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March 8, 2011
Chuan assaults Saicho's killer while Mayana finds herself too late to prevent disaster. Chuan and Mayana hurry down the mountain and make camp in the forest at the base of the mountain, grieving the deaths that the attack has caused...
Book 1 Chapter 8: Solemn Respite
"No..." Chuan said as he watched his master fall. "NO!" He burst past Charini and Mayana and lunged for Saicho's assailant. He grasped the man around the waist and the two both tumbled to the floor.
All thoughts of Airbending left Chuan's mind as he punched fist after fist of fury into the man's face and chest.
"Chuan, stop! Look out!" he heard Mayana yell to him. He rolled nimbly to the side just as an enormous spiral of fire plunged into the area where he had just been. He watched with horror as the soldier took no notice of the fact that he had just burnt his own partner alive. These people were monsters...
Mayana grabbed Chuan rigidly by the arm and began leading him away.
"No, Mayana!" he exclaimed. "They killed my master! They killed Saicho!" He felt the tears come again. Mayana stole past Chuan, inhaling strongly and then exhaling a powerful blast of air at the nearby soldiers, who had begun to reassemble themselves in the wake of Monk Saicho's final assault. The soldiers were again knocked off their feet and flung several feet backwards. One soldier slammed headfirst into the temple wall and his body went limp.
Chuan stared at Saicho's lifeless body as blood began to seep from the fatal wound in his chest.
"No, no, no, no," Chuan was repeating to himself. He attempted to hobble toward his master but when he pressed down on his injured foot he fell to the floor.
From behind him, he heard Mayana cry out in grief. "Charini!" she screamed.
Chuan turned to face the girl, and saw her collapse to her knees. A few feet in front of her lay the charred and blackened body of Charini, who had met her end on the wrong side of a powerful Firebending attack.
Chuan suddenly found himself rejuvenated with strength, and he hauled himself to his feet and staggered over to Mayana, who was shaking.
"Come on," he told her. He looked around and saw that all the Firebenders in this section of the temple were either unconscious, dead, or scampering away to join the fight elsewhere.
Chuan led Mayana as quickly as he could toward the outskirts to the temple grounds. They began to descend the mountain, and they walked in silence for what seemed like an eternity until they finally reached the bottom. They entered the shelter of a forest as darkness began to set in and were safe, at least for the time being.
"I'll fetch some firewood," said Chuan as Mayana sank to her knees again.
"No," she replied weakly. "No fire. Please, no fire."
Chuan returned to her side and sat down beside her. He put his arms around her and held her close as they grieved their respective losses together. Chuan wondered how Kaizan was faring in the fight up above, if the fight was even still taking place.
"I'm sorry about your foot," she said a while later.
"Oh, this?" said Chuan, brushing it off as nothing. "I barely even felt it."
"Right..." said Mayana. He looked at her and saw that she was crying again. He scooted closer to her and put his arm consolingly on her shoulder.
"They won't find us here," said Chuan, surveying the tall treetops.
"Does it matter?"
"You want them to find us?"
"No, but we're probably the only two left. Where will we go?"
Realization of their situation swept over Chuan like a blanket of ice and he shuddered. Mayana was most likely right. Saicho's attacks had allowed them a momentary respite from the battle which allowed them to escape, but there was no way of knowing if anyone else had made it out alive...
"You were really great today," said Chuan, not knowing what else to say. "Your Airbending is incredible."
She wiped a tear from her eye and managed a smile. "Thanks," she said. Then, seeing how dark it had become, she added, "Maybe a fire would be a good idea after all."
Chuan staggered to his feet and stepped tenderly on his wounded foot as he scoured the surrounding areas for anything to burn. He came back a few minutes later with a handful of stray twigs and branches and set to work on starting the fire.
It was grueling work, because Chuan had to do it manually. Mayana watched in silence as he rubbed two of the sticks together furiously for several minutes until they finally sparked. He laid them down and covered the ember with leaves, and in a moment, their campfire was burning bright. The flames cast an orange glow over the small clearing in the dense canopy of trees, and Chuan saw in the firelight that Mayana had finally stopped crying. She sat with her arms wrapped around her legs, slowly rocking forward and back in time with the flickering of the flames.
"Are you okay?" Chuan asked as he sat back down beside her.
"Yes," she said softly. "But Charini isn't. She's gone..."
Chuan remembered watching Saicho's body hit the floor and for a second, all of the pain and rage of the morning flowed back into him and he clenched his teeth in rage. He caught himself, and breathed out deeply, expelling all of this excess emotion out with the passing of his next breath.
"It was terrible," Chuan agreed solemnly. "More terrible than anyone could ever put into words. And I'll make sure Monk Aguma pays for what he's done, I promise." Then, glancing at her, he hesitantly added, "I know we barely know each other, but I'm glad you're here and I'm not alone."
"Me too," she said, and she stopped staring at the ground and gazed into his eyes. "It helps me keep from being scared."
He held out his hand and she took it and squeezed it tight. He was grateful for her company and she was grateful for his. Chuan found it strange to think that he had really spoken to her for the first time less than 24 hours ago...
He awoke some time later and found that he had fallen asleep holding her hand. The fire had died down to a couple small embers that were burning away the last bits of bark and spitting out thin puffs of smoke.
He laid back down, still holding her hand, and in another moment he had fallen asleep again...
"Fire burns, but loss burns even more painfully..."
I just thought of that, and I felt like it was fitting for this chapter soo...yeah.
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