One day before the events of Sozin's comet.
Azula, Princess of the Fire Nation, awoke earlier than usual. It was the day before Sozin's Comet, one day before everything will change. She didn't have time to sleep. Azula looked one last time at the detailed maps and the many notes she had written about them.
Azula didn't have time for breakfast and instead walked directly to her father's apartments. She wasn't sure if he had already woken up, but she didn't have to wait. Time was her enemy today. There wouldn't be a way back if she entered his room. Azula didn't even look at the guards that protected her father as she waited for them to announce her.
They didn't look to happy at the prospect, but they didn't dare ignore her command. After about half a minute, the doors were opened and a very unhappy Ozai looked at his daughter.
'What are you doing here so early?' he asked frowning.
"I'm sorry father,' Azula said, bowing her head. 'I need to talk with you and it couldn't wait.' She looked up at him again. 'Can I come in? This conversation should stay between us.'
Ozai seemed unhappy but interested in what she had to say at the same that. Why couldn't it wait? He nodded and Azula entered his room. The guards closed the doors behind her.
"What is so important that it can't wait until later?" Ozai said.
Azula had been planning this conversation for days now.
"I needed to talk about tomorrow."
Ozai frowned. "I wanted to talk about that as well ane we would during the ceremony, so we can just delay this conversation.'
Azula shook her head. "I need to talk about it now."
Ozai wasn't used to this kind of behaviour from his daughter and it irritated him, but he was also curious.
"What is so important?" he finally said.
"I have been thinking,' Azula said. 'And I probably I won't go with you tomorrow."
It surprised Ozai that his daughter would let go of the chance to be a participant of the greatest mission of his reign. He was glad though; he would have asked her later in that day and he had thought she would refuse to stay behind. Now she suggested it herself… but why?
That's also what Ozai asked her.
"I believe that you are capable to burn world without me at your side, father,' Azula said. 'I would feel more useful when I stayed behind to defend our homes from our enemies. You know we have a lot of them."
Ozai nodded thoughtfully. "Not a bad train of thought, Azula. I agree with you that it is very important to keep our capital safe.'
Azula smirked, happy with her father's decision. Ozai wasn't done, though. "I have something to say to you as well. I wanted to say it during our ceremeny, but I don't see I reason why I can't tell you know.' Ozai smirked. "I have decided to decare you Fire Lord."
Azula didn't often show her emotions, but right now the surprise was visible on her face. She had tried tot hink about all the possibilities, but this hadn't even crossed her mind. She didn't want to except it.
"Really? But…. What about you?" she said, still confused.
Ozai turned to window and looked outside, at the far-away horizon in eastern direction. .
"Tomorrow, then we burn the Earth Kingdom to the ground," he said. "The world will be reborn from the ashes and I will be ruler of all. I don't need to be Fire Lord anymore - I will be the phoenix king."
"Phoenix king?" Azula repeated. "Sounds powerful… but I wanted to ask one more thing. I need a few war balloons."
His daughter was full of surprises today. "Why would you need them?"
"I checked our capital's defense yesterday and realised that there are only a few soldiers to defend it. Most of them you take along with you, so I thought it wase a good idea tob ring more soldiers from the south. I have been told that the southern raiders are prepared to fight for you. This is also why I came so early. If you agree with me, I'll have to let them know as soon as possible."
Ozai nodded. "I can miss a few war balloons. I agree with you – you have my permission to stay behind and defend the capital."
"You are dismissed," he added.
Azula bowed her head. "Thank you for your confidence, father. We will see each other after the world has changed."
After she had left the room a small satisfied smile appeared on her face. Everything had gone better than she thought it would. She went straight to hangars where the ballons were kept.
"Who is responsible for these war balloons?" she asked.
"I am, Princess," answered man from a balloon roof, climbing down quickly to bow before her."
"I want three ballons prepared for flight immediately," Azula said.
The man seemed confused. "I've been that a lot of ballons will be used for tomorrow."
Azula narrowed her eyes. "This is my command," she said. "Fire Lord Ozai has given me his permission and if you don't want to be used to fuel these balloons, you might hrry up. I will be back after one hour and I expect them to be prepared for flight by then."
The man bowed his head. "Yes Princess, I am sorry Princess."
She turned around and walked to the harbor, having a lot of things to do and too little time. Finally she found one of the servants she sought. "You, yes you," she said. "Go now and find the Dai Li commander, say him that I will be waiting for him near balloons hangars."
"Yes, of course princess, with pleasure princess" the servant said while bowing.
One more thing left to do. She was waiting here for some time before she saw the ship she had been waiting for. This ship had a black dragon on his flag, the sign of one of the best Fire Nation commanders. A tall, rough man walked out of the ship and bowed when he saw her.
"Rise,' Azula commanded.
"Princess," the man said. "I have a letter from our commander Chan for you, but I see you have been waiting for it. I do apologize."
"Yes of course I was waiting. You are 10 minutes later," she answered while taking the letter. "Punctuality is important. Make sure it won't happen again."
The letter contained only one sentence: Everything is prepared for your plan, Night dragons are yours, Princess". Azula smirked before looking at the man once more.
"You are dismissed, return to your post."
The man bowed and turned around. Azula folded the letter before she returned to the hangers where her balloons were now prepared to fly.
"Everything is ready, princess," the man said. "The crew is inside and I've made sure there's enoug fuel.'
Azula nodded. "Good."
"And...there is a man who is waiting for you, Princess," the man said. She looked over her shoulder and saw her Dai Li commander… what was his name? He bowed before her.
"The Dai Li is ready for your orders, Princess."
Azula handed him a paper. "I currenly have some business that takes me away frm the captial. I need you to do one thing. Tomorrow, anything could happend and if some issues appear… you'll be responsible to make them disappaer. Orders are in this letter. Read it and burn it. I won't return for few days. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Princess," her commander said. "The Dai Li won't disappoint you."
I certainly hope so, because if they do, everything would be for nothing, Azula thought when she walked over the balloon's bridge.
"Set course to Southern Riders post, Princess?" the soldiers who had been trained in flying asked.
"No, they will be taken here by ships," Azula responded. "We're going to the Night Dragons post."
The soldier seemed confused.
"Don't you know what to do with that steering-wheel?" Azula snapped.
"Yes Princess," the soldier said. "I'm sorry."
So it started...
P.S. searching for beta reader