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|An Eye for an Eye|
Everything has a price
His hands wrapped around the bars of the prison cell so tightly that his knuckles turned white. Liwei leaned forward, his teeth grit and his eyes locked on his brother. "Junjie! Stop and think!"
The Firelord simply smiled and paced in front of his brother. Junjie's eyes did not lift: it seemed as though he was smiling to himself. "I have thought. I know what I'm doing. I'm helping the Fire Nation. Even if the people don't want to believe it."
"You're not helping anyone, Junjie! Even yourself! You'll be punished as a criminal once this is over!"
"'Once this is over'?" Junjie repeated with a smirk. Head raised, he approached Liwei's cell and his burning orange eyes were met by Liwei's black eyes. "You don't seem to understand. This will not be over. United Republic and the Fire Nation are the only Nations which see the truth. And you are still blinded."
With that dialogue, Junjie turned to click on an old TV mounted against the prison wall. An image of a gallows glowed on the activated screen. The television clicked between channels, but everyone showed the same image. "Do you know what this is? What this means?" Junjie asked of his brother.
Liwei did not reply. "Someone is to be executed today. A major figure. Every channel in the Fire Nation is showing this." Junjie smiled at his cleverness, and paused for Liwei to absorb this. Then, both brothers' attention turned to the screen. They could see a man being lead to the gallows: a black figure, barely visible. Until the cameraman zoomed in more. Liwei's eyes widened in alarm while Junjie continued smiling.
"That's father!!!! You're mad, Junjie!!!" Liwei cried.
"I'm not mad! Father is a Firebender and bender-supporter! He's getting what he deserves!"
"He doesn't deserve this!"
Their attention quickly turned back to the television as the executioner tied a noose around their father's neck. Liwei grinded his teeth against each other, and his hands became coated in sweat as they slipped off of the prison bars. Viewers could make out some hollering of the people watching the execution first hand: "Down with the new Firelord, up with benders!", "Save the true Firelord!", and other shouts of protest against Junjie's decision. No one seemed to think this action was just. The noose tightened around their father's neck, and the fuzzy camera zoomed in on his face. Covered in dirt, poorly shaven. Undoubtedly he hadn't been treated well while in custody, but now he would face his death.
"A gallows won't kill the dreams of the Fire Nation!" his voice came through as crackled fuzz, but received hoots of appreciation from the crowd. Liwei watched his brother's expression tense at their father's final words.
In an instant, the floor beneath their father gave way. Despite the fact that it was on television, one could see the previous Firelord struggle for life as his body swayed on the noose. Then, he became a limp and lifeless figure. Junjie turned back to his brother with a smirk across his face, and Liwei backed away from the bars slowly.
"Thus begins a new era." Junjie stated confidently.
"You really aren't a good choice for the Firelord..." Liwei said slowly. This caught Junjie's attention, and held it for a moment for Liwei to continue. "Father is a martyr now. Undoubtedly this will have the complete opposite effect than you intended. With father's death, people will be inspired to stand up against you. A whole nation is your enemy now."
The Firelord stormed towards his brother's cell and grabbed Liwei by the collar, pulling him close. Face to face, Junjie screamed apoplectically, "You liar! Without father, they will have no leader! I'm a genius! I'm far better of a Firelord than you would have ever been!" He spat in his brother's face and stepped away.
A guard swung open the door to the dungeon. Out of breath from sprinting, he gasped out his warning, "Revolts! On the streets! Commoners have forced their way into Royal Caldera, pushing us back to the Palace... Even nobles are joining hands! We don't stand a chance against all these people... Benders and nonbenders alike!"
Liwei wiped the saliva off his face and looked at his brother. "It's already begun, Junjie. One way or another, the true way of life will return to the Fire Nation. And it's too late for you."
Junjie clicked his tongue in disgust, without reply, and turned away. "Lock the doors," he commanded of the guard, "and continue to protect the palace. We'll hold out against these traitors one way or another." With that, he and the guard left and slammed the door to the dungeon. Alone in the dark, Liwei slowly sat down on the hard stone floor.
"Excuse you," a man said rudely after bumping into Ishio. The Avatar looked around at the sprawling crowd of the Northern Air Temple in alarm. Cramped, with hardly enough room to move. Haneul seemed remarkably proficient at navigating the crowd, almost as if he simply continued in a straight line and the crowd parted for him. Until, in the middle of a crowd, Haneul simply stopped moving. Meanwhile, the crowd continued to flow around them.
"This space seems open enough. Let's begin training." The young Airbender said.
Ishio looked at Haneul as if he were insane. "Open? This place is packed."
It was Haneul's turn to return the look. "Packed? We're the only two people here."
A few more spirits bumped into Ishio as he continued to watch Haneul in disbelief. "The spirits are many here. I believe this is closer to the portal than would be wise to idle." The teenagers turned to see Master Bingwen enter, stroking his beard thoughtfully. He walked in the opposite direction of the crowd of spirits with grace and dignity before stopping near the teens.
"Portal? There's a spirit portal here in the Northern Air Temple?" Ishio inquired.
Master Bingwen nodded. "Indeed. Just over there," he pointed towards a back alley in the temple courtyard nearby. "If you want to be around less spirits, I would recommend travelling to the opposite side of the temple, near where you landed."
Now they stepped into a completely empty courtyard. Empty of spirits, empty of people. Ishio breathed a sigh of relief, though Haneul immediately began preparing to train the Avatar. "Airbending is all about staying light on your feet and moving in circular motions. To be an Airbender, you must move with such grace that your enemy can't even touch you."
Ishio guffawed at this statement. "Because invalids are so graceful," he said sarcastically. Suddenly, Haneul pushed off of the ground and gracefully stepped behind Ishio before the Avatar could even react. The Airbender's hand pressed against Ishio's back; Ishio wildly spun, trying to get Haneul off of him, but the other moved so swiftly that Ishio couldn't even see him.
"Even though I am sick, my father still taught me to be a great Airbender," he replied without moving from Ishio.
"Alright, alright! I get it." Haneul stepped away from Ishio at these words, and smiled smugly.
Haneul cracked his knuckles and maintained his smirk. "Let's begin with the basics." Suddenly, wind began to swirl around him. He held out his hands, and produced a small stream of air. His feet crossed over each other, moving him in a circular motion, as the wind followed. "Create a small, controlled stream of air. You don't need to attack with it, just work on air manipulation and control."
The Avatar's brow furrowed as he nodded determinedly. "Air manipulation, got it." Mimicking Haneul's movements, Ishio swirled his arms around and focused on creating air. He created a small orb of air and held it for a moment. It exploded, sending Haneul flying against a wall. The Airbender hit the structure with a thud and a grunt before falling to the hard ground.
"Was that right?" Ishio asked with a large grin.
"No it wasn't right, dammit," Haneul barely muttered. "Go away. I'll fetch you later." Ishio shrugged and left.
Once Ishio was out of sight, Haneul managed to stand up, leaning against the wall. His breaths were desperate coughing gasps, until he finally sunk to his knees against the wall. "Your lungs are deteriorating." Master Bingwen appeared beside Haneul, his gaze directed in the direction Ishio had left.
"Yeah, I know it."
"It might not be wise to continue teaching the young Avatar... He's an Earthbender, and Airbending is the most strenuous bending discipline, both for him and his teacher. He's used to planting his feet with ridiculous attacks like the one that just knocked the wind out of you." Bingwen folded his arms and sighed. "We have plenty of teachers, including myself, that would be willing and able to go through that stress."
"I promised to teach the Avatar Airbending. I'm not going to back down just because it's hard." Haneul said, looking up at the Master standing above him.
"I knew your father well, he wouldn't want you..."
"Bailing on a promise."
Bingwen sighed. "Your father was just as stubborn as you..." he sat down next to the other Airbender to look him in the eyes. "If you're not going to give in, just don't kill yourself. I owe it to your father to make sure you're safe. Do whatever it takes, just don't let his lack of ability in this discipline take your life."
Haneul smiled and stood with a raspy deep breath. "You don't have to worry about that. I still have some unfinished business in this world."
"I can't take him anymore!" A younger monk stormed into the area where Haneul and Master Bingwen sat. Ishio followed with a sheepish expression on his face.
"Ishio?! He's been gone less than five minutes!" Haneul replied in disbelief.
"And he already practically destroyed the meditating room while trying to Airbend!" The Nomad took a step behind Ishio and pointed at him angrily. "Keep him outside!" he commanded, referring to Ishio like one might an animal. And with that, the other Monk stormed out.
Bingwen and Haneul couldn't help but laugh at the Avatar's lack of proficiency in Airbending. They stood, and brushed themselves off. With a smile across his face, the young Airbender turned to Ishio, "I'm ready to continue your training. This time, if you destroy anything you won't get supper." He looked to Bingwen for confirmation, and the Master nodded in agreement.
"Eh? That's not fair!" Ishio shouted in disbelief.
"An eye for an eye," Haneul replied jokingly.
- While I was writing this, I realized that none of the children of Fire Nation Royal family likes their parents: Liwei hates their parents because he felt they were corrupt, Ling (the Corsair) hated their parents because they favored Liwei more than she, and Junjie hates their parents because they support benders. Sucks for the former Firelord and his wife.
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