Chapter 1: My Story
My name is Qin Lee, and I guess you could say that I've seen it all. I've been in the Fire Nation Armed Forces since the year 93 AG, the year before Crown Prince Iroh began his siege of the Great City of Ba Sing Se.
I've served the Fire Nation for 16 years, total, or at least enough to qualify for grizzled old veteran status. I began as a simple Private in the Firebending Corps in 93 AG, and retired as a Colonel in 109 AG.
I've seen a lot of action in my career, and I've made a lot of mistakes, but I suppose I'm here now to talk about them. My daughter, Jia, asked me to write this memoir, and I suppose, being 67 now, I might as well get on with it. I know those heroes that served with the Avatar during the War all told their stories, so here is mine.
I was born in the year 75 AG on the hottest day of that summer to my parents, Taro (my father) and Aiko (my mother)—both wealthy merchants living in the city of Varron on the Island of Lieyan to the East. From the moment I was born, I was often told, it was readily apparent that I would be a firebender. "The Spark", the midwives apparently said, was in my eyes. I began Firebending as a small child; on accident of course, lighting my nursery on fire.
When I was little, my parents hired a private tutor who taught me not only standard subjects, but also rudimentary firebending. Accordingly, I entered school with a greater knowledge of Firebending than most of my classmates.
"Qin Lee," my teachers would tell me, "you are destined to serve the Firelord; take pride in your gift."
I suppose that ended up being true, but in ways I didn't end up liking. School was hard, but I managed to be considered moderately popular amongst my classmates, and my great skill at firebending certainly helped keep bullies away.
My parents and I had a great relationship, even though my father was almost always gone on business trips to the other islands. My mother was a kind woman, but was stern with me when I needed it. I have her to thank for my sense of humility and honor; those, of all her lessons, were the ones that stayed with me, even when I was in my… flawed stage. For her, honor meant doing the right thing and doing what was right for the people.
"Always remember to have honor in all things," she would say, a stern look on her face.
For me, I took this as meaning honor to my duty. Duty, for me, meant service. Through School, we were taught to worship Firelord Ozai as a God on Earth. And for all we knew, he was-- the vengeful incarnation of the Fire Nation's ambitions. Kids in my school would whisper stories of Ozai's incredible mastery of firebending; some even said that he could shoot lightning out of his fingertips. For me at the time, a moderately good firebender, such a concept was unthinkable to me, but I learned that later on.
On the day I turned eighteen, in the year 93 AG, I graduated from my local academy and formally joined the Firebending Corps.
That day, a while after signing my name and demonstrating my ability to bend at the local recruiting station, I said goodbye to my mother. I can still remember the moment as if it was yesterday. It was midday, and the other recruits were saying goodbye to their loved ones. My mother, a little shorter than me, had hugged me for a while, and then held my face gently.
"Qin Lee, take care of yourself. Please, please do not come back in an urn. It would kill me," she said, sobbing.
I smiled, and hugged her again, kissing her on the forehead.
"Don't worry, mom. I'll come back."
With that, I left with the other recruits on a massive warship bound for the Capital Island. I would indeed return to see my mother again, but she died soon after the War ended.
I suppose the one thing I regret most about my life is that I spent such little time with my parents. Although we loved each other very much, we often spent time going our own paths. Would that I had spent more time with them…
Ahh, I suppose I'm being the downer here. My sarcastic years didn't begin until basic training, so you'll have that to look forward to, at least. For now, however, I'm done. I go now to drink some tea with my family; one of the many things that General Iroh taught me during the War.