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|The Sixth Assassin|
Two: Zu Yang's Daughter
April 12, 2012
This is the second chapter of Book Two: Zu Yang's Daughter. It tells of Mel and Hope's experiences when they encounter the sixth assassin sent after them since their leaving the air temple. It is told from Mel's perspective.
The sun arose and the day for relaxation had begun. Hope and I had specially picked this day for multiple reasons, one of them being the belief that the Super moon's interference with the Earth's orbit affected how we slept. Strangely, I had never slept so nicely in my life, and nor had Hope. In fact it had been so nicely that for the first time since we left the air temple, the shadows beneath her eyes were much lighter, as if she had they had held the memory of her father. That was another topic that I had reached a conclusion on. I had decided to not mention the subject at all, seeing that it brought nothing but abhorrent feelings and confusion. I still felt dubious about yesterday's fair share of secrets, but Hope's reactions – complete happiness and multiple smiles – were enough to put an end to my curiosity. On the other hand, they were adding new subtopics to my inner questioner – how could I not have known that Sokka and Suki's granddaughter had married Zu Yang? And how could she have concealed it for so long?
All of these thoughts were completely erased from my mind when Hope and I went to near cliffs to adore the view. It was utterly relaxing to feel the wind and all the freedom it brought. And as the waves crashed on the shore, I experienced the up-most sensation of inner peace and freedom – it felt as if I was having airbending lessons once more.
Our little tour included many adventurous and brave deeds, one of them being jumping from the Pa Yu cliff, the highest cliff in the Southern Earth Kingdom. I would be lying if I were to tell you that Hope had second thought; you see she never considered it an option. But once she had decided to travel my way, she should have known that she was traveling with a waterbender. So that resulted in a refreshing journey down and back up again. She was freaking out, but I hadn't a care, for it had been a once-in-a-life-time experience. After a while, she seemed to understand that as well.
We went back to camp for an early and long sleep; next day we had planned a big journey, and we could not afford to be tired. I made an earth tent, since our other tent had turned out to be far too damaged to be reused and put all of our extra clothes and pillows – gifts from the villagers – inside, so that we could be warm all through the night. Hope, appreciating my efforts, gave me a kiss, and then we both retired to our comfortable beds, falling asleep within minutes.
There was a small cracking noise. As my eyes flashed open, my brain exploded into a long series of thoughts. What could that be? Was it the wind? Was I overreacting? All of the questions were answered when I saw that two more eyes from inside the tent were open – Hope's. If she were awake, it was serious, probably another assassin. The thought didn't take me without its usual sense of distress. Any intruder with vague intentions was a threat and had to be treated carefully. So I slipped my hand to my belt and took out my knife – another Earth Kingdom gift. I looked to my side to see nothing but Hope's head nod down in approval. We both knew what to do, and we both were ready. It was time for some action.
With the shortest of hand movements, I sank the entire tent back in the ground and shot a fire ball to help us with our vision. At the same time an arrow came our way, but I was surprised to see that it was a slipshod shot, for it gave out the location of the intruder – the nearest tree. I blocked the arrow and shot a strong airblast at the tree's branches. At once a man fell off, yet he did not act as a person who was here to kill, but more like a man who was here to flee. He fell with his back turned to us, stood up from his knees, turned around and started walking backwards and waving a knife around. He seemed to think that he was threatening us, but we all knew that he was doing a poor job. Unfortunately his sloppiness did not come to end there, but he went on to try to throw the knife, or at least I thought so. It took me no less than a second to send a second airblast at him, this time knocking the knife off his hand and knocking him to the ground.
"Who are you and what do you want?" I asked.
"Please, sir, please," said he, something that truly surprised me, for begging was not usually to be heard from an assassin. "I have to finish the mission. I have to kill her. Otherwise she'll kill my family."
"Her? Wait... no, no, no," I gave a small smile, since he had clearly misunderstood the directions. "You mean kill me."
"No," he said without any amount of doubt. "It is her," he lifted his finger and pointed at Hope, "that she wants."
I was stupefied. This was all wrong! It wasn't meant to happen like that. She wasn't even supposed to know about Hope! It was me she was supposed to be after! He had to be mistaken!
"Are you sure you did not misunderstand?" I asked with my voice shaking.
"Yes, sir. She captured my family. I have to do this. She gave me a time limit – ten days – and seeing that it took me a while to get here, I had to do it now. Four more days and my family will be dead!"
"Four days?" Hope asked. "Four days till what? Why exactly four days?" In all honesty, I was thankful that Hope asked, for I was too stunned to do anything. And getting a war update coming directly from the Fire Witch... well that was a good opportunity.
"Well the invasion, of course," he said, quite doubtful at first, then his grin turned into a devastated expression.
"Invasion? Which invasion?" Hope asked as utterly confused as I was. Then she just paused. "Oh no."
"What is it Hope?" I asked. She obviously had the answer and it was something important, so I thought it better if I knew.
"The invasion," she answered, yet I was still completely lost. "He's talking about the invasion."
It must have been my expression that she had read, for she said loudly and clearly:
"The invasion of the Southern Water Tribe."
I tripped backward and almost fell over. Then my feet gave out, and I collapsed to the ground. This was not truly happening. It was a bad dream, I was sure of it. It couldn't be anything else. It just couldn't be. But after all that had happened, it could not be a dream. It had to be real, as real as everything else. But why? Why was it as real as everything else? And why was it I that had to take care of the mess the world was it? And why was it so soon that I had to do it? And why was the one person who helped me, inspired me, loved me, also targeted? Whose fault was it? Who was there to blame? It was clearly the Fire Witch's fault, yet how was she to be blamed, how was she to be punished? Who could take her fault on their back, temporarily at least? Who else was responsible for what was happening? And it came to me just as quickly as lightning strikes – it was him. It was that the man. He was responsible for my downfall, for my pain, for my new responsibilities? But how was I to take it out on him? Didn't he have a family to take care of? But if he didn't take Hope's life, how could both of them survive? It was clear that the man's family was already dead, yet what was to be done about him? If he had a chance to keep his family alive, he was to go for it, and I was sure! But if his family had died... no, he would have still attacked Hope, for revenge! There was one way out. I gripped the knife in my hand, and as I squeezed it, I slowly move my hand upward. When it was as stretched out as it could go, it took nothing but a fast movement for the knife to fly off spinning. It landed nowhere else but in the man's chest – his left lung, his heart. I was victorious.
"You monster!" the man screamed. "Why? Why? My family! What about my family?"
He slowly put his hand on the knife and tried to take it out, but I was faster. I shot a fireball at his face, and in his agony he died.
What had I done? My heart was pounding on my chest, almost breaking my ribs. Where was I to go, how was I to run? I started spinning around, not knowing what to do, yet knowing that I had to do something. And then I collapsed, my heart pounding even harder. I was sweating as if I was boiling, yet I felt cold and empty. Slowly, everything started turning dark, and Hope's yells were extinguished. Even she couldn't break the darkness that I was in; even her stare, her magnificent eyes, couldn't tear that curtain, smash that mountain of darkness. But lightning could...
I concentrated all of my energy, took a deep breath and started spinning my hands in circles. Then I just pointed my finger, but nothing happened – no light, no piercing sounds, now mesmerizing coolness, no feeling on despair and death – no lightning. I pushed all of my energy out again, but no lightning came out; just an explosion of fire. I couldn't do it... I couldn't make lightning.
"Mel! What have you done?"
The darkness broke just long enough for me to see Hope's face – the tears rolling down her eyes, the two shining diamonds. But I had no time to spare. I jumped to my feet and ran; ran and shot fire for light. Finally, I reached the cliff. It took a moment of hesitation, yet it was better that way. This had to be taken care of; it had to be gotten over with! So I just let my body go, and as it slowly fell down in the waters, I felt the wind enriching me with its energy for the last time.
"Mel!" I could hear Hope's yells. "No!" But she was too late. I was already dead.
- This chapter counts exactly 1800 words.
- Between this chapter and the last one is the longest time period it took me to release a chapter (excluding the in-between book breaks).
For the collective works of the author, go here.