"Do you remember what I'd told you, Azula? Before I'd left?"
"Get away from me!" Azula whimpered, tired of hearing this question countless times. "I don't want you here!"
"I'm a part of you, Azula... You can't escape it... No matter how hard you try, you know I'm always going to be there."
"Just leave me alone!" Azula yelled, sending a blast of blue flames at the source of the voice, only to realize the cell was completely empty except for herself. So she fell back on the bed, sobbing to herself, knowing that her mother had never really been there in the first place.
It'd been two years since she'd been put away. And unfortunately for her,not a day went by when she didn't hear her mother's pleading voice. She'd go to sleep every night, hoping against hope that her mother wouldn't be there, tormenting her about the decisions she'd made... But there she was... every waking minute... haunting her.
She was used to visits from Zuko. Her stupid brother came to see her every week, if only just to get a glimpse of her or to ask her how she was doing. She often wondered why he even bothered to check on her... Surely, he hated her as much as she did him. He'd taken everything away from her... Her mother, her friends... andher father... He took everything from her until she had nothing left.
Except for her own demons.
He didn't take those away. No. He'd forced her to face them on her own...in this stone cell. He'd left her to face heralone.
She drifted back to earlier this week when Zuko had come to visit her. She'd sat there silently, just listening... not wanting to ever see him. She'd been successful, until he'd mentioned her.
"I'm still trying to find her... just so you know," Zuko said off handedly. "Maybe she'll be able to help you better than I've been so far."
And so she lay down again after another day, with her nightmares tormenting her. What surprised her was that she'd somehow adapted herself to this routine... the fear, the nightmares, and even her own insanity.
Reality was the only thing that seemed to evade her.
So when the guard announced the next morning that she had a visitor, she simply thought it must be Zuko. As usual, she didn't respond. She had nothing to say to him. She simply sat on the bed with her back to the entrance.
"Azula," she heard an all too familiar voice call.
Every muscle in Azula's body stiffened at the sound.
"No! It can't be!"she told herself firmly, squeezing her eyes shut.
"Don't you want to see me?" the voice asked again.
"No! Go away! You're not real!" Azula screamed as she curled up against the wall.
"How will you know if you refuse to see me?" the voice asked her.
Azula spun around and sent a strong blast of fire at the entrance, expecting as usual to see nothing. But to her surprise, There was a woman standing there in a typical defensive stance. She had extinguished the flames in a fluid motion.
Azula stood rooted to the spot. The woman standing in front of her was not one of her usual visitors. In fact, she was the last person Azula wanted to see. There was something wrong. Every time she saw her mother, it had never been real... the apparition would go away as soon as she'd willed it.
But not this time.
She screamed as she attacked it with more ferocity. The whole cell was bathed in the bluish hue of the flames she sent out. But every time she attacked, the apparition simply parried with ease. Azula had never encountered an apparition like this before. For the very first time since she was put in here, she was genuinely scared.
She tried to attack again, but the apparition had caught her by the wrists and looked at her sadly. Azula simply didn't know what to do or say. This was the first time she'd felt her mother's grip in years. She didn't know whether this was real. But something told her that this was really happening... that her mother really was here. She tried to wriggle her hands out of Ursa's grip, but her heart wasn't in it. Part of her wanted to feel her mother's presence... to revel in it.
But nothing surprised her more than what Ursa did next. She gently sat Azula down on the bed and knelt in front of her, examining her closely. Before Azula could protest, Ursa had started to gently move her uneven bangs behind her ears so as to get a better look.
"What have you done to yourself, Azula?" Ursa asked her daughter sadly.
"I've finally become the monster you always thought I was. Isn't that right?" Azula asked contemptuously, still not believing it was really her.
"I never thought of you that way, Azula," Ursa said seriously.
"You're lying!" Azula yelled as she started to get up, but Ursa stopped her. "Let me go! You never cared about me! All you ever thought about was Zuko! That's all you ever cared about. You left me alone so he could survive! And even now, you torment me every second! Even when you're gone... you haunt me!"
"I'm right here, Azula... I amreal, and I am talking to you. You have to accept that," Ursa said sternly.
The tone of her mother's voice cracked through any doubts that she had before. She wasn't dreaming, and this wasn't a hallucination. This was real... This was actually happening...
"Why do you keep haunting me?" Azula asked in a choked voice. "I did what I had to do! I didn't... I just wanted to be the best! And I was!"
"I'm not here to haunt you, Azula... Believe it or not, I'm here to helpyou," Ursa said gently.
"You can't help me. No one can. And who on earth would even wantme to get better?" Azula scoffed.
"Iwould," Ursa said firmly as she locked her eyes with her daughter's.
"You're lying. You think I'm a monster... someone beyond anyone's help," Azula spat.
"No, Azula... I love you. I don't care what you think of me or how you think I feel about you. I'm goingto help you get better," Ursa said as she wrapped her arms around her daughter and pulled her close in an attempt to console her.
At these words, Azula couldn't help but give in. Her mother was here... embracing her... telling her that she loved her...
And so for the very first time, Azula cried as she embraced her mother in return, finally accepting her love and help.