Hey there! I dug this little one-shot out of my Avatar folder, where it sat for months. It's a tiny glimpse into the mind of Azula's captain from The Avatar State. Once again, I do not own Avatar or the characters in it. Woe.
The world knows the Fire Nation's royal family is ruthless, selfish, and occasionally psychotic. No one will dare say it to their faces, of course, but the whole Fire Nation is well aware that the war is higher on the royal priority list than the welfare of the nation's citizens. The thought is not comforting.
When a young servant boy named Matsu told strange tales of bravery and honor actually existing in the heart of a royal, not many believed him. The other palace servants simply thought that too much time waiting on the generals in the war room had damaged Matsu's brain.
When an even younger Prince of the Fire Nation was banished and sent away with a terrible scar, people began to listen. As soon as noblemen and military men disappeared behind their closed doors, palace servants shared stories of the Prince, and how different the heir to the throne was from his father. In faraway taverns, soldiers raised their tankards to Zuko, who had tried to save them from certain death.
Captain Akio remembered those days as if they were only yesterday. He remembered the fear gnawing at his heart when he had received the 41st Division's orders. He remembered the horror as his new recruits were slaughtered by the best Earthbenders and warriors of the Earth Kingdom. He remembered the painful aftermath of that "victory"; long hours of sitting in infirmaries and fighting to get his men's dying screams out of his brain.
Now he was a respected captain of the Fire Navy. Ha! That was a good name for the spoiled, arrogant Princess Azula's babysitter. She was her father's favorite and for good reason; she was her father, in everything but gender. Cruel, manipulative, sadistic…the captain could not wait to be shot of her, regardless of what happened to cause it.
He stood at attention on the dock, watching his Elite goons (they'd never replace the boys he had lost in the 41st!) form two perfect lines. Akio knew his mission: protect the princess on her mission, which was to capture the wayward Prince Zuko and the disgraced General Iroh. He had avoided thinking about it just by immersing himself in his duties, but as he saw the duo walking towards the ship, the captain's instincts screamed for action.
"Brother! Uncle! Welcome!" said the princess, extending her arms. Captain Akio almost flinched at her disgustingly sweet tone. Didn't the prince and general know this girl?
Apparently not. The three royals bowed to each other.
"I'm so glad you decided to come," Azula declared.
Of course she is, thought Akio in disgust. The Fire Lord will throw these two in prison and dear little Azula will become the next ruler. May Agni help us all!
He decided to intervene quickly. "Are we ready to depart, your highness?" he asked politely.
"Set our course for home, captain," she said innocently. This was the same girl who had threatened to throw me overboard!
"Home…" muttered Prince Zuko. The hope in his voice made Akio cringe. This boy had faced three years of banishment for standing up for his citizens, and now he was going home in chains! Perhaps the royal family could do this to each other, but Akio could not. He was a simple soldier, and betrayal of this kind rattled him. He would not be responsible for such an act, orders or not. His fists clenched.
"You heard the princess! Raise the anchors! We're taking the prisoners home!" Akio yelled. That would give them a much-needed warning.
Princess Azula gave him the ugliest look she could muster, the look he associated with imminent death. "Your highness…I…" he faltered. Inside, Captain Akio was smirking. Manipulation would get her nowhere if someone in her crew had a conscience, and he did.
Akio heard the unmistakable sounds of fighting, and before he knew it, he was off his feet and falling into the water.
Prince Zuko escaped with his life that day. Akio will not, but he does not regret it. If the Fire Nation's future is Azula, he would rather not be there. And the boys of the 41st Division are waiting for him in the spirit world.