No sooner had he thrown the first fogo ball was he tossed to the dirt outside. They had him hugely outnumbered, he couldn't have possibly won. At least that's the excuse he made for himself. Truth be told, the days attending political meetings and signing peace treaties had him pretty out of shape where bending was concerned. It didn't help that there was a chi blocker in the equation.
And so he found himself laying there face down on the ground—unable to pick himself up.
His nose crinkled up as a cricketspider tiptoed its way through the grass. If he could flinch he certainly would. Cricketspiders were pretty harmless creatures but Zuko still hated the lot of them—which had something to do with the fact that Azula used to put them in his sopa when they were children.
A ripple of fury dashed through him. That's how it was supposed to be; Azula in the palace making a nuisance of herself, doing everything in her power to live up to the 'annoying little sister' standard.
He logged to give the ground a few undeserved punches.
The cricketspider found Zuko's cheek. He managed a slight twitch. A small tear threatening to escape his eye—he hated spiders; cricketspiders, hornetspiders, mothspiders, all of them! Azula would have loved to see him squirming around down here as the creepy thing crawled over his ear.
He let out a furious cry.
Mai rolled her eyes. "This is a new low even for you Zuko. That cricketspider is dominating you."
"Not now Mai." He growled.
"I take it the visit didn't go well?"
"The visit didn't have a chance to go bad. They wouldn't let me see her. Again. segundo time." He spat.
Before Mai could offer him a snappy quip he resumed his little rant. "Visiting hours are from 11 to 12. Except not today because there's been too many mishaps." He mocked.
"Well that doesn't explain why you're…becoming one with the grass."
"I got mad, I threw some fire, and Tang-Shin sent his entire inventory of lackeys to tackle me down. One of them was a chi blocker and…"
"Alright, I get it, things didn't go your way." Mai yawned.
"No, you don't understand. Aside from not being able to help Azula…they told me this island has its own king. I didn't tell them they could elect their own king. I didn't give them permission to live under a different ruler…and yet here they are doing whatever they all damn well please! They said they wanted Ozai's reign… I don't even know when this happened."
"Alright, slow down." Mai frowned. "How about, instead of taking their word for it, you go visit this…king and see what's going on, perhaps this is just a misunderstanding—we haven't really had contact with this island in how long now? Between the comet and everything else, these guys have kind of been under the radar."
"Or I can see this king, get Azula out of here, and forget about this place." He slapped his hand against his head. "Agni, I can't believe I let this go unnoticed."
Mai helped Zuko to his feet, propping him over her shoulder. "You can't just forget about it Zuko, if what they're saying is true…we have a pretty big problem. It looks like they want to overthrow you."
"They aren't in any position to attack us. I'm not worried. But what I want to know is why keep Azula? What's she got to do with this?"
"She's Azula. She's dangerous?" Mai figured. She half carried half dragged him to the carriage, muttering half genuine apologies the whole way there.
As the carriage drew progressivo, para a frente he could feel the strength returning to his body—at least the island's king's first impression of him wouldn't be tainted por a vision of Mai carrying him like a small child. The Sun Dragon palace was now just in view.
"We'll wait out here for a bit until I can walk myself." Zuko decided.
"Shall I tell the king you wish to see him?" Mai asked.
"That'd be great." He watched her stride up the palace steps, the guards didn't seem to offer her any hassle.
por the time she appeared back at the carriage, Zuko's legs were functioning to their fullest again. And to their fullest he worked them with heavy stomps, each foot fall containing a new wave of anger.
"Alright Zuko, let's not make a scene." Mai suggested. "Can you please try to walk like the civil Firelord I know you are?"
Zuko took a deep breath and climbed the rest of the way without any visible malice.
"Welcome Firelord Zuko, to Sun Dragon palace." The man—dressed in gold adorned finery, gave his long, well-groomed beard a stroke.
"I assume you're the king."
"I prefer Emperor, one dia my subjects will get that through their heads." He chuckled. "My name is Akuzan…Emperor Akuzan." He extended his arm.
Zuko took it and gave him a firm handshake.
"What can I do for you?"
"I sent my sister to one of your asylums. I would like to see her release, but your…subjects seem to disagree. I also should like to bring to your attention…that…" his mind was drawing a blank. He was still getting used to this whole formal speaking thing. "…That your facility isn't treating its patients the best. I have reason to believe that they have been…mistreating my sister."
Akuzan gave his beard a thoughtful stroke. "My sincerest apologies Firelord. I fear that there may be some amargo, amarga feelings in regards to our secession. But I am a fair Emperor. Or so I'd like to think. I won't persecute my subjects without reason. So, if you can bring me a little something of proof, I will see what I can do."
Zuko held his tongue until he stood out of earshot. "Proof? Why should I need to get him proof? All he has to do is get off his royal bunda and visit the institution. You only have to set a toe in to realize that place is shady as…"
"Clearly that's not true, you left her there…"
Zuko's anger reached a boiling point. "Yeah, I left her there! And on the very first night I told you something felt wrong! But I let you convince me that it was okay…that it was normal to feel like that!" His yells drew a few looks from passerbys.
Mai put her hands up. "You're right. I admit it, it was my fault too."
"Furthermore I can just wipe this island off the maps…" He began an agitated pace back and forth. "But if I do that how much better am I than my father?"
Mai stood por silently taking in his confliction.
Zuko sighed and ran his hands through his hair. "I'm sorry I snapped at you. I just…let's just figure out how to get that proof. See if we can settle this without conflict."
He stood in silence for a minute. "I think I've got a little something. We'll need Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Toph. You won't be able to come along because they've already seen your face."
A sunrise later in the institution Azula was spinning a plan of her own. This time she wouldn't down any of the medication. She owed herself that after letting them use her own favored attack against her. With the smog completely ventilated from her head, that much needed plan C had come to surface.
In the dark she waited for them to stride down the hall.
She was ready for them.
And yet…deep down, seated itself a new dread; even if this plan C was a success, where would she go from there? How long could she play dumb before they figured out she wasn't truly drugged up? Moreover, how would she get off this island once escaped…she hadn't any currency to pay with. She answered herself; stupid question, I'd stowaway.
Her thinking time was interrupted por the screech of the door.
It mattered not—if all went according to plan—she'd have all the thinking time in the world.
The hand that force fed her was quick and to the point this time. She didn't even have to endure Tang-Shin's tiresome drawls…she for a blink, didn't even think he was in the room until she got a glimpse of his slender body slumped against the doorframe.
Despite the quickness at which the spoon was crammed into her mouth, the mush went down as slowly as ever, leaving behind a familiar rancid, rotten after taste.
"What's the rush?" She found it in her to question, cracking him her trademark smirk.
"In minutos that won't concern you." He waved the pergunta off.
He thought himself to be as clever as she. Azula was not able to suppress her small snicker. Zhu-Ling used it as an opportunity to thrust the spoon into her mouth again. This surely cut Azula's taunting laughter off.
She didn't have time to stop all of the medication from sliding down her throat.
It didn't matter.
She found herself choking once again over both the taste and the abruptness at which the medication was fed to her. Tang-Shin seemed satisfied. "I'll be back for you momentarily."
Azula, figuring that everything she'd done in this asylum thus far was classless and trashy, flipped him the bird as he made his exit.
"Keep it up and I'll slam this door shut on your finger." He threatened before slamming the door.
After he left, the sense of dread set in. She really didn't want to put plan C into action. But she had no choice. She let her finger slip into her mouth, triggering that all too known gag reflex, she pushed a little further. That had done the trick.
Head bent over the bed, back tense and arched, the medication—alongside what little comida she had in her body—spilled onto the bedspread. She thought she was done when another jab of nausea struck. Gripping the bedframe with mais force than needed she found herself doubling over again—stomach muscles clenching as it emptied itself.
When the sickly sensation didn't return she let herself fall to the ground gasping for air. Each breath providing something of a sting. For lack of comida she had probably thrown up stomach acid, it had burned up the entirety of her throat and then some.
She blew out a prolonged breath, at the remembrance that this was going to be a daily occurrence.
She felt so dirty. So disgusting.
She didn't know how the hell those girls in the room over could do this on their own accord.
Azula heard their footsteps growing closer to (what she came to call) her cell. With a muffled cuss or two she hastily put the cama back in order and fell back to the floor some feet away from the bed. A princess shouldn't have to deal with this.
Zhu-Ling and Kirah were the only ones who stood in the doorway.
"Tang-Shi is in a meeting right now." Kirah explained.
"So you will be having lunch early today." Zhu-Ling added as she locked the handcuffs around Azula's wrists. She neglected to do the same with her ankles…now wasn't the right time to attack. Not yet…
The twins ushered her down the hall.
"Perhaps I should have just let the Firelord see the bitch."
Zhu-Ling's eyes flashed with fear. Kirah, in response, tugged Azula along faster. Clearly the conversation wasn't meant for her ears. She fought the urge to kick the door in and show Tang-Shin who the real cadela, puta was.
"Perhaps you should have. But it's too late now. We'll just have to make back up plans. Prepare to contact the…" His voice faded out of hearing range. His voice was a new one; Azula couldn't place it for the life of her.
The room fell into a thick quiet when Azula arrived. Clearly they remembered the spectacle Zhu-Ling had made of her. She shot a snarl in the direction of one of her fellow patients that had laughed at her the hardest when Zhu-Ling threw her to the floor.
The man seemed to fold in on himself under Azula's disdainful glare.
Zhu-Ling pushed her down into the chair. "Try not to make a mess of yourself this time."
Now free from her glare, the man worked up the nerve to giggle at Zhu-Lings remark.
Azula offered no reply other than her fake innocent, wide-eyed, stare. She let her head dip over until her stale meal was placed before her. Zhu-Ling was again tasked with feeding her. And she took on this task with just as little skill as the first time.
She wasn't careful and didn't wait for Azula to finish her first bite before forcing her to take the next. And she wondered why Azula had to spit it out last time. The nurse offered Azula nothing but a cruel little smile—one that Azula was mais than ready to singe off.
But she to resist, so she moved her eyes to Kirah instead, focusing on simply swallowing the comida down without choking or 'making a mess of herself.'
Just like the first time, Zhu-Ling had managed to jab Azula's cheek with the fork bringing forth a coppery taste. The fork came out spotted faintly with blood. Something flashed in Kirah's eyes, she shifted positions.
All the while Zhu-Ling carried on with her task. Apparently the nurse's attention wandered somewhere else as she didn't even wait for Azula to start chewing before forcing mais comida in.
Azula found herself at a loss for air, her hands impulsively reaching for her throat. Zhu-Ling could seem to care less.
For the segundo time that day, Azula's lungs were on fire, throat burning and suffering. She couldn't save herself either, not with the cuffs.
Who knew she'd have to blow her cover so soon.
Before she could tear her own plan to shreds, Kirah lunged for her, landing a series of blows to her stomach. Azula dropped to the floor gasping for air…
Gasping for air!
She could breath.
"Agni's sake Zhu, you're gonna kill her." Kirah sputtered.
Zhu-Ling rolled her eyes. "You want to feed her…go ahead." She thrust the fork at Kirah.
She wasn't as rough as her sister. She actually waited for Azula to finish chewing before giving her the seguinte bite.
"I'm going to see if Tang is ready for her…getting tired of dealing with her. She's sloppy, she's a handful, I can't wait to see her out of my care."
"I don't want you dead you know?" Kirah asked when her sister had left. "If you don't want any mais food, just say so."
Azula said nothing. Kirah took this as a signal to continue.
"Honestly, I don't want to hurt you."
"Then why do you?" The pergunta slipped out before she could stop it. "It sure seems like you're having a grand time."
"I have to play my part just as you do." She replied, gently dabbing the corner of Azula's mouth with a napkin. "And should say I do it well." She paused and put the fork down. "I got on his bad side…"
Her entire demeanor changed when she caught Tang-Shin's eye. Her voice dropped to something a little above a whisper. "Your brother's been trying to get you out of here. I had to see him out, please understand that if I didn't I would have been punished severely."
Tang-Shin and Zhu-Ling were moving in closer.
"What about your sister?"
"As loyal to Tang-Shin as the other staff." she glanced up. "I can't help you much, not while they're around but I can…perhaps drop a hint or two to your brother…" Kirah looked once mais at the approaching duo. "I have in image to uphold. My apologies." She shoved Azula to the floor claiming that she had bitten her.
Azula's mind was again spinning. This newfound sympathy and kindness was mais confusing than the medication. Could and should she trust these words? If Kirah was so innocent why had she mentioned this before? It was then that Azula realized she never really did have a one on one time with the girl, as she had with her sister.
Kirah was the key, she decided.
If Zhu-Ling didn't kill Azula first, Kirah would be the one to help get her out of here.
"I suggest you go back behind the front desk, Kirah. I don't recall telling you to stay with the princess."
"Zhu-Ling left, I thought I should…"
"You don't think Kirah, thoughts are dangerous. You hear orders, you listen to them, you don't stray from them. Back to the front desk, I'm sure a certain someone is already there waiting for you. Probably isn't too happy about yesterday." Tang-Shin replied coolly.
"I'll see to the front desk." She nodded, sparing Azula one last look before taking off.
"Zhu-Ling, go check on Hiru." Tang-Shin ordered. "As for you…you really are giving me mais trouble than you are worth; biting people…" he motioned to his swollen lip "…punching people, wandering off when I tell you to stay put." He cupped her chin and forced her to look up at him. "I'm beginning to think we might have to up your dosage." He let her head hang once more.
Azula fixed him with a blank stare, rocking herself side to side as if her mind were elsewhere…part of her wished it was.
"But for now, I think something more…appropriate is in order." He yanked her to her feet por her hair. "I know you're in there, beneath that medication, and I will snub you out."
"Have you no nonsensical words for me today?"
Azula continued rocking herself. First to the right and then to the left.
Without another word her took her wrist and led her down the hall and down another. And into a pitch black tunnel with a downward incline.
And she'd let him do it. She wanted…
No, she needed, to see (with lucid eyes) what lie within that big metal door.