Azula turned rather abruptly. “How did you…”
“Your husband told me about how he met you.” Zuko declared. “He said that you came out of nowhere…out of the jungle. When are you going to tell him that you remember exactly what happened and who you are?”
“I wasn’t planning on it Zu-Zu.” Azula shrugged. “Until you waltzed back in here, there was no chance of him ever finding out. He simply didn’t need to know.”
“You can’t just…” Zuko’s voice nearly doubled in volume.
Azula sighed. “If you wouldn’t mind keeping it down…” She paused and drew in a breath. “You know, I didn’t have to let you into my house. But I did. So do me a favor and skip the lecture.”
“But don’t you think that your family deserves to know the truth?”
“I think it’s safer if they don’t. Zu-Zu, I like it here. It’s easy, it’s quiet…simple. If everyone knew I was the princess, don’t you think that all the simplicity would suddenly vanish?”
When Zuko didn’t offer an immediate response she continued. “And besides…people like Sooyoung. I’m not stupid, I know damn well that people don’t like Azula…”
“Exactly how long do you think you can keep pretending?” Zuko asked.
“I’m still a pretty good liar.” Azula shrugged. “Our dear mother was able to keep her true identity under the rug for decades.”
“That’s because she actually thought she was someone else. And she—I don’t know—had a completely new face!” Zuko threw his hands in the air. “Azula this is ridiculous.”
“No. It’s not.” Azula hissed. “Instead of intruding on my family life, how about you go play house with my good friend Mai?”
“Azula!” Zuko shouted.
Azula visibly cringed. “Can you possibly be any louder?!” She hissed. “You know what? How about you just find your room, stay the night, and then be off to…wherever it is you were headed?”
“I was heading off to find you.”
“Well great job, you did it. Want a prize?”
“I was hoping you could help us…”
“Zu-Zu. You didn’t actually win anything.”
“I’m not asking you to help us, I’m demanding you to help us.” Zuko decided.
“And if I don’t?” Azula circled him dangerously. “What? You’ll banish me.”
Zuko blinked once. “Yes. I will.”
Azula laughed and let herself fall into one of the patio chairs, crossing one leg over the other. Her arms finding a place on the arm rests.
“Alright then…leave Hira’a.”
Azula’s nonchalant expression did not break. “Alright then Fire Lord.” The last two words were spat like venom. “Do you job and tell my little girl she’s never going to see her mother again. And don’t neglect to tell her that you’re the reason for it.”
Zuko chewed at his lip. A bead of nervous sweat falling down his temple. He looked up at the light emitting from what he assumed was a happy P’Li’s bedroom.
Her eyes bore into his. “Go on Zu-Zu. Leave my baby without a mother…just like father did to you.”
Zuko let out a frustrated cry and slammed his hands against the banister.
“Go home Zu-Zu. I’ll see you and your friends out first thing in the morning.” Azula got up and gave her hair a lazy flick before heading for the door. She disappeared inside leaving her brother alone on the patio.
At this point his blood was boiling. She just had to bring up father. Even when he had power over her, he had no power over her, and it chewed away at him. At that moment he wanted more than anything to throw everything she’d ever done to him back at her. But he couldn’t, not when it would hurt a child that did nothing to him.
Azula was right. If he banished her, he’d be no better than the man he fought so hard not to become.
But he still wanted to get her back somehow. For everything she’d ever done. And for not helping him with this…for not even letting him explain what he needed help with. He balled his fists and went back inside.
“What’s going on Soo?” Was the first thing Zuko heard Cheng ask.
Zuko mustered up a bitter laugh.
Azula looked to her husband and to Zuko, and then back at Cheng. “The Fire Lord and I were just…having a little…conversation.”
“Is that what you want to call it?” Zuko scowled. He glared at Azula before turning to Cheng. Temper and stress getting the best of him. “While I’m struggling to re-build my nation…to fight the White Discord, your wife…she’s just here having a grand time.”
“You are the Fire Lord.” Azula shrugged. “Not me.”
Zuko brushed the comment aside. “You know she’s lying to you right? Everything is one big lie! She knows exactly who she is and where she’s from, she just didn’t want to tell you.”
Azula’s perfectly maintained calm demeanor tumbled. Her face flushing an angry red.
“Soo, what is he talking about.” Cheng seemed to go pale.
“Ha! Her name isn’t even Sooyoung!” Zuko blurted. “This whole thing. A happy family, a peaceful life…what a joke. She’s got a lot to hide.”
Cheng looked at Azula. “What is he talking about?” The question was more firm.
“Tell him or I will.” Zuko decided proudly.
Azula’s mind raced. So many scenarios coming to surface. None of them good. So many thoughts and plans bombarding her all at once…she felt like she was ready to snap. Instead she put up her uncaring façade once more. “Go ahead tell him. And while you’re at it…you can tell my daughter it’s your fault.”
Azula picked up one of her swords, a clump of money, the nearest article of clothing she could find, and walked out the door slamming it shut as hard as she could. All the while telling herself that running away from this was for the best. They wouldn’t want her around once the truth was out anyways.
She furiously swatted away the tears that stung her eyes.
“Daddy?” The little girl wore an expression filled with so much shock and confusion it practically tore Zuko’s heart in two. “Where did mommy go?”
Cheng didn’t speak.
P’Li began to quiver. “Daddy, when is mommy going to come home. I need my bedtime story.”
Cheng pulled the girl into a tight hug and cradled her as she began to wail.
Zuko had been pretty angry in his life. But he honestly couldn’t say that he’d ever been this pissed off. He was mad at Azula for lying again; mad at her for not being helpful, mad at her for still having a good life even after losing everything…and above all mad at her for so selfishly leaving her daughter behind.
But even more so He was again, mad at himself. It was his fault. He let his temper get the best of him. What place did he have to share Azula’s secrets. Zuko had every intention of doing good…of finding his sister, making amends, and starting over…all as they took down a new evil. All he managed to do was piss her off even more and ruin a perfectly happy family.
Now the girl would be without a mother just like he was. Because of a cruel Fire Lord…just like…
How the hell did this happen?