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Born Bad
Chapter information
Series

Shadows of Equality

Chapter

9

Written by

Swampbender55

Release date

September 2, 2014

Chronology
Last chapter

Chapter 8: The Return Trip

As the task force returns from their first mission everyone seems to be in high spirits from the success. Though still injured, a patched up Seok, along with a few others break out into song, the earth-bender himself playing a pipa while seated on a crate. Husam joins in and the two sing an old folk song. Across the room the trio of engineers are enjoying some refreshments as the festivities continue. "Can't you three find anything better to do than goof off?" Kiri points at her cousin along with the other two as they begin to back up. "Seriously, you've literally done nothing all day. Why don't you make yourselves useful and check the trucks or something?"

"Relax Kiri. It's a party. Why don't you try to enjoy yourself for once?" Danzo says as he offers his cousin a glass of punch.

She looks down at the glass then back at him. "Just make sure you get your work done before tomorrow night." She takes the glass and casually walks away. "And clean up whatever it was I heard last night." As she strolls through the large group of party-goers she can feel the excitement and joy that is being had. Though she herself was never one to cut loose, she can understand why they are enjoying themselves even if the next assignment might not go as well.

As the band finishes one of its songs, Seok notices the young woman. "Hey Husam, let's try the old routine." The fire-bender gives him a slight nod and turns to the crowd.

"Alright folks we could sure use a dancer. How about you Kiri?"

"What? No, no, no, no," she says, putting her hands up defensively. The others in the crowd begin to cheer her on though she is still hesitant.

"It's okay folks, she's probably one of those girls who just can't dance," Seok jokes as he strums his guitar. His statement grabs Kiri's attention as she turns and walks toward him. She leans down to where he is seated, getting right into his face as everyone becomes silent. She glares straight into his eyes and he into hers, the silence lasting for a few seconds before Kiri finally breaks it. "Kyoshi by Jinga; play."

A smile runs across the earth-bender's face as he lifts his instrument. "Yes ma'am." He begins strumming as the other band members follow his lead. She steps back and to everyone's shock she begins to dance with the grace and skill as if it was what she was born to do as the others cheer her on. Seok continues to smile as he watches the assistant pull off stunning moves, further impressing him. "Brains, beauty and the moves to match."

In Firuz's office, the atmosphere is a stark contrast from the joyful proceedings as the task force commander prepares to grill Soza on what he knows. Along with them are the Captain, Hasook, Shoren and Azla, all seated around the desk. Firuz leans forward in his chair resting his elbows on the desk with his fingers intertwined. "Alright, let's get this all out in the open. What exactly is going on here?"

Soza sits back in his chair, taking in several deep breaths and fumbling with his fingers. "Okay, first things first. My real name is Suchart and yes I am from the Fire Nation royal house." This shocks several of the others in the room with the exception of Azla and Hasook, who seem to have known this much already.

"Go on."

"It's a bit of a complicated story but if you're really that keen on hearing it."

"Wait, Suchart?" The Captain stops, taking a serious look at the fire-bender. He reaches over, pushing the hair away from his face. "Ah haha, my boy!" He immediately brings him in for a hug. "It's been years hasn't it?"

"Almost fifteen sir."

Firuz as well as most of the others give the two an odd look. "You know each other?"

"Yes sir. Suchart here was under my command when I was still a junior officer in the Fire Nation. Thought you were dead."

"I could say the same about you. Everyone thought you were killed during that coup attempt."

"Long story with a lot of strings attached. Still you look like you've changed the venue up a bit. And I've see you've been working on that facial hair."

"Alright hold on." Firuz interrupts. "Let's begin on what exactly is going on."

Soza stops and refocuses his attention to the commander's original question. "Right. As I've said my real name is Suchart. I'm actually the son of the Fire Lord."

"Wait, the Fire Lord only has one son, Iroh." Shoren states in his disbelief of the claim.

"Yeah well before today you didn't know she had a fire-bending prodigy niece either so there's your second surprise." Azla states, still seated comfortably in her chair.

"They don't talk about me much. Not at all actually." Soza continues. "Things were complicated. I was raised in the palace but I decided the royal life just wasn't for me so I took off the first chance I got. I made it here and signed on with the Agni Kai with Shoren here and the Triple Threat Triad after that. Without me that just left Iroh in my place."

"And what about this coup?"

"Officially it never happened. It was a planned seizure of the Fire Nation capital city by members of the military and the Children of the Sun, a pro-Fire Nation movement dedicated to returning our nation to it's imperial past. My forces were routed and rounded up afterward but many of us fled to the other nations. Suchart here left us some months before that so he missed out on that bit of history."

"Alright Soza or Suchart, whatever you prefer. Why you'd leave the ritzy life of nobility to scrounge around in the scum of Republic City is a mystery to me but that's your business in that matter. So is there anything else I need to know before we wrap this up?"

Soza keeps his head down for a moment before returning his gaze to Firuz. "No sir."

"And all of you here are aware and can confirm all of this?"

"Well I'm related to him and I came all the way here to get him so yeah." Azla says.

"He told me all of this a while ago." Hasook tells him.

"Everybody's got their secrets so it's cool with me." Shoren states standing behind Azla.

"I think it's safe to say we can wrap this up. But for the safety of everyone, let's keep this business between us. I don't think it will help us if people know we have two members of the Fire Lord's house present in our ranks. Agreed?" The others nod in agreement and quietly exit the office. "Talk to Kiri and she'll arrange for your sleeping quarters to be made up."

As the group exit they go their separate ways. The Captain pats Soza's shoulder. "Good to be working with you again kid."

"Thank you sir." As his old CO departs Hasook stands across from him, as the two exchange a light nod as he heads back to the barracks. Soza then spots his cousin giving orders to the much older Shoren.

"And make sure I get my own quarters. I don't want to have these disgusting dirt people or that water-bending trash anywhere near me. Are we clear?" She gives him a deathly stare as he quietly replies. Soza makes his way over to the girl as Shoren departs. "Good, we have many things to discuss." Before he can even speak she leads him to the bridge overlooking the waterway which is now abandoned as most others are at the party.

The Triad member looks down at his cousin as she stares at him intently. He sits down on the bridge, letting his feet dangle over the edge as Azla does the same then lets out a sigh. "How did you find me?" he says flatly.

"It wasn't hard. Mom always talked about you and that you'd left a while before I was born. And then she died." Azla looks down into the small stream of water as she says this, clutching her fist.

He reaches over and places his arm around her. "Yeah, I got a letter about that. Sorry kid."

"It's okay, that's how I found you after all. I figured out that servant was sending letters to someone and I had a little 'chat' with her."

"What did you do to Akane?" He says as he almost jumps up upon hearing it.

"Nothing, that bad anyway." Azla roles her eyes playfully then jumps up onto the railing, walking back and forth with amazing balance. "So what really happened that made you leave the capital."

"What makes you think there is anything else?"

"Well I figured even if you didn't want the high life of an aristocrat there was really no reason to cut yourself off from your entire family and resort to the lowly task of being hired muscle. So it's cool if you level with me."

"You're pretty mature for a thirteen year old. Well if you want to know here goes."


Fire Nation Palace: 152 AG

"Fire, the kitchen's on fire!" One of the palace staff says as several others rush to put out the blaze before eventually getting it under control.

"What is going down here?" Everyone steps back in a combination of awe and embarrassment as the daughter of Fire Lord Zuko walks down the hall to see what all the commotion is about. "Don't tell me." She looks up to see one of the chefs holding up her trouble making second son, Suchart.

"I was just trying to make grandpa Zuko breakfast." He says innocently. "I was always a bit of a trouble maker even if it didn't intend for it to turn out that way. I never really seemed to fit in. But auntie always had a positive outlook."

"Suchart, you know you're not supposed to be in the kitchen without supervision." She says as the two walk down the hall.

"I know. I'm sorry." He responds, looking down at the floor.

"It was nice of you to think of your grandfather though. I'm sure he'd really have appreciated it. But aren't you supposed to be studying with Iroh?"

"I quit. I'm no good at all that book and scroll reading so I dropped out."

"You dropped out of the classes? I thought we talked about this. If your brother went with you, you'd stick with them." The two walk into the courtyard and sit doen by the pond.

"Iroh's way better than I am in all this learning stuff. He's better at everything." He kicks a rock into the water that scares away the turtle ducks.

"Now come Suchart you know that's not true." She attempts to place a hand on his shoulder only for him to brush it off.

"Oh yeah? Name one thing that I can do that Iroh's not better at." He waits for several seconds. "See. There's nothing that I can beat him in. He's a better fire-bender, a better student, and way better looking." He curls up and stares into the pond.

"You know, you may not be better than Iroh in a lot of things but maybe that's because you just haven't found what it is you're good at yet."

"That's easy for you to say. You're going to be the Fire Lord someday."

"Well that's true but before that I went and did other things."

"Like what?"

"Well I traveled around a bit, learned about our nation and the rest of the world. There's a lot of things out there that might just surprise you." She reaches her arm out once more. Suchart allows it to rest on his shoulder as she stands up. "Just give your studies a chance. Maybe you won't be better than Iroh at everything but it doesn't mean you can't be good at the same things." She stands up and rubs his head. "Don't be late for dinner. Your cousin Doda will be there."

"Things were pretty okay with me and your mom. Doda was always kind of an outcast like me so we got along just fine. We had her over a lot even though she wasn't exactly the epitome of sophistication. I went back to studying with Iroh and after awhile I got really interested in Fire Nation history. Eventually Doda introduced me to some of her friends, the Children of the Sun. They were really into our imperialist past and I have to admit, a lot of what they said really got to me. So when they asked me to work with them for a job near the Earth Kingdom embassy I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately..."

Capital City Prison: 158 AG

"He's in here your highness." A guard says as the crown princess enters the cell where Suchart sits with his head bowed.

He looks up slightly, putting on a half hearted smile as his mother enters. "Hey."

She seats herself next to him on the only cot in the room. The two sit silently for a long time before she lets out a sigh and finally gets to what she has to say. "What am I going to do with you? Suchart, you know your grandfather and I only have your best interests in mind, but this, I don't know what more I can do for you."

"Mom please! It wasn't my fault. My friends only asked me to be a distraction."

"Your friends just attempted to destroy the Earth Kingdom embassy. The Children of the Sun are just dangerous dissidents. They were just using you to their own ends. I know you didn't mean it but you have to face the consequences of your actions."

"Please! I don't want to rot in prison. I'll never survive in" Before he can finish his plea, he princess interrupts.

"That's why your grandfather and I have decided to put you in the officers training program with Iroh. You can work out your sentence by completing the training. It's either that or you can stay here for the next three years. Those are your options, your only options. I love you son and I want what's best for you, but you have to want what's best for yourself as well." "After that I had to do some serious thinking. I went through with the training like she said. Still didn't seem like the perfect fit but anything was better than prison at that point. I even made a few friends among the other cadets. Guess I still made poor choices in friends seeing as how I quickly gained favor with Saburo and his associates. They tutored me thoroughly in advancing up the military ladder and offered me a position in some grand scheme of theirs to overturn the current structure. All the while I tried and failed of course to keep up with Iroh."

"He was already well along in his studies when I got there but I was keen on showing him and everyone else what I could do. When the awards ceremony came around during graduation to nobody's surprise Iroh came in first in the class. And unsurprisingly I came in last. After all the fanfare was over Iroh took me aside and gave me this." Soza pulls out a medallion with the academy insignia on it.

"He gave you his award?" Azla looks at the golden emblem, slightly dulled from age.

"It was his way of helping I guess. I may have never been the best at, well anything but he was always there to help. He gave me this as a gift, a sort of bond of brotherhood. I guess it was also a kind of parting gift, especially after what happened later."

Imperial Palace: 160 AG

"Alright stomach, let's see what we can find." Suchart says quietly to himself as he sneaks quietly into the palace kitchen for a late night snack. As he approaches the pantry he hears footsteps accompanied by voices coming down the hall. Remembering all too late that he's barred from the area he quickly huddles behind one of the counters on the far side of the room, shutting off the light as he does so.

"What did you want to talk about?" He hears Iroh say as he converses with their mother as the lights come back on.

"Your cousin. I know you two haven't always been on the best of terms but I was hoping you might be able to help him." The princess says as she speaks to her eldest son. Suchart and everyone else in the palace was busy preparing for Iroh's sendoff to his posting in the United Forces the next day. As he listens to the princess speak, Suchart can't help but wonder what cousin she is referring to.

"We might not always see eye to eye, but Suchart's become more like my little brother." This statement from Iroh puzzles him even more as he listens.

"I know. That's why I pushed to have him here after his mother died. I thought that maybe if he was raised here he could have a better life than Sanaz did. I loved her with all my heart but my cousin, she didn't always make good choices. And that's why I came to talk to you. Your grandfather and I have both tried our best but we're just not getting through to him. I love him but he's still keeping company with those trouble makers. I don't want to have to come to it but your grandfather believes it might be best if we sent him to live outside of the palace. I thought if you talked to him he might listen to you and maybe that won't have to be an option."

The conversation flips the young fire-bender's world upside down. He tries to keep his emotions under control so as not to give away his position. All the same, the shock of this revelation has his head spinning.

"Don't worry I'll talk to him and see if I can't help. Suchart's a little rebellious but he has a good heart." Iroh assures.

"That was the moment when I realized the truth. Despite all the times she cared for me, said she loved me, encouraged me to do my best; she could never love me the same as she did Iroh. That night I went to your mother's place and told her everything. Turns out she'd known the whole time and mo...my aunt and the Fire Lord gave her and everyone else instructions never to tell me. She also told me that she was expecting a little package." As he makes the final statement he places a hand on Azla's head. "After that I decided there was no place for me in the city anymore. I got some fake papers from the Suns and they sent me on my way to Republic City. Struggled for a bit before I finally got settled in proper an here we are."

"Hm, I guess we fell into the same boat." Azla says as she whirls around, performing a hand stand on the rails.

"One question kid: Why come looking for a loser like me when you've got so much going for you? You're a fire-bending prodigy if ever there was one and at your age too. That's something special."

"I didn't really seem to fit in around the palace either. I remember mom telling me all these stories about you and I thought maybe, just maybe I might find someone exactly like me."

"Well I don't know if I'd say 'exactly' but I guess we do have some common ground. But I got some stuff here that demands my attention if you hadn't notice."

"Oh I noticed alright. If you're in this for the long haul than so am I."

"Okay kid but we need to get one thing straight. All those earth, water, and non-bender slurs, they're going to have to be kept to yourself. I get that you don't have a very high opinion of any of them but that high and mighty attitude isn't going to get us anywhere."

Azla jumps down from the railing and pouts as she looks up at him. "Oh, fine. But that doesn't change what I think about them." As the two begin to walk Azla stops, reaching into her jacket to retrieve a piece of paper and hands it to her cousin. "I was supposed to give you this. I found it in my mom's things after she passed."

Soza takes a look at the old photo with two young women with their arms wrapped around each other with large smiles on their faces. He instantly recognizes the first as his adopted mother. He almost freezes upon seeing the second, the face that has haunted him for years. "Who is this?" he asks in a low tone.

"That's Sanaz, your mom." Azla looks on as he stares at the photo for a good while before continuing to walk.

"Thanks kid." he says as the two separate and head to their respective sleeping quarters, despite the still very lively party in the main hall. Soza lays down and is fast asleep within a few minutes. As he dreams the woman, Sanaz, appears to him yet again. Unlike every other time she seems to look at him instead of through him. To his surprise she reaches her hand out to place it on his cheek. "I love you son." she whispers to him as it catches him slightly off guard.

Later in the night roommates Kozun and Akuze enter the room preparing for a nights rest. "That was some party huh?"

"I hear that. As long as we keep this up there will be plenty more where that came from." Kozun says as the two notice Soza fast asleep with a large joyful grin on his face. "Must be one good dream."


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