Story [Avatar: The Last Airbender] I Conquer Ba Sing Se and Other Earth Kingdom Adventures (Azula's DDC)

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by devilinthedetails , Jan 18, 2022.

  1. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Admin of Comms star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    Title: I Conquer Ba Sing Se and Other Earth Kingdom Adventures

    Author: devilinthedetails

    Fandom: Avatar: The Last Airbender

    Characters: Azula; Zuko; Iroh; Mai; Ty Lee; Ozai.

    Genre: General; Adventure/Action; Drama.

    Summary: Azula’s diary covering the events of Season 2 of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Including some bonus chapters and content at the beginning to set the stage.

    Author’s Note: Written for the Half Marathon Dear Diary Challenge.

    Dear Diary,

    We just met and already I long to set fire to you. I’d do it slowly. Burning you page by page until nothing but smoke and cinders remained to suggest you had ever been in the world. Prolonging your suffering. Inhaling your agony like incense from those candles Fire Sages love to light in the temples.

    My desire to destroy you is nothing personal. Currently I want to burn everything to the ground. To reduce everybody and everything to rubble and ruin. I especially wish to set Ty Lee ablaze.

    Who is Ty Lee? I can practically hear you ask. Well, dear diary, I shall be compassionate and not keep you in suspense a second longer. She is one of my two best friends dating back to our shared childhood in the palace. Our friendship only strengthened when we attended the Royal Fire Academy for Girls. Studying fighting, military stratgey, and our glorious Fire Nation history together.

    Ty Lee was never a firebender–which meant she could never be a proper rival to a firebending prodigy like me–but she was the best gymnast and acrobat in our class. Perhaps then I should have foreseen her treachery. Her abandoning me as soon as we graduated the Royal Fire Academy for Girls. It is just that she has run off to the Earth Kingdom Colonies to join the circus like some common street performer.

    I could have forgiven her leaving me–would even have been gracious enough not to categorize it as a betrayal–if she had marched off in service of the Fire Nation as part of our proud army (one of the chief purposes of the Royal Fire Academy for Girls is, of course, to produce stellar military officers to aid in our conqeust of the world). However, flighty Ty Lee had nothing so substantial in mind. No, she lowered herself to become a circus performer. The equivalent of an elephant dancing for peanuts.

    Her parents should be ashamed of her. They probably would be if they had ever been capable of telling her apart from her sisters. She has brought disgrace to her entire family with her pursuit of such a degrading profession, but apparently her parents do not care. Perhaps they have forgotten that she exists because she has so many sisters or else they are content to watch her commit what amounts to the social suicide of self-imposed exile to the Colonies.

    Maybe I should be equally content to watch her ruin her own life. Ty Lee was always a strange creature, after all.

    Yet, she did give me you, dear diary, as a parting gift. Clasping her hands together in that way she has as if whatever she is about to impart is the most wonderful news ever to be delivered in the history of civilization (it never is), she announced that writing in you would be a therapeutic stress reliever for me. That it would keep my aura pink and healthy. She said all this in a tone that suggested butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. Of course it would. Especially if I set fire to it.

    I am not interested in any sort of therapeutic stress relief beyond manicures and facials with the royal family stylists or shooting lightning bolts from my fingers (always a very satisfying and electric experience). Nor do I know or care about what an aura is and how its pinkness would be beneficial to me.

    When I said as much to Ty Lee, she gave a high-pitched giggle as if I had made the funniest joke in the world. As if I were a clown in the circus she joined. Then she hugged me and tittered about how much she would miss me, but I knew she was lying. If she was honest about missing me, she would never have left my side to perform cheap tricks in a traveling circus.

    I smiled at her and told her to break a leg. A well wish or a curse. I left it ambiguous. Let her decide. Knew that would keep her on edge. Keep her guessing and wondering about whether she stands inside or outside of my good graces. Maintaining my power and influence over her. Manipulating her as I always have.

    When I see her again, I will smile at her and greet her with words that will cut like daggers. Mocking the circus profession she has chosen for herself. Asserting my dominance over her. Seizing control of her life again. She will not be able to escape from me even in the Colonies.

    She will remain my friend and my minion. I have decided that.

    I have also decided that I will not burn you. At least not tonight. It is pleasing to be able to confide my schemes to something that cannot backstab me as a person would.

    Thus, you have earned yourself a stay of execution for tonight. Be grateful for it, and do not rely on such mercy continuing in the future.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2022
  2. Dark Ferus

    Dark Ferus Chosen One star 8

    Jul 29, 2016
    Very in character for Azula @devilinthedetails

    Nicely written - especially her warped sense of loyalty (concerning Ty Lee in particular)
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2022
  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Clash of Titans Winner star 8 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 31, 2004
    [face_laugh] =D= A very scathing initial entry. Her indignation sizzles off the page. Play-on-words unintended... [face_mischief]
    Kahara and devilinthedetails like this.
  4. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Admin of Comms star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    @Emperor Ferus Thank you so much for reading and commenting!:) Azula has such a strong personality that I really wanted to do it justice here, so I'm super happy you found this first entry very in character for her. I hope you'll continue to feel that her voice rings true in this next entry. I don't often write from a villain's perspective, so it was interesting to experiment with doing so, and I am so flattered that you felt this was well-written. I think after being raised by Ozai with all his twisted values/ideas and being brought up in the violent, imperialistic doctrines and behavior of the Fire Nation, Azula would have a warped sense of loyalty (for example, with Ty Lee in this entry) and many other things. So I hope to be able to explore more of that warped perspective in future entries as I delve into Azula's mindset and Earth Kingdom adventures.

    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha As always, thank you so much for reading and reviewing my Avatar: The Last Airbender stories[:D]Your support and encouragement always means the world to me, especially when I begin new projects with all the nerves that entails! I definitely picture Azula as having a very scathing personality, so it was amusing to sort of be able to showcase that here and emphasize that total contempt in which she pretty much holds everyone who isn't herself and her father. And I'm so happy that you felt her indignation sizzled off the page since that was exactly the effect I was hoping to achieve. Yay! Thanks again for the kind words, and I have my fingers crossed that you'll enjoy this next chapter just as much!

    Dear Diary,

    I received more bad news today. Do I only write in you when I have bad news to report? I sense a pattern emerging here. No matter. I shall have to record more of my glorious triumphs in you so you don’t imagine me–as much as a diary is capable of imagining anyone or anything–as a miserable failure like my exiled brother Zuko. He went from being heir to the Fire Nation throne to burned, banished prince in one lost Agni Kai. Talk about a fall from grace. Though to be fair (which I hate to be), the Agni Kai was with my father, and even I couldn’t be confident of winning a duel against him to defend my honor.

    In the thicket of my memories, I do wander far from my original topic, but I suppose that is fine. The only reason you exist at all is to be my confidant and constant companion. Your sole purpose for me to express my ideas and emotions in you. Whatever thoughts cross my mind in whatever order can be shared with you and cannot be called a mess. There is a refreshing freedom–a refuge from formality–in that.

    Today’s bad news was that I would be losing my other best friend, Mai, to the painfully provincial Earth Kingdom Colonies. At least this time there was the consolation that, unlike Ty Lee, Mai was not a traitor who wished to leave my side. She would prefer to remain in the Fire Nation, but has been ordered to accompany her parents to Omashu to govern that city recently conquered from its senile old king who is now in Fire Nation custody. As he should be. As anyone who dares to resist the might and majesty of the Fire Nation should be.

    As shameful as it sounds, I only learned that Mai would be traveling to the Earth Kingdom Colonies and that her father had been appointed governor of Omashu by my father, the Fire Lord, when I visited her to discover her rooms and servants in an uproar of packing and preparation.

    “Where are you going?” I asked. Planting my hands on my hips. Arching an eyebrow. Reeling at how she could dare to abandon me so soon after Ty Lee’s treachery.

    “You mean you don’t know?” Mai shot me an aggravated glare. As if I had betrayed her. As if I were the root cause of all her problems instead of her too-strict parents.

    “If I knew, I wouldn’t ask, would I?” I snapped, hating to admit that I was ignorant of anything. Knowledge was power, currency, and the biggest determinor of true status in politics. I had learned that from my father at a young age. When my head had barely come up to his hip.

    “I’m only going to the most boring place in the entire world.” Mai rolled her eyes and emitted a long-suffering sigh. “The just conquered city of Omashu. I am considering taking up watching paint dry as a hobby. Probably the only form of entertainment in that sad city.”

    “If it’s such a sad city, why are you going there?” I demanded. Tone sharp as Mai’s knives. Eyes narrowed as a dead hope.

    “Because my parents are going.” Mai’s reply was flat as a failed joke. Expressionless. Her face a blank mask. “Because they’ve ordered me to accompany them, and, as a good Fire Nation daughter, I must obey them.”

    “Getting straight answers from you is like pulling teeth, Mai.” I tutted my disapproval before continuing. “Why are your parents exiling themselves to Omashu and you along with them? They are well-positioned at court. There is no reason for them to flee like cowards.”

    “How well-positioned they are at court is why they are leaving for Omashu.” Mai sounded resigned to her fate. Like a prisoner marching to imminent execution. “My father has been named governor of Omashu.”

    My mouth must have fallen open like some ignorant country rustic kneeling in my father’s throne room for the first time.

    Mai flicked me a glance of mingled shock and pity. “You truly didn’t know. Your father didn’t tell you.”

    I hated few things as much as discovering Father had kept me in the dark about something important, because little was more humiliating than being caught vulnerable by a lack of essential information. After a childhood spent together, Mai would be aware of that, but I certainly didn’t have to compound my shame by confessing it to her openly.

    So, naturally, I went into attack mode. Launched my own offensive so she might forget that my father had deprived me of important information. Information I needed and deserved to know.

    I eyed her coldy. Contemptuously. As if she were a fly beneath my dignity to notice. Not even worthy of swatting. “Your father isn’t worthy of discussion when my father and I meet. Neither are you.”

    That wasn’t true of course. Next time I saw Father, I would be asking (even though Father hated to be questioned) if it was true that Mai’s father had been appointed governor of Omashu. Appealing to revoke that honor or at least order that Mai remain in the Fire Nation. So she could stay by my side. So that I wouldn’t have to be alone and friendless since Ty Lee had run off to join the circus.

    I had no intention of losing face by stating as much to Mai, however. Discretion was often necessary to remain appearances of proper indifference.

    “Of course.” Mai was nothing if not sardonic. “I had forgotten my own insignifance. Forgive me. It won’t happen again.”

    “It better not.” I fixed her with my most intimidating glare before preparing to take my leave. “Or I won’t forgive you.”

    Silence fell between us for a long moment before I flounced toward the door, calling a final parting sally over my shoulder as I left. “I’m off to speak with my father now.”

    To ask him to reverse his decision. Something that was never easy or wise to do, because, once Father reached a judgment, he did not wish to appear weak by changing it. Father’s decisions were almost always final, because, as he said, there was no faster way to undermine his own authority than by reversing his judgments at a whim.

    But this wouldn’t be at a whim. This would be at my request, and I was his favored child. The child he hadn’t burned and banished. Perhaps being my father’s favorite child didn’t mean much after all. Maybe it only meant not being burned and banished.

    Then again, not being burned and banished was no small thing. Just ask Zuko. I am sure that he would say being exiled from the Fire Nation was the greatest pain and shame of his life. A pain and shame so great he probably wanted to die for days and months after. In his shoes, I certainly would have. Death would be preferable to exile. To dishonor.

    I can’t allow Mai to be exiled from the Fire Nation too without some effort to speak on her behalf even if the circumstances and conditions of her exile will be far different from Zuko’s. She will not be sent away in disgrace. Disowned by her father. Denied her inheritance in favor of her younger, more talented sibling.

    It is a mark of our long friendship that I would even consider lodging such an appeal on her behalf. If it is successful, I will have her eternal gratitude for sparing her from a slow, excruciating death by boredom (the thing Mai hates the most in all the world). She will be forever in my debt, and I will not hesitate to collect on what she owes. Friendship is an investment after all. Not a sacrifice.

    I will write again with details of my conversation with Father. Hopefully, for the first time, I will have good news to report rather than bad. Wish me luck, diary!
  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Clash of Titans Winner star 8 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 31, 2004
    Intriguing change of circumstance and plan by Azula to spare her friend excruciating boredom ... and herself from having no friends around. [face_thinking]
    Kahara and devilinthedetails like this.
  6. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Admin of Comms star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha As always, thank you so much for being a faithful reader and commenter on my stories[:D]So glad that you found the last entry intriguing. In this next one, we will discover just how successful Azula's plan to spare her friend excruciating boredom and herself from loneliness is...

    Dear Diary,

    I found Father sitting at a low table, reading dispatches from the front with a furrow in his forehead. Maps marking the positions of troops–red pins symbolizing the deployment of our dedicated, resilient Fire Nation armies and green ones the countering arrays of stalwart Earth Kingdom soldiers--nailed to the wall behind him.

    I knelt on the scarlet carpet, waiting for him to acknowledge me.

    It didn’t take long for him to glance up from his military reports with an inquiring quirk to a single, raised eyebrow. “Yes, Azula?”

    I got to the point immediately. Father didn’t like it when anyone–even me–wasted his precious time with hemming and hawing. With beating around the bush. He had no patience. It was one of his few flaws. Not that I would ever risk telling him so. Unlike Zuko, I preferred my face unburned. Unscarred by a father’s ire.

    “Mai’s father has been appointed governor of Omashu.” I made strategic use of the passive voice. Trying to avoid sounding as if I were blaming Father because if there was one thing my father didn’t appreciate, it was being blamed by those beneath him. Even his unquestionably loyal daughter.

    “I have granted him that honor, yes.” Father was hovering on the brink of returning to his paperwork. On the cusp of dismissing me from his attention. Writing me off as irrelevant and uninteresting. As if I were an irksome but ultimately unimportant fly, or, worse still, an eternal failure and disgrace to the Fire Nation like Zuko.

    “I wasn’t aware of his elevation in rank or his new assignment.” My statement sounded more accusing–more defensive–than I intended. I hated being kept in ignorance of anything that could be deemed potentially important. No doubt a trait inherited from Father, who preferred to be well-informed himself.

    Voice soft with the danger of a tiger padding through the jungle, Father asked, “Was there a reason you interrupted my work?”

    “Does Mai have to accompany him, Father?” I endeavored to speak in a casual tone even though, not being dead and not having rocks for brains, I couldn’t neglect to notice the silky menace lacing my father’s every syllable. Still, I acted as if it were nothing to me whether Mai remained in the Fire Nation or was sent to the boring Earth Kingdom Colonies like a complete non-entity. As if I were indifferent to her fate. As if her staying or going was an idle whim either way. Cruel, casual indifference was what my father wanted from me, and, as a dutiful daughter, I could provide it in spades. Needed only to echo him to achieve it.

    “Mai’s place is at her father’s side. She is a proper Fire Nation daughter.” Father’s words were sharp and precise as a blade slicing through skin and bone. Leaving only a trail of blood and a memory of pain behind. “Where else would it be?”

    “Wherever she would be of best service to the Fire Nation,” I replied. Still nursing the vain hope that he would allow me to be the one to determine where Mai would be of most use to the Fire Nation. “She is a humble servant of the Fire Nation, after all.”

    “I will decide where she will be of most use to the Fire Nation.” Father had obviously detected my delusion and was quick to disabuse me of it. “She will attend on her father’s pleasure in Omashu and obey him in all things as a daughter should.”

    I opened my mouth to attempt a last-ditch effort at persuading him that Mai made better company for me in the capital than she did for her father in faraway Omashu, but Father lifted a quelling hand, silencing me before I could speak.

    He didn’t strike me. He didn’t have to strike me because I knew he could and would if I dared to argue. To contradict or question his will. “That is my judgment, and it is final, Azula.”

    “Yes, Father.” I bowed my head. Pressing it submissively into the carpet. Abasing myself before him because that was what he expected–what he wanted from me–even though my insides blazed like unbanked embers with anger and shame. An anger and shame only he could produce in me because he made me feel powerless as nobody else did.

    When he waved his palm in curt dismissal, I rose and left the room.

    That was three days ago. This morning–we in the Fire Nation always awaken at dawn to mimic the sun and because only the lazy lie abed when there is work and training to be done–Mai sailed with her family to Omashu.

    I showed her the favor of traveling down to the harbor to bid her farewell in person. I did not stoop to walking of course–a proud princess of the Fire Nation never stoops–but I did ride in my pillowed palanquin to the docks where a smoking steamship would carry Mai an ocean away from me.

    As I was borne down the sloping streets to the harbor that smelled nose-wrinkilingly of salt and fish, I kept the curtains of my conveyance drawn, not wishing for any of the common, gossiping riff-raff to catch so much as a glimpse of my exalted personage. The sight of them would have added to my irritation like salt scrapped into a raw wound, and they were unworthy of looking upon me.

    When we reached the docks and the moment of parting that filled me with a pain I didn’t want to acknowledge–that made my heart clench as if held tightly in a balled fist–I spoke the last words Mai would hear from me for Father only knew how long.

    “No matter how bored you are in Omashu, do not kill yourself.” I tried to inject some humor–a hint of a teasing note–into my order. A final bit of affection for a childhood friend before she faded from view. Disappeared into the horizon of a rising red sun. “I might have use for you again in the future.”

    “I will not kill myself without your permission, Princess Azula.” Mai bowed. Face and voice blank and expressionless as ever. Her composure not cracking even as she was exiled from her homeland.

    Now I am alone, dear diary, which is the saddest thing a person can be. The reason why the harshest punishment is not execution but banishment.

    I am filling my time–distracting myself from missing the only two people in the world I have ever called friends and who possessed the nerve to name me friend in return–with training. Honing my skills so I will be more than ready when Father chooses to send me on a mission.

    I hope he will send me on a mission soon. I am ambitious. Brimming with eagerness to prove to him and the entire Fire Nation that I am worthy of being his heir. That he didn’t make a mistake or a misjudgment all those years ago when he decided to favor me, his secondborn, over his firstborn son, Zuko.

    I will update you when I have been assigned such a mission. Until then, there will likely not be much else to report. I can only imagine that life in the Fire Nation will be boring and empty without Ty Lee and Mai present to share it with me.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2022
  7. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Clash of Titans Winner star 8 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb entry as Azula balances candor and wary tact with her father, treading on eggshells. He seems a very daunting individual and she is very courageous to approach him at all.

    I am sorry that she has lost the companionship of Ty Lee and Mai. I can well imagine that a person highly placed as she is values genuine friends as they were, those you knew and could trust as liking you for yourself, instead of wondering "Are you my friend because you wanna get something from me?", which I am sure is something that is often in the back of her mind. [face_thinking]
    Kahara and devilinthedetails like this.
  8. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Admin of Comms star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting on Azula's diary. :DI'm so flattered that you found this last entry to be superb as I found it a very interesting one to write. I wanted to balance a certain sense of candor that Azula has with her father as his favored and more trusted child, but at the same time there is that sense of her needing to be wary of Ozai and his temper and cruelty. I think for Azula there will always be that fear of her father as an undercurrent because Ozai is such an abusive person, and Azula (like Zuko) will have grown up feeling that she has to walk on eggshells not to displease or anger him because he can become violent and downright dangerous when angered. At least, that is my perspective after my own experiences as a victim of abuse. It is very much a walking on eggshells feeling.

    I agree that Azula is very courageous to approach her father at all and to try to stand up to him in what ways she can.

    I felt bad for Azula losing the companionship of Ty Lee and Mai, and I think you are right that for someone as highly placed as Azula, it is hard to be able to separate the "true friends" from the people who are just sort of "kissing up" to someone in power for their own advantage and benefit. And I think as someone who is quite cunning herself, Azula would be aware of that exploitative tendency in others, and so be especially skeptical of all but her closest, childhood friends, Ty Lee and Mai, who she really believes will never betray her and whom she relies on in a special way.

    Thank you again for the kind words, and I hope you will enjoy this second February entry as well[:D]

    Dear Diary,

    A thousand years ago in the Fire Nation a fashion had begun of grouping things by fours. We in the Fire Nation like order, numbering, symmetry and completion. Such groupings of four symbolized, stimulated, and satisfied all those desires, so it is understandable how the fashion–once it started to rage like a forest fire–never burned out. Argument is also a favorite pastime in the Fire Nation–it itches our competitive urges–and we are known for relishing the debates that ensue over our creation of lists of four.

    Thus, we have our remembered and debated lists of the Four Most Glorious Triumphs, the Four Deadliest Tsunamis, the Four Most Evocative Painters, and the Four Most Sublime Poets among million of other lists of greater and lesser degrees of fame.

    While I attended the Royal Fire Academcy for Girls, with so many clever fellow students eager to demonstrate the keenesss of their wit through mockery, the grouping of fours was often used as a source of amusement. Fodder for quips. A punchline for jokes.

    Even Mai, Ty Lee, and I were not immune to indulging in such private jests among ourselves. Laughing as we ate shrimp and udon noodles in the lunch room or practiced our fighting forms in the training yards, we proposed the Four Most Boring Teachers. The Four Most Useless Lessons. Even heights of purest, gleeful folly like the Four First Numbers.

    It was a dangerous game–playing with fire and risking its burn–that we played. We would have faced harsh punishment if any teacher overheard our irreverant, tongue-in-cheek remarks, but the peril was what made those comments so funny. The danger added to the bond between us. Added spice to our friendships and our lives. Made us feel alive and free in one of the strictest environments in the world. A place renowned for the rigid discipline it instilled in its pupils.

    Yet, even when we made our jests–poking fun at the ancient groupings of four as much as at our stern masters and dull lessons–we were implicitly acknowledging the power of the form. Bowing to tradition even as we seemed to chafe and revolt against it.

    I say all this so that you will understand the gravity of what I write when I say that General Zhao’s failure at the North Pole will be long remembered and listed in the Fire Nation as one of the Four Most Calamatious Defeats.

    Wherever his departed spirit is now, Zhao should be grateful that he drowned at the North Pole. That he didn’t survive to be summoned back to the Fire Nation in disgrace to answer to my irate father for his failure. That death has mercifully ended his shame, but his spot on the list of the Four Most Terrible Generals is secured. Will no doubt outlive him by centuries. A legacy of infamy that should make his parents appreciate that he never had any sons or daughters to carry on his shameful name and lineage. That he was a bare branch on the family tree.

    Zhao might be dead, but my brother and uncle are not. They are still alive, and my father is determined to make them pay for their crimes. For betraying the Fire Nation and disgracing our family. Uncle Iroh, by all accounts, turned traitor at the North Pole, hurling fire at our own troops, and Zuko, for the last time, failed to capture the Avatar as my father had ordered him to do.

    Father cannot rely on his generals. Even the once greatest of them, like Zhao, can fail and bring shame to the Fire Nation. Nor can Father rely on Zuko not to be a failure and my tea-loving, kooky uncle not to be a turncoat.

    So, he must turn to me. Depending on me when everyone else has betrayed and failed him. Assigning me a great mission at long last.

    He summoned me to his throne room today. The flames curled and twisted like tornados around his throne, glinting off the golden crown he wore atop his black hair, as I knelt before him and he pronounced, every harsh word echoing with his majesty and indomitable will, “Iroh is a traitor, and your brother Zuko is a failure.”

    My head remained bowed, my eyes closed, even as I felt excitement well up within me as my ambition and drive sizzled. Telling me that my moment of glory, my chance to prove my worth to my father and the Fire Nation, had arrived. Before the whole world, I would announce myself to be his true successor and heir. The one who had inherited his ruthless desire for victory at all costs unlike weak, soft-hearted Zuko, who never would have the strength to rule.

    “I have a task for you,” Father concluded as I had anticipated he would.

    My chin lifted. My eyes opened so Father could see the ambition–the drive to please him and accomplish his will–blazing unchecked in them.

    “I accept, Father,” I said. Not needing to ask what the mission was since I could already predict what it would be. Besides, a loyal Fire Nation daughter would never refuse a task assigned to her by her father, and I was nothing if not a loyal Fire Nation daughter.

    “You will go to the Earth Kingdom,” Father continued as if I hadn’t spoken. As if my agreement was inconsequential. As if it could be taken for granted that I would obey without question. As I had been taught and trained to do. “You will bring your uncle and brother back to the Fire Nation. Alive and in chains or as charred corpses, I do not care which.”

    “I understand, Father.” I bowed my head again. Feeling a strange fist clenching around my stomach at the thought of Zuko as a charred corpse. Zuko was a failure, of course, and I had spent much of our childhood together seeking to one-up him. To humiliate him in the eyes of our father and the world.

    Yet that was different than wanting to kill him. I didn’t quite want to kill him. I wanted him still alive somewhere in the world. Even if that place was a cold, dark prison cell. I decided that I would bring Zuko back to the Fire Nation in chains if I could.

    Not that I shared that decision with Father. He would think me soft and sentimental if I did.

    Better to act as if my only emotion was burning ambition. A fierce drive to restore the honor of our family and country after the ignomious defeat by the barbaric Northern Water Tribe.

    “I will not fail you,” I promised.

    “You will not.” Father’s words were iron. His sentence implacable as ever. “I will provide you with the ships and soldiers you will need to succeed in your assignment, Azula. Do not return to the Fire Nation unvictorious.”

    “Yes, Father.” I didn’t let fear quiver my tone. That would only make me appear a cringing coward in my father’s hard eyes and even harder judgment.

    “Dismissed.” Father waved an idolent hand. Indicating that I should leave his presence immediately.

    I sank my forehead to the floor three times in a final, formal kowtow then exited his throne room. Careful never to insult him by turning my back to him as I stepped out into the grand corridor lined with paintings of previous Fire Lords. A tribute to the strong, ambitious ancestors whose existences had contributed to and culminated in our current greatness. An honor to the ones who had gone before us.

    There were no fond farewells between Father and me. No hugs and kisses. We weren’t that kind of father and daughter. Didn’t share that sort of openly affectionate relationship. Perhaps no father and daughter in the Fire Nation did.

    Fire Nation children were to obey, honor, and fear their fathers. Nothing was said or taught about love and affection. Love and affection were irrelevant at best and weaknesses–vulnerabilites like cracks in armor–to be exploited by a cunnning foe at worst.

    I did not love my father. Not really. And he didn’t love me. I understood and accepted that fact.

    Zuko was different, it occurred to me as I retreated to my quarters to command my servants to pack for my journey and to plot the downfall of my brother and my uncle. Even after Father burned and banished Zuko, Zuko loved Father. I had seen that love in the hurt expression of a kicked puppy as Zuko gazed up at our Father. Still hoping for a mercy–an affection–that would never come from a cold, cruel man who believed in power and discipline above all else.

    Zuko loved my father, and that made him weak, because love always yearned to be reciprocated. Pined to be returned no matter how many times its overtures were rejected and resisted. Ached to be mirrored in another without regard to how many times that other had smashed the glass of that mirror to smithereens. Love was quite masochistic in that way, I reflected with a twist of my lips.

    If I told Zuko that Father had regretted the banishment, longed to have Zuko restored to him amidst the eternal scheming of Fire Nation nobles, Zuko would believe me. Not because I spoke the truth but because I offered him the lie he wanted to hear.

    Uncle Iroh might be more difficult to trick, I mused, but even my uncle’s distrust for my father and me should not pose an insurmountable problem because Uncle Iroh loved and doted on Zuko. Saw in Zuko an echo of the son he had lost at his failed siege of Ba Sing Se.

    My uncle would never abandon my brother. Love made him weak too. Uncle Iroh would follow Zuko back to the Fire Nation in chains because he would never want Zuko alone to face punishment. To confront the Fire Lord’s wrath. Not when the Fire Lord’s wrath had already left Zuko’s face scarred.

    I had the perfect strategy planned because I understood love even if I had never felt it. Never been weakened by it myself and never would be.

    On that eminently satisfying thought, I will close this entry and begin preparing in earnest to undertake this great mission to restore honor to the Fire Nation and my family.

    I feel no shame for what I am about to do. It is my brother and uncle who should feel ashamed for being failures and traitors. For being such embarrassments that Father can only have them killed or imprisoned.
    Kahara likes this.
  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Clash of Titans Winner star 8 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 31, 2004
    You can feel Azula's resolve to be successful, her stance towards traitors even those of close kinship. Her relationship with her father is fraught indeed, as she confesses that there is no affection between them. :( =D=
    Kahara and devilinthedetails like this.
  10. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Admin of Comms star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thank you so much for commenting! Azula's resolve to be successful was definitely something I wanted to showcase in the previous entry, and I think we will see more of her drive to be successful and how relentlessly she pushes herself in this next entry. Her harsh stance toward traitors and those she believes stand in her way will also be on display in this next installment. She will continue to be quite callous about her close relatives, Zuko and Iroh, and her fraught relationship with her father will be explored as well because I think her relationship with her father is key to understanding Azula. This next entry will definitely be heartbreaking and troubling in all kinds of ways=((

    Dear Diary,

    On this voyage, I have discovered that I hate the ocean. This is not, you might say, a particularly striking revelation since I despise most things. However, my enmity toward the ocean seems to me to be on a deeper, more innate, and more visceral level than my loathing for most other things. Therefore, I deem it to be noteworthy, and as you are my diary and my wonderfully captive audience (quite at my mercy), I will record my observation here for you to read whether you wish to or not.

    I do so delight in a captive audience for just that reason, dear diary. It reminds me of just how exalted I am relative to everybody and everything else in the universe. Places me where I should be. Where I thirst to be. At the bright, burning center of the world. The beating, bleeding heart of its power.

    The waves never cease jostling and slapping at our steamship. Wherever I go aboard ship, I can hear their endless, restless rippling. Although the obtuse captain of this ship claims that the ocean has so far been calm on this trip. Especially for this season. He usually offers this remark while rapping his knuckles against the closest bit of wood he can find as ignorant, superstitious sailors are wont to do in a vain attempt to ward against evil and shipwreck.

    I suspect, dear diary, that the captain I have been saddled with is a moron, a liar, or that most dreadful and disloyal combination of both. You see, he is in the habit of making this baiting comment about the ocean’s placidity to me in a placating tone that suggests I know nothing about ships, waves, or anything else. As if it is his business to educate me in the art of navigating oceans and steering ships. As if it were not his duty to obey my every order on this mission. To steer the ship where and how I command.

    As if my father, ruler of the Fire Nation and everything built within it, has not given me command of this ship and this mission. If this treacherous, bellyaching captain plots treachery, I will destroy him, laying him so low that he will never rise to threaten me again. If he seeks to undermine me by his sheer incompetence, I will have him thrown overboard in the most public display of my power as possible. That should prove very instructive to the rest of the crew.

    In the Fire Nation, we do have such a strong respect for educational opportunities such as that. The more I think about it, the more it seems cruel to deny the crew this chance for further edification and enlightenment. I am nothing if not generous in sharing my knowledge with lesser beings. (And who isn’t a lesser being than me after all?)

    The tides and currents, which have not been calm–no matter what the foolish captain asserts on the contrary in the petty power struggle he obviously wishes to create with me though he has no hope of winning it–have made it hard for me to sleep in my cabin. Which is, of course, the grandest and most comfortable aboard the ship. I would expect and demand nothing less. Would roast alive anyone who sought to deny me the rights and privileges of my rank.

    At night, when I should be sleeping, I find myself rolling from side to side. Restless as the ocean waves rocking the ship. Tormented by dreams that feel like memories I suppressed long ago. Painful, shameful memories.

    I remember, in my dreams, practicing firebending in a palace courtyard with my father. I was slow and clumsy learning a new move. Not at all my confident, clever self. My weakness displeased my father. As it should any proud Fire Nation father.

    He smacked me across the face. Hard enough to bruise. To echo through the otherwise empty courtyard. To leave me with what I knew would be a thick lip and a black eye when the next day dawned red and gold. The blow motivated me. Filled me with anger. With fire that I channeled into the perfect execution of the new move my father had been trying to teach me for so long.

    My father was pleased with this new mastery I demonstrated. Became affectionate with me. Stroked soft fingers along the cheek he had slapped. Asked if I would be his good, loyal daughter and not tell Mother what had happened to my face. That was before Mother disappeared, of course.

    In those days before Mother vanished like morning dew, I was in what often felt like an alliance with Father against her and Zuko. Besides, I had how events played out–like a drama on an Ember Island stage–when Zuko, pathetic creature that he was, went weeping to our mother after Father hit or hurt him.

    Mother would cluck and croon over his injury, making him weaker still, and then confront Father. She and Father would argue, but Father would never stop hitting and hurting Zuko. In fact, Father’s contempt for Zuko would only grow after each of these episodes, and the fury he felt from these confrontations with my mother would always be directed against Zuko like lightning strikes.

    I had seen that pattern and had no desire to mirror it in my life. To make my father hate me more when I was still young and innocent enough to yearn for his approval and affection as any child would. So, naturally, I quickly assured my father that I would tell Mother I had fallen down practicing one of my firebending forms when she inevitably inquired into what had caused my face to bruise.

    My mother, who was forever naive and easy to deceive, swallowed hook, line, and sinker my lie about falling down while I was practicing a new firebending form. She cupped my cheek with her warm palm and gently admonished me to be more careful in the future. Warned me not to push myself too hard or I might burn out like a flame starved for fuel. Proved, in doing so, that she didn’t understand my greatness and me. Didn’t realize, fool that she was, how being a prodigy meant studying and training hard every day from dawn to dusk. Never resting except at night, and even then, only dreaming of firebending.

    Zuko, to my surprise, proved to be more astute in this regard than my mother. That night, he visited my bedchamber. Asked in a whisper if my bruised face came from our father. I hesitated. Then told him the truth. Swiftly adding, so it wouldn’t seem as if I blamed our father for my own inadequacy, that Father had hit me because I was slow. Clumsy. Stupid. Cutting into myself with the same words Father had hurled at me in his rage in the courtyard.

    The next day, Zuko took me to the pond in the palace gardens where the turtle-ducks paddled and swam. He showed me how he fed the turtle-ducks. How he tore off chunks of bao buns begged from the kitchens and tossed them into the pond for the turtle-ducks to eat.

    I copied his example. Considered his lesson a little gift. A happy, glowing memory shared between the two of us. A brief truce in our intense sibling rivalry.

    I came to the turtle-duck pond whenever I was frustrated that I couldn’t master a new skill swiftly enough. Whenever I was angry. Whenever I was ashamed of how Father spoke to me. How he treated me with warm kindness one moment and cold cruelty the next.

    At first, I fed the turtle-ducks with bao buns as Zuko had. Then one day, I had the brilliant idea to direct my frustration, my anger, and my shame against the turtle-ducks so they wouldn’t be inside me any more. To hurt them the way Father hurt me so I wouldn’t be in pain any more. That was the theory that I put into practice when I grabbed stones and started throwing them at the turtle-ducks.

    The distressed honks of the turtle-ducks as I launched rock after rock at them were amazingly soothing. Elated at my discovery, I demonstrated this new method of feeding turtle-ducks to Zuko. Sharing this secret with him. Wanting to repay him for the gift he had given me with one of my own.

    He must have told Mother–even though I swore him to secrecy–about my method of feeding turtle-ducks. She was disturbed by it as she was unsettled by so much of what I did. Thinking of me more as a monster than a daughter.

    I know she was disturbed because I overheard her and Father talking about it one day as we took a family stroll in the palace gardens. As we passed the turtle-duck pond, Mother told Father with a tremor in her tone about how I was feeding turtle-ducks by throwing rocks at them.

    She didn’t speak to me directly about it. She didn’t have the courage for that. Instead, she raised the concern to my father.

    He didn’t care. Laughed in his cold way. Icily informed her that I was a princess of the Fire Nation and could do whatever I wanted to lesser creatures. Reached out to grab my shoulder. Pull me closer to him. Holding me against him. Trapping me more than embracing me as was his way.

    Defending me against my mother’s attacks. Remaining my firm ally when Zuko had betrayed me. Giving away my secret to Mother when I had trusted him to keep silent.

    I would, I decided as I tossed and turned on my cabin bunk, have my vengeance on Zuko now. I would betray him as he betrayed me. Trick him with lies and false promises as he had done to me. Lure him in with sweetness so that the shock would be all the greater when the prison walls snapped shut around him. There was no room for anything but lies and betrayal between us now. All our memories were tainted by the bitterness of that. There were no gifts that we could give each other that weren’t poison.

    I don’t really know why I am thinking about Zuko so much on this voyage. Except I am sailing to destory him.

    I don’t believe that I feel guilty about that–he is a dishonor to the family and a disgrace to the Fire Nation after all–but I am not thinking about Uncle Iroh nearly so much despite the fact that Father has likewise dispatched me to be the undoing of my kooky, tea-loving uncle. Every family has bad branches that must be chopped off, and in my family, the bad branches are my uncle and brother. Diseased limbs that cannot be suffered to grow any longer.

    I don’t understand why I am remembering feeding turtle-ducks with Zuko. I only know that the mind is a strange place where all sorts of dangerous, painful memories lurk. Especially my mind, dear diary.

    Sleep well, dear diary. I know that I will not. That is why I have pulled you out to scribble in you by fitful candlelight instead of sleeping.

    I cannot wait to make landfall. To imprison Zuko and Uncle Iroh. To drag them back to the Fire Nation in chains. To subject them both to that richly deserved ignominy.

    Then I might find some peace at last. Then I might be able to sleep the night through instead of writing in you. I am sure you would like that as much as I would. Not that I care about what you would like. You mustn’t think I am getting soft in my sleeplessness. That would be a fatal mistake, dear diary.
  11. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Clash of Titans Winner star 8 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 31, 2004
    Wow, that was a turmoil of emotions and experiences. The alternation of warm kindness with cold cruelty -- enough to unbalance anyone's personality. Having a sweet time feeding the turtle-ducks those yummy buns transforms into tossing rocks at them. The reaction of each parent is absolutely reflective of their individual natures.

    Kahara and devilinthedetails like this.
  12. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Admin of Comms star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha As always, thank you so much for reading and reviewing![:D]

    Last entry definitely contained a turmoil of emotions and experiences as you say with Azula remembering some intense stuff from her childhood. I agree that the alteration between warm kindness and cold cruelty that Ozai shows toward Azula is enough to unbalance anyone=((

    I wanted to show Azula and Zuko having a sweet sibling moment of feeding the turtle ducks with delicious buns but also show how Azula is channeling that anger and violence she is learning from her father into tossing the rocks at the ducks in her twisted version of "feeding" them.

    And I also wanted to showcase that difference in how the parents react to Azula's cruelty to the turtle-ducks being testament to their natures so I am so glad that shone through for you!

    I hope you will enjoy this next chapter!:)

    Dear Diary,

    After days spent on the topsy-turvy, supposedly calm (according to our incompetent captain) sea, we finally approached the spit of land where reports indicated that my honorless brother and kooky, tea-loving uncle had holed up like rats following the South Pole debacle.

    It was a coastal piece of territory that had once belonged to the Earth Kingdom. Now claimed and conquered by the Fire Nation like so much of that continent. The largest continent of our world. A continent it had proven impossible for the perpetually divided Earth Kingdom to defend from the determined, fiercely united Fire Nation.

    My palanquin bearers carried me out of my cabin. Set me carefully down before my kneeling troops. Pulled back the gauze curtains of my palanquin. Bowing as I emerged from the throned chair of my palanquin to the raised platform on which my cabin stood.

    A raised platform that could function wonderfully like a stage for the opening lines of my stirring speech to my soldiers. Everything and everywhere was a stage to me. I had been well-schooled in drama given my mother’s obsession with dragging my brother and me to a hundred performances of the same tired plays every summer at Ember Island.

    Pacing to the edge of the platform, I gestured for the troops assembled before me to rise. Wondering if this was how my father felt whenever he performed a parade ground inspection of his armies.

    “My brother,” I began. Starting my descent down the stairs. Knowing every eye was on me. Exactly where I wanted it to be. My audience was riveted on me. Mine to command. As they should be. “And my uncle have disgraced the Fire Lord and brought shame on all of us.”

    That was a good opening. Nothing was more motivational than disgrace and shame. The burning desire to avert it or lift it once it fell. Nothing lit the inner fire of a proud person like the prospect of shame and disgrace, and there were no prouder people on the planet than our red-blooded Fire Nation troops. That was how we would conquer the world after all.

    “You may have mixed feelings about attacking members of the royal family,” I went on. Acknowledging the awe in which they had all been raised since childhood to regard the royal family. The deference they were taught and trained to yield to us. The reverence they were expected to display toward us. At all times and in all circumstances. The unending duty they were supposed to owe us. Yet I could not have their ruthless efficacy hindered by any divided feelings–any mistaken loyalties–to my brother and uncle because of their royal blood. My brother and uncle were weak traitors and must be punished as such by the unremitting, unrelenting force of the Fire Nation. There was no room for mercy where weakness and treason were concerned. That had to be made abundantly clear to any solider who did not want to be classified among the ranks of the weak traitors.

    “I understand,” I said. Preparing to make it crystal clear to them how little clemency such understanding would elicit from me if their doubts allowed my brother and uncle to escape our clutches. Empathy was nothing more than making excuses for another’s failure, and my father never accepted any excuses for failure. I would follow in his lead. Accepting no excuses for failure from myself or others. Needing no excuses because I wouldn’t fail. Nor would anyone under my command be permitted to do so. “But I assure you, if you hesitate—”

    I let iron infuse my voice at this point. A warning to freeze the veins of any Fire Nation citizen. “I will not hesitate to bring you down.”

    I glared at the assembled troops. Allowing my threat to sink through their armor like ice-water. To pimple their skin with goosebumps.

    Then I concluded, tone lowering again because I knew ever word would be heard and heeded, “Dismissed.”

    The troops hastened away. Highly motivated and eager not to risk becoming the target of my fury by lingering. A reign of terror was so simple to create and marvelously effective.

    The sound of booted footsteps racing toward me along the ship’s deck when all other feet were fleeing from me.

    “Princess.” The voice of the captain I had come to deeply detest on this voyage. Presuming to address me first without waiting to be acknowledged. His etiquette as abysmal as his seamanship. In the sunlight pounding on the ship, I could see his shadow bowing. At least he had that much instinctual deference to royalty inside him. “I’m afraid the tides will not allow us to bring the ship into port before nightfall.”

    A man so foolish that he thought the tides commanded this ship instead of royalty. Fire Nation royalty that had commissioned this ship and staffed it with soldiers.

    He would be made to realize his error, but I would have the pleasure of toying with him first. Increasing his humiliation. Luring him into a false sense of security before I pounced. Trapping him by his own ignorance. My favorite kind of trap for the foolish and the unwary.

    “I’m sorry, Captain.” I feigned courtesy. Deference. An ignorance as deep as his. My tone sweet as honey dripped into steaming spiced tea. “But I do not know much about the tides.”

    I turned on my heel. Started to stride toward the side of the ship. My voice taking on all the silkiness of a spider’s spun web, I added, “Can you explain something to me?”

    “Of course, Your Highness.” The captain sounded resigned. Flat. Perhaps a touch wary.

    I prepared to spring the trap with my next question. A deadly question to which there could only be one right answer. Absolute submission to me and my will. An acknowledgment that the powers of nature were nothing next to the might of a Fire Nation princess. “Do the tides command this ship?”

    “Um.” The captain was wrong-footed now. Proving that it was time for me to pounce. To remind him of how easily I could destroy him if he displeased or challenged me in any way. If he presumed to defy me rather than yielding to my authority. “I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

    He was an obtuse man. One who did not understand many things and who wasn’t nearly as afraid–as humbled–as I wanted him to be by the end of our little chat. He would know my power and fury–my sheer ruthlessness–by the conclusion of our conversation. I would make that abundantly clear even to one as oblivious as him. That was how kind I was. A truly benevolent princess bestowing the gift of my wisdom on my subjects wherever I found them in ignorance. Imbuing them with purpose when doubts clouded their vision. Their purpose would be to obey me without question. Without argument. Without any sort of presumption that they could advise me on what was allowed or not allowed.

    I tilted my chin as I threw his words back at him. Echoing the phrase that could condemn him to a death in the rocky deeps if he was not careful with his reply. “You said the tides would not allow us to bring the ship in.”

    I twisted my face around. Glaring at him over my shoulder. We had reached the moment of truth. The instant where he would prove just how much of an idiot he was. A pivotal second that could shape how much longer his miserable life would be. My question was pointed and cutting as the steel tip of a well-honed blade. Slicing away his folly. “Do the tides command this ship?”

    “No, Princess.” He gave the right answer. The only one that wouldn’t get him killed in bloody fashion under the circumstances.

    “And if I were to have you thrown overboard–” I stared out at the blue, rippling sheets of the ocean and the gray stone islets drifting past us as we approached our destination where I would capture my brother and uncle. Where no one, not even a confused captain, could stand in my way. “Would the tides think twice about smashing you against the rocky shore?”

    “No, Princess.” I could hear the deflation in the captain’s tone. Picture his bearded chin drooping without even needing to glance over my shoulder to see it. To savor my triumph over him.

    “Well, then,” I proclaimed. Brushing indifferent fingers casually and coolly through the loose strands of my hair. A gesture that expressed my extreme disinterest in him and his fate. That reinforced just how worthless he was to me. “Maybe you should worry less about the tides who’ve already made up their mind about killing you and worry more about me.” Another stroke through the loose hair on the other side of my face. A dramatic pause to ensure I had his attention for the final knife thrust of my advice. Dispensed as I whirled around to face him. Fierceness radiating from my eyes. A blazing threat that screamed I was not to be trifled with by any captain with delusions of grandeur and a self-importance swelled beyond his station. “Who’s still mulling it over.”

    The captain bowed at the waist, and I knew I had claimed my victory over him. That he would not dare to challenge me again. “I’ll pull us in.”

    Then he shot off as if launched from a cannon to finally attend his duties as befitted a soldier and a sailor of the Fire Nation. I watched his panicked retreat with narrowed eyes. Judging him. Finding him wanting. A cringing coward ruled by fear. A pathetic creature barely worthy of serving the Fire Nation. A waste of breath and a beating heart. How he had ever rose to the rank of captain was beyond me. I would have my father demote him upon our return to the Fire Nation.
  13. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Clash of Titans Winner star 8 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb blend of introspection and establishing of her will first with the troops and then the Captain, ensuring their unflagging obedience. =D= On the edge of my seat over the fate of Zuko and Iroh. [face_nail_biting]
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2022
    Kahara and devilinthedetails like this.
  14. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Admin of Comms star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thank you so much for reading and commenting![:D] I'm so glad you found this last entry to be a superb blend of introspection and establishing her will first over the troops and then the captain to ensure their unflagging obedience. Some more of the introspection that I believe is so fitting in a diary will occur in this upcoming entry as well as more insights into Azula's unrelenting drive to be perfect and why she is so determined to succeed in capturing Zuko and Iroh and bringing them back to the Fire Nation in chains. I hope you will enjoy it after the long wait:D

    Dear Diary,

    I stood on the iron deck of the ship at sunset–a time when firebenders such as myself are at the glorious pinnacle of our powers. The waters were calm now. Further proof (as if it were needed) of the treachery the captain had spun in his tales about the tides not permitting the ship to go and land where I wished when I willed.

    Beneath the long flight of stairs bedecked in velvet crimson carpets with gold patterns at their edges. My eyes closed. Breathing deeply as I focused my power. Preparing to channel it into shimmering and sparkling lightning that would shoot from my fingertips. Flowing where I directed it.

    Even though my eyes were shut, I could feel the combined gazes of Li and Lo upon me. The two aged twins whom I could never tell apart although I had spent years under their tutelage. They were supposed to be my advisors, though they were so old that they had become almost as senile as my kooky uncle. Out of touch with the world as it was. Living in the past instead of the bright-burning future.

    They were likewise intended to be my firebending instructors–continuing my education in that art now that I had graduated from the Royal Fire Academy for Girls–even though they were not firebenders themselves. In that sense, I regarded it as a farce that they should presume to teach me anything. Rather akin to if a pair of blind mice had been tasked with schooling a lioness in ferocity. Yet, it was my father’s will that they serve me in this capacity, and the word of the Fire Lord was never to be gainsaid by any of his loyal subjects. Including myself.

    It was in that capacity as firebending instructors devoid of any firebending talent themselves that Li and Lo watched me now. As I summoned lightning to my outstretched, painted fingertips. Charged it between my fingers. Magnifying its power until I released it in twin forks that speared across the sea.

    Twin forks I almost wished I had launched toward Li and Lo when one or the other of them presumed to critique me in the croaking voice of a crone, “Almost perfect.”

    To many less ambitious students, it would have sounded like a compliment. A praise. To me, it was the most damning sort of criticism. There was, in my opinion, nothing worse than being almost perfect. Anything that wasn’t perfect was a failure, and to come so close to success made the failure even more frustrating.

    As if to emphasize this, the other twin spoke up. Completing her sister’s thought as they so often did. A trait that only made them more difficult to tell apart. More interchangeable in my mind. “One hair out of place.”

    Nothing was allowed to be out of place in the Fire Nation. In my life. In my firebending.

    I smoldered inside. My amber-gold eyes widening and flashing with fury. I brushed the lone hair that had fallen in front of my face out of the way. Behind my ear. As if it were to blame for any imperfection in my firebending.

    “Almost isn’t good enough,” I ground out through clenched teeth. Exactly what my father would have said to me if I dared to approach him with some pathetic bleating about being almost perfect.

    I wasn’t Zuko. I wasn’t deluded or weak enough to believe that being almost perfect amounted to anything more than being a shameful failure deserving of the utmost mockery and contempt. I was not soft like my brother. Had never been coddled by my mother as he had. Because she had seen me as a monster. Which I was. Which I was proud to be.

    I channeled all the rage inside me into the blue lightning I conjured and sent streaking out over the sea. Creating my own storm. Standing at the eye of it. At the raw center of the power where I belonged. Where I would always belong.

    I stood on the ship deck, conjuring and firing my lightning even after the sun set. After the silver stars rose. After the sky darkened from blood red to indigo to black. Proving, over and over again, to myself and any doubting watchers that I was not almost perfect. I was perfect. Not a hair out of place. Good enough for anyone. Including my father. Including myself.

    You have a perfect owner, dear diary. Never dare to question that or I shall have to unleash the full wrath of my blue lightning upon you until your pathetic little pages are nothing but cinders. Until you are reduced to nothing. Obliterated as all my enemies must be.

    Not that you can question me. That is part of your appeal to me. You are like a servant who can never talk back to me. Never think for yourself. Never betray me or use me to advance your own ends.

    You are wonderfully inanimate. Your only thoughts and feelings those I put into your pages.

    I infuse my life into you, and in that way I can pour my heart into you without fear of treachery. Not that I have much left of my heart, and I intend to destroy what little of it remains.

    Breaking it before it can break me.

    That is just the sort of destructive monster I am, dear diary.

    I write this to you in a flaming orange circle of candlelight in my cabin. The memory of my lone failure during my lightning practice sticking with me far more than any of my successes.

    There is a lesson in that, dear diary. Our successes are fleeting. Forgettable. Unremarkable because they are expected.

    But our failures? They will haunt us at night. They will sear and singe us. They will define us. Be how we are remembered. By ourselves. By the world. By all present and future generations and citizens of the Fire Nation.

    That is why failure is inexcusable, as Father would counsel me if he were in this ship’s cabin with me instead of an ocean away in the Fire Nation capital. Ruling in might and majesty from his grand palace.

    I can almost feel his hand on my shoulder now. Laid there not to comfort me–he has never given me any comfort that would weaken me–but to remind me of his power. His authority. His right to discipline me. To punish me if I disappoint and disgrace him. If I fail him. Myself. The Fire Nation.

    He would tell me–his tone all the more dangerous for its spiderweb softness–that I must not fail in capturing my brother and uncle. Dragging them back to the Fire Nation so their shame can be obliterated. So their treason can be dealt with.

    I must be the success Zuko never could be. I must lure Zuko and Uncle Iroh into my cunning trap. There can be no other outcome considered. No failure tolerated or even contemplated.

    I will not merely be almost perfect. I will be good enough. And the only way to be good enough is to be perfect.

    To accomplish everything my father has commanded of this mission and maybe something more to impress him. Perhaps something small like conquering Ba Sing Se. Proving that I am greater than all his generals combined. That I am worthy to be his heir and successor. That my ambition for the Fire Nation’s glory and honor rivals even his.

    My brother and uncle will not escape my grasp that is closing in upon them like an ever-tightening fist.

    On that fortifying thought, I will go to sleep, dear diary.
  15. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Clash of Titans Winner star 8 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 31, 2004
    What a fascinating comparison!

    I regarded it as a farce that they should presume to teach me anything. Rather akin
    to if a pair of blind mice had been tasked with schooling a lioness in ferocity.


    Her thoughts on the fleetingness of success and the permanence of failure are quite compelling.

    I see failure (if a person chooses to use it that way) as a way to become successful next time. Success can be fleeting in that circumstances outside your control can interfere with it but it is permanent in that the process to the goal and the goal itself is something no one can take away from you. [face_thinking]

    This next section is particularly heart-tugging.

    You are wonderfully inanimate. Your only thoughts and feelings those I put into your pages.

    I infuse my life into you, and in that way I can pour my heart into you without fear of treachery. Not that I have much left of my heart, and I intend
    to destroy what little of it remains. Breaking it before it can break me.

    I want to hug Azula, which is ironic. She would not ask for or welcome it but she needs it desperately.

    Last edited: Sep 7, 2023
    devilinthedetails likes this.