Beta Read by APigInRollerSkates. A huge shoutout and thanks to him!
Fire bent from his fingertips where there used to be hand seals. His kata forms pristine, perfect, and flawless. The speed of his kicks and punches created surging fire, the training room lit ablaze with sheer terror and pride. Landing with grace and bowing to the Prince, he was met with silence from the man he called "Father".
To call him a Father is quite a stretch as he never was there for him and Azula. He is only present during his advanced firebending lessons that his Father provides to them and during dinner. Otherwise, he is in his private chambers. His father Ozai always wore an indifferent expression whenever he trained and only ever praised him to advance his own personal goal.
To him, this is only done to impress his father and nothing more. He does get some tips and a few tricks for a new form of fighting, but he quickly got adept at firebending, even from a young age. Fire is innate to the blood of an Uchiha, and he gained further understanding of fire from it. From his nightly readings, he found that this world is very different from the world that he once lived in. In this world, people bend physical elements instead of chakra manifestation.
Although, his own world doesn't revolve around that. He could still remember the gentle smile that his mother, Ursa, wore as he was introduced into this new world. Ozai, although somewhat apathetic to him, still wore a smile as he learned that his son is a firebender and a prodigy at that. Despite this, his Father is practically the same as the one from his past life, he is reserved.
Ozai nodded at his performance. "You have excelled from my expectations. Your day is free, Zuko. You are free to do as you please."
"I will father." He bowed as Ozai left his personal training room. He could tell that if his skills in firebending were ever inadequate, the privileges he gained from his father would wither. His training with Piandao would be greatly diminished and his night time privacy would be replaced with more hours in firebending training.
He trailed through the palace where he was met with smiles from the guards and servants as the sun sets from the west. In turn, he nodded and smiled slightly as he went to his chambers to freshen up and change clothes. The clothes he wore here are a far cry from the comfortable, but effective clothes given to him by the ANBU and Akatsuki. Despite this, his clothes were adequate enough for him and he did not complain, even with his privileges as the son of a Prince.
He examined himself in his own mirror. Instead of his signature hairstyle of a single low ponytail and center-parted bangs, all of his hair is placed in a single high ponytail. Supposedly, this symbolizes his nobility and stature, but to him, it's just all too much. He already has things that no commoner in the realm would ever have, and now their hair has to be high, just to make a clear message even more clear?
The prominent tear troughs that helped him in his intimidation, as well as distinguishing him from Sasuke is replaced by a smooth face appropriate for a noble. However, there is one thing that his new life hasn't replaced in terms of appearance. He turned his fire-like gold eyes into the red pinwheel one that he is so accustomed to, the Mangekyō Sharingan.
Upon activating the dōjutsu, he felt his energy draining faster than it should. With a blink of his eyes, he turned it back into his, now normal gold eyes.
As he is finishing tidying up, he can hear running from the halls of the palace and it is heading straight for his room. When the doors were opened, he was already finished, so he did not resist being tackled to the ground by a known assailant.
"Zuzu! You won't guess what happened!" Azula, his little sister, wore a giant smile that swelled his heart. She shuffled to get something from her pocket and showed him a paper, "I aced the exams! Ha! Just like you did!"
He chuckled and poked her forehead, "Ow! What was that for?" Azula demanded but he just shuffled her hair.
"I always knew you could do it, Azula. You should show it to mother and father, they will be proud too."
"Hmpf!" Azula huffed, "You always know everything, don't you!" He can already see the hint of a smirk that Azula tried to hide, so he tickled her.
He cherished his moments with Azula, his new sibling in this new world. He tries to be the best big brother that he can be to her, but still, there is a hint of melancholy in spending time with her. He did the same things with Sasuke, but his time with him was literally cut short.
"Zuzu stop it!" Azula laughed as he continued to tickle her until he came to an abrupt stop. "Bad Zuzu!" Azula smirked again saying, "Now that I aced the test, you have to teach me what father is teaching you. You promised you would!"
"Of course," He smiled, "If you have free time tomorrow, see me, okay, 'zula? Now, do you remember what we talked about, with the servants?"
"Yes… " Azula trailed as she rolled her eyes, "Be kind to them blah, blah, blah. I mean why do we need to be kind to them anyway? They're peasants!"
"Azula… remember what I said about the ship? If you are the Captain and just make everyone's life miserable, they will eventually commit mutiny. To rule with fear is to invite insurrection within your ranks. However, if you are kind to them and show them respect, they will do so in return."
"Alright, alright." Azula's shoulders resigned. "To be honest, you sound like Uncle or even Grandfather. If I were Grandfather, I would immediately appoint you as Crown Prince and ditch that tea lover. You'd be a great Fire Lord!"
He then gave a quick smile, "That Azula? That is one thing that I don't know."
"Why not? You're a genius! Father and Mother both adore you, the palace loves you. Even those generals try to woo you just to gain an insight into the war," Azula exclaimed loudly as she relaxed on his shoulders.
"Some, but not all. Most of them just want to introduce their daughters to me. As if I have interest in them," He chuckled. "Uncle will one day be a great Fire Lord, I'm sure of it." His Uncle was a kind man to him and taught him some advanced Firebending techniques, one of which can redirect lightning. Although, he was surprised to be able to do such a thing since it was not his Kekkei Genkai. Nevertheless, he welcomed its addition to his arsenal.
"That tea lover? Ughh…" Azula slouched, "I wonder what's happening in Ba Sing Se right now."
At that, he hardened his eyes, but Azula barely noticed. With that, he stood up and carried his sister, "Do you want to play hide and seek? Dinner will be in about an hour after all, and I have nothing to do."
Azula quickly shook her head, "No! You always know where I am, and when you hide I can't find you! You always win! It's not fair!"
He thought for a moment, "Hmmm how about this then? If you can find me, I'll teach you a firebending technique even father doesn't know."
"I don't know, it's kind of hard to believe Father doesn't know a technique that you know…" Azula said, trailing off, but he still didn't back down.
"Are you sure? You don't want to learn The Phoenix Style?"
"What's that?" Azula asks.
"Something that I invented," he said as he gave her a smirk. He can see that she still wasn't convinced. Placing her on the bed, he set his foot firmly on the middle of the room. No kata is formed, but he lets his chi flow from his body. From his place on the floor, he jumped up high and began to create a barrage of hot spitting fire in very quick succession using his fists and foot.
This firebending form is similar to the Katon: Hōsenka no Jutsu (Fire Release: Phoenix Sage Fire Technique), with spitting fire. However, he tried to emulate it with just sheer firebending and the results were from days of practice. Not as energy-efficient as ninjutsu, and he cannot control the trajectory of the flames as soon as it leaves his fists and feet.
Still, he has yet to reveal his abilities from his past life to anyone, not even Azula. If he does, they might just accuse him of being the Avatar.
As he landed to the ground he quickly extinguished the flames that he caused. He expects that Azula will have a slack-jawed face to the ground… and he was right.
"You have to teach me that!" Azula shouted, but she was met with his finger on her lips.
"I will, but only if you beat me at hind and seek, remember? Therefore, if you want to beat me, you'll actually have to play hide and seek with me," he said, smiling, "I'm also going to give you another leeway. The only floor that I can hide on is this floor. If I hide on any other floor, I automatically lose. Now, if you cannot find me within ten minutes, you lose," he said, about to go, but he turned his head on her, "also, NO FIREBENDING."
"Fiiinee…" Azula trailed off, and as soon as she turned her back, her brother was gone. "Zuzu here I come!"
Itachi, now Zuko, is a master of stealth. From his days in the ANBU and his time in the Akatsuki, he can infiltrate and do stealth missions with relative ease. Now, with Zuko's body, he hid in the shadows.
He still remembered how he spent his time when he was in the Hidden Leaf. Almost all the free time that he had, he gave it to Sasuke. However, his last days there were mostly trying to prevent the Uchiha Clan Uprising.
Now? He is trying to spend his free time with his new family. Even though his schedule is almost always busy, he still manages to spend time with Azula every now and then. He already noticed how their mother is quite distant towards her and how Ozai sows the seeds of cruelty in her. Ozai seeing that he couldn't be converted to his creed.
Ergo, he makes sure he is there to support her and give her the balance she needs because of how their parents treat her. Giving support and imbuing kindness to her. Almost becoming a third parent to her.
From his experience, Azula is a great hide and seek player… when he is not involved. When Azula plays with other kids, she always wins. Though, he could see those who play with her are just letting her win out of fear. Leaving her all alone, not even daring to even get close to her.
Now, most of the time, she plays alone or with him. Azula is great at hiding things, especially her sorrow. To keep her from her sorrow, her big brother is there and always has time to spare for her, like now.
Itachi doesn't want Azula to think that there isn't someone in her life that truly loved her, baring no fear or aggression towards her. Itachi can already see the contempt brewing in her heart and he knows where that can lead to. Sasuke is a testament to that.
He indulges her competitive heart with games like these, challenging her to become better.
Hiding in one of the slightly stuffy closets in the supply room, he is covering his mouth to lessen the dust intake. His hiding place already works wonders, as five minutes pass and Itachi doesn't hear any footsteps coming to the room. Waiting here gave him ample time to prepare. Of course, he is not going to let Azula win as he has many tricks up his sleeves. Once footsteps were heard outside, he prepared for the inevitable. The door slammed open and he heard a grumbling Azula.
"Stupid Zuzu. Stupid hide and seek. Ugh!" Itachi rattled in the closet just to provoke her, and Azula quickly opened the door, but instead of seeing him, what greeted her is… "Another log?!" She shouted as Itachi quickly fled the room, snickering to himself as he tried to find another hiding place. He knows she will want to burn the log, but he put in place a strict no firebending rule in this game. Such cruelty.
He wouldn't want this game to turn into search and destroy.
This time, he hid near the top of the columns, hiding in the darkness. His gaze then went to Azula who was walking down the halls gazing up at the columns, but was still unable to spot him.
Fidgeting in her place, he can tell that she's already tempted to use her firebending, just to light up the room. Her hunger for firebending was too much for her to handle and it's an endurance test for her not to use it. Azula visibly managed to reign herself in, resisting the urge to use her firebending. With a proud smile Itachi watched as Azula left the hallway without firebending a single flame.
Landing on the ground, Itachi scanned the hallway, making sure the coast was clear. He quickly sets off to move close to Azula, as he finds the game the most interesting when the danger is near. Not even the servants could see Itachi with how quickly he moved. Often just thinking the wind or some spirits of dead airbenders passed by. When he catches up to her, she's fuming in anger, trying really hard not to firebend away her problems.
He hid under a table, deliberately making noise just in earshot of her. Itachi can already feel the footsteps coming in his direction and when the table's flipped, Azula found… "A log?! Again?!" She shouted. "Why do I keep finding logs?!" Fire flared from her nostrils, and just like that, her control ran out. She threw a fist out of anger and was about to firebend.
However, before she could do it, her hand was stopped by Itachi and he poked her forehead with two of his fingers. "Your ten minutes are up. Looks like I won, again."
"Zuzu, you are cheating!" Azula shouted as she pointed her finger to him, "Every time I find you, it's always a log! You're cheating!"
"Oh, the logs?" Itachi smirked, "Those are decoys. I know you're going to take the bait every time."
"That's still cheating, Zuzu!"
"I never said anything about decoys, Azula. You can use decoys of your own too, that just makes hide and seek harder and far more interesting." He leaned on the wall next to a fuming Azula. "And logs are pretty easy things to get."
"Yeah, but I didn't see a servant just dragging logs in here." Azula huffed, but still sat beside her brother, "I wonder if you are just doing this just to make fun of me."
"I'm not," Itachi calmly said, but there's an edge to his voice. "Sure hide and seek is fun, but if you analyze it enough, you can draw parallels to it. In this game, it is all about deceiving your opponent about your position. It's the same when you are fighting, it's about reading your opponent and predicting their moves, baiting them, then countering them. This is just a much more fun, light-hearted version of it."
"Yeah, a version for losers." Azula huffed again, turning her head away from Itachi.
"Oh don't be like that," Itachi knelt in front of her. He still could see that Azula was avoiding his eyes, but soon enough, her head slowly turned to him. "You did well, even if you lost."
Azula pouted, "You're just saying that, so that I feel better."
"No, I'm not." Itachi gave her a genuine smile, "You've really improved. Maybe one day, you'll be able to see through my decoys and I may have to teach you the Phoenix Style. You want to learn it, right?"
Azula slowly nodded, "See? I know that hide and seek isn't really your favorite, so how about we play Pai Sho next time? You're good at it."
This time, Azula gave a bright smile, "Deal! No cheating, though!"
"I'm not cheating, Azula." Itachi gave a false grumble.
Azula didn't listen though, speeding through the corridors away from him, shouting, "Zuzu is a cheat!"
Itachi just gave a smile and moved on to his room, preparing for dinner.
Dinner is uneventful, just the typical food and splendor of the palace presented to them.
Even if Itachi has lived under his new name "Zuko" for eleven years now, there are things he is still getting used to. For example, how the writing system works here in this new world. It is pure Kanji rather than a mix of Hiragana and Katakana. While he did adapt to it quite fast, there are some kanji that are different from this world's writing system but nevertheless, the speaking language stayed the same.
Even in his death in that world, he loved two things, Konoha and his little brother Sasuke. For eleven years in his new life, he constantly thought about him. On what path he's on, now that Itachi showed him the truth of his shameful actions. Maybe he tried to destroy Konoha or perhaps he tried to get more answers. Just about anything that Itachi plans or tries to solve backfires.
In the years of these constant pandering thoughts, he has come to two conclusions. He cannot return to his old life, nor does he want to. Even though his knowledge of ninjutsu is still intact, along with his chakra, he doesn't truly have a place in that world. Now, he is creating a new life in this new world, by learning from his past mistakes. Choosing to now be a better brother to his younger sibling, being there for them when they need him.
However, even if he is now in another world, now that he is alone, he shifts his hair into the low ponytail he's used to. The style that he is most comfortable with.
The candles gave his room light as he started reading a book about the various bending in the four nations. Currently, it's about earthbending. Accounts from various memoirs of past Fire Nation generals. Their experience in campaigning against the Earth Kingdom had gained them a remarkable amount of knowledge about earthbending. Itachi drowned himself in their words, fully immersed in his reading.
From what Itachi read, earthbenders are rigid and headstrong, deriving their power from their wills. Unlike the use of other bending arts, earthbending is somewhat close to Earth Release, as it directly manipulates the earth. However, earthbenders can use the earth as projectiles, rather than just manipulating the terrain. Though it is uncommon, he knew there were cases of Earth Release being used as a projectile. Such as Doton: Doryō Dango (Earth Release: Earth Mausoleum Dumpling) or any of Deidara's techniques.
Now, sandbending is a curious bending ability. He knows of the infamous Gaara of the Sand's abilities and how the Hidden Sand tried to destroy the Hidden Leaf. Itachi was also aware of Gaara's help in trying to bring Sasuke back to the village after he left for Orochimaru. The strength Gaara had was mainly due to his sand manipulation abilities. Sandbending seems to be very similar to sand manipulation, however, in his previous life, sand manipulation needed Wind Release and Earth Release to fully be able to use the ability.
Unlike the ninja arts, Itachi concludes from his readings that while bending in itself is fairly straightforward with many sub-disciplines such as healing in waterbenders, sandbending, and lavabending in earthbenders, lightning generation in firebenders, customization is still far superior in Nature Transformation. Heck, he hasn't even heard of anyone, not even the Avatar, being able to manipulate wood, but Tenzō and Hashirama had the ability to do it.
A slight breeze blew through his room with the opening of his door. It was his mother, Ursa walking in through the door with a tray in hand. On the tray was a single teacup and some rice cakes.
"Here's your nightly tea, Zuko," his mother kindly said to him, laying down the tray near his cupboard.
"Thank you, Mother. Honestly, you don't need to do this for me," Itachi replied with a smile and went back to his book. He expected her to leave, but instead, Ursa scooted beside him.
"What are you reading?" She asked her son.
"I'm reading about earthbenders, mother," Itachi replied, "the way they bend is what piques my interest. There are many different forms of earthbending from what I've read."
"What made you interested in earthbenders?" Ursa asked, humoring him.
"Everything. I wish to learn from them. All of these accounts from Fire Nation generals, while reliable in combat, are an inaccurate description of what earthbending is. Most of these accounts are biased. They always comment on how earthbending is weak and that firebending is superior. However, they fail to see the merit in learning the mechanics of it. While firebenders mostly rely on offensive attacks, earthbenders can utilize their terrain to their advantage."
Unlike his original mother, Mikoto, he knew that Ursa doesn't have experience as a warrior. Still, she indulges him in his ramblings. Itachi could see Mikoto and Ursa in the same light, unlike his father.
"Aren't you a firebender, Zuko?" She asked.
Itachi nodded, "I am, but just learning about firebending from a firebender can prove to be inadequate. To Father, firebending is all about power, but fire can also be warm and welcoming. Firebending can give those who don't have a home the warmth they might be lacking. Perhaps that is why the world hates us so much. Firebending can do so much good, but we use it to burn their homes and destroy villages rather than giving them the warmth that the world desperately needs. While we firebenders have flames that burn so hot, the world seems to have grown cold."
Ursa smiled proudly at her son, "You are an outstanding firebender, yet you are truly a kind child. I'm sure that you will make our family proud."
At this, Itachi shed a small tear. His mother's words reminded him of the last words of his first father, Fugaku, words which he could still vividly remember. Even in this new world, remembering the words spoken to him is painful, he doesn't wish to revisit them.
Ursa noticed this and wiped the tear from his face, "Is something wrong, Zuko? Did your father do something? Or is it Azula or-"
"No, Mother," He choked out, successfully holding his tears back, "It has nothing to do with them, I can assure you. I just remembered a book I had read."
"What is it about?" Ursa asked him.
He smiled and closed his eyes, placing the book back on the table, "I'd rather not talk about it. It's not that interesting."
"If it's not interesting, why did it make my little boy cry, hmm?" Ursa asked, "Tell me about the book one day, okay Zuko?"
Itachi nodded gladly. "Don't worry, Mother. I will." Parts of his past life cannot be hidden for a long time. Then again, eleven years is a fairly long time to hide that he has abilities far beyond what a firebender can do.
"Good night, Zuko. Don't stay up too late," Uras said as she gave him a tight hug which he returned in kind.
"Good night," Itachi replied as Ursa walked out of the room. Itachi picked up his book again to drown himself in. He read while munching on the rice cakes and sipping the tea Ursa left behind. He could honestly say that these were the most delicious rice cakes he had ever eaten and he looks forward to them every night. It is very peaceful as the moon shines light upon his room. He then heard a slight creak of his door.
Turning his head to the one who caused it, he saw bright golden eyes peer at him, "Azula?"
The said girl shyly walked inside the room, "I can't sleep, Zuzu." She shifted and looked everywhere, but him, trying to find her words. He could tell she's embarrassed by the whole situation. "C-Can we sleep together?"
"Sure," Itachi quickly replied with a tired smile as he yawned. With a snap of his fingers, his candle went out. He shortly joined Azula in his bed as she stared at the ceiling. "Something on your mind?"
"No," Azula replied in monotone. They sat there for a while, drowning in silence. "Zuzu."
Itachi hummed, "I want to become like you one day. I want to be as powerful as you, and win mother's approval."
"You will grow to be a more powerful firebender than me, Azula," Itachi replied as he too stared at the ceiling. "I can already see your potential."
"Do you think… Do you think mom would be proud of me if I became more powerful? If I bring honor to the family?" Azula almost pleadingly asked her brother.
"Mother is already proud of you, Azula," Itachi replied tenderly, but he was met with an angry glare.
"Is she though?" She asked with a loud whisper, "I showed her my test results. Even if she hugged me earlier, saying that she's proud, she just walked away from me. Almost as if she was disgusted by me, as if I am a monster." Azula couldn't hold it anymore and cried on Itachi's chest. "Am I a mon-"
Itachi didn't let her finish as he placed a finger on her mouth, "You are not a monster, Azula."
"No matter what anyone tells you, what you see, or what you hear. You. Are. Not. A. Monster." Itachi hugged her as she continued to cry on his shoulder. "I'll talk to mother, tomorrow, okay? Don't worry, I'll always be here." He felt Azula weakly nod as he caressed her back. Within a few minutes, both were asleep, waiting for a new day to dawn on them.
...and done! This is a new fanfic that I've written after reading many Zuko fanfictions, rewatching certain Naruto scenes, and reading a bunch of Naruto and ATLA crossover fanfics. And I've imagined what if Itachi were reincarnated in Zuko's body and has the abilities of the Mangekyō Sharingan along with jutsus. Would he be a better younger brother than Zuko? Or how do his intellect and talent change Zuko's young life?
And to those who are concerned, I'm still writing Knights of the Shattered Republic, however, it is being edited currently by A Lover of Nature so expect a new chapter very soon! I also urge you guys to leave a review for me to have ideas for subsequent chapters!
So what do you think guys? Again, ideas are very welcome and I hope you give constructive criticism, your thoughts about my story, ideas, or problems that I really need to address so that I can revise it. I hope you enjoyed reading this, dear readers, as it makes me happy that people enjoy my stories! I hope you have a great day!