Of Shadows and Fire: Chapter Eleven

I’m running out of plot ideas for the year before the series, but I only have a few chapters left after this before the series actually starts.

Current time: 1 month, 3 weeks, and 1 day since capture.

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Truth and Betrayal

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Kurami leaned over the side of the ship, staring at the clear water below.

“You’re going to fall if you keep doing that.”

The shadowbender didn’t even twitch. Zuko went to stand beside her, noticing her grim expression.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“It’s been a over a month,” she said, still not looking at him.

She’s still a prisoner, he reminded himself, trying to ignore the guilt beginning to gnaw at his stomach.

“A deal’s a deal,” she continued before he could speak. “I promised to help you find the Avatar; you promised to let me go without charges.”

“Did you have anyone?” he asked. “Back…there, did you leave anyone behind?”

Kurami snorted. “I don’t have any friends.”

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

She finally looked up at him, searching his face for any deceit, before tilting her head to the side.

“You’re not scowling.”

Zuko rolled his eyes, undeterred by the observation.

“Contrary to popular opinion, I’m not actually in a state of perpetual anger. Now, who is it?”

“My…family.”

They stared out at the sea in silence.

“I haven’t seen my family in a long time,” he said.

The corner of her mouth twitched up. “I figured. You have a sister, right? Princess Azula?”

The prince nodded.

“What’s she like?” asked Kurami.

At the look he gave her, she responded, “What, I’m not allowed to ask about you? I told you what I can about me.

“Azula…she’s a perfectionist,” he said eventually. “She’s so much better than me in everything: politics, firebending, battle strategy…she’s the perfect one. The lucky one.” A bitter smile formed on his face. “My father once said that she was born lucky, and that I was lucky to be born.”

The shadowbender’s brow furrowed. “And you still want to find the Avatar for him? It’s pretty clear that he doesn’t care about you.”

“He does care about me!”

“Does he now?” Kurami pushed herself away from the railing. “Why would any caring father banish his thirteen-year-old son to chase a myth?”

He faced her steadily, towering over her with the few inches he had on her.

“He has his reasons. When I do find the Avatar, he’ll welcome me home. I’ll get my honor back and everything will be as it was.”

“See, that’s another thing I don’t get,” she cut him off. “Why does he get to say whether you have any honor or not? It’s your honor, isn’t it?”

His jaw began to twitch.

“You don’t understand.”

“I don’t have a father, so forgive me if I don’t,” she replied scathingly, “but I understand that you want to please someone who treats you like dirt just because you want your stupid–”

Slap.

Kurami’s head snapped to the side, her eyes widening in surprise. Fixing her coldest death glare on the prince, she hissed, “Talk to me again once you get your priorities straight.”

She stalked off, slamming the door as she went. When it closed, fire collided with the metal, leaving a large scorch mark.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The camp was silent, save for the soft snoring of the exhausted twins. None of them had really slept since they left the hideout, and it was taking its toll on them. Kai kept watch, unable to sleep because of her troubled thoughts.

Kurami was potentially in danger, and she and the twins had broken one of the most sacred rules of the Black Spirits. They had disobeyed and betrayed their leader, and the price for that was death.

Jian was unforgiving, especially in punishment.

For them, he would certainly do something worse than sending a search party–he’d come and execute them himself.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I just don’t get it! Why is this so important to him? It’s obvious the Fire Lord doesn’t even care about him.” Kurami exclaimed, before carefully checking Iroh’s expression. “I know he’s your brother, but…” she trailed off, unable to say anything else.

“I understand perfectly well, Miss Kurami. Zuko…he has always had a complicated relationship with Ozai.”

She looked at him with a bemused expression.

Iroh sighed deeply. “I believe that is a conversation you must have with him.”

When she stiffened, he held up a hand. “I do not mean now, but it would be better if you knew sooner.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kai closed her eyes, listening to the sound of nature around her, and beneath that, the earth itself. It gave her strength. It was her steady anchor, keeping her upright through hard times. It also kept her aware of her surroundings.

Suddenly, her eyes snapped open. She barely had time to roll away before the arrow came whistling by her ear.

“Ren, Miyu, wake up!” she yelled as more projectiles were shot from the treetops. The twins were up and armed almost immediately.

She shifted into a bending stance and took down one of the archers while Miyu’s water whip struck another.

Four more Black Spirits emerged from the trees, and with them, coldly glaring at his daughter, was Jian.

“Kill them,” he ordered, pointing to Ren and Miyu. “Leave my daughter to me.”

The Black Spirits charged the twins as Jian attacked Kai.

Unfortunately, it was still daytime, so Miyu’s bending wasn’t as strong as it could have been against the attacking earthbenders. However, the twins were still fast. They took on two each, dodging sharp stones and even sharper blades.

On the other side of the clearing, father and daughter were locked in an intense battle. They were almost equally matched, having known each other’s fighting styles for years. Kai held no hope in defeating her father, but maybe she could find a way to get Ren and Miyu to safety.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Zuko was still on deck, sparring angrily with the guards. He hadn’t even realized he slapped her until she was glowering at him, hurt evident in her eyes.

Her incomplete words filled his memory, but he could finish them well enough.

“I don’t have a father, so forgive me if I don’t, but I understand that you want to please someone who treats you like dirt just because you want your stupid honor back!”

With a yell, he blasted the guards away.

“We’re done here. Back to work,” he ordered before stalking off.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As a boulder hurtled towards her, Kai redirected it, knocking Jian back. While he was down, she trapped his limbs with solid stone cuffs.

She rejoined Ren and Miyu, who had already finished off their own opponents. Ren handed Kai her satchel, and the trio ran into the trees.

Jian quickly freed himself from his bindings, but the three had already disappeared.

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