Today, as nearly every day, you are attending an official function. You can't complain, really – after all, as the councilman representing the interests of the Southern Water Tribe in the new Republic City, it is expected that your presence is required at meetings, debates, press conferences, and the occasional celebration. Today, however, is a different type of event – today is a dedication, and you are flanked by a cohort of public figures. Even Zuko has managed to get away from his newly prospering Nation – not to be here at this dedication specifically, but to spend some time in the city he helped found.
The new Central City Station is an architectural marvel. Not on the scale of the Western Air Temple, of course, but a special building in its own right. It stands proudly at the heart of the city; a constant flow of passengers already move through its graceful arches. For many, this station will be the first sight they have of the crown jewel of the United Republic. An elegant meeting of form and function – as somewhat of a design aficionado yourself, you can appreciate the building that is currently being dedicated.
However, you remain somewhat apprehensive at the sight of the tall figure that is currently obscured by a cloth draped carefully over it. Doubtless it is a statue. Somehow, at some point that escaped your notice, placing giant statues of war heroes around the city became a trend. You shudder at the thought of the giant metal statue of Toph that guards the downtown police headquarters. She may have declared it "a kickass statue for a kickass earthbender," but then again, she was blind. She couldn't see how menacing it looked, looming over pedestrians, instilling a feeling of guilt in even the most innocent of passersby.
And then there's the statue of Aang – so large that it requires an entire island to itself. Not to mention that, for unknown reasons, the stone Aang sports rounded cheeks – you doubt that the lean, vegetarian monk ever possessed that much baby fat. Probably, you reflect, the makers were attempting to portray the Avatar at the age he defeated Ozai. You sigh.
So your apprehension at the sight of the covered figure is not without justification. Whoever this particular statue is of – and you cross your fingers and hope to Yue that it is not of you – there is bound to be something a little off about it.
The speeches end, and you are grateful. It's not as if you were truly listening to them anyways. You know what comes next, and come it does – with fanfare and a flourish, the giant cloth is pulled away to reveal a bronze figure, head held high, arm outstretched. A moment passes, and then fire flickers to life in the figure's palm. It is only then that your eyes travel upwards, to the imperial collar, to the topknot graced with a flame ornament, and – oh.
It's Zuko. Only, it's not… because his scar is gone.
It's astounding how different he looks, you think. You can finally understand why ladies call the Fire Lord handsome. His unscarred face looks proudly out upon the city, two whole, evenly shaped eyes surveying the landscape. The flame in his hand dances in the breeze, and his expression promises benevolence for those deemed worthy and a painful sort of justice for those not. The makers obviously took care with this particular statue – they have managed to make the Fire Lord look truly regal.
It's a pretty good job, you think.
And then you look at the real Zuko, whose own gaze is still trained upon the bronze version of himself. His face is impassive, but you have known the man for many years now, and detect the hint of a grimace pulling down the corner of his mouth.
So he doesn't like it then. Well, you suppose, nobody wants to see a larger-than-life version of themselves immortalized for the entire city to see. Except, of course, Toph. After all, hadn't you prayed, just a few short minutes ago, that the figure under the cloth would not be revealed to have your own likeness? Aren't you grateful, even now, that it isn't you? Zuko has sensed you looking at him, and the two of you make eye contact. You offer the Fire Lord a quick, "that's rough, buddy" sort of face. Zuko offers you a tight smile and a nearly imperceptible shrug in return – he knows how you feel about the statues.
Pleasantries are exchanged among all present, and, after you have lingered for a socially appropriate amount of time, you depart, eager to get away. Dedications are such pointless functions anyways – especially when there are bills that need to be sorted, proposals that need to be approved, and policies that need to be rewritten. You sigh, and head towards the mountain of paperwork that awaits you at home.
The next day, the morning paper brings a surprise. "NEW STATUE OF FIRE LORD VANDALIZED," the article's headline reads. "Culprit likely a firebender." The story goes on to explain that, late last night, mere hours after the statue was unveiled, a firebender apparently snuck into the square, scaled the statue, and applied a flame to the left half of the bronze Fire Lord's face – a flame hot enough to melt and warp the metal into what, strangely enough, seemed to be a deliberate echo of the real Fire Lord's fabled scar. No one could understand the motivation for such a thing – all agreed that it had been a lovely statue, and since Zuko was generally beloved in Republic City nowadays, it was incomprehensible that someone would want to vandalize his image so. However, police agreed that the culprit was unlikely to be apprehended, as not a single soul had witnessed the act. One woman did claim to have seen a figure dressed all in black, leaping from rooftop to rooftop, away from the direction of the Central City Station – but the woman was old, and what were the police supposed to do with information like that, anyways? It was generally agreed that any attempts to catch the culprit or to restore the statue would be a waste of funds – especially since the Fire Lord himself had issued a statement saying that he was unbothered by the change. "I do, after all, have a scar," he was quoted as saying. The unofficial change to the statue would be permanent, then.
Later in the morning, you're in City Hall, on your way to the council's chambers, when you encounter Zuko and his cohort, headed in another direction. You smirk again as he approaches, and he ignores your meaningful look – but you think you see something like a suppressed smile in his eyes, that he knows that you know, and this amuses him. It isn't until he draws almost even with you that he speaks, quietly:
"It's a part of who I am, okay?"
And you nod, because you understand.
And then the Fire Lord is gone, having never paused in his step to begin with.
I just wrote this up fairly quickly, so I apologize for any convoluted sentence structures or anything like that. I have a habit of using words too big for me. XD Also my timeline here might be pretty messed up. My grasp of events between the two series is kinda shaky.
Thank you for reading! Reviews and criticisms always appreciated!