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Previously on The Avatar Rhythm
|""You have to really get someone calm, then really get someone surprised, like this." Shirou put his hands on Hotaru's shoulders, and just stared at her for a couple seconds. "You have to be calm," he whispered. "You have to be very, very calm. Just breathe, and be calm. Feel your chi run through your blood. Feel your chi become calm and clear."|
Shirou suddenly pulled his knife out from it's sheath, and held it inches in front of her face.
|— From The Meeting|
|"There was still some old morals lingering in his soul that just were dying to have a purpose. There was a war inside himself, and now after Taro's speech, both sides seemed good. Maybe he wouldn't kill Hotaru, but he'd give her a piece of his mind, and show that death was just around the corner. Maybe he wouldn't get the revenge he longed for, but at least he'd get a taste of it. Maybe Hotaru was his friend, but now, that time had ended."|
|— Shirou from The First Seminar|
|Into the Fire|
June 27, 2011
This is Chapter 8 in The Avatar Rhythm Series
Hotaru walked home from Everburn Academy that day with her head tilted down, dragging scrolls behind her on the muddy road. If her experience the day before wasn't enough, she had missed the Camelephant ride back to the Capital Plaza. But it left her time to think. After Shirou practiced inducing the Avatar State on her, everything became fuzzy, and now she could barely remember what happened. "I was just crawling around," she mumbled to herself, "I wasn't sure what happened. Until I saw the mirror."
The vision still didn't seem real to her. That she was the Avatar. If it was true, then everything would be lost.
But Hotaru kept hiking up the mountain leading to Royal Chaldera City.
Little did she know, that was a grave mistake. Because atop the hill, Shirou clung to a rock with one hand, and held his short-sword in the other. And after a while, a small dot of a person became visible a couple hundred feet down, with long black hair he recognized as Hotaru's.
"Come on," Shirou whispered to himself. "Just a little bit closer..."
He drew up his arm wielding the sword, hoping it battled like a dagger, which was his primary weapon. Hotaru came nearer, now completely visible, and hiking closer by the second.
Shirou brought up his sword, bracing himself for the worst. He knew this would have to happen eventually, but never thought it would be so soon.
As the sun rose higher, the air became tense, and both players of this fatal game were about to face their destinies. It was a confrontation Shirou had longed for all his life, and now was going to have to accept it against his own will.
Hotaru on the other hand, wasn't thinking about anything besides what happened the day before. "If I'm the Avatar," she whispered to herself, "When I get home, I'm going to tell my father and make sure that it's true. He will probably - Eeek!"
Suddenly, Hotaru jumped to the hard rock ground just in time as the flash of metal pierced through the air, and the element of surprise consumed her. When she looked down, a short sword lay in the gravel, along with strands of her hair that it sliced through.
With a fast-beating heart, Hotaru had time to gaze up at Shirou running towards her, with clenched fists that were stressed with anger.
He picked the fallen sword, and stabbed it through the sleeve of a shocked Hotaru, pinning her to the ground.
"Shirou," she shrieked, as he picked up a foot ready to slam into her chest, "I don't want to do this! But you've pushed me to far!"
With her un-pinned hand, Hotaru made a fist, and with it, shot out a small burst of flame that ignited a nearby patch of dead grass. Shirou leaped backwards, disarmed, and only had the surprised energy to dodge the first few jets of fire that were shot out at him. The fourth barely missed his heart, burning the backpack slung over his side, emptying everything he had brought to the Fire Nation on the flaming ground. There went his book, his bracelet, and his picture of Kaito... All in the growing flames coming nearer.
"Hotaru, stop before I kill you right now!" he growled.
But Shirou realized that killing her would have to wait, because a ring of leaping flames was closing in on them, and neither wanted to perish in this growing inferno. "You realize this fire will be clearly visible once the sun sets," Hotaru explained. "When that happens, the authorities will come, and the sight of a stranger trying to kill a governor's daughter won't leave a great impression on you. So for your sake, I'll end this battle, quick and easy."
"No," Shirou pleaded. "You don't get this. I have nothing against you. I just want to eliminate the Avatar Spirit."
"Oh, is that so?" Hotaru asked sarcastically. "In that case, how about you stab me right now and kill the Avatar Spirit, and hope it doesn't get reincarnated again. It's not that easy. And I'm not that stupid to fall for your dim-witted excuses. Our friendship is over!"
The two stared at each other, as the reflection of fire grew in their eyes.
"So be it." Shirou stated. "Meet your own demise then." He suddenly leaped into the air, with punches rolling, dodging flames, breathing heavily all the while. Hotaru raised her hands and suddenly, as she curled her fingers, and punched upwards, the flames augmented into a colossal blaze that towered hundreds of feet above them. And then she kicked inwards with both feet, drawing every flame and spark around her fingertips, soon completely enveloping her whole arm in fire.
Shirou suddenly knew that this was bad, and he leaped away, hoping to escape his unescapable fate.
Hotaru shot out her fist, sending an enormous roaring flame towards him. "Nooooo!!!!" Shirou screamed as he was engulfed in fire, with intense heat searing through the first layers of his skin. Ash, smoke, and sparks clouded his vision, stuffed up his nose, and clogged his mouth. His clothes started to burn, including the hand-woven blue fur coat from the Water Tribe he had brought. Thinking it was the last thing he would ever do, Shirou tossed his rusting knife towards the glimpse he got of Hotaru, and after that it was just sticks and stones, as he tumbled down the back of the mountain that Royal Chaldera City sat atop. As the last of the flames burnt out on his undershirt, Shirou rolled down the rocky cliffs, hoping he would make it.
Hours later, as the sun was finally setting, Shirou opened his eyes to see the waste around him. After the fall, he was only left wearing a thin scorched tunic and shorts, with his hair left scraggly and charred. Stones settled over his chest, and a large boulder was upon his leg. Sadly, the distant place he landed in looked even worse. Rocks circled the area, and ash covered the ground. There were still small flames leaping around the dead grass covering the ground that hadn't already been burned. It was a wasteland, and Shirou was stuck in the middle of it.
There in the ashes was his blackened Water Tribe bracelet, and when he dug around near it, there was a picture frame. He scraped off the black burns on the glass, and saw the picture of Kaito, the grandfather which motivated him through this. And he was going to motivate him now, too. With his back aching, he turned around, and was sorry to see that Royal Chaldera City only seemed like a speck in the distance. He must have been rolling for a long time.
Luckily, smoke of a village was visible, and it didn't seem very far away. Shirou had an injured leg, burnt skin, and was completely exhausted. And the stress of Hotaru's identity still racked in his brain. Her Firebending techniques used to send him here were expertly performed, and that gave him a thought. Once she mastered the art of Firebending, which would be soon, Hotaru was to leave to the Western Air Temple of the New Air Nomads, and by then she'd be untraceable. This was going to be a hard journey, but a life-changing one. He still remembered what Taro had told him, but was inaccurately unsure that he'd need them. "This isn't about balance," he mumbled confidently, "This is about revenge. This is about power. This is about setting things straight."
Shirou picked up the burnt picture of Kaito. "This is about you."
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