Royal Caldera ablaze
Like Telling a Dragon to Stop Breathing Fire
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Emblem of the Outlaw


One: Fire



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The Hunter

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Whispers of the Past Lie Within the Parchment Part 1

The Dragon

"I've finally caught up with you."

The Corsair stood on the edge of a building. His cloak swirled around his ankles from the wind. Underneath that cloak were the precious documents. August could easily apprehend the Corsair and reclaim those documents, but he just stood to speak to the outlaw. Though the Corsair could easily have jumped off the building and vanished once more, something drove the outlaw to hear the hunter's words.

"Your pattern was predictable. I'm surprised none of the others have figured it out." August spoke without hesitation. "The triangular pattern. I thought you would have been cleverer than that."

"And yet it took you four years to realize it yourself." The Corsair spoke. His voice was higher than August had imagined, almost feminine. "It's no fun to have a pattern no one can figure out. And it's no fun to have a pattern people figure out too quickly. I'd say I did a pretty good job finding a balance between the two extremes."

A cold night breeze blew past their faces. Both knew that they could end this interchange in an instant, yet both had no desire to. The hunter had spent so long trying to track his opponent down that now he was fascinated to find out who he really was, what his motivation was. August had spent so long tracking this man, so very long, that he felt the need to find out who he was and end his life by his own hand. The Corsair had finally found a suitable foil, and he did not want to let their game of the past four years come to an end without leaving some sort of tease for the hunter.

"It's been fun dancing with you, August." The Corsair turned around, and August could see the softness of her features, the delicacy of her lips. His views on the Corsair had been completely wrong, and only now could August comprehend just how much she had been playing with him, with all those hunting her down.

"But our song is ending," her lips weaved themselves into a thin crescent smile, "and in one year's time, our entire world will come jolting to a halt."

"What do you mean, our entire world will come jolting to a halt?" August asked, frustrated by her cryptic answer, but fascinated and kind of turned on at the same time.

There was no answer; the Corsair blew August a kiss and fell backwards off of the building, into nothingness.

"Have you figured it out yet?" Four months had passed, and once more August stood facing down the Corsair. Now, it was apparent to August that she was only continuing her pattern to play with him. That she wanted him to realize what she was doing and try to stop her. She asked about the riddle she had left him with last time.

"No. What do you mean our song is ending? And that the world will come to a halt? What are you planning?" August had spent the last four months trying to figure out what she meant, and to no avail.

The Corsair looked disappointed. "I had thought you were cleverer than that."

"You didn't give me enough to go off of!" August angrily responded.

"But that wouldn't be fun."

They stood in silence, until the sound of the other bounty hunters rang through the building. Their time was limited, and though August had a clear opportunity at capturing the Corsair and being the most successful bounty hunter in history, he was more concerned with what she meant by the end of their song. Once the sound of footsteps passed the Corsair's ear, she sighed.

"It looks like you weren't a real opponent after all. I suppose I'll just have to keep sifting through the pieces until I find the player." Like before, she stood on a windowsill and looked back at August. This time, she fell backwards out the window without any sort of gesture towards August, having ceased to acknowledge him.

Her body now fell to the ground she had burned. Those killing shots had not been fired by Liwei, but rather by the Hunter, the man who had searched all his life for the Corsair, only to find that she didn't acknowledge him as an equal. The teens looked back at their older colleague in alarm, a smoking gun in his hand. Not a real opponent, August thought. Am I an opponent now, Corsair? Now that you died at my hands, will you finally realize that I am as worthy an opponent as you ever had gotten? He did not regret killing her. It was the only way this could have been resolved, it was the only way he could prove himself as a player in this game. This game that he had just ended with three simple bullets.

"Ying!" Liwei called the Corsair by her name. He dropped his gun and ran to her now, catching her just before her body could hit the ground.

Ishio and Frost looked at each other in alarm. Ying was a girl's name... But they had no time to feel like idiots for not knowing that the Corsair was a woman. Though they waited long enough to give a cursory glance at August for having shot her, they ran after Liwei as he spoke his final words to his childhood acquaintance.

"Oh...?" The Corsair spoke, wincing as the blood poured from her side. There was a bullet wound in her right side, her left shoulder, and her right knee. No fatal shots, but a combination that would cause her to bleed to death in a few minutes. "My useless brother... The last face I have to see..." Her words sounded harsh, but a trained ear could tell sibling jests from true insults.

While Ishio and Frost were startled by the revelation that the two were siblings, it was not the place for them to speak up. "What the hell are you doing, Ying? Killing them is going too far..." Liwei rebuked his older sister, but tears came to his eyes.

The Corsair smiled a pained smile. "I'm a psychopath, Liwei... I'm never... Satisfied with the small crimes..." She looked over Liwei's shoulder at Ishio and Frost. "Still... choosing interesting... company... I see..."

Liwei shifted his hold on his sister and pulled off his hand. Covered in the thick crimson blood that dripped onto the charred ground. He wiped the tears off of his eye and held her once more in his shaking, blood stained hands. "You can't die here... You're the best Firebender I know, and you have to teach Ishio Firebending..."

"The best Firebender you know... What damn lies... have you been telling yourself?" she tried to shift a bit more to look her brother in the eyes, but the movement was too painful. "You... were always a better bender... than me..."

"I gave up bending... They told me it would be safer. I knew that it would be safer. I can't bend, Ying," the ex-police spy responded. Ishio and Frost were too stunned to speak.

"You gave up bending... Telling yourself that you can't bend... is like... telling a dragon to stop breathing fire..." the Corsair leaned back in her brother's arms and tried to catch a few more gasping breaths. She was trying to keep alive, but she knew that her minutes were numbered. They all knew this; Ishio and Frost could hardly comprehend the situation, while Liwei could. And it was his understanding that made it most painful.

"I figured it out, Corsair." August had approached the group, and stood looking over his long-standing opponent, completely unmoved by the revelation that the Corsair was related to someone in his group and that they were benders. "I figured out your puzzle, Corsair. Will you acknowledge me now?"

She laughed a choked laugh, drowned in blood yet still insane. "Our dance ended... long ago, August... You've been dancing with yourself—nothing has changed." the Corsair then turned to Ishio, standing behind Liwei. "You... must be... the Avatar."

"How do you...?" Ishio began to ask.

Ying held out her fist towards Ishio. It took him a moment to realize that she wanted a fist-bump. His knuckles touched hers, and she spoke, "I... know things..." Her arm dropped limp and she laughed again. "The world is screwed... A screwed world without me... is pointless... Fix it, Avatar..." Her minutes had turned to seconds, and she turned to her brother. "You... Do something useful... For once..." The Corsair's final words were spoken, her body fell limp. Liwei carefully set her down on the ground she had battled and delicately closed her eyes.

"After all these years of playing bandit, you're one to talk." Tears fell onto the Corsair's cold body and Liwei stood to face her killer. "August..." he began, his tone fierce and enranged.

"What can I say? Five damn years wasted without shit to show for it," August laughed and pulled a bottle of hard dragon Scotch from his coat. After a swig, he said, "I didn't want the bounty, and you kids prolly didn't want it either. I say we leave her for the guards to figure out."

"You just killed her and that's all you can say?!" Frost spoke for the first time in this whole incident.

"It wasn't as though I murdered her. Knowing her and the messed up shit that goes on in her mind, she prolly saw the whole damn thing coming." August rubbed his nose and took another drink of alcohol. "More like trying to win a game after its already over." He said thoughtfully. Then he turned to the teens. "You guys are all benders." the hunter looked at Ishio. "You're the Avatar, king of benders." A laugh. "I hunt outlaws like you for cash. We'll be running into each other again, and I hope that you guys play a game I have a chance at winning."

August waved over his shoulder as he vanished through the gates of the palace. The sounds of the guards running to the scene rang throughout the area, and Team Avatar knew that their time here was limited. Liwei stood, his face serious and his eyes downcast, "Let's go." he declared flatly, and the others followed him with a slight nod.

Odraz was silently prepared for their journey to continue. Most of the work was being done by Liwei, who hadn't spoken since they left the palace. Finally, Ishio spoke.

"Why didn't you tell us you're a Firebender?!" His tone was extremely upset. They had only been travelling for a couple of days, but so much had happened in those few days. It was just as Ishio thought he could finally trust Liwei that he discovered he was keeping something this big from him.

"I'm not a Firebender... Not anymore." Liwei said quietly.

"Gemsbok bull shit. A bender is a bender"

"It's not that simple Ishio."

"Like hell. It is that simple. You could have been my Firebending teacher and I'd already have one of the elements mastered."

"It's really not that simple, Ishio..."

"Screw that. I fought alongside you against those gangsters, and I thought I could trust you! But you can't even trust me enough to tell me you're a bender! We're a team here, we can't go keeping secrets from each other!"

There was no response. Liwei wanted to tell Ishio that he could bend... He wanted to tell him why he had to hide it. Pain swelled in Liwei's chest as he heard the Avatar yell at him. The Earthbender was still so young: he saw the world in black and white. Even Frost couldn't see the gray areas. Only a year or two stood between them, but the experiences in that time made Liwei leagues more mature than either of them. The gray areas dictated Liwei hiding his bending, and he did not speak past the Avatar's previous statement. Doing so would be purposeless.

Ishio's chest rose and fell heavily as he stared into his comrades eyes. After a while, his breathing slowed until he was steadily inhaling and exhaling. He could tell that Liwei did not plan on keeping things from him, and did not strive to keep secrets. Treating him as though he did was only cruel, and after a while Ishio had calmed enough to apologize.

"I'm sorry, Liwei... I'm just pissed about the situation is all..." the teenager swallowed and wrung his hands, feeling stupid for his outburst.

Dwelling on the situation wasn't doing them any good, and so Frost spoke up. "Liwei, you're the only one of use who is familiar with the Fire Nation. Do you know anyone else who could teach Ishio Firebending?"

Hearing Frost not holding Liwei to teaching Firebending caused the ex-police officer to perk up. Once again, it was as though they had never found out Liwei was a Firebender. "Yeah... Master Geming, a librarian of sorts. It would be dangerous to seek him out for this purpose, but he always believed in the old ways and wouldn't object to teaching the Avatar Firebending."

"Awesome!" Ishio seemed to have already forgotten that Liwei was a Firebender. "Then let's go to this library!"

Liwei nodded, and with a slight smile led the way to Ishio's next possible Firebending teacher.


  • I feel guilty for leaving this chapter so short, but it was the easiest way to move into the next chapter
  • "Gemsbok bull shit" is a phrase that I really want to catch on
  • The next serial moves into the real mood of the series. It's going to be mysterious, scandalous, and action-packed...

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