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"What is it, honey?" she asked him.
"I just need a glass of water. Go back to sleep." Mai closed her eyes again and turned to the other side so she would feel more comfortable. Zuko stood up, wore his slippers and started walking out of the room and in the corridor. He reached the kitchen, got a glass and, just the moment he put his hand on the tap, he heard a voice behind him.
"Well hello there, Zuzu" Zuko froze the moment he heard the last word. Zuzu? Zuzu? No, that can't be... It couldn't be her. She was locked up and would never see the light of the sun again, just like his evil father. He turned slowly and faced her.
There she was, with her trademark bangs hanging around her face. Her dark, shiny hair was tied up on a small plait, which was kept on her head with a ribbon in the Earth Kingdom colours, bearing the Earth Kingdom symbol on her dark-green blouse. She was in her Earth Kingdom uniform, the one she used when she was the head of the Dai Li, after overthrowing Long Feng. She had an ironic smile that made Zuko feel sick. Surrounding her were Dai Li agents. She had her arm over the shoulder of one of them. He pinched himself. He was not dreaming. She was there.
"What are you doing here? You were in that mental hospital... Why are you here now?" he asked her.
"You don't know anything about the events? I thought your little friend the Avatar had told you about his new mission. Or that he told you about the major threat that is coming towards them."
"Threat?" Zuko asked. No threats. Aang would tell me. He would want my help.
"But instead of telling you, he decided to deal with it alone; he let you think everything was fine. Tell me, Zuzu, do you find it offensive? Maybe he thinks you are incapable..."
"Liar!" Zuko cried in anger. Azula always lies, Azula always lies, Azula always lies... But was she right this time?
"Don't you feel angry, Zuzu? Don't you feel... left out?" Zuko tried to contain his anger. Azula knew every little thing that passed from his mind, and she knew exactly how to trigger his anger. She always had fun watching him boil in his own rage, until he started yelling. But this time, he got too angry too soon. Sooner than other times. Was it because it was the middle of the night and he was tired?
"Why are you here? And why in your Earth Kingdom uniform, Azula?"
"Oh, I guess I have to tell you. The Dai Li is terminating the benders, and then it starts a war against the non-benders, wins it and takes over the world. Simple enough. Routine." She smiled sarcastically and raised one of her eyebrows. She was not telling him everything.
"This doesn't answer the question." Zuko said, his lips barely moving.
"You really thought I would stay out of this feast, Zuzu?" It was her. It was always her. She is always there, causing trouble like her devilish father. My father... Zuko was thinking.
"So, where is Ozai?"
"That loser father of yours doesn't exist anymore. Victory chooses only the powerful ones. He won't get in my way any longer." She had her evil smile on. But rage was behind it.
"And you are powerful because you are the leader of the Dai Li, right?"
"Leader? No, Zuko, you misunderstood. My best friend, Joo Dee, is the leader. And this is my boyfriend, Hung." The man she was hugging around the shoulders all this time smiled. A tough, ironic smile. "My friend Joo Dee is so good at being the leader, that I would never ask for this position myself." I have learned that when you stay at the background you have more power, Zuko. You have a lot to learn.
"So what now?" Zuko asked.
"You and Mai are coming with me to Ba Sing Se. You will meet your friend and the rest of the Team there. I hope you will find your uncle rotting in a prison cell, but this would be much to ask for."
After a long and tiring journey, they were at Ba Sing Se. Zuko felt his eyes filling with tears when he saw the great wall of Ba Sing Se missing. A small, humble wall had taken its place. They went in, with Dai Li agents rushing to meet them.
"Hello, Co-Leader Azula." The first one said and they all made a welcoming gesture. So this is her new name, Mai thought. She looked at Zuko and grabbed his hand.
"Relax, dear. As soon as Aang comes, this will be settled." He whispered to her. Where are you, Aang? He thought.
- This chapter might be small, but it ties up some subjects that were not settled.
- The author has leaved small hints about the new bending in this chapter too. They are quite unnoticeable, but they change the storyline.
For the collective works of the author, go here.