|More from Minnichi||Romance/Angst/Action||PG-13||Very Positive||Over Here|
|Chapter 2 - Old Friends (SHiE)|
Summary of the Last Chapter Edit
Yuhan almost screws up his brainwashing session by yawning in the middle of it, but Long Feng decides to spare him since he's able to fix it anyway. He's still haunted by memories of his life before the Dai Li.
Too Early Edit
Yuhan rubbed his aching eyes as he crawled sluggishly up the tunnel leading out of the Dai Li headquarters. With a sharp wave of his hand, the circular entrance slid open. A massive gush of water instantly slapped his face, flowing into his eyes, mouth, and nostrils. Coughing and sputtering angrily while clinging to the ladder for support, the young agent violently kicked his boot into the wall, and the entrance slammed shut. Another murderous stamp sent a platform springing out below him, blocking the water from flowing further down the tunnel. He threw both arms forward, rooting his feet into the platform and extending the tunnel so that he and the water/sealed entrance complex sailed upwards, emerging from the surface of Lake Laogai. Kicking the stone door out of his way, Yuhan finally marched onto shore. After a few dismissive but crisp hand motions, the trapped water was drained from the tunnel, and the entrance rearranged into its original shape, sinking back beneath the lake.
Scowling, the young Orator began to trudge towards the Lower Ring of Ba Sing Se. It was the first time in several years that anyone had opened the tunnel too early upon exiting Lake Laogai. Any Earthbender should have been able to sense the immediate lack of water resistance on the ground he was manipulating as soon as it hit the air. That an agent of the elite Dai Li would make such a mistake was unheard of...unless they happened to be fatigued, grouchy, and half-conscious agents named Yuhan.
The sun was blinding, searing his eyes even under the brim of his hat. The water that had drowned them earlier certainly didn't provide much ease, either. Focus, Yuhan, focus. The water will dry out soon. Just get Long Feng's cursed tea and you're done...The tired agent normally tried not to think badly of the Cultural Minister, but the interruption of his 3-hour rest for some random cup of exotic tea somewhere deep within the city made it very…difficult. Yuhan would not elaborate further.
Meaningless Debate Edit
Three hours later, the sleep-deprived agent headed back towards the Inner Wall in a spare uniform, carrying the soggy remains of his original one. Relieved that Long Feng had actually believed his story about being splashed by a carriage riding across a large puddle, he planned to drop off the muddy uniform in the Upper Ring for the Dai Li's private seamstresses to clean.
Though the bright sun made him sweat beneath his thick robes and reduced his sore eyes to a tiny squint, Yuhan (as well as every other agent) was not allowed onto the trains, due to his leader's preference "not to be acquainted with those dirty refugees" that rode them. Animals weren't allowed to infect the clean facilities beneath the lake, either, so using them for travel was a lost cause. There was a story that still circled around the Dai Li every once in a while about an agent who'd once tried earthbending to glide quickly across the fields...and the resulting ruined fields, raging farmers, and the agent's punishment for failing to keep a low profile was now a reminder of why no one else would ever try it.
But at the end of the day, Long Feng figured that walking long distances was good endurance training for his agents, anyway – not that he himself needed it, of course. Determined not to reflect on any negativity about the Dai Li, however, Yuhan dragged himself across the wide, agrarian fields as peacefully as he could. He recognized a loud, boisterous voice calling out to him at once.
"YUHAN! Buddy! What're you doing out here in the sun? You finally ran out of rebels to convert?" A second agent obnoxiously made his way towards Yuhan (and only this agent in particular made it possible to walk 'obnoxiously').
The Peace Orator managed to chuckle slightly, despite his tiring morning. "Oh c'mon Hiroshu, give me some credit. I go out here all the time! ...Just not when you're looking."
"Whatever you say, buddy." Hiroshu grinned, catching up to Yuhan and giving him a hard pat on the back. "But seriously, you should really take more time off. I mean sure, it must rock to be Long Feng's favorite errand boy (Yuhan shot him a glare), but we all feel kind of bad seeing how it's so harsh on you."
The tired agent scoffed. "Maybe you feel bad. The other agents have no problem advertising me to Long Feng whenever the resistance acts up again." He suddenly folded an arm out in front of himself as if in preparation for a bow, with an exaggerated smile stretching across his face. "'Oh but sir, Yuhan does a much better job of brainwashing than me! Have you seen the results?'" Hiroshu seemed quite amused by the imitation. "'I don't want to fail you, so it's better for both of us if you choose him! Goodbye!"' Yuhan's pale face suddenly reverted back to its dull, usual grumpiness."They're all lazy!" he scowled.
"I'll say!" Hiroshu agreed, although it seemed as if he hoped Yuhan wasn't referring to him in particular.
After a split second though, the tired agent suddenly thought twice and let out a sigh, heaving his shoulders. "Well…then again, no one really likes to do all that brainwashing junk," he muttered. "I guess it'd be a little selfish of me to expect them to do it instead."
Hiroshu slapped his forehead. "Anddd ladies and gentlemen, that's why Yuhan never sees the light of day!" he announced.
"Oh, shut up..." grumbled the Peace Orator.
"Well, I did ask you a couple of times if you needed a break," Hiroshu continued, unfazed. "You said I looked too tired when you could barely open your panda eyes!" He smirked as his partner unconsciously felt at the gloomy shadows beneath his dark green eyes, which had indeed begun to resemble a certain bear.
"…You wouldn't have lasted," Yuhan retorted, deciding to ignore his haggard appearance.
"Oh, because you were so much more energized?"
"I wasn't the one who fell asleep in the middle of a recitation."
"But you did yawn like a boarsloth," Hiroshu finished with a smug smile.
Yuhan had to resist slapping a hand over his own face. Even gossip in the Dai Li was a pain these days. "Whatever! Not the point!"
The two patrol partners quickly laughed at the ridiculousness of their debate as they conversed along the road to the Upper Ring, taking a shortcut that didn't require passing through the lower rings. Hiroshu was Yuhan's first companion among the Dai Li, as well as the first agent he'd ever met formally. He always had an animated, cheerful air about him, often contrasting sharply with Yuhan's generally silent and sleepy character. He was also noted for his classy appearance, despite an identical uniform. His light brown hair was carefully combed and plaited evenly in the back, and his dark robes seemed to highlight the healthy glow of his tanned skin. In addition, he was known for his bright, sage green eyes and for his charm among the ladies of Ba Sing Se; Yuhan was known for his ghoulish eye shadows and mellow nature. No one in the organization really knew how the two got along.
"Taking a visit to the seamstress?" Hiroshu asked casually, motioning towards the damp green pile of cloth in Yuhan's arms.
"Hmmm, what could I possibly be carrying around a stained uniform for?" the grouchy agent immediately shot back.
"Well alright, geez! How'd that happen anyway?"
Yuhan paused. "…A carriage randomly rushed past me while I was getting tea for Long Feng, and there was this huge filthy puddle -"
"Hey, I know you well enough to tell when you're making something up," Hiroshu cut in, a devious grin forming on his face. "It's alright, kid. We all trip into Lake Laogai at some point in our lives." He began to snicker.
Yuhan managed a stiff smile, embarrassed but secretly relieved that his partner didn't suspect him of actually opening the tunnel too early. "Yeah…I was tired," he mumbled, quickly brushing aside his friends' resulting burst of laughter. "And for the last time, why do you always try to call me kid?" he suddenly demanded. "You're only two years older."
The cheery agent put on a rather conceited smile. "You really want to go through this again?" he began, ignoring the icy pair of eyes glaring back at him. "Well buddy, no matter what you say, you looked kiddish enough when I caught you skipping after that crazy old geezer back then." Hiroshu grinned again as he observed his partner's brow twitching a little. "You didn't even Earthbend or anything when I stopped you. Obviously I looked older and intimidating," he finished triumphantly, barely dodging a pebble that Yuhan had kicked towards his face.
Hiroshu was indeed the agent who'd taken the life of the frail old man that haunted Yuhan's memories. However, he was actually more patient and amiable than most of the organization. The assassination had been a direct order from Long Feng – and like most of his commands, failure to carry through would result in unimaginable punishment. Though both of them feared that punishment, Yuhan had a nasty feeling that his partner didn't hurl the boulder entirely based on that fear. Still, the important part was that he was a friend Yuhan could always count on…right? "Ah whatever, you probably just wanted to look better than someone, seeing as you were probably the newbie among the other agents," the younger agent retorted.
"Newbie? I was recruited a whole month before you!" Hiroshu exclaimed, as if one month were the equivalent of a thousand years. "I had all the rules and rock glove-bending down already!"
"Sure, sure, keep telling yourself more reasons why a conceited 16-year-old could totally be considered pro and mature to a 14-year-old... Not to mention the poor 14-year-old was knocked unjustly to the ground right when they met."
"Well, that 14-year-old's wimpy attitude sure made it convincing enough."
There was a pause. "Oh give it a rest, Hiroshu... You threw a rock at a geezer seven years ago, and you still can't get over one of the most unrelated, pointless things ever," muttered Yuhan, stepping ahead of his partner as they walked.
"You still lose, kid."
The two old friends had been traveling for almost an hour in the blazing heat, and the lush, green hills they crossed offered no trees for shade. Hiroshu pulled off his hat to wipe away beads of sweat from his forehead with a sleeve, regretting his decision not to try sneaking onto the train earlier. "How far away is the seamstress now?" he complained. "I'm tired!"
Yuhan rubbed his own weary eyes. "Oh, probably about five more miles," he replied casually. Ba Sing Se's enormous size was very inconvenient indeed.
"HOLY SPIRITS!" Hiroshu kicked up a small pillar from the ground, slumping himself down upon it. "We should call it quits."
Yuhan glared and thrust his now foul-smelling uniform in front of his friend's face.
Hiroshu grimaced from the odor. "We can just get someone else to deliver that!" he quickly added, waving his hand dismissively in an attempt to ward off the smell. "I'm thirsty anyway. We should go have tea or something."
"Just who would be kind enough to take my ugly and smelly uniform to a seamstress shop five miles away?" the sleep-deprived agent asked irritably, motioning at the vacant fields around them. He should've seen this coming...
"Uh…oh, she can!"
Ironically, a yellow figure in the distance had appeared out of nowhere, and Hiroshu pointed enthusiastically at it as he spoke. "Hey, Joo Dee!" he yelled. "Want to take Yuhan's uniform to the Dai Li seamstress in the Upper Ring?"
The slender woman's face was marked with surprise for a split second at the sound of her name, but she instantly smiled upon recognition of her addressor. Yuhan shivered at the sight of her wide, creepy grin. Her long, unnaturally straight black hair and giant brown eyes only seemed to make it worse."It is an honor and pleasure to see you here, Agent Leung." Turning to the Peace Orator with the same plastered expression, she acknowledged him by surname as well. "Agent Tsen." Joo Dee (Yuhan didn't know her real name) bowed. "I would be more than happy to assist you," she began graciously, "but I'm afraid that I must tend to an appointment with some new refugees who have just arrived in -"
"Joo Dee, the Earth King has invited you to Lake Laogai," Hiroshu interrupted, causing the tour guide to freeze solid. "Uh, please deliver my friend's uniform." He smiled brightly. Yuhan's eyes narrowed dangerously as his partner shrugged sheepishly at him.
"I am honored to accept his invitation," replied Joo Dee's robotic voice. Immediately, she wrenched the soggy uniform from Yuhan's arms and had disappeared down the grassy road before he knew it.
Glowering, the tired agent wheeled around to face Hiroshu. "Really?"
"What? Come on, you're the only Dai Li agent who ever throws fits over stuff like this. You brainwash all the time! It's not like you're one to talk."
"That's different...!" Something in Yuhan's stomach twisted. Was it different? He stubbornly continued anyway. "Those people actually affect more than just us! They'd tear apart the whole city if I didn't convert them!" His partner watched him glumly. "This - this was something I should have done myself because it was my problem! I don't brainwash out of my own interests, Hiroshu!" the Orator finished angrily. Do I?
The older agent sighed exasperatingly. This wasn't the first time the two had argued about the topic. "Alright, I'll try not to do it around you anymore," he groaned. "Sorry about that." His partner gave a short nod. "But…" Hiroshu continued in self-justification, "the point is that we're free now! (Yuhan rolled his eyes) You really need this day off, and I'm feeling like having a nice, long drink. You up for it?"
"Sure." Yuhan shrugged. Hiroshu was just being Hiroshu, after all.
"Hey, where did Long Feng tell you to get that ultra exotic tea of his from?"
Scars and Dangerous Words Edit
Though the brew of this small shop in the Lower Ring was famous for its wonderful qualities, the person serving it to Yuhan certainly wasn't. The boy looked about four or five years younger than him, but wore a scowling expression almost as furious as Long Feng in the worst of moods...or maybe even more furious. "Have a good afternoon, gentlemen..." he muttered, throwing down two steaming cups of tea before the patrol partners and storming away. Some onlookers appeared as though they couldn't decide which was weirder: that two Dai Li agents were casually hanging out in a poor tea shop, or that said agents didn't seem to react at all to such a blatant show of disrespect.
"What happened to him today?" Hiroshu remarked, taking his cup into his stony fingers as he watched the boy's angry figure stride away.
"Uh in case you didn't notice, he's missing practically half his face, Hiroshu," his partner replied dully. There were too many onlookers for his liking - not to mention he could already tell that some of them were glaring members of the Resistance. He swirled around the little bits of leaves in his cup uncomfortably before finally deciding to drink, only out of his concerns for wasting money.
"Well, of course I did!" Hiroshu retorted indignantly. He paused. "...So, that means...?"
"What, you think the Dai Li did that?" Yuhan replied even more drearily. He observed the young tea server marching around to other tables, the distorted red flesh around his left eye only worsening his enraged appearance. "If anything, it's another 'Fire Nation killed my whole family and left me with a horrible scar' situation," he continued, unable to help feeling a slight twinge of pity. "Must be pretty rough on him. I've never seen a burn that bad and that obvious before." He made sure to keep his voice low so that the surrounding peasants wouldn't overhear.
"But wouldn't he be with the Conspiracy Resistance if he's been attacked by the Fire Nation that badly?" choked Hiroshu, having suffered the consequences of talking and drinking at the same time.
"Well…he's not really saying anything for some reason," Yuhan sighed, warily eyeing his partner sputtering over the hot tea (which only attracted the eyes of even more onlookers). He considered denying his acquaintance with Hiroshu for a moment. "I've never seen him in headquarters before," he continued anyway. "But oh well, he's probably just miserable about what happened to his face, whatever it was."
The dull conversation eventually died out, and Hiroshu recovered soon enough. The two partners sipped their tea, quickly forgetting about the scarred and angry boy.
Yuhan, as a devoted agent, kept an eye out for any war refugees who might bring up the Fire Nation, but Hiroshu only seemed to be focused on his drink as if it were the nectar of life. "Wow, this is good!" remarked the cheery agent, desperately trying to empty the miniscule, remaining drops of tea into his mouth. However, his partner had long stopped paying attention.
A few tables down, a small group of angry men - angry and drunk men - surrounded a single girl, who looked quite furious herself. Yuhan, who'd been observing the scene for some time, had no idea how she even got herself into that situation. A few moments ago she'd been sitting quietly at her lone table, enjoying tea like everyone else. He'd turned his head elsewhere for what seemed like a split second, and looked back only to find her randomly arguing with a bunch of brutes. To make things even better, they were arguing about that.
"You actually think they protect you?" One of the rather large men slammed his massive fist onto the table. "It's all part of a conspiracy, and stupid people like you are playing right into their hands! I bet you've never even been outside the walls of this city! You know what's out there? You really want to know?" The girl only glared back at him with remarkable ferocity.
There was something eerily familiar about the rich brown color of her long hair that disturbed the young Orator, but he ignored it. What truly mattered was that those drunken blockheads were about to mention something very forbidden. "Hiroshu…" he muttered. "I think we should go check that out."
His partner, who'd been reading the tea menu for a second order this whole time, looked up in confusion. Realization dampened his expression when a fuming voice pierced the air. "WE'RE AT WAR WITH THE FIRE NATION, YOU IDIOT!"
Sighing, Hiroshu laid down his menu. "Alright, I'm up…"
Author's Note Edit
Hmmm... I think that's all I'll post for now. Tired x_x If there are any canonically incorrect issues so far, please let me know.
|Silent Hero in Emerald|
|1: The Peace Orator --- 2: Old Friends --- 3: Tea House Scuffles --- 4: Recognition --- 5: Her Only Family |
6: Friendly Conversations --- 7: The Favor --- 8: Subtle Messages --- 9: Duty First --- 10: Peasant Meets Royalty
11: Agent Greets Royalty --- 12: Salty Rivers --- 13: Unanswerable Questions --- 14: Judgment --- 15: City of Twists and Lies
16: Foolproof --- 17: Fire and Earth --- 18: Those Left Behind ---
|Full couple picture - Yuhan portrait - Riya portrait - In-story images - Minnichi's fanon scribbles|
|FanFiction.net profile - Liberal Ba Sing Se -|
For the collective works of the author, go here.