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PUBLIC ENEMY #1Yakone grows relentless and Toph's attempts to apprehend his schemes seem all but hopeless. He always manages to find a way out of the charges against him. Witness upon witness accused him of his bloodbending attacks ---also of his crime lord activities, but none of it ever seemed to matter because he was always set free. Chief Beifong was starting to get rather annoyed at both the Council and at herself for not being able to apprehend Yakone---and if Toph had to see his smug grin walk out of that courtroom a free man again...she was going to lose it!
However, in lighter news, Toph was excited to discover at the age of three and a half, her daughter Lin started showing impressive skills in Earthbending. Then Tenzin, who had just celebrated his fourth birthday, proved to be a young, baby Airbender, much to his parents' delight. He became the first Airbender born in over One-Hundred and Twenty years!
TO HEAL MY FRIENDTragically, a complication in the birth resulted in the loss of both Zuko's son and also Zuko's wife. Because of such great losses to the Fire Lord, he canceled the Reunion and did not allow the Avatar or his friends into the Fire Nation for many long months---not even to attend Mai and the baby's funeral. Honora was on a week-long visit to Ba Sing Se at the time, and after the tragic events took place, Zuko kept his daughter in the city to live with Uncle Iroh for the remainder of his depression---it is unknown if she even knows about her mother's death? Meanwhile, Aang tried desperately to get through to Zuko, but he was being uncompromising, half of him was in tortured pain, but the other half was envious that Aang got to keep his wife and family, while he had to sit by and lose his own---the sheer sadness of it all was driving Zuko into madness. Toph could relate to his feeling, she nearly broke through to the palace to smack some sense into Zuko herself, but eventually the gang had no other choice but to leave the Fire Lord to mourn. The team believed Zuko would never recover from this loss---that is, until Aang managed to use his spiritual powers of connection in one, three-week attempt to track down the one soul person who could devise a secret plot to heal his friend...Aang was going to reunite Zuko with his mother after a thirty year separation. Now, Zuko had been searching for his mother for years! There was a search that came very close to her whereabouts that Azula led back at the beginning of Zuko's reign as Fire Lord, but it turns out her intel was outdated---half of it was just an attempt to break free of her prison. After Azula's coo, the gang quickly figured out that Ursa had left no more clues for them to follow. The Fire Lord did not give up hope, and not soon after that, Zuko had heard leads from the team of professionals he sent to find her---only leads, they never found any traces and were soon disbanded. Not even June and Nyla were able to find her, they claim she has been changing and masking her scent---she had no smell for the Shirshu to follow---Ursa was simply impossible to track down. That's when Aang knew where he could connect the spiritual trail... Ursa was Roku's granddaughter, if anybody could find her, it was him---and luckily, the Summer Solstice was just a day away.
It took three weeks to find her hiding place, but when he was there, Aang found Ursa in the flesh, and approached her cautiously.
"Excuse me, Ursa? Ursa of the Fire Nation?" Aang asked. He had considered brainwashing, Lion turtles, being trapped in the Spirit World---all possibilities in order to find her, when it turns out, Zuko's mother was hiding out in *CLASSIFIED INFO* with only *CLASSIFIED INFO* and also *CLASSIFIED INFO*
She ignored him and continued what she was doing, "I'm sorry, you must have me confused for someone else? There is no woman here by such a name."
"Let me explain. I am the Avatar, and I know a person when I have been looking for them for a month straight. You're her, you're Ursa."
She barely turned her head, drawing a breath in shock, before she saw a glimpse the Airbender behind her, and at first sight, she threw hot embers towards Aang's eyes and took off in a hasty retreat."No, wait!" Aang yelled, blocking the fire, "Please, I need to talk to you!"
She ran her hardest, blocking her path behind her, when she turned round right into the speedy avatar.
“Leave me alone!” she growled, preparing to fight her way free.
“Please you have to help us Ursa, it’s about Zuko!” he pleaded calmly.
At the sound of her son’s name she dropped her guard and her expression melted away into pure worry. Her voice sounded dry all of the sudden and her skin went pale, her golden eyes shook desperately at Aang before she replied, “Zuko? W-what is the matter with my son?”
“It’s a long story----please, is there somewhere we can talk?”
After a minute of harsh consideration, Ursa led him to a tiny cottage nearby and locked the door behind them. “This home was said to have been abandoned years ago after the Fire Nation---well, you know..." She closed the curtains and told Aang, "We’ll be safe here to talk. Though, I must warn you Airbender, it is not safe to mention my name in the world---with the war---”
“The war has been over for over twenty years!” Aang interrupted, “Why have you not returned to the Fire Nation? Zuko, your son, is the Fire Lord…your husband Ozai---he passed away just last year, and the world is at peace, why haven’t you gone back!?”
“I know very well that the war has been over!” she snapped in a motherly tone, “News may travel slowly around here, but it does find its way... I know Ozai is gone, that is the only way he would ever let Zuko become the Fire Lord, I also know Azula was placed in a mental hospital after the comet came, and I know Zuko has been keeping peace in the world with you---”
Aang’s face was stern, and he looked to Ursa and said in a soft, yet striking tone, “Did you know his wife died?”
Ursa’s face loosened and her mouth dropped. A hand slowly clasped over her lips and her eyebrows arched, holding back tears, she replied… “I did not. I only ever heard of their wedding---nothing more... H-how did this happen? ”
“Mai died----during the birth of their son---her and the baby both…” he frowned.
Ursa’s tears flowed silently over her fingers and onto the floor. Aang stood up and stepped closer, a hand given to comfort her and then another waving towards the world in need of an explanation… “You’ve been running, hiding, travelling all over the world…Zuko has been looking for you for years! How is it that you let him be alone all this time?”“He had his uncle,” she cried with a slight smile, “Iroh was the best thing that ever happened to our family, his love for Zuko---I knew he would be in good hands. You are the avatar, you are the reincarnated form of my grandfather Roku---I shouldn’t have to explain myself to you. I did what I had to to protect my son---his father----no...Ozai, he was going to kill him as punishment for his own speaking out against Azulon! He already thought Zuko was a disgrace anyway-----and he was going to do this with no remorse; but, Azula found out and she told me when I was scolding her for scaring Zuko. I travelled to the deepest caverns of the Dragon Catacombs where I searched all night for a loophole---when I found one… You see, the throne will be given to the firstborn son of the Fire Lord, and if he should die, or become unable to fulfill the position, or if he should be absent in time of great need to the palace...the title would be passed down the line to the most suitable successor...” She gave Aang a half smile and then frowned with shame to continue her story, “I devised a plan with my husband…I sent a fake letter to Azulon, that told of his poor son Iroh who planned out his own demise on the journey back to the Fire Nation. With Iroh gone, the throne would have to be given over to Ozai. Dear Azulon's old heart could not bear anymore sad news---and in by the end of the night he was practically begging me to end this pain of his, so I had to ease him of his suffering before he learned the treachery of my letter was false. As soon as he was gone, Ozai would be Fire Lord long before Iroh could return, and being the greedy brother he is, Ozai would never step down from his rule; and, sweet Iroh would not challenge him for it either...there was only one thing standing in the way of this plan working all the way through, and it was Azulon...so-----I ended him.”
Aang’s eyes shot open and he backed away, “You killed him?”
“To protect Zuko, I had no choice,” she sighed, “Ozai and I were the only ones who would ever know, but that wasn’t enough---I had to leave to avert all suspicion from Ozai. The blame would fall to me and the Fire Nation would kill me for this unspeakable treason. They wouldn’t tell a soul why----in order to protect the image of the Royal Family, but in secret I was public enemy number one. So I said my farewells, I left my home behind, Zuko would remain safe, and Ozai would be the new Fire Lord---it was all perfect...” She spat that last word out coldly and scoffed, turning her back on Aang.
He retaliated, "Do you know that just three years after you left, Ozai challenged Zuko to an Agni Kai duel? He scarred and banished your son, never to return until he captured the Avatar---he tried to kill us multiple times---that isn’t safe, Ursa…”
She looked into the corner, “You don’t know how many times I’d tried to go back---even if it was just for my children---Azula would never leave her father, but Zuko---we could have gone away together. Of course, Ozai refused---after all I did for him, all I’ve sacrificed, he told me that if I ever returned my morals would get the better of me and I would confess, ruin his title. As leverage he threatened Zuko’s life---but in honor of the love we once had, he spared mine. I could never go back. The one time I did----” her voice broke, “he hurt my baby and blamed it on a war meeting!”
“But, Ozai was defeated, imprisoned, and he died behind bars---Zuko needs you Ursa, he wanted you back in his life for so many years, but right now---he needs you. Zuko is spiraling and I don’t know how much longer he’s going to make it. Either you go back to him, or there won’t be any son for you to protect anymore."
"Avatar," Ursa sighed guiltily, "After all that I've done---all that I didn't do...do you think Zuko really cares to see me?"
"I know he does, he still loves you. But...if you love Zuko at all, you will do everything you possibly can to help him now, when he needs you most of all...you're his only hope. Come back to the Fire Nation with me. Together, we can heal Zuko and get his life back on track before it's too late.”
"No..." Ursa shook her head, "I'm his mother. I will fix him, Avatar Aang. You just get me through the Palace Walls, and I'll deal with Zuko on my own."
Poor Zuko was a wreck, the servants fled in sight of him, the palace remained dark and cold; he would march through the halls just itching to take out his frustration on someone, and his eyes were dark from the lack of sleep. He was unstable. This was the routine…he was stomping down the corridor as usual, when one day, Zuko turned around to see a woman in a black hood, standing in the doorway.“WHO’S THERE!?” he roared, fists flaming daggers and ready to strike.
She started stepping closer, and Zuko bellowed, “I SAID WHO’S THERE!? HALT AND BOW BEFORE YOUR FIRE LORD! HOW DARE YOU APPROACH ME THIS WAY! THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE!”
The woman kept coming closer, so Zuko shot the knives of fire right at her; however, with a gentle wave of her hand, the flames desecrated into the air, leaving Zuko silent and in shock. “Who are you?” Zuko asked again.
“Zuko,” she said softly, removing the hood as soon as she was standing right in front of him; her hand was held out gently to brush his cheek, but he dodged her and stepped away.
“Mother?” he gasped, jumping as far away from her as he could get, “This is just another one of my mind’s tricks---it has to be…it always is...” you aren't real...
“I am real, my son---but this tyrant that you have become is not. My Zuko, you have forgotten who you are…you are more than this destruction and despair---you are a good, gentle man who never gives up fighting---and you can never allow yourself to become this man that you have always been fighting to keep away.”
He looked away and shut his eyes tightly, trying to keep her voice out of his head, and as her words kept coming, Zuko grew all the more frustrated.
“Zuko...” Ursa stressed defiantly, as she gently pulled his face back to see her, “I’m here for you now son, I know I have a lot to explain to you---but right now your friend, the Avatar, is worried for your health---you’re spiraling into darkness just like your sister, but Zuko, I’m not going to let that happen, I love you Zuko----more than anything else in the world---and I promise you with all of my soul that I will never, ever leave you again for as long as I live!”
“Mom?” Zuko teared, falling right into her embrace; Ursa comforted him and helped him cope with all of the misfortune that has happened around him.
Aang watched their reunion in secret from the other side of the palace columns---his plan had worked wonders, and now Zuko could begin the harsh process of healing over this intense misfortune on his life.With the help of Ursa, she gradually healed her son of his aching heart and scarred mind, aiding him to become the kind ruler he once was instead of this tyrant that he had become. Now, Zuko was never the same after losing Mai, but now he wasn't completely unstable either. Ursa explained her story, why she had to leave, how she knew the things she did, and where she was hiding out all this time---Zuko explained his own story and all of its twists and turns---he calmed down and fixed his relationship with both his mother and also the entire palace. The Fire Lord gave his mother a full pardon for her past crimes and convinced the kingdom to forgive her as well---no one dared argue with Zuko after recovering from his dark depression and after they saw how much she was helping their ruler cope, no one had any problem with pardoning Ursa for her brave deeds of misfortune. Why, Ursa even convinced Zuko to send Iroh, Honora, and Azula home where she would take charge of her daughter's actions from now on and watch over her----but mostly, she would be watching out for her son, and this time she would be there in person whenever Zuko needed her, she would always be there for him from now on and forever.
A little while later, Zuko opened his doors to all of his friends again; they were finally able to comfort him, and Toph was very sincere throughout the visit because she could relate with Zuko's feelings about his loss. Later on, Zuko introduced them all to his long lost mother, and even requested he and Aang have a private word out on the balcony. The men stepped outside to see the sun setting over a glorious range of mountains leading to the harbor. Aang recognized the view, and was a little surprised that it was the same after all these years...
"Aang," Zuko said, breaking off his trail of thought, "I just wanted to thank you for what you did---my mother told me that you spent over a month straight just to find her---just so she would come talk to me."
"What are friends for?" Aang replied in a smile, "I made a promise that I would always keep you the Zuko I knew---my firebending master, who occasionally tried to hunt me down and burn me to a crisp..."
The two of them chuckled, as Zuko lead Aang back inside with the others... "We better head back before everyone notices we're gone."
"You go ahead, I'll catch up with you," Aang grinned sincerely; catching the hint, Zuko turned with a sigh of relief and dissapeared into the palace.As soon as Zuko was gone, Aang's smile turned into a concerned frown. Yes, everything was all well and good, but what Aang didn't tell Zuko, was that the power it took on his part in order to locate Ursa was so strong...that same thing happened from the day he took away Azula's bending---that weakness in him came again and felt as though it was draining Aang of all his energy. Now, Aang wasn't sure, but it seemed like the more he used the Avatar State recently...the more and more drained he became. He wasn't sure what to think of this, and no doubt he would talk to Roku about it soon...if he could even do that because it seems even just connecting with his past lives made him weaker nowadays. Either way, Aang knew he had to refrain from using his full-power for as long as he could, or else it may just end up stopping his life, instead of saving it.
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