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Clash of Fire
Chapter information
Series

The Desire for Honor

Chapter

4

Written by

AvatarAero

Release date

January 6, 2017

Chronology
Last chapter

The Blockade

This is Chapter 4 of The Desire for Honor, titled "Clash of Fire". The Desire for Honor, written by AvatarAero, follows the story of Azula in an alternate universe as she takes Zuko's place in banishment.

Author's Note

Welcome to the last day of this whole week of fanon posting. I'm tired from writing all of these; how about you?

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this week of posting fanons. I couldn't get in the new story that I wanted to, but I did not have time with the amount of fanons I wanted to complete. Hell, I had to finish at least 7 chapters for this week and then for the fanons in a couple of weeks. 

Anyway, I hope this was a good start to your year, and look forward to more fanons coming this month!

Chapter 4: Clash of Fire

Zhao crouched low on his side of the arena, his Fire Nation rag across his shoulders. His chiseled body was put on show for all the audience, of which there were many. Word of the Agni Kai spread like wildfire throughout the city of Haruka. In front of him, Azula stood with her boot directly under Zhao's face.

"Don't disappoint me. This is not just for you; my honor rests on this as well."

Zhao gritted his teeth, but this time, he was completely willing to put the anger to good use. The rage fueled his firebending, and he could feel the heat rising underneath his skin. He had been humiliated by Iroh in the past, but no longer.

On the other side of the arena, a fit Iroh was preparing himself for the fight as well. His rag was embroidered, well made and signified his position in the Fire Nation as the brother of the Fire Lord and one of the highest commanders. He held himself to a high standard, and he wouldn't let himself be defeated by one of his old rivals.

Both of the men stood up, letting the rags on their shoulders fall to their feet. They turned around, whipping their muscled bodies through the air. On the tiers above them, hordes of people began to cheer as a gong rang out through the air.

Even from the distance of 10 meters, Zhao and Iroh could clearly see directly into each other's eyes. Zhao knew that he would have to outplay Iroh to win the fight, but it would take considerable skill on his part, and a slight...misstep on Iroh's part.

After a tense moment, and unlike their previous encounters, it was Iroh who began the fight, with a barrage of fireballs that caught Zhao off guard. Not only was Zhao usually the one to initiate attack, but Iroh was a more passive bender. Zhao grimaced. There would be some more skill required than he thought, and a lot more luck than before.

He had no time to think further, as Iroh's next barrage of attacks came hurling at him. Iroh tried many ways to trap Zhao inside of a firestorm, but Zhao knew Iroh's tricks. Ducking, dodging, avoiding and flat out extinguishing the blasts, both Zhao and Iroh were breathing heavily at the end of the second round.

The crowd began to gasp, and whispered amongst one another. Zhao wanted to raze the stadium to the ground if they continued.

Iroh noted Zhao's distraction. Before Zhao could react once more, Iroh yelled and began a fresh wave of fire, except these were meant to wear out Zhao rather than forcibly attack him. Zhao's physical fitness was incredible, but even he couldn't stand up to the constant maelstrom from Iroh.

Zhao was breathing much too heavily for his own good by the time Iroh had finished with the blasts. Iroh was also breathing heavily, but less so than Zhao.

Zhao knew that this was his last opportunity. He couldn't pass up this chance; the very moment that could decide the Agni Kai. So he let his shoulders slump down; barely perceptible, but enough that he knew Iroh would notice.

Right on cue, Iroh began to pelter Zhao with another set of attacks. By this time, the crowd was more enthusiastic about Iroh's victory and cared more about how he was fighting than whether he would win or not. Zhao tried to anticipate Iroh's blows, but in the end, he with hit one too many times, and came crashing down onto the dirt.

With powerful strides, Iroh came up directly in front of Zhao, his chest heaving with breaths. Iroh drew back his fist, and Zhao could see the fire combusting at the front of Iroh's knuckles. Zhao closed his eyes and waited for the singe of fire against his face, hoping against hope that his plan would work.

The immense heat from the fire blast...didn't feel nearly as hot as it should have been. He felt the fireball implode against the dirt directly to the right of his face, and kicked upwards with his leg, extending a spray of flames towards Iroh, who stumbled back, blinking rapidly.

Iroh roared in pain, obviously blinded by some trick of light. Zhao smiled, glad that his soldiers performed as expected. With renewing confidence, based mostly on Iroh's discomfort, Zhao stepped forward, sending gigantic blasts of flame towards the unbalanced Iroh.

Iroh wasn't down for the count, however. Trying to gain footing, he parried each blast from Zhao with ease, but that wasn't Zhao's main gaol. Iroh was not allowed to regain his ground. The instant that Zhao saw Iroh plant a foot down, he sent another curved fire blast towards him. Regardless of how effective his defense was, without his balance, Iroh was as good as done in the fight.

A subsequent cheer from the road fueled Zhao's advances. Iroh struggled to defend himself, and any counterattacks from Iroh were wild flames, jettisoned into the sky, completely missing Zhao. With successive blasts towards Iroh, Zhao continued his march forward, almost driving Iroh back to his own corner.

Roaring like a lion, Zhao bounded towards the weakened Iroh, with fists blazing with fire. A final barrage of fireballs had Iroh fall to the ground, and Zhao stood above him to deliver the customary final blow. However, Zhao simply glared at the prostate form of Iroh.

"Get in my way again, and I will do worse."

Iroh balked at the threat, before regaining his voice and beginning to howl at Zhao. "You swine! For years, your jealousy has boiled inside of you, to a point where you are willing to cheat and swindle others to achieve your goals. Defying a commander of the Fire Nation, unjustly defeating him in an Agni Kai, for what? To salvage your position in the Fire Nation? That has been long gone, Zhao. You don't know the meaning of honor!" Iroh seemed to gain power as he vented, rising back up to his feet and standing in front of

With a swift movement, Zhao come close to Iroh, staring directly into Iroh's fiery eyes. Zhao's body burned with rage, but, like he had for the past 40 years, he calmed himself, and added the rage to an inner well that he would draw upon in situations such as these.

"You know nothing of honor," Zhao whispered, barely audible for Iroh. Turning on his heels, Zhao stalked away, continuing his talk with Iroh. "As you have stated in the conditions of our Agni Kai, I will be taking my ship and leaving this harbor. On our way, we will purchase food and other supplies for the journey. Tread lightly around such matters, Commander, lest your arrogance get the better of you."

Iroh fumed alone on the mud arena, steam from his nose beginning to swirl around his feet.

Azula and Zhao walked together down from the arena and through the village to the docks. As Azula reflected on how Zhao managed to distract Iroh, she began to smile, and it was legitimately out of enjoyment, and not cruelty.

"Genius, Zhao. You have truly outdone yourself. Picking today, at this very time, to have the Agni Kai was brilliant."

Zhao smiled, reveling in the feeling of accomplishment and Azu;a's compliments. "Well, taking advantage of the metalwork in the stadium was simple. Teaching a fellow bender of mine how to reflect his fire was the hard part. But, it kept the Avatar with us, and so I believe that it was worth it. Wouldn't you?"

"Yes," Azula agreed. And for the first time since leaving the Fire Nation on their banishment voyage, Zhao felt that she truly meant it.

Zhao and Azula made it to the docks, where they informed the soldiers of their victory. "Today is a good day for us," Zhao announced. "Not only did we make it across the bay, but we fought for our right to keep the Avatar and the waterbender prisoner, and we now have a direct course to the Fire Nation. Now, each and every one of you is quite hungry, and I know that. Our ship has gold, and we deserve this time to rest and restock for the last part of our journey. For after 3 years, we are able to return home!"

The crew cheered, ignoring the staring passerby, who took one look at the Fire Nation symbol on the side of the ship and hurried onwards. As Zhao took some time and explained to them how and where to buy food and supplies, so as to attract the least amount of attention, Azula couldn't help but feel a sense of courage about the days ahead, and the pride at being able to learn under Zhao's wing. A master strategist, a natural leader and a friend to the Fire Lord, he had everything. Which made his subsequent banishment and defiling that much more curious. But that could be saved until the day that they returned.

Once the soldiers had dispersed, traveling deep within the village to procure the supplies for the journey, Azula and Zhao entered the ship, to once again check on their prisoners.

Aang and Katara were in poor shape. They had lost a lot of weight, a direct result of having no water or food for days and being in constant pain. Their joints at their extremes were rubbed raw by the cuffs, and it was obvious that neither of them could bend even if they were unchained.

Azula walked up to Katara. "This wasn't even meant for you," she sneered. "All you had to do was stay in your cell. You brought this upon yourself."

Katara looked up at Azula. With heavy breaths, she panted, "And I wouldn't change a thing," before spitting in Azula's face. Azula flinched, and slowly wiped the phlegm off of her cheeks before whispering in a cold voice, "Wasting your water on spite? How childish. I'll make sure, personally, that your punishment now is nothing compared to what you receive in the Fire Nation."

Aang hadn't stirred during the conversation, and Zhao leaned in to examine his eyes. There was movement below the lids, but not much, signifying that the Avatar was either in a coma, or asleep. Whichever it was, the Fire Lord could use him.

Zhao leaned back into an upright position. "It seems our historians were correct. Keeping him in such pain doesn't trigger the legendary Avatar State, nor will it ever. The danger of being starved to death or dehydration isn't enough to cause the Avatar State either. We have effectively incapacitated him. I shall be sure to reward them handsomely when we return."

Azula nodded, and the both of them ascended the stairs out of the prison hold out into the hallways, and from there onto the deck of the ship, as they both contemplated life at home after 3 years.

It took the soldiers a good two hours to return to the ship, bogged down by the enormity of the supplies they had to carry. Zhao and Azula assessed the total amount of food, water, toiletries and other necessities that had been acquired, and judged it to be sufficient for the week long journey back to the Fire Nation, the statement sending a cheer of good spirits among the soldiers.

The soldiers were then told to pile the supplies into the hold, which they did so without complaint, and were also told to rest for the days ahead. Only the mechanics and engineers that allowed the ship to function were exempt; granted, they were unable to rest once the supplies were loaded. Thankfully, the ship was underway within half an hour, and Azula sailed out of harbor, content that she was finally returning to her home without the slightest of a hitch.

However, just as they attempted to sail towards the direction of the Fire Nation, from their left approached a battalion of ships: 10 strong battleships armed with multiple catapults, cannons that shot fire, and hundreds of firebenders. Azula's jaw dropped as she soaked in the sight, before she ran to the bridge to warn Zhao. He had already been alerted to the sight, however, and his face was contorted into a grimace.

Iroh's voice rang out over the clear bay, the sounds cutting clearly across the hundred meters that separated the two sides. "Princess Azula, I do not wish to harm you or your crew. Commander Zhao has been charged with treason against a Fire Nation commander and the harboring of an illegal citizen. He is to be handed over, along with said illegal citizens. In the event that this does not happen, we will fire using our considerable manpower upon your ship. You have 30 minutes to decide."

Zhao gritted his teeth, but his response was swift. "Send our best firebenders to the prison and retrieve the Avatar and the waterbender," he told the captain. "We'll have to escape using our longboats, and let them fire onto the ship."

The captain was startled. "Sir, I would not advise doing so -"

Zhao's rage burst forth. "Did you not hear me? This is the most important operation of your life, and you would rather waste the time asking questions? Who on earth appointed your bumbling self as a captain! Do what you are told to do!"

Cowering under the outburst from the enraged Commander, the captain scurried off of the bridge, and let Azula and Zhao alone. Azula was horrified by the instant change in personality that she had never seen so visibly from Zhao. She was taken aback, and her aggressive and dominating personality took a backseat as she worried for the safety of her prisoners.

"What are we going to do?" she whispered, almost rhetorically. Zhao responded in a hoarse voice. "We sacrifice the many for the lives of the few."

******

Iroh didn't want to resort to such measures of threatening and blackmail, but he had no choice. Zhao lied to him, deceived him and cheated his way out of handing the prisoners over. As the commander, Iroh had to do what his nation commanded him to.

He'd always liked Azula. Unfortunately, she grew up under the wing of Zhao, a corrupt and disgusting human being whose only goal was destruction and demolition. There was no telling what he would do for his goals, and that included cheating, stealing and treason.

"Commander, we have 5 minutes left until the deadline."

There wasn't much Iroh could do about losing the waterbender and the Avatar. The Fire Nation would have to look through the Water Tribes to find the new Avatar, but with their luck, the Avatar would be born into the Southern Water Tribe, a much easier target.

Unfortunately, should the Avatar be born into the Northern Water Tribe, there would need to be a much more...invasive maneuver to gain the Avatar's possession. The Fire Lord wouldn't be pleased that his daughter and friend were gone, blown up into a thousand pieces, lying at the bottom of some bay in the Earth Kingdom, but once Iroh told his younger brother the story, he was sure that Ozai would understand.

"Commander, their time is up. Would you like me to initiate the attack?"

Iroh took a deep breath, sighed, and nodded his head slowly.

******

Azula, Zhao, the captain and the best firebenders on the ship watched as their comrades burned in their sleep and their ship went down in flames.

They viewed the horrific burning from the shores of the Earth Kingdom, in some sort of forest. Their two prisoners were well and truly unconscious, a side effect of being malnourished and in agony for over two weeks. They would soon wake up, however, and be forced to walk with Azula's party through the jungles until they reached the islands of the Fire Nation. There, Azula would use her influence as Princess to get them to the capital.

Luckily, thanks to some quick thinking by one of the more experienced soldiers, they were able to salvage some of the supplies, enough to keep them alive for a few weeks. They would have to resort to more extreme measures, should they need to acquire more supplies.

Azula was the first to look away from the wreckage, followed by Zhao and the captain. Some of the soldiers were distraught at losing their friends, the only distinction between them being their skills at bending. However, their only hope now was to move forward, and so, begrudgingly, they trudged through the forest following Azula.

Iroh felt a tear trickle down his cheek as he watched the ship explode. He hoped against hope that Azula made it out, preferably without the prisoners, but he knew that neither of those things occurred. He felt much less sorry for Zhao, but sorry nonetheless. At least in the Fire Nation, he would be kept alive.

Iroh's aide stepped up next to him. "The deed is done, Commander. Is there anything else you would like me to do?"

Iroh nodded slowly. "Send a message to the Fire Lord," he intoned. "'The Fire Princess, Azula, and the traitorous Commander Zhao are both dead, caught in the treasonous act of harboring the Avatar and a waterbender. As per the rules of the Fire Nation, we sentenced them to death, along with all on board.'"

Author's Note

That was it. I'm too tired to make an ending author's note. Just...wait a few days (maybe 5) for the next chapter. It's going to be Fire of the Red Lotus, so if you like that fanon, you should stick around.

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