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Previously on The Avatar Rhythm
|"Takumi looked down. "I'm sorry, okay? I didn't intend to make it worse for anyone, especially Shirou. The Chancellor was about to kill me and I had to either lie or tell him where Shinji was hiding out. I couldn't have it ended it right then, I couldn't let down the world without a fight. I had to lie, and I knew if I hesitated it would be too easy to tell that I was lying. I had to say something quick to spare everyone for two weeks." |
"You did the right thing," Kotone said. "We can only wish best of luck for Shirou and the Avatar when the Quadrination Bandits arrive.""
|""You're not really tax collectors," Shirou said. "You're a military." |
"More or less, really. If we ever needed to attack, we'd have the power to do so. Once we had branched out over all four nations, we became the government. We were given power." "
|— Shirou and Markale in.|
|"As the flames faded, the darkness of the night once again creeped into the room, but Shirou and Hotaru were now aware of each other's presence. |
"Hotaru," he said. "I don't want to fight you.""
|""What just-" Shirou's words came to a halt at the feeling of cold fingers on his neck, a deathly chill running down his spine and his hair instantly standing up on end. Fear taking over his brain, he looked over his shoulder along with Hotaru and they saw a ghostly gray hood in the shaft of moonlight behind them which left the face beneath it in shadows. |
"Good evening," The Chancellor said in his raw, forbidding voice. "I believe you have something to tell me.""
|What Lies in Darkness|
November 9, 2012
This is Chapter 44 of The Avatar Rhythm Series
The sun hadn't even risen over the southern tip of the Earth Kingdom, but one man was already at work. His name was Souta, an experienced blacksmith, worn with age and soot. He opened the door to his forge, the largest in the region and best in the kingdom, proud of his work. Walking into the grand factory, he smelled the familiar scent of metal and fire and smiled.
"Good morning Souta," greeted a young woman behind a desk in the first room with a stack of papers in front of her. "We have lots of mail."
He walked over and picked up the stack of letters on the desk, beginning to look through them. "Bills, orders, trash, hey, what's this?" He looked at the envelope. "The Procession."
"We'd payed our taxes, didn't we?"
Souta nodded, and opened up the letter. "I wonder what they want." He took out the piece of parchment inside and read. "Dear Gaoling Mountain Ironworks. The Procession needs a large order of armor in a short amount of time, and I hear that you have the best blacksmiths available. We request full metal armor for about five hundred men, and at latest, need it in the next two weeks. I know that sounds like a lot, but I want you to know that if this task is completed, you may have six or seven hundred more gold coins to spend in your factory by the end of the month. And be assured, this is for the good of our nation. Your loyalty is appreciated, Markale, Commissioner of The Procession."
They looked at each other. "Our financial department isn't doing the best," the woman behind the front desk stated. "Six or seven hundred gold coins is good money."
"Agreed," Souta replied. "I want you to tell the blacksmithing team to stop all current projects and start on this armor. I want all five hundred sets shipped to The Procession by the end of the week."
A dark silence fell over Shirou and Hotaru at the sight of the ghostly energybending leader of the Quadrination Bandits, The Chancellor. They were currently in the master bedroom of the Avatar's house in Ba Sing Se, standing in a shaft of moonlight shining down from the night sky. Wearing the familiar dark cloak with a hood that left his face in shadows, The Chancellor's deathly aura had already left his two opponents in shivers.
"I believe you have something to tell me," he said in his cold voice which echoed through the shadowy bedroom. "It regards your friend, the cursed one."
Shirou pulled out his sword and took his stance. "We'll never tell you where Shinji is," he boldly shot out, swinging his blade down. With barely half a second to analyze the attack, The Chancellor thrust his palm forward from the long sleeve of his cloak and with a purple flash of energybending, created a shockwave that bounced the sword away.
"If you're hoping to fight me, let me warn you and guarantee that it won't land you anywhere but in more pain. Are we clear?"
"No, we are not." Giving a quick look over, Shirou faked a jab of his sword to catch The Chancellor off guard, leaving Hotaru with time to create a ball of raging fire which she shot forwards. Their ghostly opponent easily dodged the attack, and with simply making a fist, the Avatar's hand froze.
"Send another fireball, Hotaru!"
She looked at her still hand. "I can't, it just..." Her attention moved to The Chancellor. "What did you do to me?"
Rasping laughs emanated from underneath his dark hood. "Do you remember what kind of bender I am? Energy. There is an energy that powers bending called chi, and it's in everyone. In an Avatar there's even more. It supports you. You see, I can bend any kind of energy, within someone's body or not. And with this divine power, I can make you suffer." He moved his fingers downward and Hotaru crumpled. "You can't rely on your own energy anymore. I control it."
They looked up at him, beaten.
"Now where were we?" The Chancellor asked. "Oh yes, the cursed one. I don't think you've told me where he is yet."
"What if I don't tell you the truth?"
"I can usually tell when one of you humans are lying."
Hotaru looked up at him, anger swelling in her eyes. "You humans? You're a human too!"
"I was, once upon a time," The Chancellor whispered in his deathly cold voice. "Now I am greater - enhanced. I used to be a humble fool, afraid to strike, afraid to use my power. Now I realize what you have to be to survive. You need to use what you were given, and I was given knowledge. I was given the knowledge on how the world works, and now with my energybending abilities, I can work the world to my taste. The only thing I don't have is life. I want to live, forever. I need Shinji, and you are going to tell me how to get him."
"How did you get that power?" Shirou asked. "It's unreal."
A smile could be seen in the shadows of The Chancellor's hood. "That's how you're going to play, isn't it? You'll tell me about Shinji if you hear my story."
"I'm fine with that. As long as you go first."
The energybender's gray hand shot out like a dagger and his fingers wrapped around Shirou's neck, making his face run cold. "I'm not an idiot, boy. And I'm not letting you escape without a definite answer on the cursed one. We're going to listen to me, because if I wish to do so, I can end you right now." He tightened the grip around his neck. "I'm going to lay down the rules right now. You will listen to me, or leave this house as a corpse. Now that that's established, we can continue. Where is Shinji?"
As The Chancellor's hands fell away from Shirou's neck, he coughed and gasped huge breaths of air as color returned to his face. His eyes met Hotaru's, and then turned back to the energybender. This wasn't a joke. If he didn't tell the truth, it was over. "Shinji's at Argil Village," he spat out, looking down as guilt flooded his mind. "It's southwest of here, in the mountains."
"So you haven't heard..."
"I'm happy to deliver the news." A devious edge hinted at the end of The Chancellor's voice. "We had heard many rumors of Shinji living in that port. Yesterday, my bandits and I burned Argil Village to the ground. You can try to go there, but you will only find a field of ash and rubble."
"No..." Shirou said in disbelief.
"Oh, it's so, so sad." The Chancellor gave a hoarse snicker. "Now where is he?"
"If Shinji wasn't at Argil Village, I'm not sure where he could be."
"So he's not here in Ba Sing Se?"
Shirou shook his head. "It would be impossible for him to make it here so fast."
"Your friends truly are stupid," he said from under his cloak. "They've made you just seal their fate, the fate of the cursed one, the fate of the world. How cruel, to make you have to suffer in order to trick me." Laughter began to echo throughout the bedroom. "Because of them, the world will perish!"
Shirou and Hotaru both stared in a mix of confusion and horror.
"Oh, how impolite," The Chancellor chuckled. "Let me explain. You see, when I burned down Argil Village, two of your friends were there. The Water Tribe girl and an airbender."
"Takumi and Asaki..."
"Yes, those were their names. They went through the same ordeal you just did - I asked them where the cursed one was, they decided to rebel, and I struck them down. Then we got back to the all important question. Where is Shinji? The airbender lied, saying he was in Ba Sing Se. I could tell, I knew it was a lie, but I wasn't sure what he was planning. So I made a simple deal. He tell me the truth or have my bandits and I tear apart the world until we kill the cursed one on the Summer Solstice. I said it would be like my apocalypse, but he still said Ba Sing Se. So I decided to look into it, just in case, and now I know that they really were lying."
Shirou glared in anger.
"You see, I keep my promises," The Chancellor said. "And I really will destroy this world if I need to to get Shinji. Life is more valuable than land, I'll do whatever it takes."
"And what happens to us?" Hotaru asked. "We told you all we know."
"You think I'm going to let you go?" the energybender said. "How lucky can I be? The cursed one's bodyguard and the Avatar all in one place at my fingertips. I could make the battle on the Summer Solstice much easier with you two not around. With a flick of my fingers the energy inside you could burn up and leave you as nothing in seconds. Your determination is mine to bend. Your will is mine to manipulate. Your soul is mine to crush."
The Avatar tried to stand up to attack, but before she could even get her hands into fists The Chancellor waved his arms and whispered a few dark words of sorcery, making the walls around them shoot out columns that wrapped around Shirou and Hotaru, immobilizing them.
"Don't worry, I won't dismantle your souls, that takes up too much energy of mine, energy I must save. I'll let you slowly and painfully die in the wall's grip, knowing that because of you and your only friends, the whole world will suffer."
Shirou struggled against the thick plaster coils around him. "I thought we had a deal," he said angrily. "If we told you where Shinji was, you would tell us how you got your unreal energybending powers. If I die here I want to know how the creep that killed me was able to do so!"
The Chancellor laughed. "Isn't it funny, how we can give away secrets, betray friends, destroy the lives of other's just to find the answers to some of life's mysteries? You told me the truth about Shinji so you could know my story. So be it. To be honest though, there's not much of a story to tell - it's all in this." He reached into his sleeve and pulled out a scroll. It was large, worn with age, and on its side, the Water Tribe insignia was drawn in fading blue ink.
Shirou and Hotaru stared in disbelief.
The Chancellor smiled, holding the scroll in front of their eyes to see. "You know very well what this is."
"No, it can't be..."
"It's the Fifth Scroll of Kaito," he said in grim pleasure. "The final work of your grandfather, never seen by the public, forever shrouded in mystery. Every last secret of the world is inside. This document is my weapon, my source of power."
"How did you get it?" Shirou asked in despair. "It burned with my grandfather in the Great Battle of Omashu!"
"Do you really know what happened to Kaito?"
"I used to think I did." He looked over to Hotaru. "Now I'm not too sure."
"I saw him with Mikio," the Avatar said. "I was showed his death as a part of my training. As far as I know, something happened to Kaito before his room burned down. Him and the fifth scroll were gone. It was almost as if somebody-"
"It was you, wasn't it?" Shirou spat out towards the energybender in hatred. "You took it from him in the Great Battle of Omashu, didn't you? You stole the scroll! You killed him!"
"You are a fool," The Chancellor said. "And your head is full of lies. Yes, I was there during the Great Battle of Omashu. I was there with Kaito until the very last second. Killed him, ha! I saved him, with the help of that scroll I ended his suffering. He was recreated - reborn that day. Kaito died and my reign began. That scroll changed both of our futures permanently, now for the better."
Shirou stared at him with confused misery, not sure what it all meant. "The Chancellor... It's only a title. There's been one question that's been on my mind for a while, and now I am more desperate and scared for the answer than ever. It's a simple question." He took a deep breath. "Who are you?"
"You truly want to know?" he asked. "Here's the answer." He raised his hands up, and for the first time in a very long while, The Chancellor took off the long hood of his cloak, leaving his face that was always covered in shadows open in the moonlight. It was not how they expected it to be. His skin was a pale gray, with many wrinkles and folds of skin soaked in sweat. He had thin, oily hair, tired bloodshot eyes, and scars covering his face. "You see," he said, a smile forming on his clammy, colorless face, "I am Kaito."
In a mountain stronghold in the Northern Earth Kingdom, an army of Procession members was gathered, lifting huge stones from the floor, sparring with one another and practicing their bending with metal and sand. As they trained, Markale strode through the crowds in full uniform, armor and cape, smiling at what he had created. It was all going to plan. He stopped beside one tax collector who was struggling to lift a pile of bricks left out for him, and showed him the correct way he should be earthbending.
"Put less strain on your legs and try to use your stomach to support yourself," Markale informed him, lifting the bricks up as an example. "Make sure you keep your back straight and your knees bent."
The tax collector tried again, and this time he raised the pile up a few inches before letting them drop back down.
"Sho, right? You're doing good. Just keep practicing." The commissioner gave him an encouraging smile and continued his walk through the hall of the stronghold. Nodding to some tax collectors, frowning to others, he made his way through the rising army in pride. At the end of the hall, he stopped at a table where a Procession officer was organizing many pieces of parchment and boxes of coins.
Markale sat down across from his. "Anything to report?"
"I think we're still not going to have enough money," he replied. "You aren't planning to pay off the Summer Solstice debt, are you?"
"What do you think this army is for?"
"I was just checking." He pulled out another slip of paper. "We only have about four thousand gold coins in our funds. You promised the forge making the armor six or seven hundred gold coins and the weapons makers four or five hundred."
"That still leaves a good amount left," Markale said. "What's the financial issue?"
"Remember, the Earth King hired us as tax collectors. We're supposed to be giving all the money we gather to their government, not The Procession's private reserves."
"How much are we supposed to be giving to the Earth King?"
"Three thousand gold coins by the end of this month," the officer replied. "We can be disloyal to our enemy, but we have to keep loyal to the Earth Kingdom. Those three thousand coins have to paid."
Markale rested his chin on his hand, thinking. "What if we don't keep loyal?"
"The Earth Kingdom will fire us and our power over the people will cease to exist. Refusing to pay the government is a surrender for The Procession."
"We can't risk that." The commissioner sighed. "Well, just tax more cities. We'll send out another wave of our men to get the extra funds before our army sets out in two weeks. Then we pay our debts and focus on the battle ahead of us."
"I'm sorry, but we can't do that."
"We're out of places to storm," the Procession officer stated in guilty unease. "We've already taxed every major town and city on the map since our new "Pay or die" rule was initiated. There's nothing left. Every citizen who's still alive in this kingdom has given us their coins."
Markale was silent, partially in anger and partially in shame. "You're sure about this?"
"I'm sure. We can't get anything more out of the common citizens here."
They stared at each other in solemn quietness.
"Nothing will make me give up," Markale said. "I've been working towards this Summer Solstice all my life. I have the army at my fingertips. Soon, I could finally be free, and I'm not letting a money issue get in the way this close to the goal. The Procession will start their march southwards next week, and they're going to march even if we are in debt. If money truly is needed, there are eleven hundred owed coins waiting for me somewhere in the Earth Kingdom." He laughed. "Nothing isn't going to stop me, officer. In two weeks, I will finally be free!"
Shirou and Hotaru stared in despair at The Chancellor, smiling at them with his hood pulled off.
"No," Shirou stated. "You're not Kaito. You can't be, no, no you're not..."
The Chancellor laughed, and as his jaws rattled the slimy wrinkles of his face contorted this way and that. "Don't hide from the truth. In my mortal form I was known as Kaito, the chief of the Northern Water Tribe, an international hero."
"Stop it, you're not him!"
"Oh, but I was, grandson, I truly was." He held up the Fifth Scroll. "How could I still have this?"
"I've seen his tomb in the palace at the North Pole, you lie, I've seen where Kaito was buried!"
"And how exactly do you bury someone who was burned alive?" The Chancellor inquired. "They took the ashes of my hospital bed and threw it in that block of ice they call my tomb!"
Shirou shook his head, tears welling up on the sides of his eyes. "No, I won't believe it. You can't be my grandfather, I've worked to avenge my grandfather all my life, he's been motivation, no, no, it can't be you you! I wanted to avenge a hero, not a murderer. You weren't what I was fighting for, I was fighting for him!"
"We are one and the same," the energybender stated, still smiling at Shirou, whose mental and physical states were deteriorating in despair before his very eyes, just as he had hoped. "Now I want you to know, before I kill you at the end of the day," he said, getting close to his grandson's face, turned down as tears dripped off of it, "I want you to know, just because I'd hate to have you die uneducated, I'd like you to understand that all of your motivations in life, everything you've ever lived and strived for, have been for me, not some honorable leader like they remember Kaito as. I just want you to know that your whole life you have believed in me. And this is where you ended up."
Shirou writhed in pain, emotional pain, against the coils shooting from the walls whose strength had been enhanced with energybending. He tried to struggle against them, but it was no use. "No..." he whimpered. "No, I haven't believed in you, I believed in, something else, another Kaito, I didn't think it was, no, no, you're not him, you can't be Kaito!" His rough screaming echoed throughout the house. "You can't be!" He let his face drop, crying. "You can't be..."
Hotaru, beside them, was also in shock, but able to speak sense. "Maybe you are a fiend now, Chancellor," she said. "But the old Kaito was an honorable man. I saw him with my own eyes in the flashbacks he showed me. He was ready to die slowly and give the scroll on to the Avatar. I want to know how in that crucial few minutes of fire in the hospital in Omashu, did that, honorable man, turn into you."
"You see, if there's any one trait that I both had when I was still a foolish mortal and in my current form," the gruesome villain said, "It's the willingness to live. Both I and Kaito wanted to live as long as we could, to see the light of the next day. Yes, I was ready to die peacefully, slowly. I was ready to gradually pass away that day. But when I saw the flames, heard the screaming, smelled the smoke, when death was right in front of my face, ready to quickly and violently take me down, I couldn't do it. I've always wanted to live. And if I didn't act now, my scroll would burn before anybody saw it. It was instinct, with death facing someone who was so obsessed with living, I had to act. I stood up from my bed, took the scroll from my dresser, smashed the window, and as my room behind me began to collapse in flames I jumped out, landing on a roof a few feet down."
"I thought you were severely injured," Hotaru said. "In such a bad condition that you were to die without a nurse by your side."
The Chancellor nodded. "Yes, the pain was horrible. My back felt as if it was falling apart, and it really was, to some extent. However, you forget about something very important." He raised up the Fifth Scroll. "I had this. The answers to all of this world's mysteries, and the secrets that intertwine them. I never wanted to use the scroll for selfish reasons, as it was such a powerful weapon, but I had already escaped my hospital to not have to face death, so dying then really was pointless. I looked back through the scroll to the chapter that changed my life. The chapter on energybending. I read through the list of energybending techniques at the bottom of this chapter and found what I was looking for - a healing move. There was no time to practice, I could feel my injury wearing away at my life. I reread the move in the scroll, then waved my hands in the specified way and chanted the right words of dark magic, with one chance to get it right."
"I assume you did the move correctly."
"And ever since, I've been an energybender." He smiled. "Ever since, I've been The Chancellor."
Hotaru looked at him, shaking her head in disbelief, still in shock from this whole sinister revelation. "But why? You were healed! And you still had good left in you! Why didn't you just go back then and stopped all this from happening? You could have ended this all and lived the rest of your life as a hero."
"Yes, after I had healed myself, I had a very important decision to make. Why I chose to go into hiding, I still don't really know. That healing move was only temporary, and I was still in great danger and pain. I had finally realized what the dark art of energybending had to offer. Everyone would be there waiting for me, ashamed of me breaking out of my own hospital room. Maybe it was curiosity. I think the main reason I chose to run was for the same reason I always did things. It was the willingness to live, and after that preview of what I could do with energybending, I suddenly felt like living, maybe even living forever, was possible. Whatever the reason was, I ran. And looking back, I know it was for the better."
Shirou looked up from his downward sobbing. "For the better?" he spat out at The Chancellor. "You ruined yourself that day! How could you ever have done something that stupid? You turned your back on everyone who loved you, anyone who cared! Just to live. Maybe there's more to life than just living, you fiend, now I wish you had just died then, died an honorable death! For the better? How corrupt could you possibly be? You're a monster!"
"Foolish boy, look how powerful I've become." He stomped his foot, an orb of plaster shot down from the ceiling, and in a clench of his fists it just melted away into thin air. "That day, I made the greatest decision anyone had ever made before. I had begun my journey to turning into the most powerful man in history."
"Well, if you're going to start your story, you might as well finish it," Hotaru said. "I want to know truly how horrible you are."
"I was hoping you'd ask me to," The Chancellor said. "It's a wonderful story. You see, after that great decision, I took off to the streets, healed and ready as the hospital behind me started to burn down to the ground. For a few days I lived in the underworld of Omashu, studying my scroll in the alleys and sleeping beneath the mail chutes. By the end of that week, I knew for sure that I wanted to make full use of my newly founded energybending capabilities. I memorized the few techniques in the scroll, but those weren't enough. There was information in another chapter of the scroll, however, information that could lead me to a whole new range of unthinkable powers. The Spirit World. Through the creation of my five scrolls, I had learned almost everything there was in this world. But in the world of the spirits, there was so much new information, so much new power to offer. I had already betrayed my old life, so there was no going back. I had try."
"You went to the Spirit World? I don't care what you say now, you were still a human back then."
"One of the most valuable secrets within my fifth scroll was how a mortal could access the Spirit World," The Chancellor said. "No one had ever known, but I did, and I decided that I would attempt to do so. On the solstice, the Spirit World is closest to ours, so I waited for the next one and traveled to the Avatar Temple in the mountains of the Earth Kingdom. Any spiritual location or monument would have worked. In the exact middle of a solstice, the Spirit World is so close to ours that any monument a spirit can travel to becomes an open portal, whether or not the spirit has even unsealed it. I went through this now open portal in the Avatar Temple, and because it wasn't fully opened the journey was a little rough. I was strong enough to last my way into the mystical Spirit World, though, and once I did, I was well rewarded. Spiritual, supernatural power surrounded me, and I could feel it soaking into my skin, enhancing me. But just this was not enough. I needed someone to teach me the ways of the spirits. I needed a master. After a long trek through this other world, I finally found the perfect fit, the most knowledgeable spirit out there, who was ready to teach me as long as I never showed emotion in his presence. This spirit's name was Koh."
"Koh," Shirou gasped. "That's the same spirit that Shinji told me. He's the one who laid the bounty of immortality on him."
The Chancellor nodded. "Yes, it's all coming together now, isn't it? I trained with Koh every day for years and years, and I never showed a slight grimace or ever cracked a smile for all that time. The knowledgeable spirit told me everything he knew, taught me the darkest powers of energybending, and fully healed my injuries from Omashu, filling the wounds with the flesh of a spirit. In fact, after dedicating my life and body to Koh for all of those years, I became more spirit than human myself. What he taught me made me stronger, smarter, faster, better than ever before. Koh and I created a unique bond. We were so close yet never once did I talk to him casually or told him my feelings. When in his presence, I only showed discipline, focus and self-control, but inside I subconsciously knew that he liked me as more than just a student. Sometimes he'd tell me stories of his visitors, tales of his history in the Spirit World. And one day, about seven years ago, he told me of a young boy who recently entered his lair, and tricked him, the most knowledgeable being in the universe."
"That was Shinji, wasn't it?" Hotaru asked. "I always wondered how you heard of him and his curse."
"Yes, and Koh promised me the one thing I had never been able to achieve in all of my time in the Spirit World if I killed Shinji for him. He pledged to give eternal life to anyone who killed the cursed one. This was my only chance at immortality I'd ever get. I returned to our world for the first time in a very long time, searched the four nations for the best benders I could find, and with my new energybending abilities I crafted them into ultimate bending soldiers whose only purpose was to retrieve the cursed one to me. Three men, one woman. The Quadrination Bandits."
"So The Quadrination Bandits are just hypnotized minions of yours? They're puppets."
"More than puppets, really," The Chancellor said. "This isn't just some sort of hypnotized trance they're under, that maybe they could break free of and return to their old selves. Its worse. I have energybent their minds to not just be under my control, but be part of me. My energy and power being represented by their bodies, and nothing more. They are obedient and strong, and that will never change. They will be tools of mine forever."
"How could you ever do that?" Shirou asked. "Taking away a talented person's heart and soul from their body and replacing them with yours? Don't you feel sympathy? Don't you feel sad? I bet that each of those bandits were honorable people just like you before being swayed by the powers of your energybending."
"Why should I ever feel sympathy? I freely gave my ultimate power to four of this world's young men and women. They should be thankful that I made them so strong."
Hotaru shook her head. "Yes, The Quadrination Bandits are more powerful now. But in turn, you took away all of their free will, love, caring and feeling. You took away their gifted individuality and replaced it with your powerful yet heartless soul instead. So yes, they are stronger. But the loss they had to give in order to earn that strength is a hundred times more valuable. The power you gave destroyed them."
"Say what you will, foolish children," The Chancellor scoffed. "But on the Summer Solstice the world will quickly realize that love is not more powerful than brute force, no matter what you've heard. You can hope and smile all you want, but on the Summer Solstice, Koh and the Spirit World will be so close to us that their supernatural power will once again soak into my blood and I, The Chancellor, will destroy everything in my path, reawakened as a spirit, not a human. So I dare you, I dare you to try to win that battle with love and caring, but when you face me at my greatest form, I assure you, nothing will be able to stop me. And when you die that day, you are going to finally realize why I turned my back on the world that day and transformed into The Chancellor. You will finally realize, when I kill you, that ultimate power is the greatest thing in the world, greater than family, friends, a home and food. When I kill the cursed one, take his corpse and show it to the world as an immortal, the world will look back at me and agree, that power is superior to all."
Shirou's eyes burned with hatred. "You monster! You should have stayed as Kaito, even if you had to die as Kaito, to know what life really is. You've been warped, mesmerized, corrupted by power to think it is the greatest thing on this world, and in result you have melted into a heartless, grimy savage. Look at yourself. I had a portrait of you I used to keep at all times, and I saw you as a kind old man who had a bright smile beaming through the wrinkles of his colorful face. Now your skin is gray, your hair is thin, your eyes are empty black voids of hate. This is what power does to you, if only you knew when that fire caught in your hospital." His yelling quickly evolved into shrieks, his voice sore. "You should have just let the burning building fall over you that day, and I wish you did! You might have been healed, and if you weren't you would have died with the respect of the world and you had the Avatar to depend on to deliver your scroll back to the North Pole. It would have ended well! You would have died as a hero! And I am ashamed, truly ashamed to be your grandson!"
"And I am truly ashamed you are as well," The Chancellor replied. "Disrespect, stupidity and weakness, that's all I can see. You think that it's easy to die in honor, you think that if you've had a noble life that you can just let a burning board of wood fall onto your face. You don't know what it's like to have death right in front of you, staring at you ready to eat you up, and once you do you will know why I escaped that hospital. It was that or die!"
"And dying was the right option! I would think a wise man like you used to be would understand that!"
"With death right in front of me, my instincts that told me I had to keep living, I had to! You'll only understand when you witness death that close." He paused and then laughed. "In fact, maybe you should witness it that close." He clapped his hands and a few red sparks shot out onto the floor, lighting a small flame which caught onto the doormat. Shirou and Hotaru, bound by the coils shooting out from wall, stared at the growing fire in front of them and struggled to break free, but the grip around them was too strong. "Let us go!" the Avatar shouted.
"No, I really think I shouldn't. It's about time I leave this place anyway, I have a world to conquer." He pulled the hood of his cloak back over his hideous face. "Goodbye, grandson. I'll say hello to Shinji for you." With that, The Chancellor snapped his fingers, and in a cloud of purple energy he vanished into thin air.
Hotaru's eyes burned with rage. "Come back here! Get back here and show yourself!"
"He's gone, Hotaru," Shirou muttered. "He's gone, the coils around us were strengthened by his energybending, this house is going to fall in flames and there's nothing we can do but burn."
As the fire in front of them latched onto the wall and burned even brighter, red light reflected into their sad dark eyes.
"No," she said, trying to earthbend the coils but with no use. "No, The Chancellor miscalculated one thing. He forgot he was facing the Avatar." She threw out another fist, and this time a large crack exploded in the plaster which bound them. As the fire in front of them grew, she punched upwards over and over again, crumbling the coils around them into dust, and in one final push of earth and airbending, she blew away the rest of the cage which wrapped around them and broke free with a step forward, staring at the fire which had consumed the majority of the bedroom. A scorched floorboard suddenly fell down to the floor below, inches away from her feet. "Come on Shirou," she called. "Lets get out of here!"
The blazing room was left in silence.
"Shirou?" She turned around and looked at him, still where the coils she broke used to hold him. His head was facing downwards, and tears fell down to the floor, only to evaporate with the heat of the fire that circled them. "Lets go, Shirou!"
He still did nothing but weep as the fire grew stronger.
"Come on, get out of here!"
"No," he muttered lowly. "How can this be..."
Hotaru walked over to him, airbending away flames that leapt towards them. "What are talking about? We need to leave this place."
"How can he be Kaito, how, how could that have ever happened..." Shirou stared up at her, flames reflecting off his large sad eyes. "The Chancellor is my grandfather, the only one who through all of my life and troubles I've really believed in! I didn't believe in that villain! And if I refuse that I was believing in him, that means I'm believing in a perfect Kaito that never even existed."
"Shirou, if we don't leave now, these flames are going to destroy us!" She swirled around, sending another gale of wind that blew the fire back a few feet.
He nodded. "That's exactly what I'm going to let happen. The Chancellor set the house on fire to prove that dying an honorable death was impossible, he knew we'd try to escape, so dying here is the only way to prove him wrong."
Hotaru's eyes widened. "What? You've gone insane, you have to leave!"
"No, I haven't," he said. "The fire was started to simulate exactly how Kaito felt at the hospital that day when he escaped and turned into The Chancellor, he wanted us to know what it was like. But if we escape this house, this simulation, just like him, that means that we are alike The Chancellor. And I would rather die than be like him."
"It's not like that moment," Hotaru said, the intense heat of the inferno around them beating down on their faces. "It's not like Kaito's situation at all. Kaito was ready to die and honorable death when he escaped, but you aren't. If Kaito had died that day in the hospital, he would have been remembered as a hero, but if you die now, you'll only be remembered as the rebel who sought to kill the Avatar, and now I know, that's not you. You've changed, but the world doesn't know yet. And if you die now, no one will ever now that you are an honorable man. So stand up, come on, let's go. Show the world who you are."
Shirou looked up at her. "You mean you've already forgiven me for hating the Avatar?"
"I think so," she said, blowing away the fire around them as it began to eat up the entire floor and surrounding wall, floorboards falling every few minutes. "I know that's behind us. And now I know that there's something else that we have to fight for."
He nodded as Hotaru blasted away a hole in the stone ceiling, grasped his hand, and with a rush of fire and air beneath them, they rocketed upwards out of the burning top floor of the house and onto the roof. Together, the duo ran forwards, towards the rising sun, jumping down each section of the house with a cushion of airbending and back to the grassy ground of Ba Sing Se. Leaving the burning house behind them, they ran away from that phase of their journey and towards another, final section. Hotaru left her home and Shirou left all of his past emotions, and they ran, changed people, towards the sunrise of a new day.
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