Foggy Swamp
Battle at Caoyan Hill
Chapter information

The Kyoshi Chronicles


Book 1: Earth

Written by


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Last chapter

Chapter 11: The Stone Family

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Chapter 13: Coping

Previously on The Kyoshi Chronicles

Kyoshi escaped Astrid and the Earth State at the Serpent's Pass and then again in the Si Wong Desert, and only recently was she reunited with her father, Garuku.

Chapter 12: Battle at Caoyan Hill

"I told you this would happen."

"Wen, be quiet!" Garuku ordered hurriedly.

"If we took in the Avatar, I knew we'd get in trouble," Wen – Garuku's advisor – sneered. "I told you." Garuku turned around and stared the weedy man in the eyes. The large, intense discs of green glared into Wen's soul, and he recoiled like a guilty puppy.

"She's family. I'm sure you'd do the same. And if you didn't, then you'd be the worst person in the world. Your heart would be black," Garuku hissed, before turning to shout orders at his men. "Pack your things! We're moving out! Now!" The soldiers immediately began to unhitch their tents. The air was thick with worry as the scuffing of the boots made an urgent din throughout the hills. Kyoshi got out from her tent, dressed, and leant back as a soldier came jogging past with armfuls of weaponry. Momzen and Bako were also confused. They had never seen the soldiers move so swiftly. Something was up.

"Garuku," Bako said to the grim-faced man. "What's going on?"

"Are we missing a festival or something?" asked Momzen, his eyes flashing with a more urgent idea. "Or is one of the soldiers' wives giving birth? Maybe two are!"

"I'm afraid not," Garuku replied, rubbing his aching face. His brow hurt from frowning. "One of our men spotted the Earth State army not too far from here. He said they were led by a girl in red."

"Astrid," Kyoshi mumbled. She thought they had lost her and her team in the labyrinth. But she was relentless; Kyoshi shouldn't have assumed she could escape the girl's clutches so easily.

"We need to keep you protected, Kyoshi," said Garuku. "It's best we leave as soon as possible." A whistle rang through the air and the soldiers stopped working to identify the source of the sound. Suddenly, hurtling through the hazy, low-hanging clouds, a flaming rock rained down and smashed into the loamy ground. It crackled, scorching the surrounding grass, as everyone stared at it. Where had it come from, Kyoshi thought. It was peculiar thing, for flaming rocks to come from the sky, and for all she knew and all it seemed there was no volcano around – at least not an active one.

"What's going on?" Momzen yelled, placing his hands on his cheeks and waving his head around jokingly. "It's the end of the world!" There was no laughter, however. Garuku and the men of the battalion knew what it meant. "In war, one sends a flaming rock to the enemy's camp to tell them they are near and ready for battle," Garuku said, staring horrified at the shrinking flames. "Men, get your armour."

The fog had built up substantially. It draped over the landscape, as if a magician had placed it there to reveal a trick. It swept across the contours with the wind and made an eerie half-silence; like tiny whispers that can only be heard in the depths of one's ear.  The morning was still young and thus the grasses, tall and knife-like, were still dewy. Kyoshi sat in her tent, annoyed that her father would not let her out and defend herself. Instead she was ordered to stay at the camp and let the guards defend her. She despised being treated like a baby. But, she ruminated, it was probably kind to comply with Garuku's instruction, for he missed out on his chance to treat her like a baby when she actually was one. Maybe he was just trying to be a good father. The plan was for Garuku, Wen and Bako to man the front line with some men and exhaust the enemy a bit. Once that was achieved a horn would be sounded and Momzen would come from a left-flanking forest with some men to attack from behind, encircling them and forcing them to surrender. It sounded like so much fun.

Kyoshi sighed and it snaked through the air, joining as part of the encompassing fog.

The rhythm of trudging boots stiffly echoed through the fog, absorbing into its choking haze. The hefty breaths of the battalion tickled the backs of necks and the stinging cold dampened their socks and feet. Mud squelched underfoot and mist clouded their vision. It was not the best of battlegrounds, but Caoyan Hill presented some advantages; such as the wood that fringed them.

"I wonder how they found us," Garuku whispered, his fists raised for battle. "Kyoshi said you guys had the map to our camp."

"Astrid's with them. She's smarter than you think," replied Bako, wiping a mixture of condensation and nervous sweat from his brow. He concentrated hard to see past the fog, and focusing so much made his eyes ache.

"Where are they?" Wen said nervously, shivering from the cold. Garuku stopped and signalled for some troops to side him.

"They're here somewhere." He unsheathed a large sword as a distant rumble cackled far away like formidable thunder. Perhaps it was thunder, there was no way of telling; the fog was so thick he couldn't even see the blue sky. He looked down at the long grass that came up to his knees, and could feel his feet sinking slowly into the mud, much like his confidence. They had to keep moving if they didn't want to be bogged. The battalion continued to stand, on guard, though, staring into the blanketing grey, breathing slowly to keep themselves warm. The cold stung their bones as if to prepare them for a worse pain to come. Bako took his swords in his hands, the handles cold and damp. He clenched them, squeezing some droplets out and breathed in the freezing air. It entered his lungs and sat there, useless and hindering.

Somewhere, maybe right in front of them, Astrid was snickering and her accomplice Mitinari was smiling creepily. Silence ensued. Not even the infant of a zephyr could be heard, the melodies of birds had ceased to exist. Caoyan Hill was void of sound. A place caught in the empty grip of silence. No other place could know its terror, and no other man could comprehend what the battalion heard. The silence haunted the men and, like a baby smothered in its sleep, or a star blotted out by the night, Caoyan Hill was dead to the world. Nothing could disturb its slumber and nothing would dare to. Hope was sucked away and courage was strangled by the freezing fog. Somewhere Astrid was snickering, because for her, she was in paradise.

Suddenly crunching sounds, like skulls been stamped down on, cracked through the air. Maybe the fog had cleared a bit for the battalion could see some figures charge at them, with chunks of earth hovering beside them.

"Attack!" Garuku shouted, baring his sword at the sky. He held his sword outwards and sliced through a rock that hurtled at him in two. He used his free hand then to levitate the stone and bend it back towards the original owner. It collided with the soldier's head and knocked him down. The battle had begun. The Gao Lin soldiers slashed their weapons, their armour flashing slightly from the dim sunlight. Slabs of earth crashed into each other as the men fought tirelessly for their cause. Bako took a breath in. He had killed a man only a few days prior – could he do it again? Was he ready? A Gao Lin soldier's blood splattered onto his cheek, it was warm and slick, and suddenly he turned around, protecting himself from Mitinari's water attack by cutting the water in half. The pale boy laughed, breathing in the stagnant fog as if it was delicious, then pulled the fog in to produce more water. Bako rolled his eyes – Mitinari was such a good bender, which made him such an annoying enemy. He screamed loudly at the silent boy as the Gao Lin and Earth State soldiers continued to mar the other, Garuku at the forefront of it all.

Momzen's heart thumped meekly in his chest. He was not a leader, so why was he leading these men? He was in charge of ten men, and he didn't even know their names. But there was no time to learn their names, nor was it wise to speak in such critical conditions. He pushed past the thick grasses, his arms using swimming motions through the mist. He sniffed his watery nose. The tip of it was cold and the chilly air made his eyelids heavy. The woods that flanked Caoyan Hill were dense, and the thin trees grew slenderly tall. Like prophets they rose past the stars and to the heavens to pass on their timeless wisdom to the gods. An ethereal hum seemed to resonate through the creaking branches and straight into Momzen's heart down to his core. He coughed. He needed to get a grip. He needed to focus. The shadows loomed large in these parts; anything could jump out and attack him. And he needed to be on alert. Garuku would blow his horn when the time was right, and when he heard that horn Momzen would come from behind to encircle the Earth State soldiers – that's if he got far enough through the woods. He pulled his tiring body through thick ferns, lifting his feet up past impenetrable root systems. If he wanted to keep Kyoshi safe he could not let the freezing cold, the looming trees, the dense vegetation and his fear get the better of him. It was time to be a man.

A bush rustled beside him and suddenly Naote burst from it. She tackled Momzen over and they wrestled in the scrub. With mouthfuls of leaves and dirt he struggled to keep her disabling fingers from his body. He lifted his knees and kicked her off. She scrambled away from him and to the other soldiers. Standing between two she punched parts of their sides with her fingers and they fell over paralysed.

"Don't let her touch you!" Momzen yelled to his men. A rock was fired towards Naote but she nimbly ducked under it, popped up from the grass and chi-blocked another man. Three down and eight to go, she thought. Momzen groaned through his teeth and blasted a mass of fire from his fist. The dim woods lit up as the fire hurtled forward. Naote leant back, her feet planted firmly on the ground, so that her body was ninety degrees to the ground and the fire scorched over her face. She arched her shoulders further to complete a backwards cartwheel, kicking another soldier to the ground. She swivelled her torso to avoid a man's sword then paralysed him, doing the same for the soldier on the ground. She jumped up and clung to a damp branch as another burning attack from Momzen blazed past, illuminating the foggy scene. Momzen had to stop her. Astrid must have presumed her army would be attacked from the rear, and so sent Naote to distract them.

"Keep moving!" Momzen ordered, making a dash through the woods. The gnarled trees, like monstrous ghouls, stared him down callously. Wind howled over his face, like the screams of a thousand terrified mothers. But he did not stop running. He looked back, and saw two soldiers with him; the others must have been paralysed. Momzen produced some fire on his hands to see better, the fog was thicker here – he wasn't sure if he was even heading in the right direction. He heard a scream of pain from behind him, looked over his shoulder and saw one of his men fall into the ferns, the plants writhing with him as he struggled with some unseen power. He turned forward and continued running, blasting balls of fire here and there in hope that it'd do something – scare off Naote or tell Garuku that he was in trouble. Another scream. He stopped and looked back. There was no sign of a disappearance. No rustling. Not even a whimper. It was like Momzen was the last person on the world. He felt utterly alone. The branches seemed to curve over and block out the sky and the chocking fog came in as black as the night to impend some doom. He screamed out at the trees and the tall grass. The way they relentlessly ogled him made him mad. He could feel himself losing touch with the world. The fast beating of his heart drummed in his ears and his skin shivered with frenzy. He did not want to let the battalion down. He hoisted an arm and fired a streak of flame, the ferns becoming alight. They sizzled a bit, but the dampness overpowered the attack and Momzen's spirit was doused. He walked over to a tree and lay on its trunk, resting his head on the cool, mossy bark. He had to regain his breath. When the horn sounds, he'd be able to navigate himself to Caoyan Hill.

Momzen had no idea how long he had waited for. But among the haze, the darkness and the slender trees, he, in some way, became accustomed to the sinisterness of it all. Off in the distance echoes of a fight could be heard, but he had no way of telling where it came from.

Outside of the tent Kyoshi could hear Jin Jin snuffling the wet dirt. Perhaps she was looking for worms to eat. Kysohi had barely touched her sandwich. She took hold of it and slumped outside.

"Garuku said it'd be best you stay in your tent," a guard addressed her. She looked at him bluntly.


"Garuku said it'd be best for you to stay in your tent," repeated the man.

"I'm just feeding my friend. She hasn't had a proper bite all day," Kyoshi hissed. The guard nodded and let her proceed. Kyoshi walked carefully though the mud, she didn't want to get her gilded boots too dirty and made her way to a grassy heath. Jin Jin had her head deep in the dirt, splashes of soil puffing out with each sniff. Kyoshi laughed and tapped Jin Jin on the shoulder. The shirshu jolted from shock, the girl had taken her by surprise, and turned around. Kyoshi laughed louder. Jin Jin's face was black with mud. Her dribbly nose was dripping with roots and dirt and her teeth were caked too.

"Here," Kyoshi said, breaking the sandwich in two and throwing half to Jin Jin. The beast swallowed it whole and licked its lips.

"You like ham?" Kyoshi smiled. Tori came up beside her and pecked her shin, pestering her for some food too. "Yeah. I know you like ham." Kyoshi threw Tori a slither of ham and gave the rest to Jin Jin. She stroked Jin Jin's coat. It was sodden from the mist but her body was warm. She put her cheek on the animal's side to warm her face and could feel the muscles contorting and jolting from the cold.

"You guys are funny." Kyoshi laughed as Tori's tongue flopped out of her beak like that of a panting dog. "You guys are really funny." Rubbing her shivering arms, Kyoshi decided to return to her tent, where it was slightly warmer. Garuku's horn sounded. It was brassy and loud, a very heroic noise. She'd give anything to hear it close up. When the soldiers hear it their hearts must be filled with bravery and all fear would be exiled away. She smiled then ducked down to enter her tent. Once inside she looked up and saw a crimson figure. At the other end of the tent stood Astrid, golden war suit glimmering and her Earth State head piece exposing itself proudly to the world.

"Hello, Avatar," Astrid said softly before raising an arm to attack. Kyoshi yelled furiously at the sight of her, focusing her chi on her rage. She'd needed to muster all her strength. If Astrid was here, something was not right.

Momzen captured his breath. He let it flow in and out of his lungs steadily, in order to calm himself down. The prehistoric ferns stood still, their roots firmly packed in the soil, and the trees continued to loom; as if they were toppling over at an extremely slow pace. Momzen could smell the damp around him – the rotting leaf matter that made the soft undergrowth and the lichens on the bark. He closed his eyes and drabs of coloured light flashed across the blackness before him, exciting him and pulling him back into anticipation. When the light seared intensely he'd open his eyes and return to the woods gasping. How long had his eyes been closed for? He'd lost all sense of time. The ghostly woods had no need for it, and swept it away like old photos under the bed. The branches grew at their own pace and water came whenever it felt it had to. Fog crept, ambled, with no urgency. Not even a gust of wind could speed things up, or slow things down for that matter. Suddenly Garuku's horn blasted from behind Momzen's tree. The metallic tones broke the spell and all time returned, ticking away endlessly to the rhythm of Momzen's now-beating heart. The boy got up and followed the sound around the trunk of his tree.

And then Naote appeared. Almost out of nowhere. She must've been sitting on the other side of the tree, waiting for her prey to move again. Her face was shrouded from the shadows, and all Momzen could see was her glistening eyes and menacing smirk under her fringe. She looked like a spectre of the forest – an angry spirit determined to scourge the lost soldier.  A twinge of blood-curdling fear scratched against the grain of Momzen's muscles. Victory was hopeless, but struggle was an option.

"Go away!" he screamed, punching out a plume of fire. Naote ducked down, skidded right then stood up again, stabbing her fingers along the side of Momzen's body. Before the boy fell to the ground from paralysis, Naote produced two daggers from her pocket. Momzen tried to shout at her, to beg her to spare him, but his tongue was numb. He could see bits of his past fading and appearing next to his killer. His mother and father talked casually beside her, while Jin Jin slept in the Laogai cell above her. His breath, of which he only just caught up to, was sucked away, and his numb eyes were warm from the tears that were supposed to come.

Naote struck downwards, a dagger in each hand, and pinned Momzen to the tree. The blades went through his chain mail deep into the bark. When Momzen opened his eyes and saw this, a tear finally came out. It trickled down his disabled cheek. He could not even smile.

"It'll take some time for you to get out of this," Naote sniggered, before leaving the incapacitated boy stranded in the dark woods. Momzen wanted to close his eyes, he wanted to sigh. He had failed the battalion, and he was so close too. He only hoped Garuku's force was strong enough.

The tent went ablaze, peaks of vermillion and menacing orange danced violently across the cloth, as Kyoshi tumbled out from the flap. She used a sweeping motion with her left arm to pull of hunk of earth from the ground and guided it onto the tent with force. Astrid appeared from the back door before the tent was crushed, and punched out a streak of fire from each fist. Kyoshi, her lungs tightening from the fight, raised a wall of stone in front of her, the fire cascading around the side like golden droplets, then motioned it forwards. It hit Astrid and she tumbled onto the heath. Dirt poured over her shoulders as the wall collapsed on her from the force. Suddenly Jin Jin appeared and whipped out her bumpy tongue. It made a lashing sound as it cut through the air but Astrid nimbly got out of its way and all Jin Jin got from it was a mouthful of dirt. Astrid moaned to herself, her hair falling from the brooch, then kicked out flames, spun, and kicked out some more. Kyoshi held up her leather arm guards to block the first attack. It crashed onto her forearms and made her fumble backwards. The second fiery attack came and made powerful contact with her chest. Kyoshi could feel the skin under her singeing dress sting from the burn and she fell down onto her back. Noticing this as an opportunity, Astrid quickly ran toward the fallen opponent, grinning feverishly. With her heart beating, banging on her ribs to urge her to get up, Kyoshi tried to scramble to her feet. But her eyes were locked on Astrid's – the intense blue of them a collection of tears the girl had from making others cry – and for that she was numb.

Again Jin Jin came to her side. The shirshu scratched Astrid's chest plate, causing her to roll across the mud.

"You stupid thing!" Astrid screamed. She planted her hands on the ground and lifted her body up. She spun her torso, flipping her hands to comfortable positions to keep herself raised, and then kicked out a collective barrage of fire. Like a comet the mass hurtled through the mist and engulfed Jin Jin. The poor beast, its fur burning and its sensitive nose and tendrils sizzling, recoiled from the pain and rolled over. It hissed out, still hoping to keep Kyoshi's enemy away.

"Jin Jin!" shouted Kyoshi, watching her friend attempt to get up before addressing Astrid. "You're horrible!" She stood up and fired a slab of rock at the firebender, who kicked it into debris.

"Why thank you," Astrid smirked. "That's the nicest thing anyone was ever said to me." She flicked a strand of hair from her eyes pompously.Then pulled back a fist to punch.

She stopped immediately, though. A horn had sounded. It was different to Garuku's. It was wooden-sounding and baritone. Astrid looked up to the sky, her ears pricked, to determine if it was the right sound. Then, as if something had clicked inside her, she turned around and made for the battleground.

"Where are you going?" Kyoshi asked angrily. "Stay and fight. I'm not scared of you anymore." And she was right. Astrid was nothing more than an obstacle – like earthbending, or a fallen tree. She had learnt to deal with it, and now she was able to overcome it. She took a breath in as Astrid stopped. The girl did not turn around, however. Like a statue, no part of her body moved as she spoke.

"Good. You have better things to worry about." And with that she skipped over the hill and out of sight. Kyoshi was still now, trying to grasp what Astrid had told her. As she tended to Jin Jin, Tori was also licking the burns, it hit her. It hit her like a ten-ton boulder. Her breath was pulled out of her, like a clown pulling a continuous stream of cloths – she was that shocked, and her whole body felt as if it was being squeezed in a vice. She was completely numb. Her father was in trouble.

She got up, apologising to Jin Jin for the neglect, then ran Astrid's route, screaming incoherently at the hunter. She had to keep screaming. Somehow it will make things better, she thought. Dad will hear me, and know something is wrong. Bako will realise too. Tears began to swell in her eyes and the muscles in her legs began to shake with exhaustion. She had never run that intensely in her life. At any moment she could collapse onto the muddy ground, but she had to keep moving. The gears had to keeping grinding. She was the Avatar. It was time to save the day – if there was even any time left.   

Mud caked around Bako's shoes as he dashed across the dank meadow. He ducked under a leaning Gao Lin soldier, keeping his eye on his target. An enemy came from the left. He swiped his right sword outwards, severing the man's belly. The entrails poured onto the ground quickly like rush-hour commuters off a Ba Sing Se tram. He then tensed his abdominals to help him lurch forward and stab through another State soldier's lungs. The man's eyes widened and, with a mouth full of blood, he gurgled feebly. Bako could see the soldier's mourning family in his eyes. As the din of screaming, ripping earth and sword fight melded nauseatingly into one, Bako plucked his left sword from the man and let him collapse onto what would be his muddy grave. He then turned around, hearing a violent yell from behind him, hit the oncoming enemy with the handle of his sword and kicked him down, spinning again to slash away another opponent.

So this is what war is like, Bako thought. Constant fear, dirt you can't get off your teeth and blood you will never wash off from your skin, and the guilt of killing a father or brother, uncle or cousin. These things, he was certain, would haunt him. He had seen the hills flood red with blood, waves of it – like the rapture of some thirsty god.

But it was for the better of the world. These men were serving themselves correctly, even if they did not know it, or believe it. And with each State soldier he stabbed or cut down Bako would whisper kind words to the spirits, and acknowledge the men's' sacrifice. He knew they would never rest in peace, what with the angry, blood-spattered face of an enemy the last thing they lay eyes on, but a rest was something. For inside Bako felt dead. With the corpses piling on him, he wanted to go off into some corner and stop fighting innocent people. He wanted to stop living in such a messed up world. He was sick of blood, sick of its taste. He was not cut out to be a warrior.

On the other hand, though, he enjoyed himself. The way he moved, his elegance and fluidity, surprised him. Like a courting swan he gracefully danced and his swords swivelled through the misty air like ribbons to a rhythmic gymnast. His timing was impeccable, bobbing and weaving like peaks of fire in slow motion, and pushing through flesh was frighteningly satisfying. The way it was firstly a small prick and then force was required. Knowing this he soon discovered the right amount of force that allowed him to get past the skin without overexerting himself. And once the sword was in, it was like cutting through butter. Everything about a fight was lissom. And the dance, the steps and muscles required, was something no master could teach him. Learning it himself was the most rewarding of it all, anyway. At times Bako kept his eyes on his feet, watching them twist and lift from the grass, and other times his focus was on enemies both nearby and distant. His vision was the most acute it had ever been. In fact, all his senses were greatly heightened, he was on all alerts. Sounds pounded deep into his ears, smells tingled right inside his sinuses. Anything that touched him left a lasting sensation and he could taste everything; haze, dirt, pollen, blood – even the fear in the air.

Garuku was the same. His fresh blood, thick and righteous, coursed through his veins to his exercising muscles. He had noticed over the years that his strength doubles amid a fight. He looked around, making sure to force his slabs of stone to the enemy. His men were doing alright. He fired another rock. It rammed into an axe-wielding State soldier, landing on top of him. Let's see you get out of that, Garuku said to himself, grinning. He continued to look around. Bako was doing well but Wen was nowhere; probably cowering behind a bush. That man was such a useless soldier. Good riddance, Garuku thought. Another stone was fired. It exploded when it hit an enemy's earthen attack and a giant cloud of dust spread across the paddock.

A horn echoed through the still air. It was wooden. The baritone notes shook Garuku's bones.  He could barely see through the fog and dust. Shadowy, blurred figures moved around like silhouettes behind a sheet as their noises waged on with the battle. The man could feel his heart beating jaggedly in his ribs, and each beat started to hurt. He was worrying, and he couldn't afford to worry – which worried him further.

Suddenly a net encased his body. His legs buckled as the silver strings dug into his skin and he was swept up off his feet. The net he was caught in was attached to a State Ostrich horse. When Garuku made eyes with who was leading the horse his anger burnt so savagely he could not shout loud enough to express it. Grinning meanly, Wen looked down his nose at his commander. Garuku stared into the man. He barely recognised him. Wen seemed so strong and confident – it was quite terrifying. Garuku's back scraped along the muddy ground as Wen dragged him to Astrid's camp and the State Army began to retreat.  Garuku managed to crane his neck and take one last peek at his battalion. They seemed confused, looking around for their leader to instruct them. The mist was so thick they didn't notice Garuku in the net and soon they became but an outline in the valley.

Her heavy footprints stamped down the grass, leaving imprints on the ground. Like a fast-working machine her legs chugged and chugged, her mouth a vent to let out the screams. Her arms, fists tight, swept up and down beside her hips like a locomotive, each lift exactly the same as the first. Frenzied urgency clung to her breath and strangled her insides. Her muscles throbbed wildly as her vision tunnelled.

As Kyoshi got to the top of the hill she stopped, her chest heaving, and observed the battlefield. Astrid was on the opposite side of the paddock, her army fading away, and the battalion was dispersed about the battleground. They were victorious, one would think. But Kyoshi knew otherwise. Something in the air, a taste, a smell, and the upright hairs on the back of her neck hinted that something was indeed wrong. Her eyes darted over the men, examining each face quickly and thoroughly. Without realising her legs took her down to the valley. Soldiers and Bako came up to her, saying things to her with sad, sympathetic faces – but she could not hear them correctly. Their voices were stifled and made up of inaudible mumbles. She pushed past them, still examining faces, looking for the one she wanted. At one point she saw Momzen stagger from the flanking woods and then another time she saw a bloodied corpse on the ground. Seeing it, she decided to run her eyes along their features too. Just to make sure. But he wasn't among them. He wasn't anywhere.

Her father was gone.

Now the sound of her heavy, manic breathing filled her ears and tears flowed from her eyes. She fell to the ground and continued to crawl, hoping that she'd come to his feet, look up and see him smiling. The sound of her distressed sobs meandered over the hills. Sounds of defeat, of grief and of, ultimately, absolute, immeasurable loneliness.

Kyoshi clutched onto clumps of wet grass, the blades stained with blood, and ripped them from the earth, feeling her heart tug with them. She cried out, her head pressed into the mud so others wouldn't see. Then she screamed up at the grey sky, as if for mercy, tears cascading down her cheeks. They were warm – a warmth no other liquid could match. Tea was warm. Blood was warm. But her tears boiled on her skin. She screamed again and it continued into a prolonged moan. Bako and Momzen watched as their friend broke down in front of them. There was nothing they could do. Like poison, her feelings had to be flushed out in one, intense sitting.

Kyoshi went back to sobbing into the grass. Her family would always be torn apart – and always because of her. She felt empty without him. She sat inside her hollow heart, forlorn and eternally saddened. Like a lone tree in the middle of a paddock, Caoyan had cast her aside and doomed her to a family-less life. A whimper echoed. 

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