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|"No one else in this entire world will offer you a chance to be redeemed. But I will, because I'm your brother."|
|— Kuzon, to Sozin|
|The Last Chance|
The Last Chance is the seventeenth chapter of the AU fanfiction story.
While attempting to sneak out through the Royal Palace, Kuzon feels compelled to see his brother one more time and give him the chance to renounce his past deeds. Sozin feels completely justified and will never believe he was wrong. He tells Kuzon they have no choice but to fight. Kuzon disagrees, but is forced to defend himself. Kunchen and Taro on Azulon and the guards. Sozin and Kuzon both swear they will never stop fighting.
They found some rope and Kuzon tied the two Airbenders' arms like prisoners and led them right to the palace gate. Six frightful-looking guards from the secret police stood watch. Kuzon gave them the Fire Nation salute. "These are two of the riot instigators. I was told the Fire Lord wants to deal with them personally." The lead guard said nothing. A bead of sweat rolled down Taro's face. Momentarily, the guard returned the salute and the gate opened. Kuzon took them into the grounds and around the palace through a courtyard in the back. Other guards they met got the same story.
They passed through the main foyer to the corridors in the back of the palace. They walked through a maze of passages, but Kuzon seemed to know the way. The halls were lined with guest rooms and servants' quarters. They walked down one long hall, which was very ornate but seemed to be devoid of guards. Kuzon stopped parallel to two of the fanciest-looking doors the other two had ever seen, pure gold inlaid with rubies and carved in a dragon motif. Kuzon looked at the doors silently. He turned around to look at Taro, then Kunchen. "I'm sorry, but there's one more thing I have to do."
Kuzon pressed on the doors and they slowly swung open, revealing the Fire Lord's throne room, and a fully awake Sozin perched on that throne. He was dressed not in robes, but in his Agni Kai uniform. "Somehow, I knew you would be here, brother," he said. Kuzon removed his stolen helmet and nodded calmly.
Kuzon removed his stolen chestplate, a red linen shirt beneath it. "Sozin, this is the last time I plan to see you in this life, and I have to at least ask for one last favor of you."
Sozin chuckled at the ridiculousness of the situation, a condemned criminal soliciting a favor from the Fire Lord. "What would that be?" he asked.
"I want you to stop the war."
"What?" Sozin asked, shocked at the unbelievable request.
"If you stop the war, rebuild what you have destroyed, at least try to atone for what you've done, then I can forgive you. No one else in this entire world will offer you a chance to be redeemed." Sozin began to descend from his throne, and Kuzon followed him with his head as he spoke. "But I will, because I'm your brother. Let me help you, Sozin. There's still a chance for you." Kuzon spoke with more earnestness and sincerity than he almost ever used. He doubted his brother would accept his offer, but megalomaniac or not, Sozin was his brother.
Sozin walked slowly and smoothly along the northern wall of the room, the right-hand side if one was facing the throne, hands folded behind his back. "You're willing to forgive me? You presume much, Kuzon. You betrayed your people and your only family. I don't think you're in a position to forgive anyone, traitor." But Kuzon stood firm under his brother's gaze. That word no longer affected him. Sozin approached the place where he had hung the two swords on the wall. He took the scabbard off the wall and drew both swords. He lifted his own sword. After considering for a moment, he threw Kuzon's sword to its original owner. The sword seemed to fly right to Kuzon, and he caught it perfectly.
"I am sorry I have to kill you, Kuzon," Sozin said, sincerely. "I wish things didn't have to be this way."
"It doesn't have to be any way, Sozin! You're your own person. You have free will. You can make your own choices!"
Taro and Kunchen had watched this exchange in silence, but now Azulon entered the throne room to come to his father's aid, accompanied by several secret police. Azulon leaped at Taro with a fireblast, but Taro dodged it easily, spinning around the teenager and firing a gust of wind with his right hand under his left arm, without looking back. He moved on to deal with the guards as Azulon stumbled toward Kunchen.
"I wouldn't expect you to understand. It is my sworn duty to kill you," Sozin said, leveling his sword. He spoke one last thing, softly, to his brother: "I'm sorry, Kuzon."
Sozin lunged at Kuzon with his sword. Kuzon's time with the Airbenders served him well, as he easily dodged Sozin's angry lunge, spun behind him, cradled the sword against his arm and knocked his brother in the back with the pommel. The momentum carried Sozin and he fell forward, but recovered by placing his free hand on the ground, springing off it into a cartwheel, and landing in a drop stance facing Kuzon. He pulled his limbs in, then released a fireball with his free hand. Kuzon dodged, but Sozin wasted no time spinning toward Kuzon with his dao. Kuzon leaned back and swung his own sword through the air where his head had just been, parrying Sozin's blow. He lifted his front leg and delivered a swift, fire-less kick to Sozin's chin. He stepped forward and held his sword vertically, guarding. Sozin spun away, following the momentum of his head and sputtering blood. He regained his footing quickly, and from that distance of a few paces away he sent an angry barrage of fireballs at Kuzon. Between the Airbending-based dodges he had learned and his skill with his weapon, Kuzon evaded or deflected all of them. He spun and twisted his dao elegantly, knocking them away. He spun toward Sozin, holding his sword over his head and pointed down as a guard in Sozin's direction. As Kuzon completed his spin he bent his knees and went low, swinging his sword in a wide horizontal arc. Sozin held his sword angled down and brought it across in front of him to easily parry Kuzon's blow as Kuzon regained his full height.
Meanwhile, Taro took on the guards accompanying Azulon. One rushed at him with a fiery punch, but that sort of blind aggression was useless on a skilled Airbender. Taro moved his head aside to dodge the blast, caught the outside of the guard's arm, and chopped the air at him with his other hand. The guard flipped over as another came at Taro. This one tried to strike from above with a fire dagger, but Taro swept his strike away with air and blasted him in the chest. Two guards rushed him from either side, but he simply stepped outside their punches, laced his two arms over theirs, and chopped them in the stomachs. He brought his hands in and down to pull them to the ground with the air.
He turned to face about ten more guards, but they had learned from the others, and stood in fighting stances, waiting for him to make a move. They wanted to let the Airbender attack so they could find a weak spot in his style and exploit it. Taro moved in with his palms guarding. He began to whip air at them with his hands as he moved in cautiously. This technique knocked one out, but now all the guards had circled around him and he was presently barraged with fireblasts. He tried to focus even harder. He spun and dodged from one side of the circle to the other, firing air, swiping hands away, twisting legs. He used a palm and elbow combination with his left arm to knock one guard out with air, but he lost focus trying to fight so many opponents, and he let his right arm drop and drift too far back. Another guard grabbed it, yanked Taro toward him and delivered a fireball right to Taro's right shoulderblade. He pulled Taro to face him and delivered a swift kick to his jaw. Taro was knocked down and rolled on the floor a few times. He picked himself up. His back hurt badly and he wouldn't be able to use his right arm effectively for now. He flexed his jaw. Not dislocated, but the flesh had been lightly burned, and it hurt to close his mouth.
Across the room, young Azulon awkwardly fired dual blasts of fire at Kunchen as cover while he regained his footing from Taro's blow. Kunchen dodged, but Azulon was in fighting position again. He fired one, two, three fire blasts, the last with his foot. Kunchen snaked around them and moved in. He caught Azulon's left arm as the latter withdrew it. Kunchen tried to twist his arm, but Azulon sharply snapped his arm out of Kunchen's grasp with sudden force, bringing his hand under his right arm. Simultaneously, Azulon angled his right hand to deliver a flaming spearhand to the Airbender. Azulon missed though, Kunchen spinning behind him and employing circle walking to keep Azulon's back to him. Azulon struggled to return to a position facing his opponent. Finally he stepped, turned, and fired an axe kick. Kunchen went low, shooting his right arm up inside Azulon's kick, then making a sweeping motion with his right foot. The air mimicked his movements and Azulon landed on the polished floor with a thud. Kunchen followed through into a drop stance. His right hand had been slightly burned where he caught the kick, and he flexed and examined it. Not bad, he thought. It wouldn't leave any permanent damage, but he wouldn't be able to make a good fist with that hand for a few days. He only regretted that he wouldn't be more help to Taro, who was still facing seven royal guards.
Sozin and Kuzon were still sparring. Their blades looked like metallic blurs. Back and forth, vertical slashes, horizontal thrusts, parry, swipe, parry, duck. Neither of them could land a strike though. Finally their swords crashed together with such force that the two men fully extended their sword arms away from their bodies from the recoil. Each seeing their opponent's torso open, they both simultaneously struck one last time. Sozin's sword rested level with Kuzon's throat, the tip of the blade just barely pressuring his jugular vein. A quick jerk or thrust from Sozin and Kuzon's throat would open and he would bleed to death instantly. Kuzon's sword pointed into Sozin's stomach, just barely depressing the flesh. A little more pressure from Kuzon and Sozin's stomach would be punctured. They both stood there for a few moments that each seemed to last hours, just panting and looking into each other's eyes. Their swords were in a perfect vertical alignment, Sozin's with the blade facing up and arcing into Kuzon's neck, Kuzon's with the blade facing down and curving into Sozin's abdomen. At that moment the swords were in perfect position to depict the ancient principle they had been intended to symbolize.
"I will never stop fighting, brother," said Sozin.
"Nor will I, brother," said Kuzon.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Enemies and Traitors chapters|
|Prologues - Brothers - Responsibilities - Necessities - Resources - The Avatar - Opportunities - Preparations - Betrayals - Changing Plans - Scars - Counting Losses - Exiles - Ghosts - Homecoming - The Traitor and the Firelord - Escapes - The Last Chance - Legacies|