|More from BlueDagger||Adventure||PG-13||Positive|
|Horizon Part 2: Farewell|
June 29, 2012
Feng, Wei and Nekku continue escaping the city, clash with a surprising opponent, and finally learn why the Shroud is hunting them.
The Hunt Continues
The rain washed the blood away.
Kayla and Ehan found Rayu and Airan sitting in a small square near the Middle Ring. They were both covered with injuries. Around them lay about twenty bodies of dead Dai Li agents. The rain washed their spilled blood off the streets.
Airan looked up as the two approached. He nudged Rayu, and got up, crossing the space to Kayla. He gave her a hug and a light kiss, and turned back to Rayu, who looked up from an apple he was eating.
"Oh," he said, wiping away apple juice from his mouth. "How'd it go?"
Ehan crossed his arms.
"The Shadowborn lives. The Dai Li didn't buy your distraction- though looking around, it does look like you caused some damage. Feng and his friends were able to escape."
"Dammit," Airan muttered. "Well, we must go after him."
"They'll be heading for the Outer Wall. We'll cut them off before they get there."
"Leave the waterbender for me when we do," Kayla said.
Rayu chuckled, and looked up at the clouds.
"Rain's showing no signs of stopping," he mused. "Must be a sign. Come on, let's go. We've got work to do."
He led the small group southwards, towards the fields outside the city, where they hopes they would meet the Shadowborn, and end him once and for all.
I Hate it When You're Right
Water sloshed around Feng's feet as he ran. He, Wei and Nekku were making a mad dash for the Inner Wall. The only thing on their minds was escaping from the city while the Dai Li were preoccupied.
The three rounded a turn. Nekku stumbled and almost tripped, bumping into a main. He hurriedly apologized and continued running.
"Feng," Wei said, breathing heavily. "Feng, we need to slow down. Take a break. The Dai Li aren't here."
Feng slowed to a halt. He looked at the sky.
"You don't know that. The Dai Li hide and sneak and do anything to get their targets. They could be that guy Nekku bumped into. They could be a damned tree for all we know. We have to get moving."
Wei sighed. "If you say so. I'm just saying, I don't think we need to be overly carefu-"
She stopped mid-sentence and dashed forward, drawing her daggers. She slashed as two earth gloves came out, destroying them both.
"Dammit, Feng, I hate it when you're right," she said. Two Dai Li came jumping from a rooftop across the street. Nekku jumped forward, slashing downwards with water at a nearby cart. It exploded as one agent landed in it, throwing him off balance. Feng stomped the ground and kicked, sending a large shard of earth directly into the man's chest.
The other man landed on the ground and punched forward with both arms. The earth split open as a line of rocks made its way towards Wei. She jumped as it neared her, landed on top of it, and began running. The man launched his last earth glove as she neared him, but she simply stepped off the rocks. She slashed him in the chest with her right dagger, killing him.
She returned to Feng, and put an arm on his shoulder.
"Don't look back, just run, we have to keep going!"
"I think there were only two," Nekku said from behind as they ran. "Still, let's hurry."
The three of them continued running through the nearly-empty city streets.
Jin Lo adjusted his Dai Li hat slightly, shielding his face from the pouring rain. He looked around at the ten men with him. They were standing right inside the Inner Wall, next to a small building. The words "Inner Wall Sanctuary" were printed in bright red above it.
Jin turned around and spoke to his master, who was standing behind him.
"Sir," he said, "I'm not sure I feel comfortable about this."
"Jin, don't question my orders. You are a subordinate, and you do as your superiors command. This is what needs to be done. Do not question it."
Jin Lo sighed.
"Fine. Men, get ready." He couldn't shake the feeling that what he was about to do was wrong.
You are a subordinate, he reminded himself. You do what he commands.
Jin Lo approached the building, and kicked open the door.
Inside, five children where playing with toys. An old man looked up and smiled.
"Hello, there," he said. "What do you need?"
Follow orders. Always follow orders.
Jin Lo shakily raised his arm, pointing the earthen glove that lay on it directly at the man.
Long Feng knows what he's doing.
The glove launched off his hand.
Screams echoed from inside the orphanage.
Feng, Wei and Nekku halted in front of the small orphanage.
"Something's not right here..." Nekku muttered.
"What's wrong?" Feng asked.
"I don't know. It feels... It feels too empty."
"Let's check it out, then."
The three of them cautiously approached the building. Feng cracked the door open. What he saw made him jump backwards, gasping.
"What... What the hell?!" he exclaimed. "What? What's wrong?" Wei asked him.
"L-look for yourself!"
She looked inside the doorway, and gasped, same as Feng had.
"Those monsters..." she whispered.
Inside, she saw the dead bodies of children and adults alike. Blood coated the floor and walls. The entire establishment was permeated with the smell of death.
"That's... That's just sick..." Nekku said under his breath.
"Now," said Wei. "The question is... Who did this? Dai Li or the Shroud?"
"Who knows. Whoever did it, they'll pay. I'll make sure of that."
He walked through the doorway and into the orphanage. He approached the body of an old man, lying sprawled on the floor.
"Damn them all..." Feng whispered. He reached down and took a small book from the man's possessions.
"This was his..." he whispered. "The old man always loved poetry... I'll kill whoever did this. Blood for blood." He reached down again and closed the man's eyes.
Wei put a hand on his shoulder. "You knew him?"
Feng nodded. "He was a friend of Joe's. Helped me out once. Let me hide here when some guards were after me."
"I'm sorry," she said.
Feng stood up straight, and packed the small book in his pocket.
"We'll have to be more blunt than we were going to be," he said. "The old man knew some routes through Old Ba Sing Se that would lead out of the city. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to get through. We'll have to just get into the Agarian Zone, and head straight for the Outer Wall."
"How do we get over?" Nekku asked.
"I'll just have to lift us up with my bending. Not the most efficient, but like I said, we gotta be blunt."
Wei sighed, and rubbed her temples. "This sucks. I didn't expect to be able to stay in the city much longer, to be honest, but I thought we'd only be forced out by either the Dai Li or the Shroud, not both. And to drive one of them to slaughtering an orphanage... For spirits' sake, this is serious."
"I know. We need to move," Nekku said. "Now. Either the Dai Li or the Shroud could be on us at any time, and we don't want that."
Rayu launched another bolt of red lightning at a Dai Li who made the mistake of being too easy a target. He punched twice, sending two fireballs out. One shattered the cover another agent was hiding behind. The second flew straight for him, but he pulled up a wall of earth.
Ehan leaped forward and lowered the man's wall, and Rayu launched a blast of fire with a kick, which connected with the man. Rayu turned to his left to face another two agents who were coming at him hard.
He launched two fireballs at them, but they simply dodged to the side. He lashed at them with a whip of fire, which caught both of them.
Another agent came at Rayu from above, but was shot down by ice spikes from Kayla. He swept on the ground and brought up a small wall of fire, stopping two agents just short of him. He punched twice, killing both of them.
"This is too much!" Airan yelled as he opened a Dai Li from shoulder to hip.
"Nah, we got this!" Ehan yelled back, raising a boulder up under an agent and sending him into a wall, crushing him with it. "I think there's only a few more!"
Kayla slashed her arms as two Dai Li approached her. When they got to her, her water responded to her movements. A myriad of water blades sliced through both of them.
Airan jumped to the right of an earth gauntlet, then jumped forward and stabbed the man who launched it through the stomach. He pulled out and immediately ran at a man to his right, killing him as well.
Rayu locked his sight on the last two agents. He prepared himself, breathed deeply, and circled his arms. Red sparks surrounded them. He thrust his arm towards the agents, and a red bolt of lightning shot out. There was a large explosion, and when the dust settled, both men lay some way away, dead.
"Ha, these guys got nothing on us!" Ehan said. "We're Shroud Elites, the best in the world! Who can match us?'
"Don't get too cocky, Ehan," Kayla said cooly. "These are grunts. The Dai Li has better. Long Feng is trying to wear us down."
Rayu slicked his hair back off his forehead. "We need to keep moving. The Shadowborn and his friends will be in the Agarian Zone by now. Let's try and catch them."
Feng lowered the platform he and his friends were standing on gently to the ground. They stood on the other side of the magnificent Inner Wall of Ba Sing Se, looking out on the vast stretched of farmland that made up the Agarian Zone.
"We'd normally take the monorail," Wei explained to Nekku as the three of them began walking. "But it's heavily monitored. Now way we'd get through without letting every Dai Li in the city know where we are."
Nekku nodded. "Let's hope it doesn't take too long to get out of here. At least we're out in the open now."
The three of them walked a short distance, until they found a stable.
"I hate to steal someone's animals," Feng said, "But we need to get out of here as soon as we can. Everyone grab a mount."
He walked up to an ostrich horse and pulled himself onto it. "There, there," he whispered to it, stroking its neck softly. "It's alright."
"Eh, Feng, do you have any idea how to ride one of these?" Nekku asked.
"Yeah, me and Wei used to go riding. It's easy. Here, you ride with me."
Wei jumped onto a horse of her own, and Nekku hopped onto Feng's. The trio rode out from the stable. Feng rode up to the farmhouse the stable belonged to and threw a few coins on the ground.
"To compensate for taking their animals," he explained to Nekku and Wei.
Wei nodded, and they both steered their horses away from the farm. They kicked them into a gallop, making off for the Outer Wall.
Ehan lowered himself and his comrades down into the Agarian Zone.
"We missed them, didn't we?" Kayla said.
Rayu sighed. "We'll have to go after them. We'lll take the monorail. Ehan, there should be a train coming soon. Get us over to it."
Ehan nodded. He stopped the platform they were on from moving down. He punched forward with both arms, and the platform moved to the side.
The slab of earth moved over along the Inner Wall until it reached a tunnel with a track going out of it. Ehan positioned them just above the opening. A few minutes later, a train came speeding out of the tunnel. The four assassins jumped down onto it quickly, making sure the earthbenders driving it did not know they were there.
"Hey," Ehan said. "One thing that just crossed my mind. Who the hell hired us for this, anyways?"
Kayla lifted an eyebrow.
"Abhiraja told you someone hired us for this? No, this was his will. He decided we must end the Shadowborn before he became too much of a threat."
"Alright," Rayu said, looking out over the scenery. "Keep an eye out, and we'll find him."
"Wait a minute," Airan said. "Over there!" He pointed to their right. "Dai Li."
True to his word, when the other three looked down, they saw the Dai Li. Thirty men were fast approaching.
"Airan. Kayla. Ehan," Rayu said. "Go take care of the Dai Li. I'll find the Shadowborn."
"But... Rayu! His waterbender friend beat Kayla!" Ehan protested. "Don't take them on alone!"
"I've got this, Ehan. Trust me. You go take out the Dai Li. Come back once you take them out."
Kayla sighed, and put a hand on Rayu's shoulder.
"Be safe," she said, before hopping off the monorail, followed by Ehan and Airan.
Rayu turned to the other side. It was there where he spotted two ostrich horses galloping across the farmland. "I've got you now, old friend," he muttered, coating a fist in flame before jumping off the train.
An Old Friend
Feng focused on the reigns, goading his mount on through the farmlands. It was Wei who spotted the black-clad figure speeding towards them, propelled by jets of fire.
She rode up beside Feng's horse.
"Feng!" she yelled. "Hold up! Stop your horse!"
He did as she said, and reigned in. She did the same, slowing to a halt. She pointed over.
"See that?" she asked. Feng nodded.
Feng, Nekku and Wei all dismounted.
They stood there, by their mounts, as the shape slowly came into view. Before long, the man stopped propelling himself forward, and walked up to them. It was then that they got full view of his black robe: Complete with an emblem of three crossed swords on the front.
"Hello, good folks," he said.
"Hey... You... I remember you!" Feng said. "You were the one who told me where to find more about the Shroud, at the library."
The man nodded.
"Yes, that was I. I figured you may as well know before you died."
He settled into a fighting stance.
"Wait... Who the hell are you?" Wei asked, while drawing her daggers. "We've never seen you before."
"Why, long time no see, Wei. You really don't recognize me?" He sighed. "Well, I didn't want to fight you myself unless I knew you had enough skill. I am the leader of the Elites, you know. Anyways, you really don't know who I am?"
She shook her head.
"Feng, Wei," he said. "Good to see you again. Pity it's like this. It's me. Rayu."
Feng and Wei both stopped suddenly, staring at him wide-eyed.
"I knew that name sounded familiar..." Wei said.
"R... Rayu..." Feng whispered. "It's you..."
"What's going on?" Nekku asked. "Who is he?"
"He... He was our best friend," replied Wei. "We met him in the orphanage. He stuck with us. He taught us everything we knew going out of there..."
Rayu chuckled a bit.
"You finally recognize me. Listen, guys, I'm sorry we have to meet like this. Abhiraja wants you dead. If it were up to me, I'd spare you, but... It's all in the name of balance, I suppose." He rubbed his right shoulder. "Well, ready to get it on? I'll give you guys the first hit."
Wei looked at Feng and nodded. He stomped the ground, and punched, sending a boulder careening at Rayu.
The assassin jumped back, before lashing out with both fists. The fire from them destroyed the boulder.
"Gonna have to do better than that," he said. He kicked upwards, then brought his foot back down. Two slices of fire went out towards Wei. She dodged to the side and threw knives at him. While she did, Nekku threw a jet of water at Rayu's right side. He stepped backwards, and retaliated by slicing his arm horizontally, sending out a wave of fire. He punched twice after he did so, sending out two fireballs.
Feng propelled himself and his two friends over the wave of fire, and brought up two walls to stop the fireballs. He punched forward, sending both walls forward. Rayu waited until the last possible moment, and put a hand on the top of one of the walls, vaulting over it. As he landed, he punched the ground, sending out a shockwave of fire. Feng and Nekku both propelled themselves into the air, while Wei jumped over the shockwave. The two boys flew diagonal of each other. As the came down, Nekku slashed at Rayu with water, while Feng slashed at him with a stream of sand.
Rayu rolled forward, evading both slashes. Wei charged forward at him as the boys landed. She slashed at his head, and he ducked under. She then stabbed at him with her left hand, a blow which he jumped backwards from. She jumped forward, following him, slashing again and again at him. She attempted to land a blow time after time, but he dodged every one.
Feng chopped with his right hand, and a series of spikes flew from the ground towards Rayu. When he did that, Nekku put water under Rayu and froze it, sending him off-balance. He slipped and fell, bet was able to jet himself upwards over the spikes. He flew up and stood atop the now-stationary spikes, as Wei ran at him again, Nekku sent water at him, and Feng sent several smaller boulders at him. Rayu quickly circled his arms, and punched them out on both sides of himself. He was quickly surrounded by a sphere of flames. Wei was sent careening back from it, Nekku's water couldn't get past it, and Feng's boulders were destroyed.
"Feng," he said, still standing atop the spikes. "Do you know why we hunt you?"
Feng stopped, and let the boulder he had drawn up fall to the ground.
"...Yes. I do. I want to know why you, of all people, are trying to kill me."
"You've heard Kayla, Airan and Ehan call you Shadowborn, right?"
"That's why we hunt you."
He jumped down from the spikes.
"When an initiate of the Shroud completes their training and is offered to join the Shroud for real, they take an oath. That oath begins with one line: "Born in darkness, this I swear." But for us, we weren't truly born in darkness. You were, Feng. You knew your father, yes?"
"Of course I did."
"Not as well as you might have known. Your father, Feng, was the Shadow. Kunas the Shadow. That was his friend. Kunas. He was a friend of mine. A mentor. He was one of the Shroud. In fact, he was Abhiraja's second in command. Your father was the greatest assassin who ever lived."
Feng stepped back a bit.
"My father.... My father was what?"
"You heard me. He was the best. He came to the Shroud as a kid. He honed his skills. Rose through the ranks. There wasn't a man he couldn't kill. Until he met his sweet girl, and had you. He fled us. Defected. We... We hunted him down. Alex, the Dragon, killed him and took his place as second in command."
"You... The Shroud... The Shroud killed my father..."
Feng walked by his father's side down a side alley of Ba Sing Se. A young Kunas smiled down at his son.
They rounded the corner, and the smile faded from his face.
"Feng," he said. "Stay behind me."
In front of them was a man in black robes. Three crossed swords were embroidered on the front.
"Daddy," said Feng. "Who is that?"
"Just stay behind me, son."
"Well well," the man said. "Took me a while to find you, Kunas. You're going to pay. Blood for blood, that's how it works."
"You're welcome to kill me if you can, Alex. No one ever could before."
"I'll be the one, then."
The man circled his arms and motioned them forward. A large spiral of fire was sent down the alleyway.
"Feng! Get back!"
He punched up and rose a large wall, blocking the spiral.
"I mean it, Feng! Run, and don't look back!"
The man broke through the wall, and continued his assault. Kunas blocked every blow that came at him.
Alex looked on, and saw Feng running.
"Shouldn't get caught in these things, little boy!" he yelled. He breathed in, and exhaled. When he did, a blast of fire flew out of his mouth, heading straight for the small boy.
"No! FENG!" Kunas yelled. He didn't have time to raise protection, or to think. He ran forward fast as he could, and jumped in front of his son. The blast hit him dead-on.
"Sorry it had to end this way, Kunas. I looked up to you, I did. But blood must be repayed in blood."
Alex swung down, and finished off the greatest assassin who ever lived.
Alex smiled a bit. His smile soon dissolved into a mixture of almost... Sadness.
"I'm sorry, kid," he said to Feng, who now had tears coming out of his eyes.
"You... You killed my daddy..." he whispered. "You killed him!"
The boy began to break down, sobbing over his father's body.
Feng stumbled a bit.
"I... Remember... You killed him... You bastards! You bastards! HE WAS ALL I HAD!"
Feng rushed forward, one hand towards the ground. A deep trench was dug where it passed over. Feng ran until he reached Rayu, when he chopped upwards with his hand. A slab of earth went flying up towards the firebender.
Rayu jumped up and back, dodging the slab. Wei jumped up to him, and slashed at him. The bender was caught off guard. He dodged at the last moment, but it was too late. Wei painted a large red gash on his right shoulder. "Dammit," Rayu muttered as he fell to the earth. He got up as Nekku slashed down at him. He dodged back and returned fire at him. The waterbender used his water to knock Rayu's fireballs out of the air.
Feng ran forward, hatred radiating from him.
"You killed him!" he yelled, as he stomped the ground. A pillar came underneath Rayu, who jumped, being propelled high into the air.
Feng gathered his arms back and thrust them both forward. The ground began to break up into tiny shards of earth, which launched at Rayu. The firebender threw out a blast of fire, breaking up the shards in midair.
Rayu landed, and Feng continued his assault. He threw up two boulders, which Rayu dodged, and gave a roundhouse kick. The kick sent up a wave of earth headed at Rayu. He jumped over it. When he landed, Feng stomped the earth, sending a slab up under his feet.
"Well, well," Rayu said. "You guys aren't half bad. Listen, I'm sorry to do this, but I'm gonna have to stop holding back."
He jumped back out of their range, closed his eyes, and circled his arms. Red sparks danced around them. Lightning began to gather around his arms.
"Feng," Wei said. "That's not normal lightning..."
Not responding, he charged forward, followed by Wei and Nekku. They were too late for Rayu, however. The man pointed two of his fingers out in the middle of Feng and his friends.
"Crap!" Feng yelled out. He quickly punched upwards, bringing up three pillars and launching Wei, Nekku, and himself into the air.
Where the lightning made contact with the ground, there was a large explosion. Feng and his friends all hit the ground with a thud.
"Ugh, dammit..." Wei muttered as she regained her breath.
Rayu stood over Feng.
"It's over, old friend."
He raised a hand covered in fire, as Feng noticed a train speeding towards them in the distance.
"Not so fast!" Wei yelled, running at the firebender. He jumped back from her slash. When he did, though, Feng was able to jump up. He aimed a right hook at Rayu. The punch sent a pillar out of the ground, flying through the air until it connected with the small of the assassin's back. He was sent flying through the air, and landed a short distance away.
He got up quickly, and renewed his assault. Nekku sent a slice of water down, but he dodged to the side and sent the waterbender flying. Feng launched a series of pillars at him, but he sidestepped all of them, and blasted back Wei as she charged.
He began to ready his lightning, and aimed it at Feng. He released it, and as he did, Feng propelled himself into the air. His pillar crumbled under the lightning. As he landed, he turned the earth into sand, softening his fall.
"Wei, Nekku!" he called. "Come with me!" They did as he said, running over to him. The monorail train was getting closer, working its way from the Inner Wall to the Outer Wall.
As it passed them, Feng propelled himself and his friends up. They all landed on top of the train. The two earthbenders sending it forward stopped suddenly, but Feng punched forward, sending the monorail onwards towards the Outer Wall. The two benders were left behind in the dust.
"Feng, look out!" Nekku yelled. Rayu was jetting himself towards the monorail with his fire. Nekku sliced at him in midair. The firebender flew to the right, but Nekku slashed again. The water connected with Rayu's shoulder.
The assassin winced, but kept going through the pain. He landed on top of the monorail and punched the ground, creating another shockwave of fire.
The three assassins all jumped over it. Feng flipped a section of the roof under Rayu's feet. He jumped, and kicked downards, sending out a slice of fire. Nekku met the fire with water, turned his water to ice, and sent it at Rayu. He dodged to the right, and gave a hook kick. The fire caught Nekku, who was sent flying.
"No!" Feng yelled. He ran up to the edge of the train and caught Nekku as he fell.
Wei tried to keep Rayu off the two of them, sending attack after attack at him. Feng managed to pull Nekku up onto the train. After he did, he stomped the roof. A section of it raised right under the feet of Rayu, who was too preoccupied with Wei to notice.
Their assassin was sent flying off the monorail.
Towards the Horizon
The rain finally stopped.
Feng, breathing heavily, rolled over on the roof.
"That was... That was difficult," he said between breaths.
Wei nodded, exhausted.
"I can't believe it was Rayu..." she said. "Didn't he say he was going to his godfather's place after the orphanage closed?"
"I thought so. He mentioned that he... He knew my father. He must have been a part of the Shroud for a long time. Before my father... Was killed."
Wei put a hand on his shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Feng."
"Feng..." Nekku said. "Where do we go after we get out of the city?"
"I don't know. We'll wander, I guess. What else can we do?"
Rayu landed on the ground.
"Ugh, that kid carries Kunas' blood, all right. I suppose I'll have to go after him... Man, I wish I didn't have to kill him. He was my friend." He looked around him. "I'm talking to myself again."
It was then that he saw Ehan speeding towards him. He stood up and dusted himself off.
"Ehan!" he called. "What happened with the Dai Li?"
"There were a lot. Kayla and Airan are finishing up. They sent me to tell you. Did you... Did you kill him?"
"Nah, the kid's a slippery one. Got away on the monorail."
"Oh. Hey... The kid, wasn't he a friend of yours?"
"A good friend, yes. But still. The Shadow's legacy must end. We'll have to go after him. We'll send a hawk to Abhiraja after we get out of the city."
Feng lowered the platform slowly down the outer side of the Outer Wall.
"What a sight, eh?" Wei said to Nekku, who nodded.
"I can't believe we're leaving..." Feng muttered. "This is the only home I've ever known."
He gently lowered the platform onto the ground, and the three of them stepped off. Feng took his first steps on ground outside the walls of Ba Sing Se.
"Well," he said. "Let's go, then."
Feng, Wei and Nekku took one last look at the great city, and turned their backs, walking forward.
The three of them walked into the horizon.
End of Part 1.
- This has to be the darkest chapter yet. I debated whether or not to put the orphanage scene in, but decided to go with it to show the lengths that Long Feng will really go to.
- Yes the whole Feng's father jumping in front of Feng thing was cliche, but he was the greatest assassin ever. No way he could have died to another Shroud member (unless it was Abhiraja himself) unless something like that happened.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Part 1: Beginnings|
|First Blood - Bar Fights are Fun! - Civil Unrest - What Goes Around - Comes Around - The Shroud - Battle on the Wall - Starry Skies - Sister Dearest - One Last Sale - Horizon Part 1: Stormy Sky - Horizon Part 2: Farewell|
|Part 2: Journeys|
|That Long Road - Morning Never Comes|