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They'll overthrow him when they're good and ready, put him back in his cell where he can get some real sleep or execute him and then he won't be tired anymore. Until then, he'll just keep... being Fire Lord. note 
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Zuko is captured and imprisoned by Ozai when he fails to escape in time after their confrontation in the Day of Black Sun. With that, everything changed.

With Ozai is defeated, depowered and imprisoned by the Earth Kingdom and Azula falling into madness, the Fire Nation has no ruler. In desperation, the generals and Zuko's own jailers release him from his imprisonment and install him on the throne.

Knowing that he was the literal last choice for ruler, Zuko decides to do his best in keeping the Fire Nation from falling apart until his generals finally overthrow him. Then he can finally rest.

Although keeping a nation that warred for a hundred years stable is easier said than done. Complicating things is the start of peace conferences, with the Avatar and Gaang acting as representatives for their respective nations and his Uncle Iroh, whom Zuko betrayed for his nation back in Ba Sing Se, who's now the Avatar's firebending teacher.

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TowardsThe Sun by MuffinLance is an Avatar: The Last Airbender Fanfic exploring a For Want of a Nail Season Four "Zuko never joined the Gaang, and he's really bad at being good" AU. For other examples of their work see Cheating At Pai Sho, Salvage and Little Zuko v the World.


This fanfic provides examples of:

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     #-D 
  • 100% Adoration Rating: The palace staff adore Zuko and are extremely protective of him. He doesn't seem to realize their coddling and very hands on and relaxed attitudes isn't insubordination but a sign of real love and respect rather than the fear induced loyalty his father and sister got.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Zuko has no idea what Sokka's actual name is and is too embarrassed to ask since they've been fighting against each other for a while now. After listening in on Toph and Sokka's conversation, Zuko ends up calling Sokka "Ambassador Snoozles" when trying to address him.
  • Accomplice by Inaction: Captain Izumi realizes Zuko was right to not trust her to be loyal to him after she does nothing to stop the Agni Kai.
  • Accusation Fic: It's very subtle but author was displeased that in canon, Iroh stayed in Ba Sing Se to run the Jasmine Dragon after the war instead of actually helping his teenage politically inexperienced nephew to rule their homeland by staying as an adviser. Iroh doesn't escape duty, here.
  • Adults Are Useless: Not for a lack of skill or good intentions on some of their parts, but there's a reason the Gaang are the ones playing ambassador for the other nations at the peace talks. As Sokka so eloquently puts it in Chapter 15, " 'willing' and 'capable' were alarmingly mutually exclusive at the national leadership level. Which, you know. Explained why a band of literal children had to end the war."
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: Iroh's actions leading up to his dethroning of Zuko, and his drugging Azula afterwards, convince almost everyone that he was only slightly better if not just as bad as the rest of his family, with many thinking that he was simply pretending to be the family White Sheep while biding his time to gain the throne.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Just as Azula calls her brother Zuzu, Zuko is revealed to similarly call her Lala.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: Zuko is mortified that Iroh told the Gaang about Zuko's Agni Kai with his father, as it's a deeply personal trauma. Sokka attempts to defend Iroh by stating he was trying to humanize Zuko to the Gaang. Zuko's reply haunts him.
    Zuko: How much more human do you want me to be, Water Tribe?
  • Arc Words: Lots of variations upon someone "going to visit sick relatives," which in Fire Court speaks means "I am leaving the capital because I'm afraid the Fire Lord will kill me. Zuko is pretty much the only Fire Nation citizen who takes this literally, so when he says it to Iroh's face when he abdicates the crown, what he means is "I'm going to go see Azula," while everybody else hears "I need to get out of here before your new Fire Lord kills me," which sets off the rumbling of starting a civil war. Azula finds Zuko's ignorance the most hilarious thing ever, and it is not until chapter 23 he finally learns what everyone heard him say.
  • Balkanize Me: With Kuei missing and lacking any sort of line of succession, many Earth Kingdom generals are maintaining order in hopes of forming their own countries once the confusion is settled. This makes trying to actually negotiate a peace treaty a very annoying experience for Zuko.
  • Batman Gambit: Knowing Iroh would do anything to have Zuko forgive him, Zuko has his coronation as Crown Prince scheduled as soon as possible. Iroh wanted to delay the coronation for Zuko's frail health, but he insisted, which was Zuko's ploy to get a public audience to rip Iroh a new one.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • All Zuko's servants and counselors wanted was for Zuko to stop overworking himself, which happens when Iroh takes the throne from Zuko by force.
    • Fire Sage Fujio understandably wanted an adult in charge of the Fire Nation and for the nation's only hope to not work himself to death before reaching adulthood. He makes clear to Iroh that the Fire Sages support him whether he becomes Zuko's regent or take the throne himself. Zuko abdicating the throne unintentionally triggers a civil war, much to his horror.
    • All Zuko wanted was to be able to rest and not have the fate of an entire nation rest on his shoulders, while still ensuring that his nation would be in good hands. Unfortunately, the one to overthrow him and take the Fire Lord's responsibilities from him is Iroh, who if left to rule is going to drive the Fire Nation to destruction.
  • Beware the Honest Ones: Sokka notes that Zuko's manipulations are dangerous because he's too honest and does it unintentionally, which makes Zuko difficult to predict. Azula notes the same thing, seeing how Zuko's sincerity means he easily inspires loyalty towards himself while inciting treason against Fire Lord Iroh, without even trying.
  • Bookends:
    • The story begins with Zuko being released from his cell to be made Fire Lord. After his defeat at Iroh for the throne, Zuko volunteers to return back to his cell.
    • The first chapter of the prologue is called Fire Lord. The last chapter of the prologue is called Crown Prince.
  • Bothering by the Book: Under Zuko, all of his servants rush to help him with everything regardless of his attempts to do things for himself. Under Firelord Iroh, the servants don't help Iroh until they're forced to, such as not opening doors until he's already waiting in front of them.
  • Break the Cutie: Zuko and Azula come pre-broken into the story from various psychological breakdowns. Things, unfortunately, get worse for both before they get better.
  • Breaking the Bonds: Azula already broke out of her chains and burned through the window bars when Zuko breaks her out of the asylum.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • Zuko unconditionally welcomes Iroh back into the Fire Nation with open arms, understands why Iroh doesn't trust him and lets Iroh go through the palace un-monitored. Iroh repays this by making backroom deals with the Fire Sages to gain their approval to make himself Zuko's regent or take the throne himself. Iroh destroys whatever trust Zuko had by challenging him to an Agni Kai and taking the throne.
      • Iroh's betrayal of a nephew he was supposed to love, also ruins his reputation for a lot of other people who might otherwise have trusted him.
    • After having Iroh as Aang's firebending teacher and knowing of his wisdom, the Gaang (except Toph) thought it would be a great idea to have Iroh as Fire Lord. Seeing the less-than-peaceful transition in power in seeing Zuko broken and the nation hating Iroh has the Gaang lose faith in him.
  • Brutal Honesty: Zuko tells Captain Izumi that he doesn't trust her to be loyal to him. Izumi is offended but later realizes that he was right.
  • Bullying the Dragon: Sokka takes petty revenge on Zuko by doing things like stealing his food, followed by asking why he hasn't been set on fire yet.
  • Bystander Syndrome: Captain Izumi, to her horror when she realizes it, but Zuko makes note of how no one in the Fire Nation who had the political sway to resist seems to have made any actual effort to protest the war despite the real harm it was doing to the nation.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: When Zuko refuses being Crown Prince at the ceremony, he follows the declaration by publicly ripping into Iroh's choices of siding with the White Lotus' view on how to handle the Fire Nation and the damage that will occur by doing so.
  • Cain and Abel: Surprisingly averted by Azula and Zuko to their own shock. Azula admits that she never wanted Zuko dead and Zuko returns the sentiment.
  • Catch-22 Dilemma: Zuko will give reparations to the Earth Kingdom only if they formally surrender. The Earth Kingdom will only surrender if they get reparations.
  • The Chains of Commanding: The weight of inheriting the throne while trying to end the war without the Fire Nation being gutted in retaliation is slowly crushing Zuko.
  • The Chessmaster: Iroh. He wasn't a highly decorated General for nothing. He quickly reintegrates himself with the Fire Sages and the military elite when Zuko welcomes him back. It backfires when he dethrones Zuko. His manipulations cause the palace and Zuko to lose utter faith in him, results in Zuko turning his back on him and drive the nation to civil war. Made worse by many interpreting Iroh's actions as playing The Long Game to remove all potential threats to his power by turning his family against each other.
  • Contrived Coincidence: After breaking out of the Boiling Rock, Zuko and company land on an abandoned island that has nothing but some old ruins on it. Not only is it the same island where the true firebenders still live, but Iroh and Aang arrive at roughly the same time.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: Zuko continues to refuse to listen to Iroh about working less due to Iroh never taking responsibility as a prince even when Zuko is having a literal heart attack. This results in Iroh challenging Zuko to Agni Kai to oust Zuko as Fire Lord. While Iroh saves Zuko's life, having to re-live the worst memory of his life at the hands of someone he trusted emotionally wrecks Zuko. Zuko's relationship with Iroh is destroyed and ruins Iroh's credibility as Fire Lord.
  • Culture Clash: Comes up repeatedly between anyone from separate nations.
    • The servants like Zuko because he allows them to speak their minds and be informal with him, which leads to the servants doting on the overworked lad. To born and bred royals like Zuko, Iroh and Azula, this breakdown of royal protocol and social hierarchy is an insult to Zuko because it means they don't take Zuko seriously. While Zuko doesn't care how the servants treat him as long as they do their jobs, Iroh takes it as affront and insult to a young ruler. The reinforcement of social hierarchy and protocol after Iroh's rise to power is seen as a return to order in his eyes and the return of oppression in the eyes of the servants.
    • One of the more minor examples is that Zuko and his council are furious at the idea of someone invading their territorial waters while Sokka doesn't understand how someone could rule an ocean or why they'd want to but understands the idea of different tribes having their own fishing grounds.
    • None of the Gaang, Sokka in particular, understand how horrific the idea of having their bending removed is to firebenders. They consider firebending a gift from the sun god and part of their soul, making its removal a Fate Worse than Death while the Gaang sees it as a way to make sure Ozai won't be a threat again.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Zuko vs Iroh while Zuko is having a heart attack. The fight was short.
    Uncle took him down gentle as an owl-cat scruffing her kitten.
  • Curb Stomp Cushion: Zuko had no chance of winning the Agni Kai against Iroh but props goes to him for fighting despite a literal heart attack and suffering a Psychosomatic Superpower Outage.
  • Cuteness Overload: Sokka can't handle the sight of Zuko napping on Appa while covered in turtleducks, or as he calls it "Zuko-and-Fluffy-Animals Cuteness Overload Happy Funtime Hour."
  • Darkest Hour: Zuko hits absolute rock bottom after the Agni Kai. All his efforts to hold the Fire Nation together dashed due to Iroh taking the throne from him. Absolutely no one has his back. Iroh, the one person Zuko unconditionally trusted, has betrayed him. Zuko manages to pull through his personal despair when he manages to spite Iroh in front of the whole nation.
    • In turn, Zuko unwittingly causes the Gaang and the Fire Nation to suffer their own darkest hour. Thanks to Zuko publicly calling Iroh out and abdicating the throne, a civil war breaks out. They have failed in their attempts to ensure peace and get war reparations through their own hubris. All they can do is hope to recapture Zuko in hopes of quelling the ensuing rebellion.
      • This may lead to a darkest hour for the Earth Kingdom as a brewing civil war in the Fire Nation means that Fire Lord Iroh may not be able to order the farmers to give food to the Earth Kingdom as war reparations. Given that Ozai burned down a major food-producing province, the Earth Kingdom is facing a devastating famine without it.
  • Death Seeker: Zuko is passively suicidal after his imprisonment, not caring whether he lives or dies as long as the Fire Nation remains intact.
  • Deconstruction Fic:
    • The series end is deconstructed. Zuko isn't just going to surrender the Fire Nation colonies just because Aang asked. Zuko has to carefully tread the politics of demilitarization and reparations while at the same time trying to protect his country from being torn apart from a world justifiably angry with them.
    • This fic heavily deconstructs Iroh. Once Zuko finds out that Iroh was in the White Lotus the entire time, he feels betrayed and horrified. Had Iroh been caught during the hunt for the Avatar, Zuko and the crew of the Wani would have all been executed along with Iroh as accomplices. When Zuko reflects on the lotus tile incident, he feels like he was being mocked. Furthermore, he was deeply hurt that Iroh never trusted him and let him continue on a Snipe Hunt when Iroh knew there was a different way.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: One of the final breaking points between the Gaang and Zuko. As in canon, Aang believes that killing is the unforgivable sin, and sees taking away Ozai's bending as showing mercy. The people of the Fire Nation, on the other hand, would a hundred times rather die than have their bending taken away. Even the rest of the Gaang doesn't fully grasp just how much Aang's severance of Ozai would horrify and enrage the Fire Nation.
  • Destroy the Abusive Home: The Fire Nation capital palace was and still is a place of pain for Azula. It's where she and Zuko were both abused and pit against each other by their father. After the most recent batch of familial betrayal due to Iroh, Azula decides to fulfill her greatest desire and attempts to burn down the place. She doesn't succeed but its not for a lack of trying.
  • Determined Defeatist: Zuko is certain that his council and the Fire Nation military will depose him and have Zuko either executed, re-imprisoned or exiled once the situation stabilizes. He is determined to be the best Fire Lord he can be despite that.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Chapter 14 for Zuko. Bring tissues. Zuko crosses it when Iroh challenges Zuko for the throne after his horror over Ozai's fate causes Zuko to have a heart attack. Having to relive his worst memory at the hands of the only adult he unconditionally trusted during his most physically vulnerable moment breaks Zuko. After having all his efforts to bring peace rebuffed and his Parental Substitute betray him, Zuko finally gives up. After the Agni Kai Zuko bounces between Laughing Mad, apathetic depression and passively suicidal.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Most of the Gaang supported the idea of Iroh taking the throne from Zuko and becoming Fire Lord. They, especially Iroh, didn't consider what it would happen if they succeeded.
  • Divine Right of Kings: The Fire Lord is considered the Will of the Sun God Agni on earth.
  • Do Wrong, Right:
    • When Azula hears Zuko go Laughing Mad, she chides him for not making it creepy enough.
    • Chit Sang, a prisoner in the Boiling Rock, ended up there because he (while drunk) corrected the spelling on the treasonous pamphlets some university kids were handing out.
  • The Dog Bites Back:
    • When the servants realize that Iroh intends to use them as bait to sedate the homicidal Azula, they let Lady Huian deliver the food. She immediately warns Azula of Iroh's plans, which allows Azula to fight back.
    • Zuko spent most of the prologue being mocked by the Gaang, undermined by Iroh and later outright ousted from power. During his coronation as Crown Prince he publicly calls them all out, warns his people against them and walks away while accidentally inciting a civil war.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point:
    • Iroh completely misses the subtext behind why the palace staff are so relaxed around Zuko but formal with him.
    • Iroh told the Gaang about Zuko's traumatic Agni Kai in an attempt to humanize a despised enemy. Sokka belatedly realizes after Zuko gives an Armor-Piercing Response that it didn't actually work as they still couldn't empathize with him.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Zuko's most healthy relationship is his acquaintanceship with Toph. Zuko and Toph respect each other's skills with Toph currently the only person in his life with these three characteristics: honest, polite, and not mentally unstable.

     E-L 
  • Eaten Alive: Zuko theorizes that Kuei was probably eaten by his pet bear once they left Ba Sing Se.
  • Embarrassing Nickname:
    • Having Toph call him Snoozles was bad enough for Sokka. But Zuko calls him "Ambassador Snoozles" because he didn't know Sokka's name was humiliating.
    • Azula promises to reconsider her stance on fratricide if Zuko ever calls her "Lala" in public.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: Azula believes that Iroh was playing The Long Game to have revenge on Ozai. Since Iroh knew he couldn't beat Ozai, but he trained Zuko. He took Zuko from his father and from Azula and played the caring uncle. Iroh then had Aang take out Ozai while Zuko took the position as Fire Lord. And then Iroh broke him, just because he could. Because he's Ozai's son and Zuko outlived his usefulness. While Azula is wrong and Iroh genuinely loves Zuko, Zuko is so shaken that he doesn't know what to believe.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Azula may be ruthless but she's not wasteful. She considers Zuko's banishment a waste of his loyalty and Zuko notes she never kills unless absolutely necessary, as her conquest of Ba Sing Se was the most bloodless in the entire war.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • There are several Fire Nation citizens imprisoned at the Boiling Rock because they protested against the war.
    • Several guards at the Boiling Rock go out of their way to keep Suki safe, one of them mentioning she's not much older than his own daughter.
    • One of the prisoners at the Boiling Rock is a woman who crippled her commanding officer for burning a child.
  • Exhausted Eye Bags: Zuko has these throughout his reign as Fire Lord due his constant overworking and lack of sleep.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Ozai's fate of having his bending taken away is nothing sort of sacrilege in the eyes of the Fire Nation, who see firebending as a blessing from the Sun God Agni and a part of one's soul. In their eyes, Aang tore out Ozai's soul and called it mercy.
  • Finger Snap Lighter: Zuko forms fire daggers when he learns of Ozai's fate. It's the first and last time he firebends before his Psychosomatic Power Outage causes him to lose his bending completely.
  • For Want of a Nail: Zuko having been unable to escape after confronting Ozai changes more than a few things:
    • Iroh became Aang's firebending teacher instead.
    • Suki does not join the Gaang and is still stuck in prison, as is Hakoda.
    • The Gaang do not trust Zuko at all.
    • Since Zuko never joined the Gaang, he never went with Aang to meet the dragons and fix his bending. As such he can barely even use his bending.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Azula sees herself as the Responsible sibling having to look after Zuko, her naive and trusting Foolish Sibling. In reality, Zuko is the Responsible Sibling who buckles down to rule their nation and take care of her, while Azula cracked on her first day after her friends refused to continue to take her abuse. She throws tantrums by setting things on fire and attacking Zuko with lightning, which she did so frequently that Zuko developed electrocution-based health problems.
  • Gambit Pileup: Especially egregarious in The Boiling Rock breakout chapters: Zuko and Azula are attempting to bluff their way through having Mai and Ty Lee released before anyone realizes that they've defected, but Mai and Ty Lee take them hostage to try and free Suki and Hakoda as well after befriending them during their stay in prison, Suki and Hakoda then try to use Zuko and Azula as hostages against the Fire Nation, while Sokka arrives wanting to capture Zuko and Azula and bring Suki and his father to the palace to reuinite the Gaang and quell the civil unrest stirring in the Fire Nation, only for Captain Izumi to decide to stall him to help Zuko escape out of guilt, while Suki and Hakoda, after learning about the current political landscape, decide they would rather a civil war actually break out because they mistrust Iroh, leading to Suki helping Zuko's group escape while Hakoda leaves with Sokka while having no plans to help negotiations until things have run their course.
  • Get Out!: When Aang tells Zuko and his council that he took Ozai's bending, they are so horrified that Zuko immediately demands that Aang leave the palace.
  • The Ghost: Ozai is never present but the weight of his actions and his imprisonment is felt by everyone.
  • Go Through Me: Captain Izumi throws herself in front of an unconscious Azula to protect her from Aang in fear that Aang would take her bending. Aang is horrified that someone sees him as a monster for trying what Aang believed was a nonviolent solution.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Iroh is still Zuko's wonderful kindhearted retired Uncle with a love of tea, but he is also still the Dragon of the West, an extremely skilled General and tactician, and grew up in Azulon's court, with all the views on how to rule that comes with such an upbringing.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Sokka, before the Gaang arrived for the peace talks, believed putting Iroh on the throne would be great. And then it happened.
  • Gray-and-Grey Morality: Both Zuko and the Gaang both want the war to officially end and start an age of peace. Unfortunately they both have very different ideas of what peace looks like, and different people they want to help and protect.
  • Grew a Spine:
    • After confronting herself on her Bystander Syndrome, Izumi attempts to make a stand by protecting Azula from Aang.
    • Zuko recovers from his Despair Event Horizon by publicly confronting Iroh and ripping him a new one in front of an audience.
  • Heart Trauma: Zuko develops electricity-induced arrhythmia due to having to tank Azula's lightning attacks. His weakening firebending barely allows him to redirect lightning, not being able to protect himself. His arrhythmia combined with his poor condition due to his imprisonment, poor sleep habits, poor eating habits and terrible lifestyle altogether lead to Zuko endangering his life in critical moments.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity:
    • Zuko has a terrible reputation outside the Fire Nation as the rest of the world only sees him as the next Fire Lord, with Earth Kingdom generals outright refusing to read the letters he sends regarding a ceasefire.
    • Iroh has a poor reputation withing the Fire Nation for being a traitor, which only worsens when he dethrones Zuko and the latter accidentally implies Iroh will kill him for disagreeing with the new regime.
    • Aang was already a boogeyman to the Fire Nation. Taking away Ozai's bending and helping depose the popular Zuko in favor of Iroh doesn't help improve his image.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Zuko's has no sense of self worth or preservation. He considers it a fact of life that he's only Fire Lord until the council has no more use for him and apparently made peace with the notion that “no more use” may very well mean his death at someone's hands or a lifetime back in his prison cell if he doesn't work himself to death first. He doesn't care. His council, Uncle, and servants on the other hand, care quite a bit when he admits this out loud.
  • Hollywood Heart Attack: Zuko starts feeling pain in his arm during a botched reparations meeting. After completely horrified with the Gaang with the revelation of Ozai's fate, starts feeling cold then hot as he suffers a heart attack. Zuko survives the heart attack when Katara heals him after the Agni Kai.
  • Honor Before Reason: There are rules about what you can and cannot do to the Fire Lord. So when Iroh is faced with his nephew having a literal heart attack in front of him and refusing treatment, instead of just say, holding him down and forcing Katara to heal him, Iroh instead challenges Zuko to an Agni Kai so he has the political power to order him to rest. Which leaves him with a living nephew who now cannot trust him and an entire palace of people who resent him.
  • Hope Bringer: Zuko is the first genuinely kind Fire Lord in living memory and willing to work himself to the bone trying to fix their nation after Fire Lord Ozai's defeat. With all the freedoms Zuko was willing to give citizens, trying to convert the nation to a peacetime economy and prevent the other nations from tearing them apart, the citizens love Zuko. So when Iroh inadvertently crushed their hopes by overthrowing Zuko, they don't get mad. They rebel.
  • Hourglass Plot: Both Zuko and Azula attempted to capture the Gaang to prevent rebellion against Fire Lord Ozai. Now the Gaang have to capture Zuko and Azula to prevent rebellion against Fire Lord Iroh. Sokka is bitterly aware of the irony.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: After Azula hears the news of what Iroh has done, she tells him that she's the only one that gets to treat Zuko like a toy.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: The Inverted example from both Zuko and Azula. Azula's internal monologue points out that Zuko could have easily killed Azula a hundred times over, whether by poisoning her food or overwhelming her with guards or simply redirecting her lightning bolts back at her instead of into the walls or ceiling. When she finally mentions this to Zuko while they are both in prison, he points out that Azula could just as easily have had him killed while he was in jail, after she was made Fire Lord and Ozai left for the Earth Kingdom.
  • Ill Girl: Zuko's poor health from his imprisonment, stress and Azula's constant lightning attacks literally endanger his rule and shape the course of the politics.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: Zuko has no idea that "visiting sick relatives" means someone fled the capital for disagreeing with the regime. After many servants flee after Iroh's ascension as Fire Lord, Zuko believes there's a epidemic ravaging the countryside. He sincerely wishes his servants' relatives well.
  • Innocently Insensitive: The Gaang have no idea about the horrors Zuko has gone through since the eclipse, making a number of their actions come across as exceedingly cruel.
    • Being blind, Toph is one of the only people able to forget that Ozai burnt half of Zuko's face off, and takes a few minutes to understand why Zuko's heart rate spiked when she made a crack about spicy food burning her face off. She realizes her mistake and tells him he can make as many blind jokes about her as he wants in return for any burn ones she makes.
    • Aang is very confused as to why his choice of sparing Ozai by taking his bending instead utterly horrifies Zuko and his court.
    • Katara has a habit of popping her waterskin's cork when nervous, and thinks no one can hear it when she does so under the table. Zuko has an immediate flight response towards the sound and excellent hearing. Toph eventually has to point out Katara's been giving him mild heart attacks since they arrived.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Azula still has her Villainous Breakdown resulting from Mai and Ty Lee's betrayal, the key difference being that instead of covering an escape, they were instead caught trying to break Zuko out of prison.
  • The Insomniac: Zuko rarely sleeps as he's so busy keeping his country from falling apart that he frequently works through the night.
  • Insult to Rocks: Zuko jabs at the Gaang's poor navigational skills by pointing out their sense of direction improved after they added a blind girl to their team.
  • Invented Invalid: “Visiting sick relatives” is palace code for a servant who had to leave because it was no longer safe for them to remain in the palace. Quite a few servants begin their visits after Iroh is crowned Fire Lord.
  • Ironic Echo: Like in canon, Iroh assures Zuko that he sees him as a son. Unfortunately, this comes immediately after their Agni Kai, so Zuko interprets it as Iroh viewing him the same way Ozai did.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Suki is furious about Zuko burning down parts of Kyoshi island, but Azula rightfully points out that by having the Avatar there, they had already broken their neutrality.
  • Jerkass Realization: Toph has a moment when she learns just how bad Zuko's burn scar is and remembers that she made a joke about having her face burnt off.
  • Just Got Out of Jail: The story begins when Zuko is released from his Tailor-Made Prison by his own guards.
  • Knife Nut: Mai has created an impressive number of improvised knives while in prison, and yes she can throw them all with deliberate precision.
  • Laughing Mad: Azula obviously but also Zuko after the Agni Kai. People find the laugh rather creepy. Also, In Chapter 21, both Azula and Zuko exhibit this trope by laughing at jokes only the two of them find funny, unsettling the people around them. This could be because of Zuko's now loosened mental state putting him on more equal footing with Azula.
    • When Azula and Zuko leave the insane asylum she was being held captive in, she is laughing so hard at Zuko saying he was "visiting sick relatives," that all the doctors are doing their best to get out of her way.
  • Licked by the Dog: Appa loves Zuko, who in turn develops a habit of napping with him by the turtleduck pond.
  • Literal Metaphor:
    • Zuko's arrhythmia makes any heart metaphor painfully literal.
      Zuko's heart skipped a beat. In... kind of a literal way.
    • Zuko ends his speech calling Iroh out by saying "I have sick relatives to visit". Everyone assumes he's using the accepted code for "I have offended the Fire Lord and need to get out of here before he has me killed", but he actually did mean he was going to see a sick relative: Azula.
  • Literal-Minded: Zuko doesn't really DO rhetorical. Or double meanings for that matter. His poor mental state doesn't help matters.
  • Living Lie Detector: Toph. Especially notable here because her bending allows her to get a much more accurate view of Zuko's psyche, which makes her super protective in her own way.
  • The Long Game: Azula believed Iroh's usurpation of Zuko was a plan coming to fruition.
    Azula: You knew you couldn't beat father, but you trained Zuko. Poorly, I might add. You took him from father and from me and you played the caring uncle. Set up the child-Avatar to take out our father for you. Set up Zuko to take his place. And then you broke him, just because you could. Because he's father's and you made him yours, and you didn't need him anymore. One last backhand to your brother. I can understand that.
  • Loyal to the Position: Captain Izumi's loyalty is to the Fire Lord, whether that Fire Lord is sociopathic like Ozai, insane like Azula, or tends to dethrone his own nephew like Iroh. Because of this, she doesn't feel like she has a right to interfere when royal clashes against royal, such as the Agni Kai between Zuko and Iroh, and felt she had to obey Iroh's orders afterwards no matter her own misgivings. She finally breaks away from this in Chapter 28, affirming her loyalty to Zuko personally and helping him, Azula, and all the prisoners who decided to tag along escape the Boiling Rock. It gets her arrested by Iroh.
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     M-Q 
  • Machiavelli Was Wrong: Being a product of Azulon's court, Iroh believes that it is both necessary and respectful of servants to fear their Fire Lord. He is aghast that the servants' informality and open affection toward Zuko, seeing as a major disrespect toward a young ruler. The servants' fear of Iroh after his coup against Zuko is seen as a return to proper order. Which would have worked...if the servants hadn't experienced hope and kindness during Zuko's short reign. Iroh being a return to form just moves them to hatred and outright rebellion.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: Deconstructed with Zuko and the Gaang:
    • With Zuko: the formerly imprisoned Zuko is made Fire Lord after Ozai is captured and Azula goes crazy. Despite Zuko's royal training, he was never taught how to delegate and is stuck in the middle of the unenviable situation of trying to change a century-long wartime economy to a peace economy, trying to get peace treaties with other nations that hate them and fix his father's mismanagement. This leads to Zuko working himself to the ground and putting his health on a downward spiral.
    • With the Gaang: With most of the Earth Kingdom generals refusing to leave the country, the Earth King missing (and Bumi, the other Earth King, being stark raving mad) and the Water Tribe leadership either too far or captured, the Gaang have to represent their respective nations in the peace conference Fire Lord Zuko is holding. They have no experience in politics and their hatred toward Zuko hinder any attempts to make any concessions on either side. In the end they outright fail to get any concessions and accidentally undermine their own desires for peace when they trigger a coup which results in civil war.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Azula shoots lightning at Zuko constantly, which has resulted in him having lightning-induced arrhythmia and all the heart problems that come with the condition. Zuko doesn't care, he has things to do. He also barely reacts when he tells her he can no longer fire bend.
  • Man in the Iron Mask: Zuko was thrown in a dark, small jail when he was captured after his post-eclipse Heel–Face Turn. Ozai had Zuko jailed instead of executed with the implication that he wanted Zuko to waste away and die in jail, and to be able to gloat to Zuko's face. Ty Lee and Mai attempted to break Zuko out of jail but failed. Ultimately it was Zuko's jailers who release him to take the throne, because Zuko was the only royal left after Ozai's defeat and capture by the Avatar and Azula going insane.
  • Morton's Fork: Zuko finds out that the Earth Kingdom province Ozai burned down was a major food producer. Zuko wants to send food aid to the province to avoid a major famine if the Earth Kingdom surrenders. The Gaang and Iroh want Zuko to send the food aid regardless of the Earth Kingdom's hostility towards the Fire Nation, which would bankrupt Fire Nation farmers and give them no guarantee that the Earth Kingdom wouldn't renew hostilities.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Zuko would be the first to admit the serious wrongs the Fire Nation committed against the world. That said, as Fire Lord, he will do everything to protect his people’s best interests to prevent them from getting screwed over.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: An unnamed member of the royal guard is horrified when he burns Zuko at the Boiling Rock as the attack was rather trivial and something any firebender could easily block or deflect. He doesn't learn until later that Zuko can't firebend anymore.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • Iroh's escape from prison taught Zuko's jailers some valuable lessons about how to contain valuable prisoners, like not giving him a window. This doesn't help Zuko's incredibly fragile mental state.
    • The Gaang constantly shoot down Zuko's various proposal and attempted concessions without letting either side explains themselves. Now the Earth Kingdom is not getting any relief, the war prisoners still aren't free and they undermined any chance of Iroh ruling peacefully.
    • Congratulations Iroh, you finally got your nephew to rest. He now cannot trust you and you've gained the ire of the entire palace who view you as a pro-Avatar traitor, to say nothing of what the potential resulting rumors will do to your attempts to rule.
    • After publicly calling out Iroh, Zuko tells him that he plans to visit his sick relatives. By which he means Azula, who was locked away in asylum. Everyone else believes that Zuko was using the publicly accepted code for "I've pissed off the ruler, I need to get the hell outta here", which destroys any credibility Iroh had left and kicks off a civil war.
    • Mai and Ty Lee take Zuko hostage as leverage when he and Azula go to the Boiling Rock to free them, because they wanted him to include Suki and Hakoda in the breakout attempt. Only problem is, Suki and Hakoda have already been pardoned by Fire Lord Iroh and were free anyway, so all Mai and Ty Lee accomplished was delaying the siblings long enough that Sokka and Captain Izumi arrive with other elite royal guards, which makes escape difficult for them. This is Zigzagged later because Captain Izumi actually helps them escape, but Zuko was badly injured in the fighting.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Zuko's attitude towards his palace servants is contrasted with several others.
    • Zuko is loved among his palace servants and his counsel for being kind and forgiving in spite of his hot temper and firebrand personality. Zuko ends up going personally to the clerks' office so he can thank the Head Clerk for making graphs for the projected trade research in a week's time. Despite being displeased at his servants' informality towards him, he allows it to continue.
    • Due to his upbringing, Iroh tends to treat servants as furniture or pawns and enforces strict adherence to social hierarchy and formality.
    • Azula sees the servants as mice figuratively and literally in her delusions.
    • Sokka gets the servants' bad side in his frequent badmouthing of Zuko and casual disregard towards them. Despite their enmity, the servants are forced to be nice to him when Iroh comes into power. He's smart enough to realize the forced politeness is a ''very'' bad sign.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: When Zuko is released from prison after his father's defeat and his sister's insanity to ascend as Fire Lord, he tries his very best to keep the nation from falling apart. Zuko works to transition the economy from war to peace, negotiate a peace treaty with reparations and tries to protect his nation's best interests. It gets him abused by Azula, belittled by the Gaang, worked to near death and betrayed by his uncle.
  • Nominal Importance: Toph mentally comments on Aang's insistence on finding an pacifist way to take down Ozai being a result of this. She also notes the hypocrisy of him not seeming to care about all the foot soldiers the rest of the Gaang were killing during the battle, just Ozai, because he could put a name and history to his face. Toph herself feels knowing about Ozai only lessened his right to live.
  • No-Sell: Unlike everyone else, Zuko easily ignores Toph's Slasher Smile, citing that Azula "had more teeth in her smiles at two than Toph did at twelve".
  • No Social Skills: Zuko's people skill were sub-par to begin with, then he got shut up in an isolated cell for months.
  • Not Me This Time: Iroh's reputation as The Chessmaster works against him after he usurps Zuko. Azula believes it was a long-term revenge plan on Ozai and many people are starting to believe her. After Zuko's public denouncement of him, it sinks any chance of Iroh reigning in the angry populace.
  • Not Used to Freedom: Having spent several months in an isolated, small, pitch black cell really messed with Zuko's head. Zuko figures that he will go back to jail eventually and is content with working himself to death in the assurance that he can rest when he's re-imprisoned. Once forced out of position as Fire Lord, Zuko has no idea what to do with his newfound freetime.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: In-Universe regarding Aang being able to take away people's bending. Many of the palace servants and later the entire country have no idea how Aang's energybending works and unsure whether Aang needs to touch people to take away bending. Due to the Fire Nation's spiritual importance on firebending, they see it as Aang ripping out part of people's souls regardless. With public knowledge that the Avatar supported Iroh's usurpation of the popular Fire Lord Zuko, Aang is terrifying regardless. What little they know of the Avatar further demonizes him.
  • Oblivious to Love: A platonic variant, Zuko doesn't understand that his servants' casual affection and treatment of him is out of genuine concern and adoration of him.
  • Oh, Crap!: Sokka experiences this when he sees Iroh's ruthless takedown of Azula after claiming the throne, and figures out from the servant's reactions and Iroh's treatment of them (and him) that Iroh's reign is not to be an easy or celebrated one, and thet the Gaang are now stuck supporting him. He laments that they should never have taken Iroh on as Aang's Firebending teacher, and found someone who wasn't related to the Throne to train him.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations:
    • When Iroh takes the throne from Zuko and tries to talk to Zuko about it in the aftermath, he promises Zuko things that Zuko takes for something else entirely. Iroh promises to abdicate the throne once Zuko turns eighteen and feels like he's ready (Meaning if Iroh deems him ready). Zuko can take as much responsibility as he's comfortable (Iroh will decide what Zuko can and can't do). Zuko is welcomed to every meeting (which Iroh will run). Zuko's free to speak his opinions (unless they don't match Iroh's). Iroh believes he's being generous by making Zuko his heir and giving free reign to decide if he wants to take power or not. Zuko feels that he's getting it rubbed in his face that Iroh is calling all the shots.
    • At the end of his epic Calling the Old Man Out speech during his Crown Prince coronation, Zuko caps the speech by saying that he has sick relatives to visit. Zuko is being completely literal as he plans to visit Azula in the mental asylum Iroh locked her away in and break her out. What everyone else hears is the figurative meaning of visiting sick relatives: Zuko is leaving the capital because he fears Iroh will kill him if he stays for disagreeing with Iroh's regime. Since Zuko was loved by the public for being the only nice Fire Lord within living memory, he's unintentionally telling the public to not trust Iroh. Which kicks off a civil war.
    • Azula and Zuko have one in chapter 16.
      Azula: I don't know why the rabbit-mice all run to you. I'm better, anyone can see.
      Zuko: You are. But I keep bread in my pockets.
      Azula: So feeding the turtleducks has been a cover, all along? Devious.
    Azula is talking about how the commoners prefer Zuko, the least powerful royal, because he is kind to them. Zuko just likes feeding turtleducks.
  • Only Sane Man: Toph is the only one to understand how stressed and psychologically damaged Zuko is, along with being the only member of the Gaang to not shoot down all his proposals without explanation.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Zuko manages to hurt Iroh with a remark after all the hurt Iroh inflicted on him:
    Zuko: You said you thought of me as your son.
    Iroh: I do, Zuko.
    Zuko: Thank you for the lesson, father.
  • Persona Non Grata: Zuko attempts to ban Aang from the Fire Nation until Aang understands the magnitude of what taking away Ozai's bending actually means to firebenders.
  • Play-Along Prisoner: Azula stays in Amigara asylum that Iroh forced her in because she had nowhere to go and all her family and friends abandoned her for all she knew. Seeing Zuko attempting to break her out moved Azula to finally escape.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Everyone seems to suffer from this to varying degrees.
    • Iroh is the worst contender though, as he is frankly terrible at being open with what he's doing and why, and keeps digging himself deeper. He, and a noticeable faction of the Fire Nation military, want Iroh to be Zuko’s regent, which would definitely smooth things over. Especially since while Zuko is an incredibly (and surprisingly) popular gifted Fire Lord, but is still too young, and frankly working himself to death. This also would have reassured the Avatar and his companions about the Fire Nation’s intentions, and thus leave everybody satisfied. However Iroh basically just springs the idea on Zuko, and the fact that he has not said anything beforehand about his personal politics, means his nephew does not feel he can trust him with such an important position. The situation then worsens when Iroh doesn't properly explain beforehand why he challenged Zuko to an Agni Kai, so the whole thing is seen as the Dragon of the West deliberately playing his family against each other so he can take the throne, rather than only doing so temporarily out of concern for Zuko's health. Even afterwards, Iroh merely apologizes without explaining that he was worried Zuko would work himself to death. This destroys Zuko’s trust in him, and undermines everything for the peace process.
      Zuko: "I don't need a regent," he frowned.
      Not when Uncle kept being quiet while the Avatar's group talked. Not when Zuko didn't know what he thought about the colonies or the war. Zuko knew he wasn't doing the best job, but he wasn't going to roll over and give up what power he had unless someone better for the nation came along.

    • Iroh also fails to properly communicate with the Gaang. Not only his intentions and plans with them, which now makes him suspicious as he took the throne, but he never stopped to spell out to them how they were massively insulting Zuko, on a regular basis, while he was the Fire Lord. Including how bragging about stealing Ozai's fire bending could kill the treaty.
    • Similarly, the Gaang constantly shoot down Zuko's proposals but almost never tell him why, such as Katara and Sokka being outraged that he's keeping enemy leaders as political prisoners but not telling him their father is one such prisoner. Or Sokka arguing against the Fire Nation "owning" the waters around their territories because it's not a concept he understands.
    • The Gaang arrives seeking peace because the Earth Kingdom's generals have been throwing out Zuko's letters regarding a ceasefire without reading them first.
    • Sokka tries to avert this at the Boiling Rock, first attempting to tell his father and Suki that they've been given royal pardons then trying to make Captain Izumi let him speak to them directly. Unfortunately for him, the universe conspires against his efforts.
  • Prolonged Prologue: 18 chapters of political intrigue and it's only Book Zero.
  • Psychological Projection: Katara deeply loves her father and wants his safe return. Thus she is repulsed that Zuko doesn't want his father back and would let the Earth Kingdom continue imprison Ozai to prevent a power struggle. Katara uses this to justify her already negative view of him. She later takes Zuko's refusal to release enemy leaders (of which her father is one) as a personal slight rather than the national security concern it actually is.
  • Psychosomatic Superpower Outage: With Zuko being captured before he could join the Gaang in his post-eclipse Heel–Face Turn, Zuko is barely able to bend due to losing his anger that fueled it and spending months in prison cut off from the sun. Then Iroh challenges Zuko to an Agni Kai to dethrone him. Faced with his beloved uncle betraying him and forcing to relive the worst memory of his life causes Zuko to lose his firebending completely.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Iroh wins the Agni Kai and becomes Fire Lord in Zuko's place. He loses his relationship with Zuko, the trust of the Gaang and the faith of the palace and the nation. Worst of all, he's stuck in the position he never wanted.

     R-Z 
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Zuko is the first Fire Lord in decades to openly care about his people and their safety over personal ambitions. He actively engages with his staff in the palace, is polite to his advisors and listens to them, and working with and listening to them to find the best ways to help the nation recover.
  • Redundant Rescue: Zuko's a victim of this three times:
    • He ends up being captured when he attempts to break Iroh out of jail only to find that Iroh already escaped.
    • When he goes to break Azula out of her mental asylum, Azula had already loosened the window. She didn't want to escape since she had nowhere to go. At this point Zuko bemoans the fact that no one he attempts to rescue actually needs him to escape.
    • Mai and Ty Lee want to break Suki out of the Boiling Rock and Suki wants to break out Hakoda as well. Suki and Hakoda were given royal pardons and would've been freed if they'd just waited another hour.
      • Although it would have been as as the 'honoured guests' of Fire Lord Iroh, whom neither trust at all, so they would have tried to escape anyways if possible.
  • Reflexive Response: When Katara pops the cork on her waterskin, Zuko dodges to the side before he even consciously realizes what the sound is.
  • Refuse to Rescue the Disliked: When Zuko has a heart-attack in the middle of the reparations, Katara initially tries to refuse to help him. Toph attempts to non-verbally call Katara out by socking her in the arm, Katara responds by freezing her own feet to the ground. Had Iroh not made her, Katara would have been content to watch Zuko die.
  • Reluctant Ruler: Zuko doesn't want to be Fire Lord, and doesn't believe anyone else does either. He's just going to keep doing his job until he literally can't. When presented with being named Crown Prince after Iroh takes over, he realizes he doesn't care about being in charge anymore.
    • For that matter, Iroh would have be happy to sit back and remain an elder advisor to his nephew if it were not for Zuko's refusal to take care of his precarious health, or to make Iroh regent.
  • Rejected Apology: After the Agni Kai and ousting Zuko from the position of Fire Lord, Iroh gets on his knees and begs for Zuko's forgiveness. Zuko doesn't remotely forgive Iroh for undermining him, undoing his efforts as Fire Lord and making him relive his worst trauma. He doesn't even think that Iroh is being sincere.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Fire Lord Zuko's respond to the Gaang's arrival to give them the palace's best hospitality, give them the rooms they want so they can feel safe, have his servants cater to them and try to be a good host. The Gaang's response is to be constantly rude to Zuko's face (all of them), constantly accuse Zuko of poisoning them (Sokka), threatening to attack Zuko thinking that he wouldn't hear (Katara), making impossible demands (Aang) and be rude to all the servants (the original Gaang). Toph even points out that Zuko is lying when he's trying to say it was nice to have them.
  • Sanity Slippage: Neither Azula or Zuko are in a good place mentally, and the arrival of the Gaang only makes things worse. By Chapter 15 Azula is actively hallucinating and two chapters later Zuko starts disassociating.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!:
    • After Iroh defeats Zuko in the very one-sided Agni Kai, all the servants who called out Iroh leave "to visit their sick relatives" in fear of Iroh executing them.
    • Zuko turns his back on Iroh and walks away when he refuses to reinstated as Crown Prince after Iroh usurped him.
  • Selective Obliviousness:
    • After overthrowing Zuko as Fire Lord, Iroh mentions how things have returned to normal regarding the servants, not realizing things changed because the servants adored Zuko and think Iroh is just as much a tyrant as Ozai and Azulon.
    • Zuko thinks his servants are insubordinate because they detest him when they're actually trying to make him rest because they adore Zuko and can tell he's literally working himself to death.
  • Seriously Scruffy: Zuko lets his self-care go as he's too busy trying to rebuild his nation. The only reason he isn't worse is due to the efforts of his servants.
  • Shut Up, Kirk!:
    • When Zuko calls out Iroh for never informing him that he worked for the White Lotus, Iroh tries to insist Zuko was still too obsessed with pleasing his father, only for Zuko to retort that he was obsessed because he thought he had no other options.
    • Zuko does this to Iroh again near his Calling the Old Man Out speech during his coronation as Crown Prince.
      Iroh: Zuko, don't do this. You don't need to agree with me, that is not why I want you as heir—
      Zuko: The last time I disagreed, you dethroned me.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Iroh has Azula's food and tea drugged with sedatives to forcibly transport her to a mental asylum. While Azula didn't touch the food, she eventually succumbed due to drinking the tea.
  • Spanner in the Works: Iroh's plan to subdue Azula to get her into a mental hospital would have gone off without a hitch, had Lady Huian not warned her ahead of time.
  • Spare to the Throne: Zuko, having been The Unfavorite his entire life and only crowned because of Azula's breakdown views himself as “the nation's fallback heir”.
  • Spotting the Thread: Old Sakura warns her employee Shenji to stop using Earth Kingdom curses as it'll immediately out him as a halfbreed and see him burned. Shenji also keeps his head down so people won't notice his green eyes, something almost no one in the Fire Nation has. He's actually a Dai Li spy.
  • Stating the Simple Solution:
    • Katara wonders why they are even bothering to negotiate with Zuko. They could kill or imprison him and replace him with Iroh.
    • Toph notes that Zuko could have kept his mouth shut and accepted becoming Crown Prince again to protect the Fire Nation from the influence of White Lotus. As Iroh's heir, Zuko would still have influence to fix things. After all what Iroh and the Gaang put him through, Zuko refuses to even consider it.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: Shenji, a young man working at a food stall, goes along with the idea he's a halfbreed who decides to visit sick relatives after Iroh takes the throne. In reality, he's a young Dai Li spy, and needs to report recent events back to his superiors.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • The only reason that Azula was able to take her position as Fire Lord was due to Ozai changing the law to make 14 the minimum age to become Fire Lord. Neither Azula nor Zuko would be considered legal adults in the rest of the Fire Nation. They are both considered too young to be ruling without a regent. In fact, the Fire Sages try to make a deal with Iroh to become Zuko's regent or take the throne so an actual adult is ruling the country instead of a child working himself to death.
      • The Fire Sages still want Zuko to rule though, just not too soon, and for him to get some rest. Sage Fujio outright says to Iroh's face that Zuko is a better candidate than either Ozai or Iroh himself.
    • Despite what Aang likes to think, the Gaang have been killing a lot of people from the Fire Nation military.
      • Those Fire Nation ships Aang took out while channeling the Ocean Spirit in Season 1? This story confirms that he killed over a thousand soldiers doing so.
      Aang: I know I kind of... broke a few of your ships. At the North Pole.
      Zuko (thinking): Sent over a thousand people into graves of steel and salt, yes.
      • All those people on Ozai’s war blimps under Sozin’s Comet were killed as well. In addition, Toph finds what she had to do very distressing, and is upset that Aang refuses to acknowledge what happened.
      Toph (thinking): Because she and Katara and Sokka, they hadn't been expecting Aang to come back from his part of the comet fight with Ozai still breathing. And yeah, killing people was terrible, and no one should force kids like them to do things like that—but what did Aang think they'd been doing, up in the airship fleet? Why did he get to stay all clean but they had to—
      And Ozai. Why did he get to live, when all those low-level soldiers, the guys just steering the ships or working in the engine rooms, the ones whose heartbeats had been so scared and their shouts had sounded so young, why'd they have to die? Was it only royalty that got special no-kill attention from the Avatar? She loved Twinkletoes, he was like the flighty loveable annoying awful amazing brother she'd never wanted but suddenly had, but—but he could be such an airbender, and knowing someone's name, being able to put a face and a history to them, didn't make them more worthy of living. A lot less worthy, in Ozai's case.
    • An entire war isn't won simply because you beat the enemy's leader. It takes Zuko all but literally spelling it out for Aang to understand that the Fire Nation only started withdrawing troops and ending the war because Zuko declared a ceasefire and ordered them back, not because he beat Ozai.
      • So far as anyone is concerned, the Fire Nation won the war. The Water Tribes are a non-factor, the Air Nomads are functionally extinct, and the Fire Nation controls more of the Earth Kingdom than the Earth Kingdom does. And no, Zuko isn't going to give up the Fire Nation colonies simply because Aang asked.
      • While the Gaang won an important battle under Sozin's Comet, they still lost the war.
    • While Ozai was stopped from burning down all of the Earth Kingdom, he still wiped out a considerable amount of farmland. As it was just before the harvest, the nation is now facing a serious famine.
    • While the rest of the Gaang (barring Iroh) have a year's worth of resentment towards Zuko for hunting them down all over the world, Toph only had one brief encounter with Zuko and stories from the others. Thus her view of him is the least biased and she forms a genuine sympathy and friendship with the exhausted monarch. He in turn, while confused by her position in the Gaang, finds her Brutal Honesty and lack of ulterior motive refreshing, even offering her a position in his court for her Living Lie Detector abilities.
    • With Earth King Kuei going missing and not telling anyone where he went as he went Walking the Earth, many people believed that he was eaten by his bear once his bear got hungry. A Sheltered Aristocrat that never had to fend for himself set lose to wander a war-torn countryside full of bandits and wild beasts isn't likely to live very long... and that's without Tempting Fate by traveling with a large, poorly-trained, apex predator big enough to kill and eat him when it goes hungry. This also means that all the surviving generals are basically running the show.
    • A bunch of politically inexperienced teens have to draw a peace treaty on behalf of their nations during a peace conference with the Fire Nation. A lack of communication and understanding on both sides leads said politically inexperienced teens to completely botch any peace in the short and long term.
    • Zuko is the first Fire Lord in a century who wasn't an insane warmonger ruling through terror. He treats his staff like people and genuinely wants the best for his nation, agonizes over hard decisions that come from changing a war economy to a peaceful one. His staff and his people adore him, and are genuinely upset when he is deposed by Iroh.
    • During Zuko's Agni Kai against Iroh, many of the palace staff notice that he didn't firebend at all and wonder if the Avatar Depowered him. While Aang didn't, the lack of public knowledge of how energybending works makes the unpopular Avatar a convenient scapegoat and boogeyman.
    • Not everyone at the Boiling Rock are as bad as they seem. Suki and Hakoda quickly learn that there's political dissenters and soldiers who fought back against the war, and several guards keep an eye out to protect the teenaged Suki.
      • This also makes said political prisoners much less useful in a jail break as many of them have little to no fighting ability.
    • Iroh's usurption against Zuko has done a lot of damage to his reputation. To the point that in Chapter 23, when Suki and Hakoda have the chance to escape the prison to be the new Fire Lord's 'honoured guests,' they adamantly refuse. They know that Iroh is working with the Avatar, but they are both so mistrusting of him they think they would be worse off with him. So Azula's offer of helping cause a civil war sounds much better. Even after Sokka tries to reassure them, Hakoda still prefers the civil war route and refuses to help capture Zuko and Azula to ensure it, while Suki actually chooses to go with the siblings, saying she'll only meet with Iroh after he proves his sincerity.
  • Swapped Roles: The Gaang have to chase down and capture Zuko before his actions inspire people to rebel against the Fire Lord. Sokka is painfully aware of the sheer irony of their situation.
  • Take a Third Option: Zuko could either do nothing and watch Iroh ruin the Fire Nation, or he could try to fix things as Iroh's heir while always fearing Iroh's wrath. Zuko then realizes he has a third option: he could do nothing. Nothing meaning Abdicate the Throne.
  • Taught by Experience: Zuko knows more about the world outside the Fire Nation than any of his soldiers or his generals due to having spent years traveling the world searching for the Avatar, including knowing about towns that aren't on the official maps and which technically enemy ports would look the other way if Fire Nation ships were onloading troops rather than offloading.
  • Thicker Than Water: While their relationship is deeply flawed from a lifetime of abuse, Zuko and Azula love each other dearly and would go to great lengths for one another. They are also the only family members left they can trust.
  • Trauma Button: After being traumatized by Iroh, both Zuko and Azula develop distastes for tea.
  • Truth in Television: The Japanese work ethic is notorious for its extreme focus on productivity, even if at the expense of the individual, leading to cases of karoshi, or work-related death, to which Zuko nearly succumbed (compounded with lightning-induced arrhythmia.)
  • The Unfettered: One would assume Azula was this in how she behaved as the beloved Fire Princess, but in actual fact she is even more carefree now, as she does not need to pander to the expectations of being a perfect princess any longer.
    "Hi," Zuko said, with a little wave. "I'm a hostage."
    One of the guards lunged. Not for them, but for the wall; specifically, for the prison-wide alarm on the wall. Those were placed at quite regular intervals. Azula had always been tempted to pull one, but perfect princesses did not give in to such urges.
    Suki moved to intercept, and the guard's outstretched arm quickly became the pivot point that sent her arcing into the floor. Ty Lee followed in Suki's shadow, and the second guard's hand went limp before she could more than half-way draw her sword.
    The prison alarm blared, loud and insistent and all around them. Guards and escapees alike turned to Azula.
    She shrugged, and took her hand off the switch.
    That had been exactly as satisfying as she'd always imagined.
  • Unintentional Backup Plan: At the end of his Calling the Old Man Out speech during his attempted coronation, Zuko leaves the stage after telling Iroh that he's going to visit sick relatives. Zuko was afraid that people would go after him while he breaks Azula out from the asylum. Everyone failed to realize that Zuko meant that literally until it was too late.
  • Unreliable Narrator: EVERYONE. The fic takes great lengths to establish how each character has contrasting views and values which have a large effect on how they perceive and react to situations.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Zuko is really bad at being good, and has no clue what his actions in Chapter 18 started. Specifically, his denouncement of Iroh in such a public setting, not to mention his word choice, convinced the nation that Iroh was untrustworthy and kicked off a civil war.
    Sokka was starting to be a little afraid that not only was he right about Zuko's evil mastermind abilities, but that they were completely unintentional.

  • The Usurper: In desperate attempt to save Zuko's life after the pressure from being Fire Lord stress Zuko's frail health to the point of a heart attack, Iroh challenges Zuko an Agni Kai for the throne. Due to Zuko's popularity for being the only kind Fire Lord within living memory and Zuko's effectiveness as a ruler, the plan not only backfires, it ignites a civil war.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: Mai is incredibly angry at Zuko for leaving to commit treason against his father and only leaving her a letter and not too impressed that it took him so long to try and free her and Ty Lee from prison, but as soon as Hakoda and Suki even hint at actually harming Zuko instead of holding him hostage as leverage she points her knives at them and makes it very clear that her camraderie with them only extends so far.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Chapter 14: Iroh challenges Zuko to an Agni Kai for the throne.
    • Chapter 18: Zuko refuses to made Crown Prince again, unintentionally starts a civil war, and goes to break out Azula, with the two of them traveling together now.
  • Wham Line:
    • From the aforementioned Chapter 14:
      Iroh: Fire Lord Zuko. Under Agni's sight and before the court, I challenge you for the dragon throne.
    • From Chapter 18:
      Zuko: I've already been Fire Lord. I won't be a prince again.
  • What Does This Button Do?: At the Boiling Rock, the group manages to keep the guards from hitting a button that will sound the alarm. Azula hits the button anyway because she was always curious about doing so.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Fire Sage Fujio implictly rebuked Iroh for not pressing his claim against Ozai to begin with in spite of the shady way Azulon died. He also makes it clear he considers Zuko a better person than Iroh, even if he is not yet ready to rule.
    • Many of the servants vocally chastised Iroh for not doing anything to help his nephew.
    • Toph calls out Katara for both giving Zuko minor heart attacks by popping the cork her waterskin and for refusing to heal him while he's having a major heart attack.
    • Azula and Zuko each call out Iroh for dethroning Zuko.
    • Zuko rips into Iroh for actively committing treason while traveling with him, something that'd have gotten everyone on their ship executed, and for keeping secrets that left Zuko feeling hopeless and trapped when Iroh knew of another path he could have taken.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?:
    • Both Toph and Zuko are frustrated with Aang's refusal to kill Ozai when Aang had inadvertently killed many Mooks in battle and drowned thousands of soldiers in the Siege of the North.
    • The servants and guards are horrified when Iroh commands them to act as bait for Azula. The servants drag their feet on helping him while the several guards died in the crossfire in the ensuing fight.
    • Zuko pointedly asks how many guards were killed when Iroh tried to force Azula into an asylum.
    • When Iroh tells him how his son's death forced him to finally realized how the war hurt the world and the Fire Nation, Zuko wonders why Iroh wasn't moved by the deaths of the many soldiers under his command.
  • Won the War, Lost the Peace: The war is finally over, yay! Now a bunch of kids with no political knowledge are playing ambassador trying to hash out a peace treaty with recently crowned new Fire Lord Zuko, who they don't trust. Not yay. What's worse is that things are so screwed up at the end that the Fire Nation has just descended into Civil War, which means no reparations to the Earth Kingdom, which means no food since Ozai burned down a major food production province when the Comet came. What's worse is that the Southern Water Tribe and a good chunk of the Earth Kingdom is totally leaderless, so things could very rapidly get far worse than the War was.
  • Workaholic: Zuko doesn't know how to do things in halves. The palace staff are desperate to get him to rest anyway they can before he kills himself from overworking.
  • You Can Keep Her!: Sokka attempts to intimidate Zuko by bragging how they have imprisoned Ozai. Zuko is more concerned on how they are imprisoning Ozai to make sure he's stays imprisoned. Sokka's later attempt at ransoming Ozai also falls flat.

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