Morality Chain


Man this is what happens when you have an update schedule as terrible as mine. There's a Netflix series now?

I'm also going to see if I can finish this by the end of the year. But, well, no promises.

Disclaimer: I own nothing.


"Whatcha doing there, Az?"

"Zuzu," she returned the greeting with as much respect as he had shown her. "And it's nothing much. Just some homework. I'm supposed to be writing a report."

He glanced up to what Azula had been looking at: a giant painting of Fire Lord Sozin, resplendent in his glory.

"About Great-grandfather?"

Sozin was depicted as he always was – larger than life, the patriarch of the modern Fire Nation. His left hand grasped the Scarlet Treatise that had laid down the path for the Fire Nation's ascendancy over the world, and over him-

"Not quite. On Sozin's Comet."

The streak of blazing fire that seared over the Fire Lord's head was impossible to miss, drawing the attention of all who gazed upon the painting.

It only made sense, after all. For all of Sozin's manifold accomplishments, utilising the comet in his opening strike of the Great War would always be the crowning achievement of his legacy. No surprise they would go so far as to rename it after him.

"The Comet, huh..." Zuko now stood at her side too, gazing up at the painting. "It'll be back soon, you know? It's been almost a hundred years."

"Of course I know, dum-dum. The instructor wouldn't shut up about it at today's lecture." She sighed and glanced down at the paper grasped in her hands. What was she even supposed to write about the comet, anyway? Almost every relevant fact about it had already been drummed into the heads of every Fire Nation citizen, almost from birth.

"I wonder what it'll feel like," Zuko's voice broke into her thoughts and when she looked over to him with a questioning gaze he shrugged. "Having all that power, I mean. It's supposed to make our Firebending a hundred times stronger, isn't it?"

"Who knows?" She raised and lowered one shoulder but then her found herself lifting her palm.

Silently, she conjured a flame and watched it flicker and flare.

"Hey, cut that out. You know dad said we're not supposed to Firebend without supervision."

An annoyed grunt as she dismissed the flame, but the thought still lingered.

All that power...

(X)

The strikes came at her quickly, a flurry of sweeps and stabs that sought to drive her backwards.

Azula kept her stance steady and her movements precise as she parried blow after blow, her own hands darting back and forth as she diverted the strikes aimed at her torso.

And yet, despite her best efforts, she found herself being pushed back.

If she were to use her Firebending, it would be a trivial matter to create flaming darts that would force her assailant to back off, buying herself time and giving her the chance to go on the offensive.

If.

A leg, sweeping up to catch her in the gut. She jabbed down with an elbow in response, knocking the attack aside.

A momentary respite in the fighting, and both parties backed off, taking deep breaths and evaluating how to continue the match.

Suki's eyes were clear and focused, her stance leaving no openings for Azula to exploit and seize the initiative with.

She was good, Azula would admit that much. She knew how to keep up the pressure, to keep Azula second-guessing about her next strike or feint.

It wasn't as if she didn't favour mobility herself. But tactics like that usually relied on being more mobile than your opponent – or at least close enough that she could make up the difference with Firebending.

Neither advantage existed here.

Suki advanced again, opening with two quick jabs with her right. Azula blocked once, twice, a half-step backwards, cocked her arm up in preparation to retaliate-

Just as Suki's knee swung up, catching Azula in her torso.

The warrior had pulled her kick to perfection; if Azula hadn't been looking directly at the leg, she'd barely be able to tell that it was touching her.

"And match!" Toph called out from across the room, leaning against a pillar and facing away from the both of them. "Victory to Suki!"

Both of them released breaths they hadn't been quite aware they were holding and relaxed their stances.

"… You are good," Azula said as she nodded in acknowledgement of her loss. "It's not just anyone who can claim they've beaten me, even in a spar."

"Thanks," Suki's lip twisted in a half-smile. "But I don't think that counts as beating you. Not really. After all, you weren't using Firebending."

"You weren't using your fans either," Azula kept her tone mild.

"It's different… or at least, I think it is," a shrug. "My fans are weapons. Tools for a specific task. But bending… it's like a part of who you are, isn't it?"

"Well, I wouldn't be able to fight for beans if I wasn't able to use earthbending," Toph had made her way over to offer Suki a congratulatory slap on her back. "After all it's how I know where everyone is."

"Yeah, that's what I mean. For me, it's just fighting with my default. But for benders… it'd be more like if you were trying to fight with one foot nailed to the ground, wouldn't it?"

Azula didn't reply immediately, instead letting her gaze drift to the fourth member of the room. Mai was sitting by the doorway, arms folded, an expression of studied indifference on her face despite the fact that she'd been watching the entire match closely.

Briefly, she remembered Ty Lee, remembered her dancing around the arena like she was a cloudwalker, able to strike from seemingly everywhere all at once.

She remembered Mai, long afternoons spent practising her knife-throwing, again and again until she'd achieved a consistency that bordered on inhuman.

A part of who I am, huh?

"Be that as it may," she said out loud. "I've trained to fight without Firebending too. So it's not as if this is a first for me."

Any response that might have been forthcoming was interrupted by the sound of an explosion from outside the house.

She whirled around, preparing for combat as a hundred possibilities, none of them good, flashed through Azula's mind in an instant. They had been discovered, they were under attack, they had blown their cover, father had decided for some insane reason to return to the old beach house-

The door was thrown open and Sokka stumbled in, eyes wide.

"Guys! Guys!"

"Sokka? What is it? What happened out there?"

"It's Zuko! Zuko's attacking Aang!"

(X)

By the time Azula emerged into the sunlight of the beach, the argument appeared to have at least progressed past the point of people attempting to harm each other.

Not to say things were at all calm.

"Have you gone crazy? What's the matter with you?" Katara was there, arms folded and her gaze stony as she looked at Zuko, who was picking himself up from the ground.

"With me? What's the matter with you!?" For his part, Zuko was gesticulating wildly as he pointed up the sky. "Sozin's Comet is coming in three days and you're hanging around having a beach party!"

The mention of that seemed to grind all chatter to a halt and now everyone was glancing amongst themselves.

"… What?" Zuko looked around, clearing annoyed at not being let in on the joke. "Why are you all looking at each other like that?"

"It seems pretty straightforward to me, Zuko." Azula stepped forward, letting her gaze sweep over the others. "If it doesn't look like they're preparing to fight the Fire Lord before the comet, the simplest explanation is that they don't plan to fight the Fire Lord before the comet. Am I correct, Avatar?"

"Well, yeah. More or less," the Avatar shrugged and offered Zuko a sheepish look. "I mean, there's no rush. Not any more."

"We originally planned to stop Ozai before he could use the comet to win the war. But..." Katara sighed. "Ba Sing Se's already been taken. The war is over, pretty much. Better to take the time to prepare instead of rushing in."

"A prudent decision," Azula nodded.

"Azula!" Zuko snapped as he rounded on her. "Don't tell me you're agreeing with them about this! Don't you remember why we even left the Fire Nation? What father plans to do?"

"Yes, but that was under the best case scenario. Zuko, you're the Avatar's Firebending teacher. Tell me, if he fought father right now, could he win?"

Zuko's scowl and clenched fists was all the confirmation she needed.

"Rushing in now to beat the comet deadline would just make us lose everything. There's no point in-"

"Whoa, whoa!" Sokka's voice cut in. "Sorry, are we missing something here? What's this about best case scenarios and the Fire Lord's plans?"

The two siblings traded a quick glance before Azula sighed and let out a long breath.

"The Fire Lord plans on using the power of the comet to burn down the Earth Kingdom. Or at least large parts of it."

"It's his plan to break the back of resistance movement and to ensure the survivors submit to him," Zuko supplied in turn.

Well, Azula decided as she looked at the ashen faces around her. They were certainly taking this better than she had expected.

(X)

"This is bad. This is very, very bad." He hadn't stopped pacing ever since they had dropped the unpleasant news, and now Azula was half-worried he'd wear a permanent groove into the wood floor.

It probably wasn't her imagination that he seemed to be actively restraining himself from taking to the skies. Maybe it was his way of relieving stress.

Finally something seemed to change in Aang, and he came to a stop in front of Zuko, throwing his hands into the air.

"Why didn't you tell us about this crazy plan sooner?"

"I thought you'd be fighting him before the comet came anyway! No one told me you were planning to wait!"

A grunt of frustration and Aang turned away again.

"And what about you, Azula? You realized – or at least suspected – that we weren't going to face Ozai before the comet came," Katara's eyes were narrowed. "But you didn't say anything about it."

"Because I wanted to avoid this. Now the Avatar's panicking and thinking he needs to rush in to stop my father before the comet arrives."

"Kinda hard not to panic! You know, looming threat of the destruction of the entire Earth Kingdom?!"

"And I know you like to play the ice-cold 'I'm making the hard choices' queen and all," Sokka had stepped in too, frowning at the scene. "But this really isn't the kind of thing we can just ignore."

"And what will you do then?" She turned her gaze towards Aang, raising an eyebrow in inquiry "Fight the Fire Lord now? I know how you fight, and I know how my father fights. If you face him as you are now, you will lose."

A moment of silence, and then the sound of Toph clearing her throat.

"Your Earthbending could still use some polish, Twinkletoes. If we're being frank."

"… I know. And my Firebending isn't anywhere near the level it needs to be," he lowered his head for a moment before taking a deep breath. "But I have no choice."

"Aang, listen," Katara was at his side now, laying a comforting hand on his shoulder. "It's true, you have to fight the Fire Lord. But nobody said you have to do it alone."

"Yeah, what she said!" Toph had marched up as well, a smirk on her face. "You think any of us were planning on sitting this fight out?"

"That's right! We're Team Avatar, and we're all in this together!" Sokka was here as well, cheering as he pumped his fist.

"We've got everything we need! Air," he pointed at Aang.

"Water," Katara.

"Earth," Toph.

"Fire," Zuko.

"Er, more fire!" Azula resisted the urge to roll her eyes.

"Knives! Fan, and Sword!"

This impromptu cheering session appeared to have at least succeeded in raising the Avatar's spirits. He now had a smile on his face and a more resolute look in his eyes as he nodded.

"You're right. This is going to be hard. But if we're facing the Fire Lord, we'll do it together. I wouldn't want it any other way."

Azula resisted the urge to sigh as the group stepped closer into a hug. Well, let them have their fun, it had nothing to do with her-

"Hey, get over here." She could see Suki looking over and flashing her a quick smile. "Being part of the group means being part of the group hugs."

A shake of her head and a half-step back. "No, I don't think I-"

A rock jutted out from the ground where her foot was, knocking her forward. She caught her footing almost immediately, but-

"Gotcha!" Toph grinned as she grabbed her by the hand. "Wow, you're eager! Never took you for a fan of the touchy-feely stuff, Princess."

She narrowed her eyes. "You're going to pay for that."

"Can't help but notice you're not pulling away," the look on Toph's face remained annoyingly smug as she said that.

Any response Azula was planning to make was drowned out by the Avatar's pet bison apparently deciding that it wanted to be part of the huddle as well.

(X)

"All right," Azula said as she unrolled the scroll of paper. "This is as accurate a map of the Imperial Palace I can make on short notice. There're a bunch of hidden pathways no one ever uses, but Father knows I know about them, so odds are they'll be guarded or otherwise secured. Still, we should be able to avoid the worst of the patrols if we make use of them.

"We don't know exactly where he'll be, but there are going to be plenty of briefings and meetings about the attack on the Earth Kingdom, so he'll likely be in the meeting hall-" she marked down a spot on the map. "-or the throne room."

"That's during the day," Sokka's hands was cupped around his chin. "What about at night? He has a bedroom, right? We'd be able to find him there."

"The royal chambers are among the most secure sections of the Palace," another few marks on the map to indicate the security placements. "Precisely because the Fire Lord is at his most unguarded there. There's most certainly a hidden passage that leads to the room, so it can be used as an escape route, but I've never been able to find it.

"Now, when we do find him, there'll be the issue of facing both him and his guard. A minimum of twelve of the elite Royal Firebenders will be around his person at all times. And of course, the longer the fight takes, the more reinforcements will be called in."

"Meaning we want to end the fight as soon as possible," at least Sokka appeared to be picking up on her threads of information quickly enough.

"Now, the plan is to attack him all at once, but don't think for a moment that my Father will make it easy. He's trained himself to fight off multiple assassins at once, if need be."

She didn't miss the look that flitted across the Avatar's face.

"Assassins?" Katara, meanwhile, was making no attempt to hide the dubious tone in her voice.

"Naturally. Or were you planning to stroll up to the front gates of the palace and issue him a formal challenge instead?"

"Well, no. But still..."

"Does the word choice rankle?" she raised an eyebrow. "Well, whatever you want to call it. The objective doesn't change."

"I know," a sigh from the Avatar, who wasn't even bothering to hide his unease. "This is our best chance to get rid of Ozai so we can't-"

"No." she kept her gaze hard. "Not 'get rid'. 'Kill.' You're going to kill Ozai. Focus on that."

Aang swallowed hard. "Yeah. I'll just… do that."

A short pause fell over the assembled group before Sokka coughed.

"All right, so let's work on the plan. So Suki, Mai and I can work to draw his fire..."

As the Water tribesman continued to talk, Azula kept her focus on Aang's uneasy expression, and felt her own unease gnawing away at her.

(X)

As the sound of chatter around her continued, Azula ate mechanically, not tasting her food.

The evening's training session had been a farce. The Avatar had hesitated at even striking a dummy of the Fire Lord, and she could not say that anything had been accomplished.

She hadn't given it much thought before. Sure, she would be the first one to say the Avatar was soft-hearted to a fault. But she didn't think he'd hesitate so much when it came to killing.

Why?

And more importantly, what were they going to do now?

She was so distracted by her musings she almost missed Katara coming with an announcement about finding a picture of baby Zuko. But she did looked up and was almost struck dumb by the picture.

"That's not me," Zuko informed her, his voice surly. "That's my Father."

"That thing is ancient," was the extent of Azula's contribution.

"He looks a lot more sweet and cute as a baby."

"Yeah?" Zuko was looking down at his food now. "Well, that sweet little kid grew up to be a monster."

"He's still a human being. A person."

That was the first thing the Avatar had said since they had all sat down for dinner.

"And?" Azula shifted her gaze over to him, aware that the other conversations around the dinner table had died down very suddenly. "So's everyone. Unless we're counting spirits, which I don't think we are. That doesn't make him special."

"That's just it, Azula!" Aang snapped and now he was glaring at her. Almost unconsciously, Azula sat up straighter, keeping her gaze focused on him. "All life is sacred! I'm not supposed to use my powers to take life from others!"

"Oh, please," her voice came out dripping with sarcasm, more biting and venomous than she thought it would have been. "It's a bit late for that sort of sanctimony, isn't it? Have you forgotten the North Pole? You drowned more of the Fire Nation navy in one night than the past two decades put together. The only battle in living memory with higher casualties was Iroh's siege of Ba Sing Se, and that took six hundred days. Don't give me any nonsense about you not being able to kill!"

"That wasn't me," a shake of his head and Aang was no longer looking her in the eye. "That was the Ocean Spirit. I was just a- a conduit."

"And the spirits have chosen you as their representative to bridge the gap between the two worlds, and to promote balance. So that's your job – unless I'm missing something?"

"Maybe there's another way?" Suki spread her arms out in a placating gesture. "Like, I don't know. Just subduing him and throwing him into prison?"

"And have him be a magnet for every nationalist who wants to restart the war? No thank you."

"And our Father's one of the best Firebenders there is. We'll always be at risk of him breaking out. Especially since there'll still be forces loyal to him all throughout the Fire Nation like Azula said."

A wordless shout of frustration and anger, and the Avatar was now standing from the table, his fists clenched.

"You're not helping! None of you understand the position I'm in!"

"On the contrary," Azula now stood herself, carefully folding her hands at the small of her back. "I think I understand all too well. You know what you're supposed to do; what your duty as the Avatar demands. But you don't want to do it."

"Azula!" Katara now, glaring at her. "Give Aang a break! He's under a lot of pressure!"

"All right, fine. Just answer one question for me, Avatar. For what he has done, and what he plans to do, does Fire Lord Ozai deserve to die?"

A deafening silence filled the room.

"… I see," Azula closed her eyes and took a deep breath before opening them again. "In that case, if you're still going to move against Ozai before the Comet… I won't be joining you."

An instant flurry of outraged 'What?'s and general cries of alarm.

"You're leaving us in the lurch? At a time like this? We're leaving for the capital tomorrow!"

"Didn't think you'd be backing down at the last minute, Princess," despite the snarky nature of her words, she could tell that Toph was deadly serious.

"Discretion is the better part of valour, as they say," a shake of her head, and her gaze lowered to her hands. "I'm more than willing to fight Ozai. But I'm not going to throw my life away on a battle we won't win."

"You don't know that! If we work together-"

"Work together towards what?" Her voice was like a whipcrack. "Even if you somehow defeat Ozai like this, what's your plan? Tie him up and shove him into a room? Hurry Zuko onto the throne and tell all the guards to stand down, he's the new Fire Lord, please ignore the man telling you to kill us all?"

She turned back to face Aang, who stood there refusing to meet her gaze "You're the lynchpin of our forces, and you can't even commit to killing someone who wants to burn the entire Earth Kingdom to the ground. Am I supposed to place my confidence in you?"

There was no answer. Not that she expected one.

And so she turned, walking away from the group.

At the doorway of the room, she paused and turned back.

"And for the record, I would still have accepted it if you told me 'No, he does not deserve to die.'"

Then she was gone, walking silently down the shadowed corridors of the building.

(X)

Toph waited until she felt Azula's footfalls fade to a sufficient distance before letting out an annoyed grunt. "You can let go now, Stuffy."

Mai's hand didn't move from her shoulder – not exerting pressure, but placed there with just enough weight to serve as a caution.

"You wanted to go after her."

"Should I not have?" she kept her voice low in deference to the muted atmosphere of the room now, but still blew out an exasperated sigh upwards enough to ruffle her bangs. "Not the first time she made a grand show about not wanting to be part of the group, remember? Sometimes I think she justlikes being melodramatic."

"… She does," and Toph didn't miss the faint note of amusement in Mai's voice. "But this isn't one of those times. She genuinely thinks we can't win. Not with the Avatar the way he is."

She settled on another disgruntled snort as a response. It wasn't as if she didn't see the logic in Azula's words. But man alive, they all really really did not need this right now.

"So what's the plan, then? We're on a schedule here. If Azula backs out, we're down a lot of firepower."

Mai didn't respond immediately, and Toph sensed her raising her cup to her lips and taking a long drink of tea.

"This isn't the sort of thing you can force people to come along with you on. Like you said, it's not the first time. She'll want some time to sort things out on her own."

A frustrated yell broke through the background noise of the ongoing argument and Toph heard the characteristic snap of Aang's glider opening up and the wind catching in them.

"Speaking of people who also need time..."

Toph let out a half-grumble half-groan and lowered her head to the table.

"Well, better hope they make good use of tonight then, or we're just going to end up calling the whole thing off tomorrow."

(X)

Azula sat up in her bed, one hand reaching up to rub at her eyes.

This was ridiculous. She wasn't going to deny she was worried about what would transpire tomorrow, but she had trained herself to be able to sleep even if she was stressed or worried, so why-

There was a soft knock on the door of her room.

"Az, you awake?"

"Come in."

Zuko shuffled into the room, hair tousled and an even-grumpier-than-usual expression on his face.

Azula offered her brother a wan smile. "You couldn't sleep either?"

"Yeah, it's like I can't calm down. And not in the 'We're going to be fighting for our lives tomorrow' kind of way. Sort of… like my nerves are tingling or something."

Suddenly the two of them looked at each other and turned as one to regard to night sky through the balcony of the room.

The night was calm, the stars were twinkling overhead in their silent dance.

"… It's still three days out." Zuko said after a moment.

"And if we're starting to feel its effects now that just speaks to how powerful the Comet is, doesn't it?" Azula glanced down at her hands, feeling the fire within her pulsing in a steady rhythm.

A sigh. "True enough, but insomnia's not the only reason I wanted to come find you. About what happened earlier..."

She closed her eyes and sighed. "I mean what I said. The Avatar isn't ready. Physically or mentally. We can't rely on him like this."

"I know. I mean, I want Father gone too. It's just..." a weary shake of his head. "Pushing it onto Aang like that isn't fair to him."

"He's the Avatar."

"He's a kid!"

"He's not that much younger than I am," she raised and lowered one shoulder. "And I wasn't much older than him when I first killed someone."

At least, she thought so.

When had she first taken the life of someone else?

At that moment, Azula found she couldn't quite recall.

She waved the thought, and the lingering sense of regret, aside for the moment.

"I was a little surprised," Zuko said, changing the subject instead of picking at old threads of the past. "You seemed really focused on killing Father back there."

"You disagree?"

"No!" A quick shake of his head to punctuate the statement. And then a slower, heavier one. "… No. The world's better off with Ozai gone. It's just… well, you did have more of a relationship with him than I ever did. I could never please him no matter how hard I tried."

She didn't reply immediately as she looked around the room. It was the same one she'd stayed in as a child, a long time ago.

A place, filled with days long gone.

For a moment, she remembered.

Long hours toiling, studying, training. Working for one more accomplishment, one more breakthrough.

One more smile and a word of acknowledgement from her Father.

"That was a long time ago," she said, almost to herself.

"...Not long enough."

"That doesn't change what needs to be done," she said, not disagreeing.

"And if Aang can't find the resolve, you're not coming?"

"If he can't, no one should go. Not until we're ready," one hand reached up to massage her temples. "If the Avatar falls then everything's lost. We need more time."

"Well, guess what," Zuko's voice was sardonic as he jerked a thumb over his shoulder at the night sky. "We're kind of short on that right now."

"We should wait," she didn't want to sound like a petulant child at that moment, but all her musings still led back to the same conclusion.

"If we wait, the Earth Kingdom burns."

"And if we rush in and fail? What if not trying to stop him here saves more lives in the long run?"

"This isn't some kind of math problem, Azula. You don't get to sit there and count people's lives," Zuko's voice was empathetic, his expression pleading. "No one does."

Suddenly Azula heard Katara's voice, angry and frustrated.

You need to care.

"None of our choices are good ones," her smile was bitter. Tired. "I want to hedge our bets."

Silence in the room until Zuko snorted.

"What is it?"

"No, it's just – I just remembered something Uncle told me once. We were on the boat and I had to decide about two leads I wanted to pursue. But if I chased down one it was a good chance the other trail would go cold. I wasn't sure what to do."

"Did he help you decide with some sage advice earned from his years of tea drinking?"

"No. He just told me 'when you come to choices where you don't know if there's a good outcome, choose the one where the worst case scenario is the one you can live with.'"

"That's our uncle, all right."

"The lead I ended up following went nowhere, by the way."

Another brief chuckle.

Another brief silence.

The choice whose consequences you can live with, huh?

Azula took a deep breath.

"You think the Avatar will object if it's not him doing the killing blow?"

"I don't think his issue was whether or not he got his own hands dirty."

"Do you? He didn't actually offer any reasons in favour of sparing Ozai's life."

"You want someone else," Zuko knew her well enough that she meant herself, but apparently didn't feel the need to point it out. "To be the one to kill Ozai. It'd open up accusations of it being a power grab, though."

"They're going to accuse us of it anyway, so it's no skin off our backs."

"… It's not like we have a lot of options," one hand reached up to massage the bridge of his nose. "Well, at the least, we can ask Aang about it in the morning."

(X)

As it turned out, no, they would not be able to ask Aang about it in the morning. Because Aang had vanished by then, leaving both his glider and Appa behind.

"Did he do this often?" Azula questioned as she stood on the beach, looking down at the footprints that led into the ocean.

"No, never. I mean, he left camp at times but always let someone know if he was going out."

A search of the island turned up no leads and so they had to rely on Zuko's idea of travelling to a random village in the Earth Kingdom to find someone who could help them track down Aang; an endeavour that ultimately proved fruitless when, according to the woman with the scent-tracking animal, Aang had vanished completely from the world.

"All right, plan B," Zuko said. "If we can't find the Avatar, we'll need someone else who can help us defeat Father. We need to find Uncle."

"...At this point, sure. Why not."

And that trail had led them to the wilderness outside Ba Sing Se, staring at what appeared to be vast stretches of empty fields, just as the sun was setting.

They had agreed to stop there for the night and Azula had settled herself down for a fitful sleep.

She didn't know how long later it was when she had been roused by the feeling of Firebending close to her position. She blinked, raised her head, and squinted at the sight of four figures standing in the shadows.

For a moment, Azula wondered if she was dreaming.

Then the largest of the shadows stepped forward to reveal King Bumi smirking down at the group.

"Welcome to old people camp!"

No, Azula decided as she closed her eyes and pulled herself up into a sitting position. She wasn't dreaming. Merely wishing that she was.

(X)

"What are you doing here, daughter?"

She shifted her gaze from the giant painting of Fire Lord Sozin towards her doorway where her father was standing.

The dipping of her head was automatic by now.

"Nothing much, father. Merely revision."

"On the Comet?"

"Yes. It is the anniversary of the Comet's arrival, after all."

And it was due to return soon.

For a moment, the two of them stood, staring up at the streak of blazing white etched on the tapestry.

"Sozin was a wise man," Father was the first to break the silence.

"Yes, he was." She wasn't entirely sure where this conversation was leading, but in cases like this it was usually safer to agree.

"He saw the Comet's vast power, and sought to make use of it in a way that would best further his ambitions.

"And now, a century later, the Comet approaches again. How fortuitous that it would be during my reign."

Azula looked up at her father and saw him smiling.

She knew that smile.

It was never a good thing when that appeared.

Azula stood silently, wondering what was going through his mind at that moment.

"All that power," his voice was softer now, as if he were no longer aware that Azula was still there. And perhaps he wasn't. "And so soon… how shall I put it to use, I wonder?"

"I'm certain that you'll be able to use it to make your mark on history, Father. Perhaps the deed shall even be great enough that they would choose to call it Ozai's Comet in years to come."

She knew it was nearly unthinkable to suggest that anyone in Fire Nation could rival Sozin's exploits. But her Father was the strongest and greatest person she knew – if not him, then who?

Father did not reply to her, at least not directly. But she could see the smile on his face widening, ever so slightly.

He turned and strode from the room, leaving Azula alone once more.

She found her gaze travelling upwards once more to gaze at the Comet.

Soon…


Chapter End


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