Title: Call of Kinship.
Pairing: ZukoXOMC. In fact, probably ZukoXmultiple OMCs…
Rating: T currently, not sure about the later chapters though.
Warning: um… annoying ninja spies? Not much this chapter. Maybe a little cursing.
Disclaimer: No, I don't own Aaron Ehaz-- er, Avatar. I don't own Avatar, I might however eventually own Aaron… copyright stealing jerk that he is. Anyone who's ever read fanfic knows that the Bloodbender thing was around long before that damn Puppetmaster Episode…
Rant: yeah, I'm still steamed over that. Thieving Writer jack-asses… think they can get away with anything just cause they're on a payroll…grrr…
Chapter 1: Silence Isn't Always Holy
The Fire Lord was defeated, and a great silence covered the land, a sort of stunned "what now?" following the rise of peace and prosperity.
Zuko was honestly starting to think no one in the four nations knew how to behave anymore…
"and?" he asked, kneading at his eyes. It just seemed like endless bad news some days…
"well, despite various raids, the negotiations with the Earth Kingdom rulers are going well." Kaido, the youngest, and therefore most relatable of Zuko's generals, reported with a sigh. "however…""what?" Zuko asked, leaning on the uncomfortable arm of his throne.
"it seems an impossible mission sir, there just isn't enough compromise, either way someone is kicked out of their home." Kaido answered and stood informally. "after all, despite the land being wrongfully taken, certain colonies have been there for decades. Generations have grown up there."
"yes, I know. That's what's made this so damn hard…" Zuko growled and Kaido bowed at the waist.
"I apologize for speaking out of turn."
"no, I asked didn't I?" Zuko sighed and sunk into his throne a little farther. Kaido turned to leave but paused.
"um… sir?" he asked and Zuko groaned.
"Kaido, call me Zuko, I've told you a thousand times now." he grumbled and Kaido nodded, turning slightly.
"yes sir, I do have a bit of… unrelated but happy news, if you wish to hear it?" Kaido asked and Zuko frowned.
"what is it?" Zuko asked, sitting up a little straighter.
"the first Air bender born of the Northern tribe bended just last week. Avatar Aang sent word the other day." Kaido said with a smile over one shoulder then made his leave.
Zuko smiled a little to himself. Yep, that was what this was all about.
Making the world a better place.
Zuko shrugged out of his robe and rubbed at his eyes. He'd been doing that a lot actually. There was stress involved with a seat of power and sometimes it seemed like his people did absolutely nothing but complain…
There was a soft cough and his eyes went up to the dark form sitting in his living room, feet propped up on the table.
"nice set up you have here Your Highness." the masked man said with a general wave and sat forwards. Zuko scowled and stepped in. green eyes smiled over at him, overly amused at him and Zuko frowned.
"Katsuo, news?" he grunted and poured himself some lukewarm tea and heated it a little as he turned. The spy scoffed and stood, patting out loose pants.
"and it's positively lovely to see you alive too." he drawled and placed hands on his hips. "I've got it."
"what?" Zuko asked, eyes widening as Katsuo rolled his eyes.
"what you wanted, her location." Katsuo sighed. "and it wasn't easy, mind. I had to interrogate people, and I mentioned before that I hate that. Most of them were loyal to your father and said some very unflattering things about you and your uncle, not to mention the things they said about me, so then I had to lean a little harder for pride's sake and--"
"Katsuo!!!" Zuko yelled to silence the rambling spy. Katsuo met his eyes and reached in a pocket.
"she was taken out of the four nations by a group of horny as fuck sea dogs to an unclaimed land currently occupied by starfish and other amphibious mammals." Katsuo answered and handed him a paper from his pocket. "it's all there, secret map stolen from the secret archives of the big FL himself."
"starfish aren't mammals." Zuko muttered and scanned his eyes over the page in front of him including detailed reports on what each and every one of the sailors looked like, what their fears were and what their wives and children looked like as well. Just in case. Katsuo was thorough that way.
"that was the sailor's words, not mine, the only amphibious mammal I can think of would be a platypus-bear, or maybe a fish-goat." Katsuo shrugged and pushed past him to get himself some water. Zuko looked up but didn't get so much as a glimpse of the man's face as he drank.
"you're going to have to tell me where those secret archives are someday." Zuko smiled and tucked the papers away. Katsuo scoffed.
"do you know how much blackmail and how many secrets are in there?" he asked rhetorically and chuckled. "if papa ain't talking, I'm keeping it for myself."
"did you go to the island?" Zuko asked and Katsuo held up a hand.
"land. It's large. At least half the size of the Earth Kingdom, but currently claimed only by the starfish and apparently your mother." Katsuo corrected and set the empty cup he'd used on the table, leaning against the wall lethargically. "and no, to answer your little query, I didn't visit."
"you can go, I'll make plans to go in a few weeks." Zuko stated, waving his hand for Katsuo to go.
"great, I need a vacation after all that, torture just rubs me all kinds of funky." Katsuo shook himself out and made his way to the window then paused and sighed. "under the thirteenth flagstone in front of the third column back from the throne. That's where the stupid archives are."
"thanks, I'll have to check that out." Zuko smiled. Despite being a pain to talk to sometimes, the guy was loyal, which was hard to say about a lot of people since he took the throne.
"I'll be at the Grey Eagle Inn. And I'm only telling you this because I feel responsible for you. Dumb king." Katsuo grumbled and jumped out the window, disappearing easily into the darkness.
Not that Zuko was looking for him, he was too busy looking at the map marked with a shaky X over where his mother was.
An uncharted land.
His father really went to great pains to make sure he never saw her again…
Zuko folded the map carefully and there was a knock at his door.
"come in." he called. The door swung inwards and Keiichi, Zuko's 'personal' servant stood there, panting and looking flustered.
"sir! I… I've been all over trying to…" Keiichi panted and looked about ready to pass out. Zuko sighed and felt guilty.
Poor guy. Shouldn't have told him I was going out into the city by myself…
"relax, take deep breaths." Zuko suggested and Keiichi sputtered.
"how can I relax when my duty is being wasted chasing after shadows in the streets! How are you supposed to benefit from my advice if I'm not there?! And the body doubles are for public appearances!!!!" Keiichi gasped out, his voice flustered and restrained. Zuko snorted. Okay, so the body doubles leading him in circles were a bit much.
"Keiichi, you should relax, I spent years on my own defending myself, I'm sure if some feisty assassin tries to kill me that I'll be able to handle it. And I happen to think I'm doing very well for myself in court." Zuko explained and Keiichi gaped, unable to form words.
"but… but I'm charged to… stop doing my job for me!! Or at least let me be useless beside you!!!" he nearly cried, eyes welling up before bowing stiffly. "I'm going to my chambers, if you die in the night I'll be very disappointed in you Mr. Independent!!!"
Then he left, the worried flurry of robes that he was. Zuko waited a few seconds to make sure he was really gone down the hall and laughed.
It was mean and it was probably along the lines of cruel and unusual punishment, but that man was just too hilarious flustered like that. In fact, Zuko would have probably replaced him ages ago if it wasn't for the fact that he was so entertaining.
"sorry…" Zuko apologized to the empty room and relaxed back onto his couch. He sighed a little. It was good that he had something to do, with Mei gone to help with the negotiations at the fire colonies he was pretty bored.
Not to mention she hadn't wrote in weeks. Not that he blamed her, things were pretty strained between them, and they kind of had been since he'd left to help Aang, she said she forgave him but sometimes he wasn't so sure.
Life was complicated once the dust settled.
Zuko sighed and wondered how he should escape Keiichi tomorrow, especially since he'd be on the watch for another escape attempt.
He wasn't sure but he knew it'd have to be good.
Zuko slid around the corner and lifted the flagstone that Katsuo had told him about, going down the stairs and lowering it quietly, Keiichi breezing past cursing words a man of his station shouldn't know, and then lowered it completely, lifting a palmful of fire to see his way down the steps and into the archives. It was enormous, almost bigger than the royal library, all state and national secrets. There was no discernable order that he could tell so he walked over to one of the large braziers and lit it. Then he nearly roasted Katsuo alive when he appeared out of the shadows.
"couldn't wait huh?" he asked, his eyes laughing at him and Zuko glared.
"thought you were on vacation." he accused and Katsuo shrugged.
"I am, I needed something." he answered and Zuko frowned.
"which was?" Zuko asked.
"my purse your highness, I absolutely can't go anywhere without it." Katsuo giggled girlishly and pushed past him into the darker places of the archives.
"I'll throw you in prison one day Katsuo…" Zuko grumbled and Katsuo laughed.
"just try, I know a way out of every prison ever built." he answered and 'ah-ha'ed' at a shelf. He grabbed a leather case and pulled it out, stuffing it into his shirt and nodding to Zuko. "I'll be going now then."
"is there another way out?" Zuko asked quickly and Katsuo nodded.
"several actually. One in the ladies bath, another in the kitchens, and two more I haven't really explored too heavily due to one being blocked off and the other going in the direction of your bedchambers milord." Katsuo answered and Zuko narrowed his eyes at him.
"oh really?" Zuko grumbled at him and Katsuo smiled under his mask.
"okay, I peeked." he admitted.
"and?" Zuko growled.
"you were so damn adorable hugging your cutesy pillow like that." Katsuo cooed and Zuko pointed.
"get out." he declared and there was a chuckle.
"okay, you know where to find me." Katsuo answered, slipping easily into the shadows.
"like I want to…" Zuko grumbled.
"see ya." Katsuo bid him farewell and was gone into the dark, just a far away sound of stone grinding on stone showing he was even there at all.
"sometimes I really can't stand him…" Zuko muttered and looked over at the nearest shelf. He frowned and moved closer. He pulled one book from the shelf and opened it.
The Collected Scattered Pages of Misami Kotoniaga's Diary.
Zuko gaped and flipped through it. This particular book was required school reading, an old, old story from not even his great grandfather's days, almost sappy and romantic if not for the tragic parts of the story, and here was the complete writing. The end had been missing out of every copy he'd ever seen and this one had it.
Zuko flipped to the back of the book.
His eyes scanned over the page.
Kireki's eyes burned into mine, hotter than the fires that separated us. I knew his secret and he knew mine. We were brothers in battles and brothers at heart now.
I took his hand in mine and he understood. For the very first time someone understood me, and that I wasn't the conventional girl. That I wasn't a girl at all.
The elation that I felt in my heart to know that even after all of this, after know who I truly was and that I was a boy, he still loved me.
And I still loved him.
Zuko stared at the page then closed the book.
He set it on the shelf then laughed.
"no wonder they cut it up…" he muttered. Misami was a boy the whole time. The whole idea of a girl, masquerading as a boy to protect her very country loses it's punch if the girl was a boy the whole time.
Zuko shook his head.
And to think, I actually recognized him as a brave young girl through the whole book, what a killer ending. Now that I think about it, I idolized Misami for a while for her-- his, tenacity and his honor towards his country.
Zuko shook his head with a small smile and moved on to another section, having his finger rest on another book and picking it up.
The Complete Works of Poet-King Susano o-no Mikoto.
Zuko flipped through it and came upon the conclusion that yes, even then his family was crazy starved for power and moved on.
He wandered the secret library for hours, banned books and secret texts and other things abounded in the underground archives, he even found a collected messenger bird relay of his events as a boy searching for the Avatar, and an original hand written decree of Iroh's revoked birthright and his father's placement on the throne.
Zuko almost burned it to cinders but thought better of it. There was even a drop of the old man's blood still on the paper.
Zuko reoriented himself and looked along the walls for the exits Katsuo had talked about and stopped up short.
Zuko looked at the case and opened it, the leather bound books alphabetized and grabbed one. K.
He flipped through it and frowned. Foreign registrys, absolutely every mixed race citizen in the fire nation was listed in these books. He thought he spotted a name he recognized and Zuko frowned and flipped back a page and searched it out.
Yes. Kaido Kusajishi. Mother was of the earth kingdom, brought home as a war bride. Allowed citizenship for honorable acts for the crown.
Zuko frowned and looked at that. Honorable acts? During wartime that tended to have different meanings. Zuko snapped the book closed and shelved it, closing the case and walking on. He liked Kaido, he didn't want to have a bad view of him but this was slowly scarring his opinion the more he thought of it. Zuko scowled.
No. It didn't matter, Kaido was a good general and was one of the loyal ones, if he had any at all.
Zuko emerged in his bedroom and sighed, replacing the flagstones and wandering out. He had things to do today, a king couldn't simply sit around looking at books all day.
"I want things prepared so that I can make a journey in three weeks time." Zuko declared and Kaido gaped at him.
"a journey Lord?" he asked tentatively and Zuko nodded.
"yes. To a distant land. I'll need an airship and suitable crew." he answered and then nodded. "and yes, it is absolutely necessary."
"how-how long will you be gone sir?" Kaido asked, sounding almost as nervous as Keiichi and Zuko smiled a little and thought it over.
"at this time I'm unsure but it could be close to a year." he answered honestly and Kaido exploded.
"A YEAR?!" he yelled, eyes wide and incredulous.
"yes Kaido." Zuko nodded and Kaido started to pace, thinking it over.
"you… I… we can't make preparations for that kind of… I mean… who are we supposed to do the negotiations with and you're the only thing keeping the admirals from knocking all the old guys off and usurping right now and…" Kaido blathered then went limp and kneaded at his eyes. "dear dragons in heaven… three weeks won't be enough time…"
"two months? Is that enough?" Zuko suggested and Kaido chuckled weakly.
"try four years sir, there's talk of uprising, and no one is comfortable with the lack of wartime efforts and the job decline that's providing, and there's been a major drop in moral all about since the soldiers have nothing to do but escort wealthy gentlemen and--" Kaido stopped and sighed. "it just doesn't seem possible…"
"hmm. What would you suggest?" Zuko asked and Kaido scoffed.
"don't go." he stated baldly and Zuko sighed.
"I have to." he answered and Kaido sighed himself, considering it.
"okay then sir--" Kaido started and Zuko groaned at the title again.
"Zuko. It's not that hard a name to remember Kaido." he scolded and Kaido nodded vacantly as he thought.
"yes sir, I'd suggest a full staff of government accompany you on your mission. Or at least the bare bone emissaries and officers." Kaido suggested and Zuko smiled.
"you mean you, Keiichi, and Satchiko." he stated and Kaido blinked at him.
"me? No sir, I meant someone higher like general Yao, or maybe Tengen, but not… I mean, I don't have seniority, they've been trusted and have more experience and--" Kaido objected and Zuko lifted a hand.
"since the war ended you've done more than any of them have even thought of doing. You've practically organized the negotiations yourself, you were the one that signed off on the order to have the damaged parts of the city rebuilt and sacrificed a portion of your own troops to the restoration in good faith of Ba Sing Se's outer wall." Zuko listed off and Kaido steadily got more and more embarrassed.
"that is… I'm just doing my fullest duty in my new capacity." Kaido answered, eyes directed at the floor. "during war I was nothing but a tactician, and now that there's no more war, I'll just be a tactician of peace."
"I'd lose my head without you there to tell me what to do." Zuko confessed and Kaido bowed a little.
"that'd be most regrettable sir." he stated and Zuko growled again.
"Zuko." he declared and Kaido bowed again.
"yes sir." he nodded and Zuko rolled his eyes.
"no, Zuko, yes Zuko." he stated and Kaido nodded.
"yes Fire Lord Zuko." he answered and Zuko groaned.
"are you completely incapable of familiarity?" he asked and Kaido smiled a little.
"I'm a general sir, we're not capable of anything." he answered and Zuko's brow furrowed.
"was that a joke?" Zuko asked and the general smiled.
"maybe sir." he answered.
"either way, you're coming. If I have to order it, I will." Zuko stated and Kaido nodded once more, saluting.
"yes sir, I understand." Kaido stated and Zuko sighed.
"I'll order you to call me Zuko too." he declared and Kaido smiled a little.
"old habits die hard sir." he said and Zuko got the distinct feeling that he was being manipulated a bit.
"if you say so." he muttered.
"well sir, if this is all, I've got to go flip the palace upside down for two months while we get everything ready…" Kaido sighed and started to the door.
"good luck." Zuko called after him and Kaido chuckled weakly.
"I'm going to need all I can get sir…" he answered then left, Zuko shaking his head.
End Chapter 1.
Yay! I got a very Belagariad type vibe from it towards the end and was distinctly reminded of Garion… if you have no clue what I'm talking about you don't read enough Fantasy… Oh and anyone that caught the Sandman reference gets a cookie.