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|More from Minnichi||Romance/Angst/Action||PG-13||Very Positive|
|Chapter 14 - Judgment (SHiE)|
Summary of the Last Chapter
Riya comes to realize that Yuhan's position in the Dai Li is further out of his control than she'd expected. She learns much about the dark organization, along with the shocking news that her stepparents are still alive. She runs into Yuhan by coincidence in the outskirts of the city. Though the two still care deeply for one another, it's clear that Riya intends to take her parents back. Yuhan knows the consequences.
"You are...you're an ally of the Earth King, right? And the Avatar?" Shabby clothes, unimpressive vocabulary, and gullibility written across her entire mediocre face...a dirty peasant.
"I am. We traveled here from Kyoshi Island to assist His Highness. What brings you here? You seem a little...disturbed." It looks like she expects to be murdered any second, in fact.
"I-I don't have much time! They'll see me! Please, take this!"
So this didn't turn out to be such waste of time, after all. "They...? Who are 'they'?"
"Th – Li, Dai Li! Please, I need His Highness to see this message as soon as possible! I...(gasp!) I'm sorry – I have to go! Please...!" The very sight of one of them has struck terror through her every bone. Interesting.
"I will gladly see to it that the Earth King receives this information immediately. There's no need for you to fret." I suppose it won't hurt to let her return happily to whatever little patch of dirt she came from.
"Thank you so much! I-I'll always appreciate it – Goodbye! Sorry for troubling you!"
"Oh, it is my pleasure. Have a lovely afternoon."
The scroll is hardly legible because of its annoyingly rushed and half-smeared characters, but it's still manageable nonetheless.
Tyranny, secret prisons, and a stubborn loyalty to their leader...interesting. Well, who am I to take back my word? His Royal Embarrassment will hear enough.
The dark, gloomy prison complex below the Royal Palace was so silent that the echoes of the occasional water droplets hitting the floor were deafening.
The stupid Earth King's completely lost it! He's sent Royal Guards all over the blasted city with pamphlets about Long Feng Sir's arrest! What in the name of all Spirits did we do incorrectly? This is insane!
The Cultural Minister stood with his back turned, and his hands were clasped a little too tightly behind his back as he faced the metal wall. His eyes were shadowy and horribly expressionless, though his narrow brows pressed down upon their lids ever so slightly.
Half of the Palace doesn't even trust the Dai Li right now! We can't rely on our converted political officials for long at this rate. How is this happening? Do we have a bloody traitor?
Nothing could ease the deep and terrifying silence, even when a second prisoner began to hack and cough in the distance. Long Feng made sure to drag it for years and years before he finally spoke his judgment. His monotonous voice drifted painfully slow across the room as he opened his mouth. "I do not believe you need to be told of the severity of your mistakes...Yuhan."
The emerald-robed figure behind him had been bowing low to the ground this entire time, with the brim of his hat almost touching the cold floor. He didn't dare to utter a word. Anyone would've taken his stillness for a corpse in the darkened cell.
It could've been one of those Kyoshi Warriors. They've always seemed pretty shady, and we can't trust them. Send more agents to monitor them.
Long Feng still didn't bother turning around to address his agent. "I am still pondering how to describe my disappointment with your performance. For an individual as yourself to behave so dishonorably..."
The young Orator made no response, though one of his supporting arms started to quiver slightly. Painful memories of his parents began to cloud his vision all at once. Run, he desperately told their silent images, as if his words would actually reach them.
Cancel the interrogation of the Kyoshi Warriors. Our sources within the Palace have reported that King Kuei received the information from an anonymous letter. Apparently the Water Tribe girl convinced him to take action after seeing it.
"I will not elaborate my opinions further," continued the Cultural Minster, his tone growing slightly in volume. "You already know the extent of your failures, as well as their consequences."
The suffocating silence took hold of the little cell once more. It stretched on for an eternity until the young agent was forced to reply, thus creating the humiliating effect that his leader intended. "I...deserve each and every punishment you wish upon me...sir..."
Fortunately, the only thing the letter mentioned was our untrustworthiness and the secrecy of Long Feng Sir's arrest – and that it was written by a 'concerned Lower Ring citizen.' Couldn't have been any Kyoshi Warrior, in that case. Seems like we've got work to do.
"Naturally," Long Feng agreed, a little too coolly. "However, given your commitment to the Dai Li for the past seven years...I suppose it is appropriate to question your motivation for such thoughtlessness."
Joo Dees! You have all been called here today for a very important task.
We are more than happy to serve the Dai Li, in the most wonderful of cities.
"I...I..." Yuhan had never remembered being so frightened in his life. He was officially a failure of an agent. Everything was over. "I am...unable to explain myself..." he continued bleakly. It was the truth, after all. "It is not in my ability...to describe such disgraceful actions. I can only apologize, and...will expect no mercy."
Our agents cannot recall fine details. Thus, we rely on your memory for this. Have you, Joo Dees, recently interacted with any misplaced citizens in the Upper Ring? We're looking for a Lower Ring resident, to be precise. If this applies to any of you, speak now!
Your Excellency, I am deeply honored to offer my assistance. I have met with such an individual in the East shopping complex. A female.
Long Feng continued to inspect the metal wall before him with great interest, as the young Orator continued to keep his face inches from the ground. "Fortunately..." he finally began again. "Your fellow agents have put on a very moving display of loyalty to the Earth King. Though his trust in the Dai Li still wavers, his time on the throne will come to an end soon enough. The consequences of your actions are, at the very least...somewhat manageable." As the Minister expected, the figure behind him remained silent.
Do you have any knowledge of how she traveled to the Upper Ring without permission?
She had permission, sir. A city pass – granted by Agent Yuhan Tsen.
The Cultural Minister slowly began to stroke his beard, marking his first real movements since the start of the meeting. "So...Riya of the Lower Ring, was it?"
Yuhan displayed his first motions as well. His bow grew even stiffer, and each of his muscles had become so tense that his entire body was visibly shaking. Long Feng decided to turn around at last, and he watched with the slightest hint of amusement gleaming in his shadowy eyes.
Mr. Huang examined the ornate parchment for the hundredth time. No prisoners. It provided several details of Long Feng's arrest, as well as the Dai Li's submission to the Earth King. It even contained a personal statement from His Highness regarding what a disgrace his former advisor was to the entire Earth Kingdom...but no prisoners.
The middle-aged man decided to focus his attention on Riya, who needed it most at the moment. She shifted about in her kitchen chair across from him several times, agitatedly scanning each and every character within the pamphlet to make sure she hadn't missed something.
"Riya," he sighed. "You should really -"
"I know," she interrupted dismissively. "Just – let me see..."
"You're not going to –"
"I know! Just...hold on..."
As he watched, Mr. Huang wistfully questioned the Spirits for placing such terrible burdens on someone so young and undeserving. He'd come close to losing his beloved son, and that alone almost drove him to insanity. He'd felt his soul being torn apart every time he'd had to look into Shen's fading eyes. Yet, his child had almost literally come back to life in a matter of days. The poor girl sitting in front of him, on the other hand...
"Did he even read half of the stupid message?" Riya screeched, finally slapping the paper onto the table. "Are hundreds of dying prisoners a trivial matter to him?"
"He's...he's a very busy man," her neighbor tried to explain as convincingly as possible. "It does say that he's planning on involving the city in the war, after all. So he probably didn't have much time to write anything. I hear that Ms. Katara is collaborating with the Council of Five."
"But...the prisoners..." Riya's words seem to crumble away into the heavy air. Her eyes gazed longingly beyond the windowsill, as if trying to pinpoint the location of her stepparents somewhere in the shadowy horizon.
"There's no way he can ignore something that important, Riya," Mr. Huang hastily reassured her. "Did you see how many things he listed in his rant against the Dai Li? He can't possibly cover every single one of their crimes – there's too many of them!" he added with a nervous laugh.
Instead of replying, the anxious young woman began to go through every little detail of her journey to the Upper Ring – Mr. Huang could tell just by looking at her distant expression. "You did nothing wrong, Riya..." he told her gently. "It was so brave of you, and we're all just grateful you weren't seen by one of them."
"Did I give the scroll to the wrong person...?" Riya wondered out loud, apparently hearing nothing he'd just said.
Her neighbor replied a little louder this time to get her attention. "You're thinking too much about this!" She flicked her restless eyes in his direction. "The Kyoshi Warriors are well-known as supporters and close companions of Avatar Aang's group. I even hear rumors of some romantic involvement at times. You're just worrying too much." The girl still appeared too busy searching her memory for a mistake. "You did more than enough, Riya..." Mr. Huang continued hopelessly. "This is further than we've ever progressed in generations!"
Only the noises of some chirping crickets outside could be heard for a few seconds. "Sorry, Mr. Huang..." the young woman replied quietly. She leaned over on an elbow and began to examine the night sky outside once again. "I just – I just wanted to see them again..." As she finished, her neighbor couldn't bear looking at her dejected face for long.
Though the Cultural Minister seemed to take great interest in watching his agent struggle to compose himself, he eventually continued his degrading speech. He held open a roll of files, which had been hastily prepared by some of the Dai Li's information specialists; he'd kept it ready in his sleeve, in fact. "19 years of age, orphaned at age 7, and a permanent resident of the Lower Ring..." he mused, loud enough for Yuhan to hear clearly. "And, most notably...a strong connection to the Resistance."
Long Feng examined the statue-like figure on the ground some more, which still hadn't changed positions this entire time. "It has come to my attention," he began slowly, "that this young woman's name is marked within your profile as well." Yuhan cringed a little. "A long-term acquaintance, it seems...am I correct?"
The Minister stared down hard at his agent when there was no reply. After a few more seconds, he seemed to reach a decision. "You may rise," declared the leader.
Finally lifting himself from the ground, Yuhan winced slightly from the pain of his aching joints, which had been locked rigidly for what seemed like the past thousand years. He kept his eyes low as he slowly balanced himself.
The Grand Secretariat observed him carefully. "Yuhan, would you care to refresh my memory of the standard penalties for disloyalty?" he asked casually, with a mock pretense of curiosity.
The young agent forced himself to speak, though the empty words seemed to fall one by one from his lips. "Disloyal agents are banished immediately from Ba Sing Se...and all Earthbending abilities are crippled permanently by physical means." His leader slowly nodded along, seeming to exaggerate his attentiveness. "Any family members are banned from following, are branded as traitors...and are transferred to the underground supply production for a lifelong repayment of debt to the Dai Li," Yuhan finally finished with much difficulty.
Ironically enough, a very faint (but rather smirk-like) smile began to form upon the Cultural Minister's face. "Completely identical to the policy manual, as expected..." he remarked. "You've always had a talent for recitations, after all."
Yuhan had no clue where the lecture was even going by now...but he was probably condemned for eternity, anyway. He decided to keep his mouth shut by default.
"It would be a shame to waste that talent, I must say..." Long Feng continued casually, stroking his chin in thought once more. "Furthermore, your actions have not reflected treachery, by definition. Just carelessness."
The agent gave up trying to understand his leader's motives as he listened glumly.
"Perhaps the penalties you listed are not suited for these circumstances..." The Grand Secretariat gazed over with a strangely quizzical expression. "You are still loyal to the Dai Li, I presume?"
To suggest such lenient measures...was he mocking him now? "Y-yes, sir."
"I would not doubt it either," agreed his leader, his tone beginning to reveal some horrible conclusion. Yuhan swallowed. "In light of your mistakes, however...I think it best to reinforce that loyalty. A little confirmation, that is."
"Your actions are in no way acceptable, and they almost cost us control of the city," said Long Feng, causing Yuhan to hang his head once more. "But the situation is still being handled somewhat efficiently...and you are still a devoted and highly talented Peace Orator."
There was something about the pattern in which his leader kept mentioning conversions that was beginning to disturb the young agent. He wasn't sure exactly what, yet – only that Long Feng had to stop mentioning it. Now.
"In light of all this, I am willing to allow you an opportunity to remain in the Dai Li without any penalty. This includes your family as well."
That was it. There was no way in all of Koh's Realm that Long Feng would ever pardon any mistakes. Not unless he had an equally horrible alternative, equally tormenting...
"You will carry on as you've always done, after you complete one special conversion – just one. Seeing how familiar you are with the system, I'm fairly certain it should not be much of a task."
Yuhan felt it coming, something that promised a horror like no other. He didn't want to know what it was. He wanted to run, to even die on the spot and sink into the ground like the haggard old man in his dreams, anything to get away from what was coming for him.
"Regarding this...peasant companion of yours. Riya, correct?" Her name sounded so awful coming from his mouth. "A number of your fellow agents have agreed that she's very appealing to the eye for a peasant. A breathtaking sight if it weren't for her stupidity, even."
The agent's face grew white.
"Assuming that these observations are true...I believe that the young woman would make a fine Joo Dee. Perhaps one of the finest we have. Wouldn't you agree, Yuhan?"
All of the minor noises around the prison complex faded to nothing. The darkness of the room swallowed everything around them into its silent vacuum. The world went still. Every sound was a distant ring in his hollow head.
"S-sir..." Yuhan's hands began to tremble at his sides as he stared back, his wide eyes failing to hide their dismay, the emeralds cracking apart with horror.
"You find fault in my logic, Yuhan?" Long Feng simply asked him. "She fits all of the characteristics perfectly, does she not? Our guides must reflect the beauty of our city through themselves; they must be appealing to the eye, pleasant, amiable, graceful..."
The words were distorted as soon as it reached Yuhan's ears. The agent stood rooted to his spot, his practically lifeless body somehow holding itself up. Every word Long Feng spoke was muted as floods of terrible visions twisted and stabbed at his lungs.
Hello, Agent Tsen! Would you like assistance with your uniform?
I have no such illness. I will check only if my duties are compromised.
That's not my name! It's Suyin! Please...I w-want to go home...
The memories distorted themselves into nightmarish images, with each Joo Dee speaking suddenly having hazel eyes and auburn hair, wide and demented hazel. Telling him she lived only for the joy of serving the Dai Li, telling him that any emotions were unprofessional. Sick and pale, begging him to spare her, to let her return home, only to have the existence stamped out of her again. He was shaking so badly that the ground beneath his feet began to tremble along.
Long Feng had spoken his name so sharply that the agent was wrenched forcefully from his personal realm of torment. Yuhan's mind frantically tried to regain its grip on reality, one that he never, ever wanted to be a part of, and he lost the ability to speak. No words could make it past his throat, save for a suffocated choke.
Long Feng watched with his cunning green eyes. His shaken agent hardly noticed as he took in a long, disappointed breath. "Yuhan, I can see that you're making no efforts to hide your dissatisfaction with my decision." Yuhan's crazed eyes did their best to gaze back. "Would you care to state the penalties of a refused conversion?"
"Perhaps I should specify that I've just given you an order, Yuhan."
Yuhan still croaked feebly even after his first two attempts to reply. "...Execution. Sir. O-of the failed rebel. Elimination of the threat."
"Good. I was worried that you'd forgotten for a moment."
Mr. Huang and some supporting neighbors kept Riya company in her little house for the majority of the evening. She seemed a little better off as they all shared stories with her and laughed, but anyone could see that her disappointment with the Earth King kept her continually restless.
It eventually grew late enough so that Mr. Huang was the only one remaining with her. She sat quietly at her kitchen table once again, seeming to take great interest in the stars outside her window.
"So the scroll you gave contained no information whatsoever about its sender, right?" he asked, probably the hundredth time.
"You were one of the ones who wrote it!" Riya laughed back. "I looked, and it didn't. You're the one worrying now!" Even so, her hazel eyes had taken on a slightly remorseful appearance since her return, as if she wanted to take in every detail of the world around her.
"My family could stay with you tonight," her neighbor continued, failing to hide the concern from his voice. "O-or you could always come over, and..."
"Thank you...but it's all okay, Mr. Huang. Nothing's happened for the past three days...we're all just waiting now. I'll be fine." She smiled sadly.
The man looked painfully into her eyes, knowing that she preferred to stay alone in order to keep anyone else out of danger if something were to happen. "Riya...w-when your stepparents left, we all vowed to look after you, to be there for you, and -"
"Please don't talk like that," the young woman said softly. "Nothing's happened. They would've come here already if they knew. You should go home before Shen gets too sleepy for his bedtime story. Tell him I said hi."
Her neighbor gave a dejected sigh. "Al...alright, Riya. Good night."
As her door closed behind him, he added quietly, "Be safe..."
Long Feng allowed the silence to stretch long enough for Yuhan to absorb each and every detail of the harsh reality, and he finally spoke again once the young agent's eyes clearly reflected the utterly trapped and helpless soul within them. "You now hold several negative feelings towards me, I presume..." began the Minister, his tone slowly taking on a different approach.
Yuhan was supposed to deny the statement, but the only sound that escaped his throat was something of a choke.
"Before you begin your conversion, however, allow me to share some of my own sentiments on the matter. You may benefit from them."
Long Feng offering his sentiments? Ha, that almost made him sound like a compassionate man for a moment. Ha...ha...
The young agent's eyes were beginning to appear a little demented – a detail that didn't escape his leader's notice. However, the Minister's tone only continued to grow as unusual as his dialogue. "Contrary to what you may believe, my decision was not made primarily for your discomfort, Yuhan."
"You must look at the situation logically," Long Feng continued, his expression almost resembling regret – 'almost' being the way it seemed rather forced. "Our female culprit is a highly dangerous rebel, and she's proven herself capable of upsetting the system of our entire organization. Such an individual cannot be left unchecked, do you understand?"
The familiarity of the words seemed to scorch through his conscience. Yuhan had spoken them himself, countless times in countless variations. His head felt like it would split open.
"Rebels who can cause disruptions as severe as hers have, no doubt, the most stubborn of minds," the Cultural Minister continued sternly. "It is wisest to utilize the talents of those who can effectively suppress such dangerous ambitions – individuals as yourself. You have made some poor decisions, Yuhan...but you are needed."
Yuhan's response almost made it past his throat, but it quickly trailed away. Though he still felt like sinking forever into the ground, a chord had surprisingly been struck somewhere within the young agent.
Duty. What is your duty?
It was a chord that the Dai Li had crafted during Yuhan's entire lifetime, and one that Long Feng had perfected in each of his agents. "Have you ever wondered why you are gifted in recitation?" asked the Minister.
Such a question only further troubled the young Orator, and he looked up somberly in response.
His leader's face began to grow strangely sympathetic. "We have known you longer than you have known yourself, Yuhan..." The room was strangely silent as the agent stared back. "I can still clearly recall those first few notes presented to me by your scouts," continued Long Feng, his eyes growing distant. "Lower Ring, 2nd Division. Age: 4. Combat potential: favorable. High degree of earthbending with rapid advancement, swift and strategic advantage over opponents, quick and unyielding strikes in confrontation..." He glanced over at Yuhan, as if checking for some behavioral sign. "Personality profile: favorable. Respectful of laws, respectful of authorities, rigid devotion to training, unquestioned obedience, strong interests in the Dai Li. Noted: extremely high level of..." The sudden pause caused the agent to listen a little more curiously. Long Feng slowly smiled as he finished his sentence. "...Empathy."
Yuhan found himself unable to describe the mixture of feelings within him. His leader's uncharacteristic and downright odd choice of words had left him baffled.
"Indeed, empathy has always been a recurring element within your profile, accompanying the other appropriate traits for the Dai Li," the Cultural Minister continued smoothly. "But I noticed that it held an unusual - significance in your case. And...I immediately knew that you would excel as an Orator."
The continuous inflow of his leader's bizarre revelations was becoming too much for the young agent to process all at once as he listened, blinking.
"Your scouts feared that it would make you soft, but I knew that empathy is the key to mastering the minds of others, if used correctly. By garnering trust, you can delve into peoples' innermost fears, hopes, ambitions – and know precisely how to shut them down," Long Feng stated, his cunning eyes gleaming. "You have a thorough understanding of every emotion, every face of personality. You can calculate the entire mind of a human being within hours...and because of that, you are unsurpassed in the conversion chamber."
Yuhan's head was beginning to feel faint. Sure, he'd always found the brainwashing business painfully easy...but really? There was a reason to it? He simply stood there in the eerie silence, something the Minister evidently enjoyed.
"Empathy, however, is a double-edged sword. Your scouts had a point there," Long Feng began again, his eyes slightly reflecting some kind of remorse. "It places one at high risk of becoming attached to his subjects."
...Oh. So that's where he was headed all along.
"Even so, I had high hopes for you as an agent. I was willing to take the chance," continued Long Feng, lifting his hands slightly to emphasize the unfortunate turn of events. "It is still in my belief that I was not mistaken, either. Your records have shown no influence whatsoever from each of your converted rebels." He gave a long and heavy sigh. "It is truly regrettable that one useless peasant girl would be the first of your flaws, after eight whole years of perfection."
Useless? Flaw? All of Yuhan's conflicting feelings about failing to carry out his duty came to screeching halt.
Long Feng narrowed his dark eyes a bit as his agent visibly flinched. "Of course, I've taken into account the complications of your long-standing companionship with the young woman," he began crossly. "I should have expected that she would affect you more, having been familiar to you for so many years."
The young Orator gave a single, very stiff nod as he looked away.
"And yet, with this in mind, I'm certain that she understands the importance of your work as a Dai Li agent," said Long Feng, his eyebrows furrowing even more. "Which is why it is plain to me...that she does not deserve the merciful side of your empathy. She is not fit for your kindness."
Yuhan appeared to be caught completely off-guard, and he gawked back at his leader. "I...Si-sir...I'm sorry?" he sputtered.
"From what I've been told, you've been extremely invested in this girl, to the point of hampering your logic and lessening the quality of your duty," Long Feng continued icily. "Has it not occurred to you that she knows her crime, and continued to put you in such a position anyway?" His frown only grew deeper at Yuhan's flabbergasted expression. "If she has truly known you since the age of five, she should very well understand your duty to the organization. She should not even have to question your obligation to the city. Because of her connection to you, she should see plainly the reason for which we exist: that peace must be created, and that people will choose war and destruction if left alone with their ignorant tendencies. This girl was born in our city, meaning her eyes have never seen the horrors of battle, nor the scars that the Fire Nation leaves in its path, all due to your relentless efforts...yet, here we are. If this is her way of showing any respect for you, then please explain it to me, by all means."
Long Feng's lips curved ever so slightly into a smirk as Yuhan's demeanor began to grow cold and solemn. The laws of the Dai Li shone in his eyes like ice.
"I trusted her, and her connection to my past has perhaps...made me weak, sir. I apologize," Yuhan began at last. "I know that she understood my situation, as well as my efforts to uphold the balance within this city, and she knew that it is far from an easy job. I had believed that I could count on this girl. Instead, she selfishly misused her privileges and even compromised my honor. I can see that now." His dark green eyes visibly flared, surely in realization and fury from the unfairness of it all. "I offered my generosity to the wrong person. It is only through your mercy that I may still retain my honor in the Dai Li. You are correct, sir. Thank you for freeing me of this weakness," he finished firmly.
A satisfactory smile stretched wide across Long Feng's face. "I'm glad that you have come to understand the situation, and that you are still the same honorable agent that serves an example for the rest. Your loyalty is unwavering, as expected." He gave a little chuckle. "Do not fret about your recent mistakes. You are only human and simply needed a little guidance back to your purpose." Yuhan was silent as he gazed back sternly. "To be realistic, however, you may still be tempted by this weakness, given that you're being tasked to sever such a significant connection from your life. I prefer not to lose my best Peace Orator to a trivial peasant girl in the conversion chamber tonight. Do you require any assistance from your fellow agents? I would be glad to provide some for you." Though he'd finished his job here, Long Feng still made sure to let the pain shudder through his agent, and he wore a terribly content smile. A mistake was still a mistake, and it never went unpunished.
Yuhan took in a long, heavy breath that almost burst his lungs. "I cannot deny that it will be difficult for me, sir. But I understand why it must be done, and I hold no regrets. I have no need for assistance. Only I can rid myself of this weakness, and I assure you that you will not be disappointed."
"Nor do I expect to be," replied Long Feng, a smirk still playing on his lips. "I am proud of you, Yuhan, Leader of Peace. You are dismissed."
Yuhan bowed obediently as the warden waiting outside picked up the cue and reopened the cell at last.
Several other agents watched curiously as Long Feng's most talented Peace Orator strode casually back into headquarters, making his way back into his comfortable dorm with no intentions of being banished or having the earthbending crushed out of his arms whatsoever.
As soon as he'd slid the door shut behind him, however, Yuhan staggered across the room and almost didn't make it to his bed before his legs gave away. He threw his face into his stony palms as he leaned over onto his elbows, his fingernails digging so deep that they scraped beneath his skin and caused a trickle of crimson to run down his temples.
I'm so sorry, Riya.
He hated himself for dishonoring her with his callous words. He hated himself for being unable to declare to the world how much he cherished her, and how much he deserved to die for what he was about to do. Screw duty! Long Feng belonged faceless in Koh's Realm!
Nonetheless, he was helpless to the horrible truth. Long Feng was correct. Yuhan was blessed and cursed with empathy – and today, Long Feng himself had even underestimated it, having never expected to be fooled by his own agent. Yuhan had seen within seconds how planned and artificial Long Feng's 'sentiments' were. There was no way his leader felt any pity nor pride for him. It was only because no one came close to his work in the conversion chambers, and without Yuhan there would be no converting the especially stubborn ones whom the Dai Li needed under control, such as the high-ranking generals or Palace officials. He knew that Long Feng only wanted to do anything for him to cooperate, because he was needed for future problems. No cooperation would give way to even more unthinkable penalties. Thus, Yuhan knew what he had to say, and how to say it. His act couldn't save Riya, but it effectively kept Long Feng from doing anything worse. And there were many things he could do worse.
In his trembling agony, clutching his skull to keep it from splitting open, it was all that Yuhan could do for Riya now.
I'm so sorry...
Hiroshu wondered, very faintly, what it looked like outside. That was always the annoying thing about the Dai Li's absolute need for a "super secret headquarters." It wouldn't have been so bad if they'd just brighten up the blasted place – literally! He already couldn't enjoy the lovely breeze outside...they really didn't have to rub it in his face with all the creepy Joo Dees smiling at him from the shadows every time he forced himself to come back.
Speaking of Joo Dees... "(Sigh) I know you're in there, buddy."
He'd been leaning against the wall outside the kid's room for...he glanced at the hourglass resting on a post at the end of the hall. 30 minutes? Dear Spirits, had it really been that long? "Yuhan, things are only going to get worse if you sit there forever," he added loudly.
Of course, there was no reaction whatsoever.
"I agree that this freaking sucks, alright?" Hiroshu threw in irritably. "But you're lucky – yeah, lucky that no one's getting their arms broken forever or having their parents turned into slaves because of the whole incident. That's going to change if you don't get out of there now! You've got an order, kid -"
The older agent almost took a step backwards when an icy voice suddenly shot back its response. "I'm going to take care of it soon, okay? You can go annoy someone else now."
"Who ever said I wanted to annoy you?" Hiroshu replied innocently. He suddenly felt a chilling, ominous air slowly drifting from inside the room. His voice began to take on a severe tone as he continued. "I'm here 'cause I know you're not going to do it."
Hiroshu jumped back in surprise when Yuhan's door flew straight out of its frame, slamming loudly against the other side of the narrow hall. The Peace Orator slowly emerged from his room as the ground indented beneath his feet, step by step. His face was covered so much by the dark brim of his hat that Hiroshu couldn't even see his nose. Only his unnaturally downturned lips were visible as he turned stiffly towards the older agent. "Watch me."
Yuhan stalked away down the green-lit hallway. Hiroshu hastily shoved the broken door back into its frame, but he quickly managed to catch up right as his partner turned the corner. "As you wish!" he replied, a little too cheerily. "I'll go with you."
The sleep-deprived agent looked like he was seriously struggling to keep himself from murdering his partner right at that moment. Hiroshu, however, forced himself to stand his ground nevertheless. The kid would need it. "You know what you have to do...but you won't be able to it on your own," he said softly. "Long Feng wants to keep you in the organization, but he's not going to take any risks. Everyone's watching to see if you fail." He could somehow tell that Yuhan was glaring at him even without being able to see it. "If your feelings end up making you do something crazy again, you'll end up getting the whole penalty package of being disloyal," he continued, sighing. "And...you'll lose her, too. You'll lose everything."
It was even worse than Hiroshu had imagined. His partner finally looked him in the eye as the brim of his hat rose away to reveal the horrible, broken up mess beneath. "I know that..." It was all Yuhan could manage to say before his head sharply dropped back down, followed by a similar rumble in the ground beneath.
Hiroshu watched the crack continue to shoot itself across the floor, down to the very end of the hallway. He'd never seen his partner lose it so badly before. A part of him almost automatically chastised Yuhan for being so unreasonable about his duties...yet, something began to ache inside when he looked back over at the kid, whose right hand had slipped beneath its sleeve. Its fingers were curled tightly around a little band of leather cords. Riya...she was a real person, about to be reduced to one of those walking rulebooks he so loved to have around to prepare his uniform. Which meant that those rulebooks were once real women, too. He suddenly had no desire to be around them ever again. He didn't want to think about it, not with the way Yuhan was gripping his bracelet as if it kept him sane, moments before he'd have to take away the sanity of its giver...
Even Hiroshu had to agree that it was just cruel, too cruel. But nono, he couldn't be a wimp over this. This girl wasn't going to die or something, at least not on his watch. He'd seen enough of that already. It wasn't supposed to be Yuhan's burden. "Well, it wouldn't hurt to make sure you don't mess this up," he quietly began again. "I don't want you being thrown out of the city, buddy. I'll go crazy if they stick me with some old geezer partner!"
The Peace Orator choked out a small, broken laugh. "I'd actually like to see that...but thanks, Hiroshu."
"Anytime!" replied Hiroshu, clapping a hand onto his partner's shoulder. His tone came out shakier than he would've liked. "Alright, then...let's head out."
The worst of nights was always the most beautiful of nights. Yuhan hated the sky for that. A full moon glowed brightly in the star-speckled sky, visibly showing off every detail of its mysterious grey shapes. The slight, cool breeze felt perfect.
Perfectly horrible, the young agent thought bitterly. His partner walking alongside him observed his vile attitude towards everything around them. Hiroshu looked up at the sky for a moment as well – and sighed after realizing how similar it looked to a certain night on the Outer Wall.
The shabby community floated past Yuhan's eyes in a long, continuous grey blur as they drew closer and closer to her home. No one stirred this late at night, and the two agents silently made their way through the barren streets. Yuhan unconsciously came to a stop when they'd reached about twenty feet from their destination.
"Come on, now..." Hiroshu whispered, giving his partner's back a slight push. They painfully drew closer and closer. "S-so where's the best spot?" he asked, a bit waveringly.
Yuhan stepped ahead, throwing out an arm to motion towards the back of the little house. It dropped back down just as quickly when Hiroshu nodded and followed, hanging lifelessly as he trudged forward.
The two reached a little window, with a crack of light showing through its partly closed shutters. Hiroshu was startled when his partner visibly cringed and suddenly grabbed at his own hair beneath his hat with a hand.
"...Father, Mina, Liu...I guess I still can't sleep..."
Her gentle voice stabbed him through with each and every syllable. Yuhan felt himself being pulled forcefully towards the window, though his body seemed completely detached as his mind went numb.
As Hiroshu peered curiously through the little gap, he allowed his partner some time as they waited, as her voice continued to drift quietly through the air.
"- feels kind of weird since you two are actually alive and all, but..."
Yuhan's eyes began to grow crazed again when he couldn't stop them from looking into the gap as well. There she was, kneeling in her slightly discolored nightgown, the robe having been tied loosely so that one of its sleeves drooped slightly past her shoulder. Her smooth, auburn hair flowed so perfectly down her back, some of it brushing against the wooden floor below... "H-Hiroshu." The Peace Orator's voice faltered. "Why are we doing this?"
Hiroshu snapped his head back to address him, his expression growing quickly alarmed. "Oh come on, don't start this now, man!" he whispered frantically. "Keep it together, now – come on!"
"- hope he's alright, too...still want to see him...maybe you'll like him a little better..."
Yuhan stared back wildly. "W-why...what do we do this for? Why do we convert...people...what have I been doing?"
His partner slid a stony hand very painfully across his own face. "We can't discuss this right now, Yuhan. You'll have all the time in the world later," he replied quickly, his words jumbling together. "We'll talk about it over lunch tomorrow – or something! My treat! Just – just stop it, alright? Go!"
The Peace Orator simply continued to stand in the same, blank manner while his delirium only seemed to grow worse. "How did the system...come to this..." he continued monotonously. "Maybe he's right...I'm going to pay for everything...and burn to the ground..."
Hiroshu was very visibly disturbed. "You've got to remember your duty!" he snapped, though quietly enough so that the young woman inside the house wouldn't hear. "Remember why you're part of the Dai Li! This has to happen – this is why the city is at peace! Come on!"
Yuhan's eyes suddenly snapped back into focus. His partner seemed relieved for a moment, until he spoke again. "Hiroshu...is this peace?"
The silence was deafening. Her voice continued to drift painfully slow through the night air.
The older agent struggled with himself for several moments. His expression was very uncharacteristically...lost, almost. He finally glowered back at Yuhan, his voice cracking a little as he spoke. "We – we're in no position to ask those things, Yuhan. We're Dai Li agents, and we do what we're told. We don't have the right to decide that! This is the reality, and you have to act now!"
Yuhan took a last, agonizing glance at her graceful figure as she continued to pray silently to her lost family. His words choked up inside his throat once again. "I-I...I can't..."
It all happened so fast that the young Orator couldn't process it in time. A single fist, with its rocky fingers clenched tightly, shot so forcefully that it crashed straight through the wooden shutters. Following the shattering noise was a small, sharp gasp – and a sickening thump.
Yuhan had barely looked in time to see her frail body crumple to the wooden floor, her hair fanning out in all directions over her face. Behind him, Hiroshu still held his bare fist in the air, trembling slightly. The glove had struck her square in the temple.
"RIYA!" The Peace Orator lost sense of the world around him as he kicked into the ground as hard as he could. It split open with several deafening cracks, demolishing the wall in his way as he ran wildly towards the unconscious girl.
"Are you out of your mind?" Hiroshu yelled, sprinting after him. "You're going to wake the whole neighborhood!"
Yuhan heard nothing as he lowered himself onto his knees, lifting her face tenderly towards his own. Supporting her with an arm, he brushed the messy strands of hair away and trailed a bare finger across the spot where she'd been hit, almost wincing in pain at the dark violets and blues already discoloring her light skin. Everything spun crazily around him.
Hiroshu stood behind, hanging his head as he dismissively summoned his glove back around his fingers. "We...have to go..." he announced weakly. "Yuhan..."
The Orator only continued to stare down at her face, while his own seemed to grow more crazed by the second.
"Listen to me, Yuhan – they'll kill her if you don't do this. You know that! For the love of all Spirits, pull yourself together!"
Mr. Huang, who lived two houses down and who was a naturally light sleeper, was awoken by the crash immediately. He wouldn't have sprung out from his home so quickly if it hadn't come from Riya's direction.
He stopped dead in his tracks at the sight. The back of her house had been blown through, with several huge chunks of debris trailing behind it. As he stood there barefoot in his night robe, two dark green figures emerged slowly from within, the gold trimmings of their uniforms glinting slightly beneath the bright moonlight. One of them walked briskly ahead, seeming to beckon the other with a hurried arm.
The immediate and awful recognition of the Dai Li almost prompted Riya's neighbor to vomit right at that moment. There she was - being carried away, just like that, by...
"Yuhan?" Mr. Huang's eyes widened even more in horror as he stammered the name.
The young agent turned slowly towards him. He was carrying Riya in his arms so gently, so carefully... The way he cradled her, her limp head resting against his chest, could've actually appeared romantic – had his eyes not looked so utterly broken.
"Yuhan!" Mr. Huang finally repeated, his voice growing frantic. "W-what are you doing?"
The second agent stepped forward. "You have no business here, peasant. Carry on." His voice was cold and firm."What are you doing?!" her neighbor only yelled more hysterically. "Where are you taking -" He paused for a moment as the young agent's body shook slightly, his eyes sinking back beneath the brim of his hat. "You – you don't have to do this, Yuhan!" he screamed. "You -"
Mr. Huang gave an agitated cry as the earth suddenly sprang up beneath him, causing him to crash onto his back and skid across the ground.
"Stand back." The other agent held an arm out dangerously before him.
Riya's neighbor watched despairingly as he struggled to pick himself up from the ground. Several others began to spill from their homes, with the same disbelieving and appalled reactions at the sight.
The agents had already reached the special carriage waiting behind them by now, and Yuhan was the first to disappear behind its dark doors as he lifted Riya carefully inside as well. His fellow agent soon followed, throwing one last threatening glance towards the staring Lower Ring citizens as a warning not to follow.
Mr. Huang's eyes began to dampen as they gazed after the retreating carriage. The last of Liu and Mina's broken family had finally disappeared from the little community.
Yuhan went over every detail of her face, again and again. He sat silently before Riya, though the two of them were separated by a curved metal rail that ran around the entire little room. Her head still hung limply to the side while her body was held firmly in place by the stone restraints of the chair she rested upon.
Even though she'd been knocked out so bluntly, Riya's resting face was so beautiful, so peaceful...so natural. Her chest rose and fell softly with her quiet breaths, and a few stands of soft brown hair sometimes brushed down over her cheek. The agent sitting before her was certain that Koh would rip off his own face as soon as he passed away, for distorting something so pure.
He wished for her to sleep forever, even if he couldn't look at her stunning hazel eyes ever again. Just to watch her carry on, in all her natural perfection...
Yuhan slowly rose to his feet, the stone pillar he sat upon sinking swiftly back into the floor as he positioned himself at the very center of the lantern's circular pathway.
Riya didn't belong down here, in all this gloom. The hazel color of her eyes was heavily dampened by the darkness of the chamber as she snapped them open. Her pupils darted about the room as they slowly came into focus, and she quickly grew panicked upon realizing that she couldn't move any of her limbs.
All of it suddenly seemed to register at once, when her consciousness returned fully. First the rail, then the eerie glow of the lantern in its corner, then the stone chair tying her down...and finally, the neatly folded yellow dress, scarf, and ornate headpiece already prepared on the ground next to her seat.
Her eyes cracked wide with fright as soon as they recognized the Joo Dee uniform, and a small gasp escaped her lips. At last, she twisted her head back forward to face the one who would administer it to her.
Riya went completely and utterly still as soon as her gaze fell upon Yuhan's shadowy face. The recognition seemed to make her entire body go limp again, and the tears immediately began welling up as she stared, unblinking.
Yuhan forced himself to keep looking into her shattered eyes as her sobs quickly grew louder and heavier. "C-calm down..." he began feebly, the protocolled words quickly dying on his lips. He soon found himself lying to them both. "Riya, please...calm down...i-it'll be alright..." Her head began to shake in disbelief, the salty rivers already reddening her eyes. "It's...all going to be okay...everything's going to be alright..."
It only made it worse that Riya seemed to be able to read all the terrible emotions wreaking havoc within his own eyes. "N-no...Yuhan, please...!" she sputtered back, her voice cracking with desperation as the tears slid endlessly down her face. "I want...to remember y-you...please!"
Another part of his soul seemed to tear apart with every word she spoke. He shakily folded his arms inside his sleeves as the glowing lantern began to move, illuminating both their faces as it passed between them.
"Yuhan...!" she pleaded again, though the frantic confusion had already begun to seep into her eyes as they grew disoriented and left her control. They were quickly losing their focus before the brilliant glow of the lantern, which whizzed faster and faster by the second. The black of her pupils expanded, slowly swallowing up the hazel like a blank, shadowy sea. Before long, Yuhan dissolved from her vision as her dulled expression became transfixed upon the light against her will.
He had to suppress the heart-wrenching urge to step forward and shatter the lantern between his very fingers, over and over again. And every time, he had to force himself to envision the alternative of her mangled body being tossed callously into Lake Laogai by his own organization. Choking back the lump threatening to burst open his throat, the Peace Orator felt all of his insides slowly dying as he watched the feeling gradually drain from her eyes, the tears easing their flow. Her trance had silenced any efforts to speak by now, as her expression continually grew unnaturally placid.
Out of nowhere, Yuhan felt certain words burning through his chest, radiating throughout his entire body. They seemed to burst forth in the midst of his agonized efforts to keep steady. Of all the times in the world for those words to stir now... He'd always wanted to wait for that one, perfect moment that he couldn't possibly screw up. Watching the girl of his dreams slowly lose her grip on the world, however, the young agent finally realized that there never was a right moment. His gaze faltered upon Riya's statue-still face, with the long tresses of auburn framing it perfectly like always...no, there was no such thing as a right moment. Not for them. But now...there would never exist a moment ever again. Yuhan took in a long, shaky breath as he prepared to address her. Something foreign was blurring his vision, something warm and liquid that stung very badly, and that he hadn't felt in years.
"Riya." He hung onto every last syllable of her name as he spoke up boldly, knowing that it would be the last time she'd ever recognize it. In a brilliant flash of hazel, the young woman's eyes suddenly returned to life as she blinked a couple of times, and she stared back at him in surprise.
"I love you."
Time stood still. The glowing lantern dragged millimeter by millimeter across its rail as Riya's eyes slowly filled with tears once again, matching his. Though she choked on them several times in her first attempts to reply, the terror mysteriously left her voice, just for that moment. A final, miraculous smile began to form on her lips, ever so softly - a broken, betrayed smile. But still a smile nonetheless. "Yuhan..." The gentle sound of his name caused his lower lip to start trembling as her last, tender gaze melted into his. Riya's flooded eyes were glowing with the truth that radiated through every fiber of her being. "Oh Yuhan, I lo -"
"There is no war in Ba Sing Se."
Whatever amount of soul remaining inside him was extinguished as he denied himself the rest of her heartfelt response. His lungs felt like they'd collapsed, his chest was screaming in pain, and that terribly beautiful smile of hers was going to hurt for the rest of his life, but Yuhan could not last another second hearing Riya's soft voice. He wouldn't have been able to go through with the conversion, and she would have died. He was doing it in her place now.
Riya's words were lost as soon as his monotonous voice cut them off. Her sobbing, heartbroken face slowly reverted, despite her furious and desperate efforts to stay awake, to stay with him for just another moment. Even her small, feeble gasps of air grew quieter and quieter until the hum of the lantern was the only noise left inside the chamber. After several excruciating seconds, the last traces of emotion finally gave way to the completely blank slate typical of converted rebels. Her eyes glazed over once more and glued themselves onto the rotating lantern, completely oblivious to the warm streaks of water that still glistened freshly upon her cheeks.
Most rebels underwent only one phase of conversion. Yuhan forcefully prepared to begin the second, special phase created for Joo Dees as the lantern stopped moving temporarily. There was a strange emptiness in the air that crept into his bones, regardless of his best efforts to stay focused. It seemed to stiffen all of the joints within his fingers as he clumsily pinched out the flame inside the glass orb.
The pause between the two conversions caused Riya to regain her consciousness as the agent silently changed the candle within the lantern to a thicker, distinctly marked one. He froze when her voice suddenly drifted across the room, slow and lethargic.
"Oh...hi, Yuhan...what a funny place..." He could feel her smiling behind him before he slowly and very painfully turned back around.
"You look funny, too..." Riya continued, laughing sluggishly with no memory of the war or what she was even doing here. The strong, determined soul within her had long gone. "So many dark circles under your eyes...more than usual..."
It wasn't even the smile she would bear as a Joo Dee, and it still twisted apart his chest.
"Hey, what's the matter?" the young woman asked innocently, gazing curiously into his lifeless eyes without even paying attention to the restraints pinning her down. "Why're you so sad, Yuhan? We're in Ba Sing Se...everyone's happy here..."
Oh, Dear Spirits have mercy on him. The young agent sharply turned back around, whipping out the spark rocks inside his pocket in a horrible frenzy as he hurried to light the lantern before she could say anymore.
"Won't you answer me, Yuhan?" Her lethargic voice continued to numb his eardrums as he finally produced a decent enough flame to light the candle. He stepped abruptly back to his post in the middle of the circular rail as the lantern immediately began to speed across its path once more.
Yuhan let out a long sigh as Riya's voice finally slowed down, her tone instantly growing flat and vacant before dying out altogether. He gazed at her placid face as the lantern made a few more rounds between them, recalling the peaceful expression that'd vanished completely from the world only few hours ago. His eyes slowly shut to preserve the vision as best they could, and he inhaled deeply in the silence.
When his emerald eyes reopened, the Peace Orator's face resumed its stony, perfectly emotionless expression. His words came out just as flawlessly, having long been famed for their influence. "Riya..." The only sign of his hesitation was the sudden pause. "Riya does not exist."
His pale face remained as stoic as ever, true to his undying reputation as Long Feng's favorite brainwasher, but his soul began to spill from his eyes as he continued. "Joo Dee is your name. Joo Dee is what others shall address you as. Joo Dee is...forever your title. Do you understand?" The tears dripped silently onto the floor.
"Riya...exist...Joo Dee?" As expected, the first round left the young woman slightly confused.
"There is no Riya," the agent declared firmly. "She is part of the war. And there is no war. You know that."
Her hazel eyes remained wide and unblinking as the black of her pupils expanded more and more. She began to nod along. "Yes, yes..." she agreed. "No war."
"Correct..." Yuhan continued, as the quiet spatter of tears against the floor continued to accompany the high-pitched hum of the rotating lantern. "So what is your name? And who is Riya?"
"My name is Joo Dee. Riya does not exist."
"Good. Do not concern yourself with her existence ever again. Your existence begins today. You live to allow others to see the glory of Ba Sing Se..." Yuhan's voice almost faltered at that moment, but he continued to force the words from his torn-up lungs, allowing them to surface smoothly.
"Ba Sing Se...yes, it is a beautiful city..." Joo Dee agreed, smiling unnaturally.
"Not just beautiful," Yuhan added. "It is the most perfect of cities, and you thrive because of it. Ba Sing Se is everything you need. Your happiness..." He shuddered as the welt in his throat clogged his speech. His eyelids burned from being forced open this whole time, though the slow and steady tears showed them no mercy.
"My...happiness? What is it?" asked Joo Dee, her hazel eyes blinking curiously from the agent's unplanned hesitancy in his speech.
The Peace Orator quickly cleared his throat. "Your happiness lies nowhere else," he continued sternly. "Ba Sing Se is your happiness."
"I understand," replied her lifeless tone, her eyes staring vacantly after the still moving lantern.
"Good," Yuhan finished at last, his fingers clinging so hard to the leather cords beneath his sleeves that his right hand began to lose feeling from lack of circulation. The lantern slowly came to a stop. He lifted a shaky hand, and the stone restraints around Joo Dee's body immediately crumbled away after a few motions. She simply continued to sit there blankly.
The young agent found himself completely exhausted all at once, as one of his bare hands finally lifted towards his face to swipe away some of the salty water. He didn't even want to look down at her, let alone speak again. But he'd already gone this far... "Joo Dee, the Earth King has invited you to Lake Laogai."
At that moment, her two conversions became one, with the complete combination of no Fire Nation war, no personality, and an absolute cue of obedience. "I am honored to accept his invitation."
Though her reply was as eerily submissive as all the other Joo Dee's, the trademark grin hadn't been crafted yet – he was about to redirect her where it would. "Agent Quan Lei Ping will educate you about Ba Sing Se and your duties. Your uniform is ready beside you. Report to Chamber 17 in proper attire. That is all."
Yuhan turned away and extinguished the lantern, the flame disappearing into a hiss of smoke between the tips of his fingers. The blackness of the chamber immediately swept over his face as his back remained turned, even as Joo Dee bowed and exited quietly from the conversion chamber, with her folded uniform in her arms. He eventually lugged himself over to the wall and slowly sank down to the floor.
The agent continued to sit indefinitely in the silent chamber, with his gloves thrown aside as he stared vacantly into the darkness with his dampened eyes, his head feeling as hollow and lifeless as the girl he'd just broken. He eventually noticed that the dim green light shining in beneath the door from the hall outside was barely enough to illuminate his hands. His eyes slowly peered down at them as he turned his palms upwards.
Yes, it was he who'd just turned the one he loved into a mindless clone...into something less than human. It was he who now loved someone who didn't exist. The confirmation of the fact as he stared down at his hands only seemed to puncture another hole through his hollow chest, through the empty space from which Riya had quietly slipped away with his heart.
It was reported that night that Agent Yuhan Tsen was pardoned completely for his misdoings, a phenomenon that hadn't occurred for several years in the Dai Li. He became an example for all agents in training – that true loyalty spoke for itself in the end, and that even the worst of mistakes could be forgiven because of it.
It was also reported that a remarkably attractive Joo Dee had been added to the group of tour guides...and that by strange coincidence, the infamously stubborn Liu and Mina of the Lower Ring were successfully converted after passing her on their way to the chamber that night.
- In April 2012: IT'S DONE! ...The chapter posting, that is. This story is nowhere near complete! But I'm just SO happy I finally got them all up 8D
- Now that I can move on with my life, I'll be able to discuss other things xD This chapter...oh gawd...I had to consult my writer friend on fanfiction.net for extra advice, who's a depression specialist xD This was just one of those things that I needed to be like SPOT ON. Which I'm still not sure I did. You're always free to offer your opinions, though :P
- Andddd that's it, y'all! Now I can actually make an update page...because that's what the chapters from now on will be! Real updates ^^ (drops dead)
- As of January 2016: The commentary above refers to how this chapter was the last of the 14 to be posted in one bulk, upon this fanon's introduction to the wiki. This one was the last before both the Fanfiction.net copy and wiki copy were on the same page.
- Minnichi knew this chapter would happen before she even knew who her OCs were going to be. It was the first thing she ever planned in this entire story. It was destiny!!!
- The author also got insanely depressed after doing this to her characters ;_;
- The author continually revises this chapter to make it even more cruel and merciless. Don't judge me!
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