|More from Mageddon725||Adventure||Positive||Completed|
|Agni Kai and Conspirators|
Chapter 10: Agni Kai and Conspirators
Zuko and Bujing knelt opposite each other, readying for the conflict. The Agni Kai arena was occupied by the combatants and the other generals. Zuko stood and removed his shoulder garment; the general did the same. They faced each other and took positions.
Fire Sage Shyu mediated the duel. "The terms are acceptable to both combatants?"
Zuko reset to a normal standing position. "I'm assuming, General, that you can neither generate nor redirect lightning."
Bujing frowned. "That is correct."
"Okay then," Zuko grinned. Those lessons in discipline offered by Jeong Jeong had paid off. "Then I will refrain from using it for your benefit." He nodded at Shyu.
"You may begin."
The challenger struck first, a charged blast followed by two crescent kicks in quick succession, effectively creating a fireball followed by a vortex. Zuko jumped into a front flip, bringing a line of fire designed to break the oncoming projectile. He followed that up by bring his hands down in a chopping motion upon landing, creating another line to disrupt the vortex and strike Bujing.
The general sidestepped the attack and launched several fire punches in Zuko's direction, but they were rendered ineffective as Zuko parried each one to the side with almost no effort. The Fire Lord then used Firebending to propel himself forward, flipping around to kick out with his legs, launching a long stream of fire before righting himself and landing. Bujing, unable to dodge, was forced to put up a fire shield. Beads of sweat fell from his face as his shield was bombarded by further attacks from Zuko.
Bujing disengaged as Zuko used the final move in the Dancing Dragon form to manifest a fire blast almost as wide as the arena. The challenger brought up another fire wall, but this one could not hold. The blast knocked him into the other wall. Zuko casually walked up, preparing to bring an end, his way, to the duel, but Bujing punched out as a last ditch effort. The Fire Lord saw this coming and caught the arm with a kick, directing the flame upward. He pushed his foe's arm out of the way as he twisted and brought his knee up into the general's sternum.
Bujing expelled a gasping breath as he stood in shock. Zuko simply moved his hand up toward his chest and used the heel of his hand to launch the defeated man into the wall, ending the fight.Bujing lay on his side, catching his breath. "Finish it... make me pay for my," his pained frown morphed into a sneer, "disloyalty..."
Zuko looked down at the pitiful man. "No. We're done." He turned to the crowd, who stared open-mouthed at their Fire Lord. "This man will be demoted to Captain for his actions."
General Mung spoke up. "Fire Lord Zuko," a new respect in his voice, "A simple demotion? He tried to have you killed! What if—?"
"He will not try it again." Zuko stated, matter-of-factly, "We need everyone we can get to rebuild; he has experience." He turned to face all of them. "I am not my father. Let's get that out of the way right now. We need all the help we can get with the rebuilding effort. He's been beaten," Zuko turned back to him. "He will not do this again."
Zuko pulled Bujing up, but before he could say a word, shards of earth pierced the general's back. Zuko whipped his head up to ceiling, seeing a Dai Li agent clinging there. He dropped Bujing's body and twisted his arms, bringing two fingers up and launching a lightning attack. The attack itself missed the moving agent, but the explosion knocked him from the roof.
"What did you just do?!" Zuko readied himself.
"Your time will soon be at an end." More Dai Li dropped from the ceiling. "We are here to disrupt the chain of command." The agent sent earth shards from his glove at Zuko, who simply disintegrated them with a fire wall. He twisted his arms in a complex pattern, generating more lightning. He initiated his attack against the agent as the other officers were engaged by the Dai Li. The first strike broke through the earth slab the agent made, while the second pierced his heart, killing him instantly. Zuko back kicked an agent sliding behind him on earthen boots and dispatched the downed man with a quick, two fingered fire blast to the forehead.
The Officers fought with military precision. The Dai Li agents, skilled as they were, could not match the best fighters in the Fire Nation for long.
As he observed the battle, he suddenly had a sinking feeling. Mai. She could be hurt or under attack; he had to reach her. He noticed that the Imperial Firebenders had arrived and were helping to mop up the rest of the Dai Li. He ran over to General Shinu. "War Meeting in one hour. That should be enough time to deal with this. We have to figure out what's going on. Inform the others."
Shinu finished his downed opponent and bowed. "As you wish, Fire Lord Zuko."
Zuko ran through the palace courtyard, forgoing a personal guard detachment for the sake of speed. I hope Mai is alright. If they've harmed her, I'll... Zuko was snapped out of his thoughts when he ran into Mai. He immediately picked himself up off the ground and offered her his hand. "Oh my gosh! Are you alright?!"
She rubbed her head as he helped her up. "Ow."
Zuko pulled her into his embrace. "I'm so glad you're okay!"
She felt the heat rise to her cheeks as she returned his gesture. "What's going on?"
He pulled back and looked her in the eye. "The Officers and I were attacked by the Dai Li! I came to see if you were safe."
Mai's eyes widened. "Why? How did they—?"
"I don't know." Zuko turned back toward the palace. "But I intend to find out."
Long Feng paced the expanse of his quarters. He awaited news of the Dai Li's current operation. His master, he hated the very word, awaited results, and Long Feng did not know how he would react if things had not gone well.
"You are confident in your men. You believe they can succeed." His master sat in the darkened corner. "But I know they will not succeed; they will not kill even one."
Long Feng's eyes widened. "You knew and you had me send them regardless?! Why? What would this accomplish?"
The man chuckled. "It would get their attention. I want history to see the Earth Kingdom as the most powerful nation of all. And I will have it my way, with or without you." He leaned forward, revealing an older, graying face, filled with cunning and calm. Deadly calm. "Make your choice, Long Feng."
The former Supreme Bureaucratic Administrator cocked his head. "I stand with you."
The mysterious figure laughed loudly. "Of course you do; I am your only salvation."
The Imperial Firebenders managed to keep one of the assassins alive, and he was currently imprisoned in a metal cell. Zuko had fifteen minutes before the War Meeting, and he intended to make the most of them.
He entered the cell unaccompanied, something War Minister Qin had advised against. But Zuko was the Fire Lord, and he would have his way. The agent did not even glance at him, but instead laughed.
"What was your purpose for this unprovoked attack?"
The chuckling commenced again, followed by a cough. "You will all die... heh... you can't stop him."
Zuko's eyes narrowed. "Who? Long Feng?""Hah! Long Feng is nothing compared to him. You will all die."
Zuko grabbed the man's collar. "Who is he?!" But the agent just laughed.
Zuko sighed; he would get nothing more from him.
Zuko exited the cell wrapped his arms around Mai. "You can come to the War Meeting if you want."
She pulled away. "Zuko, there are two problems: One, I'm not part of the military or Royal Family and Two, It would be remarkably dull." She smiled. "We are still going to have our date tonight, though, right?"
Zuko kissed her forehead. "Of course. Nothing will get in the way of that."
"See you tonight then."
"This attack was orchestrated by someone connected to Long Feng." Zuko addressed the Officers. "We need to put a stop to this before it destroys what balance we have left in the world. Admiral Chan, begin pulling the Eastern Fleet together to form a Relief Corps. Colonies and Earth Kingdom villages alike are still in desperate need, and we are still well equipped to provide such relief. Admiral Liang, your Western Fleet will still drop back to defend us in case of attack."
General Shinu raised a hand. "We could use my Yu Yan Archers for personal defense of the Capitol, as well as the 5th Regiment."
Zuko nodded. "Good, see that it is done. In the mean time, I think it is time that we celebrate the coming Summer Solstice." He turned to his attendants. "Begin preparations and send a messenger hawk to every Fire Nation city."
The two men bowed. "At once, Fire Lord."
Captain Li Teng of the Airship Fleet raised a hand. "Fire Lord, why focus so much on the celebration? We have important things to worry about."
"Yes, but the civilians need something to occupy their attention. This way they can remain content and remain calm." The Captain nodded his assent.
"Now, back to the Dai Li; I think it's time I called on a few friends."
- The move Zuko used to finish Bujing is the same move that he used to knock Ruon Jian into the vase in "The Beach"
For the collective works of the author, go here.