Zuko groaned as he got to his feet and walked away from where his uncle was getting a massage. He didn’t really mind staying in the small town where there was no fire nation to cause trouble and so far, no one had recognized them, but he just felt like he was in a stalemate. His uncle was enjoying himself by spending the day on the beach collecting shells or coming home with armfuls of flowers. Raven would laugh and giggle at his uncle’s almost childlike behavior and even sometimes the girl would join in.
The girl would skillfully avoid being alone with Zuko and if they did so happen to end up alone together whilst Uncle Iroh was off doing something, she would keep the topic strictly on the Avatar, about their staying in the village or on training. Even if Zuko had wanted to bring up her memories, he wouldn’t have succeeded. The truth was… he was afraid. He was afraid if something happened and she did end up regaining her memories of her past self, she would be disappointed in how much he changed since he was a kid and she was still Shira.
Zuko stopped walking and his mind was snapped out of his thought process when he spied the familiar figure of Raven up ahead. She was standing on a block of ice the middle of the small river, practicing her ice bending. Her eyes were closed and there was a bandana tied around her eyes to keep her from seeing anything.
Zuko took this opportunity to come and stand on the edge of the river, crossing his arms and leaning against the tree. With the girl not trying to avoid conversation, Zuko took in the sight of the girl.
The girl had changed as far as attire went in order to blend in more as they were in Earth Kingdom territory now. Her red, simple shirt, pants and scarf had been discarded completely. She wore a tight-fitting dark green shirt that stopped just above her stomach with a lower collar than her last outfit had, the collar coming down just an inch below her collar bone. The sleeves of her shirt were elbow length, but lacy thin sleeves extended to her wrists and covered the backs of her hands and palms, leaving only her fingers uncovered.
She wore a simple pair of dark green leather pants and simple brown leather boots. Across her chest and around her waist were two thick belts. The one over her back as where she stashed her sword and the one on her waist carried the small important articles such as medical supplies that she always kept with her. Zuko got the strange impression that she had obtained that belt solely for that purpose because she didn’t trust him and Iroh to not get injured.
On her left upper arm was a small belt which held a small ice dagger that she had crafted. It was just a normal small dagger that was blunt, but she had encased it in ice to make it look like it was purely made of ice. Over her top she wore a mid-upper arm short sleeved jacket. The bottom of the jacket came level with her top and she always had the front unbuttoned.
She had taken to wearing her hair completely down instead of a high ponytail like she had since they had run into her at the tavern. Zuko had always wondered why she had dyed her hair but after his uncle informed him of Raven’s lack of memories as Shira, he had wondered if it was for the sake of blending in… or for other reasons.
However, there were some questions that remained even more a mystery including her bending. He didn’t remember Shira being an ice bender, but he hadn’t known she was a light and plant bender till the last day he saw her, so it might have been something she hadn’t disclosed. However, what he didn’t understand was why she never used light or plant bending.
“How long have you been standing there?” the girl asked, snapping Zuko out of his thoughts.
She had removed the cloth from her eyes and was looking at him with one hand on her hip, her head tilted quizzically.
“Not long,” Zuko replied. “It was either come find you or watch uncle get a massage.”
Raven chuckled as she hopped back onto the shore, brushing herself off, “Your uncle is enjoying freeloading life.”
Zuko nodded, preparing an excuse to keep her there, knowing that she would leave. However, the girl startled him by sitting down on the grass at the edge of the water, draping her arms over her knees.
“You want to talk,” the girl observed plainly. “It’s in your body language.”
Zuko rolled his eyes. It was also obvious in the way that he chased her around to talk with her for the past week! Coming to sit down next to the girl, Zuko sighed.
“I know you don’t understand why I reacted the way I did at the north pole,” the boy started. “But it’s kind of hard to explain.
Raven shook her head, “No, I understand it. Your uncle explained it a little when you were out cold when we left the pole. Honestly, I always wondered who I was before Raven. When I woke up in that hell hole, I had no memories of how I got there and who I even was. That was why I named myself Raven. I was so concentrated on staying alive that I didn’t bother to worry about who I was before and… when I finally got out, I had gotten so used to being Raven that it was just natural. Though, recently I began to wonder more about my past.”
“When was that?” Zuko inquired.
The girl turned to look at him and smiled, “When I ran into you and your uncle. It was bad enough not knowing who I was before Raven, but I had no friends as far as I knew. June was the only person I could consider a friend. However, when I first saw you and your uncle enter the tavern… there was something about you that just seemed… familiar. Like I had seen you before and had met you but all I could remember were your faces. It’s like when you are looking for a lost object and remember seeing it somewhere… but you cannot remember what that somewhere is.”
Zuko nodded in understanding. “And your hair…”
“What about my hair?” the girl asked, completely confused.
“Shira…. Well… you,” Zuko began, “Before you were brainwashed… you had golden hair.”
Raven’s eyes widened and that was when Zuko got a faint sense of dread. Had he been wrong? Was this all just a huge coincidence? But it was too perfect: Raven had a part of her past that she couldn’t remember, the eyes, the skin tones, the voice…. The scar… he doubted that two girls of those exact features would have been brainwashed and left with a Z scar on their back.
“That’s strange,” Raven muttered. “When I woke up as Raven, I had black hair. That’s where the name came from, from Raven Black.”
Zuko frowned further, “So…. You cannot bend anything other than ice?”
Raven shook her head, “As far as I know…. No.”
The boy let out a disappointed sigh. Was this all a joke? A prank? Or was he just dreaming? Raven seemed to sense his disappointment and furrowed her brow in thought.
“I have a fear of light,” the girl spoke up. “If that’s any help.”
Zuko was about to shake his head when he froze, “A fear of light?”
Raven nodded, “When I was a prisoner, there was no light anywhere that I could reach. When I finally escaped, I first encountered full on sunlight. However, the moment it touched me I…. I had a dream….”
The girl had Zuko’s full attention now and the boy noticed that she was gnawing on her bottom lip in discomfort.
“What did you see?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” the girl replied. “The moment it started, I felt in pain, so I quickly got out of the direct light. Since then, I have avoided direct sunlight like it’s a curse. Whenever I have to be in direct light, I make sure my head is covered. It’s weird because….”
The girl paused and Zuko thought that she wasn’t going to continue when she rose to her feet. Walking to the edge of the water, she approached a small circle of bright sunlight that had broken through the thick tree branches. Reaching out her hand, she let her hand enter the bright sunlight…. But nothing happened.
“Right now, I’m not experiencing anything,” Raven explained. “But if I stepped in fully without my head covered, I would be in pain.”
Zuko slowly rose to his feet and approached the light. He thumbed his chin thoughtfully before his eyes fell on the long black locks that fell about her shoulders.
“May I?” he asked, motioning to her hair.
The girl looked at him quizzically before nodding. Taking a lock of raven black hair into his fingers, Zuko slowly extended it into the bright light. Almost immediately, Raven let out a gasp and crying out as if someone had burnt her, she jolted away, and the hair fell from Zuko’s grasp.
The boy was about to rush over and apologize when his eyes fell on something. The lock of hair that had entered the light was lying amidst the rest of her hair…. But it stuck out like the stars in the dead of night…. Because it was no longer raven black, but sun golden.
“No way,” he breathed.
Raven looked back at the boy from where she had been cowering away from the light. Zuko slowly approached her and she shied away slightly but Zuko looked at her gently.
“Look,” he whispered.
Raven’s eyes fell down to her lock of hair and her eyes widened. She reached down and touched it just as it had begun to fade back to black.
“How did….” She breathed.
“I think I know,” Zuko replied.
Raven looked at him in puzzlement, only to find him chewing the inside of his cheek in thought.
“When you were Shira, you were able to bend plants and light… but no one ever saw you bend ice. Maybe at the time you hadn’t yet learnt ice bending. However, when you were brainwashed you lost all memories of your life up to that point… including the ability to light and plant bend.”
“So I just forgot how to do it?” Raven inquired. “But how does that explain my hair and my fear of light.”
Zuko bit his lip. “That’s where it gets hard. The reason you are sensitive to light is because it is a part of your past. I think that is the only bridge between Raven and Shira. You said when you step into the light, you have dreams…”
“Kind of like visions… flashes of things,” Raven replied. “But I always get out of the light before I can see anything clearly.”
Zuko nodded, “Those visions… are memories. Light bending was the strongest out of the two bending that you had as Shira. Honestly… it was like light was a part of you. You were so bright and full of energy but everything about you seemed to glow.”
“So I was sort of separated from a part of myself,” Raven mused thoughtfully. “And whenever I enter the light it’s like it is trying to draw me back? But what about the pain?”
The boy snapped quiet almost instantly and Raven almost regretted asking when she saw the pale, hurt look appear in the boy’s eyes.
“What happened to me…. When I was Shira…. It wasn’t good was it?” the girl asked.
Zuko shook his head, “No. And I guess that is why it hurts… because if you were to remember, you would remember what part of being Shira you experienced most recently… and that is the painful things.”
Raven let out a deep breath, resting her chin in her arms, “And my hair?”
“That I am not sure… but I think it is linked to light. When you lost the ability to light bend because you forgot how to…. I guess….”
“The light sort of left my being,” Raven breathed.
Zuko reached out to object but the moment his hand nearly touched her shoulder, she got up and kept her eyes averted. “Thanks for telling me that. Excuse me.”
Zuko jumped to his feet and was about to call out her name but she was already gone, running back to the village. The boy sighed, running his fingers across his face. Looking up, he spied uncle Iroh who had come upon the two a few minutes earlier, hearing the whole conversation. He had a concerned look on his face but the look he was giving Zuko through his eyes, told him to give the girl space.
However, a part of Zuko screamed out to not leave Raven/Shira alone. To be there for her and to try his hardest to bring her memories back…. It just felt wrong to leave her alone.
Raven shifted the bucket of water from her left hand to her right, making sure to not drop the firewood she carried with her free hand. When she approached the house, she pursed her lips together as she studied the door. Taking a deep breath, she blew out slowly. Ice leapt from midair and latched onto the door handle, turning it to open the door for her.
“Zuko! Iroh,” the girl greeted. “I’ll start dinner. What are you hungry……….. for?”
The girl froze in her tracks when she saw that there was a third person in the room. Zuko was standing by the window, having just been staring out but now he was staring at her with pure fear written all over his face.
Iroh was trying to give the girl hand motions to depart from them for her own safety but Raven’s eyes were glued on the third person. A girl about her age but about a head taller with black hair, dressed in fire nation attire and a deadly smirk slapped on her face. The eyes…. Were red like flame but more like blood than flame.
“Who is this Zuzu?” the girl asked in a high-pitched sounding voice. “Your new girlfriend? What happened to that slave girl, Shira that you were so infatuated with till father threw her out?”
“Shut up!” Zuko warned, looking back out the window. “She’s not my girlfriend.”
The girl shrugged before glaring daggers at Raven.
“Think about what I said,” she remarked before heading to the door. “I’ll be waiting.”
As the door slammed behind her, Zuko turned to find Raven still frozen to the spot, her mouth slightly parted and her eyes wide with fright.
“Shira?” he whispered.
“Her eyes…. I remember them,” Raven breathed.
Zuko was across the room in seconds and he reached out to touch her, but Raven seemed to compose herself and slapped his hand away. Zuko froze at the glare she sent him and his heart sunk into his shoes at the way she took a step back from him.
“Shira…” he started but he was cut off when Raven shoved the wood into his hands.
“So, you were infatuated with Shira huh?” The girl hissed. “Is that why you’re trying so hard to get my memories back?”
Iroh cringed. He was afraid this would happen but Zuko was so stunned that the jolted.
“Wha…. Shira I….”
He never finished for the girl hauled the bucket of water up and into his face, drenching him from head to foot.
“Don’t deny it!” She snapped. “Since you saw my scar, you’ve only called me Shira! I haven’t been Shira in years! Is Raven not good enough for you? Is it because you don’t want the scared, beaten Raven who has fought to survive and has no memory of her childhood? Is it because you want the beautiful, bright little angel that Shira was? Get it through your head Zuko, Raven and Shira are two halves of one body…. One person and they will never be separated ever, even if I get my memories back! They will always beat within the same heart! If you want Shira but not Raven, then don’t look for someone who sacrificed everything to protect the boy she loved from his sick father!”
With that, the girl hurled the bucket across the room before she spun on her heel. Grabbing her sole back and sword, she stormed out the door, slamming it behind her. Iroh cautiously approached Zuko but when he touched his nephew’s shoulder, Zuko shrugged him off and dropped the wood in the corner of the room.
“She’s just going through a tough time,” Iroh told him, “She’ll be back.”
“What do I care?” Zuko snapped. “You heard her. She might as well have said I hate her! She can leave for all I care! I’m going home!”
Iroh sighed as Zuko stormed across the room, furiously wringing out his shirt and hair whilst he set about packing. Both teens were hurt and in pain. Both were confused by their feelings and priorities. What Iroh knew was that they would find all the answers in each other…. they just didn’t know it yet.
As Zuko began to climb up the ramp onto Azula’s ship, he paused in his steps to look over his shoulder. Nope…. No sign of Shira. He felt a deep pain of regret strike his heart. He shouldn’t have done those things. Constantly pushing her to try and become who she had been in her past. It was like asking her to be someone she wasn’t.
“Prepare to set sail men!” The captain called. “We’re taking the prisoners ho…..”
Zuko snapped back into reality at what the man said, his eyebrows snapping down at the pale look of horror on Azula’s face. Uncle Iroh immediately began striking down soldiers while Zuko went for the captain, throwing him off the ramp before he approached Azula.
“You lied to me!”
“Like I’ve never done that before,” Azula taunted, turning to walk away while two fire benders approached Zuko.
Zuko let out a frustrated grunt, fire blasting both soldiers before he ran after his sister. He formed two fire daggers in his hands while Azula raised her hands defensively.
“Do you really think that father would want you back?” Azula taunted as they began to go at each other. “A failure…. A child who cannot even capture the avatar?”
Zuko yelled in anger and lashed at her but Azula blocked his strikes. “I should have listened to Uncle!” he yelled.
“Maybe you should have,” Azula teased. “You never really were one to listen to anyone’s advice. You should have listened to uncle when he told you to be quiet in the war chamber, then you wouldn’t have been banished. And what happened? You had to have a little girl save you! Well, she isn’t here anymore.”
Zuko almost wanted to smack reality into Azula’s smug face by telling her that he had found Shira, but he thought it was probably best if she didn’t know about Shira’s existence. It would become dangerous for Shira especially since Azula hated her with every vibe in her body… something that Zuko could never understand. Azula did always seem to hate everyone except their father, but Shira was so easy to love, yet Azula hated her.
The brother and sister jumped apart, both raising their arms in defensive manners, preparing to start again. However, just as Azula began to wound lightning from her hands, she let out a yelp when something jabbed her in the shoulders, making one of her arms jolt forward.
She went flying across the deck and the first thing that Zuko saw was a spike of ice that had appeared below his sister, which had thrown her across the deck. Standing on the other side of the ice… was Raven. She had left her hair down but had taken the scarf that she oftentimes used to hold up her hair and tied it around her face, concealing her nose, cheeks, jaw, chin and mouth. All they could see were her striking blue eyes that were burning like blue fire.
“Raven,” Zuko breathed.
The girl snapped her head in his direction, slight surprise written on her features, but she kept it well hidden beneath the mask of slight annoyance. “We will talk about this later,” she muttered.
Zuko nodded but he was snapped out of his thoughts by a yell behind him. Spinning around, he saw Azula running at him but before he could even begin to form fire in his hands, something grabbed him around the waist and ankles, pulling him a good distance away from his sister and behind Raven. He didn’t have to look down to know that Raven had drawn him back using ice.
“Hey Ra….” He started.
“I failed to protect you last time,” the girl remarked bluntly, not looking back at him but keeping her back to him and her eyes on Azula. “I won’t let that happen this time.”
Zuko tried to melt the ice around him but Raven just spouted more ice, pinning all his limbs down and slowly began to push the ice further away from them, toward the ramp as if forcing him to leave.
“I was wondering when you would show up,” Azula smirked. “Zuzu doesn’t really make friends with girls unless they know how to handle themselves.”
Raven rolled her eyes before grabbing her sword, drawing it out and flipping it so it was held backwards, “Well it’s a good thing he met me then.”
Before Zuko could even blink, Raven had sprinted across the deck and began to slice at Azula, meeting every single one of her lightning jabs with the flat of her blade, returning them with a blast of ice. The two girls were well matched and Zuko knew that both of them were aware of that. Realizing that Raven was too busy fighting Azula to notice him, Zuko began to melt the ice holding him down.
When he finally broke free, he saw that Raven had done a backwards somersault to place some distance between herself and Azula whilst his sister had continuously blasted lightning at her.
“Raven!” he yelled.
Both girls turned to look at him but with opposite expressions. Azula’s was a look of pure smug enjoyment while Raven’s was pale horror.
“ZUKO NO!” the girl screamed but it was too late.
Azula fired a blast of lightning at her brother but with Zuko running and not expecting the attack, he didn’t have time to put up a defense. He closed his eyes, waiting for the feeling of lightning overtaking his body… but it never came. Instead, he felt something cold and limp fall against his body.
“RAVEN!” he heard his uncle yell.
Zuko opened his eyes to see his uncle grab Azula’s hand that was still firing lightning and Iroh redirected it away from Zuko. Zuko looked down only to see Raven standing in front of him, leaning limply back against him while both hands were flayed out as if she had been blocking his body…. she had blocked the lightning!
“RAVEN!” Zuko cried, not even listening to his uncle who quickly overpowered Azula.
The girl crumbled in his arms, weak and limp like a dead fish.
“Idiot,” she muttered weakly. “Why didn’t you run?”
Zuko bit his lip, feeling tears well up as the girl’s head flopped to the side against his chest, her breathing becoming low.
“NO!” he screamed, not caring that his tears were splashing onto her face.
“Zuko!” Iroh called. “Let’s go!”
Zuko quickly picked up the small girl and slung her carefully onto his back. With her head resting on his shoulder, her arms limply laying around his neck, he rushed after his uncle and off the ship.
He was going to make Azula pay for what she did.