Zuko shot up from the bed a cold sweat clung to his brow. "Zuko!" Katara was standing over him trying to calm the Fire Lord. "Zuko calm down. You're safe now. Someone attacked you last night; they hit you with a poisoned needle."
He fell back on the bed. "It was Azula." He explained. "Azula attacked me. She's the one who poisoned me."
"Zuko" said Aang clutching wrapping an arm around his wife's waist. "That's impossible; Azula's locked up and tied down so she can't bend and hurt herself and others."
"I know what I heard Aang. She called me Zu-Zu and… Mai!? What happened to Mai?" Aang and Katara looked at one another their faces white as death. "Um… Zuko." Began Aang, "I think you should wait… Mai is resting but I don't think you're ready to see her." The Fire Lord stared at the Avatar with a look so determined it caused him to take a step back. "Where's my wife?" he demanded pulling himself from the covers. Katara pulled back the curtains that separated their two beds. Zuko looked at the unconscious figure that was his wife, her chest rose and fell with shallow breaths. Her left eye had been burned and scared as his had been so many years ago. His blood boiled at the mockery in front of him, tears welled in his eyes as he beheld her scared as he had been.
"I'm sorry Zuko." said Katara placing a hand upon his shoulder. "We… we weren't able to save her eye." Zuko shrugged off her hand. "Don't talk. Just… tell me later… leave me alone with her." Katara and Aang obeyed and left him alone with his sleeping wife. "I'm sorry Mai… I'm so sorry. I am going to find whoever is responsible for this. I don't want to leave you right now but I need to check on something, I need to get to the bottom of this."
Zuko placed a kiss upon her face eve touching the edges of the charred skin with his lips. "I still think your beautiful Mai. I always will and I love you." He stepped out from the room to face Aang and Katara. "I'm leaving for the Fire Nation." He said making his way down the hall. "Immediately, I need to confirm a few things."
"Azula?" asked Aang his voice skeptical. "I know what I heard Aang" explained Zuko, "I know my own sisters voice, more than I would like to."
"I just had to pull a poison from your veins Zuko." Said Katara stepping in front of the Fire Lord. "You can go running off chasing ghosts just because you thought you heard your sister's voice."
"If any assassin had wanted to truly kill me they would have." He growled shuffling past the water bender. "That attack was meant to simply upset me Katara. The problem is it worked!"
"If you're leaving Zuko then I'm coming with you." Said Aang. "I've sat on the sidelines long enough Zuko. I hoped this crisis would be able to be solved without my intervention but it has gotten out of hand. If you need to confirm this then so do I and I can't wait for a messenger hawk to be sent my way. We'll take Appa, he's faster than any of your airships anyways."
Zuko turned to Katara. "Can you watch over Mai? I can't leave her with just anyone right now." Katara nodded, "I won't leave her side Zuko. You have my word."
"Very well Aang, let's fly."
Those were the first words Bumi said to both Sokka and Ty Lee as the gates to Omashu opened up for them. "Uh… I'm sure he's with Aang as always Bumi." Said Sokka; as always he felt a little off balance around the 'mad genius'.
"I see, well as long as he's doing his part in the war effort I'm happy. So what brings you two to my city? Looking to invest in the recent boom in real estate?"
"Actually were on our way to investigate the foggy swamp." Said Sokka stepping through the threshold of the city. "Actually we were hoping to see and talk with some of the refugees from there and rest for a couple nights and try to find out why there have been no attacks on your city."
"Well I am more than happy to let you two stay in the royal palace with all the other refugees." Said Bumi taking a Jennamite crystal from his green robes and taking a bite out of the sugar based crystal.
"The other refugees?" said Ty Lee, "there all in your palace?"
"Of course" he said, "where else was I supposed to put them in the streets?" Sokka wasn't surprised to hear this. In the Fire Nation such hospitality would seem out of place in the royal place. But with Bumi it was hard to be surprised with anything.
"I've even managed to find them work in my city. Do you know how well the sewers have flown ever since these water benders arrived? Very adequately I'd like to say."
"An acquaintance of ours thinks Omashu may be some kind of home city for our enemy to hide in." Explained Sokka, "And while I hate to agree with him he brought to attention a very valid point. Do you have any reason to believe the White Flame has any presence in the city?"
"Hmm" he said his wrinkled face contorting with thought, "I have no reason to give you to suspect any of those terrorist are in my city, very few people from the Fire Nation stayed after the war. I think I can even count the number of people from the Fire Nation living here on one hand. Oh wait, I can because there's only one!" Bumi snorted with laughter. "If you want to talk to him he lives on the eastern side of town in the upper district. His name is Mao Su."
"Mao Su?" exclaimed Ty Lee excitement in her voice. "You know him?" asked Sokka surprised at her sudden reaction. "I knew him back when I was in the circus. He was my mentor and friend, he taught me how to block people chi."
Sokka smiled, "You should visit him then before we leave. But first let's speak with some of those refugees."
Zuko's foot sloshed water as he walked through the dank dark hallways of the Fire Nation prison. "Your farther has better accommodations than this." Commented Aang trying to ignore the foul stench that permeated the air. "My farther no longer a threat thanks to you. But Azula is another story entirely Aang if given the time I'm positive she would have become a far greater fire bender than my farther and ten times a more ruthless Fire Lord."
"You're more merciful to your enemies than your own enemies Zuko."
The Fire Lord chuckled at this. "I think I like my enemies more than my own family Aang. Except for my uncle and my mother I never really liked my own family. That's why Mai and I are trying to make a new family for both of us."
Aang stopped, "I sorry about Mai Zuko. Maybe if had been more attentive with what's been happening this wouldn't have happened. Instead I let Sokka and Ty Lee do what I should be doing."
"Don't talk like that Aang. You may be the Avatar but you can't put every problem of the world on your shoulders. You thought the world we helped create could handle the ghosts we had left behind. You tried letting a hatchling take flight on its own but we learned it wasn't ready so that leaves us to handle those specters we left behind. As for Mai what happened doesn't change a thing about my feelings for her and what we need to do to end this."
Zuko fumbled with the keys and opened the heavy iron door to his sister's cell. They walked in to see the sight of the former princess of the Fire Nation sitting alone in the dark her arms and legs were bound with a thick woolen jacket bound to her by iron bands that wrapped around her body. Her hair had grown long and was touching the floor where it got damp with the pools of water on the floor.
She looked up at him with blank eyes and said nothing to him.
"Convinced?" asked Aang looking at the pathetic creature before him feeling immense amount of pity for the poor girl.
"No" he said stepping into the cell and kneeling at the prisoner. "Azula?" He said kneeling and making eye contact with the girl.
He received no reply from the girl but she looked into his eyes and smiled. Zuko grabbed the mass of hair and pulled.
"Zuko!?" Aang yelled fearing for the girl's wellbeing but saw the mass of silky black hair tear away from the woman's scalp .
"This isn't Azula" said Zuko, "This is a trick."