On Azula's list of the top ten things that scared her, that had to be number two—just beneath 'Iroh's chest hair' on the list. She shuddered just thinking about that one. Part of Azula wanted to cry out and tell Xin to leave Lu-Ming alone. But the other—more sensible—three fourths of her was content to let Xin go after Lu-Ming instead of her. Besides, the man deserved it.
"You're going to have to talk to me now." The words were shaped with his mouth but not spoken…a silent message for only Azula.
"Shou, I will speak to the Princess now." Xin declared.
"But she hasn't been healed yet." Shou pointed out.
"I'll take care of that." Xin shrugged.
"The old fashioned way."
Azula cringed. She didn't really want to know what the old fashioned way was. But she asked him what that old fashioned way was regardless. In response Lu-Ming simply pointed to the band aid on Shou's arm. Azula relaxed a little. She honestly didn't know what she had expected.
"Come Princess." Xin grabbed her wrist.
"Maybe we should hire a backup psychologist to help Lu-Ming with his problems." Azula heard Shou mutter to one of the other nurses as Xin pulled her off. At least the last thing she'd hear before Xin killed her or something was funny.
"We need to talk." Xin said after they reached an empty area in the hall.
"You're pretty good at impersonation Ming. Though he usually says 'you' instead of 'we.' Keep working at it, you'll get better." Azula murmured, somehow Xin was less threatening as Lu-Ming.
"Your sarcasm is not funny, human princess." Xin remarked.
Azula shrugged, most people didn't seem to share her sense of humor.
"Look, human Princess, I think the only reason you never wanted to talk to me is because I looked scary. So I barrowed this human. You seem to talk to him a lot." Xin observed.
"Or perhaps I don't want to talk to you because the first time we met, you tried to kill me." Azula reminded him.
"We have much in common already, human Princess."
"We both leave a rather frightening first impression."
Alright so the guy had a point. Azula had, at this point, lost track of how many people she tried to kill or harm upon first encounter.
"Look, I want to help you."
She'd also lost track or the amount of times she'd heard that one.
"I have the answers you need."
"And why should I trust you?" Azula asked.
"Because I was a Spirit Beacon too. And I was also sent here. They thought I was crazy…" Xin trailed off.
"And…" Azula beckoned him to continue.
"And what? That's all I'm going to tell you about me, until I know you trust me enough to do the same." He shrugged, leaving Azula to inwardly call him a spiritual pain in the neck. Not that he didn't think she was a royal pain in the ass. "However if you let me, I'll explain—to the best of my knowledge—what's happening to you."
Azula considered. "Fine. But you have to do it after my brother leaves and not a second before. And I don't want to talk to someone who looks like Lu-Ming.
"I'll see you at the midnight hour." Lu-Ming's eyes rolled back as Xin exited his body. "I almost forgot…" He tapped the band aid onto Azula's forehead and faded out.
She looked over at Lu-Ming's sleeping form and decided she should go back by Shou before the man had a chance to ask why he was on the floor in the most deserted hall in the building. Hopefully Shou had stayed put, if not Azula would be in a fair amount of trouble for—Heaven forbid—walking around unsupervised. Heaven knew she couldn't be left alone.
She headed back to the healing quarters regardless of the risk. Shou had to take her to visit with dear Zu-zu anyhow.
Upon re-entering the healing quarters, Azula found that Shou was nowhere in sight.
How typical. Azula sighed to herself. She looked to the left and to the right. The only people left in the room were Ta-Yoon, some other brown-haired boy, and a few of the healers. And the healers were already occupied with caring for the boy. He was always down here—he had a nasty habit of slitting his wrists. It always took a fair amount of water bending to fix the damage. "Ta-Yoon, surely you know where Shou went."
Ta-Yoon gave a little twitch. She then looked to the sky, then to the pond, and then back to the sky once more. Azula was about to scold the girl for ignoring her, but she spoke up first. "I think she told me to tell you that she was going to meet you in your room. And then something after that…something like if Lu-Ming asks tell him to talk to her. But I don't quite know, They kept interrupting."
And they all said Azula was insane. At least the voices in her head are real. But then again her confirmation was coming from one of the voices. Isn't that what they wanted? Her to believe that they are real. Azula impulsively threw her fist against the pillar—the healers were too preoccupied to notice the action. It was all so frustrating; on one hand she thought she was sane, wanted to believe so. But all at once she had her doubts. She punched the wall again, this time hard enough to make her draw away and shake her hand against the pain.
Ta-Yoon must not have seen much action these days, as the girl burst into a hysterical fit of laughter at Azula's pain. This caught the healer's attention, he'd probably be sending for Ta-Yoon's nurse. Azula figured that this was a good time to get moving.
Down the hall, make a right, and then a left, and another right. Third door to the left. Azula mentally ran through the directions to her room. She should know how to get there without thinking by now. However the feeling of walking independently just seemed so foreign and odd to her, she almost forgot how to do it. But she was Azula so of course she made it back without a struggle…okay, so she was supposed to go down the hall and make a left, but she noticed the error and corrected it.
"Oh thank goodness! You made it back without Lu-Ming finding out." Shou chirped. "I should have just stayed there. I could have gotten fired. Literally! Maybe!"
Azula shrugged. "So, do you think we kept little Zu-zu waiting very long?"
The smile faded from Shou's face. Azula would take that as a yes. The next think she knew Shou was off the bed and out the door. Azula hurried to catch up.
There Zuko was, standing by her favorite pond—what a sight ruiner.
He turned to her. "Azula."
And then came the unsettling silence.
"I'm sorry. For having you sent here. But I think that…"
"I know what you think, Zu-zu. You think I'm a lunatic. Just like everyone else." Azula nudged at a rock with the toe of her shoe—anything to avoid eye-contact. A chanced glance upward revealed that Zuko apparently had the same idea as she.
"I don't…well I do. But I…" Zuko fumbled for the right words.
"I'm not seeing things. She was really there, our mother I mean."
"Our mother. We don't even know if she's alive."
"Then how can you say that she was really there, Azula?"
I'm a Spirit Beacon. "You wouldn't understand."
"Try me, I've seen some crazy things."
"Let me guess, those crazy things are all the things I've done since we were kids?"
"No, Azula. That's not…oh never mind."
The tension seemed to thicken into something Azula could practically feel. Or perhaps it was another spirit—they always bought a certain air with them. Whoever it was, it wasn't Xin. He never hid. He had a different energy to him, a lighter one. Azula snickered to herself.
"What's so funny?" Zuko questioned.
"Oh nothing Zu-zu. Just this whole big mess." It wasn't a complete lie, this whole 'Princess locked away in an asylum' thing was humorous in its own dark way.
"I can make some tea." Shou offered.
"Please do." Zuko replied.
"What aren't you telling me Azula?"
"A lot of things Zu-zu."