Another oneshot! I read a REALLY good fanfiction (Embers by Vathara) in the AtlA fandom and it inspired me to write this, although this one's still based in the canon-verse (with a splash of Embers commentary, like the way bending's treated, etc.) So here we go!
"Rise and fight Prince Zuko."
The Fire Lord marched towards his heir, feet thumping firmly as he walked towards the prostrated form of his only son. The boy was shaking, but his voice was firm.
"I won't fight you."
"You will learn respect. And suffering will be your teacher."
The Fire Lord stood in front of the Prince, who looked up at his father, tears flowing from his eyes. What he saw terrified him. He'd expected anger and disappointment, an expression he was all too used to seeing directed at him from his father. Instead, he saw nothing. There was nothing in his father's face but grim, set features.
Ozai drew back, planting one foot and breathed. Zuko gasped, shock locking him in place. He felt his father's chi draw up with the motion, as if he was…but that couldn't be….he was his –
Ozai's fist came forward, a jet of searing orange and red flaring from its end directly towards Zuko's face. Zuko gasped and, on impulse, twitched backwards, the fire sailing over his head as he was forced back onto his haunches, stunned.
"You can see I don't treat this matter lightly, now will you fight Prince Zuko? I'd rather have no heir than one such as you, who doesn't respect his own honor enough to stand up for it!" Zuko blinked, tears flowing even more and his father's eyebrows lowered in anger, "And you cry. Where you should stand and fight, you weep like a peasant girl. You disgrace Agni Kai, our most sacred of ceremonies, with your weakness! Your insolence!"
Drawing his fist back, Ozai breathed once again and then exhaled, sending out another gout of flame. Again, Zuko narrowly dodged, the edge of the fire clipping his top knot. Finally, he found his voice again and cried out, once more bowing before his sire.
"Father please! I was only doing what was best for the Fire Nation. Spare me your punishment. I will do anything, Father. Anything!"
Ozai stepped forward towards Zuko, lashing out with a vicious kick that caught Zuko in the shoulder, flipping him onto his back. Zuko tried to scramble away, only for Ozai's foot to come down on his chest, pinning him.
"Anything you say…do you stand by your words, Prince Zuko?" Gasping, the boy said,
"Yes Father! Whatever you may ask of me, I am yours to command! I'm your loyal son."
The corner of Ozai's lip rose into a smirk, and he said,
"Fine. I only have one request, it's fairly simple. Find the Avatar."
The crowd, maintaining the respectful silence of Agni Kai, looked at each other, askance. The Avatar?! He'd been missing for a hundred years. He'd eluded the grasp of three different Fire Lords, what made Ozai think this wretch of a prince could do what so many had failed to do before?
Zuko looked at his father, mouth open to protest the impossibility of such a thing, only to close it and nod, eyes closed.
"I…I will find the Avatar for you, Fire Lord Ozai. I am your faithful son and heir."
"Good…very good Prince Zuko."
Zuko felt the pressure of Ozai's foot on his chest start to lift but, as he started to rise, he was forced back down again. He looked questioningly up at the Fire Lord, only to be graced with a cruel smirk.
"Where do you think you're going? There's still the matter of your lesson…" And the Fire Lord drew back and breathed, his chi roiling inside of him, before he lowered his fist in exhalation, drowning out the screams of his son with the heat of his flames.
Wounding a bender is always tricky; they're just tougher than most people. Naturally. Wounding a bender with their own element? Even trickier. Their chi rises to the familiar feeling and combats the damage attempting to be done. After all, there's a reason it takes water benders nearly three times longer to drown than most people. And there's a reason earth bending miners didn't bother with safety equipment when they worked.
That being said, Zuko's chi rose to fight back. It felt the heat of its own element and rose to rebuke it, coalescing around Zuko's face and reflecting much of the flames. Zuko screamed as he felt the heat building up in spite of his chi, as Ozai maintained the stream. Suddenly it stopped, as did Zuko's screaming, which turned into painful rasps underneath Ozai's boot.
The Fire Lord looked down at Zuko's face, at the deeply pink flush, and shook his head.
"Resilience of chi. At least that's one thing you can state you possess, Prince Zuko. But regardless, I feel that you haven't learned a thing. A little pain is nothing. You need to remember this day, which means it needs to make a lasting impression." Ozai stroked his beard, calmly observing the haggard countenance of his son, before giving Zuko that little cruel smirk again, "It needs to be something you will always remember, something you'd see every time you opened your eyes."
Rearing back once again, Ozai drew his fist back. Zuko struggled weakly, seeing what was coming but unable to stop it. His father's fist came down, fire streaming forth, the flames more orange and white than they were before, as the Fire Lord compressed his chi and focused on his target.
Zuko's screams reached a new pitch as he felt the instant wash of heat sear into the left side of his face. His chi rose to defend him and fought Ozai's fire, desperation fueling its efforts. Again, Ozai stopped and looked down at Zuko, who'd fallen unconscious midway through. Around Zuko's left eye, it was all pink, with a slightly deeper pink focused on his eye. With a simple "That will not do", Ozai bent down and grabbed Zuko by his topknot, hefting him to his feet.
The sudden jolt forced the prince into wakefulness and he struggled weakly in his Father's grasp.
"Ah, you've awoken. This is good. What good's a lesson if the student isn't there to pay attention?" And Ozai drew back again and drove his fist forward, the crown prince's new proximity meaning his knuckles stopped a mere two inches before the prince's eye. Zuko cringed, eyes shut and preparing for the pain. But nothing happened.
Zuko waited, too afraid and hurt to breathe. Seconds passed. Then minutes. Finally, he opened his eyes, only to see his left eye dominated with the contours of his father's fist glowing a cherry red.
"Like I said Prince Zuko, you need to see this."
And Zuko's world shattered, becoming a haze of pain and fire and heat.
Ozai dropped the prince, his body falling limply to the floor. With a flick of his boot, he flipped the young prince over and bent down, looking at the dark black and red surrounding Zuko's left eye. The skin was angry and puffed up, cracks and blisters ran it straight through as several of them leaked blood. It was a pale mockery of crying, and was the closest Zuko would get to crying from his left eye ever again.
Putting his lips near his ear, Ozai whispered,
"There. Your place is known. By you and all that gaze upon you from this day." Ozai then stood up and walked off, without so much as a word, leaving his son where he lay. As he left and the doors closed, hushed whispers started among the crowd, the reaction to the Fire Lord's cruelty somewhat mixed. Only two stood apart from the gossip of the Fire Nation upper class. One looked at her precious Zuzu and could only smile, while one looked at former Prince Zuko and wept.
There, done! I always figured that benders had to be pretty tough, just overall, and this should apply doubly so when it comes to wounding them with their own element. So I don't think Zuko's scarring could've been as simple as they showed it in the show, hence this! Hope you guys like it, I wrote it at like 4 AM so for all I know, it's complete shit, but here's hoping it's not! R&R!