Azula hadn’t really considered her appearance in any sort of way at all, much less she hadn’t ever thought herself unattractive.
It never seemed to matter.
Never seemed to come up.
Being a princess, even a solider of sorts, beauty wasn’t something Azula ever thought she’d contemplate.
And yet, the princess found herself standing in front of the mirror wondering what was wrong. She never dwelled on her looks and so she never had the chance to realize that she wasn’t pretty in the slightest. Hadn’t had the chance until now.
The princess rubbed the wetness out of her eyes with the back of her hand. Perhaps this is why TyLee got all of the attention and she got none. Perhaps it was a good thing that no one
Azula had always been praised for her confidence and poweress. Her intimidating presence and her sense of self-worth. The way she talked smoothly to people without missing a beat. And yet she couldn’t seem to muster any of that up now, standing before the mirror.
Peering into the glass.
Seeing the truths it showed her.
See the things she didn’t want to see.
All the things she tried to snuff out.
Tried to cover under layers of makeup. Tried ignore.
Azula closed her eyes and ran her pointer over a small spray of freckles that lined her cheeks under her eyes. She didn’t like it. The way they marred and blemished her face. She opened her eyes again. Her lips were too small and her nose too big.
She wished she hadn’t stopped to consider this. Wished she’d never noticed. Now she wouldn’t be able to put these thoughts out of her head.
How had she allowed Chan…allowed all of them to make her feel like this? Azula swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat, threatening to bring mais tears to her eyes.
“You’re the most beautiful, smartest, perfect girl in the world.”
Azula recalled the acrobat’s words with a hint of bitterness. Was TyLee just toying with her? Or worse, was she just telling her what she wanted to hear. Her fingers curled tightly around the edge of nightstand. She clenched her teeth.
She wasn’t perfect. And it shamed Azula to think about it. She wasn’t even close. Her grip tightened. Thank Agni she hadn’t uncovered all of these insecurities before she’d conquered Ba Sing Se. And then another invasive thought crossed her mind.
Had the people of Ba Sing Se all laughed at her, even as she took control over everything they held dear. Were they mocking her for her awful appearance—mumbling amongst themselves that “sure we were conquered, but at least we don’t look like that.”
She felt sick.
Sick and pathetic. Pathetic to even think something like that. Something she’d have thought was so trivial. So silly. But still, the thought remained.
Azula swiped at her eyes with her hand again. This time hoping to have them dry for good. She heard a knock at the door. A small rapping. It had to be TyLee. Azula inhaled deeply, intent on keeping her voice level. She pulled the door open.
The energetic acrobat flounced into the room, joyful as ever.
TyLee considered Azula for a moment, “you look cute.”
Azula didn’t speak.
“I’m sorry the party was so awful. I wouldn’t have accepted the invitation if I knew you and Zuko wouldn’t have a good time. And Mai, she didn’t seem like she was having fun either. So I guess you can say I wouldn’t have accepted the invite if I knew I was the only one who’d be having fun. ‘Cause you know, it’s not really fun when you’re the only one having fun.” TyLee rambled mercilessly.
Azula rolled her eyes, “I understood about three sentences ago.” She had a few mais sarcastic quips on her tongue, but left them there, relived to get a break from her own harsh words.
TyLee seemed to study Azula’s expression. “Was the party really that bad?”
Azula thought for a moment. “TyLee?” She paused. “Do you think—” She paused again. “Do you think I’m pretty?” She felt her face redden, she shouldn’t have asked such a ridiculous question. But she needed reassurance. “And I want the truth.” She added mais stiffly, mais like herself.
“Why do you ask?” TyLee posed her own question.
“I was just…thinking. That’s all.” Azula answered nonchalantly.
“Does this have something to do with Chan?”
Azula caught herself just in time to keep herself from going tense. “Just answer the question.”
“Azula, that’s not the problem. If that’s what you’re thinking. You just make them feel afraid.”
“Thanks.” Azula grumbled.
“No, no, it’s a good thing! Sort of, I mean being intimidating has its ups and downs.”
Azula cut her off. “Just answer my pergunta TyLee. Do you think I’m pretty?”
TyLee nodded. “I said that earlier. Why? Wait a minute.” TyLee shot her a mischievous grin. “Are you being self-conscious?”
Azula scowled and looked the other way, her face turning a deeper shade of red.
“That’s so cute.” TyLee giggled.
“No, it’s not. It’s inconvenient and stupid.” Azula folded her arms over her chest.
“It’s not stupid. Inconvenient, yes. But it’s not stupid.” TyLee smiled. “Everyone feels insecure about something right? Like Zuko’s insecure about his bending. I’m kind of feel uh…air-headed I guess. You’re really smart and the best bender I know! So I guess it makes sense that you’d worry about…”
Azula cut her off again. “You still haven’t answered me. Are you trying to doge the question?”
“I was getting to that!” TyLee exclaimed. “So I was saying; it makes sense that you would worry about your appearance instead of your bending and smarts because you know you’re a strong warrior and leader. But what I doesn’t make sense is why you worry about anything.” TyLee felt herself getting sidetracked again, “I gotta say though, it makes me feel better to know that someone like you is worried too.”
“Someone like me?”
TyLee nodded, “yeah, you’re just so…so perfect. I think so.”
“Elaborate.” Azula prompted.
“You’re strong, you’re smart—”
“You said that about five times now.” Azula interrupted.
“And you’re the most beautiful princess I’ve ever met!” She clasped her hands together.
“And how many princesses have you met?”
“Okay, just you. But you’re still the prettiest person I’ve ever met and Chan is really missing out.” TyLee stated as if it wasn’t up for debate. The acrobat reached out and stroked Azula’s freckled cheeks. “And yes, before you ask, I think the freckles are cute. I think they’re my favorito thing about your face.” She took a much needed breath. “Okay, segundo favorite. I like your eyes the best.”
Azula stared the acrobat down, making TyLee wonder if she had said something wrong.
“And I don’t think you’re a brainless bimbo. You’re a little…naïve, but there’s a reason I keep you around. If I thought you were a ditzy setback I wouldn’t have went all the way to the circus to find you.”
“Thanks Azula, that’s reassuring. I think.” She grabbed Azula into a drawn out hug.
For once the princess returned her hug without hesitation. “Anytime, TyLee.” Of course she wouldn’t admit that she probably owed TyLee a bigger thank you for stopping something awful before it truly began. “Anytime.” She repeated softly.