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It’s been a year since the end of the war. It’s been a year, and negotiations for peace are still being handled. Fire Lord Zuko has a lot on his plate, and there is a whisper of discontent in the air.

Amid the peace that has been hard-won, a council has been created featuring members of each of the Nations, as well as the Avatar. The goal of this National Council is simple - to prevent an atrocity like Sozin’s War from ever happening again.

Resurgence is a sandbox Avatar: The Last Airbender / The Legend of Aang role-play set one year after the end of the Hundred Year War. We accept both canons and original characters, and take the story in any direction we'd like, exploring the semantics and problems of a war-torn world rebuilding. We are rated PG-13 with optional mature content.

Resurgence

That Which May Be

Started by Zuko at Oct 12, 2019 7:48 pm
178 Views
16 Posts

Fire Lord
Fire Nation
Played By Lenara

You've always thrown everything you could at me! Well, I can take it, and now I can give it back! Come on, strike me! You've never held back before!



They were set up in one of the side rooms of the palace that overlooked the garden. Mai hadn't arrived yet, but the door was partially open so that she knew she could simply enter when she did get here. Zuko sat at the table attempting to clear his mind with only... moderate success. Mai should be there soon, he'd definitely mentioned it to her.

For the moment, he'd just breathe. That was wise.

Azula's current state weighed heavily on him, which was making it difficult. Still, he tried. He didn't want to open their conversation with such a heavy topic. Dinner was made up of what he remember of Mai's preferences as far as food and tea went. Dessert was one of those fruit tarts she'd expressed a liking for.

He was trying. He had promised to take the time to get comfortable with her again and figure out how he felt from there. He was upset about what happened to Azula, but he wanted to hear her side of it. He wasn't sure what it might hold, and perhaps... perhaps there was an explanation he wasn't aware of. Later, once they'd settled in, they could talk about it. Depending on what she said and brought to the table.

Sometimes there were things Mai wanted to talk about, he was sure. Maybe part of the fault was his own, after his first few attempts at opening up to her and being shut down, he'd simply stopped trying to do it anymore.

@Nariko


“Pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source.”

Mai
dagger queen
Fire Nation
Played By Nariko

Effort is bad. Effort for no reason is even worse.



That was a little bit quicker of a turn around than she'd been expecting. It did mean it left her bored for a lot less time than she'd been anticipating. After her conversation, of a sort, with Azula, she'd primarily kept to herself. What did Azula know about her feelings? It wasn't as if Azula had ever asked her about them. True, as well, Mai had never volunteered them, either. Perhaps the blame lie squarely with them both.

She made her way down the hallway. Of course, she hadn't really dressed up. She wore a simple black dress with red accents, a small golden bangle around her right hand jingly softly. Her shoes tapped on the floor, echoing slightly through the hallway. She knew where she was going, by now, having mostly figured out the palace layout long before now. Some things had moved, but only some, and most of them nothing she was interested in. Mai, of course, did not do politics.

As she found the correct doorway, she tapped on it slightly, nudging it open. The warning, she figured, might be nice. The first thing she noticed was the particular selection. He'd been paying attention when she mentioned these off-hand preferences, apparently. At least she needn't repeat herself. "Hope I'm not late," she said, folding down at the table in one fluid motion. "I got somewhat distracted. Tom-Tom's in a sour mood these days." Her mother kept asking her to come figure out why, but it wasn't like Mai was the toddler whisperer.

Fire Lord
Fire Nation
Played By Lenara

You've always thrown everything you could at me! Well, I can take it, and now I can give it back! Come on, strike me! You've never held back before!



In and out. It was slow and steady, but under careful control. Breath control was everything for a firebender, but it was also good for keeping his mind calmer than it might've been otherwise. Azula weighed heavily on him, and he was quite concerned for how fragile her mental state had turned out to be. He hadn't forgotten that he needed to tell Mai to stay away from her.

She entered the space, and Zuko's attention focused on her immediately, just as it should have been. He offered her a small smile and a murmured greeting. 

"No, not at all." He responded easily. "Though I'm sorry to hear about Tom-tom." That came easily enough. And he was, the kid was young, and apparently not having the best time of it currently. Zuko was sure it was going to get better, it always did. Still, the gesture was nice.

"How are you doing?" It seemed worth asking. She'd said how her brother was doing and he could extrapolate from there, but he didn't mind listening to Mai talk about herself. One might even say he enjoyed it, to some extent. He did care about Mai, after all. He just wasn't sure if he loved her, and he didn't want to end up looking up one day and wishing they'd chosen to be friends instead of life partners.

He didn't want to look up one day and realize his family had become exactly the same one he'd grown up in, complete with the same tension between himself and Mai.


“Pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source.”

Mai
dagger queen
Fire Nation
Played By Nariko

Effort is bad. Effort for no reason is even worse.



It was good she wasn't late, though the young woman wasn't too concerned. Either she was, or she wasn't. Either way, she figured Zuko would get over it. He was the sort that had a very quick temper. When it flared, it flared quite brightly, as well. It seemed to go as quickly as it came, however, and Mai wasn't too concerned about lasting upset about anything. Particularly nothing so trivial as her taking a few minutes more than anticipated to arrive.

"Fine," she answered, somewhat noncommittally. "Mother seems to think I should be better with Tom-Tom than I am, because she keeps bothering me about whatever he's doing this time. I'm not finding it annoying just yet, but I think I'm getting there." Her mother had the kids, not Mai. Some people were born good at things, though, and Mai knew that, but children were certainly not her forte. She wasn't terribly thrilled with the idea of having kids someday, either, mostly because she had no idea how kids were supposed to be raised.

Certainly, she didn't want to sacrifice her childrens' happiness for political reasons, and she did hope, if she and Zuko ever did have kids of their own, that wasn't something he'd expect. There would be times he was clearly the Fire Lord, and times he was clearly a parent, and perhaps sometimes there would be an in-between, but Mai was more likely to prefer a solid separation.

"You seem worried about something," she mentioned. True, he did, and her attempts at thinking up theories were somewhat failing. Mai certainly wasn't a mind-reader, and the more they went on like this, the more she realised it was possible they didn't really know each other. Maybe once they did, and things had changed. That was hard to say for certain.

Fire Lord
Fire Nation
Played By Lenara

You've always thrown everything you could at me! Well, I can take it, and now I can give it back! Come on, strike me! You've never held back before!



Mm. "I can understand why." Mai was not exactly hard to annoy, to begin with, and she didn't seem to be extremely fond of dealing with Tom-Tom much of the time. He was also way younger than her and they didn't have much in common. He was almost young enough to be her child it was really no wonder Mai didn't want much to deal with him. Parents were funny like that though. "Hopefully she settles out soon."

It was possible that she was trying to hint at what she wanted from Mai, it seemed like the sort of unsubtle-but-still-subtle hint that she would use. Not that it seemed to be working well.

Of course, Mai noticed. She did know him reasonably well, so that wasn't exactly a surprise, but he'd hoped to stave it off. "Sorry, I didn't mean to be distracted." He took it as a sign that he hadn't done well enough focusing on her. Even though he should have been.

"Azula took a pretty sharp downturn, pretty much out of nowhere." He admitted quietly. "And I'm a little worried because I'm not sure how much it's going to take to get her back to where she was." She was hallucinating again, but she wasn't violent so it wasn't as bad as it had been the first time. But it was still bad, and there was always a chance things could slide away further. "It'll probably be fine," He knew that, "It's just weighing on me."

As was her request to ask Mai to leave her alone, but honestly, before he brought that up, he wanted to see how she reacted to the information about Azula's slide back downhill. Zuko doubted there would be much there, but he had been surprised by Mai before.


“Pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source.”

Mai
dagger queen
Fire Nation
Played By Nariko

Effort is bad. Effort for no reason is even worse.



One could hope, but Mai wasn't holding her breath. Her mother was odd like that, but at least her parents seemed to care about Tom-Tom a good deal. Mai was a little past being jealous over it. Instead, she was glad. It was a good thing that Tom-Tom may not need to live through the same things Mai did. It wasn't like she didn't understand why she'd grown up that way. It was difficult to be angry about it. Even so, Mai could probably find some anger over it, in her heart somewhere. Ultimately though, that was too much effort.

Azula had what? For a moment, Mai was almost concerned, a little, as well, but then remembered who they were talking about. She wondered if that was why Azula had gotten so worked up when they were talking. Their argument wasn't even that bad, truth be told, and it seemed like an overly intense reaction to something so trivial. If she was already somewhat unstable beforehand, that made more sense. Then again, Mai had trouble imagining Azula of all people would be so unstable.

No, it was more likely that this was all an elaborate game. Azula would know that Zuko was one of the few in their family that had a conscience, and the ability to feel sympathy. Mai believed that this was all a trick to make Zuko feel sorry for her, and give her a chance to get into his good graces. That was just like something Azula would do, and Mai had no problems believing that. This whole instability thing, it was new, but certainly effective, and Azula wouldn't trick Mai with it, not this time. It was a good thing Zuko had her, or he would have easily fallen for it.

"I wouldn't worry so much about her," Mai said, shaking her head, adjusting one of her sleeves. "It's Azula. Getting you tangled up in worried knots over nothing is probably exactly what she wants. You and I both know Azula's a talented liar." Mai didn't believe it. Not one single bit.

Fire Lord
Fire Nation
Played By Lenara

You've always thrown everything you could at me! Well, I can take it, and now I can give it back! Come on, strike me! You've never held back before!



In some ways, Mai knew Azula better than he did. Zuko figured that made sense, sort of, because they'd been friends and had spent a lot more time together than he and Azula ever had. While he'd been banished, they'd still been at least reasonably close, that was obvious since Azula had brought Mai in the hunt for him along with Ty Lee.

Still, what she said sat wrong with him. Mai hadn't seen Azula break after the Agni Kai, Mai hadn't seen how unstable she had been after the betrayal. Hadn't seen what had become of Ozai's perfect princess when Ozai himself had essentially abandoned her. And maybe Mai just didn't understand how seriously those things had affected her.

On the other hand... she made a fair point. But could someone really manage to fake a complete psychotic break?

"She's still my sister, Mai." Was what he said finally, after a moment. He couldn't help but remember the truce they'd come to in his office, and it had felt real. ... But didn't it always, with Azula? On the other hand, what did doing this gain her? He couldn't see a benefit to pretending to be unstable, to pretending she was seeing things that weren't there.

What was the benefit supposed to be? She wouldn't expend such an effort for nothing. Which was at least half of why he was so sure it was real. But he wanted to believe better of Azula. He wanted to help her, because she seemed to need it. She'd never really had anyone who stood beside her, and father had always used her. Just as he'd wanted to use Zuko. He'd pitted them against each other on purpose, and he wasn't willing to allow some outside force do it again.

Maybe some corner of his mind whispered, the goal is to get you away from Mai. Zuko still didn't know what that was supposed to gain Azula, though it could be more of a taking away from Mai situation.

"You didn't see the first breakdown," He continued calmly. "I don't think she could have faked that." It wasn't like her at all.


“Pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source.”

Mai
dagger queen
Fire Nation
Played By Nariko

Effort is bad. Effort for no reason is even worse.



Yes, and unfortunately, that was the problem. Zuko should know that as well as she did. As long as he kept giving her that kind of power over him, it wasn't like Azula had any problems using it. Sure, she'd never had a sibling until Tom-Tom was born, and they didn't have much of a relationship (it was hard to really have one of those with a toddler), but she did know Azula and how she worked well enough.

She didn't answer right away. Maybe there wasn't anything to say, but Mai thought the sooner he accepted that his sister was never really going to be his sister, the better it'd be for him in the longer run. Azula always lied, wasn't that how it always was? Getting himself too invested in her was a distraction from his position as Fire Lord, and certainly Azula would have plenty of reasons to want to be in his good graces. The more he trusted her, the less closely he watched her.

He was right about that, Mai hadn't seen the first breakdown, no. Yet, Mai also didn't imagine it mattered very much. She couldn't imagine it being that different. "Isn't that the problem?" she asked. "Yes, by blood, she's your sister. But when was the last time Azula ever acted like your sister? I think she means more to you than you mean to her, and the only way this can end is with tears, and probably a lot of fire." Yes, probably.

Mai sighed, glancing down at the table, her head tilting to the side. "I know you want to believe the best in her, Zuko, but I don't think there is a best to believe in. Feeling sorry for someone doesn't suddenly make them a good person, but you're you. You'll keep doing it, and Azula knows it, and the more you believe the best in her, the less closely you're watching her." That was all.

Fire Lord
Fire Nation
Played By Lenara

You've always thrown everything you could at me! Well, I can take it, and now I can give it back! Come on, strike me! You've never held back before!



Zuko took a quiet sip of his tea, and for a moment the silence was peaceful, despite the disquiet that Mai's words had left in him. Mai was clearly thinking about something, and he wanted to wait until she spoke to say anything else on his own. He wasn't really expecting what she finally said, but maybe he should have.

He remained quiet for several moments after she spoke, setting his tea down and trying to keep his mind clear enough to really think about this instead of reacting emotionally. It was dangerous to react without thinking closely enough about the situation. He didn't... he didn't want to let anything drive him away from Azula, now that they were finally starting to build a relationship. The reality was that just as recently as last week she had been acting like his sister. But he knew what Mai meant, as well... and he knew why she felt that way.

Zuko chewed at his bottom lip slightly, feeling perhaps more confused than anything. "But someone has to believe in her." He protested quietly, still there wasn't a lot of convinction behind it. "She's trying to do better, Mai. And if people keep pinning bad things on her, she's never going to have a chance to figure out what it's like to be a person instead of a tool. I get it. I get it because I was her. I just wanted Ozai to love me. She wanted Ozai to see her and be proud of her instead of trying to use her to get back at me."

And he couldn't just abandon her again because things weren't going well. That wasn't right, and that wasn't how this was supposed to work.

She was still his sister, and he loved her. Maybe the truth was he wanted her to love him, too, and he wanted the chance to put their broken family back together. Maybe... he was too willing to turn a blind eye to how dangerous she could be, because of that. Maybe Mai was right.

But Zuko didn't want to believe that. He still wanted to believe in Azula. That was the point, he supposed, Mai's point at least. But figuring out if she was right or wrong... both chances were dangerous. Both sides of this could be terrible because if he walked away from Azula now then it would only prove that maybe he'd never cared.


“Pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source.”

Mai
dagger queen
Fire Nation
Played By Nariko

Effort is bad. Effort for no reason is even worse.



Of course she was. Because making some kind of a conscious effort would manage to keep the idea that she really was trying alive in Zuko's mind. She was trying to be a little more forgiving in this situation, because as much as Zuko and Azula had spent most of their lives antagonising one another, Mai also understood that she'd always mean something. Or perhaps, more accurately, Zuko would always want her to mean something to him.

It was possible she was wrong. Mai could at least admit to that in her head, and for his sake, she did hope she was. He could certainly use to have a real relationship with her, but Mai also wasn't holding her breath. The fact was, Azula was the way Azula was, and love didn't actually conquer all.

Mai loosed a sigh, fiddling with her sleeve. "Sure," she answered. "I just think someone that isn't you should be the one to believe in her. You have exactly what she wants. I don't think she's forgotten that. She just also knows you've got a decent amount of power over her now." If nothing else, he could decide to kick her out of the palace entirely, and then it would be much more difficult to get into his good graces and do a sudden coup, or whatever it was she had planned.

It wasn't like Mai was an Azula whisperer, either, nor was she terribly interested in becoming one. Azula had told her just fine how she felt about her, and Mai wasn't surprised after thinking about it. That was her prerogative, Mai supposed, and there were a few complexities in their relationship that, most likely, Azula didn't know how to deal with. It wasn't like anyone else had ever had the audacity to betray her before Mai had done it. Even Ty Lee had only done it after Mai.

"Just, be careful," she said, finally. "She seemed pretty capable of being her usual self last I spoke to her. It doesn't seem like much changed." If anything, maybe her temper had simply gotten more explosive than it used to be. Mai hadn't honestly paid much attention.