Of Shadows and Fire: Chapter Six

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A Deal Is Made

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It had been exactly one week, three days, and four hours since she had failed her mission.

No. I haven’t failed–not yet, Kurami thought to herself. I still have a chance to kill him. She unconsciously flexed her broken hand before wincing. The General had been kind enough to wrap it in a proper splint, so her belt was wrapped around her waist once again. Unfortunately, he wasn’t stupid enough to bring her something to wash herself with, in case she escaped.

Despite the fact that he was aware of her identity through knowing her mother (a fact she was still trying to get her head wrapped around), she could not bring herself to trust him. After all, there was still a chance that the man who held Ba Sing Se under siege for six hundred days was lying.

The days had started following a pattern: Kurami would wake up, General Iroh would bring her breakfast, and then leave to eat himself. Then sometime after that, the prince would come to question her. She discovered her continued silence aggravated the prince to the point that he would leave rather quickly.

The shadowbender didn’t move from her position when the door to her cell opened, already aware of who it was. She waited for the customary interrogation to begin, but the prince didn’t ask any of his usual questions.

Instead, he said,

“I don’t trust you and you don’t trust me. However, my uncle seems to trust the both of us, so I’m willing to make a deal with you.” Kurami looked down from the ceiling, looking directly at the prince for the first time since their battle.

“This is how I see it,” he continued. “You’re a skilled assassin, maybe a spy too, judging from how you managed to infiltrate my ship. I have to hunt down the Avatar and bring him to my father to regain my honor.”

Regain his honor? That’s ridiculous, she thought.

“Here is my proposal. Help me find and capture the Avatar, and I will let you go, bending restored and the bounty off your head. We then part ways and forget all about each other.”

Kurami considered it for a moment. She would get the better end of the deal here, but she knew not to trust him so easily. Not to mention that it would mean giving up the mission.

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Ten minutes earlier

“I’m getting nowhere with her, Uncle! Whenever I question her she just ignores me and stares at the wall. If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was mute.”

Iroh patiently listened to his nephew’s tirade as he sipped his tea.

“Have you tried to be nice to her?” he asked.

“Uncle, she’s a prisoner.”

“Be that as it may, Nephew, she is also just a-”

“Yes, yes, ‘just a young girl near your own age, following orders, not knowing anything else.’ I know, Uncle, you’ve told me that before. She doesn’t even act like a girl, so why should I treat her like one?”

The Dragon of the West sighed heavily, placing his cup down with a sharp clank.

“Prince Zuko, if you continue to act like this, you will be no closer to getting information from her than finding the Avatar.”

Abruptly, Zuko stood up, walking out of the galley. An idea had crossed his mind.

When he entered the cell, she was sitting on her cot, leaning on the wall. Her left hand was wrapped in a splint, lying by her side, useless. Her left leg was stretched out while her right was brought up to her chest, her other arm resting on it. The shadowbender didn’t acknowledge his presence, as usual, eyes locked on the ceiling.

“I don’t trust you and you don’t trust me. However, my uncle seems to trust the both of us, so I’m willing to make a deal with you,” he said.

At that, the girl finally looked at him, directly into his eyes. He tried to ignore the strange feeling that appeared in his stomach at seeing the bluish-violet orbs and continued.

“This is how I see it: You’re a skilled assassin, maybe a spy too, judging from how you managed to infiltrate my ship. I have to hunt down the Avatar and bring him to my father to regain my honor.”

“Here is my proposal. Help me find and capture the Avatar, and I will let you go, bending restored and the bounty off your head. We then part ways and forget all about each other.”

Zuko felt triumphant as the assassin seemed to think about it.

“What’s the catch?”

Her voice was soft, underlined with suspicion. His smirk slipped briefly as he realized that she had actually spoken to him.

“No catch. If you help me, then I help you. I keep my word.”

After a few more moments, she gave him a small nod.

“Alright,” she said. “I’ll help you.”

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“If,” Kurami interjected, holding up a finger, “you give me my bending right now. I promise not to escape and help you find your Avatar, but only if you restore my chi.” I’d rather jump off this ship than help you, but you’re the only way I’m getting my bending back. Besides, I might get be able to get some information from you.

His smirk changed into a scowl at her words.

“I keep my word, too,” she added.

“Fine.”

“Glad we could come to an agreement,” she said, straightening up. “Now, how exactly are you going to give back my bending?”

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