|More from Minnichi||Romance/Angst/Action||PG-13||Very Positive|
|Chapter 19 - The Crossroads of Destiny (SHiE)|
May 21, 2013, Avatar Wiki and Fanfiction.net
Summary of the Last Chapter Edit
The organization successfully captures the Council of Five and begins the takeover of Ba Sing Se, though Yuhan is sent separately with a team to imprison some of Riya's revolting neighbors in the Lower Ring. When he returns to headquarters, he finds out that Azula has overthrown Long Feng and is the new leader of his organization, sitting on the Earth King's throne. Realizing that his former leader's suicide command for Joo Dee is gone, Yuhan sends Riya away under orders that she is to remain hidden until the war is over.
Chapter 19 Edit
Yuhan still watched the same, shadowy spot at the end of the hallway where her small, fragile figure had turned the corner and slipped away from sight. She wasn't coming back, but his sullen eyes kept imagining the strangest, stupidest, most hopeless things to imagine. Like how she could reappear any minute, not in a horrible yellow uniform, but in her soft, humble robes that reflected her Lower Ring origins with every patch. How her auburn hair would be flowing freely down her back, smooth as silk, and not chopped short at her shoulders with lifeless precision. And how when she'd meet his eyes, her own would light up like always, with a warmth that would flow through his entire being the moment she'd throw herself into his arms.
His mind couldn't seem to remember the urgency of real life, as each little vision flitted past. It must've been something that came with final goodbyes – and yes, this was final, wasn't it? The Avatar was cornered. There was no getting out of this one, if his entire organization plus a prodigy Fire Nation princess were the captors. Riya had been sent away with hope that he couldn't believe in, and it was his fault, all his fault, and...and...
Am I making you cry?
No... No, you're not.
Well, that's good. Because I don't want to. Now how'd you make that badgermole? Maybe you can teach me how to Woodbend, and I can teach you how to Earthbend...
With the memory of her very first smile glistening in his eyes, the agent's face finally dropped towards the floor as his shoulders sagged, and he wept with the lonely little girl who'd just wanted to play soccer with everyone else.
How many times had he made her cry since then?
Yuhan's shoulders were trembling uncontrollably now, his back heaving as one of his stone-covered hands pressed uselessly against his sunken eyelids in a feeble effort to staunch the downpour. It was the worst time to let his emotions run free, and he hadn't even let them get this out of hand during her very conversion, for the love of the Spirits. But just once, could his organization go to Koh's Realm and let him have a bloody moment? Just this once, was it too much to ask for him to miss the girl he loved?
"Yuhan, where have you been? What're you still doing here?"
...Yes. Yes, it was.
"The Princess is going to accuse you of treachery at this rate! Don't you want to be here for this?" Cold and unwelcoming, the voice slowly grew louder and louder as the second emerald-robed figure slowly became visible in the distance.
Yuhan's stone-covered hand slowly lowered, sliding down over his face like a great black wave that wiped away all emotion as it traveled, leaving behind nothing but a blank slate. His foot shifted to cover the little pool of salty water that had gathered on the cold floor as his body straightened up with the rigidity that every Dai Li agent should have. With a single movement, he turned sharply around and faced his fellow agent with his simple reply. "I was making sure that our new peasant prisoners were locked away properly. Everyone seemed so eager to leave that I feel like someone was bound to screw up and get us all in trouble."
Jinhai stroked his chin for a moment, seeming to remember how carelessly he himself had tossed his prisoners into their cells in the excitement. "Good point." He simply turned back around and motioned towards the exit with an arm as he strode forward. "But we really need to leave now, or you'll end up getting in trouble either way."
"I know." The Peace Orator's tone was as empty as the damp, green-lit passageway that Joo Dee had departed from only minutes ago.
Ba Sing Se was really starting to get on his nerves. Sure, go ahead and let him transform Riya into a mindless Joo Dee under a beautiful full moon. Sure, go ahead and extinguish the Avatar, the last hope of saving her, in some bright cave glowing from all corners with stunning green crystals, complete with an underground stream and waterfall. Very much appreciated. Yuhan decided to just give up on the city at this point.
Last but not least, he really just wanted to give up on the city in peace and deal with his miserable life from there. No need for any reminders of something pointless, or things he once imagined with his stupid optimism...like the notion of stopping the coup before it happened. Or the idiotic person who convinced him to believe it at all, who stood but a few meters away, pinned into place with long green crystals encasing most of his aged body.
The irony of it all was that he was now expected to guard said idiot, as the last agent to arrive, until the Avatar was successfully captured. No need for any unwanted interference during the battle, right? "Your organization has been trained well," General Iroh remarked pleasantly, upon greeting him. "The teamwork and efficiency is most remarkable. I can see the appeal to my niece."
"Yes, we do tend to get the job done," the Peace Orator replied tonelessly. Approaching the old man slowly, his movements were controlled and precise – though he couldn't help gritting his teeth as continued. "We are trained to uphold our commands with our lives, and our orders are always carried out successfully." His tired eyes peered straight into those bright, golden irises. "Always."
Iroh gazed back quietly for a long moment, as the faint sounds of rumbling earth from the terrible battle ahead echoed around them. "I may not be fortunate enough for a chance to be better acquainted with you, young man..." he finally began, "But you have many reasons to be proud of who you are."
Yuhan could tell the old man was smiling just from his tone, but he was too tired to wonder what on earth he was talking about anymore. "Really?" he asked amusedly, returning the favor with his own, dejected smile. "And what's that?"
Even now, Iroh could still come up with strangest, most unrelated replies ever. An interesting old man, he was... "Well yeah, I kind of figured," Yuhan replied lightly, giving a tug at his gold-trimmed sleeve as if to emphasize the obvious.
Iroh smiled sadly as he looked back at the broken agent. "You're fortunate to know exactly who you are. You could teach my nephew a few lessons." He chuckled slightly as Yuhan shrugged in response, though his gaze began to lock into place with frightening solemnity. "Young man...you are the only earthbender remaining in the Dai Li."
"...What?" Yuhan was just about ready to give up and just ignore the old man, who was clearly going senile.
"Do you remember why humans learned to earthbend?" Iroh asked softly.
A moment of silence took hold of the cave.
"Who were the first to connect their spirits with the earth?" the general asked pleasantly. "If an old tea server like me has even heard the story, then surely you must know."
Yuhan was about to wave off the words dismissively again, until something suddenly made him grow still. He couldn't ignore it, this horrible realization that struck the very center of his chest... "Oma. A-and Shu. They were the first humans to earthbend." His low voice had suddenly lost almost all its volume from earlier.
The golden irises twinkled as the agent tried to avoid their gaze. "Yes, they were." Iroh's words rang clear and bounced off the shiny, crystalline edges of the cave. "And so you must also know already...that earthbending exists among us today because of love."
Her face – her perfect, glowing face, took hold of his vision despite his best efforts. Yuhan didn't try to ignore it this time, and his glistening eyes remained focused on the pure image throughout his somber reply. "Maybe it does."
An earsplitting crash ahead dispelled the vision, causing them both to turn their heads sharply in the direction where the rest of the organization had left earlier. There was a blinding glow illuminating the stalactite-framed area ahead, and the sound of shattering crystals accompanied a frightening, high-pitched howl of wind echoing throughout the cave.
Yuhan shut his eyes for a moment as he shook his head briefly. "Maybe it does, old man," he repeated with a bitter laugh. "And just like then, maybe it'll end all the same. Never worked out for Oma, either."
General Iroh's words refused to cease even as the agent turned his back to approach the rest of his organization. "Yes, but her spirit – the true spirit of your element – is part of who you are," he replied firmly. "You cannot change that."
In the midst of the howling wind and shattering noises filling the air, Yuhan wheeled around exasperatingly, his eyes finally giving into the despair. "Change what?" he cried. "The entire Dai Li's about to capture the Avatar, and they'll just kill off whoever else I care about if I try to do anything now! So maybe I love someone – maybe I love her a lot! But so what? It's all over!" His voice was shaking uncontrollably as he finished. "No one's coming to help her!"
Iroh replied as calmly and as solemnly as ever, despite the surrounding noise. "You are a bender whose strength comes from your element's purest origin, love – and that same strength is what surpasses the rest of your organization. You have the ability to do more than you think."
Yuhan groaned out of frustration as his back remained turned, his stone-covered hands clutching his head beneath his hat. He hated the old man and those words – those stupid words that he could never ignore. He wanted to be left alone for once.
"You are not the only one who must face his destiny today," the general continued boldly. "But you are blessed to know what it is. Your words have not honored your actions to this day. Have you really stopped fighting this entire time? Have you really given up?"
The Peace Orator only continued to stare ahead with his back turned.
"You have not been able to," Iroh finished for him, smiling widely. "It is in your nature, because you are a true earthbender whose stubbornness will never allow him to let go of hope. Now, will you continue to fight for the one you love? Or will you leave her behind and deny who you are?"
Yuhan turned his head around slightly in the silence, then looked back forward a split second later and strode sharply away - though not before giving the ground a good kick. It rattled the walls of the cave and produced several little branches of cracks that climbed subtly throughout the crystals encasing the old general.
It was everything Yuhan had expected to encounter, and worse. He knew that he would've been but one extra fighter for the Avatar against his entire organization, and that the child would still be cornered just the same with the mediocre reinforcement. Yuhan's help could only make a difference before the rest of organization arrived – which he'd already been too late for due to the Lower Ring riot, and because he'd sent Riya off.
He didn't know, however, that the child would choose to enter the feared and legendary 'Avatar State' in order to face the overwhelming amount of opponents. Yuhan had been charging into the scene frantically, in hopes that he could at least volunteer to help take custody of the Avatar, and perhaps find a way to wrench him free when there weren't so many other agents around. What happened instead was far worse than custody.
Yuhan had hoped that the terrifying sound of lightning wasn't just his imagination, either, along with the sudden disappearance of the bright glow illuminating the cave as soon as it finished. He skidded to a stop when he arrived at the scene, just in time to see the last traces of blinding light flicker away from Avatar Aang's eyes, who twitched and jerked unnaturally in midair as countless, scorching branches of electricity racked his small body. The singed edges of his battered, orange and yellow robes still smoked as he finally began to fall back towards the ground below.
The agent's emerald eyes remained wide open in horror as the rest of the scene began to settle into his vision, though the sight of the Avatar's falling, lifeless body still stood out most appallingly. The rows of Dai Li agents positioned at the site remained as still and emotionless as ever, even as they watched – and there was Azula, casually waving away the last traces of lightning-smoke from her fingertips, looking quite pleased with herself...
What was wrong with them all?
He wasn't sure that everything that happened from that point on was real, in the midst of his stunned silence. The terrible reality of it all – that the world's last hope, the Avatar, was dead – was still having trouble settling into his numb body. Was that some sort of tidal wave sweeping across the entire room suddenly, knocking over all the agents in its way? Who was that girl on her knees - Katara of the Water Tribe, clutching Avatar Aang's electrocuted body in her arms? Or was it Riya's heartbroken face coming to haunt him again in a different form, with the same tears flowing from her eyes, the same despair as she gazed desolately about at her captors?
An explosion suddenly went off to his left, causing the world to snap back into focus as he jumped in surprise. The other agents in the room stood up in alarm as well, shielding themselves from the bombardment of flames.
General Iroh landed before Katara and the dead Avatar with a heavy thud, pointing his smoking palms forward towards the dark organization. "You need to get out of here!" he shouted. "I'll hold them off as long as I can!"
His booming voice seemed to wake up both the heartbroken agent and Water Tribe girl in the midst of their crushing numbness. And sure enough, the girl was making her way to the cave's waterfall, only a few feet away, and gathering the stream about her body in preparation to escape, even with the tears of loss still fresh in her sapphire eyes...
But why? Why? They were protecting a dead body. And why were the agents and Azula still fighting to get a hold of it as well? What was...the worth...
Things were happening too fast as Yuhan dragged himself forward, unsure of what he was even supposed to do. Katara was gone now, just like that, and there was Prince Zuko and his sister...and there was Iroh in a new crystal prison, with such a crushed and disappointed gaze that he had to turn his face away from his nephew...and Avatar Aang was still dead...along with any hope of saving the world...or Riya...
"Well – don't just stand there!" suddenly snapped Azula, glaring back at Yuhan along with the rest of his organization. "You know where that stream leads. Go capture the Water Tribe peasant! Move!"
They were onto Katara's trail like lightning, climbing up the walls surrounding the waterfall like dark creatures, or hoisting themselves towards the top of the cave upon earthen pillars. They began to stuff themselves through the damp exit as well, while a disoriented Yuhan dragged behind.
There was something he didn't see yet, something even Azula was aware of. Dead body or not, she preferred to have the Avatar in custody of the Fire Nation. Dead or not, Avatar Aang was more of a threat against her where she couldn't see him, where she couldn't ensure that he would never come back somehow...
As impossible as it was, there was still a final bit of hope to fight for.
Princess Azula was a logical one, and if she still threw out orders for capture even after the Avatar had been electrocuted to death - then well, the threat she feared must have been notable. Said threat being the possibility of saving the world from the Fire Nation.
Hardening his face as he rushed to catch up with all the other agents, Yuhan decided that for whatever reason, it wasn't over until Avatar Aang's body was in the clutches of his twisted organization...and that it simply wasn't going to happen tonight.
Katara ran with all her might as soon as the stream carried her to the ground above, where the glowing moon shone brightly in the night sky. Her chest heaving as she struggled to haul along the weight of Aang's limp body, she couldn't tell if her haggard breaths were gasps of air or sobs. Ba Sing Se's unfamiliar buildings flitted past her disoriented vision as she fled desperately for her life.
"S-Sokka! Toph!" she screamed, calling to them wherever they were in the world. The next sob stabbed through her chest as she suddenly remembered. The torture of having to gaze down at Aang's lifeless eyes again caused her to stumble over her feet and collide with him onto the ground in a weeping mess. Struggling to her knees, however, she frantically searched through his shirt pocket with her shaking fingers, desperately ignoring the lack of pulse she felt from his chest.
Scooping the Avatar into her arms and picking herself back up, the waterbender was off again as soon as she grabbed hold of the carved little bison whistle. Pressing the smooth edges to her lips, she remembered how Aang had done the same so many times before...Aang, who would give up the world for her in a heartbeat, who'd treasured with his life those fleeting seconds with her in the labyrinth cave, and... No, pull yourself together! Katara swiped away the fresh tears as she ran, focusing on only one thing: They had to get out. They just had to get out of this city first. She and Aang had to escape – together.
He knew that they'd reached the surface as soon as the bright moonlight's beams illuminated their dark robes. Emerging swiftly yet neatly at the mouth of the waterfall, the mass of agents leapt onto shore and immediately began to break into teams to split throughout the city, in pursuit of the waterbender girl.
Yuhan had no time to recognize any agent within the endless flurry of green robes flitting around him, Hiroshu included. He was forced into one of the teams automatically, shuffling along the rest of his group in a tight yet perfect array as they glided silently into the night. There was no choice but to obey the natural formation around him, as any unusual movement from him would strike suspicion immediately. And they still hadn't found the girl.
He began to panic. Wherever Katara had run off to, it couldn't be far. Where was she? Where was the Avatar? What were the chances his team would even be the one to intercept her? Oh Spirits, how in the world was he supposed to help at this rate...?
A deafening sound of a roar from above shook the very earth around them, though the faint vibrations beneath his feet indicated that it had come from further ahead. Yuhan flicked his head towards the sky for a brief moment - only to see a traumatizing, familiar sight. The black shape of a sky bison. A silhouette in front of a brilliant, full moon.
No. It's different this time.
The words settled firmly into his head. Yes, it was the same sky bison from the same, fateful night, in the very same sky – but now it was his reminder of what he had to fight for.
And of course...it was also the indicator to his entire organization where the Avatar was now located.
Appa's roar brought relief to her ears. Scrambling towards the sky bison as fast as she could while carrying Aang, Katara called out to the small shapes sitting within the massive creature's saddle, which looked like they also included a pet bear and an Earth King. "Sokka – down here! We're down here!"
She resisted the urge to cry again as Appa swooped lower and lower towards the ground, when her brother leaned over for a closer look, and when the change slowly took hold of his face. "Katara! What – happened to Aang...?"
"What's wrong? What's going on?"
It was too much for her, now that Toph's voice had chimed in as well. "W-we have to get out of here!" cried the waterbender.
Appa didn't need to be told twice, and he quickly finished his descent to the ground. However, he also began to turn his head and grumble uneasily, straining to see his airbender companion as if he could sense the absence of life as well.
Almost as soon as the bison's feet made contact with the earth, the ground came to life. It sprang up and clung tightly to his legs, creeping higher and higher by the second.
Gasping, Katara automatically whipped her head to look behind her. To her horror, the emotionless, silent army of dark green had arrived. They were all reaching forward with their arms in unison, as if they could feel and hold firmly onto Appa's stone restraints from the distance.
Roaring and struggling violently, Appa thrashed about the earth and shook his legs in every direction possible, and his passengers frantically clung to his saddle to stay rooted. His sheer strength began to crack the stone, despite the massive group of agents struggling to hold him down. With a mighty swing of his tail that slammed down hard upon the ground, Appa's four back legs lurched into the air for a moment, a split second of freedom. With his front legs still pinned however, the bison gave another angry bellow and twisted its lower body to face the agents, his hind legs thrashing in the air. The waterbender quickly darted off to the side as she recognized the movement, right before Appa's wide tail struck the ground once more.
The sharp, hurricane-like gust of wind even blew off the roof of a few unfortunate houses in the distance as the entire group of agents reeled backwards. Though several of them were caught off guard and were carried away by the air current, a good amount of agents had rooted their stone soles into the ground and only slid back several feet as they struggled to keep their balance.
In the meantime, Toph leapt onto the ground before the sky bison, motioning quickly for Katara to get on Appa already. As the waterbender flitted past her, she began a quick, almost effortless series of stamps that crumbled away the restraints pinning down the bison. Almost as soon as she loosened them, however, they sprang back up within seconds. The agents were recuperating behind them, and the stone seemed to creep back up and re-establish its shape every time Toph dispelled it.
Then the gloves started firing.
The first stony pair flew right past Toph and latched onto Aang instead, their real target. Katara had only climbed halfway when both she and the Airbender were suddenly yanked backwards towards the ground, the former giving a cry of surprise.
Cursing, Toph turned away from Appa's ever-growing restraints and quickly dispelled the earthen gloves from her companions' bodies with a heavy thrust of her palm, though more and more kept coming.
"Katara, take my hand!" shouted Sokka, as Kuei joined him in reaching both arms towards his sister from a few feet above her head. Sokka's eyes were also beginning to appear oddly damp in the moonlight as he had to draw even closer to a dreadfully motionless Aang, something that Katara had never seen in the prideful Southern Water Tribe Warrior before...but like his father, he still managed to force composure upon himself and fiercely act upon what was needed now. "Come on!" he yelled, his fingertips drawing close enough to brush hers.
Almost as soon as Katara grabbed hold of her brother's hand, however, another earthen glove gave a hard tug on the back of her collar. Both she and Sokka cried out in alarm and grabbed onto each other more tightly, while Toph quickly dispelled the glove yet again with a firm counter-thrust of her palm. "There's so many of them!" growled the earthbender. "Let me beat their heads in real quick –"
And with that, Toph turned back around and began wreaking havoc upon the ground instead. As her fists slammed against the earth, it rose in several waves and series of sharp pillars, flinging hordes of green-robed men into the air wherever it went. No matter how many the blind earthbender blew back with her frightening strength, however, more kept arriving. She could sense them, too, teams and teams of emotionless soldiers lining up from the distance. And even as she kept them at bay, Appa was still struggling to free his legs, and Katara was still struggling to climb up his body without being grabbed by another earthen hand.
"Toph, you need to get up here!" yelled Sokka, hitting another rock glove out of the way with his boomerang as he clung to a still-dangling Katara with his free hand. "There's too many of them! We need to get out of here and help Aang!"
"But Appa can't fly!"
It was true. The agents would only draw closer to the team and fire their chains if Toph didn't fight, and Appa was rooted to the ground for as long as she couldn't help him.
And the amount of gloves flying through the air kept increasing.
Katara felt Aang's cold fingers slowly slip away from her own, despite her best efforts. With the next tug, she gave a sharp gasp of horror as his body was finally pulled completely from her grasp.
She acted reflexively. Enraged, she cried out and wrenched her other arm free from both Sokka's and Kuei's grasp, landing upon the ground just in time to fling her arms back around the airbender's body. They both skidded heavily against the earth for a moment as the gloves kept dragging them along. Rooting her feet, however, Katara reached out a free hand and swiped it violently through the air. A long, blade-like streak of water escaped the pouch fastened at her side at the same moment, gliding through the night before whipping backwards an entire row of agents with sickening impact. "Stay back!" shrieked the waterbender, clinging onto Aang with her life and glaring about the dark organization with murderous intent.
"Watch out!" cried Toph beside her, before jumping ahead and blowing back a new horde of gloves with a sharp push of her arms. She'd still been fighting off the other agents this whole time, but with the waterbender back upon the ground, she had to take measures to protect both Katara and Twinkletoes more than ever now. To her dismay, she could feel Sokka landing on the ground behind them as well, who'd drawn his boomerang by now and was knocking over a good number of agents himself with every throw.
...And Appa was still pinned to the earth.
The reality that they could possibly never leave the ground tonight began creeping upon the young group, but they still fought their hardest.
When his team finally made it to the scene, he could see that the bison wasn't flying anywhere soon; the children were cornered. He could see Toph Beifong in the distance, her pale eyes blazing, hurling back agents with every wave of her arms as if they were rag dolls. But even so, the agents were starting to inch closer and closer to the group, as the earthen gloves pulled on the young Avatar. Yuhan could tell that it wouldn't be long until the men were close enough to fire their cuffed chains – at which point it would all be over.
Time seemed to freeze, as Yuhan stood silently and watched for a moment, despite the agents around him jumping into formation and firing their own stony palms towards the unfortunate group. He shut his eyes from the world and inhaled deeply.
There was no turning back after this. And from now on, whatever might happen to him... Yuhan pulled his hat low, concealing his eyes and making him less distinguishable in the crowd of agents as he prepared for the most insane, reckless thing in his life. His hand lowered away from his hat before curling its fingers tightly around its bracelet with three disks, one last time. Upon releasing it, he looked ahead again at the bison and at the limp, dangling figure of Avatar Aang, the last hope of the world.
Spirits, help me.
With a heavy stamp that crackled the ground as Toph threw her arms towards the sky, a thick barrier of stone rose like a tidal wave before the children, cutting off all the agents from view. They could hear the earthen gloves striking it from the other side, and in no time the uniformed men began to break it back down, but those even few flitting seconds of extra time were enough for the group to make a mad rush towards Appa.
As the others scrambled into the bison's saddle, aided by Kuei, Toph had only just begun breaking the stone restraints once more when she heard the deafening crash of her wall in the distance. "Come on...!" she scowled through gritted teeth, as the earth came to life before her and sprang back up around Appa's fur yet again. There were so many agents at the scene by now that they were practically undoing everything she tried within seconds.
To her horror, the endless whizzing sounds that flitted through the air a few moments later indicated that the gloves had begun firing again. The earthbender fiercely continued dispelling them from Katara's direction, but the stupid restraints on Appa had to be freed as well, and she cursed repeatedly with the realization that she just couldn't do it all – fighting back the army of agents, warding off their gloves, and freeing Appa. It was too much.
Then...the gloves simply disappeared. Toph paused for a moment, puzzled. No – they couldn't have just disappeared in thin air like that, right? But the whizzing sound...it'd just stopped out of nowhere. And strangely, the agents had all seemed to freeze too, standing deathly silent as if they were seeing something horrible that she didn't.
There it was – the whizzing sound again. And then screaming.
Toph's eyes cracked wide open in shock for a good moment at the horrible sound. It wasn't coming from her companions, but from the very men trying to attack them. Someone, somewhere, had attacked them. And if she could say so herself...it felt like their gloves had exploded into tiny shards in midair – right before shooting straight into the faces of their owners. That had to be what happened, since so many agents were clutching so agonizingly at their eyes.
Well, it was as good a distraction as any, but she had to act quickly. Without much effort, Toph broke Appa free a moment later with a good kick at the restraints, and followed by digging her feet into the ground before launching herself up into the air. She landed neatly within the safety of Appa's saddle, and the bison gave a massive swing of his tail that shook the earth upon impact. They were airborne in no time.
"...What happened?" Even though Sokka saw what Toph couldn't as they were suspended in the air, no one really understood yet what was going on down there.
It seemed like some deathly plague had swept over the agents, as several groups of the uniformed men either staggered backwards or clutched agonizingly at their bleeding, wounded eyes. No one – Dai Li agent or friend of Aang – had expected such an attack. Especially not from one of the organization's own.
There were cries of bloody murder all around him. It was evident by now that there was a good-for-nothing traitor among the group, though the agents had been too occupied for a time avoiding their own rock gloves to have time to try searching for him. It was surreal to everyone, including Yuhan - that an agent would attack his own organization, and that said agent would have a will strong enough to remove earth from even his fellow members' control.
It was chaotic and felt unreal, but the other agents simply didn't understand why this will displayed such impossible strength. For the traitor didn't care if he was revealed to them. They didn't understand that he himself knew that anything and everything could happen to him at this point, and went for it anyway. Such a grip over the earth, an utterly fearless and reckless determination willing to risk everything... None of them could control the ground more strongly than that.
He knew the reality, though, that he himself could never overpower this many for very long. Several had ducked in time for the brims of their hats to protect their eyes from the stone shards, and were now starting to identify him one by one when they looked and realized that he was the only agent not trying to get back into formation.
Everyone who still stood was now arranging into those perfect, silent attack patterns that he recognized so well, having been trained with them his entire life. It was such an odd sight, the perfect arrays of uniforms positioned around him instead, the arrays that he could never be a part of again.
The Avatar's bison still wasn't completely out of sight, though, still not safe... So Yuhan fought anyway.
Katara sat with her arms wrapped protectively around Aang now as she sat with the rest of her companions and Kuei in Appa's saddle. They were slowly but surely rising higher and higher into the air, as the bison's speed was hindered by all the gloves still whizzing about them, grabbing at his fur. And in the meantime, everyone (aside from Toph) could still see the chaotic sight below.
There he was – one strange agent, a little green shape in the distance, fighting recklessly against a hopeless amount of others. It seemed like he knew his opponents' movements, though, almost like he could predict them before they happened. It was understandable, considering they were the only ones attacking in a pattern, and he wasn't. His feet seemed to glide like lightning across the ground, due to the utilization of his stone shoes, and he was weaving in and out between the other uniforms, dodging fired chains everywhere. Every time he struck was when he'd waited until someone was sure he couldn't avoid an attack, and at the last minute he would sneak in either a sharp jutting pillar or boulder that would smash aside another agent.
Nonetheless, he was getting tired, and Katara could see it. He was waiting until they were gone completely, and safe. With Aang already lying limply inside her arms, the waterbender painfully shut her eyes before she could see the other agents finish striking the first real blow, and as the silent hero in emerald finally hit the ground and skidded horribly.
"Katara." Sokka's hand was on her shoulder. "He's not coming. He wasn't planning to."
She knew that already, but it still hurt to see yet another person fall before their eyes...just for the sake of Aang.
Toph was at least spared this vision, both due to her blindness and because she was still warding off the occasional rock glove flying in their direction. They'd increased after the agent's tumble to the ground.
Despite everything, Katara's eyes couldn't stop themselves from looking back down, which now displayed the terrible sight of the young agent still staggering to his feet, still trying to keep his organization distracted as best he could. And then, there was...
Oh, no. There was something much more horrible approaching. A slender figure was sprinting into the scene, with unnaturally precise, cold movements. Someone with the ability to strike even the sky above with her cold-blooded fire.
"APPA – YIP YIP! FLY!"
Oh Spirits, no... That was...Azula, wasn't it?
He could tell just from her movements, and from the faint, blurry vision of her two bangs whipping through the air as she ran.
Once again, he found himself sprawled across the ground, having had little strength to dispel the blow. Even if he was only alive because he somewhat managed to soften the impact of every chunk of earth, was that the second or third time that same arm had been hit...? Oh well...it was all numb now anyway...he had to keep moving...
Barely pulling himself to his feet and ducking clumsily as another horde of chains clashed and tangled together above his head, Yuhan strained to see the Fire Nation princess in the distance.
It was hard to see anything, really, with the next slab of earth hitting from behind and knocking the air out of his lungs as he hit the ground face-first.
I...can't get up.
The first agent finally reached him, dragging his practically limp body backwards by the collar.
As his eyes rose away from the ground, however, his blurry vision picked up the faint image of the Fire Nation princess several feet away. The realization hit him so sharply that Azula's hazy figure suddenly focused within his emerald irises, and he could see it all unfolding clearly as if in slow motion.
Azula had ignored the scuffle taking place with the Dai Li traitor, of course, seeing as the organization had it under control. She was quick and decisive, and even Yuhan's disoriented eyes could not mistake the movement in her arms. It was the emotionless, killer formation – the precise, circular motion, the firm press of her index and middle finger together as they went rigid and began harnessing the very energy that took Avatar Aang's life.
He couldn't stop now.
As if returning from death, Yuhan suddenly lurched and reached quickly for his hat, much to his captor's surprise. His fingers wrenched the pointed gold tip free from the top of the cone, and he slammed it down as hard as he could into the arm still holding onto back of his collar.
Ignoring the horrible scream of pain coming from behind him, the former Peace Orator charged one last time. His staggering yet determined feet kicked hard against the ground, causing a violent series of rumbles that unbalanced a couple of agents behind him. Gliding across the earth with all the speed he could muster, Yuhan twisted to dodge the several jagged pillars that immediately shot up from the ground before him, and he could hear the cuffed chains start whizzing towards his back...
Appa's passengers could only watch in horror as the massive, crackling branches of electricity shot straight in their direction. A cry of fear left Katara's lips as she clung tightly to Aang, while Sokka impulsively and protectively covered Toph, who sat next to him, in his arms.
The crash of thunder boomed across the dark sky, and the scorching lightning climbed so close to Appa's fur that everyone could feel its heat radiating on their skins.
Breathing heavily, her pupils still dilated from the adrenaline, Katara whipped her head back towards the ground. The last glimpse of Azula showed that the princess had somehow toppled over at the last minute, her arm jerking right as she attacked. And there was...that same agent, being dragged in chains further away from her by the second, and looking dreadfully still...
Roaring in alarm, Appa swung his tail even harder, and with a last heavy gust, the group was finally carried away from attack range, disappearing from sight before the full moon.
Yuhan could hardly make out anything being spoken to him now, and he didn't bother trying anyway. The lightning didn't hit its target, he thought...right? Otherwise, why would everyone sound so peeved?
"Tell me...how do you lot handle traitors? This kind of stupidity...never in a Fire Nation army..."
Well, if that was Azula's voice, then he was surely doomed. But that was okay. The Avatar was gone. Safe.
Someone was yanking sharply on his hair, pulling his face upwards despite his failing vision.
"Princess...no use talking...unconscious..."
The traitor of a Dai Li agent suddenly remembered Hiroshu, and the realization of just how many of his own he'd hurt tonight. With a pang, his eyes opened slightly, as if wanting to see somehow if he'd accidentally wounded his best friend.
At the same moment his vision returned, however, something else caught his eye as it gleamed beneath the moonlight. It was smooth and gold, and...
Oh Spirits, the bracelet.
Her bracelet. It was so close to him, yet so far, right there on the ground. Something must've cut it loose during the battle. No, no... His eyes couldn't fail him now. He had to get it back. He had to...
"Well...fools...once he wakes up, tell him..."
It was for the three disks, the gold one and the two polished emeralds, that he placed his last, frantic bit of strength into staying conscious, with a mad desire to retrieve it again more than life itself. But he couldn't move, and everything hurt, and it was far...so far...
Riya's bracelet was the last thing Yuhan's eyes desperately clung onto before the world slowly dissolved from view. The Dai Li paid no heed to it, and just like the Avatar, it was long gone from their sight as they headed back to claim Ba Sing Se under the name of the Fire Nation.
Author's Note Edit
Ha well, what can I say? Took long enough for me to update, right? ^^ Hopefully it was worth it to you guys.
- Yuhan isn't dead. Just in case you didn't pick it up. And:
- If you're glad he isn't dead, go thank . He saved his life :)
- Although the author chooses to remain silent about future plot events... *Whistles casually* ...What? I'm not implying anything! Seriously! Did you think I was? Well, you'll just have to keeping playing the guessing game and find out when the time comes B-)
- The writer's block that partially delayed this chapter almost drove the author to insanity. Writing action scenes that don't fail can be hard... Although do tell me if you still think I failed at it, please! Heh.
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