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Author Topic: Avatar: The Heart of a Lion-Turtle (PG-13); Update(12/29): Chapter Eight  (Read 8265 times)
Eman5805
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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A Soulful Brother


« on: Dec 15, 2011 06:58 pm »

Author's Note: This was formerly known as "Avatar: The Next Legend." It has a new title now: "The Heart of a Lion-Turtle."  After struggling with what to retcon and what to leave the same I'm more or less picking up right where I left off, but only things like a few character names and bits and pieces from back stories are all that's being retained, basic plot points. Overall, I'll be trying some new approaches this time around. As fun as they can sometimes be to write, no more 48 page long chapters (at least in Word). From now on, shorter, sweeter chapters featuring one character's POV per chapter is my mantra this time out. Also a bit more action. I love doing fight scenes and haven't done them enough in past stories.

Tip: Don't go assuming anything because you happened to read "A:TNL" or "A Man and His Spear", I've changed up a few things.

Hope you all enjoy.

Prologue

An unease clung to Captain Asuke of the Dai Li. It crept into his senses, impossible to ignore. It made his scar itch. It made him shift uncomfortably in his chair. He should just get up and move away from the source. Get some relief. But no. He couldn't. He wouldn't. This was too important to let something like that break him. He still had his pride as a grown man to maintain, after all.

So, Asuke steeled himself and sat through it. Though he found he couldn't keep perfectly still no matter what. The effort to stop tapping his foot made him start drumming his fingers. Stopping drumming his fingers made his foot start tapping again. Eventually he found a balance. Fold arms across his chest and look irritated, which didn't take any faking on his part. He was also good and irritated.

A heavy fist slammed down on the conference hall table. "Another death this morning? All we've done is talk and people are still dying. This is a disgrace!" barked a grizzled army general named Sho. He began to rise.

"Due to past dereliction of duty, General Sho. It would be inadvisable to make further rash outbursts at the disrespect of the Earth King," the only man
present already standing, a young Earth King representative named Kensei said. His tone warding, Asuke thought, but still smooth. "Please."

Sho's face, what wasn't covered by a heavy growth of reddish brown facial hair, turned a shade redder, but not from embarrassment. His body was visibly
trembling to hold back from throwing into a frenzy. Asuke could practically hear his teeth grinding together. Through some miracle, cooler heads prevailed. He
slowly sank back down into a slightly less antagonistic crouch.

Murmurs spread amongst the other members of law enforcement, national security, governmental figures, and intelligence agents present as Kensei continued
speaking as if Sho's outburst hadn't ever occurred. The victim was a smuggling baron who operated out of Reiko District. Killed while alone in his house. A
single stab wound to the chest with a very sharp weapon. No such weapons were found at the scene. His death went undiscovered for nearly 24 hours before
anyone found the body. A clean, efficient kill. The M.O. all fit.

"It's him. The Akuma of Death. The Blue Revenant," someone murmured to Asuke's right. Several people made sounds of reluctant concurrence.

A harsh snort answered them. "Please. Listen to yourselves," said Yuzia, a draconian delegate, of the female persuasion, from the Fire Nation and a distant
member of the royal family. Asuke noted it was the part of the royal family best-or perhaps worst- known for being megalomaniacal psychotics, prone to
shooting lightning at people and being just generally terrifying. Even at the ripe young age of 14. "Akuma of Death? Blue Revenant? Please. You say this
without even a trace of irony anymore. The more you give into to this fear mongering, paper selling nonsense, the more hysteria you let take root. Frankly, it
is beyond laughable that people believe these deaths are acts committed by some vengeful vigilante spirit of justice. Assassin is far more likely. We worry
ourselves over a spirit we can't hope to defeat when we should be first concentrating on who contracted the killer and working to the assassin through them."

"Last time I checked, assassins aren't contracted to kill contraband movers and two-bit thugs," smarmed a portly councilman whose name Asuke didn't recall.
"But I agree. This is nothing but a bunch of criminals offing each other. A gang war being fought off the streets and in back alleys and bedrooms. These
meetings are and always will be a waste of everyone's time."

"And furthermore," Yuzia said. "These meetings are a distraction. We're worrying about some fictitious death demon when the real concerns are being
haphazardly ignored. Or-"

"And here we go," Asuke grumbled under his breath. He glanced over to Kensei, who hadn't said a word, his expression carefully neutral.

"-I should say, purposefully ignored. Hardly surprising."

"Now just what is that supposed to mean, representative?" the councilman demanded.

"Was I not clear enough, councilman? In need of explanation? This past week the fifth young Fire Nation citizen went missing in as many months. Two of the
previous have been found butchered by the river like cattle. A few Earth Kingdom criminals die and your king calls a meeting. But five young men of Fire
Nation blood are abducted and brutally murdered and there is nary a batted eye. Have I missed something or is the picture being painted here very wrong?"
Yuzia's voice grew quieter and harsher with her every word. But the effect was the same as if she finished screaming.

And off the fray went. Yuzia's accusations of Fire Nation prejudice against the Earth Kingdom's defense and their counter-accusations of the Fire Nation
playing the victim for attention. The Water Tribe did what they typically did. Shake their heads and stay out of it, unaffected and a little bit smug, after
all, they'd have an Avatar to represent them soon.

There had been around eight of these meetings and they all concluded with such foolishness. It was why Asuke hated being here. It was always the same. Or it
had been so. Today was different. It was something in the way the air hung, calm and stagnant just before the storm arrives, there was something deep and
foreboding present here. And again, oh so familiar.

It only occurred to Asuke later that Kensei's abnormal detachment should've been the first clue. He was preceding over the meeting as always, but he was
putting on appearances. Normally, Asuke would've stepped in and put an end to the squabbling. He had a knack for timing it just right to inflect his voice and
get everyone's attention. But there was none of that happening today. Kensei wasn't himself, his thoughts were focused elsewhere.

Asuke should've known better than anyone what a man was like when he was afraid of something. Or someone.

From her seat off the side, in the slightly darker, less well lit part of the room she spoke once. Once was all it took. Her voice resonated through the stone
of the walls and floor, it felt. "Enough."

At once the arguing ceased as everyone turned a shocked eye to her.

Her hair was dark and tied up in a bun but hardly worth mentioning. A pair of small nondescript, black glasses sat on her nose, small and forgettable. Her
frame was slight. Her clothing was unremarkable, a robe with soft bottom shoes.

She was unremarkable in every single way.

This was not by accident.

She wanted to be ignored by everyone present, to observe in obscurity. And it was only when she purposefully drew attention to did you see the truth.

She was beautiful.

It was a fact as undeniable as gravity or the color of the sky. She simply was. You don't argue things like that. You don't question it. It's just accepted.
Meant to be, so leave it so.

She was beautiful.

Deadly things so often are, whispered a voice at the back of Asuke's thoughts.

Her eyes. They were what everything was centered on. They were a shade of blue so light they were almost gray. They saw everything while looking at nothing.
They cut through what they looked at while letting nothing else through. Like staring at a cloud hiding the burning sun. And, like a cloud, everything was far
away from those eyes. She had as much regard for the dignitaries and critical government figures before her as one had for an insect. Like her beauty it was
simple fact to be accepted and understood, not argued against and fought.

And despite appearances another fact hung true and undeniable. She was only barely at marrying age. No more than sixteen or seventeen.

When she spoke, cold words emerged, unforgiving and unsettling. But also bored. And it felt more like she spoke to herself than to the assembly. "I am very
disappointed." She pulled a pin from her hair and let it tumble loose from the bun as she took Kensei's place at the podium, who had moved aside so quickly
and discreetly it was like he was never there. She placed a hand on the stand, looking out at the audience in silence. An awkward moment later she sniffed.
"Is this really what I'm tasked to work with? This collection of spineless, witless politicians and chest thumping, boorish military thugs?" She shook her
head harshly. "No. No. No. This will not do. Not do at all. Not do. Not do. Certainly not."

Asuke swallowed down a dry throat. Why did he feel as if his head was on a chopping block? The scar running down his cheek scar began to itch again.

"Denials, deflections, debates. The schoolyard game called bureaucracy. This is what the appointed officials of the world do in the face of the enemy? Sit on
their hands and wag pointed fingers instead of acting?" She sniffed, seemed to consider a thought to herself. Maybe how it's impossible to sit on your hand
and wag a finger at the same time. "Very well, it is decided. I won't make use of any of you. No. Not at all. You are worthless to me. Perhaps even less so
than worthless. Pathetic, all of you. Go back to your noise then, fools. I…" She broke off, stared into space for a brief moment. Then, without another word,
stepped away from the podium and walked towards the door, in no visible hurry. The audience left stunned.

Mostly.

General Sho let out a snarl and jumped to his feet bellowing, "What in the name of the spirits? Whose savage idea of a joke-"

That's the furthest he got before a mass of water slapped him in the face, covering his mouth and hardened into ice, freezing his mouth shut. He recoiled in
surprise and pain, hand pawing at the ice, making muffled cries of surprise. Cries shock and confusion shot through the assembly.

Asuke had taken his eyes off the girl for just a bare second. But when he looked back again her arm was extended, hand open as if she had just thrown
something.

"There is only one joke here, fool. It's the person that thinks they can dare raise their voice to me," the girl said, her voice devoid of any emotion.

Enraged, Sho ripped the ice from his mouth, drawing blood and pulling hairs from his bristling beard out of his skin. "Fool? I'll show you a fool, you
impudent brat!" He struck with an unmistakable two fisted blow of earthbending and the entire section of table immediately before him erupted and hurtled at
the girl. Asuke's instincts took hold and made him spring to his feet, reach through the earth to intercept the mass of rock hurtling towards the girl, but he
wasn't fast enough.

The girl, however, was.

The girl's arms blurred before her. On one hand a thin wisp of water whipped from within her robe sleeves. It sliced through the section of stone like a hot
knife through butter, splitting it apart entirely, sending the stone to smash in the wall on either side of her, leaving her unharmed.  With the other hand,
at a gesture the ground beneath Sho sprang up, catapulting Sho into the air, high enough to touch the ceiling. His hands hit first. They were covered entirely
by ice, frozen together and to the ceiling, trapping him there 20 feet off the ground.

The entire sequence didn't last 4 seconds. When the ice got on Sho's hand was anyone's guess.

No one could find breathe to cry out or scream. No one.

Looking at her handy work, the girl flicked her hair back, sniffed, appearing only mildly inconvenienced by the sudden violence. Her bored gaze looked at the
crowd. "Make no mistake. The Blue Revenant exists. And he will be caught and balance will be restored. This, I, Kina of the Northern Water Tribe, promise you.
With or without your help makes no difference to me. Literally, I mean. You can't help me even if you try. I recommend not trying. But if you do, be a good
band of fools and heed this one warning." She suddenly held up a finger. At least ten people present visibly flinched away. Asuke was one of them,
unfortunately. "Do not stand in my way. Or," she looked up smiling at the sputtering Sho, dangling from the ceiling like a chandelier. "my punishment won't be
as playful next time. Ta." Then she turned on a heel and walked out, head held with a big smile on her face.

Several minutes passed before Kensei stepped back up to the podium and said, calmly, "Meeting adjourned."

A movement to the exits to the room more akin to a funeral processional began. No one tried to get General Sho down. Earthbenders could climb up and get him
down once everyone had cleared out. Asuke could have but his frame of mind was too fractured to do that without risking getting himself or Sho hurt.

It was a lot to try and accept. Earlier, he had been uneasy. Now, he was worried. Not for himself. Oh no.

Asuke was worried for the state of the world.

Asuke couldn't deny it any more than he could deny the sky being blue.

Kina.

Kina was Water Tribe. She was no older than seventeen. Avatar Aang died, was killed, just under eighteen years ago.

Kina bent. She bent water. Then she bent the earth. At the same time. And probably bent the air to make her voice carry even though she didn't speak above a
murmur.

Kina was the Avatar. The most powerful person on the planet. Master of all four elements. The bridge between the worlds of the physical and the spiritual.

And was absolutely insane.

« Last Edit: Dec 29, 2012 11:40 am by Eman5805 » Logged

ThePeacefulGuru
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« Reply #1 on: Dec 15, 2011 07:38 pm »

Nice, I liked it. I too have an ongoing fic along the same lines... this is good though. I like the meeting as a starting point. Is the guy wit the scar the same one from the end of ATLA season 2?
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"The heart of the fool is in his mouth, but the mouth of the wise man is in his heart" - Ben Franklin
Eman5805
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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Posts: 4339


A Soulful Brother


« Reply #2 on: Dec 19, 2011 09:35 pm »

Author's Note: This chap is a bit longer than I want them to get, but splitting into two just didn't work this time out. Also, this update schedule probably won't last very long. Once I'm in the thick of the plot, I'll be taking extra special time to polish everything. I have to be so very mindful of the mistakes I made the last time.

Chapter One

"The World of Speed"



"Bad thing behind me. Bad thing behind me. Bad thing behind me…" he panted into the night.

It was a full moon. An unusually bright full moon. This one felt brighter and a bit closer than normal. They say that the spirit of Princess Yue of the
Northern Water Tribe became the new moon spirit back during the war. Something about balance, crazy men punching magic spirit fish to death or something.

Well. Whatever the reason for it, Yue had a rotten, rotten sense of timing. This was exactly the kind of conditions that made running and hiding so very
difficult. If he had been running for any other reason, this could almost be seen as a challenge. He liked challenges. It was an opportunity to push himself,
test his limits, overcome them, yadda yadda yadda. And even if he failed, he could always try again with that much more vigor and desire to overcome the
failure. But this wasn't any other reason. This was a situation where if he stopped, if he tripped, if for any reason, he failed he'd die.

Funny thing about imminent death. It's a good motivator for running. His feet had wings. Even more so than usual. And that should've been enough. It always
had been before. It shouldn't have taken him this long. But it was. By the fire, it was.

Behind him. Giggling. The sound of slinking metal slicing through wood. A tree toppled with a crash.

So close behind.

Must go faster. Must go faster.

Go faster? Not a problem. Going fast was his specialty. Especially when he was running for his life.

If there was time to stop and reflect, to put everything in perspective, this would seem like just another day in what has the wildest craziest months of his
life.

But at this exact moment, this was far more than just another day. If he was smarter, one of those guys that could figure out things from random bits of
information, he could see that. But he wasn't. And he wouldn't have a moment of insight no matter how hard he wanted to. Wasn't his strength. If he did, he
wouldn't be in this mess right now.

Only too late, after all the months had passed, did he realize was mixed up in something Big, with a capital "B." There were things happening so fast, not
even he could keep up.

He should've seen the signs early on. Too many awesome things happened in a row. His runs of luck had always came and went in fitful clusters. But it looked
like he'd finally hit his stride, how could he say no? It was just the thing he was waiting his whole life for. How could he say no? Seriously.

But if he had, he might not be running for his life right now. He might not be worrying that even if he survives, he could have even more people trying to
kill him anyway. That everything had seriously spiraled out of control.

Would the others be okay? Would they try to run? Would they fight? Were they locked in their own one on one battles to the death too? How absurd. How so
absurd that he actually thought that.

Battle to the death. Who does that? This was peace time. The war ended almost 25 years ago and there were sanctioned fighting circuits now for people to get
those aggressions out. He should know. He used to fight in them.

Oh, how he longed for the anonymity he had back then. Those were better times. Simpler times. He'd have a match, kick some butt, soak in the cheers from the
adoring fans, then slink away, continuing to wait for that right moment to take off the mask and reveal who he was.

But no. He threw it all away for those poison words: "adventure and intrigue." And the one thing that followed.

Was it too late to call a do-over? To go back and redo everything? Undo it all and start fresh? Too late? Anyone? C'mon! Help guy out!

Damn, how he wished he could talk to himself from back then, and tell him to not go back to that house. And to leave the silent giant and the white haired
waif behind in his dust.

Darlo should've just kept on running…

-Months earlier-
[/i]

Running.

Heart thumping.

Legs churning.

Fists pumping.

Thick locks of hair whipping around behind.

Scenery blurring by.

Oh yeah.

This was his world. Darlo's world.

The world of speed, agility, and explosive explosion that explodes explosively. The world where everything set before him was just another obstacle to get by.
The world where nothing held him back but imagination. That was his world.

It was a world apart and above everyone on the ground, and in more ways than just verticality. No one else could exist in his world. Not this one. This was a
world made especially for Darlo.

But it wasn't about being better than everyone else, no. Well. Not totally. It was just a place for Darlo to be Darlo and let the wind sail through his hair.
Feel the world turn on its ear through every tumble, every flip, every cartwheel, every roll, ever kick off a wall, every wall run, every dive. With each move
Darlo pulled, his grin grew bigger and bigger.

If he were watching, his blood would be boiling no doubt.

Hey, you! Stop using the world as your personal playground as you please! Stop bucking the trend! Stop, I say!

Ha! Stop? Oh, you mean like this?

Darlo bounced off his next step and planted his hand on a low concrete box on the roof beneath him. Legs folded like he was sitting in meditation or sitting
in a dojo or something. Except for being, you know, upside down. His entire body held up in a one hand handstand.

He flipped out of it and kept going, jumping to the next rooftop.

He hit the ground rolling. Bounced up. Hopped over a pipe. Slipped under another. Then kept going.

Up here, Darlo never felt bigger, badder, stronger.

He tumbled over another gap. There were people walking the streets below him. Shopping, talking, milling about. You know. All that boring stuff.

If only he were as big, bad, and strong down there…

No. No. That's not important. Focus on this. Just this. Keep going. Faster, smarter, quicker. Pour it on, D. Pour it on!

Darlo shifted gears and started truly sprinting. Hitting near top speed. His hair was totally unseen, caught in the tailwind. He felt the tug and pull as air
rushed by, catching his loose fitting pants. He ran through it, unfettered. Nothing could stop him.

The row of tightly packed buildings ended as a small street passed. It was a sizable gap. 20 feet or so. A good final challenge. A perfect way to end a
perfect run.

Hit it!

"Woooooooooo-"

Darlo was airborne. And time did that amazing thing where a few split seconds slow down to a crawl. But not really. It was a trick the mind pulls when he's so
juiced on the thrill of it all that it just makes you think it's all slowing down. But he did get to experience weightlessness, his red vest fluttering about
his arms, his roomy pants billowing a bit, the locks of his hair whipping around. It was just…awesome.

It was so awesome, Darlo was turning a somersault without meaning to. He went with it. Letting the motion carry him. Tucking his legs. And with a satisfying
impact, he hit the roof, tucking into a crouch.

Stuck the landing.

"-WE!" he finished the cry, bouncing up. Feeling the adrenaline shakes.

He lifted his hands and bowed left and right to the imaginary crowd and blowing kisses. "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Please, don't throw money. Just tell
your friends what you just saw. Thank you. That's right. I'm Darlo. With a D. Thank you. Hey, pretty lady with the bow in your hair, you're cute. Yeah. Give
Darlo some love."

Still grinning, Darlo slipped off the roof and landed on a small balcony. He had sighted his next landing point when a shrill voice cried out from behind him
that tore him right out of his euphoria like cold ice down the back. His head whipped around. There was a thump as a girl fell backwards on her butt.

"Oh! Uh, hey. Sorry for dropping in on you. Just passing through," Darlo said with a nervous laugh, waving over his shoulder at the shocked female. He was
just about to leap down to the ground when he paused and stared at her.

Whoa. She's freaking hot. Nice curves, pretty face, and everything. She even had a little green bow in her hair. Even with her mouth wide open like that, a
very unflattering look, she looked great. But why does she look like that? Sure, Darlo surprised her but she looks like she'd seen a ghost.

The girl eyes started to water and she let out little squeaking, sputtering sounds, her breath coming up short. "Guh…mu…da…da…dar…It's…I…uh…"

Oh crap. She's totally freaking out. "Sorry, sorry, sorry. Didn't mean to scare you. I'm leaving. I'm leaving."

The girl let out another cry and leapt to her feet. "N-no! S-stop!" she shrieked.

Crap. She probably thinks I'm a thief, Darlo thought bitterly. A very bad thief. Darlo turned and hopped from one sill to the one below and then
to the ground. He landed right in front of an old fart of a police officer who looked to be about 2 weeks from retirement.

"What in blue blazes?" the officer spat.

The girl leaned over the balcony, waving. "No! Come back! Please!"

The officer looked up at the girl then at Darlo. "What's going on here?"

Darlo started backing away from the officer and the girl in the window. "Oh nothing. Just passing through."

Then the girl shouted something, but the same time one of those new cars a few feet away backfired on its frustrated owner, the loud noise cutting the window
girl off. All that came out was the sound "eee". The girl suddenly turned and vanished into the apartment.

Officer Geriatric said, "What was that she said? Stop thief?"

"What? She can't think I'm a thief can she?" Darlo blurted.

"Did he just ask if she knows he's a thief?" a woman nearby asked

"Did he just confess?" another guy nearby asked.

The officer's face hardened. "Hold it right there," he said as he awkwardly ambled over.

Darlo kept backing away from him. He held up his hands. "What? No! I'm not a thief. I didn't confess to a thing. I just dropped from the roof onto her balcony
and she got scared and-"

The same guy said, "Sneaking into her room? The little pervert."

Anger flared. "Hey! Who are you calling little?!" Darlo snapped.

"Okay, punk, you're under arrest," Officer Arthritis said and he reached for Darlo.

Acting on pure instinct, Darlo stepped away. "What? Under arrest? But I didn't do any-"

"Stop!" The officer pulled out a baton.

Someone nearby screamed. Darlo saw something running towards him and a flicker of green. Someone else screamed. That damn car backfired again. Some bird or
cat or something ran past his legs. A lot of things happened at once and it felt like it was all pressing down on him.

There wasn't any thought. Only instinct. The part of the brain that says fight or flight screamed to him.

Darlo ran.

Not as fast as he could. He rarely ran that fast. He rarely needed to. But faster than anyone chasing him. How did he know?

Because he got away.

Darlo always got away.
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Eman5805
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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A Soulful Brother


« Reply #3 on: Dec 19, 2011 09:37 pm »

-continued-

Darlo kept going and jogged out of the city proper.  Bumi was an okay city. But it really felt like it was kind of plunked down in the middle of a valley on a
river. It's no surprise that this was once a small Earth Kingdom village. It was in the middle of nowhere. A good place to store reserve troops. The Fire
Nation occupied during the war. Gaipan, Darlo thought the name was. The city was overlooked by a ridge on its outskirts. Darlo stopped when he came to the
western face of the ridge. There was a two story house here. The design of the place was much older than any other buildings around here. Probably outdated
the relatively young city. Probably by a lot. It had been refurbished, if a bit slapdashedly so, if Darlo might invent a new word.

Using the door wasn't an option. Too average, too boring. Plus, the less he saw of that old crone the better. Instead he circled around to the tree growing on
the eastern side of the house. He took a running jump, grabbed the lowest branch, which was probably 10 feet off the ground, and hoisted himself up.

See. It wasn't so bad that Darlo was...size challenged. If he were bigger, the branch would snap and he'd fall on his ass. He'd never be able to climb the tree
so good otherwise. So it was a good thing, right?

"Yeah right," he muttered, hopping on from highest, thickest branch to the roof. Balancing carefully to avoid what would be a nasty fall, he lowered himself
down and swung in through the open window.

"Most people use doors when they drop into to homes uninvited," a crotchety voice spat as she tidied up the empty room.

Darlo groaned. Of course it didn't matter what way he came in, she always found a way to be right where he didn't want her to be. "If you don't want me using
the window, keep it locked," he replied.

Lao Fu was a modern miracle. Roughly 3,000 years old, give or take a few centuries, and still ticking. Somehow. Someone like her should really be preserved in
a museum along with the other fossils. She also really sucks at taoqi.

She grumbled. "You said all of that out loud, you arrogant tart"

Darlo started deliberately knocking off a few stray leaves that clung him during his climb and dusting off his pants. "I know."

"And I don't 'suck' at taoqi. You just got lucky!"

Darlo headed out of the room. "Yeah, got lucky five times in a row. Whatever you say, granny."

"Don't call me no granny!" She shook a withered fist at him. "And stop dirtying up my room! I just cleaned it!" She grabbed something off her bureau and
hurled it at Darlo's head.

Darlo spun out of the room, the shoe bouncing off the wall he had just been standing by. He continued the motion and vaulted over the stair railing and
dropped down the steps. He bounced up again and vaulted over the bottom half of railing and landed in a sitting position right onto a couch.

Right across from him was Youli, a woman of middle age. She sipped daintily at the tea. She glanced up. Stared with an expression Darlo couldn't read for a
moment. Then she smiled.

"Hello, Darlo. How nice of you to drop in," she said.

Darlo wasn't sure if she meant the pun or not. But he chuckled and smiled back. "Uh. Hey. Yeah. You doing good?"

"I'm making due, I suppose." She took another sip. "If you wish to see her I can take you…"

Darlo sprang up. "No need. Down the hall, first door on the right. Thanks." He hastily walked past the kitchen to the hallway. He stopped. Then backed up two
steps to the table. A couple ripe, green apples sat on the table. It was in season and everything. His stomach rumbled a bit and he licked his lips. All that
running did work up a appetite.

"Excuse-"

"Of course you can have all the apples you like," Youli said without so much as turning around.

Darlo blinked at the back of her head. Then he picked an apple up, bouncing it in his palm. "Uh. Thank you."

He walked down the hall to the room. He heard the voices as he drew closer.

"...they call out to me when I sleep. Voices. So many voices," said a soft, feminine voice. "I hear them, but they're still so unclear. Too many at once."

"What are they saying?" asked a deeper, older female voice.

"I..." She paused. Then let out a frustrated sound. "I don't remember completely. I just hear...bits and pieces. Fragments. Never complete words. And when I try
to remember i-it doesn't hurt but it..."

"No. That's fine. You don't need to strain yourself. You can't force yourself to remember," the older voice said quickly, soothingly. "It would only confuse
you further as you uncover things with no context, no foundation with which to make sense of it."

Somehow, Darlo felt the attention being drawn to him even though no one inside should be able to see him. He licked his lips, took a deep breath, and poked
his head in the door.

Immediately,  two sets of eyes turned to him.

The first that he saw was that of the good doctor Ling. She was younger than Youli, but still much older than Darlo. She wore rimless glasses, had her hair
tied up in a bun and the simple robe attire. She looked like someone that worked at a hospital even when she wasn't, not exactly. Her eyes were a light brown
and were casual, but discerning, and that meant somewhat disapproving. Her clothes said doctor, but her eyes said teacher. And Darlo did not like teachers.
Whenever she looked at Darlo, he felt like she was about to hit him with a pop quiz or something. She insisted that she wasn't, but Darlo knew a teacher when
he saw one. He wouldn't dare turn his back on her.

The other set that fixed on him was that of the giant, or more locally known as Renshu...Renx...Renji...Renshumumuhabubu. Whatever his name was, there was too many
damn syllabillables. So Darlo just calls him Rex. It was a small name. But that's where the small things about him ended. The guy was huge. He was easily a
foot and a half taller than Darlo. He had wide, broad shoulders and very long arms. He was a visual puzzle.

No one single part of his body was all that big when taken on its own. But somehow, he still was put together that combined he towered and seemed much bigger
than he was. Maybe it was one of those "whole is greater than the sum of its parts" deals. Or maybe it was because Rex was secretly a seasponge. His heavily
muscled torso somehow seemed soft and shrunken half the time. The other half it seemed to be bulging so tight his shirt was going to rip. There were none of
the bulging veins Darlo was used to on big guys, there was heavily slabbed muscle. Like whenever he was chopping wood for the fireplace or hefting around
something heavy. Usually one handed.

Speaking of his arms, Rex's right arm was wrapped in white bandages. Entirely. From his individual fingers to his shoulder. All covered up. Darlo wasn't sure,
but he suspected that his arm was very badly hurt somehow. Maybe it was covered with burns. Because Rex rarely moved his right arm. He kept it at his side,
and he did everything with his left hand. Darlo wasn't a doctor, but if it was that injured, shouldn't it be in like a sling? Instead of just hooking his
thumb in his pants? Darlo asked often, but the guy wasn't talking.

Which was the more striking thing about him. The guy wasn't just built like a statue. For all intents and purposes, he was a statue. Darlo wasn't sure he'd
ever seen him move faster than a walk. And he'd rarely ever heard him speak. He'd heard him speak maybe 10 words, maybe 11. Despite being the tallest, biggest
thing in the room, it was easy to forget he was there. A lot like a well placed stature.

And Rex also had this intense stare. It wasn't that he was glaring at people, it's just something about the shape of his eyes and his brow that made him look
like he was always glowering at you. It was impossible for Darlo to read since he couldn't maintain eye contact with him. Rex's eyes were a strong emerald
green shade. He had head full of long, straight black hair tied up in a ponytail that went down to the small of his wide back. Which was odd. Most Earth
Kingdom males that grew their hair long were middle to upper class citizens. They also shaved their hairlines back a bit. But his head of hair was entirely
full.

On his back, he wore his other most defining feature. A gasa, a large round hat. And from the looks of it, it was modeled after the Earth Kingdom army gasa.
Except it must have been damaged then repainted, because a quarter sized section of the hat was missing, cut away like a piece of pie.

Rex and the doc both watched him as Darlo walked through the door. Combined they were a set of eyes that Darlo didn't really enjoy being looked at by.

But they were nothing compared to the third set in the room.

The set that Darlo knew cold was looking at him before he stepped through the door.

Blue eyes and white hair.

That alone is enough to make you drop what you're doing and look at her. She was pale, but not to the point of looking inhuman, but there was
something...different about her. That much was abundantly clear. Because despite the fact that even now as she sat on the bed with her long legs drawn up to her
in a sitting fetal position, her eyes were piercing. Her eyes were a brilliant shade of blue that almost glowed. Her eyes didn't just see you, they saw
through you. It was the stares of both the giant statue man and the doc all rolled into one times 100. It was a good thing she didn't look at Darlo for very
long. Her eyes were almost always looking downwards otherwise.

Her hair was long and straight like Rex. But it was almost too straight. It fell down to nearly her waist. It didn't look all that thick either, like if a
steady breeze blew her hair wouldn't stop billowing and floating around. White as snow. It wasn't a dye job. It was down to the roots. Even her eyebrows were
white.

Once you take your eyes off her eyes or her hair, you see that, while her features were soft and very feminine, there was a strength lurking behind it. If she
didn't look so frail and timid all the time, Darlo had a hunch she could pull off one nasty mean mug.

All told, it was undeniable.

The white haired girl was beautiful.

Darlo wasn't good at guessing ages, but she couldn't have been far from his own age of 17. But that was all Darlo could figure out about her. He wasn't good
at guessing games about things he wasn't very familiar with. The only thing he figured was that whatever she had been, the mysterious girl had been quite
active and mobile. She wasn't just beautiful, her body was stunning too. Well muscled and defined. Long legs.

There was a heavy silence as everyone looked at Darlo. This wasn't a time to be some shrinking violet. Darlo knew what it was like to be stared at. So, he
shoved all those thoughts aside, straightened his back, and took loud a bite of the apple. "Hey," he said to the room as he casually strode in, taking a seat
next to the doc in the corner.

"Greetings, Darlo. Nice of you to join us," the doc murmured.

"Hello," the white haired girl said quietly.

Rex didn't say anything. But you bet he was watching.

"So, any new developments, doc?"

The doc considered answering for a bit, as if she had a reason to keep a secret from him or something. "Nothing of note. But at this point, I'm glad she's
still fully coherent and not exhibiting any signs of long term neurological complications."

Darlo didn't let it show on his face that after "nothing of note" the words kind of floated over his head. He took another bite. "So she still doesn't really
remember anything yet?"

The doc let out a breath, flicking a glance to the white haired girl and back. "Bits and pieces. Again. This will take time."

"Well, that's a bit of a downer," Darlo said dejectedly, taking another bite of the juicy apple. "But otherwise, you're doing fine, eh?"

"I should say she is," replied the doc stiffly. "She remembered your name, did she not? She's spoken to us before you got here. If she weren't 'fine' I
would've known."

Darlo raised a hand. "Yeah. Okay. That's great. Really. But," Darlo gestured towards her. Then down to his legs. "She's not paralyzed, right? When's she going
to, you know, like, get up? Move around? She can't stay bedridden forever, can she? Eventually, she has to get out of that bed."

"That's a noted point, but this isn't something you rush into," the doc began.

"Rush into?" Darlo snorted. "She'd been awake and aware for two weeks. She was laying unconscious for nearly a month before that. I'm not a doctor, but I
don't think bed rest is going to help her."

"You're right. You're not a doctor."

Darlo grumbled. His patience, such as it was, was reaching its limit. "Why are we deciding for her anyway? She's 'coherent', right? What do you think? Think
you're ready to try walking around a bit?"

The white haired girl blinked at the direct question, her eyes going from the doc to Rex. Her voice came out in a bare whisper. "I-I don't know."

Darlo snorted. "Sure you know. What are you going to do if your memories come back? Sit here and talk about it? What if you were someone important? Someone
active? You'll need to be ready to step back into it, right? Well, you can't step anywhere if you're laid up like a-" Darlo stopped himself before he said
cripple, flicking a glance at Rex, who if he caught it, didn't show it. "-vegetable. If we really wanna help her, then let her outside this room already. How
else is she going to find out who she is?"

The white haired girl huddled in on herself, her eyes no longer flicking around, instead she stared down in front of her.

Doc Ling seemed to mull that over and for a moment Darlo thought he'd somehow talked the stubborn lady into letting the girl out of the room. But Ling's
expression stiffened. "You have no authority to say that."

A smooth voice from the door said, "Technically, neither do we, dear."

A dapper man with a short, trim beard walked in. Wong Su was also a doctor. But in a different sense than his wife Ling. She was the kind that gave people and
made medicine and that alone. He was the kind that treats people that are physically hurt or sick. Setting broken bones and surgery and that stuff. For
reasons they never told him, he worked with Rex and his family exclusively. Coming out to their houses instead of going down to his clinic.

It was a stroke of fortune that he was here at that right time, Darlo reflected.

While his wife seemed to not like Darlo at all for reasons Darlo couldn't figure, Wong Su was much more easy going. "After all, we've looked after her, but
she's still not our patient. Not in any official capacity."

Ling asked, "So what are you saying, dear?" She had mastered that passive aggressive thing.

"I'm saying I agree with Darlo," Wong Su said.

Ling's look got skeptical. The girl in the bed looked a bit surprised. Even Rex's eyebrows twitched

Darlo scowled. Doctors were about to go on the same list as teachers.

"I spoke with a friend in the field about amnesia and memory in general," Wong Su explained.

"What'd he say?" Ling asked.

"He pretty much confirmed what I knew already. Ever since those Avatar Hoshiro books, a lot of people have the completely wrong idea about what amnesia is and
isn't. Namely that amnesia is to memory like a candle's light going out. Blow it out now, no problem. It can be relit later. Or maybe I should say one of
those newfangled electric lights. Going off and on. Which, to be fair, isn't actually very far from the truth. But all the same not totally accurate either.
It's a great deal more complicated. I won't bore any of you with a lengthy talk about what we know about how the mind works and memory. And more to the point,
there's a lot we still don't know about our own minds. Our minds are a very amazing and mysterious thing. Still, as it pertains to the young lady..." Wong Su's
looked directly at the white haired girl, his expression gaining a more serious edge. "You've displayed all the signs of sudden trauma induced retrograde and
mild anterograde amnesia. You don't recall anything about you prior to the trauma nor immediately after, but you can form new memories. Which isn't unusual.
Except for one thing that is missing…"

Rex did something that caught Darlo off guard. Blindsided him entirely. He spoke. "The trauma."

So. That's what Rex sounds like. Darlo had forgotten. How a person with such a large frame could speak so softly is beyond Darlo.

Wong Su nodded, his eyebrow raising. "Precisely. If it weren't for the fact that when I saw her for the first time, she had not a single scratch, scar, or
bruise on her, I'd at least have an idea of the cause. But without it, it makes it a…troubling diagnosis. Which is that there isn't a concrete one."

"I see," Ling said. "But how does that relate to the idea of making the girl expose herself outside?"

Darlo had to turn a snicker into a cough, drawing a couple looks. Hehe. C'mon. Don't look at him like that. He couldn't help it. Expose herself.

Wong Su stroked his beard. "It's only a theory, but there's a chance that she could regain her memories in a flash if she were to move around and about,
perhaps something outside could trigger it."

"But didn't you just say that's not how memory works?" Ling asked.

"No, dear. I only said it was more complicated than that. I can't make a more educated guess since this lies outside of my field. But there's no way to tell.
So I think it'd be best at least see if she's as healthy as she appears."

Ling yielded about as much mountain to an uppity ant with mining aspirations. "It's still too risky. We could be subjecting her to unnecessary danger. If it's
about exercise and keeping her muscles from atrophying from disuse, then there are exercises and movements she can do from the comfort of her bed until she's
ready."

"But when will we know if she's ready? Unless she-"

"I want to go," the white haired girl said suddenly, but still very quietly.

"I'm sorry?" Ling asked.

"I…wish to go outside. Please. If it's not any trouble to you."

Ling frowned. "Are you certain, child?"

"Y-yes," she said. "I am. I...I'm ready to find out who I am." Her eyes settled on Darlo. And she inclined her head, ever so slightly. The tiniest of smiles on
her face.

Darlo raised an eyebrow and the corner of his mouth, and nodded back.

Rex saw this, looking back and forth between them. And his brow creased in the tiniest of frowns.

Wong Su let out a satisfied breath. "Well, I suppose that settles it, right dear?"

Ling glared at Darlo. Then he saw her shoulders sag a bit as she turned away. "I suppose it does."

Darlo went back finishing his apple. Best damn apple he'd had in a long time.
« Last Edit: Dec 19, 2011 09:43 pm by Eman5805 » Logged

Eman5805
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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Posts: 4339


A Soulful Brother


« Reply #4 on: Dec 27, 2011 06:29 pm »

Author's Note: As I continue to write several chapters ahead of what I'm posting, yeah. I'll definitely be breaking my "one POV per chapter" rule. But I'm still going to try and keep the chapters small, working the under 3,000 word range. Smaller bites that are easier to digest instead of gorging on walls of text like before. I'm told those can be subtly intimidating for some people. Can't have that.

Please enjoy.

Chapter Two

Peach blossoms.

It was a good smell, a familiar one.

Mitsuro made sure to take a good long inhale. The moving air drew a few wisps of hair, gently brushing against his chin. As the drowsiness of a long night’s
sleep faded, he became aware of the warm body lying next to him. It was how Mitsuro always preferred to wake up. Next to someone like Rei. Peach blossom
scented oils were Rei's favorite and she always-

Rei.

Rei is dead. Dead and gone.

And you killed her.

Then who is in the bed with him?

Misturo's eyes snapped open.

Ivy’s smiling, face and sparkling golden eyes greeted him. “Mmmm. Did you sleep well, Mitsy?” she purred, lightly stroking his face.

Despite himself, he felt his face start to warm up. Ivy was stunning and to be so close to her…but there was a warning instinct screaming to him that he
didn't want to be this close. He had to get some distance. He rolled over.

And Vivi squealed and giggled from behind him.

“Ah! Hey! Don’t squish me, big brother!”

Mitsuro jolted away and nearly rolled back over Ivy, who laughed gleefully. He shoved himself up and jumped out of bed, throwing the sheets off of him.
Lingering drowsiness coupled with adrenaline making him decide that just running away was the best course of action, made his mind sluggish and awkward as he
stumbled, stumbling over the bed sheets caught on his ankle, to the door and out into the hallway. He tripped on something and fell. An amused, hissing
chuckle brought his attention to the long, lanky, lizard smiling Baku, who must have just stepped out of the shower, a towel wrapped around his waist. He was
munching on an apple.

“Did the sneak-into-your-bed thing, hmmm? Don’t worry. You’ll get used to it.” He snickered, then added, "Pretty boy."

The ability to speak broke through Mitsuro's sleep addled brain. “Wha?”

“Don't worry about it. It just means she likes you. You should be honored,” Baku said after another bite. He offered Mitsuro his hand.

Mitsuro hesitated. There was always an abnormal heat radiating from Baku's hands and his body in general. As if he were constantly running an intense fever.
Mitsuro couldn't place the reason, but he was instinctively averse to bodily contact with Baku. And for Mitsuro, instincts were everything. Still, he took
Baku's hand anyway and pulled himself up. He glanced over his shoulder. Ivy was all but purring as she stretched underneath the remaining bed sheets. His
cheeks felt hot. Damn it. Was he blushing? Of all the pathetic things. "Then, did I? Did Ivy…?”

Baku shrugged. “I dunno. It depends. Are you still alive?” Baku asked, still grinning that thin, serpentine grin.

Mitsuro stared at Baku. Baku only looked in answer, obviously expecting Mitsuro to answer the stupid question. “Yes," Mitsuro said through gritted teeth.

“Then nothing happened.” Baku patted Mitsuro on the shoulder. “Don’t too ahead of yourself, buddy. I said she liked you. I didn’t say she liked  liked
you. Not yet anyway.” He continued down the hallway to his room as he had been.

Mitsuro gaped blankly, he glanced back into the room. “And…Vivi?”

“Now that? That's new. Have to ask her,” he said, waving over his shoulder. “See ya, big bro.”

“Sleepover! Sleepover! Me, big brother, and big sister had a sleepover!” Vivi’s high pitched, cheerful voice suddenly singsonged as she skipped out of
Mitsuro’s room, brushing past him. She always managed to be wearing something frilly and pink that fit her loosely.

“Thanks for sharing your bed with me, Mitsy,” Ivy purred. She was wrapped in a robe several sizes too big. “I hope to return the favor some night.” She walked
by, languidly rolling her hips. “Or some morning.”

Mitsuro cleared his throat, and tried to find somewhere else to stare. “That’s my robe.”

Ivy turned as she made it to her room, shooting Mitsuro an enticing look. “You want it? Come and get it.” She let the robe hand loose and fall over one
shoulder. There was nothing but bare, smooth skin beneath.

Mitsuro had to stop himself from taking a step towards her. “Another time."

An almost hurt crossed Ivy’s face. “Aww, Mitsy. Not nice to keep a lady waiting. Ta-ta.” She vanished into her room.

Mitsuro let out a breath, and rubbed his face. Just what had he gotten himself into? There were things that needed to be done. People that needed to pay
grievously. He thought joining with this group would help him to accomplish that. But he was apparently surrounded by a bunch of children, schoolyard
acquaintances, and seductresses. He couldn't afford to let his hormones curdle his judgment.

Going back to working solo began to seem like an option he should take.

Yes. Working alone. The same way you wound up killing Rei.

"Having second thoughts, Mitsuro?" someone murmured.

Mitsuro spun. Jung Su was walking down the hall, wearing his well tailored garments, arms folded behind his back. He wasn't much older than Mitsuro himself.
In his early twenties at the oldest. But he carried himself like a man much beyond his years in wisdom and intelligence. He wore expensive, rimless glasses
that balanced on his nose. and his face was clean shaven save for one tuft of hair under his chin, hair pulled back, partially shaven in the queue of the
Earth Kingdom's high society crowd. His eyes were dark green and narrow, keen and observing.

Jung Su was a troubling person. Mitsuro didn't like people he couldn't read or gauge. The only thing Mitsuro knew about him was that he had similar ambitions.
However, the reason for those goals and what his final objective was remained a mystery. Mitsuro didn't like mysteries. Mysteries had a habit of turning into
problems in his experience. Mitsuro also didn't like anyone in a position of authority over him that he wasn't sure he could kill if the need be. Jung Su
himself wasn't much of a threat. Perhaps he was an Earthbender, but the cerebral, management types are very rarely effective at earthbending. The stout,
stubborn discipline it takes to control the element appeared beyond Jung Su at least in appearance. No. The real threat came in that Jung Su was always
flanked by his bodyguard, Basav.

Basav was a brutish, mammoth of a man, a full head taller than Mitsuro. His limbs looked more like tree trunks than something that belonged on a human. His
eyes were dull and set deeply into his wide face. His nose had been broken at least once. His hair was short and flat. A scruffy perpetual stubble clung to
his heavy jaw. It was some odd stroke of fortune that he wasn't hideous. Given his wealth of unappealing features. Taken individually, they were unsightly,
but together, he was only slightly ugly.

Mitsuro wouldn't underestimate him. He would operate under the presumption that Basav was just as powerful and strong as he looked. If it ever came down it,
Basav was the first one Mitsuro would need to eliminate. The rest shouldn't be an obstacle at all. Though Mitsuro doubted it would ever come to that. But
there was no such thing as too cautious.

"Not at all," Mitsuro lied with a shrug. "I'm just gauging my new teammates. Figuring out how I'll best fit into things here."

If Jung Su saw through the lie, he gave no indication as he continued walking down the hall, Basav close behind. "There's little reason to worry about that. I
have no doubt you will fit in amicably. Try to relax, Mitsuro. Years from now, you may be asked 'Where were you when the entire world was wiped clean and a
better world forged in its place? What were you doing? Were you a spectator? Or were you a participant?' Join by us, and you get to be counted among the
latter. Breakfast will be served in the downstairs cafeteria in thirty minutes. At noon we'll all meet in the courtyard so you can be properly introduced.  Be
well."

Mitsuro grunted. "I'll keep that in mind," Mitsuro said, then he stepped back into his room. He headed to the bathroom sink and splashed water on his face to
help shake off the sleep fatigue.

They wanted to create a better world? What a total crock.

All lingering doubts just vanished. Mitsuro had to stay now to sate his curiosity. Jung Su had just fed him the company line. That creating a better world bit
was just a front. It had to be. No one could say that and believe it. No, there was something more going on here. They didn't want to create a better world.
They had some other goal in mind, something more practical and realistic. Mitsuro wasn't just out to settle old scores. He was looking for information. And
Jung Su must have known that.

Jung Su knew just how to plant the seed to keep Mitsuro from leaving first opportunity he got. The manipulation was so well timed and executed. He's only
known of Mitsuro for less than a day. And he managed to work out that much so quickly? What else might he already know?

If or perhaps when it comes to that Mitsuro knew that Jung Su would have to be dealt with.

Then, Mitsuro felt himself tense. Just what reason did Jung Su need to bring his bodyguard with him to walk down the halls of his own complex?

The answer came quickly. Why, to greet the dangerous new guy, of course.

*********

No fewer than four men in the room were armed. The rest were either barefoot or carried waterskins on their backs or hips. All of them would be ready to kill
Mitsuro at a moment's notice. But they weren't... how should he put it? Worthy of his attention. His only concern was the man sitting directly opposite him at
the card table which, he noticed had been bolted down, likely to keep from angry game losers from overturning it.

The man was sitting quite comfortably in his chair, slouched and loose. The smile on his face might have been mistaken for smug once, but it was really the
result of a scar along his jaw that ran to his lip. That scar was the largest of many. He had more scars on his face alone than he had fingers, of which there
were only nine, his left ring finger a tipless stub. He wasn’t very tall, no taller than Mitsuro’s own average height. His frame bore the musculature of a man
who spent his whole life in conflict.

It was to be expected. One didn’t become the premier smuggling baron in the Earth Kingdom by being a slimy diplomat. No. Ryoku fought his way to the top and
there are no fewer than fifteen high profile deaths in the criminal underworld that can be attached to him and his outfit. Word of mouth says that Ryoku will
often do the deeds himself as he prefers the hand on approach. However, he escapes prosecution by having a surprisingly well-versed legal team. It made him
quite untouchable, and even more so, very dangerous.

Which put Mitsuro in a very precarious position, as it were.

“So, tell me, son,” Ryoku began. “To what do I owe this visit?

Mitsuro knew body language and he could tell without a doubt that Ryoku was not happy. His relaxed demeanor was a front. Violence was smoldering beneath the
surface, like lava beneath a dormant volcano.

This was Jung Su's idea of a first mission? Insanity.

At least he didn't send Mitsuro in here alone and completely clueless as to what's going on.

Mitsuro maintained his business like posture, clasping his hands on the table, in plain view of all present. "Courtesy," he said.

"A courtesy visit? Interesting." Ryoku raised a hand and a cup was promptly placed into it and filled with a green liquid that at a glance would be mistaken
for tea. He took his time drinking it, had it refilled, then drunk that too. "And what has the little know-it-all concerned about being courteous?"

Mitsuro gave a slight shrug. "Prudency. There's a great many things occurring of late behind the scenes, under the surface. It is in the best interest of
the…organization I represent to confirm certain aspects of our partnership. No disrespect intended." He inclined his head slightly. "It would be my honor to
deliver a relay message on your behalf."

The words all but gagged him even as he spoke them. They were fed lines from Jung Su. He said that this would settle this quickly and efficiently so he could
leave in one piece.

Ryoku sighed. "I see."

It was about then that Mitsuro realized the deception and his critical mistake. The final part about leaving in one piece was what Mitsuro thought was
implied. Jung Su only actually said "everything would sort itself out quickly." He never gave mention of them leaving the room alive.

Ryoku merely stared at him for an eternity. Then his words came out brutally cold. "No disrespect intended. But much has been delivered, my young friend. Your
brainiac leader thinks far too highly of himself if he believes he could tell me to renegotiate the terms of our deal. Especially when he doesn't even
have the balls to do so himself, sending some green rookie in alone to do his bidding."

Alone? But he had...Mitsuro gave a quick glance to his peripheral vision. No Baku. He never entered the building with him. Mitsuro was alone. Mitsuro hadn't
even gave a second glance once he came inside.

 Ryoku abruptly stood up, hands placed firmly on the table, smoke hissed up from beneath his palms.. "Surik, cut out this fool's tongue and send it back to
his spineless master in a box with a note saying the price of my service has been tripled. See how he likes that 'relay message.'"
« Last Edit: Dec 27, 2011 06:33 pm by Eman5805 » Logged

Eman5805
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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Posts: 4339


A Soulful Brother


« Reply #5 on: Jan 05, 2012 06:14 pm »

Chapter Three

Mitsuro's blood was ice.

Before he could move two heavy hands clamped on his shoulders, pinning him to his seat. A burly, tanned man with a waterskin on his back walked over. His
every step resounding on the plank floors like thunderclaps, a dagger drawn from his hip that looked all too sharp. His tongue. Cut out.

Mitsuro didn't want to imagine the pain. Didn't want to imagine trying to speak and only globules of blood spilling past his lips as he made strangled,
gurgling sounds as his own blood also rushed down his throat, chocking him.

But he wouldn't have to in another moment.

He had to do something. Anything.

But Mitsuro was outnumbered and even if he struck he was unarmed, mostly. He was without his bow. They confiscated the moment he stepped into the building.
But a bow was at a severe disadvantage in close quarters, what could he possibly do? He had a blade hidden on him, but it was small, not even four inches
long. He could stab the man holding him in the hands then whip around and plunge the blade into his throat, but that would expose his back to burly
waterbender. And even then, he still had another half dozen men that would rip him apart, burn him alive, or crush him to death a moment later.

No. That's a weak mentality. You won't be weak, Mitsuro. Do not allow this to overcome you, Mitsuro thought furiously.

 Mitsuro had to do something. Do something. Whatever he did would have to be effective enough to stalemate everyone long enough to escape. His mind raced,
caught in a panic.

Ryoku was turning to leave with a disdainful snort. And Mitsuro caught a glimpse of another scar on the back of his neck. A puncture wound from a small bladed
weapon, perhaps an arrowhead. It was one of many on his body. Mitsuro forgot to include Ryoku as well. He was a strong firebender, likely the only one in the
room. He was a battle hardened fighter that liked getting his hands dirty and likely hated signs of weakness.

And then it hit him in a flash. Mitsuro had a way out. It may well get him killed, but he'd be damned if he let someone cut his tongue out. He waited for the
waterbender to grab him by the mouth and try to force his mouth open. Then Mitsuro let out a snarl and kicked his knee out. It gave with sickeningly loud pop
and he doubled up. Mitsuro sucked in a breathe then headbutted him in the jaw. A sharp jolt of pain flashed through his forehead. The sudden violence was
enough to catch everyone in the room off guard, including Ryoku. Mitsuro had to move fast. He reached up, grabbed the man holding him down's arms, lifted his
legs, and shoved off the bolted down table as hard as he could.

The man holding Mitsuro down was strong, but even he was not stronger than pure physics. Mitsuro shoved him back and drove the man into a wooden post directly
behind him. The man let out a snarl of pain and his grip slacked. Mitsuro bit into the man's arm, drawing another cry of pain from his captor that made him
release his grip entirely. Mitsuro threw himself forward.

The sudden attack had caught everyone in the room off balance, but Ryoku has seen a lot of scrapes and recovered quickly. With a shout he launched a fireball
from his fist, lighting up the slightly dim room in a wash of orange-red light and the roar of air searing. Rushing Ryoku high, directly would've been
suicide, so Mitsuro used the table again, throwing himself under it. Something hit his leg and he felt a line of fire drawn down his calf. The pain turned his
whole vision red and he let out another savage snarl. The pain and the fear he was feeling became unimportant and distant. He turned the drive under the table
into a roll.

His hands blurred, snatching his hidden blade from the inside of his pants leg. Ryoku was readying another fireblast, but Mitsuro's forward momentum was too
much, his body weight centered too low for Ryoku to avoid or overcome. Mitsuro crashed into the more heavily muscled man, and they were driven back into the
wall.  Mitsuro's blade came up. There was a lot of sound around him.

Mitsuro stopped himself before he lost control at the same time Ryoku bellowed "HOLD!" in pure ringing authority. Everyone came to a halt. Even Mitsuro a bit.

Ryoku's head was forced back a bit as Mitsuro held the blade to his jugular. There was a strange smile on Ryoku's face, it was marred by the scar on his
cheek, but he looked generally amused. Mitsuro became aware that Ryoku had a hand pressed flat against his chest. He could feel the heat behind it.

There was silence for another eternity. Mitsuro could feel the eyes of every man and woman (interesting, he hadn't noticed her before) on him, pure violence
behind their gaze. Everyone was waiting for something to happen.

Mitsuro made a calculated guess. "It appears we're at an impasse, Ryoku."

"It appears so," he murmured.

"If I slit your throat, you'll burn a hole straight through my chest. We both die. But…"

"But?"

"That serves neither of us in our goals."

Ryoku chuckled. "A truce? On account of mutually aligned self-interests?"

"No. On account of…" Mitsuro said. He mimicked the grisly smile of Ryoku. "Prudency."

Then something strange happened. A low belly laugh came from Ryoku, in spite of the smallest movement too far forward would open his veins. And then the laugh
spread to someone else. And then someone else. And soon the whole room was laughing. Mitsuro wasn't sure, but he thought the man whose knee he shattered was
laughing between pained gasps.

"Prudency. It's a word I've heard a lot lately. But you're the first one that could say it with such irony."

Mitsuro shrugged. "My subordinate loves the word along with other unnecessarily big words. It's an pain in the ass, but he's still one of my own."

"Ah. I see," Ryoku said. He took his hand away from Mitsuro's chest. "Please, my friend, let's continue our talks back at the table. My men don't like it when
people continue to hold blades to my throat."

Mitsuro arched an eyebrow. He glanced around, carefully. The rest of his men were all leaving, sheathing their weapons, floating collections of water went
back into waterskins, and the man with the shattered knee was taken out of the room. There were one or two still staring intently at Mitsuro however. Mitsuro
lifted a few fingers off the blade handle, and slowly took the it away. "Yes, let's talk business."



Mitsuro stumbled out of the building. Yes, that green stuff was NOT tea. The sound of intense laughter followed him out. Along with the ground swirling
beneath him. What fool designed the grounds to move around like that? He should arrow their feet to the floor.

"Come back anytime, my boy! HAhahaha!" Ryoku bellowed over another drunken laugh.

Mitsuro struggled to figure how which foot to put in front of the other to walk. But he eventually shambled his way to the rendezvous point.

A sound of impact behind him made him turn. Ivy landed on the ground deftly as a cat, a small smile on her face.

"Well, that's not quite according to plan, isn't it?" she purred, looking him up and down, tapping a finger to her bottom lip while her other thumb stroke the
hilt of a blade that was almost loving. "Looks like you just had a night on the town, Mitsy."

Mitsuro felt himself sag against a building, his breathing lazy and sluggish.

Ivy giggled.  "Oh, look at that. I know the look of diluted cactus juice and that…" She suddenly pressed close to Mitsuro, he breath hot on his neck. "…is
unmistakable. Oh Mitsy, is this a gift?"

From a far away place in the cosmos, Mitsuro could sense imminent danger, but he couldn't make out what was the cause. He felt the urge to run, but why should
run away from the girl with the thick short sword, muzzling into his neck, cooing into his ear? It made no…

He leaned down, his mouth searching for hers. She pressed in close.

…sense.

"Ivy!" came a cry from up the alley. Ivy immediately flinched back away from Mitsuro, a look of disappointment on her face, like a child denied.

Mitsuro labored to turn his head. Baku, Jung Su, and Basav. And even the girl, Vivi were there in the alley with them

Jung Su wagged a finger. "Ah-ah-ah, Ivy. This one isn't yours to have."

Baku snickered "Yeah. Ain't no way we'll let you have ol' Mitsuro. Not after that stunt he just pulled." He walked up to Mitsuro and threw and arm over his
shoulders. "Ain't that right, buddy?"

It felt like someone just drapped a hot blanket over him. It was enough to partly snap him out of the stupor. Mitsuro shoved away from Baku and the wall. But
he was still loopy from the drinks and he stumbled and feel to his knees. Directly in front of Jung Su.

"Well done, Mitsuro, you more than exceeded expecta-"

Mitsuro rose and drove his fist into Jung Su's face.

The punch was off balance and misaimed. It only grazed Jung Su's chin, but it was enough to send Jung Su sprawling to the ground.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Baku shouted.

Vivi let out a sharp cry.

Mitsuro started to follow up but Basav grunted and grabbed Mitsuro's arm halfway. Stopped him cold.

"You sent me to die, you bastard!" Mitsuro half shouted, half slurred.

Jung Su rubbed at his jaw, picking himself off the ground. His expression was unreadable beyond looking slightly disheveled. "Doubtful. Ryoku doesn't kill
when he can intimidate. He would've likely tried to maim you as a message to me. Giving me carte blanche to send a message of my own."

Anger flared. Mitsuro threw himself at Jung Su again, but Basav's grip was too much to beat. "Maim me?! He was going to cut my tongue out!"

"You're making far too big of a deal of this, Mitsuro," Jung Su said, casually dusting himself off. "Regardless of what would have happened, it didn't. Baku
spoke highly of your abilities to improvise your way out of tight situations and you did not disappoint. If anyone deserves your ire, it should be him.
Sending you in alone was hardly my first choice but there was great reason to do so."

Mitsuro couldn't believe this man. He spoke of the danger he sent Mitsuro blindly into like one speaks of buying fruit. "You're insane."


"Hardly. I'm surprised you'd not realize this is the world you desire to dwell in by now. This world cares not for the weak. It uses the weak as it sees fit
then discards them like so much refuse. But the strong endures. If you truly told Ryoku the words I gave you, word for word, then you'd be of no use to us.
Obviously you did so anyway and still managed to leave, tongue intact. A fact that…intrigues me, to be sure. You've comported yourself unequivocally. Don't
sully yourself by being feeble."

Mitsuro nearly retorted, but bit down on the anger. Twisted though his words might be, he agreed with the sentiment. Besides, there was something else that
came out of that meeting. Jung Su tried to use him. But…

"Fine," Mitsuro said, pulling his hands from Basav's grip. "But there's something you should know."

"And that is?"

"From now on, I'll be dealing with Ryoku and his organization. Personally. You see as it turns out, he now operates under the impression that you work
for me and that you always have. And it's very clear Ryoku has no love lost for you. So, as of today," Mitsuro straightened and gave Jung Su a sly smile. "I
am now in charge of the managing all of your supply lines. I'll need access to any and every bit of information regarding supply movements for atleast the
last ten months. Can't have him thinking I- and by extension- we are weak and incompetent now can we?"

And on that word, Mitsuro walked past Jung Su and kept going. He never looked back, though he would've loved to have seen the look on Jung Su's face.
***

As they watched the young archer walk off after having the last word, Baku looked like he was ready to explode from laughter, which was not at all an unlikely event. "Dost mine eyes and ears deceive me? Or did he just outwit you, boss?"

"Smart and handsome. Oh, I think I'm in love," Ivy purred.

Jung Su let them banter a bit. "I may have underestimated him, to be sure, but all the same, all he did was expedite our own plans. I had long since sought a
means to reestablish good relations with Ryoku."

Baku snorted. "Translation: 'I've been trying to find a way to make Ryoku like me even though I'm an insufferable genius that can't stop making everyone else
feel dumb.'"

Jung Su gave no acknowledgement to that comment. "No matter the methods, we have acquired a great asset on this day. We will make great usage of his talents.
The focus is our mission, same as it's always been." He started making his way back to the institute.

Baku sniffed. "You take the fun out even seeing you humbled for once, Jung my man." He headed off, his long strides quickly taking him far ahead of Jung Su.

Ivy, thoughts clearly elsewhere, hurried off without a word, apparently with something in mind. Jung Su didn't allow himself to dwell on just what that
something was. She was careful. She wouldn't let any of it cause a problem for him, like having to break her out of jail or the like. She'd be back by the
next day as always. Vivi was fast in tow with her. He didn't dwell on the implications of what that meant either.

Only he and Basav remained in the alleyway. Even though Jung Su hadn't heard Basav make any indications, the way the air felt around him, the gentle pressure
against his skin seemed into indicate that He wished to speak.
"Is our privacy ensured?" Jung Su asked.

"But of course," murmured Basav. Except it was clearly not Basav's voice. It was remarkably smoother and much more sinister. "You know complete secrecy is of
the utmost for our continued partnership."

"What is your opinion of our new recruit?" Jung Su asked.

"I do not fully approve of him as an ally. There is a stench about him. The tainted stench of one motivated by matters of the heart."

Matters of the heart? Jung Su pondered what could that mean.

"But I do like him as a candidate. There is great potential within of which he himself is not yet aware. So filled with hate and jealousy that remains
untapped. Yes, an excellent candidate."

Jung Su's eyebrows bent. "A mixed message? How unlike you."

A grin half filled with teeth too sharp for Basav's mouth spread across his face. "Are I not allowed to indulge in mystic ambiguity every once in a while if it so suits me? There is so little room for enjoying oneself these millennia anymore. Humans used to be so much more…willing."

Jung Su wouldn't let it see him shudder, so he pretended to adjust the fit of his clothing. "You speak as if I make allowances on your behalf. We both know the terms of our arrangement. I'd rather not make any further assumptions than that."

He laughed, a sound that unsettled Jung Su greatly for he knew that a true sense of humor, a sense of humor predicated on things any human could understand, couldn't dwell within Him. For He was before humans drew breath. "Is that the pragmatism talking?"

"No," Jung Su said, his mind working out the next moves down the line. So many options open to him now. He must plan his next courses of action so very
carefully. This was a dangerous game he was playing and the stakes were high. Fitting given the potential rewards. "Prudency."
Logged

Eman5805
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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A Soulful Brother


« Reply #6 on: Jan 21, 2012 09:18 pm »

Chapter Four

"The Submariner"

The evening air was cooling with the setting sun as Darlo swung in through the window, brushed himself off, then let out a high pitched yelp of surprise. Then cleared his throat like that yelp was some kind of accident.

"Hello, Darlo. If you're here for my son, Indra, or the play a game with my sister, I'm afraid none are in at the moment," Youli said, her voice the same even
almost feathery tone. A set of folded clothes sat on the bed and a hamper of baskets sat on the floor next to her. She hardly seemed like someone that just
had someone climb through the window.

But never mind that. Darlo glanced at the window, just to make sure he was still on the second floor of this house. Then back at Youli. "Uh. Wh…how…I…I mean…"

"Ms. Indra is with Dr. Su. I believe my son is at one of his jobs, though he so wished to accompany Ms. Indra as they walked about the city." Her eyes drifted
off in the distance and she shook her head slightly. "He works so hard for us."

Jobs? As in, more on than one? A cold shudder slid up Darlo's back. Work? Job? Blegh. Now he felt all dirty. Had to go. Oh yes. "Uh. Thanks, uh, ma'am…miss."
And he hopped back through the window and back onto the tree branch.

Getting down was never hard. Gravity does most of the work for him.

Well. Now what? Sure, Darlo had hoped to try and convince the good doctor and Rex to take her out on the town see the sights, but he wanted to be there too.
They went without him? How ungrateful can you get? If not for Darlo, Indra would probably have died in that river. Not to mention that it was thanks to him
that Indra wasn't still in that bed playing 20 Questions with Doc Hu or his darling wifey.

Darlo also considered giving Rell a call, just to bug her. But odds were she was with her new egghead tinkerer boyfriend. Or that He picked up the phone
instead. Ick. He almost wanted to deal with the doc's wife instead.

Darlo went on a short run on the rooftops, but his heart wasn't into it. So he cut it short. He stopped by the market and grabbed two helpings of meat on a
stick and ate them somberly on a bench by a park. There was some performing troupe going on that attracted a decent crowd. It was a juggler or magic act or
something. Whatever it was, it was probably lame, with little skill. But you do anything flashy with good presentation and these yokels will eat it up.

Darlo knew this very well. He used to entertain crowds. But they were bigger. Better. It was a fond memory to reflect on. He always had something to do.
Opponents to introduce to the more violent parts of his lower body. Lots of adoring female crying his name, or, ah, nick name. Ah. It was perfect. Until the
end that is.

He almost had it. He almost had it. Just one more match and he would've been able to take off that mask. But it was taken from him. A damn scam job.
Those bastards cheated him but the public didn't know that. Their opinion was the one that mattered. They saw him lose. Hard. And embarrassingly, at least
that's what he was told. He didn't even remember most of it.

What Darlo would give to have one more shot, a do over. But that's not the way the world works. You often only get one shot at things like that. And once you
mess it up, the universe doesn't take pity on you and let you try again. That's why you gotta get it right the first time or find another way around it. Maybe
shift your tactics up and try things from a more subtle angle. Darlo didn't really care for subtle, but…not like he had much choice.

Which is kinda where Darlo is now. Only he hasn't completely found "another way" yet. But he was trying. Just have to look down multiple ways.  Speaking of
which, it was time for another check in, wasn't it? Darlo hopped off the  bench and bumped into a startled a couple on their way to see the little show.

"Hey!"

"Whoa! Careful, lovebirds," Darlo told them, as they gave him angry looks.

"Crazy haired weirdo," the guy muttered.

If Darlo wasn't in a hurry, he probably would whirled on him. Instead, he'd just let it go and left the park.

Darlo took a roundabout path to the sonicus line, making sure no one was tailing him. He doubted anyone would., but even if they did, he also doubted they
could keep up with him without him noticing. He swung by his room in the apartment he stayed at, careful to avoid the landlord, and got a change of clothes.
He was wearing a variation of his D the Striker costume, all black leggings and a skin tight black silk shirt. All that he was missing was the mask, but he
wouldn't dare run around with that one. That'd be a surefire way of making sure anyone that saw him would recognize him. So he just tied his hair into kind of
topknot and left his face exposed. His skin was dark enough to not be a problem blending into the shadows. He dropped to street level near the phone and
waited. After scanning the surroundings several times, he stepped over and picked up the receiver.

"Yeah, operator, put me through to sanitation," Darlo said.

"Please hold," she said with the breathless tone of someone doing a lot at once and not giving any one thing much thought. It was a thankless job running that
sonicus switchboard thing. Even into the evening people were placing calls. Darlo had no plans on thanking any of them. So he held silent until someone picked
up.

"Sanitation, where is the mess?"

Darlo wrinkled his brow as he thought of the code. "From east to west, north to south, this mess stretches. We need immediate salvation from on so intrepid to
handle such a…mess."

There was a pause that made Darlo wonder if he screwed it up before the man came back on and said, "I'll let you speak to the manager."

"Yeah, cool."

Darlo held the receiver a little away from his ear. He could still hear all the feedback as the line was secured. Darlo didn't understand the physics of how
the thing worked either, but all he knew was that when it was done, only people able to hear what he said through the receiver would be-

"Change of plans. The shack across the street. Go there. Now," a voice said suddenly from the receiver, then the line clicked and went dead.

Darlo gaped at the machine. Then looked at the shack. It was more of a hut, really. It was hard to tell what it was other than drab and slightly rundown. It
might've been an old newsstand. The lights in the streets had gone out, casting the entire area in shadows.

And The Intrepid One wanted him to go in there? Darlo sighed. He doubted it was a setup. The Intrepid would've just rigged the phone to blow up or something
rather than jump him inside of a small shack. But he couldn't figure out what reason could Intrepid possibly have for wanting him in there.

No use standing around, Darlo figured. So he went over. To his not-quite surprise, inside was a hole in the floor, with a dime, green light glowing inside.
Etched into the stone of the ground was a makeshift ladder. There was a slightly circular wear pattern to the stone around the hole as well. Darlo got it now.
Earthbending.

He didn’t like the notion of climbing underground either, but he bit down his doubts and went in. The hole wasn't deep, maybe 10 feet, so he dropped down.
Oddly, he landed on a plush seat in some kind of wooden box, room thing. There was the sound of shifting stone above him as the hole shut behind him, then
something metallic slammed shut. Seated before him was someone wearing a very long coat with an abnormally high collar. No, not just abnormally high. It was
downright ridiculously high. It covered up the whole of his face save for the eyes, which he wore big blue glasses over. And a big round hat obscured his
hair. He sat, arms folded, legs crossed, patiently regarding Darlo.

"I hope this will suffice instead of going the typical route," the man said, his voice came out muffled, but not just because of the big, weird looking
collar. But it was as if there were cotton balls stuffed into his mouth. "But for this information it felt necessary for a secure face to face meeting."

"Intrepid One," Darlo said. "I'm surprised you trust me enough to sit not even 5 feet from me. Seems risky, even though I'm on the up and up."

"I assure you I've taken many precautions, even this being the case. Your…'up and up' status notwithstanding. But enough pleasantries, the trail goes cold,
what news have you?"

Darlo blew out a breath and sat back in the chair a bit. "What news haven't I?" Darlo laid it all out for him. Before he went to Rex's house, he'd done some
snooping. It wasn't really Darlo's kind of work. He was mostly good for time sensitive delivery of letters and special items. But when The Intrepid One gave
him an interesting task, what else could do but agree to it?

Ryoku had a big mouth, even when not under the influence of mystery concoctions. The Intrepid was especially interested in the one guy with the bow that met
with Ryoku. But unfortunately there wasn't any angle he could get to have a clear look at what they were saying. He made Darlo be specific on everything about the Blue Revenant. And, oddly enough, the unseen lady friend of Ryoku and the green drink that Darlo saw when he spied on them from an adjacent rooftop.

Darlo couldn't see his face, but he got the distinct impression he was deep in thought. "Very interesting information you've gathered, Xunsu Tui," Intrepid
murmured.

Darlo didn't like that codename. Too…obvious. He'd rather go with something like Xiang Feng or Shan Dian. But whatever. Can't always get the cool nicknames in
life unfortunately. "Thanks." A pregnant silence stretched.

Darlo licked his lips. He had to imagine there was more to come, right? But would he be speaking out of turn? No. Intrepid owed him a lot. He was helping him
out at great risk to himself, sure the potential reward was high, but it wouldn't be risking too much would it? He claims to be working for the law, but what
if he was wrong? What if he was about to make a huge mistake? At the least he might not be allowed to work with him again, The Intrepid did have other allies
working for him. He had never met them before, but Darlo could probably be replaced. And at the worst, he'd flip and do something drastic and unexpectedly
violent like try to kill Darlo here and now.

Could Darlo take him? He doubted a person so fearful of his identity would be much in a brawl, but then, Darlo was a living example of the contrary being
true. Still…he'd never know unless he tried. Oh well. "So, tell me, Intrepid one, how close are we to capturing the Blue Revenant?"

The Intrepid's head lifted, slowly. "What makes you certain 'we' are pursuing the Blue Revenant?"

Darlo shrugged. "Well, I'm not real good at this, but I can still see a pattern. I've been operating out Bumi for a while now. You know, being your Xunsu Tui
and all that, but just about everything, in some way has had info about the Blue Revenant. And now, you show up in Bumi just as Ryoku is throwing a hissy over
a few of his top men getting bumped off? I know you normally operate out of Ba Sing Se. Why else would you come down here? Why else would you use me and not
someone else?"

The Intrepid let out a pleased sound after a moment, the tip of his hat dipping slightly. "Very well, Xunsu Tui, you've earned an honest answer. In fact, this
was why I've come to you in person tonight."

The tension that had been building in Darlo evaporated and without meaning to, he sagged in his chair. "Oh." Then he sat back up again as the thought hit him.
"Really?"

"Yes. You see, most of the tasks I have for you, treasure hunts, sneaking around the city in the dark, those timed deliveries, all of these exercises? They
were tests."

"Test?" A shiver went down Darlo's spine at the word. He felt dirty just for saying it. "For what?"

"I'm seeking out allies in the my fight against a very real threat. The Blue Revenant is no urban legend. It is real, spirit or no. And I am sworn to bring
the culprit, or culprits, to justice. But I cannot track it down alone. I have the eyes. But I'll need ears and the feet, legs on the ground to do what I
alone cannot. I've chosen you to be my…legs."

Darlo raised an eyebrow. "Wow. I'm honored, if…kinda weirded out by the image that puts in my head. So, ah, what happens now?"

"Now? Unfortunately, you'll be on hold for a while. I hadn't anticipated finding both my Ears and Legs in such a short amount of time. I need to adjust my
next movements accordingly. So, continue to check in like you've been doing. Same time intervals and methods as before. Nothing changes."

"Oh." Well, that's a downer. "Okay then. Wait. If I'm the feet, the Xunsu Tui, who is the…Ears?"

"You'll be meeting Yinpin soon enough. But not just yet." Then The Intrepid handed Darlo something. It was too dark in the cramped confines to see what it
was, but he could tell it was kind of small and jagged. "Stay out of trouble, Xunsu. And don't lost that. Under any circumstances."

Then the hatch above Darlo's head opened. Moonlight shone in. Darlo looked up. A figure was standing outside, clad in the same dark clothing The Intrepid
wore, only except for absurdly high collar, this one opted for a black veil that fell down from a hat, covering her face. She was defiantly a she. Darlo could
spot a pair of boobs even under the thickest coat. She gestured for him to get out. He complied.

And Darlo climbed out surrounded by water on all sides but one where a wooden pier sat, murky water lapping lazily against the piles. Darlo looked around,
stunned. He was at the Blackwood Docks. Over 10 miles southwest of Bumi. How the heck had he got all the way here? He looked around beneath him. His first
thought was some kind of metal...fish. At least that's what it looked like. It wasn't, clearly. But it was shaped like one.

"We'll be in touch, Xunsu Tui. Do not disappoint us for choosing you," the woman said stiffly, then she turned on her heels and walked to a second open hatch
identical to the one he just climbed out further up to where the metal fish's head would be and climbed down. The hatch behind shut. And then the entire thing
began to sink. Darlo let out a sound he wasn't proud of and leapt off the thing to the pier. He watched as the thing vanished beneath the waters without a
trace, leaving Darlo sitting there.

"Oooooooookay," Darlo said shaking his head. An underwater boat. What'll they think of next? The Intrepid is operating on a whole 'nother level. He must have
found one of those underground rivers and it opened up all the way to here. It was sure a smooth ride. Darlo didn't even realize they were moving. Darlo
couldn't even imagine why got through all that trouble just to have a meet and greet. Maybe there was some other reason that he wasn't quite clever enough to
puzzle out. Must a secret investigator spy thing. Then Darlo groaned loudly. It was 10 miles to get back to Bumi. That's not exactly a hop and a skip. Even if
he jogged the whole way, It'd take a lil' under an hour to get back.

"Great. You owe me big," Darlo grumbled to the air and fishes. And he took off in a light jog. As he did he spared a glance at what the Intrepid gave him
under the light.

It was half of Pai Sho tile.

A lotus tile.

Huh. Guess someone likes to suck at Pai Sho…
Logged

Eman5805
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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A Soulful Brother


« Reply #7 on: Jan 21, 2012 09:19 pm »

-continued-
_________________________

The Intrepid One  spat out the cotton balls, took off the hat and glasses, and let out a breath.

"Whew," he muttered, wiping the sweat off his forehead. "Hot. So hot. And I know hot."

"You okay back there," came the young voice of the operator of the submarine as a panel slid open revealing the cockpit.

"Just peachy," he said taking off the big coat. "How was the ride? Smooth?"

"All things checked out," the driver said, obvious glee in his voice. "I think we've found the best way to get around without anyone knowing about it. I knew
it'd work."

"It's not good enough though. We were riding blind half the time. The lights aren't strong enough," a female voice up in the cockpit said.

"That's nothing," the young driver said, dismissively waving his hand. "I'm already working some better lights. Oh man, wait till Rell hears about this!"

The Intrepid One  cleared his throat. "Um. I think maybe you should keep trade secrets to yourself."

"Aw. Why? She'd love to hear about this."

"One risk at a time, kid. Trust me."

The driver sighed. "Fine."

The Intrepid One  stretched out his arms on the seat and stared up at the bulkhead inside of the scientific marvel. A self-propelled submarine, no
Waterbenders necessary. And virtually silent. Very good. This would help so much.

Soon. Things were falling in line. Just a little longer. He was slowly amassing a force that could challenge her. But first, he had to deal with the Blue
Revenant. Taking him down was the first priority. He had thought he'd done it sooner, but he'd just have to try again.

Plus there was the constant threat of…he supposed he could call that group his opposite number. He couldn't figure out what their goal was just yet, but there
was this vibe he was getting about them. He wondered if they were worthy of more of his attention.

And then he had a meeting with Kensei and…

The Intrepid One  sighed. Things used to be so simple. But…he had to admit he liked this new role in life. Sure beat the last one.

The woman stepped into the back and shut the door. She sat down next to him.

"Tell me, what did you think of our Legs?"

She had taken off the hot clothing too. "Xunsu Tui wasn't what I expected. At all. He was very…"

"Anxious?" The Intrepid One  offered.

"Short."

"Big things, small packages, right?"

She shook her head. "I'm not sure about this anymore. It's bad enough who you choose for the Ears role, and I can see why. Not to mention what'll happen if
you-know-who found out about him and all this..." She nodded her head towards the kid driving the sub then vaguely around to the sub itself. "But this crazy
haired boy is…I don't know anymore. Just something about him I'm not so sure of. I just hope you actually know what you're doing, choosing someone so…shady."

An eyebrow rose. "You didn't really like me that much when we first met, if you remember."

She snorted with a roll her eyes. Understatement.

"Besides, you really don't see the family resemblance? The kid's got a lot of stake in things. He might not even realize it yet."

She frowned. "What do you mean?"

He smiled. "Just wait and see."

She looked at him steadily. He gave her nothing beyond his cryptic smile. She gave up and lightly, not really, punched him in the shoulder. "You're enjoying
this way more than you should be."

"Ouch," he complained, still smiling. "Guilty as charged." Then he leaned over and kissed her. "Guilty as charged."
Logged

Eman5805
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« Reply #8 on: Feb 21, 2012 12:38 pm »

Author's Note: A wise, murderously psychotic man once said the only sensible way to live in this world is without rules.

That is all.

Chapter Five

 An egg, small and fragile, is nestled in the bosom of a great and powerful monster. The monster coos to the egg, whispering dark things. After so long,
the egg finally hatches.

It is a girl.

Slowly, she opens her eyes and looks at the world around her.

But she cannot see.

The world, all of it, is blanked in darkness. Freighted, she begins to cry. The monster speaks soothingly to the girl, assuring here that she is not alone and
that she doesn't need to ever cry. That in this dark world, the monster is there. And she accepted that. For the newly born child, the monster was all there
is to the world. The monster is the only thing she knew to be true.

As time passes, in the darkness, she does what the monster tells her to do. She moves around, interacting and reacting as the monster instructed her to, but
all the while the endless shadow makes those things mean nothing to her. And she was content.

The monster was violent from time to time, but the monster never hurt her more than she could handle. And through the pain, she learned to do so much. She
never thought there was anything more she could want. She went about and she was content.

But  then, piercing through the darkness like some being divine, He took her hand and pulled her out of the monster's grasp.

And at once, she was running through the darkness, still held in His hand.

It made no sense. What was this He was doing?

She should pull away from Him, go back to the monster. But she didn't. She had to understand something. She wanted to know why. And for the first time, she
looked up at Him.

And her vision…existed.

She could see. She could see Him. She could see herself. The darkness was eroded away by…this thing. This thing that allowed her to see.

It was light. It flowed from Him, blazing. It brought a new reality to her. She understood more, thought more. Things that had been hidden and unexplained
went away. Her past ignorance became enlightenment and vice versa. And suddenly the darkness became something she was afraid of. She did not want to be
without His light again. She did not want to be subjected to not knowing anymore.

The monster behind wailed its wrath.

She gripped His hand now as they ran, getting closer to His light.  And she became aware of the struggle.

As they ran, He fought. Shadowy, hideous things flung themselves at Him and again and again, he banished them back to the darkness. They were reaching for
her. They were from the monster and it wanted her back .

Then she realized. The monster did not truly care about her. It only sought to use and control her. As long as she was with the monster, she'd never know the
truth. She had to escape.

Before her, she saw another light in the distance. A round circle, slowly growing larger and larger. It was getting closer. It was a promise of an even
brighter existence beyond just his own. The light around Him alone gave her so much. What would she gain from experiencing a world of light like His?

Jubilation took flight. She was no longer running behind Him, or next to Him. She ran in front of Him, racing towards the exit of the dark tunnel she had been
in. She had been outside the tunnel before, but always with her eyes closed as she had been taught, but now? What would she see? What would she learn? The
truth beckoned before her!

She had almost made it when the monster appeared before her, blocking the way out. Terrified, she ran back to Him, tears falling for the first time, poured
from her eyes, fearing that the darkness would take her. She pleaded for Him to save her again, but couldn't find Him or His light. She was alone in the
darkness again. With the monster.

The ground vanished beneath her feet.

And she fell.




Indra's eyes fluttered open.

The room was dark. A pang of anxiety shot through her, making her heart flutter in her chest. But she took a deep breath, then another and the irrational
feelings slowly began to fade away.

She had had the dream again. She only ever woke up like this after the dreams. She never remembered everything that happened in it, no details, but she always
felt afraid of the dark immediately afterwards.

It was just a dream, Doctor Wong Su told her. The darkness couldn't hurt her. Not really. It was the things that were lurking in the darkness where the danger
lie; this Indra knew. She was secure.

But security wasn't the same as being safe. This Indra also knew.

Safety went much deeper than the surface appearance that security provided. And Indra was far from safe. Not when her own mind was so restless. She couldn't
stop thinking about the dream. What it meant, what it was trying to tell her. She had recounted the story to the good doctor, but he got no more out of the
tale than she had herself. He could only suggest things, but until she knew-

 She suddenly huffed out a frustrated breath. It was that word again: Knew

Indra knew she should be asleep. She knew that a good eight hours of sleep was ideal for someone her young age. She knew what optimal meant. She knew that the
bed she slept on was made of cotton fabrics and old silk. She knew the house she was in was probably over eighty years old. She knew that mean it was built
during the earlier portions of the Hundred Year War. She knew what the Hundred Year War was. She knew that Fire Lord Sozin used the power of a comet to launch
genocide on the Air Nomads. She knew what genocide was. She knew what a comet was. She knew of bending, different foods, items about geography, science,
mathematics, music…

She knew all these things because they would just come to her when she saw something new--the things she had seen since waking up.

But she didn't know the most important thing:

Who she was.

Why? Why couldn't she remember? Why didn’t she know where she learned all of these things? Why couldn't the most crucial blankness in her mind be filled in?

Why?

She did have a name now. There was that. But it was given. It wasn't something we remembered. Indra. It was a lovely sounding name, she thought, but it just
wasn't enough.

Without ever consciously deciding to, she slid out of bed. A curious thing that, moving one's legs. It felt almost…underappreciated. How long had she laid in
that bed, staring up at the ceiling without moving? It was only recently she got out and moved around. She had been afraid. That bed felt like all there was
and she didn't want to leave it. The thought of getting out of it never occurred to her. And now? It felt so bizarre to her, though she imagined someone
looking at her wouldn't take her stretching out her arms and legs and walking on her toes to be anything significant. But it was to her. She had regained
something when she got out of that bed. She didn't quite understand what, but the feeling was there all the same.

She had Darlo to thank for that.

Darlo was a remarkable person. There was this energy about him. It radiated through his every action. There was so much passion and will behind his bright
amber eyes. And he didn't really like not having his way and was forceful about his thoughts and opinions.  Something about that Indra found endearing. 
Though Indra didn't care for how he tended to speak louder than he probably should. It could have something to do with how small in stature he was. But still,
he had been around Indra for as long as she could remember, as long as anyone else. And while she got the feeling that most everyone else involved didn't care
for him being around, Indra enjoyed his company. She also liked that strange hairstyle of his.

She stepped to the window and slid it open, careful to not make a sound. To took a deep breath of the night air as a soft breeze blew through, her thin, white
hair catching the breeze a bit. A full moon hung high in the clear, starry sky. It shone down brightly on the city down the way.

The doctor and Rexsten had taken her down to the city twice already.

Indra thought about the experience. They'd seen so much, been so many different places. It was a lot to absorb at once. Both trips had been during the day.
There were so many people. It intrigued her to see so many new faces, but at the same time it was a little overwhelming. There had only been the small group
of six people around her since she woke up. She just wasn't comfortable with large crowds yet. But at night? All those people would be asleep and she could
see more of the city itself down empty streets.

Oh how she wanted to see the city right now, tonight.

Hm. She couldn't ask Rexsten to take her. Since he started working again, he's been gone for most of the daylight hours. He come back home and immediately
start doing various chores around the house that his aunt or mother just couldn't physically do. But he still found time to check in on Indra, see if she
needed anything. Even though she was no longer bedridden, he still wanted to take care of her. It was why she was certain he'd take her if she asked him to.
Which was precisely why she wouldn't. He had done so much for her this whole time already. Darlo came and went like the wind, and he never stayed long
after dark. Lao Fu was too old. Doctor Wong Su and his wife didn't live here. And Indra certainly couldn't ask Rexsten's mother, Youli. To say nothing of the
fact that all of them were asleep right now.

They had all done so much for her. Whether it be opening their household to her, taking time out of their schedules to see to her, or…whatever it was that
Darlo was doing. Indra could let them go one night without waiting on her hand and foot.

Besides. It wasn't like Indra could ever get back to sleep after that dream anyway. She had to do something.

A few hours visiting the city, then she'd come back. That's all.

What harm could that possibly do?
Logged

Eman5805
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

Offline Offline

Posts: 4339


A Soulful Brother


« Reply #9 on: Feb 21, 2012 12:40 pm »

-continued-

The city at night was different than during the day for more reasons than just fewer people. It was in the air. During the day, the air felt thicker, more
congested. It went beyond just different pungent odors and heat. It was the aura. The night time air was more open and flowing.

During the day, people walked the streets, going about their business, but everyone that walked or rode in their vehicles had somewhere to go. There was a
purpose to their movements. Whether it was to buy food from the market, bringing a message, all sorts of things, their eyes were looking forward, sometimes
around them at passersby. She sometimes heard the sounds of children at play in the streets. Frantic shouts as people haggled their wares at the marketplace.
Though the sheer volume of people unsettled her, they’d look at her and occasionally smile a greeting or nod or in some way be at least somewhat friendly and
courteous.

But at night, everyone that she saw seemed to just be standing around. The few people she walked by kept their distance or otherwise didn’t acknowledge her at
all. Their heads were down, eyes distant. A few were huddled up by alleyways, often muttering to themselves. They either didn't notice her, or ignored her. It
was so very quiet. As she walked, she heard no laughter. No shouting. No loud engines from smoke spewing machines. Just the sounds of her own footsteps.

And she liked it.

That was strange, wasn’t it? To feel better about a dreary setting like this than the one filled with life and activity? But she moved about with a surety she
hadn’t felt before. It wasn’t happiness, no. But, nothing about the nighttime city distressed her. As if she found…safety in the isolation.

But perhaps she should feel a bit more wary as she began to wander into an area of the city she didn’t recognize. She started to turn back, but her curiosity
got the better of her.

In this district, it was brighter. More people were here, but it wasn’t nearly so crowded like during the day. She noticed it was mostly men, walking
hurriedly, flicking glances around themselves, going into buildings and out. Almost all of the lights were tinted red, especially over window fronts of
stores. There were clothing stores that stayed open this late at night? She had seen a variety of different clothes, but she hadn't seen these kinds of
outfits. They drew the eyes to the figure of the woman wearing them, being cut so closely to their bodies.

She wouldn’t dare enter a place like that.

She didn't have any money.

Indra began to pass three women walking the opposite way.

Indra’s head tilted slightly as she looked at them. They were dressed just as the women in the window were. Long dresses with slits in the sides that showed a
lot of their legs Their eyes were shaded with various hues and their lips were heavily coated in something that made them look far redder and shiner than they
normally did. Their hairstyles bore several ornaments mixed in with the various braids. One carried something between her fingers. It was long and the end of
it glowed red with wisps of smoke tailing up from it. Their chests seemed to be thrust outwards in a way that seemed deliberate. And there was a peculiar sway
their hips.

Poor things. Did they have some sort of physical impairment? Indra wondered. But she couldn’t just ask them flat out could she? But, perhaps, she could
settle for finding out whatever it was around their eyes.

Indra smiled politely at them. “Hello, good evening.”

They looked Indra up and down, as they passed. One woman whispered something in the ear of the one holding the - the word came to Indra in a flash - incense
pipe bared her teeth at one end of her mouth in a sneer. “What are you looking at?”she snapped, then she made a loud snorting sound then spat at Indra’s feet.
"Get lost, white-hair."


Indra flinched away before it hit her, sputtering in surprise. “Oh. I’m…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you,” she whispered. She hurried off past them.
They began shouting things at her as she went.

What happened? Why did they do that? Did she do something wrong?

Indra then became aware that she had drawn attention. As she glanced around, her cheeks hot, she saw several other women, dressed similarly to the other three
glaring at her. Even some of the women behind the windows – Indra began to think that these stores didn’t sell clothing at all – were glaring at her too,
pressing up against the glasses as she went.

Behind her, she heard footsteps, along with men speaking to each other, too low for her to hear exactly. She didn’t chance a look back, instincts telling her
that’d be bad.

A man she passed let out a whistle off to the side and began to approach. “Whoa. Whoa. Hold up. Not so fast, beautiful, how-“ He cut off when he looked behind
her. Then he spun on his heels and went the other way. “Never mind.”

Her breathing quickened along with her own steps. The steps behind her speed up as well.

Whoever was behind her was definitely following her.

Someone behind her let out a different whistle and shouted, “Hide!” And a man who had been leaning against a wall, speaking to an angrily gesticulating woman,
dressed like all the others, waved her off then started approaching her from in front. He had a blade at his hip and had a heavy scowl on his face.

Indra didn’t care now. She looked behind her. Two men had been following her and they were close. No more than 25 feet away. Indra looked left, across the
street and saw a fourth closing in. Her heart was racing. She passed up an alley between two empty dark buildings. She threw herself into it at a dead sprint.

And ran into a dead end. A wall more than 10 feet high loomed above her.

One of the men snorted. “Why do they always run into alleys? It’s like you jinus are born without any common sense.”

“The pretty ones aren’t ever too smart, Hide," another one answered. "Or they wouldn’t be jinus.”

They had her trapped. The only way out of the alley was through them and they had no good intentions. This situation had spiraled completely out of control
for her. And it was her own fault. She should’ve never left the house alone.

She knew that. Indra knew that.

But why wasn’t she…afraid? Her heart was racing, but she wasn’t fearful in her heart. There was anger there. There was indignation there. But she didn’t know
why. She had been embarrassed before, but this was something else had taken hold of her. Like why was she the one glaring at them right now?  Was she – the
word jumped out – sizing them up? For what?

They must’ve seen the shifts in her expression because one of them frowned.

“What is with her? Is she on that juice?” he asked.

“Probably. Who’s your daddy, girly?” Hide asked, his voice gruff.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Indra said. Steadily. Her voice so calm it surprised her at first.

“Yup, she’s tweaked.”

Hide snorted. Over his shoulder he said to the other men, “Of course she is. Everyone knows whose block this is and to keep their girls off.” Back to Indra.
“But what I can’t figure is what kind of guy would send someone this pretty onto our block.”

“Probably Moruk,” the youngest of the ones there suggested. “He’s always had it in for you.”

“Enough to send this pretty thing? But why?” Hide murmured. “And what is she wearing? Is that a blouse or pajamas?”

Indra blinked and looked down at herself. She was wearing only the blouse she went to sleep in. No sandals, no shoes, nothing but a thin bit of fabric held on
her shoulders by tiny lace straps. By the spirits, had she really just walked out of the house dressed like this? What had she been thinking?

“Maybe she’s a gift?” the shortest one said.

Why was she making notes of how they looked?

“I kinda like the sound of that.” Then Hide reached out and touched her chin, lifting her head up and to the side. “I’ll be damned if she ain’t a tall leggy
one. So young, too.”

Something flared in Indra. Something raw and infernal. At once, she had seized Hide’s arm by the wrist, drawing a grunt of surprise from him. She looked at
him. The man blanched and his jaw dropped open like she has just transformed into a different creature.

Do. Not. Touch. Me.

Indra was about to say something else, but stopped.

Because she didn’t recognize the voice that came out. It had lost all…everything. It was an inflectionless, monotone voice that chilled her to the bone. And
even more so because it felt…natural coming out of her.

Her eyes were wide as dinner plates as she let go of Hide’s wrist. So were the four men before her. They had flinched away from her. Hide tried to speak and
failed.

“I…I…I meant…” Indra sputtered.

The oldest one grumbled. “She’s no gift, Hide. Someone is definitely messing with you. Sending a beautiful, juiced out of her mind trick on your block to make
your girls look bad. Doesn’t matter who she’s from, it’s like saying ‘Look at the kind of girl I can throw away. Imagine the good ones I got’ I say we break
her face in. Let her stumble back to her guy.”

Hide grunted, then waved a hand as he turned away. “Do whatever. I don’t have time for this. Just keep it quiet,” he muttered as he walked out of the alley.

The three remaining men shared a look between them.

Indra felt something stirring again.

“’Do whatever’, he said,” said the one with a large scar on his brow.

A grin that Indra did not like at all spread over the younger one’s face. “As in ‘whatever’ whatever?”

The oldest chuckled. “Yeah. I think all of that implies, right?”

“Can’t do it out here though. Someone might see and think we’re going behind the boss’s or the boss's boss's back.”

 “Can’t do what out here?” Indra asked, her voice low again.

“Oh, look at that, she’s so precious.”

“Am I?”

"Can we just make it quick? said the quietest one. "If Hide's brother finds out what you're about to do."

"Like Ryoku cares what goes on down here," the youngest muttered. "He lets Hide do what he wants."

Indra went rigid. That name. She'd…Indra had… Ryoku. Nothing came to her, but had she heard that name before? She couldn't put a face to the name or associate
anything but…there was an automatic response to it. Maybe…

 “I hate that look on her face,” the oldest said, with a growl. “Like she’s about to attack us.”

The youngest snorted. “This trick? Please. Watch.” Then he stepped up and lifted a hand.

He was about to hit her. Indra’s body sprang into motion before she thought about it, stepping to the side as if to avoid the blow. But the hand never swung.

It was being held in place by one very large and powerful hand.

“Forgive me, sir,” a deep deep voice said.

“Who the hell?! “ spat one of the men.

Indra’s own eyes went wide.

The tall, statuesque figure looked down on man who he had immobilized by just grabbing his hand then to Indra. He stood well over everyone else there. His
right arm was heavily wrapped in bandages, just as it always was. And his right thumb was hooked into the nape of his leggings at his hip, just as it always
was. That arm rarely moved. “Are you alright?”

Indra breathed. “Rexsten? What…what are you…?”

“Ack! Who is this guy?” protested the younger man. He tried to pull his hand free. Rexsten showed absolutely no effort as he held onto his hand.


The older man jumped back and broke down into a – the words came – hanging horse stance.  “Who the hell are you, her daddy?”

Rexsten shook his head once, just once. The gasa on his head swaying slightly, it cast half a shadow on his face thanks to nearly a fourth of it missing in
the front. “She is not my daughter.”

“Let me go!” wailed the younger one, trying with all his might to free himself from Rexsten’s grip.

“Very well.” And Rexsten did.

Just as the younger pulled again. The man went tumbling into a nearby pile of garbage, scattering the foul smelling junk all over the place.

Indra, despite her surprise, had to stifle a small laugh.

A glint of metal caught Indra’s eye. The one with the scar slipped on a ring shaped piece of metal on his first -word jumped out- called a tekko. He
brandished his first before him, moving to the older man’s right flank. “This guy’s her daddy alright. You got a death wish, big man?”

“Not at all. I only wish to take her away from this place. I do not want to trouble you any further,” Rexsten said, his words still calm and slightly
exaggerated.

“This guy’s on something too! Waste ‘em both!” yelped the young man still trying to get up out of the tangle of garbage.

Neither of the two men seemed eager to attack the larger, thickly muscled teenager.

Rexsten looked from Indra then back to the other men. His eyes showing something uncertain and slightly distressed. “Forgive me, sir.” He took a step towards
the younger. “I did not mean to-“

“Ah! Help!” he screamed.

“Bastard!” the tekko wielder spat, then he lunged forward at Rexsten’s exposed back.

“No!” Indra cried out and lunged forward herself, towards the attacker. But she wouldn’t make it in time-

Rexsten stepped out of the way.

The action seemingly too slow to be enough to get out of the way, but still the tekko hit nothing but the space that Rexsten once occupied and he too went
down in the garbage, crashing into the younger one who was just gaining his feet.

“I am sorry for upsetting you,” Rexsten told him with the exact same tone of voice. “I do not wish for a confrontation.”

The older man spat out a curse and bent up a small stone no bigger than his head and punched it forward.

Indra cried out again as the stone hurtled towards Rexsten’s head.

 Rexsten swayed back out of the way. The stone smashed into powder on the wall.

You could have hardly passed a piece of paper between the space the stone had missed him by. It was such a smooth evasion, Indra had to question if he had
dodged at all and the older man had just missed.

“Please, I do not wish for a confrontation,” his tone was almost the same as before but it sounded strained, and more pleading. I only wish to-"

The two men gained their feet. “Take them both!” shrieked the younger.

And then he stepped forward, snarling, and throwing a first. Indra felt the heat before she saw the fireball streaming for her. Before she knew it, she had
spun away from it, the blast hitting the wall that she had backed up to.

He followed her motion and was about to send another fire blast-

The young firebender’s body slammed into the wall hard enough to leave cracks, then slumped senselessly to the ground.

Rexsten’s open palm hovered in the space the firebender just was.

No one saw when Rexsten struck. One moment he stood, pleading not to fight. The next, he had struck the young man so heard he was thrown from his feet. With
one hand.

“Oh,” breathed Indra. She had never…ever, seen anything like that from him. And his eyes. There was something so…hard in his expression. But it didn’t extend
beyond his eyes. There was something much akin to that infernal feeling Indra herself had earlier there in his eyes. But then it vanished as quick as it
appeared.

Rexsten stared at his hand. Then turned to the other two men. “Forgive me, I did not mean-“

The man with the tekko stepped in, howling. He went low, trying to takeout Rexsten’s knees. He stepped back.

“Please, sir, I still want to resolve this without-“

The older earthbender had circled around and hit Rexsten in the small of his back with another stone. Rexsten let out a low gnashing sound and it made him
stumble forward.

The tekko man lunged in again, ready to deliver a hard punch to Rexsten's stomach.

Indra’s leg shot out and kicked the man’s legs out from under him. The force of it caught Indra off guard and she reeled back into the wall again, briefly
knocking the wind out of her. The man’s arms windmilled as he tried to catch his balance. And he plowed straight into Rexsten’s right shoulder who kept going
forward in his stumble, unable to stop himself. They both went to the ground.

First the man with the tekko.

Then Rexsten. Rexsten contorted mid-fall, landing back first. On top of the other man.

Hard.

Rexsten immediately rolled off of the crushed man a pained expression creasing his brow and his eyes heavy with worry and regret.

The old man let out a harsh growl at what he just did. “You’re going to regret making me do that.” Then he glanced over to Indra. And a dangerous smile spread
across his face. He gestured with one hand.

The stone of the wall abruptly flowed over Indra’s nose mouth and pinned her head to the wall. At once, she couldn’t breathe.

Rexsten immediately turned to go to her, again exposing his back. The earthbender wanted that all along and he bent up a jagged stone and sent it forward, and
took himself with it, while clutching a piece of stone in his hand.

Indra tried to warn him, but could only make muffled sounds in distress as she  threw out her arm to point out the threat.

No!

Something jostled her arm and the stone suddenly exploded into a cloud of dust and pebbles in mid-air. And the old man cried out as the bits of smashed rock
hit his eyes and face, blundered through it all and slammed face first into the brick wall. He joined his two fallen comrades on the ground.

Either not noticing, or particularly caring about the man who just tried to attack him, Rexsten ripped the stone off of Indra’s mouth like it was made of
paper. She struggled for breath.

“Are you alright, Indra?”

 “Oh,” she gasped. “Oh, Rexsten. I’m…I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean for…for…”

He shook his head. “It is okay. But,” he glanced around at the three men, “we should leave now. Can you stand?”

She nodded. “Yes. I think so.” She pushed herself up to her feet. She looked down the alley where a woman from earlier was peaking around the corner. Indra
bit her lip. “Um. I don’t think we should go that way.”

Rexsten looked pointedly at a rectangle of shadows that Indra had barely noticed before. “Through there.” The shadows was an opening into the building next to
them. They started inside-

A glint of moonlight off metal was Indra's only warning as when Hide leapt from the shadows. Murder was in his eyes and they were set on Rexsten.

No time to warn. No time to do anything. Except act. Indra sprang forward, past Rexsten who only just now turned. Indra caught Hide by the wrist, the same one
she grabbed earlier. He was bigger than her, stronger, but her legs shifted and set, her hips twisted, and she pulled. Something broke with a loud audible pop.

Next thing Indra knew, Hide was on the ground, clutching his broken forearm, writhing in pain and cursing up a storm.

Rexsten's looked on staggered. His mouth wasn't hanging open, but if he were anyone else, Indra thought it would be.

"Uh…" Indra said helplessly.

"We," Rexsten said after a deep breath, "must go. Now."
Logged

Eman5805
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

Offline Offline

Posts: 4339


A Soulful Brother


« Reply #10 on: Feb 21, 2012 12:40 pm »

-continued-

Several minutes of panting and moving down back alleys and side streets later, they were out of the city, walking back towards Rexsten’s house. Indra was fairly
sure no one followed them. And she let out a deep, exhausted breath. That was far more excitement than she had set out for. And it had been far too close.

She stared down at her hands.

Had she really done that? She didn't even fully recall it how what she did worked. But…this should mark something significant, right? Doctor Wong Su had told
her she may exhibit some skills she still retained from her old life. He called it muscle memory or something like that. She knew something about herself.
Whatever she was, whatever she had learned some form of martial arts. She couldn't remember anything more of those skills, what they would be called or what
style. But it was still something. It was something. Indra should be happy to learn about herself. She should be filled with joy.

Instead she just felt cold and empty. She had hurt that man. It had been in self-defense but that didn't make her feel better. And the more she thought about
it, the more she told herself that he had deserved it. But was it her place to decide? Just because she could have hurt him, did it make it right? Of course,
if she hadn't, Rexsten would…

No. Why was she worrying about herself at a time like this anyway?

She looked at Rexsten. He seemed to be breathing slightly strained and he had a slight limb. He took a heavy beating there. She could see the tears in his
clothes. It was too dark to see if he was bleeding, but she was sure that he was.

Her eyes started to burn.

Rexsten must have noticed. He took a slow breath, straightened, then abruptly stopped limping. “Please, do not worry yourself. It is alright. I will be fine.”

Indra stopped walking. “No.” She shook her head. “No, it's not alright. You’re hurt. Maybe badly hurt. We have to get you help or to see Doctor Wong or…”

Rexsten’s eyes looked distant and…strained for a moment. “No,” he said his voice dipping down to a near low whisper. “This is not badly hurt.” His voice
returned to its usual even level and his eyes flicked to meet Indra’s. “It is alright. I promise you. I will be fine.”

There was just the slightest emphasis placed on his gentle words. There was something more behind those words. He spoke with a surety about the nature of his
wounds. As if he spoke through experience about the pain he was in. And then it occurred to Indra that she really didn't know a whole lot about Rexsten.

He was much younger than he appeared. Those men in the alley thought he was her father, apparently. But he was no older than Indra was. Maybe he was a bit
younger. Indra was tall for her age, but he was far taller still. She had never seen him without that gasa, either directly upon his head or on his back. And,
Indra also realized, she had never heard him raise his voice. Even in the alley, he hadn't spoken above a soft, gentle tone. In fact, he would often go long
periods between speaking. Strong and silent.

And he had came to rescue her. It was the second time he had risked his own safety to help her. But this time...

Indra sniffed. “But…it’s still my fault. If I didn’t wander off, you wouldn’t have had to come for me and I wouldn't…” A tear rolled down her face. "I'm
sorry."

He didn't say anything for a time. But somehow, she knew he accepted the apology, albeit reluctantly.

A thought occurred. “Rexsten, if you don't mind me asking but, how did you find me?”

Rexsten raised his hand  and very gently brushed the tear off of her cheek. “I followed the moon and the water.”

“Moon and water?” Indra asked.

He looked down at the city and Indra followed his eyes. She could see the faint red glow of the area she just fled from. And she could see the small river
that ran alongside it.

“I...I don’t think I understand,” she said.

“The moon shone down on the water that night. Just like tonight. It was around you, in the water, the moon was.”

He was talking about the night he and Darlo saved her life. Indra had no memory of the entire thing. But she knew that she had been drifting in the water on a
piece of timber and that Darlo dove in after her and Rexsten pulled her and he both out of the water. But she didn’t know this.

She didn’t know that it was a full moon on that night. That was significant. Indra knew it. But she couldn't puzzle together how or why. There was a lot about
tonight that would bear thinking on.

Then Indra frowned.

“What is wrong?” Rexsten asked.

“Well, it’s that…how did you know I was gone in the first place? It’s still late, or, um, early. I thought no one would notice until the morning.”

Rexsten blinked. Then looked away.

Was he…embarrassed?

“I,” he began bashfully, “still check on you. At night. Sometimes. To make sure you are well."

Indra let herself smile.

There was so much she didn’t know.

About her past.

About herself.

But there were a few things she did know.

That she had friends that cared about her. That would help her figure out the things she didn’t know and stand by her when she was in need.

She knew that there was a big world out there and that she had some place in it and she would find out what that was. Even though the it might be scarier than
she could imagine, she'd venture on. And she wouldn't be alone.

And she knew that she would never go to that red light district of the city again.

Also, she'd have to ask someone what a "trick" was.

Maybe Darlo knew.
Logged

Eman5805
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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A Soulful Brother


« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2012 11:44 pm »

Chapter Six

Ba Sing Se. The "new" Ba Sing Se.

City of walls, secrets, and massive urban expansion.

Steel, stone, and glass yawned above Captain Asuke. The Huangdi Tower. 210 feet high. And for all Huangdi Tower's bluster it was considered the first of many
such buildings that would go up in Ba Sing Se. And the ones that followed would be so much taller it would make this building seem a child's effort to erect
by comparison.

Actually, now that Asuke thought about it, a child did erect this building. There was a big buzz about some architectural teen genius that designed the
whole thing. Even pioneered the air cooling systems that keeps these things livable.

Skyscrapers. The wave of the future. A modern day marvels of science and ingenuity, they say. Asuke had seen the last thing to be so called. It tried to drill
a hole in the outer wall big enough for the Fire Nation army to get through. All that brainpower going into making the biggest this, the most expensive that.
But meanwhile the poor were still poor and crime was still running rampant in the overcrowded streets. Expanding the city up wouldn't change the civil unrest.
But that wasn't what really got to Asuke. It was all the changes.

They and the escorting wagon ahead came to an intersection in the road and slowed to a halt as pedestrians went past. At least after this long trip they were
almost there. Just had to wait round the corner and they could get out. "There used to a market here," he mumbled with a sigh as the wagon sat in the
building's immense shadow.

Agent Zhi didn't hear him. "Forgive me, sir, but I just still can't completely accept it."

Captain Asuke shrugged. "Can't blame you. Hardly believe it myself," he murmured, rubbing at his tired, heavy eyes. How much had Asuke slept in the last few
days? How many miles had he travelled? Asuke was Dai Li, he was used to this kind of stress. It came with the job description, but it was different now.
Things were worse. Back then, he at least knew what was going on and who was responsible. He wasn't being tasked with catching a murderous phantom that left
no trace, no evidence at all besides all the dead bodies. Civil unrest in large sections of the population resulting in a bafflingly large numbers of self
proclaimed anarchists.

And he didn't have to simultaneously keep track of the mad Avatar Kina, whom decided his city would do for a place to cause who knows what kind of havoc for
who knows what kind of reason. She demanded near constant supervision. Or surveillance he'd rather call it if that wasn't taboo behavior for the Dai Li now.

"Avatar Aang's successor is not mentally well. We can't let her run around unwatched. You saw it for yourself," Asuke said.

"What I saw was a beautiful young woman irritated at being followed," the talented Earthbender replied.

Asuke frowned at the memory. "Yeah. She knew we were there."

Zhi cleared her throat. "I'm certain I made a mistake somewhere, sir."

"And I'm certain that you didn't. I didn't either. I said she was mad. That doesn't mean she's simple." Asuke flicked a hand, shooing the event from his mind
like a nagging fly. A fly the size of a sky bison. "It doesn't matter. We can't let her out of our site."

"But committing constant manpower to watch the Avatar at all times takes away from our ability to hunt for the Blue Revenant. We can't let ourselves be
sidetracked with unnecessary precautions."

Zhi didn't say it outright, but was also talking about this current foyer to Ba Sing Se. He didn't want to leave his post, especially not to go back to Ba
Sing Se, but a…very close friend called him here. Ol' Leadfoot said it the matter was urgent and that the details could wait until they met in person. Given
the source, "urgent" could mean a threat to national security or that someone forgot the sugar in her tea. He assumed the former and caught the first airship
flight to Ba Sing Se he could. He brought Zhi along so she could see how the world works. The young woman was woefully green about how the real world worked.
She still thought things like honor and honesty and trust were the way to achieve justice. She'd need to have that broken out of that mindset as soon as
possible or she'd get herself killed, the poor thing.

Asuke shook his head. "No. If I could put a thousand agents on the streets of Bumi day and night, as things are, we wouldn't have any better chance of
stopping the Blue Revenant than we do now. It isn't an issue of manpower."

Zhi frowned. "Then what is it an issue of?"

"Information. Knowledge is power. And we have none. How did the Dai Li control Ba Sing Se, what you could think of as a nation unto itself, when our numbers
never topped 500 total members active in the field at any one time?"

"Um. I thought we weren't supposed to talk about things like that?"

Asuke snorted. "We can pretend those years never happened all you like. Doesn't change a thing. Now answer the question. How did we do it?"

Zhi shifted uncomfortably in her seat. "I guess your point is controlling information, right?"

Asuke raised a rock gloved hand. "Precisely. We had files on every single person that came into the city. Where they worked, names of their families, most
frequent spots where they could be found. You should've seen where we kept all those files. The place more than rivaled any library, even that spirit one in
the desert Avatar Aang and his friends visited. We had informants in every nook and crevice. And-"

"-a brainwashed battalion of women whose minds were so badly broken they all were committed to nuthouses," Zhi cut in, the barest hint of anger lacing her
words.

Asuke sighed. He was once tasked with conditioning those poor women. But he didn't have the stomach for it. "I'm not saying all our actions were justified or
even …humane. But it was effective. It got the job done. And now? We've swayed from one extreme to another. They broke us up and set us all over the
continent. Why do you think that is? Do you think it's because they were giving us a new lease on life? A chance to start over? No. It was to keep us spread
too thin to make us anything like we were. Avatar Aang believed in second chances and mercy and that the original purpose of the Dai Li could still be useful.
It's why we weren't disbanded outright. But he may as well have.

"What good are we now? The only thing we can legally stop on our own is crimes in progress, and sometimes if we are the first to a disturbance. But only until
'proper authorities show up.' Our hands are nearly completely tied when it comes to investigating. You think we can catch a top notch assassin? Step one,
would be putting in an inquiry to access already gathered police files. After about a week to clear the paperwork, step two would be sifting through the
useless crime scene studies that will all be the same to find out contact information on the victims and next of kin, anything to find a lead. Then we have to
file more paperwork if we actually want to go to talk to a citizen involved in the case. Oh, and did I mention that we'd need to request a supervisor from
either to Earth Kingdom Investigation Bureau or the Office of Intelligence? That's more paperwork as we have to comp whoever they send's expenses like room
and board. And the bastard would most definitely stay at the most expensive hotel in Bumi. He'd have to file progress reports each time we do something, which
have to be read and reviewed by the officer he reports to and then-"

Zhi made a disgusted sound.  "Okay. Okay. I get it. I get it. But…I thought they said it was up to the Dai Li as well to do its part in catching the Blue
Revenant? How can we possibly if we can only act after they allow our each and every action?"

"They mean they want us to literally 'catch' him. As in, when the other guys find him, they'll call us in, put us in the immediate danger and task us with
apprehending him. Then they'll push us to the side and take all the credit."

"You can't be serious."

"Deadly."

"So we'll do nothing about it until that day happens? Just sit around doing nothing?"

Asuke had to keep a sly grin of his face. He couldn't tell her to whole truth. Not yet. She would be ready one day though. "We aren't doing nothing. We can
watch a person of interest while she conducts her own sham of an investigation into the Blue Revenant. As well as keep her from getting killed by him."

"Sounds more like you're doing what they'll do to you to the Avatar instead. But while we wait around, the Blue Revenant still needs to be caught,
captain. Why should it matter how much red tape we have to get through? We need to do whatever we can to stop this murdering bastard, and damn all else. We
could be all it takes to crack this case and bring him to justice."

Asuke groaned. She didn't see the bigger picture yet. Oh well. He could lay it all out for her, but if he wanted her to do this job some day, she'd need to be
broken out of that idealism. "Zhi, one of these days, you'll realize that things like that don't just drop out of the sky-"

A flicker of motion and a rising, shrill scream was all the warning there was before the roof of the escort wagon ahead of them was hammered down by a
person's body in an explosion of snapping wood and screeching metal, followed by a shower of glass from above.
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Eman5805
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« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2012 11:45 pm »

-continued-

Zhi was green. But she was black and green. And young. She was already out of the wagon door by the time Asuke had undone his seat buckle.

"Everyone get back!" she shouted to the stunned crowd, looking up the building. It was row after row of windows until the top floor where the light didn't
reflect off of glass but a gaping hole. She then went to the person laying in the twisted, crumpled mess of the wagon. The ostrich horses were thoroughly
spooked, bucking about in their restraints. The driver had fallen to the ground and was in a state of shock.

Someone had just fell out of the sky right in front of him. All the thoughts and concerns Asuke had were thrown into a cellar in his mind and locked away.

Asuke was on the clock.

"Zhi, bend a wall around the wagons. Secure the area," Asuke ordered, his voice snapping with authority.

"Sir!" Zhi replied and she complied. A wall rose roughly 4 feet high encircling the wagons, cutting them off from the crowd and the vehicles behind.

Asuke went to the mess of the wagon, assessing the situation. The driver was unharmed. The ostrich-horse had been spooked and he was fight with the reigns
keeping the creature from running or it would surely hurt someone with the thick crowd gathered around. People were crying out in pain from the sidewalk. As
no doubt bits of glass had fallen on them. Someone started shouting. Asuke had to watch his step as he got closer to the body. There was growing pool of blood.

"Suicide, sir?" Zhi asked.

Asuke's jaw was set in a hard line. He didn't answer. He looked up at the building then back. An arm was sticking out of the wreckage. It was slender and
thin. Almost like a woman's arm.

By the spirits, it couldn't be…

"Sir?" Zhi repeated.

Asuke flicked a glance to Zhi. Then locked that fear in his mind's cellar as well. He moved the piece of slag that covered the body.

Empty, yellow eyes gazed up at him. It was a woman. Black hair. If her face hadn't been cut up by the wood and metal of the wagon, some might've thought of
her as s, if somewhat draconian. Her neck was bent at an awkward angle, a bulge jutting out of the side. She was wearing formal robes, embroidered expensively
with some sort of ring on her hand but the hand was palm up, obscuring the make of the ring from view.

Asuke forced himself to look away from those hollow eyes and let out the breath he had been holding, the detached mental assessment finished. It wasn't her,
Asuke thought with some relief, even as he felt a pang of guilt for being relieved a dead person wasn't connected to him. But…why did she look familiar?

And the position of the body. He followed the path of the body up to the top of Huangdi Tower. And his eyes widened.

Azuke broke into a run. "Zhi, with me!" He jabbed his finger at the driver who had just calmed down the ostrich-horse. "You, stay with the body until medics
arrive. And make sure any wounded civilians are taken care of."

Zhi fell in step behind him as Asuke reached for the earth, focused it, building pressure at a point on the ground near the wall. He let it release once under
him and, like tension built up in a spring, the earth catapulted him into the air, flying above the sidewalk and into the building itself. He reached through
rock gloves and boots on his hands and feet, letting him cling to the stone of the skyscraper. Zhi landed just below him. Asuke thrust his arms down to the
ground and the rock under his feet shuddered then propelled him up the side of the building so fast he had lower his helm and squint against the wind.

"Sir! What are we doing?" Zhi shouted over the sound of shifting rock and wind.

Asuke clenched his teeth. He couldn't have answered her if he tried. It was a strain just to go as fast as he was. He wasn't about to try and talk too. One
distraction and he'd be joining that poor woman on the ground below. The same wasn't quite true with Zhi apparently.

Youth was wasted on the young.

Asuke slowed the ascent as he neared the top. Once he was close he gave a small push out and up from the stone, lifting him away from the side of the
building. He almost floated up to the window when his momentum waned. He slammed down a rock gloved hand on the ledge outside the window and made it cling. He
pulled himself through the window and hit the ground  with his guard ready. Zhi followed a beat later. He noted in his peripherals that she hit the ground in
the same guard stance. Maybe there was hope for her yet, but Asuke pushed that thought aside and focused on the task before him.

The office room was immaculate. This place was probably worth more money than Asuke's home. One wall was lined with shelf after shelf of leather bound books.
Another wall was a case full credentials and certificates and trophies. A burgundy Yaolin wood desk in the middle, polished and unmarred by blemishes. Some
comfortable chairs of a make Asuke didn’t recognize. A large rug lay on the floor. Several ornamental tapestries hung in the few bare places on the wall.
Another wall was almost totally replaced by an aquarium. It was the kind of room you expect someone very important to be sitting around doing not much of
anything but telling other people what to do.

The only thing out of place was the hole in the window which Asuke and Zhi used to enter the room. And the room was totally empty. Asuke looked around the
room then back down the way they came at the man’s body. They were just high enough to where you couldn’t see her lifeless eyes.

Yes. Asuke got a sense of what sort of person she was. She carried a position of power, but she wanted people to think she had earned it, rather than it being
given to her. And she wanted everyone that came in here to know she wasn't just some bureaucrat as the Firebending tourney trophies stood testament to. And
all of these tapestries bore the Fire Nation Royal insignia which meant…

Damn it. He remembered where he recognized the woman from. And he knew who she was. He just hoped there wasn't going to be a diplomatic incident.

Zhi murmured as she looked about the room as well. “No obvious signs, sir."

For the second time, Zhi impressed him for reasons outside of bending. She could see it too. This room, this office, it was a little too clean, too sterile.
It didn't look lived in. Asuke might even venture to say that-

“Ah. As wantonly reckless as ever, I see,” said a gruff, familiar voice that made Asuke's skin crawl. “Sticking your nose into things outside of your concern
and you aren't even a day long in Ba Sing Se.”

Asuke debated simply ignoring the man until he went. But Zhi remembered proper protocol. She really did have a lot to learn, Asuke thought with a grimace.

“Captain Teng,” she said with a bow.

Asuke sighed. She did still have much to learn.  "What's the situation?"

Instead of answering, Teng walked over to one the shelves with trophies and idly picked one up. He examined it for a moment. Just when Asuke was about to lose
his patience he said, “The situation has already been contained. And none of your concern.”

Asuke gaped. “Contained? Fire Nation Ambassador Yuzia is lying dead on the pavement, Teng. In what way is this contained?”

“I have no reason to discuss that with you. This falls under my jurisdiction. This isn’t your city anymore. It is mine now. This is none of your concern,” he
said without looking at Asuke.

“When someone dies right in front of me, it becomes my concern.” Asuke wasn’t quite keeping the heat out of his voice. “I don’t care whose city this is, you
will tell me what is going on, captain. Or I'll feed you that trophy.”

Asuke saw Zhi flinch out the corner of his eye. He knew he'd made a mistake the moment he said it, but dammit, he couldn't stop thinking of the man had been
more than willing to betray the Earth King and defect with Azula for power.

Teng eyed Asuke for a moment. “Is this really the way you want to play this, captain?”

Teng wasn’t all talk. Not completely. He was a built man, ten years Asuke’s junior. Though Asuke was no featherweight himself. If they threw down, things
would get messy. But Asuke would be damned if he let Teng intimidate him. Asuke wasn’t old and withered yet. Neither man moved for a pregnant moment.

“Forgive me, but, I think other matters are more important right now than your barbaric need to flex your muscles right now,” Zhi said loftily. Then cleared
her throat and added a much more subdued, “Sir.”

Now that was certainly unexpected, Asuke mused as he gaped at his apprentice.

Teng gaped too. In fact, it seemed he hadn’t noticed that she was in the room, despite the fact that she had already spoken to him. He looked between the two,
then broke into a smug smirk that made his face look oh-so punchable. “I see your understudy still knows manners. And knows well enough when to come to your
rescue. You always were at your worst next to strong women. But I suppose I’ll tell you. For old time’s sake.”

Asuke pinched his brow. Teng wasn’t going to let up. That much was clear. “How kind of you,” was all he could mutter.

“The situation is contained because we’ve already caught the killer.”

Asuke’s eyebrows shot up. “What?”

“Caught him red handed, in fact,” Teng said smugly.

“That’s…” Asuke fumbled for the words. Competency from Teng? Ye spirits and little fishes.

“…most fortunate you were already close by,” Zhi remarked.

Teng’s eyebrow rose. “Excuse me?”

“Close by,” Zhi repeated, averting her eyes somewhat sheepishly. “Barely two minutes passed between the ambassador being thrown from her window and us making
it up here.”

“Yes,” Teng said. “Fortunate. We have him being loaded into booking.”

“We have a motive?” Zhi asked.

“Or a name?” Asuke added.

“Don’t really need one. The guy came in, argued, next thing we hear is a crash and the ambassador is doing the crappiest impersonation of a bird ever.”

“Name?” Asuke repeated calmly.

“I dunno, Southern Bell Swan. Ask a bird guy.”

Asuke repressed his inner homicidal maniac. “The name of the perp, Teng," he growled.

Teng waved a hand. “Whatever. Look, if you want know so badly. Go back downstairs and see for yourself. They haven’t taken him away yet. Now if you’ll be so
kind as to step out of the crime scene, we have to catalogue evidence, take statements. You know, doing my job. In my city. That sort of thing.”

“Sir?” Zhi frowned. “But we don’t know any specifics. They argued? About what? And why-“

“That’s enough, Zhi,” Asuke said tersely as he walked for the door. “Let’s go.”
Logged

Eman5805
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« Reply #13 on: May 02, 2012 11:46 pm »

-continued-

Zhi didn’t say anything and just fell in line after a quick bow to Teng. As they walked out the door they passed a pair of Ba Sing Se police officers carrying
cases. Teng immediately began barking orders, his voice deliberately pitched so that Asuke would hear.

“His city,” Asuke muttered.

Outside the office was a short hallway. It was filled with people. There was only a few building security offers here. The rest was other Dai Li agents. Asuke
didn’t make eye contact with any of them. There was a distressed raven haired young woman sobbing as she spoke to Teng’s second in command the wiry, tall Hin
Fui. He was scribbling in a notebook and nodding. He was just as Asuke last saw him. A droopy eyed face was usually always hidden beneath the brim of his hat,
done intentionally because his eyes always made him always look sad and not intimidating. But now his droopy brown eyes were fixed on Asuke’s. Tracking his
every movement even as he scribbled. And he probably didn’t miss a single word from the secretary.

They called an elevator. He and Zhi waited and tried to pretend they didn’t notice that the conversations being held in the hall had suddenly dropped to a
murmur when they passed. That unsettled Asuke greatly but he didn’t let it show.

The elevator dinged when it arrived and dinged again when they stepped inside and sent it to the ground floor. After a moment of riding, Zhi cleared her
throat to speak.

“Sir, what-“

“Save it for later, Zhi,” Asuke snapped. Zhi flinched at his suddenly harsh tone.

“But, sir-“

“That’s an order.”

She stayed silent the whole say down. But she kept asking silent questions with her worried eyes. Asuke didn't look at her.

The Huangdi Foyer was sprawling area full of shiny marble, a big fountain, and paper lanterns hung from the ceiling. And there were more people here. A small
gang of reporters had shown up. They carried these boxes that flashed bright lights and clicked. The things actually could produce pictures didn’t need to
paint or draw. Craziness. They were crowded around another familiar face. Agent Di Chen. He was a stockier man. He was standing on a bench or crate or
something. and would be pretty unremarkable to look at but he spoke like a theater actor with a profound, resonant bass voice. He probably sang in his off
hours. Asuke looked around and didn’t see where the perp was.

As Asuke’s eyes passed Di Chen, the agent suddenly glanced in his direction. Then his eyes tracked behind Asuke, then he gestured towards Asuke. A prickly
sensation on his neck made Asuke look behind him. But he saw nothing but the wall and an empty corridor.

“Captain,” Zhi said, voice surprised.

When Asuke looked back the reporters had all flocked to him, leaving Di Chen, bombarding him with a million questions a second that Asuke never heard
completely.

“Captain Asuke, is it true you-

“-first on the murder scene-

“-know the suspect-“

“-spying on the Avatar-“

“-affair with your-“

"-anarchist plots to overthrow-"

"-know of The Intrepid-"

Asuke backed away and was being blinded by suddenly flashing lights from those phobo things. “What? First? Huh? Spying? Affair?! Agh! Dammit, my eyes!”

Zhi, bless her heart, stepped in again, manhandling people away from Asuke. “No questions. Any further inquiries must be directed to Captain Teng. Please!”

Asuke began to recover some of his vision. He growled and plowed past her and the reporters, eyes still seeing stars. This day was getting more and more
hellish. And he still didn’t know who the damn perp was. If he didn’t get some answers soon he was gonna have an ulcer big enough to fit this whole damn city
in. He hated being in the dark about anything. But he just wanted to leave. And even worse, he was now late for…

Well. He supposed she might be on her way here, come to think of it, Asuke realized. In fact, maybe she’d show up. Though it was doubtful. She had no reason
to be at Huangdi. This was a murder. It was outside of her umbrella. Unless it was an anarchist the got to the poor ambassador. In which case, Asuke needed to
get a good look at the perp himself, just in case.

But where-

A sudden commotion from behind by the reporters draw Asuke’s attention. The reporters had suddenly peeled off from Zhi he who was holding all the questioning
reporters at bay. They were all running to a side exit where a person with a tarp over their head was being lead into a wagon with two Dai Li agents on either
side.

Of course, Asuke thought. Sneak the suspect out through the side entrance. Now was his chance to get a look at this bastard. But with all these nosy reporters
and a possibly dangerous suspect? It could be another disaster waiting to happen. Asuke reached to the earth and the rock boots on his feet and slid himself
across the ground at just over a running sprint.

He had an angle on the reporters and was going to get to the door-

Crack.

 Something hit Asuke's feet. He felt the rock coverings on them burst into dust as they flew from underneath him. He hit the ground, bounced, then tumbled
agonizingly to the ground. Asuke's world clouded in a red haze of agony in every joint and bone he had. It stole his breath away. There was a lot of noise all
around. Most of it was people shouting. A horn blared. Stones broke. Stone footsteps. And a lot of cursing. Asuke realized those were all coming from him.
Between the swears, Asuke made the mistake of trying to open his eyes and was blinded by more of those infernal flashing boxes. Asuke lost his sense of
direction for a moment. Someone grabbed onto his arm and painfully hauled him to his feet and began to drag him.

Asuke chanced opening his eyes again.

And his world froze.

He was outside on the street again. Behind him the reporters were trying to get closer but several Dai Li agents were forming a barricade at the door with
their own bodies. Another such barricade of regular police officers kept a larger crowd at bay in a loose arc around him. There was a wagon parked in front of
him. It was one of those newfangled powered wagons that didn't need ostrich-horses. It had a large cabin in the back to seat captives with two double doors.
The double doors were open. And he could see the person held for killing the ambassador, sitting there, arms behind the back.

Her eyes were straight forward, refusing eye contact. No, this person's head would not be held low. There was no chance of that. Too much pride of self kept
that from happening. Even as hard stone bound her hands behind her back, she kept her head held high.

It couldn't be her, Asuke told himself. Not possible. Not her. Anyone but her. Just someone that looks like her sitting in that wagon.

But last thing Asuke saw before was the iron boot. She had never said how she lost that foot and few dared to ask her. That iron boot had earned her the
nickname that Asuke himself had given. It had been in jest, but the name stuck. It was a nickname that carried as much weight as her own authority and the
unforgiving manner in which she stomped out those who fought against the World Reborn Act.

Leadfoot…

"Lin," Asuke breathed.

He didn't know if she heard him, but she turned her head towards him. And her eyes widened as she recognized him. He begged for an answer from her. Some
indication that this was a wrongful arrest. That she wasn't responsible. Anything.

She looked at him. And then looked away, eyes down. As the doors were shut and the wagon rumbled off.

Asuke just stared.

From somewhere nearby Teng said, "Oh, that's right. I said 'him', didn't I? Oh well. Don't go too far, captain. We'll be having some questions for you
regarding your meet up with your friend." A piece of paper was pressed into Asuke's hands. "Also, earthbending is prohibited on these premises. That goes for
outdoors too." Then he left.

Asuke didn't remember how long he stood there, but eventually he heard Zhi. She sounded as if she'd been trying to get his attention for a while.

"Sir, by the spirits! Are you alright? What happened? Why was Major Lin arrested?"

"I…I'm not sure," Asuke said after finding his voice. He glanced at the paper. "But I do know that I've just been fined."



It was all too easy for Mitsuro to slip out of Huangdi amidst all the confusion. Or maybe he should consider a different word. Mitsuro had seen confusion
before. This was too…organized. It felt more like a production. Either way, no one bothered the young archer with the duffel bag as he made his way from the
skyscraper and to the rendezvous point. As he went down the side street he stripped off the maintenance worker uniform he stole and threw it in a garbage bin.

The others were waiting for him by a powered wagon.

Baku, standing tall, lean, and grinning that lizard grin said, "Ah. The triumphant assassin returns. All that ruckus over there, thought you went and got
yourself busted. A shame. Would've been fun to bust you out. Tch. I thought you Yu Yans were good at those silent kills."

Ivy's come hither face wrinkled in distaste."The silent ones are always the worst. Trying to keep their dignity. Give me the beg and screamers every time."

Mitsuro cast a look back where he came. "It wasn't me," Mitsuro said. "Someone else beat me to the punch."

Jung Su's head jerked up at that. "Someone else? Someone else killed the ambassador?"

"Yes. I was almost finished sabotaging the elevator when I heard the crash and scream."

"Did you see who did it?" Jung Su asked.

Mitsuro shook his head.

Jung Su stroked his chin hairs. "I see. Well. While it makes our efforts today something of a waste, a major obstacle in our long term goals has been removed.
I only wish we knew who the culprit was."

"It should've been me," Mitsuro muttered.

"Does it really matter?" Baku asked. "The b***h is dead and that's all that matters, right? Why do you look so down about it, Mitsy?"

"Ooh. I know that look," Ivy purred. "It's the look of someone who's been denied what's theirs. You really wanted her yourself, didn't you? Why, I wonder?"

Mitsuro said nothing.

Baku had no such reservations. Baku was as much Fire Nation as he was. "Before she became an ambassador, Yuzia sat on the Fire Nation council. Supported some
anti-militarization provisions of the World Reborn Act that made life real tough on Mitsuro and his old man. The Yu Yan Archers were recruited, trained, and
disciplined their own people, independent of the Fire Nation army. They weren't an official part of the Fire Nation army. In the same way the Dai Li had to
face total disbandment or throw in with the government's military, the Yu Yans either had to join the army officially or be broken up. The Yu Yans refused.
And, well-"

Mitsuro gave Baku a hard look.

Baku sniggered, lifting his hands. "What? Jung Su isn't the only person that pays attention to things, buddy. What, is your history off limits?"

"Shut up," Mitsuro growled. He stalked to the wagon.

"And now Mitsy's all grumpy because he couldn't settle a grudge for the World Reborn Act?" Ivy said. "Okay, I get that, but what's the big deal? She was only
a councilman, right. There's like 15 more of them. And not to mention Fire Lord Zuko, the Earth King, and the Water chiefs all signed off on the act. Not to
mention the Avatar. What, he's going to kill all of them too?"

"Lay low the Fire Lord and the Avatar? This guy doesn't make grudges by halves, now does he? Hey, buddy, if you need a hand I'd be glad to-"

Mitsuro whirled around on them, snarling, "Enough!  None of you know a damn thing you're talking about. Mind your own business or I will put an arrow through
your fool necks and watch you choke to death on your own blood!"

Basav, big and silent as ever, had stepped defensively in front of Jung Su. His shoulders tensed, dull heavy eyes looking right through Mitsuro. Baku's lizard
grin only grew wider. Ivy's eyes sparkled at the mention of choking on her own blood. Her face flushed and she licked her lips hungrily. Meanwhile, Jung Su
just looked on, unreadable. And for the briefest of moments a flicker of communication between Jung Su and Basav as either's eyes tracked to the other and an
near imperceptible nod.

"Let's table this discussion for now," Jung Su replied smoothly as if a Mitsuro hadn't thrown a death threat at him. "We'll be in Ba Sing Se for another three
days. There are more things to do."

Everyone walked past and got into the wagon. Except Mitsuro.

Baku leaned out of the open window. "Hey! Buddy, we can't wait all day. You coming or not?"

Mitsuro turned and went the other way. "I'll be back the hotel before long. I need to…clear my head."

Baku shrugged. "Suit yourself. Alright! Let's go grab a bite to eat already."

Vivi giggled from inside. "Oh you're always hungry."

Mitsuro left them. Keeping an eye over his shoulder to make sure none of them had slipped out to follow him. He found himself hoping one of them would.
Because if any of they did, he'd kill them. Even Vivi.
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Eman5805
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A Soulful Brother


« Reply #14 on: May 02, 2012 11:46 pm »

-continued-

Mitsuro knew Ba Sing Se well. It was a perfect city for someone to go to ground. But he didn't like using this city for that. As massive as the city was, so
long as he was within the walls, no matter where he was, it was too close. But…something's couldn't be put off.

So he went.

He knew the layout of this area well. And to shake any potential tails, he knew a few dozen routes he could take. He took the longest one. It took him away
from all the traffic and fewer people were around. It cut through a park. Later in the evening It felt good to get some movement. Get the blood pumping again.
And it let him clear his thoughts. He didn't want to do this. He wanted to be as far away as possible, but that was a coward's thinking and he harshly scolded
himself for that.

In your failures will you learn to succeed, Mitsuro remembered those words. He'd overcome this set back. It was the only path before him.

Before Mitsuro knew it, he was here. He recognized the sharp smell of ginger bushes around the sign:

Bei Yinwang Memorial Hospital. One of the finest hospitals in Ba Sing Se.

 He was here much sooner than he expected. Did he really get so lost in thought he lost track of time? Or had he jogged most of the way? The film of sweat on
his brow seemed to indicate the latter.

Mitsuro took a deep breath, then walked inside the smaller building next to it. The terminal ward. The place, as always, stank of death and decay. The
stenches had a way of clinging to you when you walked in. Like just being here would claim your life too, to find your place in a bed just like the others.
There was a constant ticking of clocks and the hallways echoed incessantly. A solitary man, skinny to the point of emaciation, sat at the desk, with a
visitor's sign in log. He was reading something. He was always the only person Mitsuro ever saw here. He never saw any nurses or doctors. And there was few
visitor's names ever signed in.

Just as well. They couldn't help anyone in here.

Mitsuro walked past the guard. The man glanced up at Mitsuro. Mitsuro flicked him a coin. The man caught it deftly, then went back to his reading.  Mitsuro
kept going.

He didn't sign in.

Mitsuro didn't look into the rooms as he passed them. Most had decrepit old men and women. Bed ridden and on the brink of death. Or they were lost to
senility. Either way, they were equally useless to society now. Some moaned breathlessly with toothless maws, wishing someone would ease their pain. Mitsuro
ignored them. There was one shriveled old woman that stood in front of her closet, completely naked. Staring and empty stare. Mitsuro ignored her too. He kept
going past them, past all of them. He wasn't here for them. He wasn't here for the people that the world had left behind but didn't have the stomach to put
down.

Others were young, but crippled somehow. Mitsuro ignored them as well.

He made a left turn. Then a right. Then straight to the very back where a single room lay in near total darkness, save for a faint pulsing orange light, so
faint one almost couldn't see it.

Not everyone in this place was old and dying, or young and broken. Some were already dead and gone and broken.

Mitsuro realized he was just standing outside the threshold. Was he afraid? Afraid that the bed would be empty? Afraid that-- Mitsuro quickly derailed the
train of thought, tired of going through the same routine every time he came here. He brought every ounce of will he could muster and stepped inside.

The room hadn't changed. Still windowless. Still one bed. Still with the one counter with an orange candle on it. Still with the stole next to the bed. And
laying on the bed was a young woman, almost precisely Mitsuro's age. She was as he last left her. Her breath coming in and out so smooth and so slowly.
Steady. Even as Mitsuro stood there, the candle flame grew slightly then faded. Then it grew and faded again. Each time with her breathing.

Even like this, she was still bending.

And he smelled it again. The scent of peach blossoms. Even now she…

Mitsuro set down his duffel and slid into the chair. He reached in the near darkness and found her hand in his. It was still warm.

"Love," he said quietly. "It's me."

"Let me start off by saying, I'm sorry. I nearly got one of them. But someone beat me to it. Pushed her out of a window, of all the undeserving... It's still
my fault. I went along with Jung Su's plan when I should've done her myself. I'm no saboteur. It wasn't the Yu Yan way but it seemed safer, wiser than a
direct confrontation. Yuzia was a top notch bender. I'm sure she wasn't nearly as good as you, I couldn't risk being beaten. Couldn't risk getting caught and
letting the others know I was after them. So I went for the safer approach rather than the sure one. And...I'm sorry for that.

"We deserved her head, love. But, I failed. She is still dead and I should take solace in that, but she needed to die by my hands. By my hands. Not some
amateur that shoves her out of a window and gets caught immediately after. That was so..."

Mitsuro tilted his head as a thought worked its way around. "That's right, isn't it. Why would Yuzia let herself be pushed out of a window? She was a top
notch bender, and those windows are made of highly durable, impact resistant glass. You don't just push someone out. You have to throw them. Hard. Which would
imply a struggle, but I didn't hear any fire blasts or smell anything burning. How curious."

Mitsuro shook his head slowly. "I'll have to figure that out later. I just want you to know that I haven't lost sight of my goals. I've found the perfect way
to get the information I need. The others remaining won't elude me. I won't let them get off so gently. And I will uncover the secrets I've been hunting for.
Mark my words, love, I will find a way."

Mitsuro spent a long time looking at her, bathed in the soft orange light. He hated himself for it, but he hoped for her to move, even a little. Some
indication. But, as always, it never came.

She just laid there. Almost as if asleep.

Mitsuro sighed. "But until then, rest in peace. That smug Jung Su is right about one thing, there is much work to be done." Mitsuro rose and leaned over her
body. Looking down at her round face, those supple lips. He missed hearing her voice, hearing her say his name. So much he missed. So much he wished they
could do together again. But for now, Mitsuro settled for planting a soft kiss on her forehead then on the knuckles of her hand. He settled her hand back down
and slid off the stool.

You did this, a voice whispered at the back of Mitsuro's thoughts. She is here because of you. Never forget that. Never.

"Until next time, my sweet Rei," he whispered.
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Eman5805
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« Reply #15 on: May 27, 2012 05:40 pm »

Chapter Seven

"Alright? Then what would you do next? Remember now. Be as thorough as you can."

Indra looked around nervously for help even though they were alone in the backyard. Maybe a bug might come and help her out of this if she wished hard enough.
"Um. Are you sure about this?"

Darlo groaned, but not because of the awkward position he was bent in, doubled up with his arm held back behind him. "Oh for crying out...the same question
over and over again. Look, you said yourself, you had an urge to step in and help the big man. Which means you probably were a fighter of some kind before. I
can tell you what kind. But you need to finish it. Let's go again. From the top." He slipped out of her loose grip and stood in front of her. "And yes. I'm
sure."

Darlo bounced a few times on his heels, arms swaying loosely by his sides. "Alright. You're standing there. The guy does this." He fainted a left then came in
with a right, moving with exaggerated slowness. "Now what?"

Indra felt silly. She shouldn't have said anything about how she snuck out and got Rexsten hurt. But Darlo could be so easy to talk to. He leaped, literally a
couple feet off the couch in fact, when she mentioned getting into a fight. He asked her all these questions about what she did and how or if she remembered
where she learned anything. Which lead to this awkward predicament she was in. She didn't really feel comfortable doing this.

But not the fighting part, the grapples and escapes. No.

That intrigued her. The motions felt so natural once she got going. The way her body reacted, how her instincts drove her. It was very discomfiting at first,
listening to her body tell her to do things for the first time she could remember, but oh so very informative. And she could tell she'd get the hang of it
with some more practice.

She wouldn't have a problem with this at all but Darlo's insistent hands on approach really made things difficult on her. She didn't want to accidentally hurt
Darlo, not when he seemed so eager to help. But she still couldn't turn him down either.

He insisted multiple times that she wouldn't hurt him. Actually, he said "couldn't." Which sort of rubbed Indra the wrong way.

Was he saying he was just that much better than her? She didn't like that thought for some reason.

 "Well. I guess I sort of might...grab the wrist like this," she did so, holding Darlo's arm as loosely as possible and not moving much to pull him any more
off balance. "Put pressure on the elbow and then toss you down?" She started to let him go. "I...I don't know, maybe I would-"

"Wait!"

Indra flinched, fearing she'd bungled somewhere and injured him. "What? What happened?"

Darlo gestured downward. "What about your feet?"

Indra blinked. "My feet?"

Darlo rolled his eyes and straightened. "Yeah. Like how would you be standing? Said you'd toss me, throw me. Show me what your feet would be. Trust me. That
means a lot."

Indra bit her lip. "Like...this, I think."

Darlo tapped his chin and walked in a circle around her. "Interesting. You're half open. Half closed. But with near perfect balance over your center of
gravity. Could be ready to press an attack or defend against another opponent. Good for facing down multiple foes at once, I guess. Or you're just making it
up and got extremely lucky. Either way..."

"So. Can I stop standing like this now?"

Darlo chuckled. "Sure. We're done here. Let's go in. Grab a bite and a drink. I'm starving."

Something had been nagging at Indra the whole time they did this silly routine. "What about Rexsten? He did all actual the fighting, um, sort of. Don't you
want to know how?"

Darlo snorted. "That human hammer? Tch. What's to know? Seen one big guy fight, seen 'em all. Probably beat them all by falling on 'em."

Indra suppressed a laugh. "Well, actually he..."

"Besides, sure, you're almost as tall as him, you don't have nearly his reach or power. Wouldn't mean anything to watch you imitate him. Let's go."

Indra frowned. She wasn't almost as tall as Rexsten, she didn't think. But she supposed from Darlo's perspective she may as well be, being a head shorter than
her who was in turn almost a head shorter than Rexsten. And she found she also took exception to the notion of Rexsten being stronger than her, even though it
was obviously true. And again she didn't know why. Indra left those confusing thoughts aside and followed Darlo in.

Rexsten's mother, Youli, was home as usual. Rexsten's aunt was upstairs sleeping. Indra wasn't really hungry. But Darlo was. Youli prepared him a dinner sized
bowl of roast duck with noodles  and a cold drink with a squeeze of lemons. Indra had some water. Darlo ate like he hadn't eaten in several days. It was
something to see, someone so small eating like someone so much larger.

"Alright, now I have to ask you something else," Indra asked when he finished and let out a satisfied, gluttonous belch.

He shrugged as he took a bite out of an apple. Indra tried not to dwell on how he could possibly keep eating after a hearty meal like that. "Shoot."

"Why do you care so much about if I know how to fight or not?"

Darlo paused, pursing his lips in an odd manner. "Let's just say, I know and respect a fighter when I see one, Inge."

Indra didn't know how to respond to the familiarization of her name, so she didn't. "That's it?"

Darlo stopped chewing and stared off into space. After a moment, he smirked then added,  "Nah. I also know a bender when I see one."

Indra nearly choked on her water. "A bender? You mean me?"

"Yup, yup, yup. You've got all the chops for it. You can throw down, but you aren't a natural hand to hand. Your stances are all centered and balanced, which
is fine in if you train at a dojo or something. But in actual fights you never can be that clean and put together. Not to mention that you have no part of
your move set to guard against  or to launch grapples. Little known secret is a lot of fights end up on the ground. Unless you're used to attacking from a
distances. So--" Darlo shrugged. "The only thing to figure is what element."

The thought. Indra being a bender.

It had never occurred to her. Not even once since she woke up in that bed.

She had spent so much time thinking about who she might've been, what sort of person had she been. She'd run down a laundry list of things with Doctor Wong
Su. But not once did he even mention bending. The sheer oversight from the good doctor was baffling to her now. Maybe it just never occurred to him.

If she really were a bender then it would open some possibilities to her. It would narrow down her origins. She knew she had blue eyes, a trait typical of
those of Water Tribe descent, but it wasn't uncommon in the Earth Kingdom and only highly rare in the Fire Nation. But if she were a Waterbender, that'd give
her somewhere to start looking for answers, somewhere to go. A destination.

That's where all this was leading, Indra knew. Eventually, she would have to venture out beyond the city of Bumi and try to find some clues to who she was.
But without direction or a clue she could scour the planet for a lifetime and get nowhere. Yes. This was what she needed.

Darlo was watching Indra as the thoughts roiled about in her head. "The best way to get a feel for bending is to see some benders in action."

Indra's heart danced in her chest. A gleeful grin spreading across her face. She wanted to shout. Hug Darlo. Do something. But she wouldn't, couldn't. She'd
just have to find some way to reign in this excitement. "And where would I see that? A dojo? Some academy? A temple? Goodness. Would they let me near it? Do I
need some kind of special attire?"

Darlo chuckled. "Slow down, girl. Get a grip, already. And please. Those places are so stiff and uptight, they'd have you scrubbing wagons and meditating by
waterfalls for weeks before you throw your first punch. Nah. If you want real fighting, you don't go somewhere like that."

Indra frowned. "Then where?"

 Darlo smirked and Indra got an uneasy feeling that put a damper on her excitement. "Oh, I know a place."
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Eman5805
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« Reply #16 on: May 27, 2012 05:41 pm »

-continued-

The place smelled.

Indra found herself recognizing the smells, much to her dismay. The smells of stale sweat, bitter alcoholic drinks, harsh smoking inhalants, pungent greasy
meats, and foul human waste. Indra shuddered to imagine why, but she had been in a place like this before. And quite often. Why? What walk of life did she
lead where she'd be around a place like this?

It was a place where Indra couldn't walk in as she would walk the streets. Here she had go wearing a large robe with a hood over her head and hair tied back.
She wasn't the only person dressed this way either. Darlo went as he always did. Indra couldn't help but notice people giving him stares. If Darlo noticed
too, he paid them no mind.

Indra knew why Darlo had led her here, but her attention was anywhere but on the crude fighting in the crude ring below. She was looking from face to face.
The crowd was mostly men, ages ranging from the far too young to the questionably aged.

 A dangerous group of people lurked here.

She would ferret them out.

She started looking over the crowd, searching for that one-

Indra clamped her eyes shut as a bout of dizziness came over her. Her hand went to her forehead and she found her fingers rubbing on the tiny stone set into
her skin. The stone felt a little warm even. It-

What...what just happened? What was I doing again?

Darlo nudged her with his elbow. "Hey, don't go to sleep on me. I know it's boring now, but it's about to get good. The main event's about to start."

Oh. That's right. Darlo had taken Indra to some seedy underground arena for fighting. There'd been some kind of amateur matches which seemed to consist of
people with more scars than unbroken teeth flailing at each other. Darlo had spent most of his time laughing at their efforts and eating some meat on a stick.
(How did he eat so much and not have an ounce of fat on his body? How, Indra asked.)

A bald-headed man with a very long braided tuft of hair on his chin walked to the center of the ring as the loser of the last match was carried away. "And
now, ladies and gentleman. Though let's be honest, no real ladies are here." A string of laughs rippled through the crowd. Indra found herself folding her
arms and glaring at the man. Something about the way he said that...

"It's the match you've all been waiting for! The we have a very special fighter here today from last year's Big Rumble championship!"

The crowd started to cheer. Mostly drunkenly. Darlo did too. "I'm so excited! Bring on the pain, already!" he hollered. Indra gathered that Darlo was excited.
They sat at the front row of the balcony seats and Darlo was leaning entirely on the railing.

A section of wall was bent away and a man with a towel draped over his shoulders walked out, clapping his hands and whooping. Behind him walked a man with no
shirt. His body was heavy with flat muscle. A determined look on his face. He appeared to be no younger than mid 40s. He bore some burn cars on his shoulders
and down his back. His hair was streaked with grey and he had a noticeable hitch to his gait. He had a Fire Nation topknot and metal bands around his upper
arms and ankles. And black shorts. In fact, Indra noticed they were exactly the same as the ones Darlo was wearing right now.

"In the red corner! Standing a stout 5 foot 6 inches. Hailing from Honshu Isle in the Fire Nation. Wielding the element of fire. With an impressive fighting
league record of 32 wins and 2 losses, this is the mighty Mokuyama!"

Mokuyama raised a single fist in the air and accepted the applause. But otherwise stared straight ahead, the picture of focused intensity.

The wall opposite him bent open and out walked another person. This one also with a towel, but carried in his hands. Right behind him was Mokuyama's opponent.
This person was Mokuyama's opposite. Where Mokuyama was old, rough, and severe, this person was young, smooth, and calm. He wore his hair long, down to his
shoulders. He had on a dark blue outfit that covered him almost entirely from head to toe. On his back he wore a decorated waterskin. His face was covered up
to his eyes with a cloth mask.

Darlo's whole demeanor changed when he saw the man. His eyes widened. And he seemed to shrink within himself.

"And in the blue corner! Standing a lithe 5 foot 9 inches. Born in the Northern Water Tribe and wielding the element of water. A newcomer to the arena with
just one win under his belt, introducing the Torrential Torvik!"

No one cheered, which isn't the same as silence. Many shouted insults at him. Other's shouted other things too harsh to be insults.

"Oh, please. Look at that. A rookie wearing a mask. Oh yeah, real original there," one patron jeered.

"That shtick got old after the first time," another shouted.

"Try something new already! So damn sick of the D wannabe's!"

"'D shtick?'" Indra asked Darlo, "What ever are they talking about?"

Darlo didn't answer. He was staring at the two participants as they entered the ring down below.

A referee was going over the rules.

"Standard water and fire bout. Nothing sharp. No lightning. No weapons. Just you and your elements. Anything else goes. We go until one of you drops or gives
up. Now. Bow 'em down. And back to your corners." Both fighters gave a cursory bow. Mokuyama's was a bare tip of the brow compared to Torvik. A man was going
around selling meat on the sticks in the stands below. A hot tea vendor sold to paying customers back by the entrance.

Only...they weren't selling any of those things, not alone. They were passing pieces of paper and money around. Indra wanted to point these things out to
Darlo but he was still fixated. He was looking at the fighters but his eyes were far more distant. He was seeing far more than two people before him.

Indra couldn't tell if he was discerning something or drifting off into memory. Perhaps a mixture of both?

"It's about to start," Indra said. Darlo didn't even look her way. "Darlo? What am I looking for? Darlo?"

A smirk spread across his face. "This shouldn't last that long. Torvik will attack first," Darlo murmured. He wasn't speaking to Indra at all.

"And fight!" the referee shouted.

The action started immediately. Torvik came out of his corner, arms blurring, weight shifting through the stances. A tendril of water snaked out of his
waterskin and swept towards Mokuyama.

"Ol' Mount Moku will kick that away-"

Mokuyama heel kicked a line of fire horizontally from the ground that intercepted the water and the clashing opposite elements burst into steam.

"-then send the heat down Torvik's throat."

Mokuyama twisted, gathered himself into a jump then threw a massive two fisted fire blast at Torvik. Torvik retreated to his corner, then vaulted off the
ropes into the air, taking him over the wall of fire. Almost.

Darlo made a sucking sound on his teeth at the same instant Torvik didn't clear the fire and wound up being clipped from the knees down. He went down in a
hard tumble. The crowd cheered.

Mokuyama threw blast after blast and Torvik kept moving and dodging. But then Torvik's knee, the one that had been clipped, buckled and he fell.

"A faint. Go in there and get trapped."

Mokuyama went in howling as he jumped and spun, a flaming fist ready to crash down on the vulnerable Torvik.

But at the last possible second, Torvik twisted and rolled out of Mokuyama's way, a burst of fire searing the mat where Torvik just was. Torvik came up to his
knees, then reversed his roll, hands blurring.  A globule of water covered Mokuyama's hand then hardened, freezing his hand to the mat.

"It's over. Finish with something simple. Like a single water whip to the face."

Torvik's water whip hit Mokuyama hard, shattering the ice on his hand and sending him sprawling senselessly to the mat. The referee stepped in and called the
match for Torvik, lifting his hand. Torvik lowered his mask revealing a very young face.

A brief silence rained as bits of ice rained down on the ring.

Then most of the crowd booed. A few cheered and cried out something about winning money. Darlo just leaned back to his seat and frowned.

"The fix is in!" snarled a patron. "Can't believe it!"

"He's a D wannabe alright! D was way sexier than that! And he would've done it barehanded! Phony!" shouted a very shrill, feminine voice.

"I'm out 30 silver pieces!"

"Isn't betting on unsanctioned fights like this illegal?" Indra asked. (A frequent event of late is for Indra to recall often obscure information about the
world, but then have no recollection whatsoever why she has it. It's caused no end of frustration for her.)

No answer. Darlo's distant eyes were still on the now empty ring. He was still murmuring something. But too low for Indra to hear. He wasn't even paying
attention to her.

A sudden, icy anger hissed through Indra.

"do not ignore me, boy."

Darlo stopped midsentence, and was reeling away from her.

Indra didn’t see how else Darlo reacted because she swiftly got out of her seat and all but ran away. She could almost feel his shocked gaze on her back.

What was that? That coldness. She'd felt something like that before, back in that alley with those men. She'd thought it was just some response to men that
were talking about doing something horrible to her. But Darlo was just ignoring her. Sure, it was a bit rude but she didn't like the way that felt. It was so
ugly. And only something bad would happen if it ever escalated.

Did it come from the same place as those bits of obscure knowledge and facts she had? Is it a result of the stress she's been under, trying to puzzle who she
was and absorbing so much information at once? Or was that some vestige of who she was before leaking out?

That thought scared her more than anything.

What if she really was a mean person before? She wasn't like that now, she didn't think. So is this a nature versus nurture concern?  Was it because she came
from some kind of cold, cruel environment or was Indra once someone naturally prone to that cruel, coldness as a part of her personality and core? Did she
even want to know?

And why did she even know of nature versus nurture? Who had taught her about that? And why?

Spirits of the land, air, and sea, the more Indra delved deeper into finding who she was, the more she wondered if it had been better if she never woke up.
Maybe it'd be best if she forgot about who she was and focused on who she could be. If the Indra of before was something that Indra of now would hate,
wouldn't it be better if she forsook that life? She had been handed a clean slate, a fresh chance to start over. Nothing was stopping her. She might even like
creating a new life.

But she wouldn't let herself do that. That was a coward's way out. She had to know. She wouldn't let the answers she might find stop her from asking the
questions. She'd have to deal with those issues when she came to it. Which mean she needed to stop leaving Darlo behind and go back and apologize-

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Now hold up!" Darlo shouted suddenly springing in front of her.

Indra jumped back. "Darlo?" She looked around. She had left the arena and was walking down the street along with a dozen other angry patrons all walking out
into the cool nighttime air.

"Of course, it's me," Darlo said, dusting himself off. "What'd you up and leave for? This ain't the Red Light District but it's not exactly safe to be
wandering off alone all by yourself and alone."

Indra glanced up. She saw some dust still stirring from the rooftops in the buildings off to the side. "How'd you catch up to me so fast?"

Darlo shrugged. "I jogged."

The matter of fact, non-boastful but totally boasting way he said that made Indra laugh a bit.

Darlo started down the street ahead of her. "Welp, best we head back anyway," Darlo said with a yawn that seemed to be more out of boredom than being tired.
"So, see anything familiar in the fight?"

Indra shook her head no, still looking at the young Fire Nation native, studying him. "It was difficult to pay attention to the fight when you kept calling
out their moves before they did them."

Darlo flinched then pivoted around on his next step to stare Indra. He started to say something, then frowned and spun back around. He was silent for a few
moments. "Uh. Yeah. I guess I was doing that," he cleared his throat, "I do that sometimes. Didn't even notice. I...get into zones sometimes. I guess."

Indra really didn't know a whole lot about Darlo. His past, where he came from, any family. Only that he'd been the one to actually pull Indra out of the
water. He'd come to Rexsten's house and leave out again as he pleased and he'd evade questions by asking ones of his own or finding speedy ways to change the
subject. But now she had something on him she could use to figure more about him. "A zone? You mean a heightened state of mind?"

"I guess."

"Like when someone's concentrating on some task, like a sport or fighting?"

"Uh. Maybe, I guess."

"Doesn't seem all that common. Just a quirk of yours?"

"I guess," Darlo said so low Indra could hardly hear.

They walked in silence for a few more blocks. Indra was choosing her next words carefully when a thought occurred to her. Back in the stands, the things the
crowd patrons were shouting and how they, along with the appearance of Torvik, seemed to make Darlo shrink into himself as if those comments were directed at
him. In fact, he did that before the comments ever came as if he expected them.

"Say, Darlo," she began, her voice curious and innocent, the way she'd ask many a questions in the past, "back in the arena, the crowd patrons kept mentioning
something about 'D.' What were they talking about?"

Darlo stopped walking and looked back at Indra. There was the oddest pursed look on his face. A mix between pouting frustration, indignant anger, and childish
embarrassment. "Welp," Darlo said as he faked a yawn, "I think we're done for today. I'll catch you later." He started walking past Korra the way they came.

Indra blinked. "What? You're leaving me?"

"You'll be fine. It's not too late. And the way home is just down the way," he was trying and failing not to keep his voice from sounding tight. "I've worked
up a serious appetite. Grab a bite, I think."

"But you just said you're tired."

"Y-yeah, yeah, yeah. Munch up some then grab some shut eye. I always do that. See ya." He took off in a brisk walk. Indra was taken aback briefly by how much
ground he could cover in one stride. His legs were rather long even. He was about to disappear around the corner.

No. Not when Indra was so close. And she couldn't let him leave upset at her. She went after him. "Wait! Darlo!"

She caught the tail end of his thick black locks of hair whipping behind him as he took off in a run.

And before Indra knew it, she was after him. Her steps widening with each stride, fluid and swift. She didn't know why she was doing this and she found that
she didn't care. Indra had been concerned about a destination, somewhere to go. Well, now she had one of sorts.

Where ever Darlo was going she was going to follow him.
Logged

Eman5805
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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Posts: 4339


A Soulful Brother


« Reply #17 on: May 27, 2012 05:41 pm »

-continued-

She got to the street corner and instead of turning down after him, she kept going straight. She didn't know why she did. It just felt right to pass it up.
Instead she turned at the next corner, a side street not made for major traffic. And she saw Darlo was ahead of her. Nearly a block down. She kept up the
pace. How long could she go like this? She didn't even know. It was another mystery to her and she could find the answer out right now. See how long she could
keep up with Darlo.

Darlo had always found ways to mention how fast he was. About how he'd "smoke" anyone that challenged him. It didn't even seem like he noticed how much he did
it at times. And now Indra could see why. He truly was fast. Where Indra's steps were fluid and quick, Darlo took an almost bounding leaps. It resembled
skipping more than running and he hardly seemed to be trying.

By the spirits, Indra thought glumly. He was jogging. Indra had to push herself  just to keep from losing sight of him. And at the same time avoiding being
seen or heard.

Indra lost track of time. Her senses all in a frenzy, heart pounding, sweat making the robe stick as she heard it rustling behind her. After a perspective
eternity, it took her a moment to realize that she had ducked behind the steps to the back alley entrance to someone's building because Darlo stopped and
glanced back.

She let her breathe catch. It wasn't coming easy. She had to take long slow breathes, aware that breathing too quickly would give herself away. She slowly
edged over and peeked. Darlo was still there, still looking around with a frown on his face. Then he shrugged, muttered something, and continued on his way,
walking now.

Indra slipped from behind the stairs and followed. They turned off the side street and was in an alleyway. Again. That thought didn't exactly fill her with
delight, but she had caught up to him now. She crept up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder.

Darlo let out a high pitched yelp then spun around, hair whipping about. His elbow cocked back as if ready to strike. But stopped halfway and his jaw dropped.
"Indra?! How did you. . . When did you? How did you?"

Indra imitated his smirk. "Why'd you run from me?"

 "What? I...I didn't run from you. I was...I didn't..."

"No, you ran from me. Why? Do you really not want to let anyone know about your past that badly?"

Darlo sputtered. "What? My past? What in the world are you talking about? Well. My past is my business. But that isn't...it's not why I..." Darlo let out a
frustrated sound and ran his hand through his thick hair.

Spirits, it felt so childish, but she found something undeniably adorable about how flustered he was becoming. Must have something to do with the way he kept
fidgeting and how high his voice had become.

"Geez, girl. To think you'd be this persistent for...whatever you're doing. I wasn't even running from you."

Indra folded her arms. "If not from me, then who?"

"Should you tell her or should I?" came a new voice from behind them.

The man was tall, taller than Indra but not as tall as Rexsten. He was lean and wore his hair short. He wore an expensive robe and was flanked by two shorter,
but burlier men with scar tissue around their eyes and knuckles. There was something in the tall man's eyes that struck a chord in her that made her body
tense up. The other two men were staring at Darlo with open hatred. While the tallest...she wasn't yet sure.

Darlo sighed deeply. "Hey, Qin Li."

The man touched a hand to his chest as if shocked. "I'm so honored," he replied with dripping sarcasm. "The Greatest of All Time actually remembers my name."

"How could I ever forget you?" Darlo half-smiled, just one cheek raising. And none of the smile reached his eyes. They had become half-lidded and distant
again. Indra saw something looser in his body language, hunching over slightly. "The worst manager of all time? Publicity stunt specialist extraordinaire? Oh
yeah, definitely remember you."

A vein started to throb on Qin Li's temple. "You always did know how to get under my skin, D."

"You mean he's always been a little húndàn," one of the men grunted.

"A little piece of crap, more like it," the other replied.

Darlo's smirk widened. "And yet this little húndàn piece of crap, can whoop both your chunky butts in 10 seconds flat. I'd hate to think what that
makes you two then."

"You little..." one brute snarled and rolled a step forward.

Qin Li lifted a hand and the brute stopped. "No. Not yet. Listen, Darlo. Enough of these games. You know what I want, why I'm here."

Darlo absentmindedly scratched his head. "Huh? I do?"

The vein throbbed. "You cheated me out of hundreds of pieces in winnings, even more in residuals, and played me for a sucker that whole time. Then you have
the gall to come into my fight clubs and watch my fights? Like I wouldn't notice? Wouldn't come after you? If you were anyone else, they'd need the Avatar to
unbury you. But I'm giving you a chance. You owe me a lot of money. Just pay me back, and it all goes away. And by the fire above, we never, ever, have to see
each other again."

Interesting, he owes this man money? Is that the sort of things Darlo does when he's not around? Indra wondered.

Darlo held his chin, as if thinking. "Hm. You know, it's tempting when you put it like that. But...I don’t think I will, cuz you see. I don't owe you a
blasted thing. I didn't throw that last match. I didn't betray you. I explained it to you back then. And a dozen times after it. You know that damn special
metal mask you had me wear caught me in the eyes. I didn't throw the match. I couldn't even see!"

So he was a fighter. A masked fighter called D, it seems. Darlo. D. Not a very subtle alias.

"So, forget it. I'm not paying you money I don't owe. In fact, it was your damn fault in the first place! So..." Darlo shrugged. "Yeah."

Is it really wise to keep antagonizing this man, Darlo? Being confident is one thing, but you're still outnumbered. Can you really beat these men so easily?


Qin Li pinched his brow. "You always had to be so damn difficult. Always not doing what I say, not following orders. Just making my life harder and harder."
He took a deep breath and glanced at the two men with him. "I'm sorry it has to be this way, I really am. You keep making me do things I don't want to."

"You are? Tch. And what's that? That you're about to sic your two runty attack shark-dogs on me? Oh please. C'mon, Qinny. You of all people should know I'd
knock their heads in without even breaking a sweat."

"No, D. I'm not about to sic two men on you," Qin Li said giving Darlo a dark look.

Something's wrong...

Darlo tilted his head. Then looked at Indra. His eyes widened. "Look out!"

A man stepped out the shadows behind Indra and grabbed her by the arms.

"I'm about to sic three men on your girlfriend."

Goodness. If I get out of this, I'm never walking down an alleyway again.

***

"Bring her here," Qin Li said.

Indra looked, wide-eyed as if fearful, at the man holding her. By the spirits, it was Torvik. He was still wearing the same clothes, sans the mask. He didn't
look Indra in the eye, glancing away, almost apologetic.

Grabbed by both arms at the biceps from behind. This was quite familiar to Indra, but she didn't have to fight against her own broken memories for the reason.

Darlo licked his lips, uncertainty starting to play over his face, as his leg started twitching. Before Indra caught his eye. She gave him an almost
imperceptible nod. Indra didn't know if he caught her meaning as he didn't respond, but he immediately straightened then started snickering. All the men with
Qin Li shared confused to angry looks. Qin Li just looked bitter.

"Really, Qinny? You're so pathetic. You claim I cheated you threw a fight and took you for some money. And here you're doing the same to everyone else in your
little fight club with a freaking copycat waterbender? Real noble. And now you're dragging the girl into this? You've changed. I remember you being more lame
and short sighted and less cheap theater villain."

The vein throbbed again as Qin Li smoothed his hair, taking a deep breath. "I warned you, D. That I'd do things I didn't want to, but I always get what is
owed to me. And I didn't drag her into this. You did when you brought her with you to my arena." He pulled her hood back. He whistled as he studied her face.
"Got yourself a pretty one too. And white hair? Imagine that."

Torvik suddenly started to pay attention to her now that her face was exposed. He leaned over to get a better look at her face. Indra shied away as if afraid.
But something in the way he looked at her...what was it? Why was he staring at the stone on her forehead so much?

"You're so damn pathetic, you know that, Qinny? What now? You're gonna say 'If I want to see her pretty face, bring you the money by tomorrow or I'll never
see her again?'"

Qin Li actually laughed. "The idea has a classic appeal, but I'm not an idiot. I know you, Darlo. The moment I let you walk away, you'll run, like you always
do. You don't really care what happens to her."

That got Indra's attention. Indra had pretended to be shocked into a state of silence, buying her time before she escaped the grasp of the man who thought
just grabbing her arms would immobilize her. But the conviction in Qin Li's voice...Indra's mouth moved before she told it to.

"repeat yourself, qin lip."

"What, you didn't know, pretty thing?" Qin Li asked. "Darlo has always been out for one person and one person only. Anything he does is for himself even if it
doesn't seem like it. And when things don't work out, he runs."

Darlo scoffed. "Yeah, Inge. Listen to the guy who just a second ago was about to have you beaten to a bloody pulp."

Qin Li threw back his head and laughed again. It wasn't scornful and full of hate like Indra would expect. It was the kind of laugh a person that's done it
out of genuine amusement. Indra could somehow tell that Qin Li wasn't always the type of person who jumped people in alleyways. Something had driven him to
this point. "It never ceases to amaze me how someone so quick can be so slow."

Darlo rocked back as if someone had just slapped him. "Slow?"

"I'm not going to beat your girlfriend up. I'm not some cruel monster. Besides, that won't mean a thing to you. No. You're going to pay me or I'll hurt the
one thing you care about," Qin Li said with a grim smile. He turned to Indra. "Say, pretty young thing, do you wanna know what Darlo wants to be when he grows
up? He wants to be just like his dad, a big, strong fire-"

A furious, piercing cry echoed in the alley.

"Look-"

Darlo's knee connected with Qin Li's face.

"-out" shouted one of Qin Li's men.

Qin Li flew and sprawled, boneless to the ground.

Indra's snapped from attentive listener to escapee in the next instant. It was an instant faster than Torvik who was thoroughly caught off guard by Darlo's
scream.

This was her chance.

The first routine she worked out with Darlo was how to escape if someone grabbed her by both arms. Darlo insisted on it like everything else. Indra told him
that it didn't seem a very effective way to restrain someone. But Darlo said something about how some guys think all women are weak and helpless and if she
ever got grabbed by one it might happen like this.

To think he'd be right.

Her first choice of action drew a laugh from Darlo who said she'd might have a bad headache if she tried escaping like that. But it would definitely work.

So.

Indra gritted her teeth and snapped her head back. She hit Torvik in the nose with a sharp crunch of breaking bone and a spike of pain shooting through her
head. Then same time she bent her knees and twisted around to Torvik's chest. She shoved him away, putting her body into it. He stumbled away and she free.
She retreated a few steps, expecting Torvik to come after her.

But no attacks came. He now was caught in the middle of the brawl against Darlo.

No. A brawl was what she saw in that arena. Both sides stood a chance. This wasn't that. This was like three men were all suddenly set on fire.

Darlo literally jumped from one person to the other, using their very bodies to land on, striking down with elbows and knees. It was how he compensated for
being small, Indra saw. Attacking their heads and joints with an animal ferocity, punctuating each strike with sharp cries and whooping as he darted around.
Darlo didn't defend.  He never stopped to block or redirect an attack the way she had during the drills. It was all attack, attack, attack. Which served as a
defense all on its own. You can't get hit if your opponent spends the fight on defense. And even when they did have clean shots at Darlo, he didn't stand
still.

Darlo was in constant motion. Never providing a still target. None of their wild swings, bursts of flame or rocks hit anything but the ground and sometimes
each other. That was how one of the men went down when he was hit by another's bent stone.

Down to just two, for a few exchanges, it didn't seem that any single one of his hits was doing any damage until Darlo flipped off one man's chest, kicked out
the side of one of the man's knees, bringing him down to his other, and delivering a powerful knee of his own to the man's face. As the man dropped, Darlo
carried the momentum into a spinning jump that took him over a spike of ice thrown by Torvik who had broken away from the combat, just to get enough space to
draw on his water, still clutching his broken nose. But he had backed up to a wall and had nowhere to retreat.

Something glinted in the air before Torvik in a thin, almost imperceptible line.

"A faint. Go in there and get trapped."

"Stop!"

Darlo stopped so suddenly Indra was sure he had to have torn something somewhere. "Ah! What, Indra, what?" Darlo said, suddenly alarmed.

Torvik stopped too. Looking at Indra wide eyed. He started to say something. He never got to say it.

Because Darlo slammed his knee into Torvik's chin, snapping his head back into the wall. Torvik slumped to the ground, senseless.

Darlo dusted himself off again and took a deep breath. "Phew. Been a while since I had a bout that good."

Indra gaped at the spry fighter. Darlo never saw it. Even now as it melted away on the ground, the tiny needle of ice that would've impaled Darlo through the
head as he rushed in to finish off Torvik. He had no idea.

He had come inches away from killing himself. Even after beating all the others he would've died and never seen it coming.

Indra found herself moving to him. "Darlo, I..."

"You good, Inge?" he asked as if asking to go get something to eat again.

Indra stopped. No, she wasn't. She hadn't seen someone fight so furiously before. Caught in the moment she had been...enticed by the spectacle of it. But now,
she felt...wrong. Like something awful and sad had just happened but she didn't know why. There was a dozen questions floating around her head, mostly about
Darlo. Darlo was hiding something. Something that he didn't want anyone to know of and the prospect of it being revealed drove him to sudden violence even at
the potential risk of Indra. They were just supposed to let Indra see some bending in action, and she had. Even if Darlo had his own atypical way of doing
things, he was still helping her.

And it almost killed him.

She should tell him. Tell him how close he was. How sorry she was for putting him in a situation like that. By the spirits, first Rexsten gets hurt then Darlo
only narrowly averts death.

Indra never wanted this. She felt cold again, a different kind of cold. And also very tired.

And her head started to hurt.

"I think so," she lied.

"Good, then we better beat feet. The cops will be here any second and I'd rather not do a bid in juvi agai--dah, anytime soon." Darlo scampered down the alley.

Indra looked blearily at Torvik, nose bleeding and unconscious. He had reacted when he heard her name. She was sure of it. There was something there. She was
sure of it. But she had no idea what it was. If Indra had been her real birth name she'd think Torvik might know who she was, but the name was given to her
based off something she murmured while near comatose. She had never said as much, but she'd seen Darlo have a similar reaction before when her name was
chosen.

What could Indra's name possibly mean to them? Or by that same token, to her as well?

She sighed. Too much in one night. Just too much. Her headache was getting worse by the second.

A siren wailed in the distance.

"Indra, hurry up!" Darlo rasped up ahead, looking up and down the street.

Indra snapped out of her troubling thoughts. "O-okay." She started forward when a hand clamped on her ankle. She shook loose and was ready to stomp down on it.

"W-wait," slurred Qin Li. He was still on the ground a large knot on the side of his head.

"Next time, find a better way to get someone's attention," Indra found herself saying, her voice low and weary.

"N-noted. But you should know he...he's using you. You just don't know it yet. Once...Darlo's done with you or a better opportunity comes up he'll runaway and
leave you. Betray you. It's who he is. Darlo only cares about Darlo. If you know what's good for you..." His eyes started fluttering and rolling into the back
of his head. He could have a pretty bad concussion. If he didn't get medical attention soon, he might not recover. It was another bit of random facts she
knew. "Don't trust the son of..." He slumped to the ground again, moaning.

"Indra!"

Indra just reacted to the shout and left the man mid-sentence. Heading after Darlo. Together they got away from the scene. At Indra's insistence, they stopped
a safe distance and watched as a medical wagons rumbled up and all of the men were taken away.

"Alright, they came. Can we go now?"

Indra turned and just looked at him.

Darlo backed away slightly, eyes nervous. "What?"

"Tell me, Darlo," Indra asked her voice quiet. A thought playing in her head from the same obscure, random place. "Is the reason you want me to go with you
because you want us both to get away, or because the cops are less likely to be suspicious of you if you're seen with someone?"

When Indra looked back to him, Darlo had walked away. He turned and motioned for her to follow. "C'mon."

Indra glanced back to the alley. Then followed him.

Did Darlo just not hear her? Or was he choosing not to answer?

No. She wouldn't do that. She'd trust him. He didn't have to go this far for her. No matter his reasons, he wanted to help her and that was all that mattered.

But Indra also had to ask herself: Was finding out who she was worth risking the safety of her friends?

Logged

Eman5805
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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Posts: 4339


A Soulful Brother


« Reply #18 on: Dec 29, 2012 11:33 am »

Author's Note: Been a while, hasn't it? I don't like such long periods between posting, but senior years in college can get hectic. To make up for lost time, I guess
I double dipped and decided to spruce things up. Hope it worked out as well as it was fun to write. So please, read, review, critique. It's the only way I'll get better.

Thank you.



Chapter Eight

It was minutes before dawn. The bridge was mostly empty of foot traffic. Only a few early risers were shuffling up and down the avenue, heading to work, coming
home from overnight jobs, or just worthless bums drunkenly wandering the streets.

A man with a slight limp, and a barely hidden black eye sidled up and leaned on the stone barrier, just out of arms reach. “Ryoku has a mission for you,” he said.

Mitsuro kept his eyes forward but raised an eyebrow and waited.

“Nothing substantial, but it calls for your…particular skill set. Are you competent?”

Mitsuro bowed his head and closed his eyes, suppressing the flicker of chagrin with a thin smile. “Are you asking if I’m interested?”

“No,” the man said bluntly. “I am asking if you are competent. You always carry that bow and quiver around but-“

Mitsuro slung the bow off his back, drew and notched an arrow, and let loose. He then drew and notched a second arrow and let loose again, all in the space of two seconds.
The arrows streaked over the water to the apple tree in someone’s backyard. The first arrow cut an apple from its branch. The second arrow pinned the apple to the tree as
it fell.

The man let out a low whistle. “Not bad. But I’ve seen-“

Mitsuro notched two more arrows, at the same time, and fired.

The apple, split in half by the sharp arrow head, dropped in two halves to the ground. They never made it there.

The headless, blunt arrows pinned the halves to the tree.

Mitsuro set his bow down on the ground, leaning against barrier. He turned to the man and opened his eyes, deliberately.

The man grunted as he realized what just happened, looking for an explanation.

"A blind man can hit his mark," Mitsuro quoted. "I have very competent ears."

Somewhere in the background, a bum coughed and stumbled over himself.

The man accepted that. “Alright. I’m impressed. Get it done.” He placed a piece of paper on the ledge then walked away.

Mitsuro waited for a twenty count before he left in the opposite direction, collecting the paper as he went. He didn’t read it until he was off the bridge and a few blocks down.

A name, an address, and a time.

"Give a Yu Yan a name, a place, and a time, he'll provide the body."

Mitsuro let a genuine, fond smile crack his veneer at the coincidence as he tossed the paper into a bum's burning trash can as he passed. Soft thoughts started to slip in. But Mitsuro quickly steeled himself and walled those thoughts away. Those things were behind him. This wasn't some just some obscure mission for Jung Su. This was a chance to
do what he did best. Finally.

Time to work.



It was time to work for Rexsten. And Indra would get to see for herself how Rexsten earns money.

It was a cool, damp autumn morning, and the streets were bustling, so everywhere Rexsten walked it was through heavily populated areas. Standing better than a head
above the crowd and wearing a very distinctive hat made it very easy to keep him in sight. It could’ve been her imagination but it seemed that the crowd gave him
considerable berth. Few people passed him close enough to touch. The same couldn’t be said of her.

Her white hair was in a bun and covered with a hood, nothing too unusual given the weather, and her clothing was modest at best. Yet, she felt eyes on her as she went.
The attention was an omnipresent specter tickling the nape of her neck. She just had to do her best to ignore it.

Maybe the reason wasn’t their attention at all but because Indra knew she shouldn't be following Rexsten like this. She felt even more nervous when she remembered the last
time she went out unsupervised, but this is in the broad daylight and she was going to avoid walking down any alleys or backstreet. She was going to be extra careful.
However, once she finished with this today, she'd be faced with another problem.

Indra was bored.

Darlo hadn't visited in a few days. The doctor was on an anniversary trip to the Eastern Earth Kingdom with his wife. Her time was spent reading newspapers and books. All of
them belonging to Rexsten's aunt, who had a whole closet filled with old newspapers and pamphlets.

Indra still had no memories of who she was or much about the state of the world before. The least she could do was learn about the world as it was right now. From reading
the papers she found herself in a state of unrest. This Blue Revenant thing, the Akuma of Death was striking terror all over the Earth Kingdom. Bodies found with only small
puncture wounds, and almost no blood on it in Omashu. Criminals with violent records disappear without a trace from under lock and key while awaiting sentencing in Ba Sing
Se. Politicians with suspicious ties to organized crime turning snitch in Republic City. It read more like fiction than actual fiction she'd read.

It made her skin crawl. But she wasn't disturbed by the stories. She was intrigued by it. And that's what did disturb her.

She wanted to know more. She wanted to see these places the Blue Revenant had struck. Go to Omashu or Ba Sing Se. She wanted to leave Bumi and…and what? Find this
dangerous vigilante herself? What would she do if she did? Goodness, was she so starved for some kind of excitement she'd seek out even more danger? As if she hadn’t
stumbled on enough?

Indra should focus on this one fact finding mission before gallivanting off on another one.

Oh boy, she just thought of it as a mission too? What was with her? She should just turn around and go back home.

Should. But wouldn’t. Or couldn't.

 Indra followed him to an area down near the docks. He turned down an alley and into the side entrance of some kind of furniture warehouse. Luckily, she didn’t need to
follow him. There was a little teashop with some chairs, tables, and patio umbrellas outside that was just off the way from the alley. She stepped inside.

“Oh, look, another one, Mahv,” said a rumpled man behind a counter.

“Seriously?” came a voice from the back where something very aromatic was steaming. It smelled like oil and cheese in here. “Spirits bless that man. Bringing all these pretty
things in here. There’s gotta be a name for this kind of business we're getting.”

The man snorted. “It's called who cares? What’ll you have sweetie?”

“Uh. I’ll have some red jasmine, lightly spiced.”

“13 silver pieces.”

Indra only had money because Rexsten’s aunt gave her some after taking her cloth shopping. She came home late one evening with a large sack of coins in an extremely
happy mood. Oddly enough, something about it greatly troubled Rexsten, but Indra didn’t pry. She paid and took her hot drink outside. She took a chair at a table behind a
group of four older women that looked, letting them lay between her and the alley. They all wore uniforms not unlike the kind who work as clerks at a bank.

“Right on time,” one of them said smugly. “I told you. Set your watch by him. Never a second late.”

“Very punctual,” another added.

“That is to say he comes on time?” a third quipped with special emphasis. “Oh, spirits, yes.”

They all laughed haughtily.

Indra frowned as she sipped at her tea. These women were all facing towards the alley, same as she was.

At the warehouse, a large metal door rolled up and a portly man with narrow, shifty eyes walked out with Rexsten. A powered wagon had rolled up and was idling nearby.

“Good. On time as usual. Alright. Start by getting all these crates loaded up,” the man barked at him, loud enough to hear over the engine. Then he chucked Rexsten’s arm
and went back inside. Rexsten went to the truck, lowered the tailgate to the ground as an incline, and grabbed the first crate, hoisting it over his left shoulder and carried it
inside. With one arm. His right arm stayed at his side; hand in his pocket, as it usually was.

“Oh, goodness,” the third woman in the group, maybe in her early 40s fanned herself, shaking her head, rocking back in her seat with a hand pressed over her heart. “Every
time, it gets me. Every time.”

“Stronger than an ox goat,” the first, said her voice husky.

“It’s a crying shame that he never takes off that hat. Can’t ever get a good look at his face,” said the youngest.

“Who cares about his face, darling? Look at that body. Six foot six of muscle,” the husky voiced woman said. "Could look like that General Khan for all I care."

They all laughed together again.

Indra wasn't sure how she felt, watching the quartet ogle and make increasingly lewd comments. On one hand she was fascinated. On the other…she was angered. Rexsten
was just trying to earn a living for his family. The long time he took off from working when Indra was unconscious put considerable strain on his ability to support them. He’d
been working almost non-stop lately. And for his efforts these women make light of his labors for their own personal satisfaction?

A rational part of her mind knew that men more or less did the same thing to other women, maybe some had done so to her as well. And that these women knew nothing
about Rexsten’s struggles. But the less rational part wasn’t so lenient and it was winning out.

It must have been showing on her face.

“Oh. My, my, my. Look at this,” the husky voiced one said. “I think we have company. And if you aren’t you a pretty one, dearie? And she looks pissed too. Are we horning in
on your crush, dearie?”

“Now, now, Chibaki,” the youngest chided with a little smack on her hand. She was more or less of an age with Rexsten’s mother. “No need to be rude. I don’t think I’ve seen
you around, young one. I’m Kim. I’ve already said Chibaki’s name. And that’s-“

The oldest snorted, not even glancing in Indra’s direction. “What, are we inducting her now? I thought this was just our little pre-work pastime? Are we starting a fan club
now?”

Kim frowned. “Jue.”

“What? You know I’m right. What does some young thing playing hooky need with a real man anyway? She wouldn’t even know what to do with it even if she got it.”

Indra's jaw clenched. “How long have you been doing this?” Indra asked them, her voice quiet. “Watching him. “

“Oh, look. It talks,” Jue muttered.

"As long as he's worked here, I think," Kim said.

Rexsten had come back out of the warehouse for another trip into the vehicle. The foreman was just inside the warehouse door and was giving Rexsten more barked
instructions. He looked upset about something Rexsten had done.

"And how long has that been?" Indra asked.

"And what business is that of yours, little girl?" Chibaki spat. "You have no right to come fluttering in our space and trying to lay claim to-"

Indra was on her feet before she ever consciously made the decision to do so. She didn't know what she was about to do, only that this old cretin would regret talking down
to her and ogling Rexsten like some slab of meat.

But she wouldn't ever know.

A flicker of motion from the air above drew her eyes back to Rexsten. He lurched forward, moving with agility Indra didn't know he had. He leapt over the foreman just as two
arrows slammed into his right arm and sent them both to the ground.

Someone screamed.

Arrows. Someone had just shot Rexsten with arrows.

And then Indra's vision filled turned white. And cold.
Logged

Eman5805
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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Posts: 4339


A Soulful Brother


« Reply #19 on: Dec 29, 2012 11:35 am »

-continued-
______________________

Mitsuro missed.

That overgrown hog-monkey, bastard made him miss. Mitsuro never missed. Never.

The bastard made him miss. But how? Did he hear the arrows coming? Could his ears be that strong? He couldn't have seen the glint, could he? No. The sun was at his back.
It should've struck the foreman with his back turned and driven him back into the warehouse and out of site. It was perfect. Everything was perfect. And no one could've
reacted in time to stop it, even if he did see it coming.

Except that someone had.

He could still put two shafts through his interfering spine. There might be no need. The anticoagulant the arrow was tipped in could make him bleed out if it struck a major
blood vessel. But that was unimportant. The important thing was to get away. Now.

The area was hot.

Mitsuro couldn't discount him being coherent enough to point the authorities in his general direction, in addition to anyone else he can't account for.

Mitsuro swore to himself that would find that man and the next arrows he takes would not hit his arms. But not today.

Mitsuro had set up three escape routes in advance. He immediately eliminated the first, going back the way he came up, through the skylight. Not only was it a precarious
climb down the warehouses rafters, but that would put him in a closed space with only three exits, which all opened to occupied areas and he was a scant 100 yards away.
He was far too close now. It would've been no issue if things had gone to plan. If he had made the kill cleanly, the body would not have been discovered for a few minutes,
giving him ample time to climb down, wipe off the face paint and slip away with the crowd. Now? Even if he had plenty time, he couldn't risk being seen. His face paint would
make identifying him difficult, but it wasn't all concealing. Going street level before he was at much further away was unacceptable.

The second one then.

He leapt to the next rooftop over. He ran a half dozen strides then leapt to the next one at a dead sprint. He did this five times. Moving to smoke stacks and those eyesore
phone line junctions. His legs were burning and he'd started coming short of breath when he got to the last roof.

It was slanted and shingled. His feet immediately started slipping. But he was within arm's reach of the top. He grabbed onto it and used it to stabilize himself and keep
scrambling forward. He stopped when he came to the smoke spewing chimney and climbed around to the other side of the roof and let go. He slid down the incline, dislodging
shingles as he went, and went off the edge. It was a short drop onto a stack of crates. The wagon the crates sat on wobbled unsteadily under him.

Then something flicked across his peripherals, streaking overhead.

Mitsuro turned, and nearly loosed an arrow, but he stayed his hand when there nothing to shoot. And, even more, he heard nothing. Couldn't be a person. No person could
leap onto those shingles without a sound. A bird?

Whatever it was, he couldn't let it stall him. He leapt to the ground below, a 10 foot drop.

This produce and meat shop was a rarity. It actually grew some of its own food right here in the middle of a large open air courtyard. The crates were there for when they
shipped out their surplus.

He moved through the stalks of corn and rows of carrots and other vegetables, then scrambled up to the door, dropped into a crouch, and pressed himself against the wall
next to it and sat as still as he could. The door swung open an instant later. The produce salesman's slow witted son shambled out. The door swung out. If things went as he
hoped, the door should conceal him.

He had his knife in hand in case things didn't.

The halfwit came through without stopping and went to the crates, looking for what caused the noise. Mitsuro slipped into the shop. It was a hallway empty save for a moldy
mop and bucket, a grimy sink, and a meat cooler.

"I don' think it t'was anythin'. Musta been a elephant rat or sumthin'," the oaf called out.

"Elephant rats? Again? Spirits help me," came a frustrated voice. There were footsteps.  Mitsuro felt a flash of panic. He went to the cooler. If weren't open, he might have to
kill the man and his son. A trail of bodies was the last thing he needed. It seemed fortune was on his side. The cooler was unlocked. He opened it and went in and shut it with
just a crack open.

The man was a spare, elderly man with a large tuft of hair under his chin. If he noticed the cooler he paid not much mind to it. He went out into the garden.

"My cabbages! Get off the damn patch!"

Mitsuro slowly let out his held breath and carefully slipped out of the cooler.

With the only two people that might catch him occupied looking for pests, getting out wasn't no problem. He found the side exit and saw the ostrich horse he road into the
area, still tied to the hitching post where he left it. It may be seen as a waste to some, given how he hadn't planned on leaving with it again, but it is a very subtle
countermeasure against witnesses to enter and leave an area in different means. The ostrich horse staying there would suggest that whoever road in on it is still around just
enough to not consider connecting it to a fleeing suspect. By the time anyone notices that no one has retrieved, dozens of ostrich horses would've come and gone. No one
would remember one specific rider.

Safely in the alley, Mitsuro took a brief moment to wipe his face paint off with a rag, checking himself with the reflection in his knife. He wasn't totally clean but it would do.
He pocked the rag, disassembled his bow, and stored it inside the quiver which he also closed up and zipped a flap closed, his motions hastened but smooth thanks to
countless repetition. He smudged some dirt and grime onto his face and upper arm. Coupled with his garments, he should appear to be just another dock worker. Confident he
left the alley into the view of the blissfully ignorant masses, a scant few strides across the street from a good escape.

And then every muscle in his body went rigid as a vicious cold pressed against. It was so dense and invasive it felt like a living thing, the cold. Mitsuro's instincts screamed
immediate danger.

He'd felt this exact feeling once before.

He was a child in the woods. He was on his first hunting trip with his father. It was supposed to be a secret. But Mitsuro had already known that at some point his father
would suddenly leave him and he'd have to find his way back to camp. Alone. Or be lost in the woods, unworthy to return back and to continue his path to stand with Yuyan.
It was his first rite. It was going to be the easiest.

He'd been shown how many times before, but his father was always with him.

But Mitsuro wasn't some worthless, commoner whelp. He was blessed with the purest, highest blood of the ancestors flowing throw his veins. He'd pass this without fail.

And he was doing well. He could've gotten back with his eyes closed. But he wanted to do more than just return. He wanted to return with his own dinner. And maybe make
his father worry a little. Or maybe just see if the unflappable man ever could worry about him. His father had told his son he shouldn't linger out too late in this area, but
never explicitly said why. Mitsuro had thought it was probably because it was easier to get lost. The woods can all look the same at a glance. But Mitsuro had known how to
keep track of where he was. He felt he could handle it.

He tracked down a long necked elk to what he thought was its den. He had his bow drawn and was ready to make the kill when something else did first.

It was dark, but the moon was just bright enough to make seeing the faintest of outlines possible. But Mitsuro never got a good look at what came for the elk. All Mitsuro
could remember was something big. And something fast. And it never made a sound. All that he heard was the final shrill cries of the elk as something disemboweled it, leaving
it thrashing helplessly on the ground. Then something hungrily feasted on fresh kill, flesh tearing, rending, and bones crunching loudly.

Young Mitsuro's eyes were wide, though he could hardly. But he mustered enough sense to back away, very slowly. He retreated as far back he could until he almost backed
a tree. Except this wasn't a tree.

The young boy froze.

He could remember the smell blood and offal. And how it turned his stomach.

It stank of death.

He could feel the presence looming over him. The body heat radiating through his chilled skin made the beast seem fever hot in comparison. And just barely he could hear it
breathing. Slow, steady, and strong.

Mitsuro could feel the creature's regard envelope him. Judging him, measuring him. It didn't seem impressed. Insulted even that he should intrude upon its meal. Perhaps even
angry.

Mitsuro himself didn't dare to breathe. No. Not dare. That implied a will. There was no will. He couldn't think. He only felt coldness all over him. His heart hammered like a drum
in his chest. Fear had stolen all sense from him. He didn't know what to do. Run? Turn around and loose an arrow? Scream in terror? All of those things seemed like nonsense
to him. It was immaterial. There was no action. No escape. He was about to die.

The thing would strike. Would he feel it? Would he die in agony? Either way his blood would flow and he would die right here in the woods, cold and alone.

He felt when the beast moved.

Only it didn't strike. He didn't die.

He saw a large form bound into the night and vanish, leaving him untouched. So swiftly and silently it was almost like it never existed.

It didn't kill him. It would've been easy, but no. It caught him. Could've dropped him then and there. But it spared him. He wasn't worth killing.

Mitsuro lost track of what happened after that. He somehow must have shambled back home, because next thing he knew his father was saying he had passed the rite.
Barely. He was disappointed that it took so long for him to return. Whenever Mitsuro must have told his father about what he saw. Possibly in some catatonic state. His
father told him that no such creature existed. But his mind must have blocked details over time out because even though he must have described what the creature looked
like, after wards he couldn't remember what it looked like. In time he wondered if he had imagined it all.

But hallucination or not, he'll never forget how it made him feel.

It was how he felt right now.

He was in the presence of something capable of disemboweling him and there wasn't anything he could do about it. It could spill his blood just as easily. The only difference
was it wasn't behind him this time. It was next to him.

Not even a foot away.

Actually there was another difference this time. Mitsuro wasn't a little boy anymore.

While still present and obdurate as before, he wasn't paralyzed with the fear.

There was an anger kindling in his guts. He could turn and face this presence this time. He wouldn't be cowed into some pathetic, mewling fit.

But all the same, Mitsuro had survived doing this work by trusting his instincts. And they told him the best thing was to pretend he hadn't noticed. He kept walking. His steps
were rigid and slightly uncertain, but his stride never broke. His muscles clenched his hands twitching to close around the bow he wasn't holding. Beads of sweat dripped
stingingly into his eyes. He felt his heart fluttering in his chest.

But he kept moving.

Flicking his gaze about him as if nothing of note had happened. But he still carefully avoided looking over his left shoulder.

His peripherals caught the barest impression of what was there. A single hooded figure. And as the feeling didn't go away, he knew the figure was watching him. There wasn't
as much a sense of regard this time. As much as open anger and hatred.

Like before Mitsuro had offended the creature in the night. What had he done to draw the ire this time?

There was only one thing it could be.

The failed assassination on the foreman. Did this figure know? Did he know what Mitsuro had done? Had his attempt on the foreman's life angered it? Was this wrath the result
of encroaching on another hunter's prey?

Was he about to die this time? Was it about to be his body lying on the ground, blood draining away?

Mitsuro had gotten across the street and was by the ostrich horse now. His fingers trembled, fumbling at the knot.

By the spirits, look at him. Cowering. He wasn't a boy anymore. He was capable. He was a true hunter now. And this was no mystery creature in the woods. It was just a
man in a hood in broad daylight. He wouldn't be attacked now. He couldn't be.

Mitsuro clung steadfastly to that thought and confidently undid the knot and slung himself up onto the saddle and turned the mount around, looking for the first time at the
figure.

He was gone. Nowhere in sight. Like he was never there in the first place.

Just like before...

A police wagon rumbled by, sirens blaring. The crowd started murmuring about the commotion several blocks down.

Mitsuro shook the memories of the past from his mind and clucked to the ostrich horse.

He made good his escape.
Logged

Eman5805
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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Posts: 4339


A Soulful Brother


« Reply #20 on: Dec 29, 2012 11:37 am »

-continued-
__________________________

How could I? How could I?! What was I thinking?   Indra thought furiously, chastising herself.

Indra shook with fear and adrenaline as she ran up to alley. Some workers had formed a loose ring around the scene. One of them saw Indra coming and held up a hand to
stop her.

"Whoa! Hold up there, sister. No one goes near the foreman until the cops get here. Back off." The man's voice gruff and a hard look on his face.

"My friend! Where is he? He was hurt."

The man frowned. "What? You friend? You know the boss? You're one of his girls?"

Indra was tall enough to see that Rexsten wasn't inside the circle and it didn't seem he was inside the warehouse, which was shut at the moment, though it hadn't been
before. Only other person was the foreman who was clutching at his arm and spitting out curses at a fast clip, fetched up against the wall.

"The...big guy?" She raised her hand. "This tall?"

"With the bandaged up arm? Tch. Da Mao," he growled over his shoulder at the other brutes with him.

Indra frowned. "Da Mao?"

"I hope he rots!" spat the foreman. "Breaks my damn arm then runs away!"

"Runs away?" Indra asked.

"Yeah," said the worker. He nodded up the way. It led toward the pier. "He got fed up with his job and tackled boss then took off down the street. Got have a mind to send a
guy after him to- Say, you know him?"

Indra didn't wait. She turned on her heel and sprinted off. The man shouted after her but he didn't give chase.

What is going on? Rexsten didn't break the foreman's arm. He saved his life. Did no one see the arrows sticking out of his arm?

Oh no. He must be in so much pain. Indra had to find him. She should've done something sooner. But instead she...she...

No, Indra. Focus on finding Rexsten.

The cobbled stone gave way to wood over gurgling water as she ran. She didn't know where to start looking. But she just kept going. She followed the pier down, passing by individual docks, and moored boats. Men and women looked up and saw her run by, curious but all were too busy to actually stop her. Twice she had to step over a small gap in the wood planks. At first glance it looked like just a gap in a very old pier but a keener eye could see that something had smashed through the boards. She couldn't place why but she knew she was heading in the right direction. So she kept going. She followed the pier all the way down to where there were no more ships. And the pier was at its oldest and most unstable.

It came to a rock shelf with a carved in staircase carved in an overlapping, zigzag pattern. She didn't know what lead her up the stairs but she started ascending them she saw how vines and other planet life had claimed it. And each successive set was more and more worn than the next. By the very top, which had forgone the zigzag style, and cut a path straight into the stone.

The area was thick with plant and small animal life. A leaf snake was slithering past, its scales giving it the false look of a pile of dead leaves and bark. All kinds of things were moving around as she walked through. None got close enough to identify. This early in the morning. Something must have already disturbed them to be making so much noise and activity.

Indra pushed through low hanging branches, some of which were very recently snapped and bent, including those half a head higher than her. At the site of this she pressed on. And eventually, the trees ended and the noise seemed to drop off. And though it was early autumn and the air had felt cool and damp, the air felt warmer and drier.

The ground was smoother here. Free of pebbles and vines. Though there were a fair amount of leaves. Here in this clearing, at the top of the shelf was a marble shrine and a broken sign post. The stone was weathered. And the sense of it, the particular architecture, it gave the impression of being very, very old. The shrine had an open back. Visible through the leaves and brush behind it, was the water. But Indra bet you couldn't even see this place from the water.

Indra slowed to a walk and let her hood down. It was too warm, somehow to keep it on, and also she could hear better without it. Someone was inside.

Indra slowly approached. Rexsten was sitting inside, pulling at his right arm he pulled. Then pulled twice. Three times. The arrow came free with a grunt of pain and flicked it away; it landed point first into the ground and snapped. Indra stared at the arrow. She felt a mix of emotions. Anger, relief at finding him, but mostly sadness. She brushed those feelings aside. She didn't think she deserved to be here, to face him, but this wasn't about what she wanted. It was about helping a friend.

Indra stepped forward, took a deep breath. "Rexsten."

Rexsten's hat covered head snapped up quickly. "Indra?"

"Rexsten, thank goodness, are you alright?" She started forward.

He held up a hand, showing an emotion Indra hadn't seen cross his eyes. Fear. Fear mixed with...shame? "Stop. Stay back. Please."

"But you're hurt."

He held his right arm, looking away. He didn't answer for a moment. "I am fine," he said calmly and quietly.

Indra blinked. His voice didn't have even the slightest bit of strain behind it. "But I saw you get shot. The arrows..."

Rexsten took a slow breath. And waited another moment before answering. "They did not hit anything crucial. I am fine. I promise you, Indra. Do not worry. I will be okay."

Was he trying to spare her the worry? That arm was already bandaged. Maybe he really wasn't in danger after all. But after what she did, could she really do anything less than trust his word? "Okay. If you say you will be fine, I will believe you."

"Thank you."

Indra winced. She didn't deserve thanks. She settled down on the steps leading into the shrine, back facing Rexsten. She sat for a long time before she spoke.

"Rexsten?"

"Yes?"

She took a deep breath. "I need to apologize. For what I did."

It was a moment before Rexsten said anything. Then he said, his words somehow measured and precise, "You were the one who shot the arrows?"

That question sent a jolt through her. She whipped around. Rexsten was regarding her from within the shrine, looking with a saddened expression in his eyes. "What?" she
sputtered. "No. Never!"

He blinked once. "Oh." And then sudden relief flooded over him. A line appeared in his brow. "Then...what are you apologizing to me for?"

She looked down at her hands. "I'm apologizing for what I did after you got shot. And before that too, I guess." She shook her head. "The one who shot you. I think I saw
someone escaping over the rooftops so...I stood there. You one on hand. Him on the other. And when I should've run to help you without even the slightest hesitation, I ran
after him. It was wrong of me. So stupid of me."

"Did you catch him?" he asked quietly. There was more to the question. Indra was sure of it. And it stirred up an ugly thought. She fought it down.

She sighed, frustrated. "No. As I ran after him, my body seemed to know which way to go. How to track him down. And," her hands clenched into fists, "all I wanted to do
was make him pay. I wanted him to hurt. I wanted him to suffer. I wanted to hear him scream."

Indra felt her voice rising with every word. She stopped.

By the spirits, what do I look like right now? Some kind of foaming maniac? Just who the hell am I?

Her vision started to blur, as she kept talking, "But I caught up to him, but I...I let him go. I got close enough to do whatever I wanted to him but...I couldn't. A voice
whispered to me from the back of my head that I couldn't hurt him. It would make me no better than him. It was only then did I realize that...that I'd abandoned you."

A tear rolled down her face.

"You who has given so much for me. And I couldn't be bothered to see if you were alright before I ran off like that. I'm so sorry. The things I feel? The things I wanted to do.
What kind of monster am I?" Another tear rolled down, then another. Then she was crying into her arms, folded over her huddled up knees.

She didn't know how long she sat like that, when she felt a warm presence next to her.

"Well. I do not know any monsters," Rexsten told her. "I know you. I do not reckon you are a monster."

She didn't raise her head. "But instead of helping you I..."

"Ran to stop Chou's assassin. You were motivated to...avenge me. It may not be the most noble of intentions. But I do not think a monster would stop. A monster would go
through with those feelings. A monster would abandon his principles for some self-satisfaction. A monster would have left and not cared about the consequences so long as
he got what he wanted."

Indra found herself staring at Rexsten.

He sounded...angry. But not at Indra. Not at her at all. He wasn't even speaking to her right now. His eyes were somewhere else. But she couldn't see them. His head was
turned and his large hat and locks of his hair were obscuring them.

Rexsten seemed to notice, he lifted his head and cleared his throat awkwardly, a deep rumbling sound. "Yes. You are no monster, Indra," he said quietly, his eyes avoiding
hers.

Ashe she looked at him, she was struck, again, by just how large he was for his age. For anyone's age actually. Even crouching down. But the look on his face was too boyish
and uncertain. He seemed to want to put a reassuring hand on her shoulders, but couldn't commit himself to doing it. So sheepishly unsure.

But one thing was certain. His heart was unquestionable. He wasn't even slightly upset with her. She shook her head. If someone like him could forgive her. Maybe she could
forgive herself.

But first she needed to get everything off her chest.

"I also need to apologize for something else."

His attention immediately returned to her. "Is there?"

"Yes. The only reason I could see what happened was I left the house without permission and followed you against your will..."

Confusion wrinkled his brow. "Without my permission? Oh. Did I make you think you were our prisoner? Or...I don't know the right word." He grew concerned. A little like a boy
that was caught stealing. He started to bow, but so close, crouched so awkwardly he nearly brained her in the head with his hat and settled for a curt nod. "Forgive me. I
should have told you. You can leave any time you want."

   Indra blankly stared for a moment, and then she laughed. And pressed her heel to her forehead, leaning her head against the shrine. "Oh spirits. Now I've got you
apologizing to me.   Every time I go out it seems like something horrible happens. Can I do anything right?"

"Ah. You ran down the archer well enough, I reckon," Rexsten replied sincerely.

She laughed again. "No. I mean...nothing. Never mind."

"Okay." He sounded relieved. This was the most Indra had ever heard him talk at once. She found she rather liked hearing his voice.

A siren sounded off in the distance. Indra looked back towards the docks. "Do you think you're in any trouble? Your boss blames you for breaking his arm and the police are
surely there by now. They were right behind me when I went back.

He shook his head promptly. "No. Cho does not like police. He fears that they will discover his smuggling operation and arrest him. I do not know what he will say, but I do not
believe he will send the authorities after me. Or you."

Ah-ha. Indra had suspected something suspicious about that man. But..."Wait. You knew he was a smuggler?"

His gaze dropped, ashamed. "And a fence for stolen goods and stolen people. As well as being part of a larger criminal organization."

Indra nodded, understanding. "When did you find out?"

"One week ago. I had worked and never complained I was trying to work out the best way to quit without revealing that I knew. It was one of the things I'd overheard. Him
talking about hurting people to get what he wants. If he found out, someone close to me could have gotten hurt while he or his comrades tried to get me." His eyes hardened
for a flash. "Like my mother..."

"And you saved him from the arrows anyway."

He turned silent.

"You did the right thing." She reached out and placed her hand on his. So large, and rough. Like he'd been working his whole life, yet he could have been younger than her. Or
older. She still wasn't sure how old she even was yet.

Rexsten met her eyes. He didn't say it, but she could see the gratitude in his eyes. "You too."

"How did you see the arrows in time? It happened too fast."

His frown touched more parts of his face than his eyes and brow. His mouth twisted slightly too. "I heard something, like a girl-- like something whistling from up above me.
When I looked for who was there, the next thing I knew my arm was moving. And...that is it."

Did he actually hear  the arrows? That shouldn't be possible. "Wow. It was an amazing thing. I bet Darlo would've been impressed." Or jealous, she added silently.

"Violence always impresses him," he said, his voice almost resembling a displeased mutter.

So. That's why he doesn't like Darlo very much. They are almost polar opposites. When she was nearly attacked by thugs and Rexsten saved her, he'd tried to avoid a fight
as much as possible, even when they were trying their best to hurt him. But when Darlo had gotten in virtually the same situation with her, he hadn't hesitated to start
throwing elbows and knees at his opponents. It even seemed that Darlo once fought professionally. What an intriguing pair these two were.

Indra rose, dusting herself off. "Well, care to walk me home, Mr. Hero?"

There was a shine in his eyes as the shy but warm smile touched them, but not his lips. He never seems to move his mouth a great deal. Indra couldn't help but wonder why
that is.

He rose too and started towards the stairs. "Forgive me but I am no hero. I only try to help when I can."

"How heroic of you to say." Indra glanced back at the shrine. "It doesn't look like anyone comes here. How do you know of this place?"

Rexsten answered over his shoulder without stopping. "I found it as a child one day by accident. It...is a good place to think," he said quietly.

Indra frowned "I see." She'd just about gotten back to the roughly cut walkway when her foot nudged something half buried in dirt and decaying leaves. She reached down
and brushed the dirt and grime away and found the other half of the broken sign. Written on the wood which had once, many, many years ago been intricately carved and
polished in just barely intelligible writing:

The Shrine of Repentance

Earthbent by Hero of the Earth Kingdom

Avatar Rexsten
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Eman5805
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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Posts: 4339


A Soulful Brother


« Reply #21 on: Dec 29, 2012 11:38 am »

-continued-
_______________________

The room was too casually adorned with soft, comfortable furniture to be an office, but polished table, the lighting and total lack of reading material was too business-like to
be study, and the snarling maws of various taxidermized beasts adorning the walls added just the right amount of tempered aggression. Mitsuro could see himself having a
place like this one day. A practical hunter.

“Thank you for coming. Have a seat,” Ryoku said, gesturing to the chair opposite him. “Like something to eat? Drink?”

“Your men didn’t take my weapons, this time,” Mitsuro said as he eyed the crime baron. “What’s this about, sir?”

Ryoku nodded, smiling fondly. “Yes, I can see it now. Blunt but just respectfully short of being insolent. Especially when a mission doesn't go as planned,” he murmured. “You
truly take after Jimmu.”

Mitsuro sucked in a breath, as his eyes narrowed and his hand twitched towards his combat knife. “How do you know that name?”

Ryoku’s smile deepened, apparently unconcerned about Mitsuro being mere moments from going at his throat. “Peace, young archer. Your father was a respected ally,” he
told him. “As close a friend as I had back in those days.”

Mitsuro shook his head, still thinking of going for his blade. “Friend? My father didn’t make friends.”

 “No, he certainly did not. He had a way with making enemies, in fact. But I can assure you, I'm not trying to con you when I say that your father helped me out in a number
of ways even behind the usual contracts here and there. But it was there, underneath all the subtle threats and brooding, he knew we could rely on our strengths to mutually
benefit on another. He trusted me, and I him.”

Mitsuro frowned. His father was like that. He cared little for socializing. His take on parenting went only as far as he felt required. He didn’t worry about getting to know
Mitsuro as a person. To him, Mitsuro was the next in the clan line, someone to be taught the ways of the Yuyan and to take up his bow. And Mitsuro respected that. It was
better that way. Jimmu wouldn’t have been the leader of the Yuyans if he was into weak minded coddling of children like other people were. The world was a cold and brutal
place. Jimmu made sure Mitsuro knew that from the first moment Mitsuro's arms were strong enough to string a bow.

The Yuyans were a proud clan once. But the Avatar disapproved of them and their secretive and brutal methods. They were forced to disband. But Yuyans served for life.
Mitsuro was just a child, but he saw how losing them broke his father. Removed all meaning to his existence. And his mother…he didn’t waste much thought on her.

There were some things it was better to pretend you didn’t know.

“If you knew my father, why didn’t you say anything when we first met? You tried to have me mutilated just to spite Jung Su.”

Heavy regret cleared away the fondness from Ryoku's expression. “For that I must sincerely apologize. I didn’t know who you were then. I didn’t realize Jimmu had any
children. Though I should have figured. I mean, did you see the way he treated women?"

In point of fact, Mitsuro had. A trip to a wh*** house at age eleven substituted for The Talk. “I'm the only child he ever claimed and trained as a Yuyan. Half-siblings beyond
that isn't my concern.”

Ryoku grunted with a nod. “And he wasn't the type to speak of himself. While I did recognize the Yuyan air about you, it didn't mean a lot.

Mitsuro snorted. "Yes. There's no shortage of Yuyan pretenders are to be found these days."

"And it wasn’t until this morning, and the mission after that I knew for certain. You were the real deal.”

It was as Mitsuro thought. Ryoku fancies a well appropriated disguise when it suits him. Like a drunken vagabond passing just close enough to see what's going on.

Wasn't good form to let on. “But I failed. My target is still lives, and I was nearly compromised.” The memory made his blood boil. He had half a mind to track down that
bandage armed man right now and putting a shaft through his neck, but he wouldn’t let emotions get the better of him. Him and the foreman.

And then there was the figure in the hood...if that person even existed to begin with.

“Your father got mad when someone made him miss too. Don’t worry about it. Our backbiting, friend Mr. Chou will be dealt with at another time.”

Mitsuro set his jaw. “If it’s all the same to you, I insist that I-“

“No,” Ryoku spat, slashing his hand, the motion leaving sizzling waves of heat in the air. “The authorities are involved now. The chance is past us, boy. That is all there is to
it. Forget about him. He means nothing long term at any rate.”

“If he’s so inconsequential to any long term plans of yours, why bother arranging his death at all?”

 “Many things are in motion, Mitsuro. Constant flux. Opportunities can come and go at a moment's notice. Things change"

Mitsuro half smiled. “Funny. It almost sounds like you're making excuses."

Ryoku scowled. “Being too familiar was one of your father's less amicable traits. You'd do well to-”

There was a knock at the door.

“Enter,” Ryoku said, casting an irritated glance at the admittedly rugged handsome young man walking in. “This had better be worth intruding, Senh”

“I’d hope so, sir. It’s…” He looked at Mitsuro. “It’s our prisoner. He’s not talking, and we’re fast reaching the deadline.”

Ryoku sighed and took a sip from his cup. “Did you try breaking the fingers one by one?”

“He just laughed between the cries of pain. Didn’t see much point after we got through three. He’s got a colorful tongue for a supposed quarryman.”

Ryoku snorted. “Not his  fingers, you idiot. He has a wife and kid, doesn’t he?”

Mitsuro didn’t miss the flicker of shock that Senh tried to hide. “Yes. She’s a maid and they have a 3 year old boy.”

Ryoku rolled a hand, giving him an expectant look.

Senh didn't answer.

 “Well? Get them. See how colorful his tongue is when he sees his dear wife in chains and he’s heard her bones crack." He regarded Senh for a moment. "Don't bring the little
brat in if you can stomach all the crying. I shouldn’t need to tell you this. Get out and stop wasting time.”

“I’ll get it done, sir,” Senh mumbled then left.

Mitsuro watched him go. Then sniffed. “Hard to find good help?”

Ryoku shook his head. “No. Good help is easy to find if you know where to look. They’re just harder to keep. The smart ones never stay loyal for long, you see. There are only
three kinds of men that want to work under you. There’s...Bah. You don't want to hear this."

"No, by all means. Continue. Sounds interesting."

Ryoku chuckled. "Very well. You see, there's the stupid ones that admire you. Like dear ol’ Senh there. Talented in combat a bit, but there’s not an ambitious bone in his
body. The damn fool cares more about getting women in bed than how to survive in a ruthless world. It’ll get him killed someday.”

Mitsuro grunted. He knew of his fair share of men like that.

“There’s the mercs looking for security, both financial and personal. They’ll do whatever you say so long as you keep paying them. They’re like the dumb ones. No ambition
either, but brutal. They’re a dime a dozen. Though, unfortunately, not literally. They won't take you far in this business though. Too easily swayed and bought.”

“And then you have the smart ones that want to be  you, to take your place someday. They pick your brain, get close to you, but once they’re either afraid of being
removed for being too smart, or think they’re ready to strike off on their own, they either turn on you or run away. Either way they betray you. I once had a spearman like
that, Van Lu-something or other, worked under me for a spell back in Ba Sing Se years ago. A disgraced Earth Kingdom soldier, I think. Sharper than a Kumaran blade, and a
true terror with a blade on a stick, but he expected too much, did too much too fast.

"And his mouth never stopped with the yammering. That kind of backbiting to your contemporaries makes your men hate each other because some like him and others don’t,
and by extension it affects performance. And that affects your bottom line. Couldn’t have that. Tried to remove him, be discreet about it, but…he was too smart for that as
well.” Ryoku frowned. “He was an unusual one, that spearman. The smart ones usually know there’s a such thing as being too competent, but he didn’t care. I thought he
could’ve bucked the trend and stayed for a long time, but his mind was unreadable.”

Mitsuro took a minute to absorb that. “And which was my father?”

Ryoku smiled. “He was neither. He never worked under me. With. Your father was a great man. He didn’t deserve what came down on him.”

Mitsuro walled off himself from thinking on it. He had already anguished and stewed over it. He already knew what he wanted to do and which people he’d make answer.
There was nothing to be had from stirring up what had already settled. He’d let those emotions run their course already. He was done with it. “No. He did not,” he said simply,
with finality.

Ryoku accepted that. He seemed to come to a decision. “We’ve hashed out the pleasantries enough, my boy. As I’m sure you might’ve guessed I didn’t ask you here just to
reminisce about events were barely remember.”

Mitsuro regarded the crime baron, saying nothing, giving away nothing.

“There’s many things at work in this world, Mitsuro. And though most people out there,” he nodded his towards the door, indicating the city and beyond, “don’t realize it but
we are coming to the apex. The zenith. The highest point. And now…” He smiled bitterly. “You’re the archer. You know full well what happens after something hits the high
point.”

“It falls.”

Ryoku’s eyes hardened. “And fall it will. Hard. If certain steps aren’t taken, we’ll hit the ground and shatter like glass. And to take those steps I need people I can trust. You
dad and I had history. It was the glory days. But I won’t ask you to be your father.”

“What are you asking me?”

“To decide for yourself. The work you and I do could change the end result. Give it some thought. And let me know. But don’t take too long.”

Thunder rumbled in the distance.

“Storms are coming.”

Mitsuro sat for a moment at that. Then he got up, nodded gravely and left.


Senh’s legs finally gave out and he fell face first into a rain puddle.

“You freaking psychopaths!” he spat, breathless and gagging on water. He kept trying to crawl away, but even that appeared to be a labor.

“Yup. And just like that, the chase is over,” Baku tittered. "How sad."

“Oh poo. Why are cute ones always so frail?” Ivy pouted.

“Cut the man some slack. It’s hard to run when it feels like your muscles are melting.”

“You’re dead when Ryoku hears about this! You hear me? Dead! I’ll-“ He broke off when started in a fit of violent and wet sounding coughs. Something black started oozing
from his mouth. He stopped crawling altogether and began seizing up. His body contorting painfully as his organs began to fail. His skin already began to green and his veins
stood out black against his skin around his lips. "No! No! No! I...I didn't sign up for this...I didn't..."

Baku let out a whistle. “What is that? Black poppy milk or something?”

Ivy let out a satisfied smile. “Mm-hmm.”

Baku’s perpetual lizard grin vanished as he looked at the mad girl with genuine surprise. “Oh.”

Milk of the black poppy was one of the slowest killing toxins around. There were far cleaner deaths. Like impalement or burning alive.

"How'd you swing that?"

“In my lip gloss. Took a while to build up the immunity. The tinniest of distilled drops in every morning glass of tea for eighteen months. Every midday I’d spit up blood for 30
minutes. Each day a little less than before. Good times, the experience. Ah, yes. Good times.”

“And I thought you just liked taking your sweet time in the bathroom cleaning up.”

“We can discuss this never. More pressing things going on right now,” Mitsuro said emerging from the shadows. “Give me the white thistle seed.”

Ivy pulled a small vial from her exposed cleavage and dropped it into his hands as he walked past.

Senh eyes widened then hardened into hatred filled glare. “Y-you! Mitsuro, when-"

“Drop the threats, Senh. I don’t have the patience for them and neither do you have the time. First symptom is the paralysis. Your tongue becomes a limp piece of wet meat
and your lips will numb. And you won’t be able to talk. I'll leave the rest up to your limited imagination, though you won't need it. You'll see it all firsthand. ” I held up the vial.
The tiny seed clinked around in the vial. “I want information. Give it to me and I’ll save you hours of puking blood and guts.”

It didn’t take long for him to break. Senh’s eyes fixated on the vial. Mitsuro saw the resolve drain away along with the color as more blackened veins snaked across his face.

Mitsuro had to keep the disgust off his face as he stared down at the whimpering man. “Good. The man I was sent to kill. I know he was a smuggler, but what was he really
doing and why would Ryoku not worrying about him living?”

Five minutes later Mitsuro had what he wanted. Pathetic. He'd expected more from a man under Ryoku's employ to so willingly cough up the information. And so thoroughly

Senh started wheezing and clutching at his chest, more black fluid coming out with each cough. “There. That’s all I got, you bastard. Give me the damn vial.”

Mitsuro reached out to Senh’s trembling hand.

Then dropped the vial on the ground and crushed it under his foot.

If he weren’t already pale, Senh would’ve blanched. Baku started snickering.

“No! What are... you doing?" he wheezed."I gave you what you wanted. You said you’d-“

“Save you hours of suffering,” Mitsuro said. He turned and walked away. “And I meant it. You and Ivy were just getting to know each other. I won’t keep you. Treat him
good.”

Ivy let out a peal of laughter, jumping up and down, clapping her hands like a giddy schoolgirl. “Oh you are too good to me, Mitsy baby!"

Mitsuro gave no special care to the way the rain was her outfit plaster to her body or the way her eyes shone. Or how similar her casual saunter up to Senh more than
resembled a wood leopard stalking its prey. He couldn’t shake the gravity Ryoku spoke with.

It was hopelessly cliché, but it felt right. A storm was coming. And somehow, he knew that the person in the hood had something to do with it.
Logged

Eman5805
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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Posts: 4339


A Soulful Brother


« Reply #22 on: Dec 29, 2012 11:39 am »

-continued-
_________________________

The Intrepid One pinched his brow. "You are supposed my ears, Tacit. You are just supposed to observe. You cannot, under any circumstances, interfere."

"I know that, sir, but you said it yourself, it was better for the foreman to live. I thought you were like... subtly suggesting that I should prevent it if at all possible," Taciturn
said.

He suppressed a sigh. "Your greatest skill is hearing, and yet you expect me to believe you can't listen? Do not take me for a fool. You've been doing good work for me, Tacit.
But these are high stakes games we're playing. The highest. You are good, but don't think if you mess up you can't get caught and eliminated. We are dealing with powerful
people.

"I understand that, but please..."

"No, you don't understand. You are good. One of my best agents, but you are young. You too frequently take liberties on the missions. You aren't free to do whatever you
want."

She muttered something about her uncle that he didn't quite carry over the line.

He snorted. "Maybe I should give your uncle a call. I bet he'd have a lot to say."

That got her attention. "No! Please! I'm sorry, sorry, sorry! I won't do it again! I swear," she said loudly. Luckily he'd anticipated that and wisely held the phone a good foot
away from his ears.

The Intrepid One didn't say anything, he wondered if she could somehow hear the flat look on his face through the phone line. It wouldn't surprise him.

"I promise this time," she said with chagrin.

He sighed. "Luckily, this will be the last mission for a while now anyway. Keep your head down and stand by. I'll contact you when everything is ready, Tacit."

"Alright. And...Uh. One question before you hang up?"

That was new. She never asked anything before. "Go ahead."

"Um. Is my name Tacit or Taciturn?"

He thought for a second, then said, "Yes." And hung up. He smiled grimly. The joke might keep her off balance for a moment, but it was a real issue.

She was valuable in more ways than she realized. She really shouldn't be doing this. But damn it, he needed her. She could do things no one else on the planet could, save
for maybe one. She was the perfect asset. But that value also meant she should be kept safe from harm. Not thrust to the forefront like he had her doing.

Take it to the cave, it was so much to deal with, he thought, rubbing at his face, feeling wearier by the second.

He heard the door open behind him.

"What am I going to do with her? I think it might be time to cut her loose."

"Know what I think?"

"Hm?" The Intrepid One looked over his shoulder.

Then his long time lover and closest accomplice slugged him in his one intrepid face and knocked him on his one intrepid ass.

"I think you've become a manipulative son of a b***h!" she snarled.

The Intrepid One felt a chipped tooth and blood in his mouth. "Ungh. Right under the eyepatch. Something on your mind?"

"Arrested?" She held up a newspaper. "My sister was arrested? You don't even have the balls to tell me? I have to read about it in a damn newspaper?" She balled it up
and threw it at him.

It bounced off his face. "Because," The Intrepid One said, working his intrepid jaw, wondering how badly it was intrepid broken. It turned out it wasn't at all. But it hurt like
the cave. "I haven't figured out the best way to help her. If at all."

"So you don't tell me she's in jail? Damn it, it's my sister!" She threw up her arms.

"Don't have to tell me twice."

She stalked to the storage and grabbed a duffel bag and stared filling it with things.

 He groaned as he got to his feet again."Look. I'm sorry this happened. I'm sorry I kept it from you."

She shot a homicidal glare at him. "Okay. Yeah. I'm sorry you caught me trying to keep it from you. But you can't go."

She barked out a scathing laugh. "Watch me."

"No. I mean I can't let  you go."

She stopped packing and, very slowly, turned towards him.  "Think really carefully about what you say next. I still love you. But right now? If I'm forced to choose between
you and her again. You won't like what happens next."

He stood there, looking at the woman he loved, teetering on the edge of violence. He stood there and looked at her with no expression on his face. "I remember that look.
You had a rock in your hand the last time you looked at me like that, didn't you?"

She didn't answer. She looked down at her balled fists, skin split open on one of the knuckles where she slugged him.

"You'd just lost your sister once. You're afraid of losing her again. And both times, it seems like I'm the one who got in the way."

Silence.

"I'm afraid too. I've been afraid every day for so long now. The weight of the whole world is on my shoulders. I was just a man and a spear then. And I barely survived.

"You said you think I've become something? A manipulative son of a b***h? Well, guess I did something right. Because to hold it all together because I have to be more than
who I was. I've had to make a lot of decisions. But I'll be damned if I they weren't the hard but necessary kind. I've seen people I tried to work with, to assist, to help me,
I've seen them ground into nothing. Like..." He looked at the phone and let out a sad sigh. "Lover Boy's dead."

She looked up from the duffel, her face paler than it usually was. "What? You mean Senh?"

He nodded. "It just came down the wire this morning. He was found floating in the river. Poisoned with cuts all over his body. Some sick bastard tortured him until the poison
killed him. I don't even know if it was Them or something else."

"I'm sorry."

"Not as sorry as his kid in the South Pole is going to be. He was a womanizer, but he was also a good father too. A talented actor and a stronger waterbender. He just
needed to play himself this time." It was a few moments before he could add soberly, "I told him it was low risk. And that he'd be able to help stop people took his kid's
mother away."

He looked back at his lover, his unofficial wife, the woman he cared for more deeply than he ever thought he could care. He would rather let himself be feed to a 900 foot tall
killer beetle then let her be hurt. He as just glad he didn't have some kid to worry about too.

"There's just us now. You. Me. Tacit. Legs. Little Brain. I guess you can count Ol' Black Blade too.

"I'm trying to keep us all together as best I can. But it seems like no matter what I do, I can't stop it. No matter how many allies I try to muster. I keep getting cut off. Your
sister? She's mixed up in this too, yes. She does deserve our help.  But something happened. I'm not sure what or why. If you go there, I have to go with you. Together.
That's how we said we'd finish this. But I also know a trap when I see one. If we go rushing up there to free her, it'll spring closed taking all of us down with it and then what
happens?"

He stopped for a long moment. Letting the dark thoughts roll around. He wouldn't fight them off. They needed to run rampant through his mind for a while.

She met his eyes. There was fear there. Fear and anger. But also understanding.

"I do know Lin is alive. And I think she'll stay that way. And I know, I know. 'I think' isn't too reassuring to you. But it's all I've got right now. I don't have a sense of what's
going on. But jumping into the thick of it right now could be disastrous. We have to wait. But she's not alone. She has her own allies too. As much as it pains me. Right now, I
don't think there's much we can do to help her. But we are in this together."

She nodded. "Yes, we are."

"So if you really want to risk it, if you really think we can help her. Then you need only say so, and we'll go and do what we can and hope for the best."

The moment lingered. Only then did she start to calm her breathing, to her hammers for fists into softer metal sheets good for slapping. It was a hard thing he was asking of
her.

But yes, she was right. He was manipulative. He'd played his hand too well. It wasn't even fair really.

She rubbed at her temples and sat down on the bed and almost seemed to shrink into it. "No. You're right. As usual, you're right. I...it's just...so hard to stand around and do
nothing."

The Intrepid One sat down next to her and wrapped his intrepid arm over her obdurate shoulders. He nodded grimly. "You could always try punching me again. You like
abusing the handicapped, after all."

Siyo laughed softly. "Handicapped. Why? Because you only have half your vision or half a brain?"

Van Tsu-Yan, alias The Intrepid One (patent pending) thought on it for a moment. "Yes."
Logged

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