Despite killing her brother in a frenzy and losing an arm to the water tribe peasant, Azula expected that she would be on cloud nine: she was finally Fire Lord. It didn't matter that the Avatar hadn't shown up at the Fire Nation capital after the Earth kingdom had been obliterated on her order. She had gotten everything she'd worked hard for, and it felt like grasping a puff of smoke.
“Congratulations, Azula. I know you worked hard for this.” Her mother's sweet, rotten voice cooed. It was mocking and filled with mirth. Yet another person Azula couldn't trust. Her father had stolen her idea to obliterate the Earth kingdom, and gave her an empty title of Fire Lord. He gave her her heart's desire, only to immediately undermine it like he always did. Azula had been a sword for Ozai, and he cast her aside just as easily as he did to everything else. Why had she thought she was special? Because he rarely punished her? Because he didn't scar her like he did Zuko?
What had she fought so hard for? Azula had killed her brother and the water tribe peasant that the Avatar loved. She had murdered her own brother. He challenged her, like usual, but had a calm and accepting look on his face. He had excelled to a level Azula could never reach. If she hadn't used the peasant as a distraction, then Zuko would've won. She was so off her game, Zuzu could have won. Her precious brother who everyone loved. She was the Crown Princess. She had given this nation, her leader, her all. Everything she did was for the glory of the Fire Nation. And what was she rewarded with? An empty title and a dead brother. She was worse than her mother.
She stumbled to her brother's body, blood pouring down her paralyzed arm. That peasant had crippled her, but it didn't matter. Azula had won… something. She gazed into the filmed, widened eyes of her brother, who once loved her before she started bending; before Ozai poisoned her innocence and siphoned her Agni given power to usurp the Fire Nation. Why hadn't she realized she was simply being used to do her father’s dirty work? Did Ty Lee and Mai see it? Is that why they betrayed her?
“Of course you were used, Azula. You always did have too much pride and no dignity to carry it with.” Her mother’s snark was unappreciated. Azula fell to her knees and finally looked around the prize she had killed so many for. All she could see were burning buildings and hear screams of agony are rage. No matter who won this battle, Azula would never be the Fire Lord she had aspired to be for so many years. It was an empty title indeed. An empty title for an empty nation.
“You could have joined the Avatar, you know. It should have been an obvious choice instead of trying to kill your uncle and your brother. For someone you claim to not care about, you feel pretty disgusting for killing him, don’t you?”
Azula didn’t dignify that rant with a reply. It was merely a figment of her imagination, mocking her now when it was too late. She had worn the dignity of the Fire Nation with pride. Her mother’s voice was, once again, unnecessary and unwelcomed. Join the Avatar? Yeah, right! The Avatar was a man child who couldn’t even beat her in her prime. Why would she depend on such a weakling to help her achieve her goals? He probably struggled against her father, and she killed the peasant when she was out of her mind. Like hell she wanted to depend on them.
“You depended on your weakling of a father, and look where it got you. You trusted a paranoid coward who forced his wife to murder her father-in-law or else her son would be killed. You trusted a man who connived behind his own brother’s back for power. You trusted a man who didn’t hesitate to burn your brother and banish him for stepping out of turn. You have trusted less, and achieved nothing. I’m disappointed.”
Azula saw red, and her heart beat hard in her chest from her unbridled anger. “How can you be disappointed when you abandoned your children to face a lunatic you were so scared of? You have all this nice insight of my failures, but I didn’t have anyone but that lunatic to support me. I wasn’t loved like Zuko who had you and that fat moron! I only had traitorous best friends who would rather throw away their lives for my flip flopping, craven brother than tell me that my father was using me!” Her chest heaved with the slanderous thoughts towards Ozai, and it felt good. It felt like a weight was being released, and Ursa quietly chuckled as if her outburst was hilarious.
Azula scoffed at the chuckle. “And who’s the real monster? The man who hid none of his intentions, or the woman who abandoned her children to those intentions? I don’t need you. I don’t need anyone. You’re all untrustworthy, preachy cowards that would rather take the easy way out of all of your problems than face them head on! At least I knew that my decisions are steeped in blood and death. I knew that when Ozai gave me my first mission as a fire bending Master and a Lightning Bending Master. I am the best! Zuko lost because he was weak!”
“Zuko lost because he had humanity. He cared about other people than himself.”
“And look where that got him. He didn’t care enough for Mai. She died at Boiling Rock because of her betrayal. Mai loved that moron, and he cast her aside as easily as Ozai cast him aside. It was no sweat off his ‘honor’ to leave his noblewoman, ex-girlfriend to the wolves to fend for herself in a sea of men who wouldn’t honor a woman with dubious chastity. He didn’t care about me either!”
“What didn’t he do?”
Azula bit her tongue hard, her vision swirling. She had lost a considerable amount of blood, and would probably die hallucinating her wretched mother’s voice. What did Zuko do for her? He expected a woman fire bender to surrender her only source of power for his murky mission for honor? He wanted Azula to sacrifice her future for something so uncertain? She wasn’t an idiot, but apparently she was if she was hallucinating and dying.
“Katara!” A voice screeched in absolute horror. A young voice that clearly belonged to the Avatar. A bitter young man that had failed the Air Nation as well as the woman he loved. Azula didn’t pity his agony, but she did look down on him for underestimating her. Azula wasn’t a weakling who could be defeated so easily.
“No. No. No. No. No.” He chanted, holding her in such a tender way. Azula could only stare. The Avatar clearly loved her, but it was too late. Would anyone weep like that for her? Or would they rejoice that the Big Bad Monster was finally gone? What did she even achieve that was worthwhile? She destroyed Ba Sing Se, but that didn’t matter. Not when she was about to die because she was crazy.
The Avatar’s presence only meant one thing for Azula. Her father had failed. The man who harped on perfection and success had failed. It was so delicious, the irony of the situation. Ozai must’ve met a bitter end like she would. He had risen off of her and his own brother’s coattails, only to fail after awarding himself this grand title. People hadn’t really liked the new political structure, as it didn’t make sense to have both a Phoenix King and Fire Lord. But Ozai didn’t care as long as he achieved his goal. And now he was either dead or wishing he was. He made every patriot of the Nation embarrassed. This weakling dared to look down on Zuko during that Agni Kai. Now he would taste what eternal humiliation was like. She was pleased that she wouldn’t be the only one who would be killed by the Avatar.
The Avatar turned to her with raw hatred flashed in his eyes. That seemed to be the only look she could efficiently conjure from people without fail. That and fear. Why had no one ever looked at her with love or longing? Was it her fault that she only had Ozai as a mentor? Was she that repulsive? Probably. She did just murder her brother so she could be the best. What about that screamed vulnerability or loneliness? Her little victory was more childish than his ‘my honor’ spiel a couple years ago.
“You monster!” The Avatar shouted, eyes glowing in that powerful, familiar way that signified Azula should get ready to fight, but she’d been bleeding out on her knees next to the brother she had always wanted to know. The brother she wanted to connect with the most. Why hadn’t he ever loved her like he did anyone else? Strangers who tried to kill him received more love than her. She supposed that she would always be a monster to someone. If she wasn’t on the verge of dying, she would’ve struck him with lightning, but what would that achieve? She’d be inheriting a desecrated world with problems she’d been too ignorant to notice. A world deprived of Air benders, Water benders, and now Earth benders thanks to her family. Now she knew why Ursa called her a monster. The blood running through her veins could only be the blood that even Agni would destroy in a blink.
But she wouldn’t be Azula without having something to say. “Oh, get on with it, Avatar. You’ve won this meaningless battle with nothing to show for it.” She excelled at tearing people apart.
“Your family has destroyed this world for the last time!”
“Ah,” she said, swaying on her knees as she stood in all her pride and glory. “I thought you liked Zuzu. He spoke so highly of you, even if you did show up too late.”
The Avatar roared with indignant rage. He unleashed every element, and she could think of no better way to die than in battle. She was satisfied that she would be graced with such an extravagant death. Except the Avatar was in front of her, glaring into her eyes. “I will give you the fate your father suffers. I will take your bending that you’re so proud of. Your flames will never hurt anyone again!” He touched her head, and his face immediately scrunched up as her vision turned white.
Azula felt scorching hot, and imagined that Agni was burning her soul for the atrocities she committed for satisfaction and survival. It was either be a proud and powerful bender, or be a simpering noblewoman that was used and forgotten for other pleasures. There was more to life than killing and surviving until another day. Had Azula ever had fun? Maybe when she’d had her first kiss at Ember Island, but that was immediately overshadowed by everyone’s temper tantrums and what happened afterwards.
“Awaken.” A deep voice said, and Azula’s eyes opened to a painful brightness. She clenched her eyes shut. “Perhaps it’s best you leave them close. Your darkness has clouded your vision, my granddaughter.”
Azula stiffened. His what now? Darkness? What was going on? She’d never had the opportunity to ascertain her lineage outside of Ozai’s line. This voice was nothing like her grandfather, Azulon. Surely if that man could make it to a place and could live peacefully, then Azula wouldn’t have any problem living peacefully either. Her sins paled compared to her father, uncle, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Compared to them, she was an innocent maiden.
“Who?” She demanded, but kept her eyes closed. She didn’t need to be told twice. She didn’t want to know what the afterlife had in store for people like her who relished massacre.
The voice snorted. “Every bit Sozin’s descendent. That arrogance almost had your soul obliterated by the Avatar. The world will heal… eventually, but you won’t live for that day.” The person placed a cool hand on her cheek that kept the harsh warmth away from her. “What have they done to you? What could your soul have possibly done to be given such a terrible fate? Fear not. I worked very hard to make things right. Don’t say your granddad doesn’t do anything for you.”
“Who are you?” She demanded desperately.
He patted her cheek, much like how her lazy, neglectful uncle used to do to Zuko. Even though it was stupid, it didn’t feel bad. Why was this person helping her? She hadn’t done anything to deserve it. She had killed people, and she had liked it.
“You’ll have plenty of time to learn about me. I’m going to help you. With my help, you’ll have more of a fighting chance.” He said, and Azula didn’t know why, but she believed that this stranger would help her. Maybe she was touch-starved, but his kindness and willingness to help her was something she desperately craved. How many times had she just wanted help? Just wanted to be close to someone, and have them look at her with love. Just one person. It felt amazing that she didn’t need to see to know this person cared about her. And it felt impossible.