When he burned, I thought I knew exactly how I felt. Looking back on it, maybe I was wrong. I laughed. I smiled. I did everything I was taught. Later, I told myself that I was just doing what I thought was right. And then I forgot about it. I made myself forget. I’ve changed since that day. A lot. Has he? Has Zuko changed as much as I have? Do I even care? I remember him screaming. Did he look at me? Did he see me smile? Living my whole life with Ozai, I’ve learned to bar myself against things that upset me. Is that why I laughed? I’ve told myself the past is past. There’s nothing I can do to change it. But is there? I will never apoligize. I never apologize unless I want something. But is there something else I can do? Something that will change the way he looks at that moment?
I remember watching excitedly. I remember thinking how clever dad was. I remember…… everything.
“Good morning, Azula. Come on, Zuko.”
Zuko grabbed Ursa’s hand and continued walking down the path through the gardens.
“I’m coming!” I reached to grab my mother’s other hand, but Ursa jumped and drew it away. I narrowed my eyes, but still walked next to her. something.”
“Yes?” Me and Zuko said at the same time.
“Ah, Zuko, I’m moving your room next to mine.”
“But Zuko’s room is next to mine! I like it that way!”
“Well, I’ve been noticing Zuko is rather tired lately. I think you’re keeping him up at night.”
I think that was the first time I realized what mother thought about me. She was terrified of me. Me and Zuko actually got along when we were younger. But then I realized how mother favored him. Maybe at first I didn’t understand. But I caught on quickly. I always did.
“Come, Zuko.” Zuko ran across the path to his mother and took her hand. I knew chrysanthemums were Mom’s favorite. I wanted to get back at her for being so rude. For liking Zuko more than me. So I burned them.
“Mom!” They were Zuko’s favorite too. “Azula’s burning the chrysanthemums!”
“Azula! Stop doing that this instant!”
I drew my hand away and glared at Ursa. Ursa just frowned at me. She walked over to see if the flowers were okay. As soon as she looked away I sent a funnel of flames at the seat of Zuko’s pants.
“Tattle tale.” I hissed. Zuko yelped.
“Zuko?!” Ursa turned towards him, and quickly doused it in the nearby river. “Azula! Why would you do such a thing to your brother?”
“Apologize this instant, young lady!”
“Go to your room!”
“You can’t command me! Only father can do that!” I took to my heels.
“You come back here right now!” But I was gone. “I’m sorry, Zuko. I don’t know why she did that.”
“It’s okay, Mom.”
And standing from were I was in the courtyard, I knew that I had been right all along.
“Why does Azula hate me so much, Mom?”
If only they knew I was standing right outside.
“I’ll tell you when you’re older, sweetheart.”
If only they knew how angry I was.
“Why? Why can’t you tell me now?”
If only they knew how much they should be afraid.
“It’s…. Hard to explain.”
They were afraid. Just not afraid enough.
“Listen, sweetie. You stay away from Azula. I’ll protect you.”
I could just walk in……..
But I wanted to know what they felt about me.
“Come on, sweetie. Let’s go get Komodo-lion meat or something.”
They opened the door, but I was long gone, waiting around a corner. “Hey Mom. Hey, Zuko. Where are you going?” I asked sweetly.
“To eat.” Said Ursa shortly. Zuko hid behind her dress.
“Can I come?”
Ursa looked at me for a long time. “I think me and Zuko are just going to have a mother son time, okay?”
“No. I wanna come.” I knew Ursa wouldn’t say no. I was right. Ursa nodded her head curtly.
“Thanks, Mom. These are really good.” Zuko chewed on his Komodo-Lion meat.
“Let me go throw this out.” I said, holding up my stick. On my way, I purposely bumped Zuko, making him lose his hold of his meat. It fell in the dirt.
“You made me lose my meat!”
“Oh, I’m so sorry, Zuzu! I didn’t mean to.”
“Don’t call me that!”
“You can’t stop me!”
“Azula! Come, Zuko. We’re going home!”
“I’m coming.” I said. Ursa sighed.
Remembering never felt good. I always saw a mistake. That was the night before………
We took the train home, Zuko and mom chatting. It did take long before they reached the palace. Mom and Zuko went inside, but I stayed for a while. I admired my work on the chrysanthemums, wondering if I could finish it. But then a servant came to get me for a meeting with my namesake and grandfather, Azulon.
They gathered in the hall, Azulon’s walls blazing orange. If I was in charge, they would be blue. Orange fire was a sign of weakness. I showed off. Zuko tried. And failed, of course. But then the exciting things began happening. We were sent away, for one thing. Zuko’s shoulders slumped. He started back to his room, but I grabbed his hand pulled him around the curtain. Zuko watched the boring part, and ran away when it got scary. But I stayed. I watched Dad and Azulon’s conversation.
“If you wish for the throne, maybe you the loss of your only son will make you realize what Iroh has been through!”
Then I left. I was so angry, so happy. I was going to tell Zuko. I was going to punish him for everything he every did to me. For turning mom against me, for everything else. In that moment I really believed that.
When I walked into his room, Zuko was sitting up in bed.
“Daddy’s going to kill you!” I sang.
“Stop lying, Azula.”
“I’m not lying! He really is!” I repeated what I had heard.
Zuko turned white. “You’re lying! I know it!”
“What’s going in here?” Ursa stood at the door.
“I think daddy’s going to kill Zuko! Oh, mommy! I’m so scared for Zuko!” I was getting her back. Back for everything she ever did to me. Everything!
“Young lady, it’s time we had a talk!” She grabbed my hand before I could get away. She pulled me out the door. I saw Zuko lie back on his pillow out of the corner of my eye.
“Azula always lies, Azula always lies, Azula always lies…” Zuko was whispering, but I heard him. I smiled to myself.
As soon as mom got a ways down the hall, I heated my hand, making her drop me. Then I ran, just like I always did.
And then Mom was gone. Did I care?
“Give me back my knife, Azula!”
“Who’s going to make me? Mom?”
But I gave it back. I always wondered why.
Then I made fun of him. And fun of him some more. And he was burned. And banished. And we fought.
And now I was here.
“Daddy’s going to kill you.”
“She was born lucky!”
“Who’s going to make me? Mom?”
“Azula always lies, Azula always lies…”
” You stay away from Azula. I’ll protect you.”
“Are you going to challenge me to an Agni Kai?”
“You were lucky to be born!”
“She’s not going to make it. Of course she made it.”
“Azula’s burning the chrysanthemums!”
“Zuko? Help! Zuko!”
Zuko woke in a cold sweat. Where had that even come from? It was his mom’s voice, but why? He lay back down. Why was he even worrying about this? Zuko sighed. He had received an tip about his mother.
“Pretty woman?” The peddler had said, “Long brown hair? Brown eyes? Yes, I recognize that picture. I saw her in Ba sing se somewhere.”
Zuko had taken a few weeks off to search. He, Mai, Katara, Aang, and his new favorite servant, Sora, had gone to live in Ba sing se for a while. Zuko had searched for days, but after being followed around by their escort, a woman named Joo Dee, Zuko and his friends eventually decided to stay in their apartment until they could find another way to sneak out.
Zuko couldn’t wait any longer. Not after his dream last night. He was going to have to go. He snuck out of the house during the day. It was easier than he expected. He looked all over the city, and finally found something. He met an old man running a tea shop much like his uncle’s. He showed him the picture of him mother.
“Oh yea’. She ran a revolution a few years back. The Dqi lee caught her. She was never seen again.”
Had the Dai lee killed his mother? He thanked the old man and went back to their apartment. The others were waiting for them.
“Joo dee disappeared. I think we’ll be getting a new one soon.” Aang told him. Zuko remembered what Aang had said about the brainwashed Joo dee’s constantly changing when the person they didn’t want to learn information did.
Zuko shrugged. He was too focused on what the tea man had said. He told the others. He had barely finished talking when there was a knock on the door.
“Must be our Joo dee.” Katara said, starting to get up.
“Maybe we could leave her out there?” Mai asked. Aang laughed.
“As much as I’d like that, we can’t.”
Zuko got up to open the door. There was another knock. Zuko started getting annoyed.
“I’m coming! I’m coming!”
He never expected what was waiting at the door for him.
He opened it.
“Oh hi. Are you our new-“
Then he blacked out.
“Zuko? Zuko, help!”
Zuko spun around. His mother was standing behind him. He reached out to her, but she faded away into darkness.
“Zuko?” His mother’s voice.
“Zuko!” His father’s voice.
“Stop!” Zuko spun around in circles. “Stop it.”
He heard a wail behind him. He turned. There was Azula in her strait jacket, gnashing her teeth and sobbing.
“You left me! It’s all your fault!”
A roar broke out from his left. Zuko turned again.
“Zuko! You failed me! You are weak! Your country will fall around you!” Ozai shook the bars of his cage.
Zuko spun to find his mother.
“Stop him!” She gasped. “Stop him! Your father’s going to kill you! Zuko you have to stop him.”
Zuko couldn’t help it. He screamed.
Then he was sitting up in bed, gasping for breath.
“W-Where am I?”
Katara, Aang, and Mai stood above him.
“Zuko?” Said Katara questionably. “Are you okay? You blacked out. I think it’s from the shock.”
Zuko’s mind was blank. “What shock?”
“Well….. Maybe you should see when you’re feeling better.”
“Yeah.” Zuko sat back on his pillows.
Mai’s hand found his, and Zuko relaxed a little.
“What happened?” He asked her.
“Nothing the others haven’t told you. Oh, except Sora’s missing.”
“What?” Zuko sat up again. “Do you know what happened?”
“Nope. He could have been kidnapped, ran away, killed-“
“Not helping.” Zuko swallowed his nausea.
Mai shrugged. “You asked.”
It was a while before Zuko could stand. He was shaking and sweaty. He was even dumb enough to accendiatly call Mai Azula. She looked like she was going to smack him, and Zuko was surprised she didn’t.
“So, Zuko….. can we talk about this?” Katara asked.
“What is there to talk about?”
Zuko pushed her out of the way, and ran towards the bathroom door.
“Zuko, wait! You don’t understand-“
But he had flung open the door before she could say anything else.
Zuko’s mind rang.
There…. there stood his mother, dark haired and gorgeous, just like he remembered. They stared at each other for a moment, and then….
“Welcome to Ba sing se. My name is Joo dee.”
I was tired. Tired of waiting. Tired of the slowness of my world. My world. I liked the sound of that. I had just received news about the fire lord leaving. Putting the bratty earthbending girl in charge. What on earth was he thinking? When I shared my concerns with Lupe, my right hand man, he just laughed and made a pun. “What on earth! Get it? Earth?”
He was a idiot, thoroughly. So I went and talked to Sora, who was much better. I sent him to keep an eye on Zuko, and what had happened? He became his favorite servant. I smiled to myself, but it quickly faded……
“I have an issue, Azula.” Ozai stood over me. I was proud that he went to me for advice. More than proud.
“Your brother, Zuko, is a weakling. I cannot have him taking over the throne. But my people will not understand. You see, there has never been a female Firelord, and Zuko is my oldest. What can I do?”
I was silent for a while. I needed to choose my word carefully. I always needed to around Ozai. I thought long and hard, and suddenly a idea struck me. This is a very clever idea, and I knew father would love it.
“Trick him into doing something, or make something up. You’ll need an excuse, but you can get rid of him easily.”
Ozai smiled. Little thrills of excitement coursed through me. Ozai liked my idea.
“Hmmm…. I will take your idea into account. And if I use it, you will never tell anyone.”
“Of course, father.”
I bowed out, smiling. Zuko was going to be banished. I was going to get him back for everything he ever did to me.
Looking back, I don’t really remember what he did to me. I tell myself I don’t remember, but maybe there wasn’t anything.
I didn’t know he was going to burn him. I honestly didn’t. I never mentioned it to Ozai. But I was still happy about it. Why?
“Oh, hello Zuzu. What do you want?”
“What do you mean?”
“You never talk to me with that tone of voice unless you want something.”
“Uh…. Well, you and father are really close.”
“And I was wondering…. Dad’s not going to give me a ship. Or anything. I was wondering, since your so close to him, and Dad’s always been softer to you, if you could ask him….”
“Spit it out.”
“If you could ask him to give me a ship.”
I sighed. This was the night after his banishment. He didn’t know I gave father the idea. “You always needed me, whether or not you want to admit it. Fine, I’ll see what I can do.”
I didn’t try my hardest. If I had wanted to, I could have made father stop. I could of made him not banish Zuko, or anything. But why would I do that? I barely tried to get him a ship. I made sure it was the smallest. And I made sure Zuko was as humiliated as possible.
“Alright, Zuko. I got you a ship.”
“Where?” Zuko looked around eagerly.
“That one.” I pointed. Zuko’s excited expressing immediately turned to one of shock and almost, almost, angry. I shrugged. “I did the best I could. My, my, father really must hate you.”
All the fight in Zuko seemed to go out. His shoulders slumped. He hung his head. I smiled again. The worst was yet to come, and I had exactly what I wanted.
“Oh, father only gave you the ship on one condition.” I said causally. “Uncle’s coming with you.”
“What?!” Zuko whirled around to face me angrily. I smirked.
“Zuko!” Uncle ran to hug him. People stared. I grinned and disappeared into the crowd. About four hours later, Zuko’s ship departed. Nobody waved goodbye. Nobody said anything. I didn’t see him for the next three years.
Did I ever miss him? I don’t know. Then I got Mai and Ty lee to help me. Father talked to me about Zuko and Uncle’s failure. Of course. They did fail even if they won. Eventually. Did they win, though? Really win? I knew what real triumph was. Or I thought I did. Or I used to.
Zuko paced up and down.
“You’re making me dizzy.” Katara told him. “Can’t you sit down?”
“Can’t you heal her any faster?” He snapped back.
Katara pulled back, frowning. “I’m going as fast as I can.”
“It’s not fast enough!”
“Maybe you should heal her!”
“Uh, guys?” Aang appeared at the door with a platter of steaming tea in one hand. “Is everything okay in here?” He set down the tray. “Come on and sit down.”
Zuko did. He took a cup of jasmine. “Thanks Aang. Sorry, Katara. I was just stressed. I was really hoping things would be….. different.”
Katara put her hand on his arm. “That’s okay. Are you feeling well? You got a pretty big bump after your fall.”
“Listen, Zuko. We’re going to heal your mom. Don’t worry.”
Zuko gave her a weak smile. “Thanks.”
They had knocked Ursa out while Katara healed her. They weren’t sure how she would react to being waterbended. Suddenly, there was a gasp from the bed.
“Uh, guys? She’s awake. I tried my best.”
Slowly, Ursa sat up. She shook her head.
“Wh-what happened?” Her eyes searched around the room before focusing on Zuko. They grew wide. “Zuko?! I thought I would never see you again.”
Zuko ran to her. “Mother? You recognize me!”
“What happened, Zuko? I heard about your banishment-“
“We don’t need to talk about that.”
She ran her hands over his face. “Oh, Zuko. What happened to you?”
“Dad burned me.”
Ursa stood up, fire in her eyes. “That’s it! I’m going to go to the fire nation now! We have to stop him, Zuko!”
Zuko shook his head gently. “The war’s over, Mom. I’m Firelord now. And Ozai’s dead.”
“We really need to catch up.”
I remember the first time I deceived someone. She was my first fire bending teacher. Her name was Sifu Mar, but I usually just called her idiot.
“Feel your breath inside you, Azula.”
“You can call me fire princess, idiot.”
“Yes, fire princess. Can you feel the breath?”
I never felt the breath. It wasn’t an important lie, but I was two. I learned to talk at seven months. It took Zuko til he was three.
I remember the last time I deceived someone.
“So what happened to you?” Zuko finally asked, after almost an hour of talking about what had happened in the fire nation. She was very pleased to meet the avatar and his girlfriend, but Zuko was impatient.
“I just- That’s a lot to process. So Azula’s not crazy anymore. I mean- she went crazy, but know she’s not?”
Zuko nodded. Ursa shook her head and closed her eyes. “You’ve changed so much, Zuko.”
“Mother, how were you captured by the Dai lee?”
“When I poisoned your grandfather-“
“You poisoned Azulon?!”
“It was the only way I could protect you. He was going to kill you.” A tear slipped down her cheek.
She nodded and went on. “After I poisoned Azulon, I ran away to the earth kingdom, where I ended up living. They were having a lot of problems though, so I ended up starting a rebellion. I worked as their leader for for a few years, but then the news got around about you. So I decided to go back to the fire nation in secret and try to find you. I told everyone else to keep running the rebellion. I felt like I needed to do this alone. However, the Dai lee were just waiting for a moment when I was alone and unguarded to attack. They kidnapped me and then-“ She stopped. “And I don’t remember anything after that.”
“You were brainwashed for a long time.” Katara said. “But I fixed you. You’re okay now.”
Ursa hugged Zuko again. “My little Firelord. I’m so proud.”
Zuko blushed as Aang snickered.
“Oh, and Mom….” Zuko trailed off. “You remember Mai, right?”
“Of course.” She smiled at Mai.
“Well, we were kinda hoping to get married.”
“Oh! Oh, my.”
Zuko’s stomach dropped. “You’re okay with that, right?”
Ursa smiled at him, and Zuko relaxed. “I would love that.”
Ty lee’s big sad eyes looked over me.
“Azula? Are you there?”
“You betrayed me!” I hissed. “You made me lose!” I jerked, trying to reach her through my strait jacket. Ty lee just sighed. She stood up and talked to people I didn’t recognize. How could she do that to me?! I thought. Why? I lost everything because of her. I hated her. I wanted to burn her. Mark with a scar for everything she ever did to me.
I didn’t answer. How could I? Why should I? She failed me! She ruined me!
“Do you think I did the right thing?”
Ty lee faded. I saw Ursa standing in front of me.
“Azula.” She smiled at me, she smiled my smile, cruel and malicious. “I won. My son won. You are pathetic. You are weak.” She laughed. My strait jacket dissolved around me. I screamed, reaching out to strangle her, to wrench my pain and sorrow on her neck. But she dissolved into the darkness, still laughing, just as I reached her.
“NO!” I screamed. “Come back! Come back and face your death like a true warrior!”
I still couldn’t see her, but I heard her voice echo around me.
“A failure. That’s what you are. You don’t know how a true warrior acts. You never were one.”
“I alway loved Zuko more!”
“But Ozai loved me!”
“Did it matter in the end? No. In the end you failed! In the end I won!”
And then it stopped. It just…. stopped. My angry, fearful, horrified mind ground to a haltI could think again. Just for a moment. Ursa’s voice faded, and in my moment of clarity, I realized, Ursa, as much as I hated her, would never say those things.
“I feel like I failed you. I feel like I failed everyone. I’m really truly, sorry, Azula. I really am. I hope you’ll forgive me.”
I had something to focus on. Not everybody had abandoned me.
“Then let me out.” I spoke in a hoarse whisper, tired from screaming and shouting.
Ty lee looked at me for a long time. “Alright.” She unbuckled my strait jacket. “Go, Azula. But don’t try to get the throne back. You’ll be better off without it.”
I didn’t nod. I just escaped. I don’t know what happened to Ty lee after that. That was the end.
I closed my eyes. That’s how I escaped. I never told anyone. Never. Was I sorry? Was I truly?I sighed. Nothing would ever be the same.
“What?” I snapped.
“Oh!” She opened her eyes. “Well? What news?”
“Zuko found his mother.”
“She’s my mother too.”
“Of course. Well, she was brainwashed by the Dai lee, but their friend healed her.” All my servants knew better than to mention the water bending brat around me.
“Are we to go after them, my lady?”
“No.” I said surprising myself. “I’m past that.”
And I smiled.
Zuko wasn’t nervous. He was downright terrified. What if his people didn’t accept Ursa coming back? He had heard about a small group of Ozai supporting people. What if they hurt her? What if something happened? How could he live with himself if it did? They were carried into the palace in palanquins.
“Haven’t ridden in one of these for a while.” His mother told him shakily.
He gripped her arm. “You’ll be okay.”
“I know. It’s just so…. Terrifying.”
Zuko nodded. “I understand.”
Ursa gave him a weak smile. She closed her eyes and leaned back. “I’m sorry.”
“For leaving you. I should have stayed. I should have been a better mother. None of this would have happened if I had been kinder to your sister.”
“That’s not true. Don’t tell yourself that.”
“Sir?” One of his servants opened the palanquin. “We’re here.”
Zuko wasn’t even thinking about Toph when he came in, but his thoughts quickly reverted to her when he saw the palace had been ruined. The walkway to the throne was full of rocks and broken stone.
Toph stood on the throne, laughing her head off.
“I am Melon-Lord! None can oppose me!”
Hundreds of his subjects were flat on their faces before her, and Zuko noted that they had either tripped or they were down right terrified.
“The Firelord’s back!” Somebody shouted with relief.
Toph immediately stopped laughing evilly and dropped back to sitting position in her throne.
My throne. He told himself. But he had to laugh. He doubted this was what Azula had meant about being a good Firelord. But then, as he surveyed the people on their faces and terrified expressions, maybe it was exactly what he meant. Toph stood up and again, and put the place back into order.
“Hey sparky pants!” She called, making Zuko’s face turn red, just like it always did.
“Uh… Who is this, Zuko?” Ursa asked with a worried look on her face.
“One of the avatar’s friends.” He told her. “I wouldn’t get to worried. She’s nice once you get to know her. But just so you know, she punches people to show affection.”
Zuko ran towards Toph.
“I shouldn’t be worried?” Ursa shouted after him.
“What did you do? Why is everything….” He motioned at the ruined throne room around him.
“Beautiful?” Asked Toph. “I have a way of making things like that.”
“That’s not exactly what I meant.” He mumbled, but Toph was already gone.
“Hi, Aang! What happened? Who’s she?”
“This is my mother, Ursa. Ursa, this is Toph. Toph, Ursa.”
“Nice to meet you and all that junk.” Said Toph, turning back to Zuko. “Just thought you’d like to know, Sokka’s hosting a dance party in your bedroom.”
Toph shrugged. Zuko ran off to see what was happening in his bedroom. When he got there, it was even worse then he expected. His clothes were strewn around the floor, his precious hair pin was lying on the floor, and Sokka was dancing on his bed, with at least thirty others copying his insane loops and swirls,
“Sokka!” Everyone stopped and stared at him. “Can you…… get off my bed?”
“Sure! Dancing’s over for today, people!”
The other kids dispersed, and Zuko heard a mixture of sighs of disappointment, and ones of relief.
“So what happened?” Sokka asked him. Suddenly Zuko realized that he was going to have to tell his story a thousand times to different people.
“I’ll tell you later. We’re having a meeting.”
Everyone had gathered in the throne room. Zuko was planning to have his mother explain what had happened to her, so after a quick stuttering speech:
“My-my mom came back, and we’re all okay again, and-and, um, yeah.”
He was getting better at these. Mother stepped up nervously.
Zuko spun on his heel to find Azula.
“Zuzu? What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Well, it’s custamary for the older sibling to make nicknames for the younger ones.” She looked at Zuko and smirked. “Our at least act younger. You use the first two letters of their names. Everyone will love it.”
“You’re lying, Azula! I don’t want you to call me that.”
“Well, then I’ll call you……” Zuko thought of a moment. “Azaz.”
“That sounds dumb.”
Something he hated about Azula. She was always, always right.
“So… I don’t think we’ll be taking questions.”
Zuko shook himself back into the present. His mother had just finished her speech. Her eyes were red and watery.
Zuko took her by the shoulders and steered her off the stage.
Mai gave a quick finishing speech: “Goodbye.” Which, despite it’s shortness, was somehow much better than Zuko’s. She followed him back, rolling her eyes as the people cheered behind her. Maybe they were cheering from relief of Zuko’s awkward speeches.
“My name is Azula, and this is my little brother-“
He didn’t ecpect her to atually say it. But she did.
Zuko’s mouth dropped open. How could she?! In front of all these people!
However, they just cooed and awed. Afterwards, Azula was swarmed by adoring subjects, and Zuko was sent to his room.
That’s how it had become Zuko new least favorite nickname. When he said he’d go to mom about it, she shot back,
“Would you rather me call you koko?”
“How can you even get that out of my name?!”
“Last two letters.”
“That’s what’s approrite for a little sister to call someone older. Last two letters.”
She smirked and ran off. He knew his threat was idle. His mother would just tell him that there was nothing she could do about it, and Ozai would scold him.
“She got attention. That’s what you should care about.” He would say, and send Zuko to his room early, or something else. It just wasn’t worth it.
“Are you okay, sweetheart?” Ursa said at his elbow.
“Yeah. I’m fine. Just thinking about Azula. And… all that’s happened.”
Ursa nodded understandingly. “I felt the same way when…… when I woke up.”
“I can’t imagine what that was like for you.”
Ursa took his hand. “We’ll be okay.”
Zuko sighed. What was the point in looking into the past? What was the point, when he could look into the future? Zuko knew, for better or for worse, he was in much to far in the future to turn back.