Zuko walked slowly down the stone corridor. He knew what he was doing was right, even if it went against everything that he had been raised to do. As he reached the door at the end of the corridor, he thought back to the last time he was supposed to fight his father. He hadn’t been nearly as prepared, considering he didn’t even know who he was fighting. That had been the reason why he had hunted the Avatar for so long, spent so long trying to regain his honor. That wouldn’t matter after this. He would lose all honor according to his father, and his sister, but he hoped that it would start to make him feel alright again. He wanted to feel honor coursing through his veins, and not because someone else said that it was.
The last time he had faced his father had forced him to become a hateful, bitter person. He wanted to make sure his father understood his pain, his terror, that biting feeling of betrayal. He remembered the shock of seeing his true opponent in his first real Agni Kai all those years ago.
Zuko stood on top of the dueling platform, waiting for the pathetic old general that he had offended. As he stood there awaiting the ensuing battle, he could only wonder why the Fire Nation would want to risk many of the fire nation’s people's lives just to add more land to their own.
He heard someone step up and readied his fighting stance until he saw who his opponent was. His father came onto the platform tearing off his robe, getting prepared to fight. Zuko, terrified of the thought of fighting his own father, stood down immediately prepared to beg for forgiveness.
King Ozai started to walk towards his son, with fury in his eyes. He had gone against him and the Fire Nation when he spoke out against his plans. Zuko had embarrassed him and the Fire Nation people. This was nowhere near what he expected out of his son. He told his son to get up and fight for his honor, but Zuko still stood down and refused to fight him in front of everyone. Zuko must lack all honor if he were willing to get down on his knees and beg, Ozai thought derisively.
Zuko apologized to his father and tried to explain that he was only trying to protect the people’s best interest. His father, disgusted with his remark, told his son that if he could not defend his own honor, then he will have to learn what happens when he doesn’t listen to him.
As his father stepped closer to him, Zuko slowly went to the floor begging for his father’s forgiveness. Many things ran through his head in the amount of time it took his father to reach him. But one stayed constant: why, why would his father do this to him? Why would he even think that it was necessary? Tears started to fall out of his eyes and onto the floor as he struggled to comprehend what was happening.
As Zuko still refused to stand up, his father’s hand slowly reached for his face until he was just hovering the left side of his head. The next thing that Zuko knew the left side of his face went up in flames as he felt the world become fire.
All the hate that he had felt, all the indignation that he had suffered, all the snide and backhanded comments he had experienced, all of the bitterness and indecision in his life had stemmed from that moment: the moment when his own father deemed him unworthy and burned his face so badly that the scar will always be a reminder of that day. He would never be able to forget what he done, what he had gone through in an attempt to gain the respect of his father, but now he could never forget how once he had gotten it, he hadn’t felt any better.
He realized that while he had the respect of his father, the people of the Fire Nation, Mai, and maybe even his sister in a creepy kind of way, he had lost the respect of the one person who really mattered to him and cared about him: his uncle, Iroh. He knew that he could never truly be forgiven by his uncle, but he hoped that this was a start.
He realized that he had arrived at his father’s secret chamber in the heart of the volcano deep within his home. Staring at the door, he realized that this was what he truly wanted, needed to do in order for him finally to gain some peace.
He spoke quietly, but with confidence and resolve in his voice, “I’m ready to face you.”