Heart of the Dragon General

General Iroh. Fire Nation hero. First born son of Fire Lord Azulan. The Dragon of the West. It was thought he would be the greatest warrior in the history of the Fire Nation.
But all that changed when the war claimed his son's life. This changed him, and he turned his back on the war.
This was a necessary event. Iroh had a role to play in bringing balance back to the world...but to play that role, he first had to be broken down, so that he could be rebuilt. This truth was self evident in the spirit realm.
But one particular spirit felt this was unfair to Iroh. The wheels of fate are cruel to those caught in the gears, but this particular spirit felt that Iroh deserved kindness. And so this spirit sent Iroh one who would help him to rebuild himself.
And so, shortly after his son's funeral, Iroh would find a creature sent by the spirits, the likes of which he never would have imagined...a pretty pink pony princess.
Somepony to love...and be loved by.


56. The Comet, Part 3

Cadence could only stare at what Azula had become.  The power of the comet had not been kind to her.  Where her Chakras had been damaged glowing circles of light burned brightly as fire poured out of them.  The flames had long since consumed her clothes, criss-crossing her body with burns.  Cracks ran across her flesh like badly baked clay, and from within the cracks glowing light shone through, as though her body were merely a husk to contain an unfathomable amount of energy.

"Azula..." Cadence whimpered, staring at her cousin.  "What...what happened to you?"

Azula laughed wickedly as her hair waved in a non existent breeze, flames burning at the tips.  "Little Zuzu happened, silly pony!" she spoke out, a mad grin covering her face.  "With my Chakras damaged, I can't control my fire...but the comet still fills me with power!"  She staggered forward, like a puppet on damaged strings.  "But I don't need to control it...when all I have to do is unleash it!"  She thrust a hand forward, and a wave of flame in all colors erupted, hungrily devouring all in its path as Cadence barely managed to dodge to the side.

"Azula, stop!" Cadence screamed out.  "If you keep unleashing that fire, it'll damage the very makeup of your body beyond repair!"

"Isn't it great?" Azula screamed out.  "The fire builds and builds and builds inside me...and when the Comet passes, the fire will erupt and tear me apart!"

"But the blast will destroy the entire continent!" Cadence gasped, her face pale.

"Just as Father plans!" Azula screamed.  "He always talked of a way to break the spirits of the Earth Kingdom so they would have no choice to surrender...I will scorch the Earth to a barren wasteland, and Father will always remember me with love for making his dreams a reality!  I don't need Mother, or Zuzu, or Uncle, and especially not you...because Father will love me when I'm gone!"  She laughed madly as she unleashed blast after blast of flame, not bothering to aim, but succeeding in melting the clay on which they stood, turning it molten.

Cadence winced as she felt the boiling clay spatter over her legs, but she pushed past the pain, using her magic to strengthen her body.  "It doesn't have to be that way!" she screamed out.  "I can help you hold together...and when the Comet passes, I can bleed the energy out of you safely!  You've been through enough!  We can help you heal!  Uncle Ozai faces a fully realized Avatar, he's not going to win!  You can stand with Zuko-"

"Oh, so I can sit around, smiling and nodding and eating cake while Zuzu destroys everything I, Father, Grandfather, and Great Grandfather ever sought to build, and what I should have inherited?" Azula snarled.  "You think that's something that appeals to me?"

"Well...it's either that or death," Cadence mumbled.  "Cake or death seems like an easy choice to me."

"It is for me as well," Azula replied.  "I choose death!  Yours!"  She lunged forward, a wave of fire cascading with her to consume all in her path.

Cadence desperately took to the air, trying to dodge around the uncontrolled flames while using her Airbending to keep it at bay.

"Look at it!" Azula screamed out.  "My power dwarfs yours now!  I am destruction incarnate!  I will destroy this land and make way for the reign of the Pheonix King!  This will be Zuzu's final downfall, and Father will claim the world!  Under the comet...compared to you, I am a demigod!"

Seeing how lost to the madness and power Azula had become, Cadence realized she had no choice.  She only hoped she would survive what she was about to do.  Bringing herself firmly to the ground, she spread her wings wide.  The flames parted like a sea, leaving her in an island of cold.  "Azula...my power comes from my magic.  Through my magic, all my elemental powers are connected."  As Azula stared, Cadence closed her eyes as the elements swirled around her.  "The Comet flows into my fire, and through my fire to my magic, and through my magic to all my Elements!  My air, my earth, my water, my ether...all are as strengthened as your fire is now.  I've struggled to hold it back, as you should have.  But you leave me no choice.  So, Miss Demigod..."

Her wings flared.  Her mane and tail leapt into the air as they lost physical form, taking on an ethereal state and waving like the pennants of a sunset.  When she opened her eyes, they glowed white as her power condensed around her horn.  "...let me show you the power of a Goddess!" she cried out, her voice echoing as white light poured out from within her mouth, along with her words.

Her blue magic erupted from her horn, joined by four other colors of energy.  The white air, the red fire, the yellow earth, the green water...all swirled upward in a crazed spiral before it reached the heavens to seize the comet.

The comet stopped.

Azula stared, stupefied, as the impossible was made real before her very eyes.  Her flames flickered in fear.

Cadence was nearly as stunned as Azula.  I didn't think that would actually work!  Why'd I even try it in the first place?  Seeing how stunned Azula was, Cadence pressed her advantage, steeling her will.  "You see the difference between us, Azula?  You can draw power from the Comet...but I can control it.  I see the fear in your eyes...because you're imagining just what I could do.  I could change the comet's orbit so it never returns to this world.  I could set it in permanent close orbit around the planet, so I will always have the power of a Goddess.  Or I could bring it down to Earth, and crush you beneath it."  She slowly walked forward as the land melted beneath her hooves from the sheer force of magic and elements being brought to bear.

Azula staggered backwards, terror in her eyes.  "K...keep away from me!  Y...you're a monster!" she shrieked.

"Perhaps I am..." Cadence replied, her voice still echoing.  "But it takes one to know one, Miss Demigod.  But what's wrong, you were so confident before?  Show me the power of destruction incarnate!"  She lunged forward, sending Azula staggering backward until she was backed up against a tall stone tower.  "Fight me!  Burn me!  Beat me!"

As her magic spoke deep inside her, Cadence lunged up close to Azula, millimeters away from her face.  "Give me a hug," she found herself whispering, an offer of mercy.

Completely broken physically and emotionally, Azula threw her arms desperately around Cadence, holding her tight against her.

The magic of love surged forth.  Deep inside Azula's brain, a crossed synapse in development had made her incapable of feeling the emotion of love.  Unable to love, she was never able to grasp when she was being offered love...and she desired that feeling, being loved, more than anything.  The magic of love found that synapse...and uncrossed it.

Azula's eyes shot open as her memories flowed through her, every moment in her life when she had been close to someone, when they had offered her love, affection, closeness...and now she could feel it.  And she saw how she had tarnished and destroyed each and every moment because she couldn't understand what was being given so freely.  Tears of fire poured down her cheeks, and a broken sob escaped from her throat.

Seeing the memories with her, Cadence found tears pouring from her own eyes, and a lance of pain shot into her heart as she saw how much it had hurt Azula when she - a creature of Love - had rejected her, as though Love itself had rejected Azula.

"I'm so sorry," they whispered together, clinging to each other as the flames swirled around them, gently waving in their own breeze as Azula's fire blended with Cadence' ethereal mane.

Azula flinched, a lance of pain shooting over her face as the fire inside her once more struggled to escape her body.  In her mind's eye, she could see every life that would be snuffed out if the fire escaped as it desired.  With love inside her now, her empathy awoke, and she felt the pain of every soul she would destroy.  "C-Cadence..." Azula stammered.  "H...help me..."

"Control it, Azula," Cadence whispered encouragingly.  "It's your fire, you can bring it back, put it out..."

Azula closed her eyes, struggling to bring the flames under control...and a new hole erupted on her back as flames poured out, one of her chakras bursting from the pressure.  A scream of agony cut the air.  "I can't!" Azula gasped out.  "It hurts...it hurts too much!"

Cadence stared up at Azula, her magic showing her only one solution.  "Azula..." she began, choking on her own words.  She pressed her hooves against two of the burning holes, feeling the flames lick at her flesh but ignoring it.  "I...I can stop the pain..."  She slowly gathered her magic.

Azula met Cadence's eyes.  Seeing the pain in them, she knew what was coming, and nodded silently.  As the tears of fire poured down her face, she barely managed to whisper, "I...I don't want to go..."

Tears all but blinding her, Cadence sent her magic forward with a sweep of her wings.

The first to dissolve were the tears of flame, blowing away on the wind in sparkles of light.  Azula's body slowly, painlessly dissolved from her feet up, sparkles blowing away on the breeze with each flap of Cadence' wings.  Last to fade were the crying eyes...and then there was nothing but sparkles of light floating into the sky.

Cadence' magic faded as she collapsed, and the Spirit Realm flexed, correcting the imbalance by thrusting the comet back into its proper position in its orbit.  Cadence wept as she stared at her forelegs, her coat burned away leaving scars climbing her flesh, red as blood.  She could feel that her coat would grow back someday, when the physical pain faded...but those scars would always be there, the mark of the blood of kin she had shed for the world.  The innocent victim of her own biology, who Cadence could have saved if that day of their first meeting Cadence had acted the dutiful Princess she was as Iroh's adopted child...instead of a spoiled child.

Sinking to the ground, not caring if anyone would ever find her, she wept, the flame scoured land around her an echo of the agony in her heart.

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