19 Jan

Arlo was a clever man.

That was apparent from the moment he came down from the cloud and stood before me. But I didn’t peg him for much of a fighter. He seemed to have other priorities, from his appearance and the way he carried himself.

However, his ability played extremely well to his strengths. He was not one to be taken lightly. Almost immediately after the fight had begun, Arlo had separated me from Aku and done everything in his power to confuse and disorient me. He landed blow after blow on me within his shroud of mist. I swung out at random, hoping that I could return a blow, grasp anything in this artificial blindness, but this fight was completely one sided.

And when the thought crossed my mind to just go down, the mist parted.

In front of me stood the cloud bearer, a wicked grin on his face.

I had wholly underestimated him. This inner rage was something I’d completely missed from our brief interaction beforehand.

He swung wildly at me. Punch after punch I evaded, most missing and some barely grazing my face. He seemed hellbent on hitting me there; something that also seemed strangely specific.

He swung his fist at me again, but this time I grabbed him by the elbow and used his momentum to pull on through. His back hit the ground hard. 

“Stay still, you son of a bitch!” He said, getting increasingly frustrated. 

“This was never a fair fight,” I retorted. 

“If you can play dirty, so can I!”

I kicked sand up into his eyes, and he rolled away, groaning in anguish.

Before I could do anything else to him, he was back on his feet, rubbing the sand out of his eyes. 

He looked at me, even more infuriated than before. 

“You think I fight dirty?!” Both of his fists burst into flames.

That’s when it dawned on me.

He must not have noticed or cared that I now recognized him, because he continued to swing at me with a renewed determination and rage.

“Aku, stop! It’s me!” I said breathily, having to work even harder to avoid the flaming rocket fists he was throwing my way. 

“Shut up you bastard!!!” He shouted. 

“The cloud bearer is playing tricks on us! I’m not Arlo, I’m Rak-Li!”


His fist finally hit, square in my jaw. I went down, sliding in the sand. 

My face stung, badly. I spat out a bit of blood and looked back up at him.

He wasn’t satisfied. Not even close. Aku was going to destroy me if I didn’t do something, and fast.


He dropped his fists down hard into my stomach. I couldn’t breathe; all the air had been knocked out of my lungs. He raised them up to do it again.

Think, damnit!!

My hands flew up overhead, and my symbol glowed the brightest it had ever glowed before, as if on instinct. 

The temperature dropped around me, and the mist droplets turned to frost. No longer supported by the air, it all dropped to the ground around us, along with the illusion.

Before me stood my friend, his eyes alight with fire, chest heaving aggressively with each ragged breath. 

He blinked in recognition. He could see me too. 

His arms fell to his waste, the fire extinguished. He fell to my side.

“Oh stars, are you okay?” Aku asked, his voice riddled with panic.

I pointed above us, and he saw what I was looking at. Arlo the cloud bearer was aloft, riding a cloud as if he hadn’t a care in the world.

Aku was trembling. His rage was almost too much to bear. 

The winged man opened an eye and peered down at us.

“Oh. You aren’t dead yet,” he commented.


Arlo giggled. “Why would I need to face you when I can take you out from up here!”

His laughter careened to a maniacal cackle as the cloud grew larger and darker, electricity welling up inside. 

Aku launched a column of raging flames up towards the cloud, but Arlo easily outmaneuvered him, and the flames reached the cloud and sputtered out. But Aku didn’t seem to be phased. He just kept sending them. 

Arlo cackled. “You fool! You think you can reach me?! I have true freedom- I rule these skies!!” 

Lightning crackled above them, and in an instant it shot down Aku’s flames and ripped into his body. 


His muscles rippled from the impact, and the sand beneath him sparked and turned to molten glass. 

He was smiling. Why was he smiling?! 

As soon as the lightning hit him he was shark bait, dead meat. He had to be! 

Suddenly, Aku sent his other hand up, and flaming lightning shot back up with such ferocity that I could barely comprehend that it came shooting out of my friend. 

It zipped straight through the cloud and into Arlo, and he convulsed wildly, his cackle turning into a strangled cry as he plummeted from the sky. 

The silence that followed sent my ears ringing with a vengeance. 

My eyes darted between the two; Arlo on the ground, still twitching in agony, and Aku, breathing heavily, his back turned towards me. 

“Rak,” he said. 


“Finish the job.” 

I looked at Arlo. “Me?” 

I heard a thud in the sand as Aku collapsed.  

I shuffled over to him, my body screaming for me to just go down like him. I was burnt badly on my face and my abdomen, but that didn’t matter. “Aku? Aku.” I patted his cheek, trying to bring consciousness back to him. His head lolled to the side. 

I placed my ear to his chest. Behind the raging siren going off in my head, I made out the faint sound of a heartbeat. I collapsed against him, overwhelmed with relief. But I knew I couldn’t stay there, no matter how much my muscles begged for rest. I stumbled back to my feet and over to the cloud bearer, or should I say, master illusionist. 

I felt empty as I looked at him. After this fight, I had no resistance left in me. 

I leaned down and smacked his cheek as well. Like Aku, he was out cold. 

I trailed off into the forest and shuttered. As much as I was worried for Aku, I was relieved that he took the hit instead of me. 

I thought back to my home, back in the safety of the reef. My childhood was filled with cautionary tales about things like this. The elders warned us never to swim to the surface during a storm, because the lightning would seek us out like a beacon and deliver a swift blow of death. None who ventured out beyond the reef in a storm had ever come back alive.

Through my travels, I’d managed to avoid lightning for that reason. I did not know for sure if it would kill me, but I had no intention to find out. 

I came back to the beach and bound Arlo’s hands and feet with vines I’d pulled out of a tree. 

That’ll do, for now. 

Aku, you better get up soon… 

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