Chapter 2: A Royal Pain
Princess Azula was walking back to her ship docked on the northern coast of the Earth Kingdom, heading back from a visit to her brother and uncle. She had just told them that her father wanted Zuko back home, though it was just a pretense to lock up Iroh and keep him from interfering with the war effort again. Azula knew that her brother suspected the lie, but was sure that his desire to return home would overrule caution.
At sundown Azula arrived at the ship, walking up the portside metal ramp to get on deck. Sitting in front of the ship's cabin were Lo and Li, two old crones that Azula wanted to throw overboard at the first opportunity. They had been sent with Azula to oversee the completion of her training in lightning bending, a skill that every royal heir needed to possess. But Azula could never understand how two nonbenders could possibly understand one of the rarest forms of firebending, let alone teach it to others.
Without a word Azula assumed the stance for the technique, extending just two fingers on each hand. She moved her arms in the circular patterns that charged a bolt of lightning, energy crackling at her fingertips. Once she had the bolt charged Azula thrust one hand towards the sea, firing the lightning from her fingertips into the water. Her technique was nearly perfect, except for one strand of hair that came out of Azula's topknot.
The two old crones were about to mention the loose strand of hair when the water erupted, right where Azula's lightning had struck. "What in the world?" both crones said at once.
Coming out of the water was Goku, one hand clenched on the tail of a dolphin-shark. Rising into the air with his catch Goku's hair was sticking out in even more directions than usual, statically charged by the electricity in the water. The dolphin-shark was twitching as some electricity still shocked it, dying and slightly cooked.
"Hey!" Goku complained as he hovered above the water. He had been minding his own business underwater fishing for his dinner, when out of nowhere lightning struck the water next to him. Without his guard up the electricity had shocked him, but left no noticeable damage. "What was that for?" he yelled.
Azula stared at the man hovering in the air, dressed in Water Tribe clothing. Though his black hair and light skin suggested that he was Fire Nation, his muscular physique suggested an Earth Kingdom upbringing. Azula had no idea how he could hover in the air without wind or flame holding him up, even as he drifted towards the ship.
"Sir… we didn't know you were there," Azula answered.
Goku set foot on the deck of Azula's ship and dropped his dolphin-shark. He rifled his fingers through his hair to get rid of the static charge, returning his hair to its normal spiky style. "It's nothing a good meal won't fix," Goku said.
"Um, okay?" Azula muttered, gesturing to the door of the ship's cabin. "By the way, what is your name?"
"Goku," he answered. "And yours?"
One of Azula's servants took the dolphin-shark that Goku had caught and brought it into the ship's galley. The ship's cook stripped the fish of its meat and prepared a meal of sushi, enough to feed the entire crew. Servants carried platters stacked with sushi to Azula's personal dining quarters, where she invited Goku to dine. Azula wanted to impress Goku with a meal fit for a lord, hoping to convince him to divulge the secret of his ability to fly.
Instead Azula witnessed Goku practically inhale every last piece of sushi, and she looked on in disgust as Goku belched when he was finished. "That was great," Goku complimented. "It is so much better than trying to cook myself."
"I'll take your word for it," Azula said. She glanced out a porthole window, seeing the moon rising in the night sky. "It's getting late, I can have a room prepared for you."
"Thanks," Goku said, getting up and straightening his shirt. "I don't suppose anyone here has spare clothes that fit me? Blue isn't really my color."
"Of course," Azula said, glad to learn that Goku wasn't aligned with the Water Tribe. "Right this way."
Azula walked through a door into the hallway and found the nearest servant, giving the order to have the best crew quarters reassigned to the new guest. She ordered another servant to find Fire Nation clothing that would fit Goku and stock the assigned room with it. There was one crewman aboard that had the same frame as Goku, who donated his spare clothing at Azula's request.
In the assigned quarters Goku slept through the night in a bed, the first one he'd been in since his Capsule Corp spaceship on the way to Namek. The next morning Goku checked a closet for new clothes, finding red shirts and pants inside. He exchanged his blue pants for the red ones, and wore one of the red shirts on top of his blue shirt. Keeping his old blue wristbands, blue belt, and black boots, Goku's new outfit resembled his regular uniform.
"Well it's not orange, but it's close enough," Goku muttered to himself. He walked out of the quarters and through the ship, heading up some stairs to reach the deck.
But on the last flight of steps there were a pair of soldiers in the way. "Sir, please remain down below. There's a delicate situation up there."
Having no idea what the guards were referring to, Goku was only more curious about what they were trying to hide. He glanced towards the portside of the ship, sensing the presence of new energy. "Some new guests hardly seem delicate."
"How could you know…?"
Not wanting to explain how he could sense the energies of people around him, Goku instead pushed the soldiers out of his way and continued up the steps. Emerging on deck near the ship's cabin Goku saw Azula standing at the top of a metal ramp that was connected to a pier, and she was looking down at her brother and uncle walking in between two lines of soldiers standing at attention.
Azula didn't notice Goku standing on the deck, focusing on the task at hand. "Brother, Uncle, welcome. I'm so glad that you decided to come."
While Zuko and Iroh bowed in respect, the rows of soldiers lined up behind them. The ship's captain stood at the base of the ramp, facing Azula. "Are we ready to depart, your highness?"
"Set a course for home, captain," Azula ordered.
"You heard the princess, raise the anchor," the captain ordered the crew. "We're taking the prisoners home."
The captain realized his mistake too late, having given away Azula's deception. Before he could apologize or make any excuses the captain heard Iroh starting to fight off the soldiers behind him. Zuko grabbed the captain and threw him overboard, leaving nothing between him and Azula. And all the while Goku observed, wondering whose side he should be on or whether he should even get involved.
"You lied to me!" Zuko yelled, walking up the ramp to face his sister.
"Like I've never done that before," Azula admitted.
In spite of not knowing who Zuko was, Goku felt sympathy for him. The large burn scar over Zuko's eye implied a rough life, and that he had already suffered enough. Goku wanted to give him a fair chance at escaping Azula's trap, and he had the perfect technique to accomplish that goal. He jumped into the air above the ship, drawing attention with the great height of his jump and not coming back down.
"Up here!" Goku yelled, drawing even more attention from the soldiers below. When enough of the soldiers had taken a slight glance upward Goku held his hands beside his face, his palms facing his ears while he closed his eyes. "Solar Flare!"
Blinding light erupted from Goku's face, outshining even the sun in the sky. Anyone looking directly at it was instantly blinded, and even those looking away still had to shield their eyes. But Zuko's left eye was weakened by the scar around it, and it was less affected by the light than his good eye. The left eye could see the position Goku held his hands, and Zuko could feel that image being burned into his mind.
When the light vanished Goku hovered above the ship and watched chaos spread down below. Crewmen and soldiers were throwing fire around blindly, hitting each other more often than Zuko or Iroh. Azula created a wall of blue fire around herself, shielding herself from stray fire until her vision could recover. Zuko stumbled half blind across the pier to get away from the ship, grabbing Iroh's arm and pulling him along.
When Azula's vision recovered enough to see blurred images she extinguished her wall of blue fire, finding Zuko and Iroh long gone. She looked up and saw Goku hovering above her, unaffected by the light he had generated. Furious that Goku had betrayed her, Azula started making the circular arm motions to charge lightning. She fired the lightning straight up, aiming to shoot Goku out of the sky.
Right before the lightning could hit the target Goku swung his left arm in the path of the attack, hitting the lightning with the back of his hand. The strike deflected the lightning off its course, arcing harmlessly into the water. Goku waved with his left hand, showing that he had suffered no harm. With nothing left to do nearby Goku generated a white aura and flew off at high speed, not caring that Azula was cursing his name behind him.