Kazu and Zuko talk about what to do, and time-travel. Roku finally shows up.
Fire Lord Azuki watched as Zuko and Kazu left the room. When Kazu first brought news of the young time-traveler, he wasn't sure what to make of it. He was obviously sent here for a reason, as it was rarely done, but why? Was the future really that bad, or was there some other reason?
The time-traveler ended up surprising him though. Most teenagers would end up losing their cool in front of the Fire Lord, but Zuko handled himself rather well. He also went along with everything he and Kazu came up with. Yet, he was still willing to interject his own opinions, such as with that incident with some stupid servant. Azuki didn't know all the details on that, but he hoped for their sake that Kazu would take care of it.
He would have to keep an eye on this teenager. He reminded him of someone, but Azuki couldn't figure out who.
Later, Zuko and Kazu left the palace, and ended up heading back to Kazu's place. Zuko was curious as to what kind of place this guy lived in. Well, whatever it was, it had to be better than the ship or their lower ring apartment.
Kazu's place wasn't that nice compared to the rest of the Capital. It only had one floor, though there was quite a few rooms in his place to make up for it. His home had an inviting atmosphere, and Zuko was curious to see how the rest of it looked. He then sat down on a chair in the first room, trying to get comfortable. He and Kazu needed to have a discussion.
“First off, I need to apologize to you,” began Kazu. “My house isn't that big, as you noticed, so it's only equipped with two bedrooms. There isn't really any spare space either, so you'll have to share a room with my nephew. I hope you don't mind having a roommate.”
Zuko honestly wasn't expecting that. “It should be fine, assuming your nephew is someone I can get along with,” he said. He really hoped this nephew wasn't one of those arrogant nobles.
“I certainly hope you two would be able to be good friends,” replied Kazu. “But that is something that will have to wait, as my nephew isn't here right now. He went out with his best friend to go play, but he should be back later. We need to figure out exactly what we're going to tell him about you though.”
“Well, at least I don't have to deal with him just yet,” said Zuko, somewhat relieved. He wondered if their relationship was anything like his and Iroh's. “Though I honestly have no idea what to tell him. I can't just tell him I came from the future, after all, because you and the Fire Lord said not to mention that.”
“Correct,” said Kazu. “This is one of those things that we need to talk about, Zuko. The good news though is that we came up with a way to handle this situation.”
Well, at least that's some good news. He really didn't know what he'd do if he ended up here without some kind of story. He was always horrible at planning. “And what are we telling them?” he asked.
“This is a little-known fact around here,” began Kazu, “but I actually had a cousin growing-up. The two of us, along with my brother, used to play all the time, actually. But, when she was around ten, her and my uncle ended up going away.”
“Why did they go away?” asked a confused Zuko. He really didn't see how this story pertained to him at all.
“I never found out,” replied Kazu, lowering his voice. “The first thing I did was ask my parents. They knew why. I could tell by the way they looked at one another, but...they never told me why. I guess they thought I was better off not knowing or something.”
Zuko nodded. He heard about parents being that way, even though he never had any experience with it.
“I eventually found her again about ten years ago,” replied Kazu. “She's living in the Earth Kingdom, and considers that her home now. My uncle, her father, died five years before that from one of their territory disputes over there.” He shook his head, sighing.
“Territory disputes?” asked Zuko. He couldn't help himself. The concept was just so new to him that he had to ask.
“The Earth Kingdom doesn't have them in your time?” asked a shocked Kazu. “Odd. I didn't think they would ever stop fighting amongst themselves over silly things. And here I thought that you said your time sucked earlier.”
“Maybe because it does suck,” replied Zuko. “You'll just need to trust me on that one.”
“I suppose I'll have to do that then,” replied Kazu, going back to his story. “Anyway, the point is that we're going to pass you off as my cousin's daughter. You're Fire Nation at least. The relationship is also distant enough, which would explain why we don't look that alike. They're pretty much all convinced my uncle and cousin are dead too, so this could actually work.”
Zuko wasn't expecting that, though it did explain why he started talking about this cousin of his. “Uh...what would your cousin say if she knew I was impersonating her nonexistent son?”
“She'd think the whole situation was amusing,” replied Kazu. “Trust me, you're definitely safe in that regard, though she'll probably want to hear about it for her amusement.”
“That's good to know,” replied a relieved Zuko. The last thing he wanted was to get yelled at by a distraught mother. “But if barely anyone knows about her, than why am I suddenly staying at your place?”
“I might not of known about you,” began Kazu, “but we could of somehow ended up meeting. I recognized your mother's name when you introduced yourself, and maybe you decided to stay in the Fire Nation now or something. Yeah, this is definitely the hard part.”
“Definitely,” replied Zuko. “How are we supposed to figure this out? I've always been a horrible planner.”
“Don't let my nephew hear you say that,” said Kazu. “He thinks planning is important.”
“I know it's important,” replied Zuko. “I think all my adventures over the last three years testify to that. I just can't do it, even when my life depends on it.”
“You really need to work on your planning then, Zuko,” replied Kazu. “But in the meantime, you have me. We're in this together now. I'll figure it out for us.”
Zuko stared, not expecting that. Very few people genuinely wanted to help him throughout his life. He couldn't blame them, really, after all the bad things he did in his life. Oh right. Kazu had no idea what he did, which was the only reason why he was being nice. Note to self, don't let anyone here find out about your past.
“Thanks, Kazu,” he finally replied, though this whole situation still felt weird. “Is there anything else we need to discuss?” Zuko figured he might as well hear everything now.
“Yes, Zuko,” he replied. “We need to talk some more about time-travel in general. Time is something we have tried to understand for ages, though we failed to do so. Most of us have now come to the conclusion that time is something that us mortals aren't supposed to understand and left it at that. But there is a couple of things we've concluded based on past time-travelers.”
“What things?” he asked, curious now. If Kazu knew something that could help wrap his mind around what happened to him, it was welcome at this point.
“I have mentioned before that time-travelers are rare, but not entirely unheard of among the sages. When a time-traveler shows up, however, we always try and keep it a secret from the general populace, but sometimes things slip out.”
“Why all the secrecy though?” asked Zuko. “Not that I mind keeping quiet about it. I hate attention. But is there a reason for that?”
“There is,” replied Kazu. “The first known time-traveler was an Air Nomad. Everyone was confused at the time, as she was saying things that didn't make any sense. Of course, we eventually figured out what happened to her, but...that was when things became worse instead of better.”
Kazu paused, either for air or suspense. “People didn't handle it too well. They wanted to know exactly what would happen in their future, or how to change the world for the better. They had good intentions, but...those have a way of backfiring a lot of the time. She ended up giving into the demands, but...it ended badly, as their attempts to fix the future made everything a lot worse.”
“How did things get that bad exactly?” asked Zuko. He really didn't want to mess this up himself, and create an even worse future. He honestly couldn't think of anything worse than the stupid war, but...he knew better than to tempt the spirits.
“People were persecuted for doing things in the future,” began Kazu. “They were punished and killed for things they technically haven't done yet. Obviously, that changed the future, so the timeline isn't static. We know it can be changed, but at what cost? In that particular story, one could easily argue that the result was a lot worse, than the future the Air Nomad originally came from.”
“It was after this that the sages from each of the nations gathered around to discuss this. We didn't want anything like that to happen again, which is where the secrecy rule comes from. I do understand that things have a way of slipping out, and that sometimes the spirits want people to know, but...try to prevent it from becoming public knowledge, okay?”
“I will,” replied Zuko, with conviction. “The last thing I want here is to get mobbed by people asking about the future.” Or figuring out exactly who I'm related to.
“That's good to hear,” replied Kazu, “though you didn't strike me as the type to do that anyway.”
“Uh...thanks, I guess,” replied Zuko, not used to people being like this. Maybe it was because he was anonymous here. Back home, people always heard of him before meeting him.
“Okay, so we already established that the future can be changed. Seeing as nothing completely weird seems to happen from it and the world's still intact, being here should be safe. Everything else is just speculation though, there have been discussions over why time-travel is so rare.”
“Wouldn't the possible consequences of messing with time be enough of a reason for it to be rare?” asked Zuko. That part of it at least made sense to him.
“Yes, they would be,” replied Kazu. “But some of the sages believe that there is more to it than that. All things in the world must be balanced somehow, and they think the act of time-traveling would have some bad consequences in itself. But of course, that is merely speculation on their part.”
“Okay then,” replied Zuko. That sounded eerily familiar to his uncle's talk over the four nations balancing one another. “Is there anything else, Kazu?”
“Only a warning,” said Kazu, pausing for effect. “Every action has consequences, good and bad. Be really careful what you do here. Your case is especially problematic, as you haven't even been born yet.”
“Um...why does that matter?” asked Zuko, not getting it. Time-travel sure was confusing.
“It matters,” began Kazu, “because there's a chance that you could accidentally wipe out your own existence.”
Zuko stared. That was the last answer he was expecting, and such a possibility shocked him. “How could that happen?” he demanded.
“What do you think would happen if I went back in time and killed my father before he had me?” asked Kazu in answer. Zuko opened his mouth, then closed it. He honestly had no answer to that question, as time-travel still confused him.
“My point exactly,” replied an amused Kazu. “There isn't a precedent to that situation, as nobody that we know of has tried it. I do suggest, however, that you at least try to keep your ancestors alive, just in case something bad would happen to you because of that.”
Right, thought Zuko. No killing insane Fire Lords, no matter how much they're driving me crazy. Got it. “Got it, Kazu,” replied Zuko.
“Good. Now I believe you should go get accustomed to your new room,” replied Kazu. “It's the last door on the left in that hall.”
“So, let me get this straight, Uncle,” began Kazu's nephew. “Just correct me if I get anything wrong.”
“Sure thing,” replied Kazu, looking amused.
“You managed to find a relative of ours during your trip to the Earth Kingdom a couple weeks ago?” he asked, cocking his head.
“Correct,” replied Kazu.
“He didn't have a place to stay, and wanted to explore his Fire Nation roots, so you decided to let him stay here?”
“Right,” said Kazu. “Poor guy didn't know anything about his heritage until I found him. Not that I blame my cousin for not telling him. The little I know is enough to make me mad about the whole situation.”
His nephew shivered, knowing that Kazu didn't get scared easily. “Okay, Uncle Kazu. Do you think the two of us could be friends?”
“I don't see why not,” replied Kazu. “I think the guy could use some friends here.”
Zuko was lying down on his new bed. He was taking a look around, seeing as he'd be sleeping in this room for a while. Somehow, Kazu had managed to get a bunk bed, so he and the nephew had their own space. Fortunately, Zuko had the bottom bunk, which he preferred. The only other things in the room were a desk, chair, and closet. Not really that exciting, but it was still his bedroom for now.
This was also the first time Zuko really had to think about things, since he came here. At first, he simply didn't know what was going on. Then after it was explained to him, everything seemed to be moving too fast, to the point where he couldn't take it all in.
Zuko honestly didn't know what to think about this. It was simply too much for him to wrap his mind around. Actually, just the concept of time-travel itself was enough to confuse him, let alone everything else involved.
For one thing, he still had no idea why the spirits acted the way they did. The fact that he didn't know what his task was still bugged him. He didn't see how he could do anything, if he didn't know what he was supposed to do. But his other question from earlier still remained. Why would the spirits bother to choose him? He made too many mistakes, and there was surely more-qualified people for this task.
Of course, Zuko knew he wasn't going to get answers to those two questions anytime soon. He was never that lucky with this sort of stuff. He instead focused on the ones that could be answered.
The first thing he wanted to know was what time period he was in. His meeting with Fire Lord Azuki proved that he was sometime before Fire Lord Sozin's time, but how far in the past was he? He'd need to try and figure that one out somehow.
Zuko suddenly heard a creaking noise, and he sat up in his new bed. He stared at his bedroom door, watching it open. A boy was standing at the other end, and Zuko guessed that this was Kazu's nephew. Well, this was a bit sooner than he wanted to meet the guy, but at least he'd get it over with.
“Uh...hi. You must be the boy Uncle Kazu told me about,” began the nephew. He told you about me already? thought Zuko. Good. I don't need to make stuff up.
“Yea. That's me,” replied Zuko. “He mentioned you a bit, though he never told me your name.” Please don't be like Azula. Please be someone I can get along with.
“He didn't tell me yours either, actually,” replied the boy. He walked over to Zuko, and sat down on the bed next to him. “Just that you finally arrived. That's a bit weird for him actually. But anyway, I'm Roku. Nice to meet you.” He held out a hand for Zuko to shake.
Roku?! As in the Avatar Roku?! No, it can't be him, thought Zuko. He was sure that there was plenty of people in the pre-war Fire Nation with that name.
“Nice to meet you too,” replied Zuko, trying to sound somewhat normal. “I'm Zuko. I guess I'm staying here from now on.” Or at least until I get back to my own time.
“I hope we can be good friends,” said the boy quietly, reminding him of Aang. “I only have one friend here. At first, we couldn't see each other for long stretches of time due to my parent's work. But then I moved in with Uncle Kazu years ago, so we now get to play everyday.”
I was afraid of that, thought Zuko. How was he supposed to explain to this boy that he had no concept of friendship? Growing up, he only had Azula and her friends, which didn't do anything for his socialization skills. Chasing the Avatar for three years only gave him time to focus on his training. And as a refugee, he had to spend all his time pretending to be normal, when he was anything but. He didn't dare to make friends then, for fear that they'd find out who he was. After joining the Avatar, his priorities had shifted to training Aang and preparing for Sozin's Comet, both of which didn't leave too much time for friendships.
“I'm not sure if I know how,” replied Zuko, hesitatingly. “But it might be nice having someone to talk with. Now whose this friend of yours?” Please don't be Sozin. Please don't be Sozin. Please don't be Sozin.
“Oh. It's just my best friend from when I was little. We met when my dad came here on a business trip,” replied Roku. “He might act a bit arrogant at first, but he really isn't that bad once you get to know him. My friend would be Crown Prince Sozin, but he...” Roku continued babbling over his friend, but Zuko tuned him out after his worst fear was confirmed.
Damn it! Why do these things always happen to me?, he thought, seething. Not only do I somehow manage to get transported to the past, but I now have to deal with the Fire Lord that started this stupid war! Gah! Zuko sighed. It looked like he'd have to avoid Sozin, though that might be hard, given that his friend was in the same house.
Out of all the time periods they could have sent me to, it just had to be this one! Why do these things always happen to me? And why do I even have to be related to those maniacs? Zuko cursed his lineage yet again. Why couldn't he have just been born to a normal family?
Zuko had no answers to those questions. All he knew was that the world really hated him right now.