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June 16, 2017
"Pressure and Obligation"
The moon shines down in the late evening over the wilderness around twenty miles northeast of Gai Chan. In an open valley, a large collection of tents is sprawled across the area. The only light source is a campfire in the middle of the temporary encampment, being tended to by, who is sitting on one of four logs surrounding the open flame. Moments pass before the heavy trump of footsteps is heard, approaching the campfire. Gaza doesn't break his focus on the fire while he addresses the approaching figure.
"You're up rather late,."
"Tch! What can I say? I'm not tired!"
Gaza hums an acknowledgement while Maku sits on the log directly across from Gaza's.
"What are you doing up?"
"Oh, I was looking over the map not long ago, formulating our next plan of attack," Gaza responds.
"What with some of our men stationed in Gai Chan, I just want to make sure we don't over-exert ourselves for the next couple of weeks until we return there for more formal planning."
"Aw, please! You and I make for a fierce combination of brains and brawn! Together, nothing will stand in our way!"
"Nothing... except the Avatar."
"She may not be a threat now, but at some point, I'm sure she will, and by then, she may have mastered all of the elements."
"Well, even so, we'll be ready! She'll need all the strength and courage she can get by the time she faces off against us."
Gaza simply hums an acknowledgement yet again, staring into the campfire. Maku follows suit, transfixing his gaze on the flame dancing before them before Gaza breaks the silence a minute later.
"Say, Maku, I don't think I ever asked you: How did you become a warlord?"
"Well, it's quite a story..."
"I'm sure my backstory trumps yours," Gaza replies with a flicker in his eye as he displays a cocky grin.
"Ha! You really think so? Were you the son of Chan!?"
"Chan...? You're the son of one of the first, and most notorious warlords of the Islands?"
"Indeed, I am," Maku answers, crossing his arms and smiling in satisfaction knowing that he was able to bewilder his knowledgeable companion.
"Alright, I'm listening."
"Tch! Glad I was finally able to draw your attention," Maku huffs somewhat sarcastically, rolling his eyes slightly before uncrossing his arms and looking into the fire, a noticeably softer tone consuming him as he begins to tell his story.
"Chan was my father. I was born from him and my mother nearly forty years ago. Despite his incredible reputation as one of the most feared warlords ever to be known, Chan was actually quite a loving father. Whenever he wasn't out scouting and conquering land, fighting other warlords, or planning battle strategies, he and I would spend time together, playing, and laughing. Meanwhile, I didn't spend as much time getting to know my mother, but she was young, caring, and innocent. She was a lover of his from one of the villages he had conquered. One day, though, everything changed..."
A four-year-old Maku listens to the carnage outside the tent where he and his mother have sheltered themselves. The screams of women are intermingled with the raunchy and venomous guffaws of soldiers as they run around the village, pillaging houses and executing people indiscriminately. The sounds of destruction are mixed with the grunts and battle cries of a small faction of Chan's men, who are doing the best they can to fight off the onslaught while their leader and the rest of his party are out scouting lands a few miles away.
"Mommy, what's happening?" Maku asks, trembling with fear as tears begin to make his eyes glimmer.
"Maku, sweetie. Everything will be fine, but I need you to hide."
"Shhhhh..." she hushes him, while desperately glancing around to find anything to hide her son away. She notices a wicker basket about knee-high with a lid and zeros in on it, smiling slightly in anxious relief.
"In here, Maku!" his mother says in a whisper, wrapping her left arm around her son's waist and gently lifting the lid of the basket as she guides her son towards his makeshift shelter.
After Maku kneels down in the bottom of the basket, his knees pressed up against his lower jaw, he looks up at his mother wordlessly, gazing into her carnelian eyes with a mixed expression of worry and curiosity.
"Now, stay there and be very quiet, sweetie. I'll open the lid again when it's safe for you to come out."
Maku's mother gently places the lid back on top of the basket, while the faintest hints of light from the firebending outside can just barely be seen through the stitches of the toddler's hiding place. After about ten minutes, a new, intimidating voice can be heard booming from the entrance of the tent.
"Well, well, well... what do we have here?"
"Please, sir! Please don't take me away!" Maku's mother screams in desperation, before breathing shakily under immense fear.
"Take you away? I wasn't planning on doing that, little lady. I was only hoping you could provide me with some information."
Taking a few deep breaths, Maku's mother manages to calm herself some.
"Yes?" she asks quietly, her chest continuing to rise and fall heavily as she kneels before the stranger, keeping her eyes to the ground.
"This village is one of the over thirty ruled by Chan, is it not?"
"Yes, it is."
"Do you happen to know where Chan is? Pardon me, for displaying a bit of softness, but I think it would be rather unfair for me to just, usurp this village from under his nose, don't you think? Where is the bastard!?"
"I don't know. He said he would be out scouting land today. I don't know when he'll return."
"Hmph!" the unknown warlord huffs before he slowly walks around Maku's mother. His right hand ghosts the handle of his sheathed duandao as he steadily eyes her, while she continues staring at the ground silently.
"So you don't know when he'll return, but at least that burly pig chicken is likely still alive."
The warlord stops in his tracks in front of Maku's mother, facing away from her and towards the entrance of the tent. He stares ahead of him into the outside world for a few seconds before closing his eyes briefly and exhaling steadily through his nostrils. Upon opening his eyes, he smiles slightly, turning his head to the side to glance at Maku's mother.
"Well... thank you for the helpful information little lady."
With that, the warlord swiftly turns around, grabbing his duandao, and plunges the blade into her left breast. Maku's mother let's out a gurgled gasp as tears begin to flow from her wide eyes and blood begins to seep through her robes. The warlord smirks in wry amusement as he holds his position for a few seconds, below pulling the blood-soaked blade out, causing the stab wound to gush with blood, soaking the woman's thighs and knees in a cascade of red. As the warlord leaves, she falls over on her side, her raven black hair splaying on the ground behind her. Trying to place her hands over her wound, but convulsing uncontrollably, she only manages to wrap her arms around her waist as she becomes increasingly dizzy due to blood loss, her vision wavering. As she attempts to take a few feeble breaths, she coughs up a small pool of blood, which pours onto the floor in a slow puddle before her convulsions stop and she remains still, her arms going limp and her eyes remain open, but glassy.
Maku meanwhile, listened to the entire flow of events, unable to see what transpired. Following his mother's orders, he remains in the basket, completely quiet. Twenty minutes later, Chan returns from his outing and, upon seeing one of his villages being attacked draws out his dao and lets out a ferocious battle cry, directing his puma goat onwards as he charges ahead along with the rest of the men that accompanied him to reclaim his settlement. Upon fending off the warlord and his army, Chan assesses the damage and orders his men to search for survivors. As his men begin to scatter, his eyes widen and he immediately rushes towards his tent. Upon discovering the flap partially open, he draws back the curtain and gasps at the sight before him—his lover, pale and lying dead in a large pool of blood.
"No..." Chan chokes out in a gravely whisper, kneeling down to cradle his deceased lover in his arms, tears beginning to cloud the vision from his golden eyes.
"My love!" he shouts in anguish, her blood staining portions of his arms and uniform, before a timid voice calls from his left.
Letting out a large and surprised gasp, Chan shoots his head towards the basket and gingerly places his lover's body down. He shuffles over to the basket, lifting up the lid to find Maku unharmed and looking up at his father with innocent eyes.
"Oh... my son!" Chan cries out, overwhelmed with relief. He picks up Maku and cradles him in his arms, his body shaking with shortness of breath. Maku scrambles around slightly peering over his father's shoulder at the lifeless body of his mother.
His attention caught, Maku slides back down into his father's arms and looks up at him with innocence. Chan takes Maku by the waist and sets him down on the ground before placing his large hands atop of his son's shoulders.
"Your mother will no longer be able to care for you. But I'm still here, and I will train you to become the greatest member of my army. Someday, you may even succeed me as a strong and successful warlord! Perhaps one that even rivals my reputation! What do you say to that, son!?" Chan booms, chortling the last couple of sentences as he smiles broadly at his son with a confident glimmer in his eyes.
Entertained by his father's optimistic tone of voice, Maku laughs, clapping his hands a couple of times before shouting a happy "Yes!" to his father, before the two seal their deal with an embrace, laughing—innocent and young Maku over the supposed fun his father has proposed for him. Meanwhile the emotions Chan has experienced over the past few minutes overwhelm him, his laughs taking over and masking the sorrow and whiplash of relief upon discovering his son had survived against what would have been a gruesome and traumatic death.
Gaza can only stare slightly wide-eyed after hearing about what transpired in his partner's early youth.
"I know this is usually against our nature... as is our partnership... but... I'm sorry about what happened to your mother."
"Eh, it's alright," Maku brushes off. "Had she lived longer, I probably would have spent more time getting to know her. Regardless, even in my short time with her, she was an innocent and caring mother."
Maku pauses to take a breath before he continues his story.
"For years, my father trained me in both swordsmanship, and once I discovered my bending abilities, firebending. He fashioned me into a skilled member of his army, and, you could almost say, his right hand man. Ten years after the death of my mother, he and I were engaged in a battle over land..."
Chan and his army—a teenage Maku among them—are engaging a rivaling warlord and his men in battle in a large clearing. Both sides are evenly matched for the most part; but as time wears on, both sides very steadily begin to lose men, Chan's in particular. Maku is engaging three soldiers in a swordfight when he swiftly firebends at their feet, knocking them off balance before he drives his blade into the lower shins of one of the men before stomping a foot down on the soldier's face repeatedly until he slams his foot down one last time, kneading it into the man's face as his muffled yells of agony fall silent. As the remaining two men begin to stagger to their feet again, Maku wastes no further time and charges at one of the men, tackling him before driving his blade straight into the man's face, his headgear clumsily falling off as the force of the impact causes the two of them to fall to the ground. Maku leans atop his latest victim before he draws out his blood-soaked blade and swiftly gets to his feet and engages the last man in another sword fight. As their duel drags on for a few seconds, Maku balls his right hand and delivers a heavy punch to the man's stomach, flames erupting from the impact site. While the soldier's armor managed to block off much of the damage from the maneuver, the man briefly pats down on the impact site to ensure any small embers have been put out. Maku uses the soldier's momentary distraction, and juts his blade forward, only to have it blocked by that of his opponent. Chuckling, Maku seizes the opportunity and places his right hand on the man's face. As he tightens his grip slightly, heat begins to emanate from his palm, spreading out to his fingers while the elder soldier begins to yell in pain, his face becoming redder as small wisps of smoke trail upwards. After maintaining his stance for a total of fifteen seconds, Maku releases his grip on the now disfigured and burned face of his opponent, who falls briefly on his knees before slumping over and onto the ground on his left side.
His assault finished, Maku quickly rushes around the battlefield, searching for his father. Eventually, he finds Chan engaged in a heated dual over the rival warlord.
"I've been waiting... for the time when... I could dual the great warlord, Chan... for supremacy..." the warlord exclaims in between grunts and shouts.
"A dual... that you will lose!" Chan retorts.
"Ha! You think... your legendary title... will last after today? You're wrong... you bastard!"
Transfixed by the dual, Maku's eyes soon widen as he recognizes the voice of the rivaling warlord.
"Dad! That warlord! He's the one that killed mom!"
As Chan manages to block a blow from the rival warlord's blade with his own, he quickly glances over at Maku, shocked.
Chan turns his head back to face the warlord, who grimaces in amusement, nodding his head once, before Chan lets out an enraged roar and engages his lover's murderer in a ferocious dual. Maku can only watch as the swordfight and firebending continue on for what feels like hours. Eventually, the rivaling warlord manages to get himself behind Chan and drive his sword into the back of his opponent's neck. He grunts, pushing hard against the handle of his weapon until the blade finally comes out the other side of Chan's neck, the distinctive shcrack of his victim's spine snapping in the process. The warlord releases his hold of his blade momentarily to allow Chan's limp body to fall to the ground, the floor beneath Chan's head pooling with blood. A few seconds later, the warlord grasps the handle of his blade and attempts to draw back the weapon.
"Now then, if I got it in, then I must be able to get it back out..." he mutters to himself with a slight chuckle.
Eventually, the warlord manages to successfully pry his blood-soaked sword out of Chan's body and surveys the crimson coloration covering much of the usual silver blade.
"The most legendary warlord of these Islands... it's a shame, I would have expected our battle to have been a bit longer than it wa—"
Before the warlord can finish his sentence, a drawn out yell can be heard coming from behind him. He turns around to find Maku, tears flying from his eyes, charging at him, blade drawn out. The warlord's surprised expression turns to one of mild amusement and he snickers, before he widens his stances and knocks Maku's blade out of his hand with his own and follows by clutching onto the teen's right shoulder with his left hand. The warlord forcibly turns Maku around before shoving him down on his knees, and bringing his blood-soaked blade to Maku's neck. Maku simply pants heavily, sweat and tears mixing together in a salty mess around his face.
"I should kill you, but I think your father and a large handful of his men is good enough for today, don't you think?"
Maku doesn't answer. He continues panting and squeezes his eyes shut momentarily, trying to prevent any more tears from trickling out. The warlord leans down to whisper in Maku's ear.
"You've lost, boy. You've lost everything, and, everyone."
With that, the warlord draws back his blade, and strikes Maku across the top of his head with the hilt of his sword. Maku's eyes snap open at the moment of impact, only for his vision to become dizzy, his eyes roll to the back of his head and close as he slumps down to the ground, unconscious. With Maku down, the warlord orders his remaining men onwards, and they leave the battlefield riddled with corpses and open flames dancing amongst the carnage.
"When I came to, I was surrounded by around thirty surviving members of my father's army. I recovered my father's dao..." Maku begins, ghosting his hand over the handle of his dao upon mention, followed by momentarily taking off his helmet, observing his slightly distorted reflection and running a hand along one of the feather-like extensions protruding from the top like a stag's antler.
"... and his helmet, and we moved on. I changed that day. I became hellbent on revenge. So I spent every single day from that moment on vigorously training myself further, and along with Chan's remaining men, acquiring even more men for my army. I never did see that warlord again, but the death of both of my parents by him was what led me to who I am today."
"That's... quite something," Gaza states with a hint of sympathy in his tone, while Maku puts his helmet back on. Maku sighs, and there is a brief lull in activity before Maku turns his attention back to Gaza and addresses Gaza with a slight chuckle.
Gaza smirks slightly in amusement before his expression turns more serious and he stares into the fire and begins his backstory.
"Well, in terms of parenting, you ended up better than I did, at least. I didn't know much about my own parents—they abandoned me when I was five-years-old. I'm not sure if what they did was with malicious intent, or if it was a difficult, albeit merciful decision, or just a case of parents who were unable to care for their child, what with the looming threat and fear for the warlords, but regardless, I was alone at an early age. I spent the next three years fending for myself in the wilderness as a feral child, when, like you, everything changed one day..."
It's midday when an eight-year-old Gaza finishes consuming his latest meal of a small hybrid animal within his makeshift home of a labyrinth of exposed roots from a massive cherry tree. After exhaling in satiated satisfaction, his attention is caught when he hears the finely timed march of a party of ten soldiers. Peering out from the threshold of his fortress, Gaza finds a decorated warlord leading a faction of his forty-strong army onward when one of the soldiers happens to avert his attention momentarily to the tree, and, just barely manages to catch Gaza in sight.
"Halt! I see something!" the soldier exclaims, causing Gaza to retreat momentarily.
The warlord stops in his tracks and turns his attention to the soldier, who by now has taken a few steps towards the tree and is looking down at the root system. The warlord huffs before he catches up with the soldier, shoving him aside.
"I make the orders around here!" he barks before leaning down, closer to the roots of the tree, while a few additional soldiers carefully trail behind their leader, ready to confront whatever it is that has caused them to temporarily halt their march.
A few seconds later, Gaza emerges from below with a yell, brandishing a dagger crafted out of rock and bone. The warlord responds immediately, drawing out his own weapon as the two stare each other down.
"A child!? Tell me, boy, where did you come from, and who is among your family?"
"I have no one," Gaza responds bluntly, his gaze still fixed on the eyes of the warlord, and his makeshift dagger drawn forward ready to defend himself as needed.
The warlord furrows his brow, unconvinced.
"Hmph! I'll ask you again, boy: where did you come from, and who is among your family!?"
"I have no one!"
At this, Gaza lets out a yell before drawing his dagger towards the warlord's throat and stopping, causing the warlord to lurch back slightly instinctively. The soldiers respond by drawing out their weapons and surrounding the boy, ready to defend their leader. There is a momentary pause with yet another stalemate before one of the soldiers speaks up.
"Sir? What are your orders?"
After a few seconds, the warlord smirks, amused and mildly impressed.
"This boy's got guts. I shall take him as my own and train him in my ways."
At this, Gaza's expression changes to one of slight bewilderment, and he slowly draws down his weapon, while the warlord sheathes his away. The warlord then stands, smirking down at the boy with his hands on either side of his waist as he waits for Gaza to step forward and join him. After yet another pause, Gaza secures his dagger to the waistband of his robes and slowly begins to walk towards the warlord and his men, his gaze once again fixed on that of the warlord as he continues to take in the elder's words while seemingly working on autopilot. As Gaza walks closer to the group, the warlord places a hand to the back of the boy's head, ushering him forward to the head of the group before they continue marching onwards, back to camp.
"He kept to his word. He adopted me and trained me with the intention that I would fight alongside him, and someday, succeed him. Much like how Chan worked with you. Nine years later, I had engaged in a fair amount of battles alongside my... adoptive father... and his men, when I started having second doubts. I guess you could say I became paranoid. I was afraid that he would go back on his word of my succeeding him, and so, one evening, I slit his throat in his sleep."
There is a brief pause as Gaza fixes his gaze on the campfire—appearing slightly melancholy—before his focuses back on Maku and resumes his story.
"The next morning, I confronted his men..."
"Men, the great leader you have followed for years is dead! From now on, until the day I die, you shall take orders from me, and lay waste to anyone who stands in our path of conquest."
The soldiers stand in place, unamused and unimpressed. Some shake their heads in disagreement, while others scoff at the teenager.
"Do you honestly think we'd take orders from you? You're just a child compared to us," one soldier rebuffs.
"How dare you! Your former leader confided in me that I would succeed him. He spent years training me to be just that! Today, that day has come."
"What makes you think you can lead us?"
"Do you honestly think you could survive as a warlord, charging your followers into battle, at your age?" a couple of soldiers shout.
"I've survived all of the battles we have fought in together thus far. He saw something in me; he knew that since the day we met!"
At this, one soldier in his mid-30s with a tattoo on his right upper arm of the sun with a pair of dragon wings on its left and right sides steps forward to address Gaza.
"Do you mind if I speak?"
Gaza takes a few seconds to compose himself before nodding his head wordlessly. At this, the soldier steps a few paces behind Gaza before turning around to address all of those present before him.
"My name is Kaz. Seeing as how I am the oldest soldier of this regiment, I find it only fitting that I should be the one to lead us into battle, and into what I hope will be a prosperous future."
At this, Gaza grits his teeth before pausing to mull over the situation. After a few seconds, he calms before speaking yet again.
The soldier looks down towards Gaza, ready to listen.
"I can accept your proposition, but on one condition: I take the men in their early and mid-20s for myself, and form a separate group."
At this, Kaz chuckles, nodding his head slightly.
"I don't see why not. Go."
At this agreement, Gaza smirks in anticipation, while the men he has selected look on in bewilderment and discontent before conceding defeat. Gaza mounts a puma goat and begins to lead his new army off. As Gaza's army passes by Kaz, they cast behind him glances of hatred before silently looking forward as they resume their lives under new leadership.
"For years, I led my army into battle, and conquered land by using tactical methods, usurping land from rivaling warlords with strategic planning and careful considerations. One day, we happened to find another encampment while expanding my territory, and it just so happened to be Kaz's. That day, I knew my time of retribution had come..."
As Gaza points his spyglass towards the flags atop the largest tent in the encampment, a fiendish grin is cast upon his face when he notices that the crest features a pair of dragon wings on the sides of a sun. He stows away his spyglass before leading his party twenty yards away from Kaz's encampment and ordering them to rest for the time being.
"Men, I have some important information to share with you. The encampment we passed by just so happens to be owned by Kaz."
"How do you know?"
"The flags at the encampment matched the design of a tattoo I recall he has."
At this, the soldiers look down at their feet, processing the information. Gaza crosses his arms and stares at his followers before smirking and addressing his men.
"You know, I'm thankful that you have fought beside me since our former leader passed away, but don't you find it aggravating that Kaz would willingly abandon you like objects?"
At this, the men glance up at Gaza, fully paying attention. Some of the men nod, while others let out murmurs of agreement.
"I admit, I was the one who bargained with Kaz to take you under my wing, but he could have refused. He likely accepted my offer not out of courtesy or sympathy, but greed and contempt. By pushing you away, this opened the opportunity for him to raise his own army, and to become a great warlord, without you."
At this, Gaza's men begin to shout words of hatred directed towards Kaz, to which their leader's grin widen slightly, his golden eyes shimmering with anticipation, knowing that he is working his men up to his advantage.
"Now, I believe that, since we're here, we should show Kaz how far you— we—have come, since that day. What's say we pay him a visit later tonight?" Gaza proposes, to which his men raise their fists in the air and erupt in a choir of agreement. Gaza snickers, an air of anticipation washing over him as he surveys the heated results of his manipulative speech and processes the event to come after the next few hours.
Later that night, Gaza and his men huddle along one side of the encampment.
"Now, everyone split up and surround the encampment. Wait for my signal, then pillage and spare only the younger men."
At this, the men divide themselves and surround the fortifications. Gaza send a small, single flame into the air from two of his fingers, and he and his men shout and charge in. Some of the soldiers toss lit torches and stones towards the tents, others draw out their blades and slash everything in sight. Caught by surprise, Kaz and his men hastily get to their feet to confront the ambush. As Kaz secures his armor and steps out of his tent, he surveys the ongoing chaos before drawing out his blade and targeting a nearby soldier from Gaza's army. As he rushes in to attack, a bolas flies through the air and manages to entangle his legs, causing him to wobble and hop around clumsily before falling over on his face, his blade flying out of his hand in the process. As he grunts and spatters dirt out of his mouth, he feels his forearms and wrists being bound together with rope before he is turned over onto his back by someone, and a blade is drawn against his throat, causing him to gasp. Upon meeting the man's gaze, Kaz displays an expression of disbelief.
"Hello Kaz," Gaza addresses rather monotone, his expression serious as he leans above his adversary, his golden eyes shining against the brightening sky as multiple fires continue to burn across the encampment.
"Be specific, fool. How did I manage to find you? How did I manage to gain such a formidable little army? Well, I only have you to thank for simply giving me these men all those years ago to train and perfect as my own. Finding you was just by chance, and you're just the person I was looking for," Gaza begins, snickering slightly.
"You see, I told you and the others long ago that I was the one to succeed our former leader when he passed away, and you just had to step in and ruin the moment by declaring that as you were the eldest in his army, you had to succeed him."
Gaza takes a moment to close his eyes and sigh.
"You really should have believed me that day, but there's no need to fret over that now, because I'm showing you and your men what happens when you disobey the warlord's orders— my orders."
At this, Gaza repositions his niuweidao over Kaz's face, while Kaz can only mutter incoherently as he stares wide-eyed at the weapon inches above him.
"So, in the end, I should probably be thanking you for all of this, so... thank you."
With that, Gaza drives the blade into Kaz's face. Blood spurts like a steady fountain from the impact site before it pools over Kaz's face and covers a portion of Gaza's blade. After ten seconds, Gaza draws up his blade and runs a finger over a portion of the blade, rubbing off a thin strip of blood. He shrugs before nonchalantly standing and joining the remainder of his men in battle. Eventually, the younger survivors of the onslaught are brought forward before Gaza, who addresses them.
"Men! I've spared you for a reason. For years, you have been misguided, and not brought to your full potential. Kaz was never supposed to be the warlord you were meant to follow and serve. Rather, as I had stated all those years ago, I am. Under my leadership, you will be treated as equal subordinates, and will be perfected under strategies which employ calculation and intelligence in order to secure more territory. What say you?"
Not wanting to face execution, Kaz's men surrender to Gaza's leadership. They spend the remainder of the evening clearing away Kaz's fortifications and replacing them with Gaza's, starting with Gaza firebending a fireball towards one of the flags atop Kaz's tent, setting it aflame. As Gaza looks on, smiling, his followers begin a long cheer of support, ushering a new change under one of the most tactical warlords of the Islands.
His story done, Gaza glances back up and meets his gaze with Maku's, who smiles broadly.
"Well, at least your backstory had a happier ending than mine!"
At this, Maku laughs, and Gaza smiles slightly and chuckles.
"Yes, it would seem so."
The two continue sitting around the campfire, aimlessly staring at the now dying flame. After a while, Gaza clears his throat and stands.
"It's very late. We should get some sleep."
At this Maku follows suit and stands.
"You're right. Also I just wanted to say, thank you, for opening up about you. I think it did us both some good, talking about what drove us to the... occupation we have today."
Gaza nods before responding, whilst also walking up towards his accomplice.
"I agree. I feel that we both have a newfound respect for one another. Let's hope that this strengthened bond will see us through to winning this war."
Gaza stretches a hand out towards Maku, smiling slightly, to which the burly warlord returns before the two shake hands, sealing their fortified partnership under a mutual understanding. Maku is the first to leave the scene, retreating into his tent, before Gaza extinguishes what's left of the campfire before he too retreats into his own tent until daylight comes again.
- This is the only chapter of the trilogy which does not (directly) include Singi, and instead, focuses solely on Maku and Gaza.
- Maku and Gaza's backstories are revealed.
- It is revealed that Maku's dao and helmet once belonged to his father, Chan.
- Chan's name is written 陈 in Chinese, and is pronounced "Ch-ON."
- Gaza has not revealed to anyone except Maku that he was the one that killed his adoptive warlord.
- Maku and Gaza's roles as the "brawn" and "brains," respectively, are shown again. The first instance was in " ", however, this is the first instance in which they are directly mentioned as such.
- At 5,654 words, this is the longest chapter of Book 3 so far, as well as the trilogy as a whole.
For the collective works of the author, go here.