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|Breath of Fire|
05 10, 2010
The third chapter in the Village of Anquan series.
New characters are introduced, and a new quest that will intertwine with Cao and Zhan's.
The arena was rectangular, and lavishly decorated, outside of the boundaries. The ground within the boundaries was a flat, leveled stone, which was at a slightly lower elevation than the rest of the room. A ceiling, adorned with a dragon-themed mosaic, stood far above the arena. Decorative torches lined all four walls. Outside of the boundaries, spectators stood on either long side of the rectangle, brimming with anticipation.
On each end, there sat a man, squatted, leaning forward with their right hand on the ground, and with a decorative shawl over their backs. Both were barefoot, bare chested, and wore baggy pants that were tighter around the calves. One of them, a boy of only 14, had his eyes closed. His hair was in a top-knot, like most of the men in the surrounding crowd. His eyes were closed, and images passed through his mind as he inhaled deeply.
"MA! MA MA!"
A one year old boy with tears in his eyes wandered aimlessly down the sparsely lit hallway. There was a shifting light at the end, illuminated from outside the open door on the left hand side. The boy keeps walking towards it.
The young man exhaled, and opened his eyes.
He put his right leg forward, and stood, the shawl falling from his shoulders as he turned to face his opponent. He quickly shifted into a stance. The young man's left arm was almost fully extended ahead of him, hand in a fist. His left leg was also ahead of him, the foot was two feet from his torso. His right arm was bent at the elbow, closer to his side, hand also in a fist, right leg bent at the knee and behind him, foot perpendicular to his face.
His opponent, on the opposite side of the arena, was several years older than him. The man wore a short, triangular beard beginning just above his chin, and a pointed mustache. He assumed a stance similar to the youth. His eyes burned with confidence, but his face only displayed concentration. He took one step forward with his right leg, and punched with his right arm at the same time. A bolt of flame leaped from his fist, and jetted towards the youth.
He was ready, however. The young man stepped back, and to the right with his left foot, and adjusted his upper body at the same time. The movement, which happened in an instant, resulted in the fireblast missing him by mere inches. He felt the heat dash across his skin for a moment, and then disappear as quickly as it arrived. As his body moved into the a position opposite his previous one, the youth threw his right fist forward, and to the left in a sweeping punch. A jet of flame shot toward his opponent.
The older man stepped toward the approaching blade of flame with his left leg, and crossed his arms diagonally before him. The fire struck his arms, and dispersed around and behind him as the man threw his arms to either side of his body. An effective block.
The younger man did not relent, however. He began throwing a flurry of punches, unleashing a plethora of fireblasts. His opponent punched, swung at, and dodged them. The attack still forced him to back peddle, giving the youth an advantage. He advanced, pressing his attack as he walked. The older man still had no choice but to stay on the defensive.
The two fighters were slowly moving, one advancing, one retreating, to the far edge of the arena. The man could tell that he was running out of space.
He dodged left to avoid a fireblast, and then right as another one approached. He had been watching carefully, and thought he saw a chance to counterattack. He stepped forward and kicked low with his right foot, several fireblasts soaring above his head as he did so. A burst of fire shot toward the youth, forcing him to stop his attacks. The flame grew in size as it approached him. He assumed a rigid stance, his right leg ahead foot forward, his left leg parallel and behind him. His arms were crossed in front of him. He inhaled deeply as the blast approached:
The toddler reached the doorway, and looks outside. Fire glimmers against the tears dripping from his blue eyes as he watches buildings burn. The buildings are familiar to him, and he knows them as places he often played. Two men in black armor with gold trim, and red uniforms underneath quickly rush towards the boy. One of them yells to "Get him back inside! Somewhere safe!", and the other complies.
Before the man guarding the boy can leave, a boulder comes soaring in from somewhere behind the flames. "NO!" The other armored man screams before sending a fireblast at it with his fist. The boulder is diverted, and the toddler sees no more as the other guard picks him up off his feet and begins running back down the hallway.
He finished exhaling just before flame reached his arms.
The youth blocked the attack in a way similar to his opponent's, throwing his arms apart and bending the fire away. But then he did something different. The young man brought his arms ahead of him, and turned around to his left, "holding" the flame the whole time. When he finally reeled back to his opponent, who was much closer now, after running in the wake of the blast, he threw his arms toward him, turning the older man's own attack against him.
The man hadn't expected this, and knew he could not effectively block in time. He stepped forward with his right let, stopping his run, and threw a punch with his right arm. The enlarged fireblast warped around the man, and wrapped behind him before extinguishing. Still, while the attack was diminished, the proximity of the fire to the man's skin was felt, distracting him for a moment.
The youth had wasted no time in rushing to his opponent and began launching a series of blows less than two feet from the man. The man dodged the attacks, although he was dodging more fists than fire now, given the closeness of his attacker. The youth jabbed at his face, and he cocked his head, then at his ribs, so he dodged to the opposite side. The man tried to counter with a swing of his right fist, but the youth ducked under it, putting him in perfect position.
The right fist of the younger man connected with the jaw of the older one. The man reeled back, forcing him to step backwards a few feet and in the second long gap that he was defenseless, the youth pounded his right foot into the ground ahead of him, and sent a vicious fireblast searing from his right fist.
The older man was struck directly in the stomach, his abdomen scorched with a second degree burn. He let out a grunt, and fell forward, to his knees.
The youth walked towards him, in a more relaxed manner now. As he strode toward his essentially fallen opponent, he inhaled a deep breath:
The man in the armor storms into the the large room, and sets the boy down gently in a bed. He then turns back to the door and closes it behind him. No footsteps are heard in the hallway after that, meaning the armored man hadn't left. The toddler looks around, still confused as to what was going on. The only thing he knew was that he couldn't find his mother.
He knew he needed to find her, because she always made everything okay. All he needed to do was get to her, and she would make things okay again. He got back up from his bed, and did as good a job as he could running to the door. He tried opening it, but the knob kept stopping.
As far as he knew, he was trapped.
The youth exhaled.
The man was breathing heavily, and clutching his stomach in pain. He was looking down at the ground ahead of him, when the youth's shadow came into view. He looked up, and his view was largely obstructed by a glare from the sun. The best he could see was a silhouette of his opponent.
"Well, have you proved your point well enough, Zhengqi?" The man asked a confident, yet exhausted look on his face. The youth merely shook his head as he stopped in front of him. "Then do it." The man said. "Strike me down, like animal we both know you really are." His eyes still burned, but no longer with confidence. There was anger.
A great amount of noise was rising from the crowd now. They were cheering, knowing what would happen next. What had to happen next.
The youth raised his right hand, and clenched it into a fist, and the man did his best not to look away. He looked the younger man straight in the eyes.
He brought down his attack, and the man was knocked to his right hand side. Surprisingly enough to him, there was no fire involved in the strike.
The crowd went completely still.
"To kill you now, would only prove your point." The youth said to his fallen opponent, who was now sporting a large bruise near his eye. "You said to me, in front of my fellow nobles, in my own home that the Fire Nation should have won the war, and burned Ba Sing Se to the ground. I am sparing you to prove my point: This is no longer Ozai's land. Nor is it the land of Sozin, or Azulon before him. The war is over, and contrary to your beliefs, that is a good thing."
Without another word, the youth turned and walked away. Nearly everyone else in the arena was left stunned and wide eyed, including his opponent. They watched as he walked through the freshly made canyon of people before him to exit that part of the estate. Another man, this one middle aged, with slightly graying hair, handed Zhengqi a towel.
"That was a very noble decision Zheng."
The youth nodded. "Thank you Zhidao." He took the towel and wiped the sweat from his face. "But it wasn't entirely a moral one. If I were to kill him, or even to wo-"
"I understand." His mentor and guardian replied. "You said it yourself out there." He looked down for a moment, and sighed as he looked back up, putting a hand on the youth's shoulder. "Are you sure you want to leave now? The war has hardly been over a month. They're surely still somewhat hostile in that area to someone from our nation." There was worry in his gray eyes.
The youth looked away. "I have to go. My sources say that there has been a Water Tribe woman spotted in several towns throughout that section of the Earth Kingdom. If it's her I-" He was stopped by his foster father putting up his hand.
"I know, I know." He sighed again, taking his hand off the youth's shoulder. "Perhaps I should have waited to tell you that she was still alive until a few months after we thought Ozai had won the war." His eyes looked down for a moment, as the memory of the day that victory was declared flashed through his head. "But must you go alone?"
"I'll be fine Zhidao." The youth replied as he began to walk past him and go to change his clothes. He wiped his face with the towel again, opening his blue eyes again after he did so. "I'm fourteen years old now." Just before he rounded the corner, he turned around, hands held out to his sides, and a prominent grin on his face. "Practically full grown!"
The older man shook his head. "That's what I'm afraid of."
- The character of Zhenqi (he goes by "Zheng") was originally made in the spur of a moment, after the writer imagined an Agni Kai, and wanted to include one.
- Zheng will quickly become an important character to the story, and will have many flashback sequences, similar to those in the episode Zuko Alone.
For the collective works of the author, go here.