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|A Demon Strikes|
March 21, 2012
The Assembly room was dead silent as several men and women nervously glanced at one another. It was time for the ambassadors from each of the Four Nations to come together for one of their bi-annual meetings, and of the 16 representatives only 12 had arrived. The four who were missing were the Fire Nation ambassadors. The meeting was supposed to have begun over an hour ago, but the others had all agreed that they should wait for their Fire Nation counterparts to arrive. They started to get a bit restless after a half hour passed however. When forty-five minutes passed they called for someone to go and find them. They've been waiting in silence ever since.
"They probably got lost." A large Earth Kingdom ambassador named Yu guessed, finally ending the silence. "They're all new after all." All four of the Fire Nation Ambassadors had retired since the last meeting and none of the four new ones had ever been to the United Republic.
"Even if they're new, they should've taken it upon themselves to familiarize themselves with the routes they need to take." Monk Ling of the Air Nomads scoffed.
"Shouldn't their security force know the way though." Water Tribe ambassador Dookanu pointed out. The ambassador made a valid point, even though the Fire Nation ambassadors were new, their security had been escorting their predecessors for years.
"I hope nothing's happened." Monk Zhia said. Like Monk Ling, whom many considered to be the 'The Fist of the Southern Temple', Zhia had her own nickname, 'Mother of the Western Temple'.
"I'm sure everything is fine." An ambassador from the Water Tribes named Koga assured. "I'm sure the escort we sent found them and they're on their way."
As he spoke a messenger rushed into the room and immediately fell on one knee, trying to catch his breath. Earth Kingdom Ambassador Cao spoke first, "What news do you bring? Did you find the Fire Nation Ambassadors?"
"Yes. We did sir." The messenger responded with heavy labored breaths. "But I'm afraid they will not be attending today's meeting."
Immediately the ambassadors were on their feet, one demanding, "What do you mean they won't be attending?" while another asked, "Has something happened?" And so it went with each of the ambassadors. Until finally Water Tribe Ambassador Nokama spoke up, allowing her thunderous voice to drown out all the others.
"All of you shut up!" she roared before pointing to the messenger, "You there. Tell us what you came to tell us."
"Yes Ma'am." The messenger quivered, Nokama could be a very frightening woman when the need arose. "As I said the Fire Nation Ambassadors won't be joining you today, or ever."
"What do you mean?" Nokama seethed through gritted teeth.
The messenger swallowed before proceeding, "They're dead, Ma'am."
"Oh man is that what I think it is?" Zhuyi asked as he followed Zhong into his 'backyard'. The earthbending instructor had converted into his training yard, rock garden, and on rare occasions sparring center. There was no grass, only coarse, black sand. "It looks wondrous when you bend it." Zhong had told Zhuyi when asked about it. Spread across the yard was various stones and boulders of differing sizes, lying wherever the last training or sparring session had them thrown. Tucked away in a far off corner was a fairly large pile of rocks, stacked in ways that could only be accomplished through earthbending. "A space for Mei Li to practice." Zhong once again explained, this time without prompt. Finally there was a yet another section that Zhong had fenced off, the area that the two were now approaching. In the center of the fenced off area was a large slab of iron held up by wooden stands on either end.
"Yep." Zhong replied, clapping his hand down on the smooth metal surface. "It's the exact same slab that we used to try to bend as children." Zhuyi inspected the iron with a nostalgic eye. Gently the Avatar ran his fingers over the one thing he'd never been able to bend.
"I see you haven't made much progress over the years." He commented upon seeing a dirty handprint near the center of the slab, doubtlessly stained upon the metal from hundreds if not thousands of failed attempts to bend the metal.
"Even Mei Li decided to try her hand at it." Zhong told him "She damn near broke into tears when it wouldn't work. So it seems that metalbending remains a Bei Fong family secret for the moment." There was a brief pause of awkward silence between the two. Finally Zhong said what Zhuyi was thinking. "You want to have another go at it don't ya?"
Zhuyi smiled, "So much." The two shared a laugh before Zhong stepped to the side and gestured for Zhuyi to go. The Avatar stepped up to the slab and gave it a quick pat trying to become accustomed to its density and to find the bendable minerals. Once he felt he had a good grasp of it, he balled his fist and slammed it down on the metal slab. The sound of flesh on metal echoed throughout the quiet yard, but the metal did not bend. Zhuyi's hand throbbed with a dull aching pain as he brought his fist down again. Still nothing happened to the slab. Zhuyi sighed as he gave one last futile hit to the slab. As he had expected, there was no bending.
"As stubborn as you remember?" Zhong asked, a haughty smirk glued to his face. "So much for the 'Great and powerful master of all elements'." He teased.
"Lets see you do any better." Zhuyi challenged.
"Oh I hold no delusions that I'm gonna be able to bend that thing so much as an inch." Zhong admitted, "But if it will please you, I shall try to prove myself wrong for once." With that Zhong took a deep breath and took a ready stance. After another breath Zhong brought his hand up and slammed his palm on the metal, in exactly the same spot as he had hit so many times. And just like every other time, the metal did not yield.
"How the hell do the Bei Fongs do it?" Zhuyi grumbled as he massaged his sore hand.
"Have you considered asking one of your past lives if they knew how to metalbend?" Zhong asked.
Zhuyi paused for a second as he considered what his friend was saying. "No I honestly haven't. Truth be told I was too busy considering asking someone else a much different question." Zhong gave Zhuyi a curious glance as the Avatar smiled happily. Zhong made a gesture with his hands, prompting Zhuyi to go on. "I'm going to ask Sifa to marry me."
There was a long moment of silence as Zhong stared blankly at the Avatar, attempting to process the news. Finally Zhong balled his fist and with a murderous glare in his eyes. A concerned look grew on Zhuyi's face as Zhong stood before him, appearing to be seething with anger.
"Congratulations!" Zhong explained giving Zhuyi a playful smack on his back. "Remind me to take you out for a drink later!"
"Yeah." Zhuyi agreed making his way to the street before continuing, "Who knows we may even find a girl for you eh buddy."
A doubtful look fell on Zhong's face. "I honestly doubt it my friend."
A low cackling sound, not unlike that a crow makes as it flies through the sky, echoed throughout the nighttime streets of Peiqui, making Yu jump with a start. His mother had often told him of the Wuyemo, horrible crow demons that fly the skies of the Earth Kingdom at night, stealing the souls of whomever they find. Their cloaks of black feathers are the last things that their victims see, their cackle the last thing heard. When his mother first told him the tale as a child, it terrified him. He remembered asking his mother if there was any way to escape from these devils. His mother had smiled and only replied Only by staying in at night and being a good little boy, for naughty children who break curfew are their favorite snacks.
Now a man fully grown, Yu told these stories to his own children to curb their rebellion. His children believed him of course, as he believed his mother, but one day they would learn that no such creatures existed, as he had. Even so, the sound of crows while patrolled the streets of Peiqui at night always brought the tales back to the forefront of his mind, and made him a bit nervous.
Oh grow up Yu, the Wuyemo aren't real. However, despite telling himself this countless time, he still spun on his heels every time he heard a crow at night. Tonight was different however, the cackle may have sounded like a crow, but there was a distinct humanness to it, and it was getting closer. For a measure of comfort Yu adjusted the rifle at his side with one hand while the other grabbed at the hammer at his belt before continuing on his patrol route.
Yu spun around bringing his rifle to his shoulder, aiming down its barrel, searching for the source of the echoing sound. With panicked eyes Yu scanned the streets until they fell on a black pygmy puma that had knocked over a trash bin near an alley. Yu laughed at himself a bit as he lowered his rifle.
"Well that was embarrassing wasn't it?" a grave voice asked, prompting Yu to spin around as a two open palmed hands slammed onto both sides of his head, just above his ears. Stunned by the unexpected blow, Yu could do nothing as his attacker drove his knee into his solar plexus, forcing the breath out of him while making him drop his rifle. As Yu doubled over, his attacker grabbed him by the hair and yanked his head up before throwing him aside. Using the space given to him after being thrown, Yu grabbed his hammer from his belt as he pulled himself to his feet. The night guard charged at his attacker, swinging the hammer blindly, only to receive a powerful kick to his collarbone.
Yu felt the bone crack from the force of the kick, sending lances of pain deep into his body, as he fell to the ground. Slowly Yu pulled himself up again, confused as to why his attacker was giving him a chance to get up. Deciding to make him regret it, Yu slammed his hammer on the ground, bringing up a rock about the size of a man's head with his earthbending before launching it at the strange antagonist. The man dodged the stone with a simple sidestep, flaring some kind of cape or cloak around to distort his visage, before he jabbed Yu in the throat while grabbing the hammer by its head. The stranger's next blow was aimed at Yu's elbow, weakening his grip on the hammer. Finally the attacker delivered a swift kick, just under the Yu's ribcage. At last Yu lost his grip on his hammer and fell to the ground.
While he lay on the ground, Yu looked up on his attacker and for the first time saw him clearly. The man was sickeningly pale, with the only coloring being the dirt that covered most of his skin. His stringy dirty, dark brown hair hung down to his shoulders. The man was ludicrously thin for someone who had his strength, with his long black coat hanging loosely off his shoulders. He smiled down at Yu with blackened teeth, and cold eyes.
"Wuyemo?" Yu whispered, mistaking his attacker for the mythical demon.
"So you know my favorite bed time story." The man said as he wrapped his hand around the hammers handle, his lips still pulled back into a smile. "Beware my children of the dreaded Wuyemo. The horrid, black winged, crow demons that fly the nighttime skies of the Earth Kingdom, searching for their next meal of delicious souls. They fear no man, nor beast, nor spirit. Even the Face Stealer himself fears to take the face of a Wuyemo, for its brothers will seek dire retribution. So my children beware the dreaded Wuyemo and remain in doors after dark, for their favorite meal are the souls of naughty children who disobey their parents and break their curfew." The man raised the hammer above his head. "Such a lovely tale don't you agree?"
"Who are you?" Yu asked.
"Well I'm not a Wuyemo, but my mother did name for the myth." He answered. "But I waste my breath." With a savage swing the man brought the hammer down on Yu's skull, "After all, names are for the living."
When Yu's body was discovered in the morning, he was stripped of his uniform and identification.
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