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Blood, Steel, & Ash
Chapter information
Book

-1 (Blood & Steel)

Chapter

13

Written by

Neo Bahamut

Release date

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Word count

3,154

Chronology
Last chapter

Assassination

Next chapter

Let Freedom Ring

Act 1

"Officer Euryale," her father barked over the radio, "Come in!"

"What is it, Da—err, Detective Phorcys?" she asked in response.

"There's been reported sightings of a man matching Gevurah's description fleeing the scene of an arson in the industrial sector! How soon can you be there?"

"20 minutes if traffic stays good!" she exclaimed, nearly dropping her receiver in shock.

"Good," he replied through the hiss of the static, "I'm heading there right now. Here's what I know: An airship saw the fire and went to investigate, contacting the fire department en route. Once they arrived, they found bodies still awaiting identification, but suspected to be Red Monsoon and Agni Kai members. Arrests were made, but survivors are still being searched for, and ground units were called in to assist in the suspect sweep. Meanwhile, a security guard on his way home from the train yard returned to his post and called in that he was assaulted and his car stolen by a man matching Gevurah's description, with fresh burn scars around his throat. The witness was taken by ambulance to the Dragon Flats clinic half an hour ago, and is in stable condition."

As he spoke, Euryale turned onto Kyoshi Bridge. "So what's the plan? Do you want me to talk to him?"

"No. Once we're there, we can search the area. Copy that? ...Hello? Euryale!"

Euryale was busy doing a double-take, as she could swear she just saw Gevurah blazing down the other side of the road in a canary yellow truck. Her tires squealed as she swerved into a U-turn.

"No need, Dad! Suspect spotted on Kyoshi Bridge, officer in pursuit!"

"What?! You can't be serious!"

"I--I wouldn't joke about something this serious, Dad!" Indeed, now that the surprise burst of adrenalin was wearing off, she could no longer disguise the quaver in her voice and, though he couldn't see it, her forearms were shaking as her fingers tightened around the steering wheel.

"Okay...okay..." he breathed after a while, trying to quell his own rising panic, "I'll call for backup! Just...be careful, sweetie."

"R—roger that!"

Noticing her pursuit, Gevurah punched out his window with a flaming fist and threw a burst of fire back at her. She swerved blindly through the blaze, and next thing she knew her car crunched through the guard rail, speeding to the river below. Naturally, she flung the door open as fast as she could and leaped out, using her cables to swing up to the bridge—only to land right in front of the speeding truck!

She barely had time to roll aside, but managed to lash a cable across the back wheels, popping them off. Sparks flew as the car skidded out of control to join Euryale's in its watery grave.

A luminous star shot up from the bay, slowing and dimming to reveal the Other Fire Lord softly alighting on the bridge. The instant his flame jets went out, he kicked a blast at Euryale, who slapped the street and raised a Satomobile-sized bulwark. As the flames flailed past her she repaired the road and took off in hot pursuit.

Throwing fireballs at oncoming cars, Gevurah easily persuaded them to swerve into the other lanes. Once he approached the end of the bridge, he was close enough to the embankment to jump off and run across, using hand-jets to hold him aloft.

But he just couldn't shake the officer leaping after him, skating sideways over the retaining wall. She swung a cable, which cracked the concrete as he performed a jet-assisted leap over the sidewalk, landing in a village of pagodas. A car honked and he looked into the oncoming headlights, jetting out of the way just as the chassis scraped the hem of his duster.

Cut off by the traffic, Euryale used a cord to swing up to the nearest building, keeping an eye on Gevurah as she ran along the rooftops. He, in turn, kept glancing behind him, unaware that he was being pursued from above.

Only when he burst out of the alley to see the piles of charred refuse that marked his childhood home did he realize the ambush his predator was leading him into. As a wall cut off his escape from behind, Euryale leaped from the roof, covering her head with her arms to protect from his fire blast. He again jumped aside, but not before the force of Euryale's earthbending stomp threw him from the edge of the impact crater, into a pile of burnt wood that soon toppled over him.

Spreading his arms, he unleashed a fire dome, flinging the reignited refuse in every direction. The earthbender ducked as she tried to wave away the blinding ash cloud, only for Gevurah to emerge suddenly and tackle her into the rock wall. She moved her head just before his burning punch shattered its corner, and kicked him off as heat rose in his ragged breath. In his stumbling, the flames pouring from his mouth spilled over the floor, incinerating its loose rug of paper cups.

"That wound slowing you down?" she asked, raising her fists and noting how he massaged his throat as he anchored himself.

"Still faster than you, filth-thrower," he wheezed, lashing out with a lightning strike from his other hand. Euryale hurled her cuirass before her just in time to avoid the worst of the shock, but still screamed as some of the charge arced into her, filling her every fiber like molten lead before throwing her roughly to the ground.

A heap of agonized twitching, she could barely keep her swimming eyes open to see the next bolt, the death blast Gevurah charged with an almost mockingly graceful flourish of his hand. She barely had time to register the blinding flash of blue light before her life ended.

Act 2

Only it didn't. Amazingly, she could still feel all of her limbs. Even more amazingly, the pain was steadily subsiding as she regained control of her muscles. She slowly opened an eye to see a broken ice wall melting in front of her, flowing up to cover the arm of a lithe male figure before her, who lashed at her would-be killer with the whip on his other arm.

"Well, get up already!" Senthose shouted, "I can't hold him off by myself!"

Indeed, he was barely stopping the worst of the torrent of fire jabs, others exploding in the dirt around them. Even with a 2nd whip, Gevurah simply ducked, releasing a quick jolt overhead. Senthose was forced to drop the fluid as he grunted in pain, trying to regain control over his twitching limb.

Euryale shook her head clear, stood on her hands, and flipped over him, her landing sending a trail of stone spikes at the firebender. He jerked away, launching another blast of lightning, but the waterbender flared his fingers, dispersing his whip into a mist that fizzled the charge.

"'The enemy of my enemy,'" they heard Gevurah croak through the cloud, "The desperate refuge of the weak against a superior foe, yet even now you cower and hide from me!"

Hidden from view, Senthose massaged his rib while Euryale quickly stuffed the breast piece over her head. She stomped, rocks flowing up her body to form another layer of armor.

"You okay?" she asked in a hushed tone.

"I'll fight through the pain, don't worry. What about you, you sure that won't slow you down?" Senthose asked as he condensed the mist into ice spikes, shooting them at Gevurah with precise jabs.

"Don't worry, I'm in my element!" Euryale answered with a thrust of her fists, sending a wave of mud to drown their foe's fire shield. Flecks of filth splattered against the mobster's coat as he stepped aside, loosing a dual-fisted flamethrower at them.

"That was awful!" Senthose complained as they ran at opposite rubble piles, a trail of flame following each of them.

"Never mind that, how did you get here?!" she asked, twirling around the blaze with her fists out, knocking the Agni Kai off-balance with a soaring slab of concrete to the side.

"Was at the river!" Senthose answered, taking the opportunity to duck and knock Gevurah back with a snow drift. "Saw you were in danger and followed!"

"And why were you at the river?!"

"Never mind that now!" he commanded, "Hit him low!"

They stormed the crime boss in unison, but he regained his footing, dense lightning crackling in his outstretched fingers. "My throat's injured," he cried in a raspy sneer, "But my ears work just fine!"

Senthose darted behind Euryale and grabbed her shoulders, but feinted with a spinning duck, launching the metalbender high on a waterspout. It crackled brilliantly as the bolt pierced it, exploding in a rush of shining steam.

Euryale shot a rain of pebbles at the Other Fire Lord, which he swiped away with a trailing blast from his other hand, realizing too late that the Monsoon was closing in. The waterbender deflected their enemy's right arm with the truncheon, before swiping it at his face. Gevurah ducked in turn, but his arm was ensnared by a whip streaming from the club, allowing him to be pulled into Euryale's dropkick. As he sailed off, Senthose promptly grabbed her shoulders again and somersaulted over her for real, using the leverage of his heel slam to send an arc of water drilling for the crime boss.

Gevurah skidded across the dirt, putting on a burst from his hands and feet, the liquid lash shattering the ground where he lay an instant ago. Staggering upright, he weaved through the piles of debris, which grew denser as they strayed from the streets. When the duo followed, he swept an arc of flame behind him, triggering a tsunami of long dead wood.

With an ice sword fashioned from the truncheon and a steel cable respectively, Senthose and Euryale easily sliced apart the wreckage. With a look and a few nods of their heads they silently agreed to split up, each winding their own way through the maze of scorched remains and the deserted awnings stretched among it.

Senthose was first to skid into the firebender's path, grabbing a mound to steady himself before hurling an overhand projectile at him. Gevurah blasted it with a surge from his palm, looking down to see a smoldering shoe. Senthose leaned slightly to the side, and a flurry of condensed ice spikes shot toward the firebender.

Gevurah grimaced at the scratches, glancing back to see towers of broken furniture now wobbling dangerously, Euryale smirking in their midst. The landscape trembled with the force of her stomp, bringing them all crashing down. He thrust his arms out, but as the domed blaze spiraled over him, a water whip snaked around his ankle, hurling him into a mound of ash. At once, Euryale shifted her foot to harden the charcoal around him and Senthose waved his hands to draw out the moisture, accelerating the process.

"I am—the true lord of the Agni Kais!" Gevurah wheezed in rage, thrashing like a snake caught underfoot. "I won't be brought down by a pair of ants I've already stomped once!"

Euryale perked in surprise. "What does he mean he's already stomped you once?" she asked her unlikely ally.

"I don't know or care," he answered, squinting as a surprise flashbang erupted before them.

Their foe burst from its heart, shooting high into the sky on what looked alarmingly like a firewhirl, building as flames sped from throughout the ruins to feed it. It showered a carpet bombing of fireballs as he moved toward them, bursting tents where they struck and quickly building an inferno around them. As Euryale peeled the pebbles her body to form a shield in front of them, Senthose moved his hands in-line with his twisting hips. In response, the scattered puddles leaped and spiraled around the firewhirl, forming a noose that cleaved it in twain, dropping the firebender toward the parched earth.

In his descent, he tucked and rolled at them in a fiery wheel. The officer uppercut, a rocky pillar erupting underneath him, sending him sprawling. As he twisted around, she shot a cable at his waist and yanked with both hands, slamming him into the blackened dirt.

The grimacing mob boss pointed sparking fingers at her, only to for his hand to be struck by a wave and flash-frozen. He jerked his other hand out of the stone creeping over it with an explosion, grasping the cable at his navel with his red-hot hand. His bindings melted as he staggered to his feet, but the drips from his hands froze underfoot. He hit the ground once more, and this time, Euryale wasted no time wrapping him in as many cables as she liked.

"Can you put out the fires?!" she screeched, but Senthose was already raising his hands. The discarded water soared into the sky, where it extinguished the blaze in a gentle shower.

The Other Fire Lord struggled in vain, but Euryale was holding her hands in front of her, gritting as she pressed down on the metal with her bending. Unbeknownst to her, Senthose assisted with a bloodbending grip once his hands were back in his coat pockets. Unable to move more than a writhing worm, Gevurah roared in frustration, belching a stream of fire into the night.

"Did you call in your location?" Senthose asked in a low tone.

"Not since Kyoshi bridge," Euryale returned in a whisper, "But he doesn't know that, and if he keeps doing what he's doing, he'll draw the reinforcements right to us."

"Or we can stop him and you can finish the job."

"What, you mean kill him?" she asked, looking queasy from the guilty flip of her stomach and the image of his crushed, burning followers. "You do know that's against the law, right? He's defeated, now we have to take him into custody so he can have a fair trial."

"Was it a fair trial when he tried to execute you with lightning?" Senthose scoffed, pointing at the firebender. "We know this scum is guilty, and we know what he does to his enemies. If he gets off, you'll never be able to sleep safely again!"

"You almost sound like you care," Euryale said with bewilderment.

"That's because I do. Look, you saw how we came together. Whatever our differences, we both know this guy needs to be stopped. He doesn't care about anything but himself, and if we fought him in the streets, he would've burned them down to save his own hide just like his greedy, filthy pappy!"

Gevurah stopped struggling to glare coldly at the waterbender and croaked, "Everyone I cared about is dead. Betrayed by our own kind. What matters what happens to them now?"

"You see!" Senthose shouted, shaking a fist for emphasis, "He even admits it!"

"Calm down!" Euryale commanded, "I will see to it that he receives justice for his crimes!"

"Once you deliver him to the Council, it'll be out of your hands! This has to end now, and we can easily dispose of the corp—"

"Senthose, shut up!" she yelled, "Don't you see that you're dangerously close to admitting to an officer conspiracy to murder a suspect?! I appreciate that you saved my life, so I don't want to charge you with something that could put you away for all of yours if I don't have to!"

"...So then," he asked, slowly lowering his hand as his expression softened, "That's your final answer?"

"Yeah. It is. Besides, it's not as easy as you sound."

"I guess I wouldn't know," Senthose lied, turning to walk away. "Come on, let's take him back to where we came in, we'll be easier to find that way."

With a heavy sigh, Euryale followed, dragging the deposed despot unceremoniously through the ashen mud.

Act 3

Moments later, when cars screeched to a halt all around them and police swarmed the area, Euryale turned to Senthose.

"Am I under arrest too, Officer?" he asked with surprising softness.

"Look," she sighed, "I appreciate your help, but you have to realize how suspicious this is. You just happened to show up near the crime scene where there just happened to be reports of a turf war, and you just happened to follow a cop and get in a fight with our most wanted suspect."

"I understand," he continued in the same tone, turning and folding his arms behind his back, "Take me away, Officer."

As she secured the bindings around his wrists, Phorcys jogged up, at first looking concerned, then furiously at Senthose. "Euryale, what's going on, why is he here?!"

The waterbender made no move to address either of them, so she cleared her throat and answered, "He showed up out of the blue to save my life and help me apprehend Gevurah, but now he's under arrest for being found at a crime scene under suspicious circumstances."

"...I see," Phorcys said, turning to him, "And what—"

"Not a word until I reach the station," he insisted without even looking. "I will be serving as my own legal counsel, and so will require all materials relevant to the case."

"In that case," he growled at Senthose, "Inspector Matsu will be arriving shortly. She can take your case from there."

Meanwhile, a small squad of officers escorted a hovering mound of mud, barely recognizable as Gevurah, to a waiting car. He started screaming at them once he saw Senthose, but the cable wrapped around his mouth made this a moot point.

"Yeah, yeah, save it for the Council!" an officer with a bushy brown beard barked as he shoved the deposed Mafioso roughly into the back of the cruiser.

Thanks a bunch, Senthose mouthed at Gevurah when no one else was looking. The would-be Fire Lord raised a puzzled eyebrow just before the car swerved around and sped off. Because of you, the bloodbender reflected with a smirk, the cops were led away from the industrial sector. So there's even less chance Netzach will be found before I want him to

"We'll move away from the suspect to talk, of course," Phorcys commented, having shifted to his daughter.

She nodded, looking in Senthose's direction. "Okay, but first I want to know...why did you help me?"

"I told you," he answered simply, "I wanted Gevurah off the streets. He's a danger to everyone in this city."

Phorcys led his progeny away, until Senthose was unable to hear them. But he did see, as Euryale was gesticulating an explanation, her father wrapped her in a tight hug. After a second's surprise, she softly patted his back.

"Is that what normal families do?" the detainee wondered aloud. "No wonder she's too soft for her own good." He looked up at the moonlight scorching through the clouds before adding, "Oh well. That can be fixed."

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