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|Trials of the Black Lotus|
Nero stood outside his old home, despite having inherited it from his step parents when they were murdered he hardly spent any time here. Too many memories. Nero turned to walk away when he heard the door open behind him.
"Nero hurry up, your dinner's getting cold." his stepmother's voice called from behind him. Nero turned around, not believing his ears. There she stood, the exact same as last time he saw her, even her hair was the same. Nero walked up to her and gently placed his hand on her shoulder, afraid she would disappear. "Are you okay honey?"
Nero pulled his stepmother in and hugged her saying "I'm fine Mom."
"Hey buddy ready to eat?" Nero's stepfather said walking up behind them. Nero turned to his stepfather who held his hand out, they shook and walked into the house. The food was great and for the first time for years Nero was happy. His Father perked up like he heard something outside. As he got up the door was thrown open and several large men stood in the doorway. "Can I help you gentlemen?"
Yup that was his stepfather, always thinking that people are good, he didn't know some people weren't nice. "Yeah you can uh, get out of here and leave us all your stuff." the man in front said before launching a fireball that killed Nero's stepfather instantly. Nero silently jumped out of his seat and landed on the man who had just killed his stepfather, as his stepmother screamed Nero snapped the man's neck and turned to the rest of them and created a blast of black fire, only nothing happened. No fire came, the men laughed as one of them grabbed Nero by his throat and lifted him off the ground.
"What should we do about the pretty lady?" the man holding Nero asked. "Wait a minute I know." Without warning he killed Nero's stepmother. Nero roared in rage as he reached for the man's face, attempting to gouge out his eyes, but just like that they were gone. Everything was gone, Nero fell to his knees and started pounding at the ground when he heard someone approach from behind him. He spun around and grabbed for the persons neck, only to find himself looking into the eyes of his birth mother. Her eyes were sad as she shook her head and turned away from him.
"Wait, Mother!" Nero said attempting to follow but his feet wouldn't respond. He looked down and saw them submerged in the earth. As he reached out for his mother he sank into the ground.
Nero jerked awake in his room at the base, he wiped his face to get rid of the sweat, but there was none. Then Nero remembered that he kept the temperature so high that any perspiration almost instantly evaporated. "Well well look who finally woke up." a familiar voice said opening his door. Lian walked into the room, if she noticed the heat of the room she did a great job not showing it. "Get up and get dressed." she commanded, "Lu Ming wants to see you.
Trials of an Assassin
Nero walked calmly to the door of Lu Ming's office and opened it. Before the door was an inch open, it was flung open, almost pulling Nero off his feet. He must be really angry, Nero thought, last time he was doing this was when he learned Zheng died. Nero remembered the time he made the hulking, giant of a man blow off his right arm and leg. The thought brought a slim smile to his face, which disappeared when he saw Lu Ming sitting on his throne. Every time the old man breathed out, a powerful gust of wind blew against Nero, and every time he breathed in Nero was almost pulled forward.
"Welcome home Nero." Lu's coarse voice rasped, "So are your targets dead?" Lu leaned forward with false interest, his face hidden in shadows.
"You know they aren't." Nero said looking down at the floor.
"You are one of my most skilled warriors." Lu began in a chastising tone, "How can you have so much trouble with a bunch of children?" As Nero was about to respond Lu's hand shot out and Nero was effortlessly lifted in the air. "Are you losing your touch? Because you know what we do to those of no use to us." Lu leaned forward even more revealing his old withered face with his red arrow tattoo on his forehead.
Nero glared into Lu's eyes without a hint of fear, as Lu smiled. "Well I hope you're fully recovered," Lu said dropping Nero on the ground, "because you're going to need all of your strength to survive the Trials."
Trial of Agility
Two hours later Nero stood in a large arena awaiting the first trial. The arena had walls surrounding the entire area. On top of the wall stood the waterbending master, Lian and the earthbending master, Des. They looked at Nero sympathetically as they awaited Lu's order. The old airbender floated high above the arena. "Begin." he spoke barely loud enough to hear. Nero stood his ground as a large gate opened, letting a torrent of water flow into the arena. Lian bended the water into various forms of attacks. Nero watched carefully as the water lashed out at him and either countered with his fire or evaded the attack all together. As the first trial neared its end Lian formed the water into a giant wave that completely engulfed Nero. Lian froze the water with Nero trapped inside. Seconds later however the giant block of ice shattered as Nero freed himself with a massive fire blast after melting the ice around him. Nero had survived the Trial of Agility.
Trial of Strength
Without any pause for respite, Des began his assault, launching many rocks at Nero while his feet were pinned. Nero blasted the rocks to pieces before they reached him. Over time however the rocks got more and more dense. Eventually Nero fire blasts did absolutely nothing to the rocks, and he had to stop them with his bare hands, or at least not get killed when he was hit. Nero batted the first couple away rather easily, but his injuries were draining him of his strength. Blood began to flow from the reopened wounds he suffered at the hands of the Avatar. Finally Nero wasn't able to stop the rocks and resorted to protecting his head. After a few more minutes the rocks finally stopped flying and Nero's feet were released.
Trial of Skill
Lu Ming allowed Nero to have a ten-minute break after the last trial. Eight minutes into his break Lian walked up to Nero as he sat outside the arena. Nero glanced over at her then back to the arena.
"Hey." she began awkwardly, "Do you want me to heal your wounds?" Nero didn't respond as he stood and walked back into the arena. As his hand wrapped around the handle Lian threw her arms around him and lightly kissed him on his cheek. "Good luck."
Nero turned the handle after saying "In this business there's no such thing." then whispering "Thank you Lian." As he walked into the arena four others were already in the center. They all bowed to Nero respectfully as he bowed to them. The five of them drew their weapons, one had a giant hammer, I'll call him Squirrely, two others had jian swords, Seph and Roth, and the final possessed hook swords, Hook. "This will be a fight to the death." Lu Ming declared from his perch. "Begin."
Squirrely jumped into the air and brought his hammer down intending to crush Nero's skull. As Nero was about to blast the oncoming warrior, he immediately dropped and forced Nero to jump to the side. As he rolled to his feet Seph and Roth came swinging their blades parallel to each other. Nero spun himself in the air, between the two blades and collided with the two warriors. As they lay on the ground Nero heated his hands as he wrapped them around their throats. He could feel their skin burning as the life ebbed from their bodies. Nero heard a faint noise behind him and launched himself in the air, as one of the hook swords cut across the other two men's chests killing them instantly. While Nero was still in the air, Squirrely grabbed Hook and threw him at Nero. Hook crashed into Nero and began stabbing at him with the points at the bottom of the blade. Nero inhaled and when he exhaled fire spouted out of his mouth badly burning Hook. As Nero stood Squirrely began his charge, swinging his hammer in an arc, Nero ducked under the hammer and punched him in the gut while black flames gathered around his hands. Nero's fist went straight through Squirrely's gut and out of his back.
Final Trial: The Trial of Resolve
"Well done Nero." Lu Ming's voice rasped as he approached. "It would appear I was wrong, your skills haven't diminished. So what could be the reason for your recent failure's, perhaps it is your resolve to strike the final blow."
Nero gestured to the four dead warriors in the arena. "My resolve is as strong as ever." he said turning away from Lu.
"Wait Nero there is one more Trial for you to face." the old man said stopping Nero in his tracks. "Bring him out." Some other assassin's dragged a middle aged man into the arena. The man looked like hell, his face was scarred, his hair long, untidy and uneven, and he reeked of street living. Yet despite all this Nero instantly recognized him, his birth father. The assassin's threw Nero's father in front of him and he shuffled to his knees and stared up at his son terrified.
"Wh- who are you?" he said while breathing frantically.
"You don't recognize him?" Lu said standing next to Nero, "You don't recognize your own son?"
"I don't have a son" he responded looking at Nero as if trying to recognize him.
"Nero, you know what to do." Lu said turning away. Nero said nothing as Lu walked out of the arena. Once he was gone Nero's father dared to try and stand.
"Don't move." Nero ordered freezing him instantly. "Mother told me you were killed."
"Wait a minute now I remember you." his father said standing up right. "You'ethe boy I left behind with that wom..." he never finished that statement as Nero grabbed him by his throat and began squeezing.
"My name is Nero! I figured you would at least remember what you named me!" Nero screamed at the trembling figure held in his hand. "And don't you even talk about Mother! You have no right!"
"I- I'm sorry my son." the man gasped out.
"Sorry?!? You think sorry is gonna make up for the years of HELL I went through?" Nero yelled as his rage grew. "You don't deserve mercy." He said as Nero began gathering fire in his hand. I show compassion because otherwise I'm just like them. The Avatar's voice rang through his head as he was about to strike. Nero's grip lessened and he dropped his father on the ground. As he turned away his Father produced a knife from his clothes and stabbed for his kidney. Nero grabbed his wrist and blasted him point blank with a ball of fire.
"Your eyes..." he gasped as he lay on the floor mortally burnt. "are the same as your Mother's." and he was gone.
Hours later Nero stood on his back porch on Ember Island staring out at the beach. His gaze slowly turned to a woman sitting on the beach watching her two children play. He stared at them for a while before going back inside. Lu Ming would be interested to know that the Firelord's wife and children were here.
- The name Squirrely is an ongoing joke between me and some of my friends at school, we call any person who use a giant hammer as a weapon that.
- The two Jian Swordsmen's nicknames are based heavily on Sephiroth.
- The move that killed Squirrely was based off the flaming punches shown in The Southern Raiders, and Captain Falcon's "Falcon Punch".
- This the first chapter to be solely based on Nero, and when one of his relatives is shown.
For the collective works of the author, go here.