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Horizon Part 1: Stormy Sky
Chapter information

Dancing Shadows





Release date

May 27, 2012

Last chapter

One Last Sale

Next chapter

Horizon Part 2: Fare Well

Chapter 11 of Part 1 of Dancing Shadows.


Feng, Wei and Nekku receive a rude awakening, and soon find themselves on the run, with enemies on all sides and nowhere to go but away from the city of Ba Sing Se.


Preparing for Attack

Jin Lo stepped out into the cold morning light. It had been three and a half weeks since he had talked with the assassin, the one who called himself Rayu. He had given the man and his accomplices three weeks to kill their target. His master, Long Feng, knew of the old laws, that gave the Shroud amnesty while on the hunt. Thus, he had allowed the Shroud to hunt for the boy. It saved the Dai Li trouble, anyway. They would have to go after him anyways, sooner or later. But Rayu and his group had become a disturbance. They were disrupting the peace. Three and half weeks gone. The Shroud had not acted. Now, the Dai Li would.

Head of the Dai Li

The Shroud had not acted. Now, the Dai Li would.

Five men stepped out of the hole in the ground after Jin Lo. These five men were put under Jin's orders, in order to arrest Feng and his friends. Another group of ten men would be expelling the Shroud assassins from the city at the same time.

Jin Lo motioned to the men under his command. They quickly took off, hopping from rooftop to rooftop, towards the house that belonged to the young assassin the Shroud knew as the Shadowborn.

Ehan heard the telltale thumping of men jumping from roof to roof. He smiled. It was about time they showed up.

He got up out of his small bed.

"Wake up, ladies," he yelled to his four comrades. They all got out of bed quickly.

"Some friends of ours have come to say good morning," he said, giving a smirk.

Airan smiled, and grabbed his claymore from the floor where it lay.

"Let us return the favour, my friends," he said. "'It would be rude of us to ignore our most gracious guests."

Ehan punched upwards, creating a hole in the roof. Rayu was the first out of it: He propelled himself upwards, fire coming from his feet. The rest of them followed.

Ten Dai Li men surrounded the house, each one standing on a different house.

"Huh," Kayla said. "Would have expected more. It's almost funny how they thought they could take us with ten men."

What looked to be their leader spoke up.

"Members of the Shroud," he said. "We understand the old laws that say that the Shroud has amnesty while on hunt. However, you have failed to acquire your target and have become a public disturbance. You will leave the city at once, or you will suffer the consequences."

Rayu answered the man.

"The Shroud must acquire its target. There is no other option. We will stay until our target is dead. You will not throw us out."

"Very well," the Dai Li officer said. "I see you choose to suffer the consequences."

The ten Dai Li men all got into a fighting position.

Rayu smirked, and nodded to his friends.

It all happened at once. Kayla swept a large amount of water out at three Dai Li men to her left, freezing the water when they hit the wall. They broke out, however, propelling themselves forward. She brought the water up to them, and made it grab all of their hands and feet. She brought them back to the wall, and froze the water again, leaving the three of them struggling to break free. She impaled them all with spikes before they could.

Airan threw bombs at another three of them. They threw their earth gloves at the bombs, exploding them in midair. When they did, Airan threw knives at them, killing them all before they could put their focus back on the non-bender.

Ehan stomped the ground, sending another three of them flying through the air. Gracefully, they all flipped in midair, and landed in unison. They thrust forward, each sending a pillar at the man. He punched upwards, and three walls came up to block the three pillars. He clenched his fist, turning the walls into spikes, which he sent flying at the men. They were all impaled.

Rayu turned towards the officer, who was the last men standing. He was looking at the carnage around him, wide-eyed. Nine Dai Li had just been cut down in the blink of an eye in front of him.

Rayu sighed. "Sorry it had to come to this."

He closed his eyes, and began to swirl his arms around. Lightning collected in his arms. The officer looked on at the man, wide-eyed. He knew the colour of normal lightning. This wasn't it. This lightning was red as blood.

Rayu opened his eyes, and pointed two fingers towards the man. The blood-red lightning shot out, and hit the man dead on. There was a large explosion, and when it cleared, the man was lying a distance away, dead.

"Alright," he said, turning around. "The Shadowborn is bound to be tangled up with the Dai Li by the time we get to him. He'll be caught off-guard. He will die, today. We must move, quickly. More Dai Li will be after us. Ehan, you and Kayla go after the Shadowborn. Me and Airan will take care of the Dai Li. Go. May balance always keep."

"May balance always keep," the three others echoed, before they all took off their respective directions.

A Rude Awakening

Wei was awakened to the noise of knocking on their door. She rose, sleepy-eyed. She went into Feng's room. He was sound asleep. She smiled at his sleeping form, his chest rising and falling. His hair had fallen away from his forehead in his sleep, and he was smiling from some good dream or another.

"I wonder what you dream about," she whispered.

She gently shook him awake.

"Oy. Feng," she said. "Wake up. We have visitors."

"Huh?" he said, groggily. "Yeah, yeah. I'm up. Go wake Nekku."

She went and got Nekku awake, while another knock came to the door. When she exited his room, with the young waterbender in tow, Feng was dressed.

He opened the door softly, letting the soft light of dawn seep into the room.

Jin Lo was standing at their doorstep.

"Feng," he said.

"What do you want," Feng said, wearily.

"You are under arrest by the authority of the Earth King. You will come with me at once, or you will suffer the consequences.

"Dammit," Wei muttered under her breath, while Nekku's eyes widened.

"And if we don't?" Feng asked.

"Then you will suffer the consequences."

"And what are they."

"Are you telling me you intend to resist arrest?"

Feng looked behind his shoulder at his friends. They both nodded. As soon as he saw them nod, he stomped his foot to the ground. A slab of earth came up at Jin Lo, coming close to hitting him in the stomach. The man jumped back, and launched an earthen glove at the young assassin. Feng rolled to the side, watching as the glove exploded on the back wall.

"Wei! Nekku!" he yelled. "Grab our weapons and run out the back! I'll hold him off!"

They did what he, said running back to where they stored their weapons. Jin Lo ran forward. Feng gave a hook punch from the right, making an earthen spike explode from the wall. Jin Lo jumped at the last possible moment, spinning in the air above the spike. He landed, and punched the earth, sending a slab towards Feng. Feng jumped to the side. The slab went past him, narrowly avoiding Wei and Nekku, who were finished collecting their weapons.

Feng punched twice, sending bits of earth at Jin, then kicked to the side, sending out a ball of earth from the wall. Jin Lo sent out his remaining earth glove and an earth boot, smashing the bits of earth, then pulled a wall down from the ceiling, blocking the ball of earth. He brought his leg up and kicked down, bringing a pillar from the ceiling. Feng jumped back, propelling himself to the back door. He ran out it, dodging more earthen gloves fired by Jin Lo, and found Wei and Nekku waiting in the alley. Nekku tossed Shi to Feng, and the three of them ran from the house.

"So?" Wei asked. "What's the plan?"

"We need to escape the city. Run. It's not safe here anymore. We could hold out against the Shroud, but not against them and the Dai Li. We'll head to the orphanage down near the wall. There's a guy there who knows a secret way out of the city."

Wei nodded.

"Guys, look!" Nekku yelled. Two more Dai Li agents appeared on the rooftops. They fired their gloves at the trio. Nekku smashed two of them with his water, while Feng exploded two of them in the air. Nekku swung his water in a stream at one agent, swatting him off the roof. He landed with a thud, where Wei threw one of her two daggers at him, hitting him in the temple, knocking him out cold. As she picked it up, Feng jumped into the air, and brought a trail of sand from the ground, which he sent at the other agent. It hit him in the face, knocking him to the ground, where Feng knocked him out. He jumped back down to his friends, where they kept running.


Airan and Rayu stood back-to-back. There were twenty-five Dai Li agents surrounding them so far. More were coming, they knew.

"Ready for this, my friend?" Airan said, his claymore pointed at the adversaries.

"Am I ever not?" Rayu said back to him, cracking his knuckles and bringing flames over both hands.

Thirty Dai Li surrounded them now.

"Let's do this," Rayu said. He went forward, kicking twice, sending out balls of fire at some agents. He punched twice, and jumped in the air, flipping forward, kicking on the way down, sending out a large tower of fire. He dropped two agents in his first assault. Two more that were in his path propelled themselves away, launching earthen gloves at him. Airan rushed forward, slashing his greatsword at them, destroying them in mid-air. He nodded to Rayu, then jumped in the air. Rayu punched at his feet, a flame coming out of his elbow to add power. Airan flew through the air, and, nearing the rooftops, spun around. His claymore lashed out in a spiral of death. He caught one agent in the chest, and another in the arm. The one whose arm was cut jumped back and stomped, sending a pillar out of the ground. Airan pushed off it as it neared him, flying to another rooftop. He landed, and cut down another two agents.

Rayu nodded his approval, though there was no one to see but the Dai Li targeting him. Two of them pushed off the rock, landing right next to Rayu. One punched at him. He stepped backwards, into another agent, who punched at him. He stepped around. The agents continued to jab at him, and he dodged every blow. They both jumped back, and sent out their rock gloves. He sent fire at both pairs of gloves, taking them out. Then he swirled his leg around, sending out a wave of fire. The two agents were thrown aside, both unconscious.

Airan had taken out some more agents in the meantime. He jumped to a higher rooftop, on which were two Dai Li. He slashed out at one, who was cut deeply, and fell off the roof. The other stomped the ground, sending a pillar under Airan, aimed at his head. He stepped back and slashed the earth in front of him, shattering the pillar.

Rayu jumped up to where Airan was, quickly sending fire out at the remaining agent, dispatching him.

"Holding up, friend?" Airan called.

"Pretty well, Airan. I think there's too many of them, though!"

"Ah, what are you talking about, there's only about... Thirty..."

Another round of rocks came flying at the two assassins, who dodged the attacks.

"Alright," Airan said. "Perhaps you're right. Let's lead them north of here. Allow Kayla and Ehan time to hunt."

Rayu nodded, and the two Shroud members took off to the north.

Feng, Wei and Nekku burst into the small square, stopping as soon as they were out. They were surrounded on all sides: Three Dai Li at their front and sides, and Jin Lo rapidly approaching from their back.

Feng ran forward, and slammed the earth with his fist, sending a slab of earth out towards a Dai Li agent. The agent jumped into the air, letting the slab go under him. He landed with a punch to the earth, sending out a row of pillars. Feng jumped into the air. As he did, Wei rolled down to the side, and loosed knives at the agent on their right. He brought up a wall of earth, blocking them. Wei ran forward, jumped over the earth, and slit the agent's throat. Feng hit the ground, and punched, sending a boulder out of the wall behind him. The Dai Li agent stepped to the right. The agent on their left punched, sending a pillar out of the ground at Wei. She jumped over it, and Nekku sent water at the agent. He was knocked against the wall, and fell down unconscious. The remaining agent elbowed the wall behind him, and punched, sending out a boulder. Feng sent another boulder careening into it. The rocks smashed together. He stomped and punched both hands out. A piece of the earth flipped, smashing the agent under it.

Jin Lo stepped out of the alley.

"Surrender. You can't win. The Dai Li controls this city. We have hundreds of men, and wherever you go, we will know. You cannot escape."

Feng wiped sweat off his brow.

"Try me," he said.

Jin Lo spit at the assassin.

"Very well. Have it your way."

He twirled his arms, finally punching up diagonally. A massive pillar came out the same direction. Feng, Wei and Nekku rolled to the side of it.

"Wei. Nekku," Feng said. "When I say run, you run. I know a place we can hide."

He punched the ground. He swirled his hands in the air, and punched up with both his hands. All around the three friends and their enemy, dust rose. It went into the air, creating a cloud too thick to see through.

"Run," he said.

Kayla stood on the top the Middle Ring of Ba Sing Se.. She stood atop the walls that ran along the top, watching the scene below her unfold. Ehan was perched atop a small army barracks near her.

"Rayu was right," Kayla called to him. "The Shadowborn and his friends have grown indeed. They could hardly hold their own against common thugs before. Now they're fighting experience Dai Li men. And winning, at that."

Ehan nodded. "They were good back then, too. When I first tried to kill them. But they'd still have died if it weren't for the Dai Li's intervention. They're strong. The boy takes after his father."

Kayla nodded.

"We can still beat them, though," she said. "We are the Elites of the Shroud. Trained to fight any enemy. We are the Masters' eyes, ears, arms and legs."

"It may be tough. Ha, listen to me. I'm the cocky one, and I'M saying it'll be tough. At any rate, I really don't know how this kid is this good at what he does."

"No sense dwelling on it, Ehan. We'd best move."

A cloud of dust rose around the square she knew the Shadowborn was fighting in.

Ehan nodded, and dropped down from his perch.

"The Shadow's legacy ends here."

The Stormy Sky

Wei, Feng and Nekku ran from the cloud of dust, knowing that Jin Lo was likely close behind.

"There's an orphanage by the wall. The headmaster owes me a favour. He can smuggle us out of the city; I know he's done it with some of his kids," Nekku said.

Feng nodded.

"We'll go there. We have to be careful. Avoid any Dai Li."

They ducked into a small square. Their house was near the Middle Wall, so they had a ways to go yet. They made their way through the alleyways of the city. They saw some Dai Li, but managed to evade most of them. They eventually worked their way down near the Lower Wall, gaining ground. They stepped out of an alleyway into a road. People were shopping at stalls, coming and going, chatting in the streets.

Feng looked on into the crowd. He gasped at his next sight. He caught a glimpse of medium-length black hair, and, next to it, long blonde hair. He saw two people, wearing the impossible-to-miss black cloaks he dreaded. He saw sunlight shining gently on each of their three sword emblems, crossed together, stitched to the front of their uniforms.

It began to rain, then. It started out as a small drizzle. The stormy skies opened up, as if shedding tears at Feng and his friends, desperately running from the only home they knew. Drops of water bounced off Kayla and Ehan.


The stormy skies opened up.

Wei and Nekku stopped as they saw the same thing as Feng.

"They're here," Wei whispered. "It's been more than three weeks. We thought-"

"Hello, sir!" Ehan called, spreading his arms wide, as if greeting an old friend.

Feng, Wei and Nekku all dropped into fighting stances.

"Now, now," Kayla said. "Don't be so aggressive. Who says we haven't come to talk?"

"Cut the crap," Feng said. "Tell us what you want. Why you're chasing us. Why the hell you're calling me "shadowborn". I want to know."

Ehan tsked. "Now, now. Spoilers."

He jumped into the air, and stomped the earth with a powerful ferocity. People around him and his enemies screamed, and civilians ran in all directions. A trench shot forward at Feng. The boy rolled to the side, and punched, sending out a boulder. Ehan shot out his hand, and it exploded.

"You don't know neutral jing, boy," he called out. "You're an earthbender; you should know this stuff. You don't blindly attack. You wait, and when you see the right moment, you STRIKE!"

He kicked out, sending shards out of the earth at Feng. Feng raised a wall to defend himself. When he did, Ehan stomped, sending another trench, which wound its way around the wall. Seeing it as it came, Feng jumped over his wall. He dropped into his fighting stance again, watching Ehan.

At the same time, Kayla was fighting Wei and Nekku. Their assassin jumped into the air with a pillar of ice, and took it back into water in the air. She sent out a storm of spikes at the two. Nekku cut them out of the air with his water, making it sharp as a blade. He slashed with his arms, sending out two blades of water. Kayla jumped to the side, and the water cut up a house behind her instead. Wei rain forward, and threw a slew of knives at the assassin. She threw water at them, and froze them in the air, letting them drop harmlessly to the ground. As she did, Wei charged forward. Kayla sent three spikes of ice at the young girl. She dodged, twirling under them, cutting each of them to pieces. She stood up straight, and as she did, launched one of her daggers. Kayla made to dodge, but was a second to late. The dagger grazed her right shoulder, opening a cut.

Feng watched Ehan closely. Neutral jing, he thought. Wait, then strike. Ehan circled him. Feng saw his muscles tense, and knew he was about to strike. He punched out his palm, and a trench shot out. Ehan began to stomp the earth with his right leg. The trench reached him at just the right moment. It hit his left leg, sending him off-balance. Feng punched, sending a pillar out, hitting Ehan in the back. He was thrust back, and hit the wall.

"Well, Shadowborn, I see you've been listening well." He chuckled.

"I guess so," Feng replied.

Kayla reached out around her. Water came from the air, materializing on her fingers.

"How did you... How did you do that?" Nekku said.

Kayla smiled. "Old waterbender's trick."

She lashed out. The water extended, creating what were nearly claws. Nekku danced to the side, narrowly avoiding one.

Ehan threw out two boulders. Feng propelled himself up, dodging both. His assailant brought up two more boulders. He rose his hands, and clenched both into a fist. They broke apart, bullets of earth flying out of them. Feng threw up a wall, but the bullets tore through it. He dodged to one side, his body twirling. Sand came up from the earth, coming around Feng. The young assassin lashed out with it, taking out as many bullets as he could. They tore through the houses behind him, but he managed to avoid them.

Kayla lashed out with her makeshift claws again. They were each sharp as a blade, proved by leaving scratches in the earth where they fell. Nekku flipped backwards, avoiding a slash, while Wei went to one side to avoid another.

Nekku looked over, and saw the bullets fired at Feng.

"Wei!" he yelled. "Go help Feng! He needs you more than I!"

"You sure, buddy?"

"Absolutely! Go!"

She nodded, and ran over to Feng.

Feng dodged another of Ehan's attacks, and another, and yet another. He was finding less room to attack. He stomped, bringing up three boulders, and kicked in a wide crescent. The boulders were sent flying at Ehan, who dodged them nimbly.

He saw Wei out of the corner of his eye. Her red hair was fire, flying out behind her. Ehan was concentrating on Feng, and didn't see her approach. She kicked up dust at Ehan's eyes. He turned towards he, and jumped out of the way of the dust. She slashed towards him with her remaining dagger. She gripped onto it with both hands, putting more weight behind her attacks than normal. He swirled to one side, avoiding it. He kicked, sending up a pillar, and she dodged to one side, before slashing at him again. Feng kicked out, sending a boulder from a wall at him. He saw it coming, though, and stepped to one side.

Kayla lashed out at Nekku yet again. He nimbly dodged to one side, before sending out his own water at her. She stepped aside, letting it splash against the wall. She spun around, and hardened the water in her left hand. It was sent out, five deadly spikes, all ready to impale Nekku. He jumped into the air, propelling himself with a tower of ice. As he came down, the spikes crashed into nothing behind him. He reached out his hand, clenching his fist.

"What... What are you doing?" Kayla said.

The water on her fingers began to harden. Starting at the tips, it froze, going all the way down to her fingers. Nekku kicked at the earth, and all five claws shattered.

Wei, red hair billowing out behind her, was pressing the offensive. She struck out at Ehan desperately with her dagger.

"You won't touch Feng," she said to him. He dodged all her attacks, but was being put off-balance. She kicked, and landed it right in his chest. He fell over. She readied the final blow.

"Wei!" Feng yelled. "Look out!"

A Dai Li agent swept down from the rooftops, headed towards her. She jumped out of the way. At the same time, Ehan brought up a piece of earth, sending it forward. The agent sent out his earthen glove, and the two pieces of earth exploded on each other.

Dai Li agents began to pour into the street. Feng estimated ten by the time all was said and done.

"Well, we're in some trouble now," Nekku muttered under his breath.

The time for demanding arrest had ended. The Dai Li began their assault. Five of them, in unison, punched out their arms, sending pillars at Kayla and Nekku. Nekku jumped back, and Kayla jumped up. Dodging the pillar, Nekku launched a spike of ice at Kayla. She saw it just in time, and threw her head back. She could see her own reflection in it as it passed her head.

The Dai Li lined up. Five were on each side of both the Shroud and Feng and his friends. All together, they raised a large wall on both sides, clinging to them as they rose. Ehan, Wei and Feng rose their heads to look at them. Feng saw his chance, then. He gave the earth an axe kick, raising a pillar at Ehan. He was caught off guard, and sent into the air. He regained his composure, and landed with a punch. It sent a shockwave out towards the Dai Li on his side. Their wall rattled, until all five of them decided it was best to get off. They jumped to the ground as the wall crumbled.

Kayla stepped back to Ehan. Nekku threw water at both her and the Dai Li on his side, who had jumped down and began to launch rocks at Kayla and him. He made his way over to Feng and Wei. Fighting stopped, as Feng, Wei, and Nekku looked at both the Dai Li and the Shroud, the Shroud looked at the Dai Li and Feng's group, and the Dai Li looked at both the Shroud and Feng's group.

All hell broke loose.

Feng sent a boulder at the Dai Li, hitting one agent square in the chest. Another punched out, turning his glove into deadly bullets aimed at Kayla. She jumped up, and sent water down at Wei. Wei dodged to the side, and threw a knife at Ehan. He blocked it, and stomped, sending a slab of earth at a Dai Li man. Two of the Dai Li sent out three large boulders, aimed for Nekku. He jumped to the side, and sent ice spikes at them, killing one.

"This is no good!" Kayla yelled to Ehan. "We can't get to them through the Dai Li!"

"You're right! Let's get out of here, get Rayu and Airan!"

The two jumped up, and left on the rooftops. Three agents of the seven still standing went after them.

Wei sent out a knife, killing one Dai Li man. Feng was hit in the shoulder by an earth fist. Wei dodged one fist, only to run into another. Another agent sent out a slab of earth at Nekku, who narrowly avoided it. Feng slammed the earth, and a pillar shot out at two of the remaining agents. One jumped away, but another got caught. He was sent through the air, and landed a ways away, dead. Nekku threw a stream of water at the man who jumped away, sending him into the wall. Feng kicked up, bringing up a small boulder under the same man, which hit him in the stomach, knocking him unconscious. Wei dashed forward and stabbed the last one.

The rain was falling harder than ever, now. The stormy skies sobbed at the three young assassins, surrounded by so much death.

They stood there, finally alone in the street.

"We need to move," Feng said. Wei nodded.


They turned to go, but something stopped them. In front of the trio, a part of the ground opened up. A man dressed in the Dai Li uniform, not wearing a hat, with a long, black ponytail, rose up from it.

"Feng. Wei. Nekku. How good it is to finally meet you."

Feng drew his sword, Nekku his bow, and Wei her dagger.

"Long Feng," said Wei.

"Correct. I am glad you know who I am."

"What does the leader of the Dai Li want with us?" Feng asked.

"To talk. Don't worry, I came alone. My Dai Li are too busy going after the Shroud at the moment. Tell me, Feng, do you know why you are hunted?"

"No. At this very moment, though, I don't much care. Rather focus on staying alive."

Long Feng ignored him. "You are hunted because of what you are. Who you are."

"The hell do you mean?"

"You are a tool, my young assassin. You were always a tool. To be used by us. Since your father was murdered—which, by the way, we did not do—we have been watching you. We gave you your first contract. We intended to use you. When you got older, you were to be an assassin for us. But you and your friends acted out. You grew too unruly. Now, we must put you down. You are a tool gone awry."

Feng stared at him.

"You're wrong. I'm no tool. Especially no tool of the Dai Li's."

"Don't be so naive. All men are tools. All a person is something to be used."

"Shut up!" Feng yelled. "You did not make me become an assassin! I chose that for myself! I chose my own destiny!"

"All destiny truly is is what men with power decide for men with none."

Feng ran forward. He put his sword up to Long Feng's neck.

"I am no tool. No tool of yours. I create my own destiny. You did not decide my fate."

"Believe what you will. I decided you should know. We'll deal with the Shroud for now. You will have to wait until later. That Rayu cannot go unchecked."

Wei started forward a bit.

"Wait," she said. "Did you just say... Rayu?"

Long Feng nodded. "Rayu. He's an Elite of the Shroud. One of ten members who are their very best operatives. He's their leader, in fact. Kayla is third of the Elites, Airan is sixth, and Ehan tenth. Why do you seem so interested in his name?"

Long Feng and Dai Li agents

All destiny truly is what men with power decide for men with none.

"Not sure. Feels like I should know it."

"Well, I will not take any more of your time. Begone."

He sank below the earth yet again, leaving Feng standing in the rain, his sword by his side.

Wei put a hand on his shoulder.

"He's an idiot, Feng. You know that. You never had to accept that contract. You chose this path, not them."

"I know." He gave a sigh. "Well, guys, we should leave. The orphanage is just up ahead."

The three of them walked towards their escape, fleeing their only home, as the stormy skies cried for them.


Death triangles. They're like love triangles, but with more death.

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