Zuko had never run faster in his life. Though this behavior was unbecoming of a Firelord, this was not something that he could pass up. Why was the Avatar here? Was the capital under attack? Was he attacking somewhere? He didn’t think he was. Most of his troops had withdrawn to the colonies.
He slides to a stop in front of the audience chamber, barely managing to stop and almost hitting a wall. Suko hadn’t really been using it, mostly for meetings, and even then. His throne was always empty. I’m not going to become my father. I'm not going to become Azula. I won’t rule with fear.
Zuko dearly missed his uncle. There were so many words he wanted to say, and yet, he could never form the words in his mouth. He had heard that his Uncle had played some part in retaking Ba Sing Se, but other than that, any news regarding him was non-existent. Part of him hoped that he started his tea shop again, and another part of him feared that he didn’t survive the siege, just like his cousin. He knew that was his own form of stupidity, Iroh was too strong to not survive.
Zuko adjusts his robes, trying to make himself slightly presentable, and dusting off the dirt from the garden. Zuko did so love spending time there, and thankfully he could convince his council to meet there as well. It was easier, and more casual, akin to drinking tea with friends than what his father held. He smooths his hair, and places his crown on his head, before nodding to the guards to open the door. He was prepared for attack, but hopefully this worked out peacefully. Attacking the Avatar wouldn’t look good to any of the other nations. The door slowly creaks open and Zuko steps inside, trying his best to present himself as someone who is holding everything together and is totally ruling a nation. The Avatar and his friends look at Zuko when he enters. There’s the two watertribe folk. What are their names? I know this… I think… There’s another girl Zuko had never met in his time spent chasing the Avatar. I really should know their names. What really surprised Zuko though, was how young they were. He himself was young, something he thought about constantly. How can a 16 year old run a nation? But more importantly how can a 12 year old face his father and end a war?
“The Fire Nation is honored to welcome the Avatar into our halls…” Zuko bows slightly, trying very hard not to make a fool of himself. Xiang had already made fun of him enough for falling into the turtleduck pond when she surprised him. He still hasn’t lived that down…
“Woah! The crazy ponytail freak is the Firelord? Not the crazy one?” “Sokka! Don’t say that!”
So the one with the ponytail is Sokka? Maybe?
“I dunno, I think Snoozles hit the mark pretty good,” Snoozles? What kind of nickname was that?
The Avatar still hasn’t spoken. He seems to mostly be looking around the room, and especially the soft flames lighting up the room. Ozai and Azula’s flames had encompassed the entirety of the room, and yet Zuko’s were softer, and warmer.
“Is there a reason for this visit?” Zuko turns away from the group.
“Well, if you hadn’t noticed Your Fireyness, there’s kind of a war that the Fire Nation started,” Whoever this kid was, he was annoying. Zuko knew exactly about the war going on. He was doing his best.
“Yes I’m completely aware about it, however if you haven’t noticed, none of the other nations are answering any of my messengers,” He can hear his Uncle telling him to remain calm.
“Firelord Zuko,” The Avatar finally speaks, “What do you mean messengers? None of the other kingdoms have mentioned anything,”
“I sent several messengers to the Earth Kingdom, none of them have returned. I have yet to hear from the ship I sent to the Northern Water Tribe either. Though… They should still be enroute,”
The Avatar looks towards him. The girl from the water tribe stares Zuko down.
“What did the letters say Zuko? ‘Oh hey I know you just retook your city and you have my dad in jail, anyway submit to the Fire Nation’,” She’s angry. Zuko supposes that’s fair. The Fire Nation has to overcome 100 years of war and hate and anger. Naturally that wouldn’t happen overnight but Zuko was a little frustrated at the lack of at least a little bit of openness. He had to have a little edge.
“I’m trying my best alright? The Earth Kingdom doesn’t respond to my messages. My soldiers keep getting attacked, even though they’re retreating. Firelord Ozai is locked away somewhere, my sister is insane,” Zuko takes a deep breath, the flames slowly growing in the room, “I’m not going to abandon them. I’m all they have.”
Zuko found it hard to be around the Avatar and his friends. It was so awkward, especially after he spent a year trying to hunt them down. Or betrayed them in Ba Sing Se. Thankfully, however, he didn’t really have to deal with them all that much. He set them up with rooms and food, and let them wander anywhere they wanted, aside from Azula’s wing.
Naturally they were suspicious. He wouldn’t expect anything else. I really shouldn’t have stormed out of there yesterday. How am I supposed to bring about peace, and turn away my greatest tool for it. Zuko sighs and looks towards the turtleduck pond. He remembers coming here often with his mother, and after she left, it became neglected. All other gardens did in fact. Many of them weren’t safe from Azula’s wrath.
“How’s it going Lord Sparky?” Zuko quickly stares up at the girl staring down at him. Who was she again?
“Sparky?” The girl sits down next to Zuko with a grin.
“I like giving people nicknames. What’s the Firelord doing out here anyways?”
“Does it really matter? I thought you would hate me like your friends,”
“Eh. I think they’re judging you too hard. It's obvious you aren’t your sister. Or your dad,”
Zuko looks back towards the pond, gently holding out some food for some of the ducklings, “No. I really hope I’m not.”
“Oh speaking of. Where is your sister? It seems odd that you would become Firelord. I mean no offense but weren’t you banished?”
“I was. And in jail too for a while… But Azula… She’s slipping. Somethings wrong and she’s just… Given up,”
The girl stops and seems to be looking into the distance. Zuko didn’t really know what to think about her. She seemed laid back, but at the same time, probably smarter than most people here.
“I guess that makes sense…”
They fall into a comfortable silence. She seems to really not care about Zuko, or what he did in the past. Maybe she didn;t really know. Or she just didn’t care.
“So.. What’s your name? I never caught it,”
“Huh? Oh. I’m Toph. And you’re not so bad I spose Sparky,”