No words were exchanged between Zuko and Piandao as the latter led the teen to the tent Iroh inhabited. Zuko appreciated the silence, as he was too busy fighting off his internal turmoil to focus on any conversation. And yet all of his efforts were in vain, as his turbulent emotions still got the better of him when Piandao came to a stop at a tent positioned at the back of the camp.
This had to be it. There were no tents beyond this one. As soon as that realization hit home within Zuko's mind, the boy froze in place. His fear was gripping at his heart, stomach as well as his throat and the prince wondered if it was possible to die from being scared of being hated. And it did not necessarily have to be caused by the faith alone; Zuko also feared the very thought of Iroh's disappointed expression, the one he would surely give him for taking so long to realize what was right.
Zuko wanted to see Iroh, he truly did, but he had no desire to see the man's reaction to meeting him. Zuko may have been reformed but he had not been even close to it when he and Iroh had last spoken to one another. What if Iroh had given up on him"
There was a shift from Piandao, and Zuko turned his gaze to the man as the other spoke: "King Bumi called you Kuzon, right" Zuko merely nodded his head mutely in response and Piandao took a breath before asking: "So then, Kuzon, why are you not going in" I can see that you want to."
"It's complicated", Zuko spoke and wondered why the words rang familiar to his own ears. Like he had used that excuse before. And he did not feel like using it anymore.
"He might not want to see me", Zuko said instead. "He was my teacher and guide and yet I constantly spurned his advice and friendship. I betrayed him." The teen's fists clenched at those words. "I recently turned away from that path, but it might have been too late. He might not forgive me."
A moment of silence followed Zuko's words, after which Piandao replied: "You're young, so let this old man tell you something about love." Zuko wondered how the other had seen through him so completely when a hand landed on Zuko's shoulder, heavy and comforting. "Love cannot be destroyed by a single act. That bond can be weakened and stretched thin, but not severed. Do not fear someone who loves you, Prince Zuko."
A gasp escaped Zuko but before he could question the other, Piandao released him and walked off, leaving Zuko alone in the night with his thoughts. Zuko turned back to the tent before him with a frown settled over his features. The only thing standing between him and his uncle now was a thick cloth that hung in the tent's entrance and Zuko wondered if he had the strength to move it. The tent flap was heavy, yes, but the concrete weight had nothing to do with the symbolic weight the piece of cloth held.
Piandao had spoken of love, and he had known who Zuko was. That meant that the man had confidence in Zuko and Zuko knew that was saying a lot with the reputation he had managed to create for himself in his misguided efforts for affection. But now Zuko was on the right road, of that he was certain; he simply needed to do everything in his power to get Iroh to forgive him. Even beg for the man's forgiveness if that was what it took.
Zuko lifted his hand towards the flap but hesitated. He worried his bottom lip as his hand closed into a fist and then opened again, each of his fingers brushing against his thumb like he was brushing off dust. Then he drew his lips into a narrow line and grabbed a hold of the cloth in front of him.