Ty Lee visits Ember Island 10 years after the events of 'Sozin's Comet' and meets with two people from her past...
By Kairi Taylor
Ty Lee looked in awe at the house before her. It was still a relative shock to her how the carpenters managed to restore the place to the way it looked when she last visited Ember Island 10 years ago, but it seemed time, and fate too, looked favorably on this house. It was the place where Zuko’s family went for summer vacations, in happier times, before Ozai’s greed and lust for power had tainted him and his children. She remembered what happened the night she last saw it, when the small group had let out all their frustrations. In many ways, the trip there had changed them all, but the effects of the change would not been seen for a few more months.
After the war, Zuko had ordered the place to be restored, in order to accommodate the new inhabitants, the two people she had decided to visit this week. The 2nd in command of the Kyoshi Warriors rarely had a chance to visit the Fire Nation without being on official duty, so it was a welcome breath of fresh air. Approaching the front doors of the mansion, Ty Lee knocked on the door, wondering if the new recruits would be ok without her. It was her responsibility to help in the training of the newest members of Kyoshi’s fighting force, but such an opportunity that was before her rarely came along.
The large wooden doors swung open and before her stood a tall woman, dressed in a long green kimono. In her hands was a clay cup of tea, simmering hot. Her long brown hair was done up in a braid. The woman smiled as she addressed the young girl before her. “Ty Lee, it’s been so long! I haven’t seen you since I returned to the palace 10 years ago.”
“It’s great to see you too Ursa!” Ty Lee hugged Ursa tightly; careful not to make her lose her grip on the tea she was currently drinking. Ursa smiled warmly and replied “Likewise. I guess that since you’re with the Kyoshi Warriors now, you have a lot of work ahead of you.”
“Oh, yes. Being second in command is no picnic! Especially now that we’ve expanded to a base in Ba Sing Se. So many girls want to join up with us!”
“I can imagine. Oh, how is Iroh doing?”
“He’s been doing great. His tea shop’s also expanded as well! Not only that but…” Ty Lee got a mischievous grin on her face as she looked around to see if anyone was nearby, before whispering her secret into Ursa’s ear. Ursa smiled as she said “I always knew something like that would happen.”
“The old codger’s still got it, I have to admit. Anyway, I think you know why I’m here.”
“Of course, the garden is this way.”
When she entered the garden, Ty Lee was immediately struck in awe by two things: one was the size of it, as well as the variety of flowers within. The other thing that has surprised her was at the small pond: a small trio of turtle ducks swam around in relative peace, occasionally stopping to eat a piece of tossed bread. Feeding them bread was Azula, dressed in a grey aikidogi & black hakama. She turned and saw Ty Lee standing in the archway entrance to the garden and smiled at her. There was not a hint of wrath or a trace of smug superiority laced with malice. It was a genuine feeling of joy that came with it. “Well well, the word on the street is that a certain someone’s moved up in the world. Wonder who that is?”
“You never miss a beat with the sarcasm do you?” Ty Lee smiled.
“Call it one of my more endearing traits.” Azula replied. “Got a hug for me or what?”
As Ty Lee moved to confront her, it was at that moment in time that they attacked; pieces of cylinder shaped earth shot up towards Azula & Ty Lee, and if they didn’t instinctively leap backwards, they would have broken ribs to contend with. Ty Lee balanced herself on the railings on the wall nearby as Azula landed in a sturdy branch of the nearby cherry tree. “Seems like we have a guest.” Ty Lee said to her. Azula nodded and added “They waited until my attention was diverted before they attacked. Clever.”
“You knew they were here?”
“Yeah, but I didn’t want to get the turtle ducks involved.”
“Caring for the well being of another living being? You can’t possibly be Azula!”
The owner of the voice leapt into the center of the garden. He was dressed as a Dai Li agent, but he lacked the hat. He was bald and had a scar over his right eye. “I am Tsung, a warrior of the Dai Li and I’m here to destroy you! Your crimes as conqueror of Ba Sing Se may have been forgiven by the Earth King and the Fire Lord, but I refuse to acknowledge it! You will pay for what you have done!”
“The Dai Li?” Ty Lee looked at Azula and asked her “Hey, I could have sworn that you banished them.”
“Yes, not exactly one of my finest moments, I have to admit. And as soon as they returned to Ba Sing Se, they were branded as traitors & imprisoned. That’s what I was told. I guess some of them managed to stay in hiding.”
“No thanks to you! We were wrongfully punished for what you did!” Tsung shouted.
“Yes, but think about it: you could have imprisoned me and my friends when you had us and helped the Earth Kingdom in invading the Fire Nation and end the war. Instead, you chose to side with me and abandon the very city you were sworn to protect. Avatar Kyoshi would probably destroy you herself if she was still alive today.”
“That’s rich, coming from a monster like you!” Tsung growled.
“Maybe, but I’m no traitor.” Azula adjusted the belt on her hakama and said to Ty Lee “We need to incapacitate him. Got any ideas?”
“I’m working on it.”
“Sorry, but I won’t allow the luxury of that. DIE!” Tsung assumed an Earth bending stance and made two sizeable boulders erupt from the ground, then kicked them both in their directions. Azula nimbly leapt from her perch and kicked through the boulder sent at her while Ty Lee jumped and bounced off hers, using the momentum to launch herself towards Tsung. Azula reached him first, landing at his side. Tsung quickly began to attack with a series of punches, but Azula easily dodged all of them and, at a particular point in his barrage grabbed him by the wrist & flipped him to the ground. Jumping right back up, he lunged and swung wildly at he, but Azula ducked under him and grabbed Tsung at the wrist & shoulder, quickly throwing him down again face first. Taking the initiative, Ty Lee punched a few pressure points, paralyzing him. “Wow that was amazing! You didn’t use Fire bending at all!” Ty Lee said in astonishment.
“Even if I wanted to, I don’t think it was needed to take him down. He left himself open a lot. At least he was pretty good at stealth. Come on, help me tie him up. My mom will get the police to pick him up.”
A few hours later, after some cleaning up and lengthy explanations to the police, Ty Lee sat besides Azula in the garden. “So, my mother figured that studying under her teacher, sensei Ueshiba, would be very helpful for my therapy. I’ve been at it for at least 5 years now. I have to say, its way different from using Fire bending.”
“You think? You tossed that guy around like he was as light as a feather! I never thought that was possible” Azula waved her hand and said “Ah, it’s nothing really. Just a case of using your opponent’s own momentum against them, that’s all there is to it.”
“I’ll take your word for it.”
“What I still can’t believe is that you still want to talk to me after what happened so many years ago.” Azula sighed. “I mean, come on, what I did was so harsh.”
“You and Mai were going to kill each other. I was not about to lose either one of my friends while I could still do something.”
“Yes, I know. You had to make your choice. In many respects, I should be asking for your forgiveness.” Azula looked at the sky. “In many ways, you could say I was jealous of you. You were so carefree and trusting, and every boy you met seemed to like you. I couldn’t understand how you managed to that while I, crown princess of the Fire Nation, couldn’t even get a boy to want to ask me out.”
“Given that you had a very malicious edge and a habit of burning anyone who annoyed you, which may actually be one indicator.”
“Yeah, you’re right. But that was still no excuse to treat you like a ragged dog. I probably would have learned more if you taught me how to be more receptive to guys.”
“True, but I’m not exactly an expert on building relationships. If anything, I’ve done more matchmaking than dating. How else do you explain how Mai & Zuko had gotten together?” Azula laughed and said “Hey, I had a hand in that two.”
“Have you spoken to them lately?”
“Yes, they sent us a letter a month ago; they’re expecting their 2nd child soon!”
“No way! You mean little Lu Ten’s going to have a sibling?”
“Yeah. Of course, I suggested against using any variation of the word ‘Ozai’ or ‘Azulon’ in the name. That seems to bring about a lot of bad luck.” Azula stood up and stretched her arms. “I never got a chance to tell you about the day I reunited with my mother, did I?”
“Yeah, I was meaning to ask about that.”
“I guess you could say that was when the healing began…”
She was bound hand and foot by iron shackles to the floor. Silently she sat in her cell, watching the clouds pass by overhead in the window. Her fall from power had been great and her she was, defeated and disgraced. She had once been Ozai’s proud daughter and leader of a great army; she had conquered Ba Sing Se, defeated the Avatar and then helped to repel the invasion of the Fire Nation during the eclipse. None of that mattered now however; after the betrayal of Mai & Ty Lee for the sake of Zuko, she has pushed away anyone she trusted, even the old ones who kept her in check. She had lost not only her confidence, but her place in the family. She was defeated not by her brother, but by his companion, a lowly Water Bender. The humiliation was greater than she could bear and her mind snapped. Zuko, in a show of mercy, asked that she be kept in the nearby mental facility, where she could be taken care of and monitored. Unlike Ozai, Zuko had some regrets about the state of affairs that had happened between them. Azula believed otherwise, as she felt he loved nothing more than to keep her locked up.
The door to her room opened up and Zuko stepped inside. He looked at Azula, with no emotions on his face whatsoever, as it was known that Azula could tell what people were thinking by looking at them. “Well, well, Zuzu pays me a visit again! Come to tell me of the state of the nation? Or will you have a simple cup of tea with me?” Azula sneered.
“Actually, that’s not why I’m here.” Zuko said to her. “I brought a guest with me today. It’s someone I think can help us both.”
“Oh goodie, another head shrink! Let me guess, this one’s going to tell me I have severe mommy issues. Believe me, it gets old real fast hearing the same prognosis over and over again.”
“It’s only because you refuse to admit that they’re right. When mom left, it hurt you far more than even I thought. It’s been eating at you ever since and you don’t want to come out and say it because it would make you seem weak.”
“The nurses seem to think otherwise. They reported that they hear you talking at night to someone when there is clearly no one in your cell. And I don’t think I know anyone else with the name ‘Mother’ here.”
“So? I could be talking to my pet rat, who I could have called Mother!”
“I doubt it. I think it’s time that you confronted this problem once and for all. And there is only one person that can help.” The guards entered the cell and opened the door as Azula asked “And what quack did you find this time?”
Zuko stepped aside to let the person behind him in. It was Ursa, who had on a long brown robe with a hood on. She looked sternly at her daughter as she said “Hello Azula. It’s been a long time.”
“No…NO!!!” Azula sat up and scrambled to the back of the cell, but was held in place by the chains. “This is a trick…no, this is a dream!! You can’t be here.”
“I am here.” Ursa said, keeping her voice level as she approached the cell. “Your brother has told me everything that you did. I know about all of it.”
Azula, a look of fright in her eyes, struggled to get away, but to know avail. Ursa was getting closer, and she could not meet her gaze. “The royal guard told me of all that you had done while I was banished. All of the pain and misery you inflicted upon many. All of the people you defeated and how you almost killed the Avatar. And how you lost your mind after you were defeated by Katara of the Water Tribe. I only have one thing to say to you…”
As Ursa knelt down to face her daughter, Azula tightly clenched her eyes shut. She couldn’t bear witness to face her mother’s wrath, something she had dread for so long. What she got instead confused her: Ursa grabbed her and hugged her tightly. She held her daughter’s head in her hand and stroked her hair as she said the words Azula believed she would never say to her.
“I forgive you, and I will always love you.”
With these words uttered in her ears, Azula did what she could only do in that moment. She wept.
“Well, that was an interesting round.”
It was a year now since the return of Ursa and Azula’s progress had improved significantly. Ursa had decided to stay in a house near the mental facility so that she could visit Azula daily. Azula had finally stopped having delusional states and began to slowly talk more and more with the doctors and her mother. She was eventually moved to one of the open areas of the ward, which had a garden that the patients could relax in. Currently, the two were engaged in a game of Go, which the elder had one. “I see you’re picking up the game quickly.”
“It’s kind of a military simulation if you stop and think about it.” Azula pointed out, but then again, I suppose it is not good for me to be making such comparisons.”
“Oh no, you’re right about that,” Ursa said, “don’t feel too bad about it.”
“What I feel bad about is thinking you hated me for so long.” Azula said toUrsa. “You were always so doting to Zuko.”
“Yes, well, he didn’t exactly have a whole abundance of confidence like you did.” Ursa pointed out. Azula sighed and said “Yes, you’re right. I suppose I didn’t really help in that area too, did I?”
“No.” Ursa picked up the pieces and said to Azula “I guess it must had seemed to you that I was more doting on Zuko, but the truth of the matter is, someone like you who has your confidence level didn’t really need me to cheer you on. If anything, I wanted o steer you away from your more aggressive tendencies. Tendencies your father seemed to encourage.”
“No kidding. He was the one who told me you called me a monster.”
“I can’t believe you believed him.”
“I was a little girl who wanted both of her parents to love me! What did you expect?”
“Actually, if anything, I wanted to feel like you were as proud of me as you were of Zuko. I mean, look at how he was…”
“Yes, he made mistakes, he was shy, he was not as militant as what he could have been,” Ursa answered, “but that what made him special, dear. That’s what makes any person special. To be able to pick yourself up after failing over and over again and keep at it, that’s what makes him as strong as he is now. He overcame his shortcomings to be an honorable man, a type of person that was needed to bring order to our family and because of it, the world can finally heal.”
“Did you always know that he could do that?”
“I always suspected it. I also always suspected your father never cared for him because he wasn’t as driven as you and he were. The night of your grandfather’s death proved it.” Ursa sighed and said “Believe me, if I could have brought both of you with me when I was banished, I would have, but people would have been asking questions.”
“I kind of wish that you could have.” Azula said. “Maybe then, I could have understood what you wanted of me.”
“Well, I’m here now. And I don’t intend on leaving your side anytime soon.”
The door to his cell opened and Azula entered, motioning for the guard to stay behind. 5 years had passed since the end of the war and it was the first (and last) time she wanted to see him. In his cell sat Ozai, former Fire Lord and would-be Phoenix King, now a prisoner stripped of his Fire Bending abilities. Long streaks of grey lined his hair and beard as he gazed at the sight of his only daughter standing before him, a solemn look on her face. “Ah, Azula.” Ozai said. “I see they let you out of the mental house.”
“Yes, it’s amazing what sanity can do for you.” Azula said.
“So, what brings you to my cell? Hopefully, it’s to bring me news that you have found enough supporters to have a coup and overthrow your brother.”
“Actually, I’m going to go see him today at the palace. We’re planning his official wedding to Mai as we speak.”
“What? Have you let him get to you too?”
“It was mother’s idea, actually. It’s her way of building the bonds between us.”
“Of course, Ursa.” Ozai frowned as Azula turned away from him. “She never did see things like they should be.”
“There is one other thing. I wanted to deliver a message to you. Not from Zuko or mother but from me. My message is simple: Goodbye.”
“Goodbye? What, are they executing me?”
“No, but don’t give me ideas. After spending time with mother, I had an ephiany one morning. I always thought that all I wanted was both the love of my mother and father in order to be the perfect person. In reality, I just didn’t want to be left alone. Oh sure, I had friends or servants, but I only had them because I used fear to keep hem in line. You taught me that no one could really be trusted completely, that force was the only binding thing that kept us in power. What a wonderfully horrid thing to teach a troubled little girl. You never saw me as a daughter, but a living weapon that only existed to enforce the will of the Fire Lord. You would willingly cast aside the life of my brother to save face because he wasn’t like you and you let the only woman who loved you be banished because it gave you the power you so desired. In the end, Zuko and Uncle prevailed because they had the capacity to love, something you considered a weakness. And it was compassion that allowed the Avatar not only to defeat you, but take away your ability to Fire Bend forever. It was compassion that enabled Katara to defeat me as I slid into madness, a state that you helped put me into. Maybe one day you will understand why I’m doing this. But I doubt you will. So long father. May you find the same peace I did.”
And that was indeed the last time Azula spoke to her father.
“Wow, way to lay into your dad.” Ty Lee whistled as Azula completed her tale. “I only wish you could have given him a head butt or kicked him in the shin after that.”
“I would have aimed higher.” Azula replied. “It’s still a wonder though, that mother managed to slip away from my father’s surveillance with the help of the Order of the White Lotus while she was banished. Then again, Uncle Iroh always has at least a back up plan ready.”
“Speaking of Iroh…” Ty Lee’s face lit up as she said “Guess who’s a dad?!”
“Whoa, UNCLE?” Azula stroked her chin and said “I always figured him for the confirmed bachelor type. He got married?”
“Yeah, to a girl who used to be his prison guard, Meng. They had twins. One is named Serena and the other is named Mao.”
“Unusual choices, really. Anyone else we know having kids?”
“Oh gee, let me think…AANG AND KATARA?!”
“No way. Well, actually, that isn’t so surprising. He kid’s had a thing for her. At least she didn’t end up with Zuzu…imagine that.”
“I try not to.”
“Well, if I want to beat my brother in the ‘Who has more children than their siblings’ department, I better snag myself a nice boy to settle down with. Gee, I wonder if Sokka is available.”
“Trust me, Suki would have your head. Toph too.”
“She’s the new leader of the army at Ba Sing Se right? I’m surprised her dad let her loose.”
“Well, she is his only heir, he can’t really do much. I’ll tell you all about it at dinner.”
Azula looked at her friend. “Dinner? Where?”
“Your mom found this nice new place to eat dinner at. And I found a couple of new boys for us to hang out with.”
“Hmm, my mom must have planned all this. She knows I don’t exactly like going out without her.”
“Trust me. There’s this really nice boy from the Earth Kingdom you’ll like too. Think his name is Haru…”