And here is Nova Force Nova winning the February 2013 challenge with Princess Azula and Katara fighting over Aang's heart.
The war had ended nearly a month ago. Between the Avatar and the new Firelord, the armies had withdrawn back to their own nations. A hundred years of fighting had indeed "left the world scarred and divided." The Avatar made a promise to heal what he could and set the world on a new path of love and peace. He has done remarkably well in that regard but the world wasn't the only thing that has been damaged, scarred, broken or shattered by the 100 year war.
Firelord Zuko stifles a yawn as he glances over all the paperwork on his desk. Reaching for his fourth cup of tea, he shakes his head. "I knew ruling a nation wasn't easy but I never imagined all this." he says to the shadowy corner where he knew his girlfriend was sitting. Mai stands up and walks over to him, her hands rubbing his shoulders. "You should take it easy. That's your fourth cup. You're going to drive yourself insane staying up all the time...not that I would be adverse to entertaining myself by watching that." She adds slyly.
He smirks at that. "I could always dump you again, spice things up." He bites back. He looks down again. "Listen...something's been on the back of my mind for a few weeks now."
"What is it?" She asks, sitting down across from him.
"It concerns Azula." He replies. To say that statement had a clear reaction was an understatement. Indeed, the tension in the air is palpable. Mai, even with all her skill at controlling emotions, can't stop the split second look of shock, anger and curiosity from showing in her face and eyes. "What about her
?" She asks, the last word dripping with venom.
Zuko sighs. "I was thinking...that she deserves a second chance." Predictably, his wife explodes in response. "WHAT? ARE YOU INSANE? SHE NEARLY KILLED YOU, LOCKED ME AND TY LEE IN THE DEEPEST, DARKEST HOLE SHE COULD FIND AND SHE RELISHED IN DESTRUCTION."
Zuko runs a hand through his hair. "Now humor me for a moment. I know she did all those things...but keep in mind who the person who shaped her as an individual was. He made her do what he wanted, molded her to be what he needed, used her like any good tool and then discarded when her usefulness has come to an end. I wasn't much different from her, you must realize that. And I got both my mother and my uncle, both people who truly cared for me. She...she never had a chance to be anything else than what Ozai wanted. Our father has scarred us both...it's just, no one noticed it because only one of us has a scar that can be seen. The struggles of the silent go unseen in the dark. Now that he's no longer in charge, she can finally have the chance to be who she wants to be. I'll let you in on a little secret my uncle revealed to me months ago. I was so conflicted about what I had done in Ba Sing Se because the two bloodlines present in me were on opposite sides in the very beginning of the war. Sozin, my father's grandfather, who started the war when the Avatar died and wiped out the Air Nomads in an attempt to kill the next one...and Roku, my mother's grandfather, the Avatar left behind by his best friend to die. Both of them live on within me...and in one other person. Azula. She deserves a second chance."
Mai gives a quick side glance before returning her gaze to Zuko's golden eyes. "I think you're being naive and idealistic...but that is why I fell in love with you. I'll stand behind whatever you decide. Just one thing...how do you propose to give her a second chance?"
Zuko responds with a tight smile. "I know just the guy to help my sister on her path to finding herself. If he can't do it...no one can."
Aang has been a busy little Avatar. Gliding in and out of towns daily, settling problems in the colonies, attempting to get their plans for Republic City together so the four nations can truly live in harmony...and yet none of that compared to the difficulty of what Firelord Zuko has asked of him recently.By Agni...how am I supposed to do this? To try and help Azula get better...is it even possible?
He wonders to himself. Resting his chin on the palm of his hand, he sighs. I am supposed to restore balance to the world...and everyone in it. And it isn't like I have got anything better to do...I pretty much stabilized this region...and since Katara and I put things on hold until the world is in a stable state...I should reach out to the former Princess.
He frowns. "I just hope I'm not making a big mistake." He says before gliding off in the direction of the Fire Nation.
Zuko stands outside the asylum where his sister, the deposed Princess Azula, now resides. "Aang should be here by now." Zuko remarks. The heart of the Fire Nation isn't that far from the colonies...perhaps he was diverted?
Zuko thinks, seriously considering sending another messenger hawk to Aang...at least before a familiar sight comes into view on the horizon. "Finally." Zuko smirks.
As the Avatar flew through the air currents, the wind pushing against his robes and cooling him down, the asylum slowly came closer and closer. Pulling in for a landing, Aang leaps down onto the ground, folding his glider back into his staff and coming to a stop before Zuko. "Hello Sifu Hotman." Aang says in greeting.
Zuko facepalms. "I thought I told you not to call me that."
Aang chuckles. "I'm sorry, I couldn't resist. Especially given what you ask me to do."
Zuko nods. "I understand. It's a daunting task...but you are a smart kid, have the wisdom of hundreds of people and most importantly, lots of patience and kindness. If you can't do this, no one else can..." Zuko admits. "...and I am forced to resign my sister to this place." He adds bitterly. "Don't worry, I'm prepared to do so."
Aang solemnly nods, before embracing his friend in a quick hug. "I better get going, huh?"
"Yeah." Zuko responds. "Good luck." He says as he walks back to the Palace, his administrative duties calling.
"Thanks." The Avatar says to the departing Firelord. "I have a feeling I'm going to need it." Aang states as he walks into the asylum.
It didn't take long for his presence to be noted by the staff. Indeed, almost as soon as he walked in, no less than four attendants waved to him. "Avatar Aang, the Firelord told us you were coming. For Azula, right?" One of them asks.
Aang nods. "That is correct."
"Alright then...second door down the hall on the left side. She is in there...a warning, she can be a bit...temperamental. We'll be outside just in case."Temperamental? You don't say?
Aang thinks. Between that and his history with Azula, that doesn't exactly inspire him. Nevertheless, he steps down the hall before knocking on the right door.
10 seconds pass. 20. 30. Still no response. Deciding to press his luck, Aang opens the door, moving to step in whilst fully expecting a wave of azure fire to come over him.
He is pleasantly surprised when it doesn't. Sparing a glance at the former Princess, he can see why. She's lying on a disheveled bed, with equally disheveled hair and bags under her eyes. "Azula?" he calls out.
The bed shifts, her golden eyes focusing on him. "What do you want, Avatar? Come to gloat?" she asks, her tone dripping with venom.
"No. I just came to help you." He earnestly replies.
"Help me? The individual who for all intents and purposes, killed you? However brief it was...forgive me for not believing your lies." Azula retorts.
"I'm not lying to you Azula, I want to help give you a second chance. To be someone other than your father's tool. To be yourself." Aang responds.
She scrutinizes him for a moment. It might has well have been an eternity. "Why?" She finally asks.
"Everyone deserves a second chance, no matter what their crimes." He remarks.
"Hmph. You're a naive, idealistic fool, Avatar. You're wasting your time. Go away." She demands.
"Azula--" He starts...she doesn't let him finish."I SAID GO AWAY! GO BACK TO YOUR PEASANT FRIENDS! LEAVE ME ALONE!"
She yells, throwing a pillow at him.
Aang lowers his head and moves to exit the room. "I will be back Azula. I won't let your soul fall any further into the abyss...not when I can save it."
"I don't need your pity or your false sympathy." She bites back as Aang closes the door.
Once outside, he exhaled. "That...could have gone better. It could have gone worse too...I guess that's something. I won't let you down Zuko...or you Azula."
Azula hears every word, despite her best efforts not to. Her first thought was to call the Avatar a fool again...and yet deep down, she knew she yearns to hear those words. She shakes her head and tries to sleep, to get away from this revelation and the persistent hallucinations of her mother, Ursa.
It didn't work.
"Daughter?" a voice rang out, soft and melodious.
Azula has, since the end of the war, accepted these hallucinations as her conscience(what was left of it) given form. Her cross to bear. "What do you want now Mother?"
"Don't you think you should give him a chance?"
"Why should I mother? It's like I told you all that time ago. Trust is for fools
"Is that what you believe...or what your father believes?"
Azula knew what she was hinting at but was reluctant to believe that truth. "I am what he made me, mother. No one can change that."
"You're wrong about that. The person who can change you just left. I know he can help you...if you let him."
Azula closes her eyes and holds her hands over her ears, praying the hallucination would go away if no attention was given to it. Soon enough her efforts led to actual sleep and Azula drifts off to her dreams, one of the places where she didn't have to be herself.
It had been a few days since his visit to the asylum. Aang had been busy lately, assisting the Firelord with peacekeeping and such. As he lands outside, he was glad to get away from it all. He didn't like all the fame, all the crowds. He'd much rather be by himself, humble as he is.
As he made his way inside, he saw no staff at the reception desk. With a shrug, he headed down to Azula's room and knocked before entering. It was empty. Quickly, a bolt of pure terror ran down his spine. Does this mean she escap--
"Ah, Avatar Aang, good to see you." A doctor says as he rounds the corner. "Are you looking for Azula? I didn't receive word of any visits planned today."
"Yeah, it was kind of impulsive. Do you know where she is?" Aang asks.
"Yes, she's out in the park area, under discreet supervision." the doctor answers.
"Thank you." Aang replies before heading that way.
"No problem, just be careful." The doctor notes before heading down the hall.
"No need to tell me twice." Aang remarks.
As he enters the park, he glances left and right before scanning the area for Azula. He spots her sitting against a tree on the far side, partially covered by the shade it provides. He starts walking that way and she seems to not notice. As he nears the princess, his sight of her increases in clarity. What he sees stops him in his tracks. He never thought he would see this...the mighty, cold, calculating, intelligent, cunning, powerful princess, all those layers and defenses have fallen, leaving only what he sees before him. A young teenager, sobbing underneath the tree and the obscurity it provides. Rooted to the spot, Aang quickly thinks about what to do...and makes a decision. Being as light and quiet as he can possibly be, he makes his way to the opposite side of the tree, so Azula doesn't see him. He stands there for a moment, before trying his luck and attempting to see the princess. Stepping to the side, he can see her but she doesn't see him, too lost in her own thoughts. As he steps closer, his foot steps onto a fallen twig. CRACK!
Oh Agni, Aang thinks as he ducks back behind the tree.
That moment seems to have slowed down time. The sobs stop, her eyes narrow and she glances where the sound came from. "WHO'S THERE?"
she shouts and demands.
A moment passes. Two.
Aang slowly steps out from behind the tree, hands raised. Her eyes get even narrower, her face contorting with rage. She leaps up and steps back a fair amount to put some more distance between them.
Aang only watches as she does so, curious at the action...until he sees a familiar sight. An azure wave of flame, beautiful and deadly. Just like the Princess who conjured it.
As it heads his way, his mind races through dozens of options to blow it aside...he settles on trying something else. Something unpredictable. Something that can show her he can be trusted. This may be the bravest thing I've ever done...or the stupidest. Maybe both.
He lets the flame burn him. Her shocked face speaks volumes.
As he burns, he uses his power to cool the flame, before dispersing it. He leaves the burn marks alone as he leans against the tree. As he moves to sit down, he gestures to the princess to join him. As she regains her composure, she stops gaping in shock. "Why...why did you let the flame hit you?" she asks.
"I wanted to prove something to you." Aang answers.
"What did you want to prove, Avatar?" Azula asks.
"I wanted to convince you that I'm going to be here for you." Aang reveals.
"Because...when I saw you crying, I realized something. Look, I know we may have been enemies before...but that doesn't mean we have to hate each other. That's a choice we make ourselves. And when I saw you crying, I didn't see the arrogant and mighty princess. I saw a broken beautiful teenager letting herself feel for once. I realized that I couldn't hate you. You and your brother, you both had your scars. But everyone focused on your brother's...and they never noticed yours. You can pretend to be the hateful, malicious princess but I have seen the true you. A heart of stone, of malice can not shed tears like you did. I let the flames hit me because I wanted to prove to you that I am willing to brave anything to help you. I know you push people away, as you see being close to someone as a sign of weakness. Trust me, it's the opposite. It strengthens you. Two heads are better than one. If it takes being burned to get to know the real you, then that is what I will do."
Azula stands there speechless, unsure of what to say. Aang pats the grass near him and she reluctantly moves there and sits down, a strange feeling coming over her. It felt good.
"You've been the brother of Zuko, the daughter of Ozai. I think it is time for you to be yourself. You have been repressed by your father but I know you have it within you to step out of his shadow. You can be so much more." Aang says.
Azula sighs and shakes her head. "I'm not sure if I want to be."
Aang nods. "Let's find out together." he remarks.God, he's so corny, so sappy, so naive...and yet, his words resonate within me. I shudder to think the child Avatar may be onto something.
Azula thinks, as she gives a slight smirk.
Aang watches the princess, sees the edge of her mouth tilt upwards in a smirk.
He smiles in return. Progress! Success!
"Are you going to get those burns healed by that peasant waterbender?" Azula asks.
He frowns. Still have a long ways to go.
"No." he responds.
"Why not?" she retorts.
"I want them to serve as a physical reminder. Everytime you see me you will realize that I took the worst thing you could do to me and I did it all for you. You deserve your second chance. I'm going to help you get it."
Once again she is speechless. Words can't describe the emotions running though her at that moment. Her old self would have called it weak. She no longer wants to be her old self.
"Azula!" a doctor's voice calls for her.
The pair stand up slowly. Azula, still confused and somewhat dazed by vertigo wobbles and nearly falls...Aang catches her at the last second, helping her up. "You okay?" he asks. She doesn't know what to say back, so she does something else. Aang didn't see that coming but is pleasantly surprised it did. As Aang pats her on the back, she releases her hug. Actions do speak louder than words.
Yet...she has taken one of the things he said to heart. "Thank you Avat...Aang. For everything." she says as she walks away. Good things come in pairs.
Another week passed. More missions, more errands. The life of an Avatar was busy to say the least. Yet it all passed by like a blur to Aang. He was focusing on one thing, Azula. He didn't understand why she was on his mind all the time. Yeah helping her is important but to be thinking about her all the time...it was driving him crazy. He didn't think it was love, at least not in the romantic sense. He loved Katara...yet they had grown a bit distant since the end of the war. Okay, fairly distant but that was not intentional...he hoped these sessions with Azula were just that. He didn't want to help her find her way only to break her heart.This could be problematic.
He thinks as he lands outside the aslyum again.
As he enters the building, the staff nod to him. He returns the nod, already heading for Azula's room. He knocks. "Come in Aang."
He does so. "Good morning Azula."
"Indeed it is. Having all the peasants around, cluttering up the place, that is so good."
"Well, better enjoy these good times, as they may be over soon." Aang reveals.
"Really? Amusing...well um, listen Aang. I wanted to um..." She trails off.
"Wanted to what?" Aang inquires.
She turns her gaze to the ground. "Apologize. For...for burning you. I made my father proud by doing that. I also disappointed myself by doing it. All I wanted was someone to truly love me for me. I liked to pretend my father did but everytime I looked at my mother and brother together, I knew it wasn't love between us. Not truly. I just felt hollow inside...Zuko got Mother's attention always and I was jealous. That pushed me to my father even more and I lost myself. I become a tool, to be used and discarded. Everyone gave up on me, understandably of course. When I tried to kill my own brother, one of two people in this world who genuinely care about me, I just snapped. It was a long time coming but that was the breaking point. Then you came in and endured searing hot flame just to prove that you cared. It was hard coming to terms with that fact but my old self would have found it impossible. I don't want to have to have all these layers to protect me, to keep others away. I want to know, have to know what it is to be safe. To be secure. To be loved. You are the only person who makes me feel like I can live forever, with you...my love."
"That sounds a lot like something Toph asked of me once."
"What did Toph ask?"
"We had just learned that my friend and mentor, Monk Gyatso had been close friends with my predecessor Avatar Roku, your grandfather. Roku told me about it and explained that is why we were so close. We were silent for a while, before she asked me: "Do you really think friendships can transcend lifetimes?"
"How did you answer?" Azula asks, curious.
Aang smiles. "I don't see why not." he repeats from memory.
She sheds a tear at that, the emotions nearly overwhelming her before she remembers her dignity. "That means more to me than you can ever know." she states as she looks to the sky.
As the words fade away, Azula quickly steps forward. Wrapping her arms around Aang, she leans in to kiss him. Aang nearly jumped in surprise at first but as the kiss deepens, he returns the kiss in earnest. It feels like a lifetime passes by before Aang remembers what's happening. The reality sinks in. AGNI! I'm kissing Azula! AZULA!
As his mind races with that fact, he breaks off the kiss. "I'm sorry Azula..." He begins, his face red. "I have to go, Zuko has a meeting planned soon and I need to be there."
Her face drops. "Oh. So it isn't enough that Zuko gets my mother, he gets you too? Figures."
"What? No no no, Azula it is nothing like that. The meeting concerns you."
"Oh really? Concerning my imminent release no doubt." she replies sarcastically.
"Actually, it does. Zuko was incredulous when I told him about all the progress I had made. So fast. It sounded too good to be true...he thinks you're faking it to get out of here. Maybe I'm making a mistake here but I don't believe that at all. You acknowledged yourself as a good liar and I admit that you are, but I feel you're more sincere than he thinks you are."
"Yes. His mantra was 'Azula always lies' for a reason." Aang remarks.
"Funny. I tried so hard to be perfection made form and look what that got me. Father disowned me. Mother left me. Brother confined me to this hole. Uncle never cared. What kind of person I was...that no one wanted me. My family doesn't even want me." Azula admits.
He lays a hand on her shoulder. "Your brother does. He wanted me to do this and you know it. Now is your chance to repent. If it is what you want. I leave it to you. Now I must go talk to Zuko. I'll be back." Aang says as he departs.
Azula nods, before going back to lie down on the bed. "I'll be waiting." she whispers. Oh, how much she has changed so fast...all thanks to the catalyst, the Avatar.
She recalls the last time she had felt like this, the last time she had been truly at peace and happy. It had been a few years she realizes as she loses herself in her flashback.
Punch. Kick. Flourish. Jump. Azula was going through the motions, attempting to learn a kata that should have been out of her reach for another 5 years. She was indeed a prodigy.
She fell over on the fourth move of the set. She was not perfect however. Father would be displeased. As the pale blue flame faded from existence, she felt a pair of hands grab her from behind.
Turning around swiftly, she found her cousin. "Lu Ten!" she exclaims.
"Evening Azula. Isn't it past your bed time?"
"Please don't tell mommy or daddy!" she pleads. "I only wanted to practice my bending."
Lu Ten nods. "Only if you promise to go to bed."
"I will." She says, smiling in appreciation.
"Good." he replies before scooping her up in his arms and tickling her.
"Ahahahahahahaha!" she lets out. "Lu Ten...please stop...Please!" She says in between fits of gleeful laughter.
"Alright Azula." He remarks as he carries her to her room. She was content resting in her cousin's arms. He loved her for her and nothing else, unlike her father. Lifting her gaze to the clear night sky, a question popped into her mind.
"Lu Ten, can I ask you a question?"
"You already did but go ahead."
She hesitates for a moment before quietly asking "What are stars made out of?"
"Big balls of fire, millions of miles away."
"They're made of fire? So I can bend them?" She wonders, excitement filling her.
He chuckles. "If you ever get close enough, maybe you can."
She smiles before closing her eyes and drifting away into her dreams. She dreams that one day, she would bend the stars.
As Aang enters the office of the Firelord he is surprised to see all the faces he sees. Zuko sitting at his desk, Mai right beside him sitting on the desk, Sokka on a couch nearby snacking on fireflakes, Toph leaning against the wall in her usual manner, Suki and Ty Lee flanking Zuko on either side as his bodyguards, Iroh standing behind Zuko's shoulder and Katara running his way. She jumped into his arms. "AANG! It's been so long." she states. "Yeah." he replies meekly. How do I tell her? Can I tell her?
What haunts him the most is that he doesn't know the answer. She tilts her head, puzzled, before letting go.
"Well finally! The whole gang is here!" Sokka exclaims with his mouth full, spreading fireflakes everywhere.
"Sokka, please don't make a mess." Zuko asks as he facepalms.
"Nice job Sokka." Toph snickers. "So Aang, how's rehab with Princess Psycho?"
"She's not crazy...just confused." Aang reveals. "I've made a lot of progress with her. I can understand how it might seem fake or forced, given the speed of her change but I believe her to be completely sincere."
"Are you sure she's not playing you? She has fooled a lot of people." Katara wonders.
"No. I really don't that is the case. Like I said, she's just lost. Look at Zuko. He was scarred by his father, he was as lost as they come. She is scarred as well, she should have the same chance he had. They share blood, she has the same conflicts he does. It's just, she never had a good support. All she had was Ozai. Plus, I've seen her hopes, her dreams, her fears, her ambitions...everything. It's hard not to get close, to not trust someone when they pour out their soul and reveal the very best and worst of themselves." Aang remarks with all his Air Nomad monk wisdom.
Zuko asks the question on everyone's mind. "So...you believe her ready to come out?"
The answer comes without hesitation. "Yes." Aang says.
Zuko folds his hands and nods. "Very well, I'll notify the staff to let her out with basic provisions."
Katara crosses her arms. "You're going to bring her here?"
Zuko shakes his head. "No. I leave it to her to decide what she wants."
"Why?" Sokka asks.
"This was always about choice. Her choice. This whole thing, Aang's rehab of sorts, it would never have worked if Azula herself didn't want a second chance. So, I'm giving her a second chance, she can do what she wants with it." Zuko answers.
Katara's eyes narrow. "And if she makes the wrong choice?"
"Then everything she does is on us." Aang and Zuko admit at the same time.
Azula gazes across the blue sky, ganders at the green trees, glances at the various towns dotting the landscape. Taking in all those sights is amazing, after more than a month of staring at nothing but a 5 by 7 foot gray desolate room. She closes her eyes after appreciating the view. "It feels like ages since I've just stared at the horizon." she murmurs. Thank you Aang...and Zuko, her idiot brother who didn't want to give up on her so easily.
It was ironic though. She was finally free...and yet she felt more trapped than ever. She didn't know what to do. A whole world of possibilities was out there. Hours passed by as she simply stood there, unsure of what she wanted. Finally she decided to head to the Fire Nation Palace to meet with Zuko. She owed him that much.
It had been a long trek, mostly uneventful, except for one detail. The various towns she had passed, their townspeople had cowed in fear at the sight of her. Apparently they had heard of her cruelty and madness. There was a time such acts would have pleased her. That time was long gone. It had fueled her arrogance, her belief in her own superiority and in the end, that destroyed her. She didn't know what to feel about it now so she just tredged onwards.
As she arrived at the palace, her brother Zuko met her at the front of the Palace. "Azula, I'm glad you made it!"
"Zuko." She replies evenly. "You thought I couldn't handle it?" She snarks before bowing to the Fire Lord as is customary.
"Come now Azula, you don't have to bow to me. I view you as an equal and my sister. And I knew you could make it, I just wanted to say I'm glad to see you, that's all." Zuko remarks before moving closer for a tight bear hug.
Azula does nothing for a second or two, before returning the embrace, albeit with less enthusiasm. "Thank you...Zu-zu."
She smiles when he grimaces at the sound of that accursed nickname. "So, how did you know I was coming?" she asks.
"Are you kidding? The villages you traveled through were beside themselves with stories and gossip about it."
"I suppose they were."
"I'll admit I was surprised. I didn't figure you'd come here."
"Where do you think I would go?"
"To find Aang."
"I'm not like you Zu-Zu, chasing after the Avatar all over the world."
"That's a low blow."
"I came here as I believed this was the best place to await the Avatar's return. I'm hated by the Earth Kingdom and the Water Tribes. The only solace I could find is here, with your good graces."
"That's it? No ulterior motives?"
She mockingly feigns shock. "What, don't you trust me?"
"I know you too well." He snickers.
"Now who is it who delivers the low blow?"
They both stare at each other for a moment, tension building...before both start laughing. "I'll admit, I missed bantering with you." Zuko admits. 'However I must tell you the Avatar is not here yet. A number of his friends are though. Play nice." Zuko states before walking towards his quarters.
"I'll do my best, Zu-zu."
The water peasant is the first one she runs into.
"Princess." the waterbender says, looking for an excuse to quit being civil.
She finds it.
"I have a name you know?"
"I'm sorry, did you call me by my name, peasant?"
Katara's eyes narrow. "That's different."
"I'm not the crazy girl who nearly killed the last chance for the world, who nearly killed her own sibling."
"I did what I had to. I had no choice."
"You have seen what our father did to my brother's face. Do you think I would be any different?"
"I don't see any scars on your face."
"Zuko and I are the same...and yet different. He carries a physical scar, nothing can change that. I carried mental scars...and the damage those caused can be fixed. Have been fixed."
Katara laughs. "I told this to your brother once, I will tell it to you, simply because Aang believes in you. Take one step backward, give me one reason to believe you might hurt Aang and I will end you. Permanently." She coldly states before walking away.
Sokka and Toph are next.
"So, Princess Psycho at last." Toph greets, blunt as always.
"Excuse me?" Azula asks.
Sokka snickers. "Ignore her, she hasn't had her daily medication. She's kind of grumpy."
Toph playfully punches him in the arm. "Hey that hurt."
"Who's laughing now Sokka? I thought you said you were tough."
Sokka ignores her. "So, Azula...I take from that shouting match I heard earlier that you met my sister."
"Yes, the peasant was--"
Sokka held up a hand. "First of all, her name is Katara, I'm Sokka and this is Toph. I'd appreciate it if you used our names."
Azula starts to fume, perturbed by the arrogance of the water peasant, before she exhales and lets it go.
"Very well. Only because Zu-Zu asked."
"Now I--" Sokka starts before Toph interrupts, feeling something with her trusty feet. "Hey morons, Aang's here!"
"Oh great, more oogies between my sister and the avatar." Sokka murmurs as he and Toph exit the room, leaving Azula alone with her thoughts.
Aang has barely touched down on the outskirts of the palace before he is bum rushed by his GAang as Sokka so eloquently put it. Katara catches him in a hug so tight that when it ends he has to struggle to regain his breath.
"Nice to see you too Katara." He says between breaths.
"How was the mission?" she wonders.
"Not good. The Yu Dao issue is...full of tension. Zuko won't be pleased." Aang answers.
"Indeed he isn't." The Fire Lord cuts in. "However he is willing to overlook it because someone more important to me than the colony debacle has arrived."
"How is she?"
"Princess Psycho is okay I guess Aang. She hasn't burned down the palace at least." Toph jokes.
"This is no laughing matter Toph. And please stop with the nicknames." Aang demands.
"Ok fine sheesh, don't get your robes in a bunch. Go ask her if you need to." Toph retorts, pointing a thumb behind her to a shadowed pillar Azula was hiding behind.Dammit Earthbender
Azula thinks before stepping out from behind the pillar, hoping to meet Aang alone.
"Hi Azula." Aang eagerly greets.
"Hello Aang." Azula returns. "Um...can we have a moment alone?"
"Why? So you can kill him?" Katara accuses.
"Katara, take it easy. I can take care of myself." Aang remarks. "Alright Azula, lead the way."
The pair depart, heading for a quiet room.
"I want to tell you something Aang." Azula says as the Avatar closes the door behind him.
"Fair enough. Go ahead." he replies.
"I just want you to know that you're important to me, more than you can ever know. I stood there and heard and watched as the waterbender..." Azula starts before remembering her promise "...Katara, showed her affection for you through her actions. What you and her share...that's what I want."
It was at that moment Katara burst in, no longer content to eavesdrop at the door. "You what?!" she angrily asks.
"So it isn't enough for you to try to murder him, now you want to take him from me another way?" Katara seethes.
"It...it isn't like that..." Azula tries to explain.
"Then what is it like?" Katara demands to know.
"Do you know what it is like, to grow up like I did? To have your domineering father make himself the only one that can shape your worldview. To see your mother leave you, watch your brother be scarred and banished, look as your fuddy duddy uncle departs and to be forced to pretend that you don't care about any of it, lest my father do the same to me? My mother loved Zuko, my Uncle loved Zuko. I thought I had my father's love but it wasn't love. Not really. Not that I care anymore. I just want to know what real love is. Is that too much to ask?"
"You aren't the only one with a difficult childhood. You just have to deal." Katara retorts.
"I agree. This is how I do it." Azula tells them both.
"Well, it appears we are at the crossroads of destiny yet again. I sense neither will budge on this issue, princess."
"Indeed. I need him more than anything, anyone. He's proven he's willing to enter the fire to help me. No one else has."
"Well Aang...it seems you must choose, it will only get more intense, more awkward if you don't."
Aang stands there, speechless. He couldn't believe this was happening. He never imagined this would happen...two teenage girls asking for the same thing of him, love. One as cool and soothing as water, the other as brash and passionate as fire. It was like the world had ended, he was so confused. He didn't know what to do.
He ran his hands down his face, pacing back and forth. "Just, just give me some time to think." He says as his eyes glance back and forth between Katara's pure blue eyes and Azula's shiny gold ones. "I don't know, I don't know!" He really didn't. Katara and him had been through so much through the war, had gotten so close over all their adventures...and yet had drifted slowly apart since the war's end. Azula had shown him everything she is, a troubled soul just begging for love and help...even the Avatar, with all his wisdom, didn't know.
Azula closes her eyes and frowns, steeling herself for what she feels she has to do given his admission. Her tears fall unabated and in the eyes of others, intentionally, unlike that day in the park. She starts to move, an intricate set of motions.
Their elegance belied their deadliness. As she starts to glow with the energy, she aims her fingers at the Avatar, even if it breaks her in more ways than one to do. She lets the lightning go.
Aang was caught almost completely unaware. He moves to get into position to redirect it. He semi does, allowing the majority of the lightning to fly into the sky. The remainder however, stays within. The Avatar falls to the ground, in a semi-seizure, spasming as the lightning courses through his body whilst it goes into shock.
Azula continues to cry. "This...this isn't how I wanted it Aang. I may have enjoyed this once but now it is just torture to me."
Katara finally got over her shock. "I knew you hadn't changed!" Katara screams.
"Oh I have." Azula admits. "Don't misunderstand me, I'm not doing this out of hate. I'm doing it out of love!""HOW IS THIS IN ANY WAY LOVE, PRINCESS?""IF I CAN'T HAVE AANG, NO ONE WILL!"
"You, you would really go that far?"
"I have no choice. My father ruined my first chance, you ruined my second Katara. And this, I can't accept."
"We always have a choice Azula."
"That's easy for you to say. Your past was nothing like mine."
"Trust me Azula, our past doesn't have to define who we are. We can be so much more."
Azula grimaces, not wanting to accept the bitter truth. "Even if I believed you, it is too late. The damage is done." She gestures to Aang.
"I can heal him."
"I no longer believe that. The physical injury, yes. The broken bond, the broken trust. Those things are not easily healed."
"Aang has it in him to--"
"Don't patronize me, I KNOW WHAT HE IS CAPABLE OF
. You and your friends aren't as capable or forgiving."
"You don't know that."
"I know that you defeated me last time. I WILL NOT LET A COMMON PEASANT SUCH AS YOU BEAT ROYALTY AGAIN.
You have no idea how losing everything to a common piece of trash like you is. I'm of royal blood, through and through. By Agni, I have the blood of an Avatar within me. WHAT MAKES YOU SO SPECIAL YOU WATER TRIBE PEASANT?
I'm going to tear you apart to find out if I have to!" Azula says, her anger overwhelming her.
"Azula, it isn't something found within your physical body. It's your personality that makes you special. What makes anyone special."
"Spoken like a true peasant. Let's finish this."
. This can only end one way. Your death...or mine."
"I'm sorry Azula." Katara says, meaning it truly.
"No need to apologize. I made my choice." Azula remarks.
"In a perfect world, you shouldn't have had to."
"I longed for perfection once. I don't want it anymore. Bring your best or I will end you. Permanently. Isn't that what you said? Let's see how tough you really are peasant. You took everything from me...NOW I WILL TAKE IT FROM YOU!
" Azula yells before cutting the conversation short by firing a blast of azul flame at the waterbender, who blocked it with a stream of water from one of her many gourds on her belt. The duel began.
Some scars ran too deep to be healed, despite the best of efforts.
----------------------------Author's Note: What follows after this was edited in after the match ended, just for kicks as I had fun writing this story(which is the point, amirite?) Two endings follow, one true ending going by the votes and the alternate ending in which the other individual won. First is the true ending. Cheers and enjoy!
To say Azula has lost it is an understatement. Indeed the sheer ferocity and amount of flames getting launched was nearly overwhelming.
Katara couldn't even make an offensive move, she was kept on defense. And with her lesser stamina, she would lose to Azula at this rate. "Princess! Azula! Please stop this, you don't have to do this!" she pleads.
Azula snarls. "Yes I do! You, a mere peasant, have ruined everything! If you and him hadn't fallen for each other, I still could have had a chance at redemption! Now all I have is rage and hate and jealousy and sadness and I'm going to take it out on you!"
Katara deflects another incoming flame. "Azula, you can still have him as a friend, he won't abandon you like your mother or your father! We can work something out!"
"Don't compare him to my mother or father! My mother hated me and my father used me. They're nothing like him! 'Work something out?' I don't want a friend, I have poured out my soul to him, I want the same in return! I have the rational solution right here! Taking you out."
"SHUT UP PEASANT! I will endure no more of you! Now you die!" Azula pronounces as she fires off the biggest plume of flame she has ever made. It overwhelms Katara with ease, knocking her to the ground as she tumbles and rolls several feet.
Katara groans in pain and looks up at the Princess. "Azula please--"
"Shut up I said!"
"Don't do this!"
"Watch me." Azula exclaims as she starts to go through the familiar lightning kata. Slowly however, to emphasize the action and put true fear into the peasant's eyes.
"We can work it out!" Katara yells as she starts to cry. Her mom tendencies were showing, even now.
"Very soon peasant, this will all be over!"
"It doesn't have to be like this!"
"THIS WILL SILENCE YOU FOR ALL TIME! YOU WILL NEVER RISE FROM THE ASHES OF YOUR DEFEAT!" Azula shouts as she finishes her kata, moving her hand into position to aim at the peasant.
"Azula...I'm sorry." Katara quietly admits, closing her eyes as she launches the ice projectile she had formed moments ago behind the Princess's back.
It comes forward, impaling Azula from behind. Death was instantaneous.
Katara couldn't bear to look at her handiwork, averting her eyes to the ground where she let tears fall unabated.
"Uh..." Aang stirs. Katara looks his way. In the midst of everything she had forgotten about him. Standing up she makes his way toward him, pulling out some water for a quick healing session.
As the cool and refreshing water eases his pain, Aang opens his eyes to see the beautiful face of Katara. "Thank you Katara." He whispers.
She looks away. "Don't thank me for this." She replies.
"Why not?" He asks.
In response she helps him onto his feet before turning him in the direction of the Princess.
She stares at his eyes as a million different emotions seem to run through them in less time than it took to blink. "By Agni..."
Katara continues to cry. "She...she couldn't be talked down! She was about to kill me. I did what I had to, but it still doesn't feel right. Or just."
"No, justice hasn't been done here. I'm not sure if it ever could have been done here. The damage Ozai put on her as he influenced her, it led her to believe this was the only choice she could make." Aang states. "Damn that man." he coldly adds.
"Come on, let's go back to the palace...I can't take this sight any longer."
"Not yet." Aang retorts as he makes his way closer to the fallen princess. Grasping her limp right hand, holding it within his own, he sheds a few tears. "I'm sorry Azula. I hope you find the peace in death, that I could not give you in life."
----------------------------Author's note: And here's the alternate ending!
As the waterbender falls to Azula's blinding azul flames, the princess couldn't help but fall to the ground all the same. Sure, she feels a little better after beating the peasant...but the cost may have been too high. As she stares at the unmoving body of the peasant, Aang stirs, fully conscious.
"Hello?" he asks weakly. "Anyone there?"
Azula nearly jumps in surprise. "Aang?"
"Azula, where are you?"
"I'm coming." she says as she stands and walks over.
As she comes into view, he can't help but notice the battle damage her clothes have received. Between that and his unconsciousness, he is concerned. "What happened? I don't..don't recall much."
"It's hard to explain." She reveals, kneeling down to help him up.
"Hard to explain how?" He asks as he grasps her shoulder for support, before feeling something. "Your shoulder...it's wet! Why--" he starts to ask. Glancing around, he cuts the question short when he spots the fallen form of Katara.
Running toward her, he holds his fingers to her neck feeling for a pulse. Not finding one, he turns Katara over. Seeing several burn marks, he looks to Azula. "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!"
She doesn't waver. "What I had to. You couldn't choose between us, so I had to make a choice. I chose to cut out the other option. If I couldn't have you, neither could she. I don't regret it."
He looks away, tears in his eyes. "If I had known helping you would have lead to this...I would have--"
"What? Let me rot in the asylum? Because in the grand scheme of things, she is more important than I am?" Azula asks.
That question is armor piercing. Aang doesn't want to admit it but deep down he knows it is true. In the end, neither was more important to the overall balance than the other.
"She was my first love, she kept us going when things looked to be at their roughest during the war...and you killed her. And I gave you the motive, the opportunity. It's my fault." Aang admits before grabbing his trusty stuff and gliding off into the horizon leaving behind two cold individuals, one alive and one dead.
That was the last time Aang and Azula saw each other. The broken down Avatar pushed himself even further into his work, attempting to fix everything as penance for the sins he thought he had led to occur.
As for the Princess, she doesn't know what to do. She simply sat there for the longest time before she dimly heard some footsteps heading her way. Glancing that way she spots the familiar entourage, her brother Zuko, Mai, the earthbender and the other water tribe peasant.
She smiles one last time. "Thank you Zuko."
she whispers before performing her final action. As she goes through the motions of generating lightning, she is about to release it. Turning her hand towards herself, she releases it. The lightning sears her right above her heart, overpowering her with sheer pain before everything fades to black.
----------------------------Thanks for reading! Until next time!