-Fire Lord Ozai's Castle, just after sunset-
"Where are we going Lord Ozai, General Iroh?" Akiko asks as she, Ozai, and Iroh walk through the castle halls.
A guard with a scar from his left temple down across his face to his right cheek is standing within earshot of their conversation.
"To the kitchens, little Akiko," Ozai says kindly and motions for the guard to have the chefs prepare a meal for the girl. "You're scrawnier than my son."
Akiko snorts and looks away. "I can't be that scrawny."
"Pay no attention to that comment. You may be scrawnier than Prince Zuko but you're not scrawnier than Princess Azula," Iroh pats Akiko's head and she swats his hand away as the guard returns.
"Lord Ozai, the chefs have prepared the girl's food and have taken it to the dining hall," the guard bows respectfully.
"Good. Come Akiko, you need to get something to eat," Ozai leads the way to the dining hall after motioning for the guard to follow.
"W-wow," Akiko's eyes light up at the sight before her. "I've never seen a room this big or so much food before."
"Go on," Iroh tells her. "Eat your fill."
"R-really? I can have as much of this as I want?" she questions, her dark blue-green eyes shimmering brightly. Iroh and Ozai nods and she bows quickly while saying "Thank you" before running over to the table and filling a plate with various dishes.
"Lord Ozai, if I may, who is she?" the guard asks as she watches her eat.
"She's the Avatar girl from Atarashii Kazoku," Ozai answers. "And you will be in charge of watching her when she is not with either of us."
"Yes, Lord Ozai, but didn't the Avatar girl vanish two months ago?" the guard asks, his green eyes never leaving the girl.
"Yes, but her name, story, and appearance match that of the Avatar girl," Iroh answers.
"Then she will be living here?" the guard asks and Ozai nods. "What room should I have prepared for her?"
"Send a maid to prepare the room opposite Zuko's and then report back here. You will escort her to her room for your first task as her personal guard, Mikaru," Ozai orders and the guard leaves to inform the maid.
"What are thinking about, Ozai?" Iroh asks.
"That girl will be a force to be reckoned with once she has been properly trained. Keeping her loyal to us is a must," Ozai replies, not taking his eyes off Akiko.
"True but that's not what I meant and you know that, my brother."
"A powerful ruler needs powerful heirs, Iroh. Akiko will be trained to master all four elements but I think having her wed to Zuko someday may prove an even greater benefit to our nation."
"I agree, Ozai. But we cannot force them to wed if they do nothing but fight. I believe their personalities might clash."
"We will wait and see. We'll have them meet when they turn sixteen and if all goes well they'll be wed when they're both eighteen. I think there's only a few months difference between them," Ozai says as the guard, Mikaru, returns.
"The girl's bedchamber is ready and the maid insists she be bathed before she enters the room," Mikaru reports.
"That old woman will make the girl crazy. Akiko seems very independent and strong-willed for an eight year old," Iroh chuckles as Akiko walks over to them.
"The food here is a lot better than the stuff the vendors have," she comments. "Thank you."
"You're welcome, Akiko," Ozai says and then motions to Mikaru. "This is Mikaru. He will be your personal guard and servant from now on and you may speak as freely around him as you would around Iroh and myself."
"Is that alright with you, Lady Akiko?" Mikaru asks, bowing to her.
"Huh? Yeah I guess but can you just call me 'Akiko'? 'Lady Akiko' sounds stuffy and formal," she answers.
"Of course, Akiko," Mikaru says. "Come this way and I'll show you to your room."
"Ok," she takes his hand smiling. "Night Father Ozai, night Uncle Iroh," she says before letting Mikaru lead her away.
"I almost feel bad for the maid," Iroh comments.
"Almost but not quite. She was horrible to us when we were that small and I don't think the years have done her any good," Ozai agrees. "Let's keep her away from Azula as well until she's at least a few years older. I don't think they'll be anything other than mortal enemies."
Iroh nods in agreement and both set off for their rooms.
"Wow, this place is huge," I tell Mikaru, excitement in my voice.
"So you like it here then?"
"Uh huh," I nod. "Hey, how come you, Father Ozai, and Uncle Iroh are so nice to me when the people outside the castle are kind of mean?"
"Well, I think it's because Lord Ozai and General Iroh think you're special. Personally, I think you're a little squirt who's in over her head because she learned how to firebend from watching the students at the academy," Mikaru answers laughing.
"How'd you know I watched the students at the academy?"
"I saw you there a few times. I kept the hole in the wall from being fixed just to see if you could learn to firebend."
"What are you my big brother or something?" I fake pout, a smile toying at my lips.
"If you'd rather call me that than your servant/guard, then yes, Squirt," Mikaru answers, snickering when he calls me squirt.
"Fine by me," I yawn as we turn left into another hallway where an old lady in a red and black kimono is waiting by a door. "Who's she?"
"Akiko, this is Agatha, one of the maids," Mikaru says. "She insists that you bathe and that your clothes are washed before you enter your room," he points to the door behind her.
"She's not giving me a choice is she?" I look up at Mikaru as he shakes his head. I sigh and let the old lady lead me back two hallways and right one before we reach the bathroom, an elegant room half the size of the dining hall with a tiled floor and walls and a marble bathtub and shower.
"Surely you've bathed before, girl?" Agatha asks as she pushes me into the room.
"Yes, I have," I snap although I am grateful to have her clawed hand off my shoulder.
"Good. The towels are next to the shower. Leave your clothes and towels in the basket in the corner and put on the robe hanging on wall when you're done. You'll have to go back to your room on your own. The Fire Lord is having me find clothes that will fit you," Agatha says as she shuts the door and walks off without even giving me a chance to thank her or say anything.
"What a witch," I mutter as I start the shower and set a towel down in front of it. I lock the door, throw my clothes in the basket, and leave my necklace, a little heart shaped multi-colored stone on a silver chain, on the towel rack before moving my four foot five self into the nice hot water.
Twenty minutes later, I'm wrapping myself in a nice fluffy towel to dry off, happy to have all the dirt and dust off of me. I put on the robe miss miserable, sorry, Agatha had pointed to and use the towel to dry my hair. I put both the towel I was standing on and the one for my hair in the basket and put my necklace back around my neck. I slip my shoes back on my feet and start to walk back to my room, hoping I won't get lost.
"Let's see, I've been walking for about ten minutes and I'm lost," I sigh as I pass another corridor and back up quickly. Mikaru is standing guard outside my door and I run to him. "Hi big brother," I say smiling.
"What took you so long, Squirt?" he asks.
"Uh, I kinda got a little lost," I tell him as he opens the door for me.
"You'll know your way soon enough. Now get some rest, you start firebending practice early."
"Ok, night big brother," I say and go into my room. "Wow."
My room's a bit smaller than the bathroom but it's not too small or too big. The bed's in the far left corner with a nightstand to the left of it. There's a big bookcase across from the door, and me, a desk with a lamp on it and a chair under it are to my left while there's a mannequin to the right for some reason. On-er in the wall between the bookcase and the mannequin is a small fireplace with a thing I think is called a grate in front of it and a dim fire in it.
"I'll see if there's anything in the desk tomorrow," I yawn as I turn off the lamp on the desk and the one on the nightstand before crawling into bed. 'I think life here won't be so bad, well except for putting up with Agatha,' I think as I fall asleep.