Disclaimer: I don't own Onji or Azula. I am merely toying with them.
Azula doesn't make it a habit to wander by the school during the day; truthfully there are many more interesting things to do (one of them starting with a "Z" and ending with "uko", he's too much fun to tease) and the school has never intrigued her, because she doesn't like kids.
But still, she goes by it one day because she's walking through the market minding her own business and looking at items and she can't help it if she's there when the bell rings.
She watches with little interest as the children leave, taking time to pay her their respects before running off with their friends. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees a flash of movement and turns, intrigued, just in time to see a small, brown-haired girl disappear into the bushes.
Azula follows her. She has nothing better to do anyway.
The child is practicing her Firebending in private; if the small, sad little sparks flying from her fingers are Firebending to begin with. Azula watches quietly, partly amused by the sad display and partly pitying. This girl's development is far behind that of her peers, from what the Princess saw; she obviously is self taught.
She steps out of the bushes and clears her throat to make her presence known. The girl pales and nearly jumps a mile.
"P-Princess Azula!" She scrambles to bow, blushing furiously. It amazes Azula how quickly the girl can go from pale as a sheet to red as the sun. "I… I'm sorry, I had no idea you were there!"
"You were practicing your Firebending, weren't you?" Azula crosses her arms over her chest.
"Um… Y-yeah. I'm… not that good, though."
Don't have to tell me twice.
Azula scowls. "Are you deaf?" she asks. "I said, try again. That pathetic move you were doing. I want to take another look at it."
"Ah… yes, Princess."
The girl is confused but obedient, and repeats the move again. It doesn't take long for Azula to see what she's doing: a simple move really, punching forward at one's enemy while releasing a fireball. However, since the girl's Firebending is flimsy to begin with, the fireball is only a few sparks.
"Who is your Firebending teacher?"
"I'm…" The girl looks away, unable to meet her Princess's eyes. "I taught myself this stuff, Princess."
Azula knows this is a waste of time, but the forlorn look in the child's eyes tugs at her heartstrings just a little too well. She sighs and falls back into the familiar Firebending stance.
"Watch," she orders, "then repeat my movements."
It's supposed to be a one-shot deal, a once in a lifetime thing for the girl, but Azula finds herself charmed by the child's determination and good will. She is shy and quiet, kind of like Mai used to be.
It doesn't take long for Azula to discover the main problem. The child is a quick learner, but she thinks about the movements too much.
"I can't help it," she mutters, lowering her hands when Azula tells her this, scuffing one foot against the ground. "I like to plan things out in my mind before I do them."
Azula sighs. "Sit down," she says, and sits on the grass herself. Timidly the girl comes and sits next to her, stiff and straight and ready to bolt. What Azula is about to tell her is not something she herself was taught, but something she discovered.
"Firebending isn't about thinking. I mean, yes, some thought is involved, but when it comes down to it, Firebending is about emotion, or lack of in some cases. When it comes down to it, bending fire is a primal thing, depending more on the bender's heart than the bender's mind. Anger and grief can make you stronger; fear can make you weaker."
The child looks completely, hopelessly lost. Surprisingly, Azula doesn't feel frustration, but amusement. "I don't really get it, Princess," she says nervously. "So you mean, when I bend I shouldn't… think about it?"
Azula smirks, and to show her pleasure at her student's understanding gently cuffs the child over the head.
"That's exactly what I'm saying."
The girl seems put off by such a display of affection from her homeland's Princess, of all people, but a small, uncertain smile curves her lips.
"Um, Princess, just in case you were wondering… my name's Onji."
Azula smirks again and gently pokes the girl's—no, Onji's—forehead.
"Onji, huh? If we're going to be on first name basis, just call me Azula."
Azula finds it difficult to stay away from Onji.
The child charms and intrigues her, and Azula finds every excuse to leave the palace and go down to the school. Always she finds Onji in the bushes, practicing; and always, she steps in and guides her.
Azula is still quite young, despite being a prodigy, and having a student at fifteen is a learning experience on both ends. She quickly learns that Onji is determined, but sometimes her focus wavers; and sometimes she loses her confidence, and Azula must struggle to find the right words.
One such time has occurred now, and as Onji sits despondently on the ground Azula awkwardly pats her on the head. "You'll get it right."
"You're a prodigy." Onji's voice is dull. "It's easy for you."
The next instant she realizes what she's said, as she springs to her feet with a panicked cry. "I'm sorry, Princess, I'm sorry! I swear I didn't… I mean, I'm angry, but I shouldn't… Agni, I'm sorry…"
She falls silent as Azula slowly stands, taking her time about it, and walks to her. She begins to shake slightly but stands her ground. As Azula comes closer, she squeezes her eyes shut and braces for punishment.
The next instant, she yelps in protest as Azula gently tugs on a loose strand of hair
"Onji, didn't I say this already? Call me Azula. And don't apologize so much. It's annoying."
And Azula smiles.
At the palace, Azula is a Princess. When Father has guests over she must stand straight and talk politely. It hurts her back. Ouch.
With Zuko she must always remind him that for the first time in a long time, she has nothing up her sleeve. It doesn't really help that most of the time she finds him making out with Mai. Ew.
Onji, though, has no expectations or suspicions. Once a little nervous around Azula, she has come to view the older girl as a friend and equal. She is still determined to learn, but is much more relaxed and talkative about it.
Her Firebending has improved immensely. Azula sometimes thinks it's more because of Onji's enthusiasm than her own teachings.
Onji falls asleep during practice one day, and in the way of little sisters she curls trustingly in Azula's lap. Azula sits there frozen for a few tense seconds before slowly relaxing, cautiously wrapping her arms around the small child.
… She's small…
And then one day, Azula is unable to leave the palace.
With a sinking feeling of dread, she exchanges worried looks with Zuko when Ozai has his back turned. Even Mai and Ty Lee pick up on the tension in the room.
And with a painful lurch in her stomach, Azula realizes the truth.
The Avatar is alive.
She closes her eyes and bows her head, biting her lip.
Forgive me, Onji…
… We can no longer meet.
It is the day of the invasion, and the Avatar has help.
Lots and lots of help.
Azula is only half aware of everything as blood spills from a wound on her side, and she holds a hand to it to stem the bleeding as she races for the throne room. As much as she wants to join her brother and Mai in battling Ozai (for some unknown reason and she refuses to think about it), she is still a loyal daughter and must aid her father.
She throws the doors of the throne room open, just in time to see her father let loose a stream of fire. There are young ones battling alongside the Avatar, but they are not excused from his rage. The fire hits a small body, throws it through the air. And as the body is thrown, Azula sees its face.
She barely hears her own voice as she runs to the limp form of her student and friend, her foster sister. She kneels next to the small body, trembling, and touches her shoulder. "Onji," she rasps.
The girl is covered in blood, her own and others. She slowly opens her eyes, wincing, and smiles weakly at her former mentor, purposely ignorant of the large burn mark on her chest, the mark that is causing her life to bleed out onto the crimson carpet beneath her.
"Hey… 'Zula…" She reaches out one pale, shaking hand, and Azula takes it. "I… I did good… right?"
"Yes." Tears leak free and stream down her face as she grips the small hand for dear life. "Yes, you did."
"That's… that's good…"
And then there is silence. Onji closes her eyes. Her body goes still.
Slowly, Azula sets down the hand of her student and friend, the hand that has gone still in death. Wordlessly she wipes at her eyes and stands, stepping over Onji's body and facing her father. Her face is blank, her eyes dark. Her grief is cold and cannot be expressed in screams or tears.
Because Princess Azula of the Fire Nation does not scream. She does not cry.
Princess Azula of the Fire Nation takes action. She gets revenge.
Mai, her old friend, sees the change and says nothing; instead, ignoring her own torn, bleeding arm, she walks over and gently scopes up Onji's body. "We'll get her out of here," she murmurs. "When this is all over… we'll bury her."
Azula nods. "Thank you."
Without another word, she walks purposefully to where her father is fighting the Avatar and the Water Tribe girl he loves so much. Blue flames engulf her hands.
Perhaps Onji will be her redemption, after all.
Yeah... started thinking of a fic centered on a possible Onji/Azula thing... and this happened. Yep.
Read and review, please!