She’s terrifying... and inspirational at the same time. It’s hard to explain.”
“Everything always came easy to my sister. She’s a Fire Bending prodigy. Everyone adores her.”
“True power, the divine right to rule, is something you’re born with.”
“My father says she was born lucky. He says I was lucky to be born.”
“I can see your whole history in your eyes. You were born with nothing, so you’ve had to struggle and connive and claw your way to power.”
“I don’t need luck, though. I don’t want it. I’ve always had to struggle and fight, and that’s made me strong.”
He was returning from the dungeons where they’d imprisoned the Fire Nation general when he first saw the boy, the Fire Nation prince. The new Fire Nation prince, he should say. Long Feng wasn’t surprised that he looked familiar. The striking golden eyes, the noble, burdened demeanor, the distant gaze of one looking for something they didn’t expect to find- so much like the prince who had come with the army seven years ago. What were they? Brothers? Cousins? He didn’t know, but he could see the resemblance.
Or was it something else?
There was something puzzling about the princess’ closest ally. The conquering princess had an aura that emitted merciless, boundless power and strength; one could see the lightning in her gaze, feel it dancing in her veins ready to burst forth and destroy at the slightest whim. But the prince’s aura was pure fire; restless, wild and lost and untamed, a burning desire that was always consuming but never satisfied, a heart of raw perseverance untempered by reason.
The prince was a mystery to Long Feng. He saw the way he looked at his sister, a way no first born should, with eyes full of grief that betrayed a heart full of envy. To be feared and revered was the right of the first born, a right he’d been robbed of by a girl who was born perfect in every way. He knew all this and more about him somehow. There was just something so familiar about him, something he could see in his eyes, hear in his voice.
It struck something deep within his mind beyond the reach of understanding, as if from a dream within a dream within a dream, a memory he could not remember but remembered having, a memory that was not his own. The prince tried to hide his feelings, but his voice always betrayed something, resonating devotion without love, struggle without reward, hatred with nothing to hate, and so much pain, the pain of one who had been made hard by a hard life.
When he finally understood, he confronted him, in the Crystal Catacombs where it had all begun. Where it would all end.
“At first, it puzzled me where I recognized you from. Then I realized, I’ve known you my whole life. You were born to always try but always seem to never succeed. Every victory, every prize you’ve ever won, you’ve had to fight and suffer for it. You don’t know what it’s like to be freely handed glory and honor like your sister, but you know what it’s like to bleed and strive for power, to work your way up from the bottom and work by any means to stay there.”
“What makes you think you know anything about me?”
“I know because... you’re just like me. You chose to side with your people, but deep down, you don’t care for your sister any more than I do. I want the power back that she stole from me... and so do you.”
The conversation felt so normal, so right, so natural, as if they had done all this before and would again. It continued for a while, but all that was important was the end.
The prince turned to face him and swung his arms forward, daggers of flame appearing in his fists. “Not in this or any other lifetime.”
From that instant it was nothing but a frenzy of flying rock, crystal, and flame. This felt familiar, too; on some level, he expected this.
He eventually gained the upper hand over the teenager and was able to relax enough to remember when he had fought like this before, when he had dodged those same moves, broken through those same defenses, faced that same Fire Nation pride.
He had his opponent on his knees now, his wrists grappled to the ground in rock. He laughed softly but audibly at the trip down memory lane.
“The Great Dragon of the West has taught you well, but you are no dragon!”
The rock suddenly shattered like fine glass, and the boy was on his feet with a feral roar, surrounded by a ring of flame. His opponent could see the fire from within his soul burning in his eyes as he towered over him. “You have no idea what I am...”