1 Prologue: Fire Lotus

Fire Lord's Palace, one of the training halls of the royal family.

Six people were fighting on the sands of the training hall. Their battle was like hunting a wild beast. Five grown men, fully clad in the training armor of firebenders, were pressing down on one young girl, trying to keep her constantly surrounded, crowding her with their flames. Making precise movements and precise strikes, they released fiery arcs and balls, constantly forcing the enemy to defend, dodge between attacks in the most unthinkable way, and constantly spend their strength.

To an unsophisticated view from the outside, the opponents' forces were definitely unequal. That's just this girl was a genius in fire bending, surpassing all her opponents by a head, or even two. The princess of the Fire nation is Azula.

Releasing her anger along with the fire, she shielded herself from the view of her opponents with a large shaft of flame.


After losing sight of their opponent for a moment, they found the body of their comrade lying on the ground, with their opponent standing to the side. Compared to the man lying on the sand, the girl looked small and harmless, but this was a false impression, as the reduction of her opponents eloquently indicated.

Slowly, the remaining four masters began to surround the girl again. Step by step, standing firmly on the sand, they did not rush to attack, well aware of the difference in strength.

The cold gaze of the princess's golden eyes followed their every move, allowing them to once again surround their owner. Giving them a false sense of advantage.

A moment later, a synchronized strike sends four fireballs flying at the princess.

With a somersault, she gracefully dodges all attacks, instantly launching a jet of bright orange flame at the nearest guard.

"A-a-a!!!" the parts of his training armor that caught fire and the heat that penetrated it caused the man to fall into the arena. Trying to extinguish the flames, he rolled on the sand, screaming in pain.

His loud screams instilled a slight fear in the hearts of the remaining men on their feet, causing them to hesitate for a moment. Azula took advantage of it instantly.

Leaning on one hand, the girl, throwing the other forward, and the tips of her legs-to the side on her opponents, performing a beautiful split in the air. Fireballs immediately flew from their limbs, which the men had to defend themselves from.

The elite guards had no problem dispelling the attack, but it only delayed the inevitable ending: the sight of their comrade's falling body, which Azula instantly closed with, knocking him out with a single blow, proved it better than any words. The girl did not stop there, throwing a fireball at the remaining pair, she began to push her opponents much more aggressively, demonstrating terrifying speed with the onslaught.

The remaining guards had no choice but to defend themselves from the girl's increasingly frequent attacks. She attacked as she ran, constantly changing the target of the fireballs. It couldn't go on like this forever, and very soon one of the men missed a fireball aimed at his leg.

"A-a-a!!!" a portion of his training armor immediately caught fire, causing him to fall to the sand in pain as he tried to extinguish the flames.

The remaining man had the dubious pleasure of experiencing the full force of the onslaught of a brilliant girl, and soon made the same mistake as his partners: he allowed the opponent to get too close. One lightning-fast and extremely accurate strike on the correct point knocked him unconscious.

"Fine, I didn't expect anything less from my daughter. You're ready for the ritual, " an imperious voice said from the entrance.

"Truly, your daughter is blessed by Agni himself: to defeat five fire masters at the age of sixteen is a great achievement. She is many times more worthy of the title of master than her opponents, " the old man's voice answered him.

Breathing deeply, covered in sweat, the girl defeated five men who were considered masters of conquering fire. The victory was not easy for her, but it did not cause any special difficulties. She was smarter, faster, and stronger than all her opponents. From the very beginning, the fight went according to her plan, and she executed it without making a single mistake. In a word: perfect.

The girl's gaze drifted to the entrance of the training hall. There stood her esteemed father, the fire lord and lord of the entire nation, as well as one of the fire sages who was a stranger to Azula, even though she knew many of the servants and subordinates allowed into the palace. Quickly catching her breath, she pulled herself together, leaving a calm mask of concentration on her face, and headed towards them, having previously given the signal for the end of the battle to the defeated opponents.

Thanks to the training armor, they only received light burns, remained conscious, continued to lie on the ground, being defeated. If this was a real fight, with real armor and hotter flames, the wounds would be many times worse if they were lucky enough to survive. But this was only a training session, and not a real Agni Kai (a duel of fire benders that often ends in murder). As the princess strode through the spacious training hall to the exit, the defeated benders began to rise from the sand to help their comrades.

"Fire Lord, have you come to see my training?" Azula said, kneeling before her father, looking down at his feet.

"Yes," my father said in a commanding voice, " I have prepared a present for you." Follow me.

"As you wish."

They walked through the familiar corridors, servants and guards bowing low at the sight of them. Decoration, beauty, grandeur and wealth — all this was familiar to the girl, she took it for granted. After all, she is the princess of the most progressive and powerful nation in the entire world.

Azula had been climbing all the rooms of the palace since childhood, so she knew the location of most of the hidden rooms and various hiding places. Natural curiosity allowed the girl to learn a lot and more than once helped in the life of the princess. She knew exactly where they were going. That's just upon arrival, she was waiting for a small surprise. When she entered one of the training rooms, she saw a stone pedestal painted with lamps in hundreds and thousands of shades of red and gold.

"Sage, explain the ritual to my daughter," the Fire Lord was the first to speak, as the others entered the room behind the august ones.

"Yes, sir." The fire lotus is a rare flower that releases a huge amount of fire Qi when it burns. You will need to breathe its smoke, meditating in order to assimilate the maximum amount of energy. This is an ancient ritual for strengthening the lungs and energizing the body, " Azula shot a questioning glance at her father at the elder's explanation; a barely noticeable nod was her answer.

"Why aren't these rituals performed with all the benders in our army?" she asked, with her father's permission.

"Flowers are extremely rare, and the ritual must be performed at the age of majority. Usually ... " the sage stammers, glancing at the Fire Lord.

"Tell her," the ruler of the fire nation ordered.

"Yes, sir." Normally, only the Fire Lord's heir can afford such a ritual. However, your father was the second past Fire Lord, and did not pass it, unlike the dragon of the West. The ritual is intended exclusively for the family of the Owner of the Fire, and is a secret to the whole world. After the ritual, your flames and control over them will increase, your lungs will absorb more air, your aura will become brighter, and your body will be imbued with great Qi power... The sage continued to praise the ritual as Azula listened intently. Because she knew that there was no such thing as useless information.

"Princess, the sun is nearing its zenith, it's time to start the ritual, are you ready?" he turned to the girl after his speech, sensing the location of the sun thanks to bending, since there were no windows in this hall.

"I'm ready," she climbs up the stone stairs, keeping her back straight and stately, not wanting to give her father the benefit of the doubt. Whatever the test, she would pass it and prove herself worthy of being her father's heir. Azula sat down on a rock and meditated, breathing at the top of her lungs.

"Begin," the Fire Lord said, watching the ritual with mild interest.

"As you command," the sage spread out his hands, pointing his index and middle fingers at the flowers, and flames instantly burst from them, igniting the highly flammable plants.

Milky white smoke began to fill the room. The fire consumed the red and gold flowers, rising higher and higher, dancing around the heir to the throne, but not causing any harm. The smoke and flames caressed her like a tamed pet. The princess didn't feel any heat or danger, but everything was fine.

Breathing deeply, Azula quickly felt the change. It was not ordinary smoke, it did not interfere with breathing, but it affected the girl in a different way. She was still conscious, but her mind was in a trance. The princess watched the flames dance around her and couldn't think of anything. Her mind was in a haze, time was stretching out, it was hard to tell how long she was sitting there. It was becoming difficult to concentrate on the fire, as if it was mesmerizing with its dance. After that, she began to see hallucinations, or were they visions from Agni himself?

The flames began to play with all the colors of the rainbow, rising to the ceiling, gradually turning blue and white. At the peak of her power, the smoke seemed to coalesce into something resembling a dragon, which immediately fell on top of her as she took another deep breath. An unknown force began to spread through her body, from her lungs to her heart, from her heart to everything else: muscles, bones, skin, organs…

The fire quickly burned all the flowers, filling the modified training hall with milky smoke. The Sage and Fire Lord remained calm on the surface, waiting for the blue flame to disappear. Knowing full well that fire is harmless to the one and only heiress. Azula was truly one of a kind. So to speak, a successful crossing of the genes of the descendants of Avatar Roku and the last Lord Sozin. The men stood waiting, watching the girl as the blue flames quickly died down around her, leaving only ashes in their wake.

That's just if one watched with a slight interest, then the other made every effort not to show excitement. The sage did not lie that previously such a ritual was performed only by the Owner of the fire and the heir. He only learned about this ritual from the Lord's orders, from books and secret scrolls. And if something happened to the princess, it would be better for him to burn in his own flames than to wait for punishment from the girl's father. The sage may well have made a mistake in the ritual, since he himself performed it for the first time. However, the Fire Lord's orders are not subject to discussion, much less challenge. In these moments, the old man needed all his experience and fortitude to maintain a calm face next to the ruler of the strongest nation in the world.

Meanwhile, the smoke from the most valuable lotus flowers began to dissolve into an empty room with no windows. It is to dissolve, and not to fly away to the street. Showing the figure of the heir to the throne, who continued to sit on the stone pedestal, frozen in a pose for meditation.

"The princess? There was a faint hint of excitement in the fire sage's voice.

"It's all right. Did I make it?" calmly, without any emotion in her voice, the princess replied, starting to slowly descend from the pedestal. There was nothing in her gait that suggested any heaviness or difficulty in walking, but her eyes were as blank as ever. It was as if she was in a trance.

"No doubt," the Fire Lord replied, before continuing" people usually lose consciousness during the ritual, but you surprised me again, especially with the color of your flame.

"I serve the Fire Lord," the girl bowed to her father, stumbling a little in the process. The effects of the ritual were still there, and no matter how hard Azula tried to hide her weakness, her father saw it.

"Go to your quarters, you need to rest," the ruler deigned to give the order before going about his very important business.

The fire Sage could exhale calmly, the heiress was fine. He didn't make a mistake with the ritual, and he won't be executed for treason.

"As you command, my lord ..." after waiting for the man and the elder to leave the room, Azula tried to get up, but instead she quietly collapsed on the floor, which was covered with a light deposit of ash.

Her whole body was wobbly and unruly, and her mind was on the verge of going to sleep. Her breathing was quiet, and she couldn't even hear it, let alone control it. A terrible mistake for any firebender. With a great effort to pull herself together, the girl got up on the second attempt, went to the wall, brushed the ashes from her clothes, and slowly went to her chambers.

Before leaving the ritual room, she pulled herself together and assumed the appearance of an ideal heiress. The journey to her room was harder than ever, but she had grown accustomed to various challenges in her life. I don't know how much effort she had to make to maintain her regal demeanor rather than lie down on a bench somewhere and sleep. For her, it was basically a normal day, during which she completely exhausted herself with training a little more than usual. But being tired didn't give you the right to show your weakness! Azula couldn't afford it, and she had no choice but to go to her room with her back perfectly straight and her chin held high.

No matter how hard the journey was, the princess walked slowly to her chambers without showing anyone her weakness, dismissed the servants, changed her clothes, and lay down to rest.

Sleep took over her mind as soon as her head hit the pillow, and the next morning she had a nasty surprise waiting for her.

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