|More from BlackMonkey||Adventure||PG (Parental Guidance)||Good||Here|
Previously on The Avatar Rhythm
|"Shinji and Takumi walked down the Polar Revolution's main hall with trays of dinner, sad. A week ago, the place was filled with messy men and women of all ages. Now, there were just a couple crippled warriors in the corners of the room. And it was silent."|
|— From Eleven Hundred|
|"If you can supply us with eleven hundred gold coins, we will stop the executions and go back to our normal punishment policies. If you can't, we will kill every man, women, and child until they give us what we want. You can end this."|
|— Markale to Shirou in Eleven Hundred|
|""Sadly, you're correct," Akio stated. "The Procession will strike and it will be your burden. You have started this and now you must finish it." |
"What do you mean?"
|— From The Third Seminar|
December 3, 2011
This is Chapter 34 in The Avatar Rhythm Series
A low rumbling and bumping filled the quiet morning of Blizzard Point. None of citizens appreciated the sounds in the early, dark morning hours, but in due time, they'd be thanking it.
Rolling down the main road of the town was a wagon, an old rickety pile of moving wheels and animal skin, frost shooting out of the cracked machinery. Sitting on it were Akio and Shirou, shivering.
"I don't know if I really want to do this," Shirou said, gazing at the barren landscape of the town. There was a complex of houses, then a couple large centers across the street. Other than a few signs here and there, that was it. Around the small village was miles and miles of snowy tundra.
Akio seemed to get his thoughts. "They need help, Shirou. There are more people crammed into these shacks then you'd think."
"Is that supposed to make me feel better?"
Akio chuckled, pulling a rope on the side of the wagon, bringing it to a halt. "The Procession is scheduled to arrive at dawn, which should be in about an hour or two. I'll try to get back to Glacier Cove to bring in some back up forces to help you later in the evening."
Shirou made a noise somewhere in between a grunt and a chuckle. "Why didn't you bring them with us now?"
"When The Procession see just you as their opponent, they'll fight. Once they're fighting, they won't think twice about attacking the Water Tribe military. You can do this, Shirou."
"I know you can." And with that, Akio jumped onto his wagon, starting to steer it away. "Don't give up, Shirou!" he called out. "And would you mind telling Markale that I think he's greedy pig?"
As the chieftain's chuckles faded into the bleak landscape of the wilderness, Shirou's gazed around. All around him were thick clouds of snow beating against his face. If The Procession ever came here, he wasn't so sure that he'd be able to beat them. Even if he could withstand the cold, he'd have to withstand fate. And fate was the hardest obstacle of all.
Far below Blizzard Point, the whole Polar Revolution was huddled around a campfire in a low icy room of their dying base, the smoke warming them, escaping through a narrow shaft in the ceiling. Asaki was the only one in a chair, gazing at her comrades who were bunched up next to each other, sweaty and annoyed. One greasy warrior, practically being sat on by another, spoke up through the grumbling rebels. "When can we leave this place? It's torture."
Asaki scowled. "The Polar Revolution is proud and strong. We won't leave until the Water Tribe is the way it used to be."
The man shook the sweat off his face. "Yeah right. Look around you. Do you see any hardcore rebels here?" Others nodded.
Before anyone else could speak, Takumi stood up from the crowds. "When you joined us you were destined to come to this. We are rebels! We don't whine! If you aren't tough enough to live here you can leave!"
The last man scoffed at this. "We are tough enough to be living here! If we're tough enough to be dying here - well, that's another story."
"What do you mean?" Asaki asked.
A different rebel sat up, wiped the layer of sweat of his lips, and spoke. "Ever since The Battle at Glacier Cove, everything has been falling apart. The fight took away over half of our population, scarring us, throwing us into a world we couldn't have imagined a month ago. Our fishermen and huntsman who used to get us food are in prison. Our engineers and craftsman who kept this fortress standing are in the hospital. And the warriors who actually knew how to fight are dead. As an organization, we are now broken."
"No," Asaki stated. "In this base, we are broken. We are at the edge of disbanding, and are holding the ceiling above us up. Even if we leave, only this base will die. Determination has held us together through the darkest times since I founded the group years ago. It's the heart of The Polar Revolution."
"So if we stay in this base we'll survive?" Shinji, among the mass of rebels, grunted. Asaki looked at him. "Yes. If we stay here, we will survive. But we don't want to stay here! We need to make a difference! We will! This ice is going to break on us anyway, so we mine as well be out of here by the time that happens."
"What do you mean?"
"The Polar Revolution will disband," Asaki stated. "But we won't go down without a fight. We need to make a final dent into this corrupted society. Into the Northern Water Tribe Royal Palace."
The crowds gasped. "The Royal Palace? How do you expect to do that? That's heavily guarded and if you get caught we'll be dead meat!"
This did not phase Asaki. "We've got one weapon that the Royal Palace will never expect. Shinji, hand me the Venomsprout. We're leaving at dawn."
Meanwhile, Shirou stood in the icy tundra off of Blizzard Point in his wool coat, clenching his sword tightly. He stood his ground with beady, focused eyes. What would he do if The Procession came? What would happen? Would he die? Was this going to end in his favor? Was destiny cooperating today?'
A sudden movement in the horizon broke Shirou's train of thought.
There, far out in the tundra, a thin line had appeared seemingly out of the snow, and was growing.
It wasn't growing out of the snow, though.
It was coming towards him.
It was still a ways away, but Shirou knew this was the army of tax collectors he had to face. His time was ticking. Ever so slowly. He said his prayers. His last words. This was a battle that he knew was going to happen, he knew it was going to happen since he was little. And whether or not he knew where it was going to be, or who he was going to fight, he knew that he'd have to fight against everything he'd ever had to win.
The Procession stopped marching by the time they were about fifty feet away from Shirou. There were around a hundred of them dressed in thin green armor, and in front was an ornate metal carriage. Out of it, stepped Markale, onto the snowy ground. He looked around at the barren landscape, shaking his head in dismay.
"Markale," Shirou stated, getting the commissioner's attention. "Leave Blizzard Point. Take your army away or I will fight."
He laughed. "My god Shirou, you really are getting stupid. You're wanted, and walk into Glacier Cove at a huge battle where The Procession and the Water Tribe authorities are. Then I capture you, and you escape miraculously from a mysterious individual. Then I want to kill you, and you walk out of your hideout right in front of me! And I don't know about you, but my men have been training for a fight like this for years. You aren't going to win."
"So what do you want me to do?"
"Just step aside and watch in horror as I kill anyone in this village who doesn't pay their taxes. I'll tell them whose to blame.
Markale smiled, and raised his hand up high in the air. "Men! Get this over with quickly."
Suddenly, the army moved forward. Fast. In wasn't until this that Shirou realized how many men he had to fight. It was a huge, green, metal mass, spreading out and moving towards him. Deciding it was first to protect the village, he ran back to the line of houses, shouting, "Everyone! Wake up! The Procession is here and they want to kill you!"
Chaos suddenly unfolded. Tax collectors stormed down buildings, shot stones into the sky, while confused citizens opened their doors and quickly closed them, howling in fear, trying to scrounge up two gold coins before The Procession broke down their doors. And Shirou was in the middle of it, trying to bring peace.
It wasn't working.
He slashed his sword down at a nearby tax collector who had sent a rock through a door to house, splitting open his chest, shooting blood in all directions. Suddenly, he spotted a rock fly towards him out the corner of his eye, and ducked, barely missing it, watching the rock shoot over his head and shattering the icy wall behind him.
Down a nearby alleyway, Shirou spotted a Procession member holding a fearful Water Tribe citizen up by the hood of his jacket, and another one with a blade of earth at the citizen's neck. He hadn't payed the taxes.
Instinctively, Shirou leapt over to the near-death situation and slashed his sword against the Procession member holding up the citizen, who fell back and dropped him, sending the other tax collector who had attempted to stab the man into an icy wall behind them.
The citizens, bruised and helpless, looked up at Shirou, with a dazed look that showed nothing but pure thanks and respect. "Who are you?" he stammered.
"I am your prince." And with that, Shirou ran back out into the battlefield. All around him were insane Procession members, destroying the village brick by brick.
Through the dusty chaos, one muscular tax collector walked up to him, and pushed him against the wall. "You have taxes for me?"
Shirou smiled, and dug his hand into his pocket, his fingers finding and grasping two old copper pieces in the bottom of his coat. "Yeah, I do." Suddenly, he took the coins out of his pocket, instantly throwing them on the ground, and as the Procession member was caught off guard and looked down into the snow to see where they had went, Shirou planted his heel straight into the man's chest. A strange noise somewhere between a crack and a squeal seemed to erupt from inside him, and Shirou decided it was best to get out of there, and he also realized too late that others had seen him.
All of a sudden, a blast of earth was rocketed towards him, and he picked up the hilt of his sword and blocked the rock with it, shattering it into hundreds of pieces. As another tax collector ran towards him, Shirou jumped up and backlisted him in the face, then struck him in the gut with an elbow strike.
Maddened, two more came over to him, these with clubs, and readied to attack. Shirou swiveled his body around and kicked a club out of one of their hands, and raised his sword as the other bulky wooden weapon was thrown. It slid straight into the sword blade, and he twisted his wrist and sent it back straight into The Procession member's face.
Through an explosion of blood and dirt, pain streaking the air, Shirou spotted, a couple houses away, a Water Tribe child being interrogated by a tax collector with a sword. He had to act fast. Forgetting the battle he was in, Shirou sprinted towards the child, but when he was only around ten yards away a shocking pain burst through his stomach, a rock being sent into it with insane strength. He looked over at a smiling Procession member to his left. Then at the child in the distance, staring in fear at the blade above his head.
The tax collector to Shirou's left punched forward, and another stone from his belt was sent at him, barely missing. There was no choice here. Shirou ran over to the man, and brought his hand up, blocking an attempt of a punching, then twisting the bone of his wrist into his neck. Without looking back, he sprinted through the harsh wind at the Procession member who was bringing his sword down an innocent child, and at the last second kicked forward into the man's hand, flipping the stone blade he carried off into the snow. Reacting quickly, Shirou brought his elbow up into the tax collector's chin, blocked his other hand, and sent a straight punch into his ribs, flinging him off into the cold with a final swing of his arm.
Before he could hear the thanks of the young girl he saved, about the height of his knee, he picked her up and put her into a nearby house, leaving with nothing more than, "Don't let those Earthbenders near you again."
Back to the fight, Shirou leapt up, across the street, slicing off heads as he went. He rushed over in front of a bulky tax collector who was storming a large icy building that looked like a bank, and tried throwing his sword at his heart. The man brought his hands up, and the rock bracelet on his wrist flew around Shirou's blade and threw it away. The man laughed, and tried punching at him, but Shirou was quick and fell to the ground, tripping the tax collector into the icy doors. Smiling, he jumped onto the unconscious man's head and scaled the slippery wall, leaping and clinging to the shudders of a nearby window. He gazed into the window, and gasped when he looked inside. There, locked in and pushed against a desk, there was a quivering man being interrogated by a Procession member holding a stone knife.
"Hand me the money!" The Procession member grunted, barely audible from Shirou's viewpoint in the windowsill.
"I don't, I can't." He looked down. "Recruit me, please, just don't hurt this village."
The Procession member laughed. "I'm afraid recruitment is a bit old fashioned." He swirled his knife around his fingers. "Stingy citizens like you shouldn't be kept here at all."
"Put the knife down."
They turned and saw Shirou behind them with his sword drawn.
"What's that, chum?" the tax collector chuckled. "I didn't quite hear you."
Being clever was over. The Procession meant business and it was his fault. He had dumped eleven hundred of their gold coins into the ocean, he had thrown them in debt, and it was his price to pay.
And it was time he got serious.
Shirou swiveled around and whipped the dart in his belt at the man, watching it fly through his arm and pin him into the wall to his side, spinning him out. The Polar Revolution had taught him well. Without hesitation, Shirou leapt forward and nudged the quivering citizen he rescued out of harm's way, and jumped up at the Procession member, landing a firm kick in his chest. He wouldn't move for a very long time. Suddenly, the essence of being watched came over him. Shirou squinted his eyes to see a figure leaning against the back wall of the bank, Markale, frowning through the cracked shafts of light shining in from the broken walls. "I've never loved the rebels like you," the commissioner said. "Always getting in the way of things. Let fate play out as it would without trouble and you won't have trouble either. That's my philosophy."
The man who Shirou had saved, seated on a broken whale bone which rested on the ground, looked up. "Don't underestimate this child! He took out a soldier of your's who was twice his size!"
Markale walked over to the man, and quickly grabbed his neck, forcing a squeal out of his throat. It was too late - the man's face was cold and pale. Dead.
Shirou shook his head, half in sorrow, half in disgust. "You just killed him. Have you ever wondered why are now hated by the Water Tribe authority? Including the chieftain of Glacier Cove?"
Markale scratched his thin beard. "Akio hates me now? Good to know."
"He thinks you're a greedy pig."
Suddenly, Markale struck. He flew an array of sharp pebbles at Shirou first, still before was ready, packing a storm of rough cuts and bruises into his chest, throwing him backwards. Injured but alert, Shirou rolled away on instinct, barely missing the disc of earth which was shot at him. Only ready for this, Markale stepped up and pounded his fists on the ground, sending the ring of rock around his arm straight into Shirou's cheek, shooting pain through his nerves and blood over his face.
Scarred, Shirou still had hope, as he knew Markale had now used all the stone he had brought into the battle from the mountains of the Earth Kingdom. His prime weapon was used up.
Powered by a sudden burst of adrenaline, Shirou leapt up and kicked away Markale's ready fists, thrusting his wrist into the commissioner's neck. He was taken aback, but was in it enough to climb up a large icy vault nearby, quickly followed.
"Foolish child!" shouted Markale, smashing his feet into Shirou's, blasting them back into the ice and literally shooting their balance away. Regaining energy, they rammed into each other, trying to withstand the sliding of the ice beneath the soles of their wearing boots giving way to the frost.
Shirou, alert and agile, threw his opponent to the side and jumped off the vault he was on, knowing that he wouldn't stand there very long, and grasped a nearby boney ladder. He could feel Markale climbing up behind him, and saw the strain of the rope that was holding the whole thing together. They were ready. The ladder shot up and out the ceiling of the bank, leading to a platform that looked like it would be used as a lookout point.
Shirou quickly scaled the creaking bones and leaped up onto the platform, smiling as he took the knife out of his belt and started sawing the ladder below him that Markale was still climbing, more using it as a bluff than a weapon, but if he needed to throw the commissioner onto a flat sheet of ice from high above, he could.
But Shirou's smile quickly turned to a frown as Markale's did the opposite. At first he thought he really was going to be killed. But not anymore. Because at the bottom of Shirou's knife, a blade that was crafted and given to him from Asaki, was a cracked up, slightly cut sapphire. A jewel. A rock.
Markale's eyes lit up. Still climbing, he jerked his chin up and Shirou's knife was lifted out of his hand and slit across his finger, shooting blood and skin to the platform below. There was no time to howl. Markale, still climbing, waved his head back and forth, Earthbending the jewel at the bottom of Shirou's blade, shooting and slashing it through the air.
Each swipe of the steel made the air more tense.
Every chilling wind in the air turned the atmosphere darker.
And all the while Markale was climbing closer and closer to the platform.
The options of winning were dwindling.
Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, Shirou spotted three blue carriages wheel into Blizzard Point below them.
Akio's words came back to him. "I'll try to get back to Glacier Cove to bring in some back up forces to help you later in the evening."
Markale leapt up onto the platform, and dropped his hands, landing Shirou's knife on the rickety whale bone floor. "So this is how it will end. You and me. How fortunate."
"Just stop fighting. There's nothing more you can get out of this village. You've already killed them. You can kill me too. But why would you?"
"What do you mean? I'm just doing my job."
"You won't win," Shirou said. "You can't. It doesn't matter how much territory you take over, how much money you steal, you will never become a ruler and you know it."
"Stop it," Markale snapped. "Stop it!"
"The Glacier Cove military is now here and they're with me. You could have listened to me and this wouldn't have happened."
"I wouldn't listen to a child."
"I'm twenty years old and I am a prince! You will-"
Suddenly the pierce of metal was shot through the air between them. They looked down at the Glacier Cove military below them, trying to send metal spears at Markale.
"They'll end up hitting you instead," the commissioner said. "You know it."
Another spear slashed into the cold wind, this one inches away from the pole holding the platform up.
"Give up, Markale!" Shirou shouted. "You lose! You're at the top of a watch tower in the smallest and poorest town in the North Pole which you have destroyed! How could you possibly still have the greedy hatefulness to keep waging this war?"
"You still owe me eleven hundred coins."
Another spear was sent through the air.
"I'll give you the money if you promise to leave the Water Tribe."
"This isn't a time to bargain, child."
"Will you leave?"
"Will you pay me back?"
"This is not a time for you to bargain! I am royalty! I am a commander of this nation! You're fired!"
Suddenly, a final slash of metal sliced into the cold. The spear was shot straight through the boney pole which held the platform that they both stood on, and chopped through the rope which held them together. Through a sudden explosion of dust, bone, and frost, Shirou and Markale were sent rocketing towards the ground below in a wave of cold air and waste.
And then, everything went black.
When Shirou woke up, everything around him was bright blue, icy, and ornately carved. He opened his eyes and gazed at the shining light coming down from windows. He was amazed, staring around the room. Suddenly, he was sent back in time. It all came back. This was his room. He was in the Royal Palace.
Shirou rolled out of his bed, and smiled at his brothers, sister, and parents in doorway.
"Son," Riku said. "Welcome back."
Fighting back tears and flashbacks, Shirou didn't say anything. He just walked over to his father, and wrapped his arms around him, tightly and passionate.
He was home.
For the collective works of the author, go here.