Of Shadows and Fire: Chapter Fourteen

*jumps around* Two chapters after this, I get to start the series! I’m so excited!!!!

I ‘d like to give special credit to one of my RL best friends Keisha, who helped write some parts of this chap and is also super supportive of Kurami and Zuko’s story. Thanks Keish!

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Confused Feelings

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6 months, 3 weeks, and 5 days since capture

“I still don’t see the point of this.”

Kurami rolled her eyes as Iroh patiently explained for the tenth time, “It is for the crew’s morale, Prince Zuko. A break from their duties will let them do it more efficiently.”

“Also,” she added, “we’re all bored. There’s nothing to do on that lump of metal except train, spar, follow you to dead ends, bother you, and stare at something for most of the day.” She shrugged. “You should be grateful.”

The shadowbender ignored the glare the prince leveled at her, walking faster to catch up with Iroh.

Music Night was Iroh’s idea, though it only came about when he had asked Kurami what she did as hobbies, which were limited to playing the flute, stargazing, and reading a book or two.

Now, the retired general searched the markets of any port they landed in, dragging both teenagers along with him and collecting instruments and other knick-knacks that caught his fancy, either for himself or Kurami.

It was a personal mission of his to give the assassin as many “normal” belongings as possible. Kurami’s room was being filled with random objects such as books on various subjects, some more clothes, and a hand mirror. By then, even Zuko trusted her not to escape, though in general, he wasn’t completely open to the assassin.

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Later that evening, Music Night was in full swing. Zuko stood in the shadows, watching the festivities with no small level of irritation. Kurami sat beside Iroh, brand-new flute in hand. Her broken fingers had finally healed some weeks ago, which certainly made things more convenient for her, no matter how ambidextrous she was.

Iroh urged her to step forward for a solo. She hesitated at first, but eventually gave in. She brought the instrument to her mouth, closed her eyes, and began to play.

It started lightly, like a breeze. The notes rose and fell like the ocean waves that surrounded them. The song began to increase in speed, going faster and faster, and then suddenly stopping.

The shadowbender paused for two seconds before ending with a final, haunting note. She lowered the flute, light pink dusting her cheeks as the crew applauded.

Zuko found himself awed at the performance, slightly stunned at the talent she possessed. He forcefully steadied himself, his cold mask falling back in place, and slipped back inside.

Kurami glanced backwards just in time to spot his retreating figure, but said nothing, though she had a small smile on her face the rest of the night.

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8 months, 2 days since capture

Kurami didn’t show up for breakfast that morning, which, by now, was unusual. She only ever refused to leave her room when she and Zuko had a disagreement, but those were few and far between. The Fire Prince brushed it off at the moment, thinking that the assassin had decided to sleep in that day.

However, when lunch arrived and she still hadn’t emerged from her room, Zuko realized something was wrong. He made his way through the corridors and stopped in front of her door, knocking thrice.

“Go away!” she yelled.

He opened the door anyway, ducking as a book sailed past his ear. He glared at Kurami, who had taken a defensive position. When she realized it was him, the shadowbender relaxed slightly.

“Oh, it’s just you,” she said. “Sorry about that.”

“Were you expecting someone else?” he asked, bending down to retrieve the fallen book.

She didn’t reply, taking it from him and placing it on top of the ever-growing pile of tomes near her cot. She took a seat, still silent.

“Is something wrong?” he pressed, seeing the look on her face. He kicked the door shut with his foot before joining her.

“I…it’s not that I don’t trust you,” she began, “I mean, I do, kind of…but, I can’t really trust anyone else on this ship.”

Zuko raised an eyebrow. “Even Uncle?”

Kurami rolled her eyes. “Of course I trust him, but you get what I mean.” She sighed before continuing.

“It’s the Summer Solstice.”

“…that’s it? But what’s so special–” he trailed off as she gave him a pointed look, as if she expected him to already know the answer. It was then he noticed the color of her eyes.

They weren’t the blue-purple he saw nearly every day, nor were they the pure violet he had seen only once; in fact, they were devoid of any trace of purple.

They were a dull blue, as if the light had been sucked out of them. A chill went down his spine as the pieces clicked in his head.

“Your bending…it lessens during the Summer Solstice,” he realized.

“Not lessen,” she corrected. “It vanishes completely.”

And if shadowbenders were at their weakest during the time firebenders were at their strongest…

Zuko knew that some of his crew were still distrustful of the assassin–she had tried to kill him, after all–but they didn’t act because of two reasons: his and Iroh’s authority and Kurami’s own abilities. They could ignore the former, if they were brash enough, but even then they didn’t fancy being skewered by a shadow. Take that away…

“Oh.”

Kurami raised an eyebrow. “That’s all you can say?”

“I understand.”

“Yeah, right,” she scoffed, turning away.

“No, I do, really.”

She stared at him skeptically. “Okay, who are you and what did you do to the Fire Prince?”

“Does it make no sense that I can actually care about you?” The sentence left his mouth suddenly, out of his control. He froze, realizing the implications of what he just said.

“Erm…it was my mistake–uh, I meant…I didn’t…” he stumbled over his words. Kurami held up her hand, an amused look on her face.

“Calm down, Hotshot, I get it,” she said. “You, dear prince, have a heart.”

He opened his mouth to protest, but she interrupted him.

“No need to be ashamed. I won’t tell anyone, I swear.”

She was teasing, but her promise was sincere.

“Now, is it lunch? I’m starving.”

The change in subject was rather welcome, and Zuko found it easier to slip back into his usual self.

“It just started,” he replied. “Though that’s what you get for skipping breakfast.”

He rose to his feet, extending a hand.

“C’mon. I’m not going to let anything happen to you. After all, I still need you to help find the Avatar.”

There’s the prince I know. Arrogant as ever. She rolled her eyes, taking his hand and following him down to the dining room.

She didn’t leave his side for the whole day.

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Phew! That was a doozy. I originally had something longer planned, but I realized I needed to stick the part I cut into a chapter of its own.

You’ll see next Sunday what I’m talking about.

Till then,

Thalassa.

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