The Half Demon
Chan was the first to reach the door. Without a moment's hesitation he began kicking at it and pounding on it. Azula looked to Xin who was lazily hovering above the ground, making no indication of actually unlocking the door.
"Xin!" Azula hollered.
The ghost boy cast a gaze up at her. It with a lazy flick of his wrist, the door slide open—sending Chan crashing to the floor. Ta-Yoon helped him to his feet and pulled him along. Zuko followed shortly behind.
"I have to stay here." Shou muttered to Azula.
"You're coming with us." Azula insisted and pulled her along.
"Azula. Let. Go." Shou huffed.
"Fine. Stay here." Azula murmured. She let go of Shou's wrist and sped out the door. She chanced one last glance back. Lu-Ming stood in the doorway, his skeletal hand on Shou's back. The Skull Spirit. Azula shuddered. Couldn't Shou at least sense something was wrong?
"Shou, be a good girl and hunt them down." Lu-Ming smirked.
Shou gave him a blank nod. Any desire to go back for Shou burned out at that moment. The girl—her friend—had already been consumed. Another friend she didn't get to keep. Another friend who had stabbed her in the back and joined the enemy. She'd make a mental note of that; don't let anyone in.
"The carriage is just over there." Zuko pointed.
Azula was the first to get in the carriage, earning herself a 'hey, you can't be here, this is the Fire Lord's carriage.' Said Fire Lord, was the next to find his seat.
"Is there going to be any room for Chan and Ta-Yoon?" Zuko asked.
"Who cares, I didn't invite them anyways." Azula shrugged.
Chan shoved Zuko aside and squeezed himself (alongside Ta-Yoon) into the carriage. "I guess they can." Zuko remarked.
"Just lovely." Azula brushed some loose strands of hair behind her ears.
"We'll head to the palace first—"
"They're still after us Zu-zu." Azula pointed out and cast a look out the window.
"I'll keep the guards on high alert. They won't get in."
"I still don't like it." Azula found herself subconsciously wrapping her arms around her body.
"I'm sure it'll be fine." Chan gave his input.
"I didn't ask you." Azula snapped and crossed her arms.
"You should be happy, you're going home." Zuko pointed out.
Azula shrugged, she had really missed being in a carriage. After being carried around in a wheel chair (clad in a straitjacket) or stuck walking, being back in the royal carriage was rather nice. And her own bed would be lovely too—soft and with a sufficient supply of pillows and a nice silk blanket…frankly Azula couldn't wait to go to bed.
But bringing Chan and Ta-Yoon along for the ride was less than pleasing. And meeting Mai and Ty-Lee again wouldn't be much fun either. A thought that hadn't occurred to her until that moment.
"We can even have a little welcome home party."
"No thanks." Azula sighed. "No one would want to celebrate that anyhow." She hadn't meant to vocalize that part. It earned her a look of sympathy from both Zuko and Xin. Now wasn't the best time to tell Xin that there wasn't enough room in the carriage for him to be floating around.
"Anyone else feeling a little cold?" Ta-Yoon asked. Chan nodded.
"I'm sure that Ty-Lee will be happy to see you again." Zuko tried.
Azula gave a bitter laugh. "Zu-zu. No one will be joyful to see me back. Don't pretend like they didn't try to talk you out of getting me."
Zuko frowned. It was true, Katara was particularly against Azula being anywhere near the throne. Naturally Sokka had her back as well. It was Iroh who had convinced them to give Azula another shot. If it weren't for him, Zuko would have probably just left his sister to the spirits.
He made a motion to speak. Azula, however, had already turned to look out the window.
She missed it; seeing the town. The world outside the asylum. She had almost forgotten there was one. Truth be told she was rather nervous to be back, it's been such a long time. And how would people look at a fallen Princess? Azula chewed her lip. A bump in the road had her biting down a bit too hard.
Hard enough to draw blood.
"It'll be alright." Zuko put his arm around her. "I was gone for three years…"
"I don't need your sob story Zu-zu, and I'm fine." She promptly swatted his arm away.
"You sure don't look alright." Chan pointed out.
"I still didn't ask you!"
The carriage pulled into the courtyard. It felt truly odd to be back home. Nothing like Azula expected. Of course her expectations included things going right back to the way they were before she had left. Even she knew that, that was utterly ridiculous.
Waiting in the doorway stood Team Avatar. No Mai and Ty-Lee. All four of them seemed to stare Azula down as she made her way through the door.
"Can you really see them too?" Aang asked. "The spirits?"
"I hope so." Azula answered. She paused. "Can you see him?" She motioned towards Xin.
"Yeah. I've talked to him before. He doesn't say much, but he comes around."
"Doesn't talk much? I can't get him to shut up!"
"That is not the truth." Xin protested. "I'm pretty quiet at night, compared to some of the others."
Aang nodded. "I see more spirit animals than human spirits though. Xin is one of the only humans I've seen around, actually."
"Yeah, well I get a good mix of human spirits and…" Azula searched for the right word.
"Demons. You see more demons. That's what happens when the gate is left open." Xin gave his input.
"So what are you?" Aang questioned.
"A consumed soul. Or a half demon. That's why I'm stuck here. I don't belong to Heaven and I don't belong to Hell."
"I'm sorry." Aang shot him a sympathetic look.
"Okay. This is getting weird." Sokka interrupted.
Xin ignored him. "Which is why we…the Human Princess needs you." He grabbed Azula's arm and pulled up her sleeve, revealing a black ring around her wrist. "She needs to learn to fend them off before she ends up like me."
She thought again of her nightmare.
Of her reflection.
Those black eyes.
Soulless black eyes.