The thing about war was that you couldn't just end it. He was afraid that the Fire Nation had no protocols for ending war at all, that his advisors asked about a timeline to withdraw the troops stationed in the colonies just so he could say "Uh," and they could laugh at him behind his back.
Maybe reading something would help. Even if there were no clear answers, his brain could play Pai Sho while he read, fitting pieces together without his conscious attention. This, he tells himself, is the reason he goes to the palace library.
He walks to the far wall, a little too quickly perhaps, but then he is busy; he is Firelord, after all. The shelves are packed tightly with scrolls—neat, but in a way that makes no sense to him. He runs his finger near their spines, careful not to touch them.
"Don't tell me you need help."
"I...can read, Azula." He swears. "Can't our historians come up with better titles than 64 ASC, Volume 4?"
There is a pause. "It's a fine title, if you know what you're looking for." Another pause. "And if you paid attention during history lessons."
He tries not to measure the spaces between her words, the gaps that stretch them slowly, almost imperceptibly, like the spaces he'd make between his characters during calligraphy lessons so he wouldn't have to write so many because writing was so
boring. And pointless. "The eldest prince should have a fine hand," Azula would say. "He might have to write proclamations someday." And he'd reply
Her voice is like the low rumble of locust-bees, and her left hand hovers by her ear, halfway between brushing her hair behind it and waving something away. Then she bends over her scroll, her finger following the columns. As he watches her, he thinks he sees her lips move still.
And suddenly he wants to blast fire at the scrolls against the wall, because it is so stupid that he
(isn't the failure)
can't find the scroll he wants and has no idea how to end a war and why isn't Uncle Firelord, because he is the failure but now he doesn't know what he is anymore and it is all her fault. Except it isn't.
"Fuck!" he says, and storms out as regally as possible.