Of Shadows and Fire: Chapter Thirteen

Current time: 3 months, 1 week, and 5 days since capture

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The Longest Night

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

“I said that I didn’t want any visitors.”

“Well, aren’t you a ray of sunshine today?”

Go. Away.

Kurami didn’t move from her spot, leaning casually against the prince’s doorway. Zuko’s back was facing her as he meditated—in any case, that was what he was doing before she walked in.

It had been a month since they had resolved things between them, which was a relief to the other inhabitants of the ship. Hopefully, their newest truce would last longer than their last one—much longer.

“C’mon, you look grumpier than usual. What’s wrong?”

When she got no answer, she tried to figure it out in her head. We haven’t argued recently…no one on the ship has irritated him, at least more than usual…and the only special thing that I know of about today is… 

Realization dawned on her.

As a firebender, Zuko would naturally have no love for the day with the least hours of sunlight.

“It’s because of the Winter Solstice, isn’t it?” she asked.

Zuko sighed in defeat, giving up on his meditation as he turned to face her.

“It just irritates me,” he replied.

Everything irritates you.”

He leveled a halfhearted glare at her.

“See? See? That’s your ‘I’m irritated’ face!” she exclaimed, pointing an unbroken finger at him before letting it drop.

She pursed her lips in thought before walking deeper into the room and grabbing hold of his arm.

“Hey! What are you–”

“I’m guessing you ha–rather, you’re irritated by the fact that you’re going to be a bit vulnerable today. You need to learn to not rely on your bending so much.”

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

“If you’re trying to make me feel better, you aren’t doing a very good job!”

“If you stopped whining and started listening to me, you wouldn’t be in this position.”

“Speaking of this position, can you get off me now?”

“I told you, you have to make me!”

Zuko’s chest and arms were trapped against the deck of the ship as Kurami sat, almost leisurely, on his back, the weight of her torso pressing him down. Her hands were braced on the ground as her ankles hooked around his, preventing the prince from moving.

Kurami sighed. “I already told you how to escape this, you know. You just have to do it.

“I’m trying!”

“Sure you are. I’m actually going easy on you, it shouldn’t be this hard to–ah!”

Zuko had finally wiggled one of his arms free, enough to grasp one of her wrists and pull it backwards, closer to his head. It caused her to grunt in pain, and her other arm slipped, making her lose balance and let go of his ankles. Zuko twisted until he was nearly lying on her. He hovered above her, trapping her hands above her head.

Kurami was caught by surprise, but she smiled.

“See? Told you it wasn’t hard,” she said, as if she wasn’t pinned to the deck of a Fire Nation ship by her sworn enemy/reluctant ally.

Zuko glared at her, but she could tell it was halfhearted. He released her wrists, rolling off her and rising to his feet. She did the same, and they began to walk inside.

“I think it’s lunchtime…race you!” Kurami exclaimed suddenly, before running ahead of him.

Zuko hesitated, but before he knew it, he was running right after her.

It ended in a tie, even though they still bantered about who was first. They didn’t even notice the looks Iroh was giving them, but if they did, they didn’t care.

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

Four years ago

“Mama, can I ask you something?”

“Of course, Kurami.”

“Since Anei is the spirit of darkness, is she why I have my bending?”

“I suppose so, yes. It’s her day of worship today as well.”

“But why can I bend shadows?”

Kai sighed. “I’m not sure, darling. There is a reason, but we just don’t know it yet. Someday, we might.”

Present day

Zuko walked up to the shadowbender as she stared blankly at the waves. She turned towards him when he cleared his throat, snapping out of her thoughts.

“You missed dinner,” he said.

“Wasn’t hungry,” she replied. “How’d you know where I was?”

“You come here almost every night.”

She raised an eyebrow at that.

“Uh…I mean…you’re not the only one who gets sleepless nights.”

“You said something earlier about your bending being stronger tonight,” he said, changing the subject. “Do you mind if I can see it?”

Kurami looked stunned at his question.

“It’s okay if you don’t want to,” he added quickly.

“No, no, I don’t mind at all, it’s just that…no one’s ever asked me to show them before.” The corner of her mouth twitched. “It’s not exactly normal.”

A few minutes later, Zuko watched, entranced, as Kurami danced with the shadows. Under the moonlight, she looked like a mystical spirit, and he noticed, for the first time, that her eyes were pure violet, compared to the dark blue-purple they normally were.

Beautiful, a part of him thought suddenly, before the more sane part of his brain pushed it away.

She’s still the enemy, she’s still the enemy, he chanted mentally. She’s only here to help find the Avatar, and then she’ll be gone.

He wouldn’t admit it, but he hard a hard time believing that.

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

Somewhere in the Earth Kingdom

Kai sat by the window of the small room, sharpening one of her knives as she watched the moon shine in the sky. The twins were in the other room, probably asleep.

It had been an exhausting couple of months.

After the trio had fled from Jian and the Black Spirits, they made their way through a few villages, never lingering long, doubling back every now and then to shake their pursuers off their trail.

Luckily, the three of them were well-versed in espionage, so blending in wasn’t difficult at all. They were currently hiding in an inn, using what little money they had brought with them to pay for their stay. They always had different names, different disguises. Sometimes they split, coming separately, or going to different inns if they could.

This village was large enough that everybody didn’t know each other, so three newcomers wouldn’t be that suspicious. They had stayed for a week, and would probably have to move soon, but they were resting while they could.

Kai was still losing sleep over Kurami. She knew that she couldn’t go after her daughter, not with Jian looking for her and the twins. She didn’t want to put her at more risk–she was in enough danger by failing her mission, even though Jian probably didn’t know yet.

For the first time in a long while, Kai bowed her head and prayed to Anei.

Please, watch over my daughter. She is your charge; her abilities are a gift from you. Please, please, keep her safe…

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Oh, c’mon Zuko, it’s only been three months; you can’t fall in love yet! 

If anyone wants to know what’s going on with the weird Solstice and bending stuff, go here.

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