've big plans huh?"
Iroh glared in his cup and nodded. "Ba-Sing-Se was the Earth Kingdom's last city of peace, unfortunately that is now disturbed…" The man whispered as his nephew hunted his mind. "We should use Sozin's Comet to liberate it from the Fire Nation."
"That would be a nice gesture of us to the world even it is one city. Ba-Sing-Se always seemed untouchable and it gave others hope." Jeong Jeong muttered.
"Indeed, one city would be a start and we can't forget the Avatar is still around us!" Pakku replied with a small grin.
Iroh raised his cup. "So, we all agree?" All the men raised their cups and they couldn't wait for some action.
The next day.
The sun rose above the Western Air temple as Zuko woke up. Zuko sat up on the mattress and removed his blanket. The boy rubbed his eyes gently as he thought about today, he felt rather unsure. Zuko stayed last evening in his new room and didn't want to be seen by the others. They gossiped the whole time about him and about what happened in the past.
Especially Katara took the lead; she had put him in the darkest spot. Toph seemed to be the most optimistic but still Zuko was sure he wouldn't make friends here. Nobody likes him and it seemed that they didn't want to learn his true personality, so why should he care about them?
The young boy stood up and grabbed his shirt; he dressed himself and walked outside. Zuko stopped in the courtyard, everyone was still asleep. Seems like they haven't learned discipline… The boy thought as he walked past the young kids and couldn't hide the annoyance.
Zuko sat down at the edge of the building and glared down in the ravines. His dark brown hair blew freely; the boy closed his eyes for a second and listened to the sloshing sounds of the water. He opened his eyes and stared at the orange and pink colors of the morning sun. Now he thought about the one he loved, about Mai.
She now must have found his letter and he felt so terrible about that. He knew, Mai is alone and possibly broken, she certainly hated him right now but he couldn't forget about her. She still haunted his mind and he hoped she was still thinking of him at times.
Aang opened an eye as Momo's tail had hit his face accidentally. The boy raised his head and leaned on his elbows, he felt groggy from sleeping. Aang frowned a bit as he noticed Prince Zuko at the edge of the temple.
The young avatar wandered silently towards the fire boy and didn't knew if this was a good idea but he was too curious. He glared over the young teenager who was clearly somewhere else with his mind. "Zuko? What are you doing here so early?" Aang whispered.
Zuko looked up, his eyes shone. Aang had noticed the early tear forming in the boy's eyes but stayed cool. "I always awake with the sun..." The fire boy replied soft.
"Aw, that's something Fire Benders do?" Aang replied fast, he became interested in this mysterious Prince. The young teen nodded and glared back at the sun.
Aang sat next to the boy and enjoyed this morning view. "Were you thinking about someone?"
Zuko turned his head slowly towards the avatar, this sort of talking reminded his of uncle Iroh. He stared in Aang's young face and didn't knew what to reply. He shook his head softly; he was maybe a bit too shy to talk about his love life with a stranger.
The young Avatar gave Zuko a tiny smile and thought he understood. "This must be a huge life change for you, especially now you took the step alone. You're here without your uncle, your family or friends. Must be hard."
"Maybe, I think I need some more time to figure more thinks out about life and stuff." Zuko half-whispered as he glared at his hands.
"Step by step" Aang replied as he stood up and smiled.
Zuko gave the boy a tiny smile back and felt a lot better already.