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|More from BlackMonkey||Adventure||PG (Parental Guidance)||Good||Here|
Previously on The Avatar Rhythm
|"Takumi and Asaki stared at the sad state of the commissioner, writhing in madness as a dozen officers took over the situation. For the first time, they truly felt bad for the man. Two officers pulled him from the wall and then took him into their arms. The officers gave them a small nod of thanks, and then proceeded in throwing Markale in the back of the police cart and driving away. "|
|— From Apocalyptic Rhythm: Part 1|
|""When The Chancellor ambushed Hotaru and I in Ba Sing Se, he let out a way for a mortal to enter The Spirit World. It's only possible on a solstice." |
"So technically," Isamu said, "While we battle in Omashu on the Summer Solstice, you could be up in The Spirit World with Koh and trying to get him to lift Shinji's bounty." "
|— Isamu and Shirou in The Death Toll|
|"Shirou began his hike forward, having made it to the Spirit World, towards the giant tree in the horizon, its call growing louder as he moved closer. Walking over deserts, cliffs and stony hills, he made his way to the winding roots of the tree, a maze of dry, cold plantlife. As he was consumed by the darkness of the tree's center, a faint clicking sound began to echo throughout the cave. |
As the quick beating of Shirou's heart began to settle, a deep heartless voice suddenly appeared from the shadows.
|— From Apocalyptic Rhythm: Part 1|
|"Before the waves of rock in the air could even settle, the fearless, emotionless, tireless army of tax collectors with The Chancellor and the three remaining Quadrination Bandits at their lead stormed into Omashu. Like water spilling into a cup, the green of The Procession flowed into the lower sector of the city, quickly spreading around and turning the entire stone complex of streets, houses and plazas into a sea of green; a screaming, moving, writhing bloodbath."|
|— From Apocalyptic Rhythm: Part 1|
|Apocalyptic Rhythm: Part 2|
December 21, 2012
This is Chapter 48 in The Avatar Rhythm Series.
It was a bright blue, cloudless, sunny afternoon in Omashu, and the streets were unfittingly full of death. The Quadrination Bandits and hypnotized Procession members had just stormed into the city, and it was almost instantly turned into violent battleground. Blood flowed down the streets, the sound of screaming polluted the air, and a dreadful feeling of defeat was beginning to fall upon the defending army.
The team of Kotone, Akio, Sora and Taro stood ready at a main town square in Central Omashu where squads of invading tax collectors were running past.
Underneath a mail chute to the side of the city, two of the Procession members ran by and Sora quickly shot out a gale of wind at them which toppled the two over. When they tried to get up Taro ran over, punching two balls of fire at them which took knocked them back down.
Another team of tax collectors ran into the square through a side street. "Take those ones," the Mother Superior shouted to Taro. "I have these two." He ran over and she turned back to the last two opponents, one of which had stood up and fired a rock directly towards her. Sora thrusted out her wrist, knocking the stone away with a burst of air, and got into position as they fired another one. This time, she was ready and instead of just deflecting it, spun around and with a charged funnel of wind threw the stone at the mail chute which the two stood beneath. It quickly collapsed, burying the tax collectors in rubble.
"Sora, I need a hand!" Akio's voice called out. He was taking on three of the evil Procession members at once, and without the powers of bending, was at an even larger disadvantage. She ran in to help, sending a strong breeze low to the ground which took out the tax collector's roots, leaving the chieftain time to send a strong kick in each of their ribcages. Sora punched out, blasting the stumbling opponents into a wall beside them and knocking them out unconscious. The two gave each other a smile as another group of invaders ran into the area.
Taro and Kotone were facing four of the Procession members in a nearby alleyway, powered by the heat of the battle. In one synchronized motion, their four opponents lifted a pile of bricks from the wall and threw it at them. The Fire Lord smashed the attack away with an explosion of fire, and shot out two long stream of flame that took their enemies off guard. Kotone ran up, a fan in hand that served as her weapon, and slashed at one of the tax collector's head with its metal arms, taking him out. The next one over attempted to throw a rock at her head, but Taro blasted it out of the way with a jet of fire and Kotone closed her fan, smashing it's solid end into the Procession member's throat. Inside, her mind was falling apart in realization of how violent she was in the heart of battle, but there was no time to dwell on it. There was a war to win.
Akio faced a tax collector one-on-one, dodging each rock that was thrown. Only relying on his feet, fists and one knife, he had to stay focused. The tax collector threw a powerful punch which he dodged, but the line of rocks that followed his fist smashed Akio on the shoulder, sending him backwards. Angered, he leapt out of the way of the next earthbending strike and then ran forward, jumping up and landing his heel under the Procession member's chin, smacking his head backwards with a loud crack.
"Take this!" he yelled, throwing a solid punch right in his opponent's face. "Take this," he threw another punch, "and this and this!" He beat the tax collector into a bloody pulp, pushing him onto the ground. His pride quickly ended with a sudden crack of throbbing pain in his spine. Clutching his back, Akio turned to see a whole gang of new opponents in their green uniforms, ready for a fight. He looked around, Sora, Taro and Kotone coming up behind him to help. They were ready.
Chilling silence filled the air of Koh's lair, Shirou doing all he could to hide his fear as he walked through the nightmarish darkness of the cave, which was broken up by ominous beams of light from cracks in the walls. He walked into the large, main room, and stood in eerie silence, able to hear the pattering of spiny feet... somewhere around him.
"Is anyone here?" he asked bravely.
There was still no answer, but the quiet pattering of feet could still be faintly heard.
"I need to talk with Koh."
The spirit's low, dark voice winded through the air. "How convenient." Appearing from the shadows, the giant beast crawled towards him, an enormous centipede-like monster with an unsettling white mask for a head. His large body coiled around Shirou. "I am Koh," he smoothly recited. "Welcome to my lair." He crawled away, winding up the wall of the cavern.
"I need to talk to you," Shirou said blankly.
"How can I be of service?" the spirit asked, facing him now with a new, elderly face.
"I want you to lift your bounty of immortality off of Shinji, the boy who fooled a spirit."
"Oh," Koh said, in a long, low voice. "That's the way this meeting will be going."
"There is a giant battle going on right now over that boy's curse, hundreds and hundreds are dying. It is your duty to help them." This was all said with no expression whatsoever.
"I am one of spirits, not one of mortals. Their situations are not mine to be bothered with." The upper part of his body hung from the ceiling, and he looked at Shirou with a young girl's face. "Why do you think I would help you?"
He took a deep breath. "I'm The Chancellor's grandson."
"How... interesting." Koh fell back to the ground, slowly walking around the room. "I never knew much about his family life."
"So will you help me?" Shirou asked.
"I don't care for anyone dead in this battle you speak of. A mortal's death, a mortal's life, that's all bound to come. I had no love to The Chancellor for who he was - nor will I have to you for your relationship. His love was derived from dedication and discipline under my constant eye, a spirit by the time he left my lair, one of my own kind."
Shirou did his best to show none of his writing anger. "I came all this way for nothing then?"
"No, you still have a purpose here." Koh swirled around, leaping towards him with a new head of a goblin. "You have a new face that even I have never seen before."
Hotaru, leading the Omashu soldiers in the large plaza in the lower section of the city, wouldn't give up. She had five soldiers with her, taking on ten of the hyper powered tax collectors. They kept lifting their hands up and punching forward in the same exact motion, shooting a giant bar of rock from the ground at them. In a clench of her fists, Hotaru smashed the bar apart into a crumbling mess, and in the remaining time the men around her shot a flurry of stone bullets forwards. They bounced off the tax collector's armor as if made of paper, and without a second's hesitation the enemies stomped on the ground and created a wave of earth that barreled towards them. It knocked the Omashu soldiers over, but Hotaru dodged the attack with an airbending leap and then came downwards with an explosion of fire that sent the Procession members backwards a few feet. In the extra time, all of her soldiers were back up and shot a cloud of stones at their opponents, who crushed them before any damage could be inflicted.
They were panting, leaning over and injured, staring at the line of the tax collector's blank faces, their bodies not even a bit tired. These were not ordinary opponents.
The soldiers shook their hands up and down, shifting the rocks in the floor around into a smooth sand and then twisted their hand around and lashed outwards - spraying it into the eyes of the Procession members. Hotaru ran forward, breaking apart the ground as she went and then whipped out a line of fire their bodies. Before it could hit, the tax collectors all moved their hands up in the exact same motion without a single bit of communication, creating a wall in front of them that blocked the firebending strike. It was as if they were all programmed to do the exact same thing at the exact same time with any sort of discussion necessary. Again, without any kind of contact to each other, all of their enemies punched forwards, shooting the new wall they made towards the Omashu soldiers, taking them out, and there was no time to get them out of the rubble and see if they were out for good. It was just Hotaru now. The Procession members circled around her, taking good sized rocks from the ground and shooting it towards her in every direction. She crushed the three coming towards her with earthbending, blew four to her right out of the way with a blast of wind, and deflected the last three with a giant explosion of fire. Before she could even take a breath of relief, another ten stones were shooting towards her. Hotaru jumped into the air as all ten smashed into each other in the center, and when she fell back to the ground, more rocks were flying. She took out most of them with columns of stone from the ground, but the two coming from directly behind smashed into her back, knocking her to the ground. They moved in, shooting rocks, pain everywhere.
This wasn't going to happen. Hotaru looked up, her eyes shining white. She pushed her arms out, shooting a giant ring of fire around her that grew and consumed the tax collectors around her, leaving them burned and stunned. Clenching her hands, she drew two balls of water from the air, lifted her hands up and put one foot out, pushing forward. The water spread over the Procession members and froze around them. She moved to each of them, taking cylinders of stone from the ground and throwing one at each of them. In a final blast air, she blew away the frozen, unconscious, burned tax collectors into the rubble by her side, and another line of them marched forward from the battlefield, ready to fight.
Hotaru, eyes glowing, had a face that only said one thing - Bring it on.
Shinji stared at the war in Omashu through the window in the throne room of the royal palace. "This is terrible," he whispered to himself. Those were the majority of his words in the last two hours.
Isamu, who stood behind him, watched the green of The Chancellor's army slowly consume the city higher and higher. "They are stronger than we could have ever imagined."
"I'm going to die," Shinji mumbled to himself. He looked upwards at the sky. "Shirou, please be out there."
"He's out there," the king said. "I know it."
They stared at the battle in solemn silence, able to hear the cries of war - the cries of death. All that went through Shinji's mind was guilt and grief. What had he brought to this place? What horrors and evil did he bring to the people of Omashu?
"It's not your fault," the king said, as if he could read his mind. "You don't deserve this kind of tragedy in your life, you never did. It's not your fault you have to bear the weight of this curse."
"It's not fair!" Shinji yelled out to no one in particular, just staring out the window. "What did I do to deserve this? Why me, huh? It had to be me!" Clenching his fists, small flames appeared beside his hands.
Isamu put a hand on his shoulder. He didn't need to say anything.
Taro, Sora, Akio and Kotone were trying their best to hold off the tax collectors around them, currently facing two who were putting up a good fight. They both stomped their feet in unison, creating a tremor in the ground that broke up the street around them. Stumbling, Sora managed to send out a wave of air before she fell backwards in the cracked ground. The airbending attack hit the two Procession members at full force, throwing them back a few feet and left them dazed. Making use of the moment, Kotone and Akio ran up, smashing one in the nose with an open fan and throwing a punch in the other's gut. While the two were dizzy in pain, Taro leapt forward, shooting a blast of fire forward which took them out for good.
"Nice one," Akio commented.
"Don't celebrate just yet."
The four looked over in disbelief at a group of almost twenty tax collectors that had marched in from the other side of the square. There were too many to handle. To make things worse - At the front of this line of enemies was the three remaining Quadrination Bandits; Anil, Kyong and Zhena. They and the Procession members stopped their march a few yards away from the four and got into a fighting position.
"You can't defeat us," Taro stated loudly. "Omashu is ready and you are weak inside."
Kyong looked at the tax collectors with them. "You guys split up. We can take on these fools." The Procession members scattered and The Quadrination Bandits moved forward.
"Get out of our way before we destroy you," Anil spat.
Akio scoffed. "Make us."
Zhena suddenly swirled towards them, taking a vortex of lightning with her that she shot out, Taro stepping forward and blocking it with a fiery wall. He shot out two balls of flame before retreating backwards a few feet to escape another bolt. Anil was battling Sora, whipping out slashes of air at her which she vaporized, every once and a while shooting a jet of wind directly at him when there was a chance. Kyong had taken on Akio and Kotone, the two non-benders among them. From the waterskins at his belt, he blasted two blades of ice at them, which they both ducked under. Akio slid forward, hitting the waterbender in the stomach with a series of punches, and then Kotone jumped in, whipping out her fan and smashing him over the head with its open shape.
Kyong, worn out and bleeding in the forehead, shook his head laughingly. "You idiots." He picked his hands up, the water on the ground coming back towards him and encircling his body. It glowed bright blue and then he drew it back into his waterskin, his figure underneath now perfectly healed and full of energy. "You might be strong - but I have the powers of healing."
Next to them, Sora was taking the offensive, punching out with vortexes of wind that blasted Anil backwards with each shot. When he reached the edge of a large wall, he ducked down, whipping out a slice of air an inch off the ground that hit the Mother Superior's feet and tripped her over onto the street. He smiled, running towards her and putting his hand out, twisting his fingers up. Sora's neck suddenly tensed, and she began to gasp. He was going to bend the air out of her lungs. When it seemed to be over, Taro suddenly leapt forward, firing a ball of flame at Anil. He jumped back, losing focus on Sora, who choked up and started to breathe again, staring at Taro with relief, who kept firing flames at the airbending bandit. Finally, one hit, grazing his neck and leaving it bloody and burnt as it passed away. Kyong jumped in, sending water around Anil's neck and pulled it away, leaving the skin perfectly healed. The three Quadrination Bandits, in wonderful condition, laughed openly. This was their fight.
The small Town of Ethos court room was packed with people, as many dozen people as could fit in and around the four benches in the back of the hall. Takumi and Asaki were in the second row, watching intently. At the front of the room was the judge's tall bench, and beside it a chair, where Markale sat. His face was blank, but just from his eyes you see clouds of anger, grief and sadness. Asaki had hated him for so long now, but after their fight that morning, she finally got a glimpse of what was inside the greedy murderer's mind. It was too late now to give him help, though. Everyone knew how this trial would end. It didn't have any real organized structure like a trial was supposed to - they just needed a judge to lay down the facts and a jury to decide what will happen. The laws didn't matter at this point. Everyone in the town, the Earth Kingdom, the entire world wanted this man behind bars, or better yet, dead.
"Order in the court!" the judge called out, near silence falling upon the audience. "This case is in the matter of Markale of the Earth Kingdom, well known for his past position as commissioner of The Procession. Put under arrest by King Isamu of Omashu about this time five days ago, he was accused of the mass-murder of thousands of innocent citizens over the past several months with no permission from the government. The killing of these people were supposedly included in a plan to motivate citizens to pay their taxes. However, the system, under investigation, looks to be very unfair and cruel."
The crowds cheered and jumped, Asaki and Takumi just sitting there. The trial was unbelievably biased, but there was no way, even if it was organized by the legal standards with a fair judge, for Markale to leave the court innocent. No one would ever let someone like him go because his rampage affected everyone.
"On top of all this killing, Markale of the Earth Kingdom has also been accused of multiple other crimes," the judge explained. "On the same day he was arrested, he attacked a minor and the King of Omashu. Just this morning, in an attempt to escape today's trial he made major damage to the police station wall, a house in the western precinct, and severely injured an officer who was trying to hold him back."
Gasps sprang up around the courtroom.
"It is now up to the jury to decide the fate of this man. If found guilty of the aforementioned crimes, he we will sentenced to capital punishment."
Markale made no expression, nothing. He had nothing left. It was simple to see what would happen.
"They're going to execute him?" Takumi asked Asaki. "That seems..."
"He murdered thousands of people. You can't just let him go."
"It just seems, you know, the state that he's in and how The Chancellor stole his army, it just feels like he shouldn't have to face any more trauma in his life."
"So you're saying they should forgive him?" Asaki asked.
"Well, I don't know, maybe, put him in jail or something, killing just seems a little..."
"If only the world was so easy and forgiving." She sighed. "You learn something from leading a major underground rebellion against the government for five years. Sometimes, killing somebody isn't always the right thing to do, but we have to do it anyway. Its our way of telling the world that if they do a major criminal act, they won't get away with it either. Maybe it is unjust for them to execute Markale. But this is their way to tell the world that if anyone tries to kill a couple thousand people pretending that it is legal, they will die. None of this is about justice - it's about intimidation."
It didn't take long for the jury to make up their minds. The judge looked over, waiting for an answer. "Guilty," a woman in the jury called out. The group of people around her nodded in agreement.
Excessive cheering burst from the crowds, laughing, pointing, breaking in happiness over the sight of the commissioner's defeat.
The judge didn't even try to quiet the crowds - he was incredibly happy too. "The court finds Markale guilty of mass murder and town property damage. For his crimes, he will receive the capital punishment. The execution will be held outside the town hall at dusk tonight."
Roaring happiness erupted from the audience.
The Chancellor quietly walked through the small alleys of Central Omashu where there were few soldiers left. The army he brought was merely a distraction to occupy the people of this city with while he made it up to the Royal Palace himself. He poked his head over the corner of a house, saw one soldier patrolling the area, and pulled back into the alley. He wasn't scared to fight against the soldier, the clash would last seconds. However, a fight, even a small one, would attract attention. This mission was about stealth - getting to the top of the city without being seen. The Chancellor hopped onto a nearby mail chute, and started crawling up the giant stone slide, keeping low. He went up like this for a few minutes, only interrupted by a stone cart shooting down that he had to jump over. Hopefully no one saw. At the top of the chute, he jumped onto a stone platform, quickly hurrying across a bridge from there, the only place to go.
"Hey, you!" a voice shouted.
The Chancellor turned and saw a young soldier on the other side of the bridge, cursed under his breath, and then clenched his fists. A purple burst of energy exploded from within the man's throat, knocking his head right off and leaving a bloody mess where he stood only a few moments before. Without the smallest sense of sympathy or regret, the cloaked energybender continued onto the main street that circled around the uppermost tip of Omashu. He looked up. The Royal Palace was in sight, only a few levels above where he stood. Everybody thought he was with the rest of his army, a couple hundred feet down, but really he was right beneath their noses.
The Chancellor laughed, and then whispered in his low, cold voice at no one in particular. "Shinji is going to be in for quite the surprise."
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