Li panted for breath, glaring at the figure before her. Meiko, the Waterbending Master who had joined the side of evil in this fight, stared back. Around them, three people lay prone, unconscious or worse—no, please not worse, anything but worse. Liandao Shui, once Meiko's fellow student, lay almost at Meiko's feet, blood oozing from a cut on her forehead. Hong Kairong, the insane Earthbending prodigy from Ba Sing Se, was pinned to a wall, icicles shoved through his hands, shoulders, and thighs. And Ru, Li's oldest friend, the only constant she had ever known, lay slumped against a wall, barely breathing, her stomach almost ripped open.

"You've put up a good fight, Princess." Meiko purred, practically slinking her way over to Hong. The young man—boy, really—was still conscious, but only just, fighting to stay awake in lieu of a concussion. "But you should've known better than to face me at night. This night, especially, when the full moon bolsters my powers even further to the point where I can Bloodbend multiple enemies at once." She traced a finger along one of the icicles pinning Hong to the wall, gathering watered-down blood on her fingertip.

Li fought to keep a grip on her shukusen, to prevent herself from falling over in exhaustion. It had been a long battle, lasting for nearly an hour before Liandao, their only protection against Meiko's Bloodbending, had been struck down. She had managed to escape the worst of Meiko's attacks thanks to Ru, who had been able to shield Li—but now Ru was in dire straights, almost dead. Thanks to Li.

"Well, I suppose I should do what I was sent to do." Meiko sighed. "You see, I don't care about your friends. They're not the problem. What are they, commoners, with no claim to the thrones of any of the Four Nations, in the grand scheme of things?" She waved a hand, and pulled water from the air. "But you…..you're the child of the Fire Lord. Officially, his firstborn, though everyone knows that's not really the case. And you…..see, you're a problem."

"Because I'm the Fire Lord's daughter, I have to die?" Li spat. "Oh, that's not prejudice at all. No, just because my father happens to be the ruler of the Fire Nation…just because I'm his heir…" Tears began to well up in her eyes. "What's it matter, really? Fine, go ahead: kill me." She hurled her shukusen to the floor. "I'm sick and tired of this. All of this. Who's going to miss me?" A bitter laugh escaped Li's throat as she glanced at Ru. "Nobody, that's who…..they'll all move on. They've all got someone else. Even if I don't have anybody."

"If you'd just accepted your fate beforehand, this would have been so much easier." Meiko winked, and traced a hand along Hong's bicep. The Earthbender, not understanding what was going on, grinned like an idiot, enjoying the touch.

"Wait." Li closed her eyes and took a deep, steadying breath. She opened them again, and gave Meiko her best glare. "Heal Ru first."

"None of the others? Just Ru?" Meiko gave a deep, throaty laugh. "Ahhh…rich, rich, Princess! You don't care about the others, who've fought for your life? Just her? The one who's already betrayed you once?"

"Ru has never betrayed me." Li hissed through clenched teeth. "She has never abandoned me. If anything, I'm the one who's done that. So make sure she lives, for me. I don't want her to die before me…and I won't let her." Eyes dull, Li whispered. "She should live a happy life without me…and with Si."

Meiko threw her head back, and let out a harsh laugh. "How noble! How honorable! How utterly, completely foolish!" Her blue eyes crinkled with sadistic mirth, and Meiko hardened the water she was twining around her fingers into ice-talons. "Very well! And you know what….? The water I use to heal her….." The Waterbender dashed forward suddenly, her un-taloned hand grasping Li by the hair. With a sadistic grin on her face, the woman dragged Li over to Ru, and put her ice-talons to Li's throat.

"Bitch….!" Li gasped, realizing Meiko's intent, and knowing how it would shatter Ru when the girl awoke.

"Yup….I'm going to heal her with the blood she's dedicated her very life to keep safe…your blood!" Li felt a sharp pain in her throat, and suddenly thick, red blood began to spurt from her throat. She collapsed, Meiko's hand releasing her, and found herself on her knees. With a few simple gestures, Meiko began to gather Li's blood into a ball, hanging just before her. Her blood…her life…pouring out of Li in a red river, resting just in front of her. There was so much. How was there so much blood in her? Funny…she had never thought there could be so much blood…so much…

Li's vision began to blur. She found herself staring at Ru, wondering how much blood her friend had lost. But that was okay, because Meiko was gonna heal her…replace all of Ru's lost blood with Li's…so much blood…

Darkness swallowed Li. She collapsed all the way to the ground. The last thing she saw was Ru, and the flow of rich red blood that streamed from her body, stealing her life, her strength…

It was dark. Li could feel her body, a heavy weight, one she was eager to shed. Constrictive, binding, she struggled against its confines, desperate to be free of its chains. But something was keeping her locked inside of it, some deep will down inside her that refused to let go of life just yet.

"Li—!"

Someone was calling her name? Oh…it was Ru. Of course. She was okay. That was good.

"Don't you dare die on me, Princess, don't you dare—!"

Silly Ru…did you actually think you could get away with dying before me? Like I'm gonna let that happen.

"Li…open your eyes…"

What? Oh, fine. For you. One last time.

Li managed to pull together the will to open her eyes one last time. She could feel her body, mostly dead, no blood left in it. Ru's finger was jabbing at her wrist, searching desperately for a pulse that required more blood than Li had left. The older girl was….crying? At least she was alive….at least Li had kept the promise she'd always made, the one Ru had always scoffed at…

Perhaps she had enough energy to speak one last time, as well. Ru's golden eyes widened in hope as Li's dark brown eyes fluttered open. "I told you…you wouldn't…go first…" Li breathed, knowing Ru would hear the faint words. Then she couldn't keep her strength together any longer, and let her eyelids close, her body totally relaxing as the last of the air in her lungs escaped through her mouth and the hole in her throat.

The last thing Li heard in life was Ru's desperate scream of denial. "NOOOOOOOOO!"

Where am I…?

Why is it so dark…?

I'm sorry…

Help me…

Where has the light gone?


A/N: Hey! This is my second story, but it's my first with chapters. I was pretty reluctant to post it at first, but a friend convinced me. Read and review please?