Zuko's Chosen Honor
I: After the Siege
Zuko and Iroh landed their raft at the coast of the Earth Kingdom, somewhere up in the north. There they sought out shelter in a hole in a cliff and slept there for the night with a campfire going. However, the next morning, Iroh awoke to the sound of Zuko coughing. Looking over to the young prince he saw him shivering under his blankets, and so gave him his own.
"Rest, Zuko, rest, I'm going to find a few things to help you feel more comfortable." Iroh told him. He got to his feet and headed out, and returned about an hour later with a beat up teapot, a pair of cups, and some ingredients. Of course he was going to make some tea to help Zuko; and as it was brewing, Zuko asked: "How did the battle end?"
"Admiral Zhao met his demise after the Avatar teamed up with the Ocean Spirit and drove the whole Fire Nation fleet away from the Northern Water Tribe."
"He did that all by himself? Ugh, that must be some power." Zuko replied, and then coughed a few times.
"Yes, the Avatar is a very powerful bender, and it seems that his friend is one too… Here, drink up, Prince Zuko, this will help to calm your mind and that fever."
Zuko drank, but his face held a level of sadness.
"What's on your mind?" Iroh asked.
"The Avatar, my honor…"
"Zuko, rest now. Perhaps tomorrow you'll be ready to set out again." Iroh told him. He coughed a few more times, but managed to ease into sleep.
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Zuko recovered fairly quickly and they found a place where they could find some rejuvenation. Iroh got a nice massage, while Zuko sat down off to himself, practically alone with his thoughts.
"It's the anniversary of your banishment, isn't it?" Iroh spoke.
"Three years…" Zuko trailed off. He wanted his throne and his honor back, but knowing the power of the Avatar, he was wondering if there was any hope at all.
As if luck was on his side, they soon happened upon a chance meeting with Princess Azula, Zuko's younger sister. She came to them saying that their father wanted them back, because family was suddenly important to him, and that he regretted banishing Zuko.
Zuko fell for her trap, and was about to board her ship with Iroh following after him. However, thanks to the slip of the helmsman's tongue, they found out that it was a trap! They were to be taken home as prisoners! Through a vicious fight, and Iroh throwing Azula off of the ship, they managed to escape them, now knowing that they were to become fugitives of the Fire Nation. So they when they caught a break from running they severed their Fire Nation hair ties.
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As time went by, Zuko and Iroh went from place to place, they begged for food, slept in camps, and sometimes relied on the general hospitality of others. When Iroh confused a poisonous plant for an herb for making a delectable and rare tea, they ended up going to see some healers to cure the poison. The young lady who treated Iroh invited them over to their house for a meal of roast duck, to which Iroh joyfully accepted.
They adopted false names at this time, Zuko named himself Lee and his uncle Mushi, Iroh wasn't too proud to bear that name and so he retaliated by saying: "Yes, Lee was named after his father, so we just call him 'Junior'."
After dinner, Zuko took a moment to step outside, where the young lady followed him out, she noted that the Fire Nation had hurt him, and she showed that the Fire Nation had hurt her too, revealing a burn scar on her leg and told him not to lose hope, for the Avatar had returned.
When they left, they resorted to stealing their horse-ostrich, and while living off of campsites and change from begging, Zuko stooped to thievery for food, money, and a few small luxuries that included a golden teapot he took just to give to his uncle, but even his thefts couldn't satisfy them, and so he decided to leave his uncle and try and figure things out for himself.
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He ended up in an isolated town, where bullies ran the law, they were essentially glorified thieves that were supposed to keep the peace, but instead they were just thugs. Zuko found a place for himself watching over a small family that had their eldest son leave to fight in the war, his health and whereabouts were questionable.
Zuko formed a bond with the younger son, and gave him a knife that Iroh gave him, the blade engraved with "Never Give Up Without A Fight". However the next morning, the boy had another confrontation with the bullies and he retaliated using the knife. His worried mother ran to Zuko and told him that they said that if had enough in him to fight them with a knife, then he can fight in the Earth Kingdom army. Well, Zuko dealt with them, but in the process he used his Firebending and revealed that he was the Fire Prince. During the fight he reclaimed Iroh's knife and tied to give it back to the boy, but he refused it saying that he hated Zuko.
As he rode off, he thought about his latest experiences. All his life he was told that the war was his nation's way of spreading their greatness, but all over the world the people hated them, and wasn't it the Avatar's destiny to restore peace and so end the war? So, if he was supposed to make a difference in the world, what way would truly be the most honorable?
He continued riding off, and then came upon a set of tracks made by a Fire Nation tank, only one tank so it couldn't be for battle, could it be Azula? He decided to follow after it.