Six Years Later
“Why can’t we go with you again?” Miyu asked her best friend, brushing brown hair away from her eyes.
Miyu and her twin brother Ren were from the Northern Water Tribe. Miyu was a waterbender, but Ren wasn’t. Their parents had died when they were ten, leaving the twins to fend for themselves. They stumbled across the Black Spirits, where they were allowed to stay. There, they had met a four-year-old Kurami, and the trio had been best friends ever since. They were the only people aside from Kai who knew about Kurami’s bending.
“Because Jian said so. He says I have to prove myself worthy of being a Black Spirit. My last initiation, so to speak,” explained Kurami, tying her long hair into a braid.
She never referred to Jian as her grandfather, seeing as she wasn’t related to him in the first place, but Kai was always ‘Mama’ to her.
“By killing the Fire Prince?” asked Ren skeptically.
“Apparently,” she replied, adjusting her armor.
When Kurami had turned fourteen, Jian had sent her on her first assassination mission as initiation. Kai had protested, but her father didn’t listen. That was the first time Kurami had ever killed anyone, having accompanied her mother on recon missions only. She hated it, but she knew she had to listen to her adoptive grandfather’s orders. His latest one was to assassinate the Fire Nation’s banished prince, Zuko. It was part of their plan to wipe out the royal family, one by one.
Kai was away on a raid in the western territory, and by the time she came back to base, Kurami would already be gone.
Kurami hugged her friends goodbye and left the base, pulling up the hood of her short cloak. Her only weapon was a pair of knives, sheathed at the small of her back. Sometimes, she used her shadows instead. It had less blood involved, and was easier to forget about.
She had no idea what was going to happen.
Hours later, she arrived at a beach. She saw the ship, anchored far enough from the beach that no one could just swim to it. Looking around to make sure she was alone, she gathered shadows around herself, gracefully moving her arms up around her body, and jumped.
Kurami allowed herself a brief grin. She was floating inside a cover of darkness, invisible to everyone. She always got a slight thrill when she used her abilities, a feeling of being free. Focusing on her task once more, she propelled herself across the water, staying near darker areas, until she was facing the iron hull. The shadowbender flipped herself onto the ship, silently climbing to the top of what she guessed was the galley.
All right, Kurami, she thought. Follow the steps of the mission.
Step one: Find target’s location. Her eyes scanned the command tower, looking it up and down. Blue-violet irises locked on the cabins. Using her own shadow to hold on, she scaled the tower, stopping at the first window. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes, and entered her shadow, her head passing through the window glass as if it wasn’t there. Re-opening her eyes, she looked around the room.
It was relatively well-furnished. A small meditation area was below her, a tapestry bearing the Fire Nation insignia decorating the wall across, flanked by two lamps casting red light around the room. Beneath the tapestry, near the middle of the room, was a sleeping pallet, on top of which her target lay, sleeping soundly.
Check, thought Kurami. He was lying on his back, a blanket drawn up to his waist. Kurami pulled her head out of the shadow, shifting her position and carefully pushing the rest of her body through the shadow, landing gently in front of the meditation table in a crouch.
Step two: Avoid any obstacles. Straightening up, she gathered she and her target were completely alone. Check.
Carefully walking closer, she drew one of her daggers, gripping it tightly. Step three. Eliminate target.
Taking a deep breath, she lowered herself beside the prince and swung the dagger down, aiming for his throat.
A warm hand grabbed her wrist, stopping the dagger in its path.