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|A revolutionary Invention|
A Revolutionary Invention is the third chapter of
Previously in A Tale of Rebels Edit
Senqok is, after a few revelations regarding his father's contacts, given the offer joining the Liberation Alliance, which he accepts.
Meanwhile, de jure Crown Princess Zoruka of the Fire Nation is wed to Yi Ming to seal her father's alliance with the Emperor. Later, she overhears her father and the Emperor conversing.
Chapter Three: A Revolutionary Invention Edit
Zoruka had opened the door a few millimetres, only to be able to hear the outside conversation better, before she noticed she could see them - her father and, whether she liked it or not, her husband - standing in the hallway. Interested, she leaned in.
"Please, my lord, I beg you! Our alliance has persisted for over seventy years, even before you became the Emperor, my house was loyal only to you! All I would need are a few- " Her father was in distress, as he pressed himself to a wall to not get too close to Yi Ming. The latter's voice cut the former's off.
"You believe if some mere boy can defeat you with worse equipment and less numbers, that a few of my soldiers under your command could help you? I'll say it one more time. You failed me, and your nation. You are a failure."
Zoruka's eyes widened once again at the Emperor's words, and she could witness as Tokai, her father, fell to his knees. She had never seen the proud man even bow to anyone, not to speak of kneeling. Seemingly disgusted, Yi Ming turned to walk away from the begging, unfortunate figure, but then, the latter grasped the Emperor's right foot, screaming, "I beg of you... !"
Yi Ming spun around fast enough for the Fire Lord to let go of the leg, picked the latter up, and slapped him with such force Tokai was sent flying to the wall, hitting the ground hard. Zoruka's father was about to get up himself, but Yi Ming kicked him down again. Zoruka was frozen in place and couldn't take her eyes off the violent scene, breathing heavily.
"What leader are you to have to beg someone that despicably for assistance?! You are no leader, you are no ally of mine anymore, you failed me! Your idiocy and your arrogance have made you fail me, your nation, and yourself! You brought this upon yourself!", the Emperor shouted, supporting every sentence with a kick somewhere to the Fire Lord's body.
"Speak for yourself... " Tokai's courage was fuelled by his realisation of how hopeless his situation was. Yi Ming narrowed his eyes at the words, and picked him up again, ripping him of his robes, dropping him afterwards. "You have no need for this anymore, not that you ever deserved it... Those robes are meant to represent power! But you are the absolute opposite!"
Yi Ming kicked her father again, at each word this time. Zoruka trembled heavily and yet couldn't take her eyes off the scenery.
"Prepare to meet your destiny, Tokai. You failed your nation, yourself, and me, you shall receive what you deserve... " Yi Ming's speech was calm and clear, as opposed to the nature of the action he committed simultaneously. The Fire Lord was sunk into the earth, screaming a last, hopeless and defiant, "NO!", holding out his hand as if there were someone to save him, before he was simply and cleanly vanished. Zoruka could only barely hold back the tears, and closed the door. She tried to stand up and to make it the room's bed, but collapsed after a step, sobbing. She couldn't hold back anything now, it was futile. The more it terrified her that a knock on the door then came, a voice she had heard just before accompanying it. She shot up from the foetal position she had collapsed in, and bolted to the bed, always facing the door to defend herself if necessary. Then, the door opened.
The gust of wind came from his left. He shot a stream of water to stop it, before he noticed he required it elsewhere. A rock came flying towards it, but it was too late to stop or to part it, therefore, the waterbender quickly ducked and unsheathed his sword. This was when he noticed his mistake. The water he had bent had fallen onto the ground and now surrounded him as a puddle, and soaked the earth. The small yet powerful earthbender before him smirked and sunk him into the quicksand she created with a twist of her hand, stopping right before submerging the head.
"Alright, Noki, that ought to be enough. You can let him out now.", a male voice spoke, and although he couldn't see the speaker, Senqok knew exactly who had spoken, that much his few days with them had taught him - it was Anyang. Noki, however, quickly submerged him completely without warning and shot him out behind her. Senqok looked to the ground, being ashamed of himself forgetting something as important as bending water.
"Don't worry Senqok, the fewest earthbenders of the Imperial Army have thus advanced skills as Noki, and the fewest of those who do would think of using quicksand." The reassuring tone and the hand on his shoulder were enough for him to forgive himself the mistake. Anyang continued, directing his speech to all. "Now, we will try something else. For that, we'll need a rope and a hostage. Kabura, could you play the hostage?"
"Er, what? You know I can open almost any knot?", Kabura, who was sitting on the ground, leaning to a wall of the small hall, asked rhetorically. Anyang rolled his eyes. "Then at least pretend to be tied down and you're unable to save yourself. Oh, and take that rope there. Thanks."
"So... what will this exercise be about?" Senqok asked just as Anyang tied Kabura's hands and feet together, before explaining. "You will have to free Kabura here while everyone else is, well, what a surprise, your enemy. Also, please don- "
"Can't I fight all others again?", Noki pled annoyed. Anyang sighed and rolled his eyes once more. "You were the one complaining about the burns, remember?"
After Noki had ceased to protest, Senqok prepared himself. Skado, Noki and Ranju were his opponents, while Shizon wasn't anywhere to be seen, and hasn't been for the past hour. He shook his head and then assumed a fighting stance. The others did as well, and he decided to go into the offensive. The earth wall he had to dodge almost made him rethink the decision, as did the crossbow bolt just afterwards. Before long, he had reached Skado and pinned him down with a few precisely-shot icicles, and attempted getting through to Kabura, but the strong wind knocking him into the wall proving it was too early. Senqok got up again, and charged at Ranju in an irregular zig-zag line, wielding his water-coated sword. Neither Ranju nor Noki hitting him, he swung his sword to his left, into Ranju's direction, and bent the water to knock her down with the force of the sword. Acting quickly, he coated her arms and froze them together, before knocking Noki out with a few punches with the hilt of his sword. As the earthbender fell, temporarily paralysed, he charged for Kabura, but then, something hit his back and he fell, just out of reach of Kabura's rope.
"Shizon, spirits dammit! I was just about to achieve victory for once, and you ruin everything!" Senqok was infuriated at the fact a fireball had struck him, but soon calmed down and resumed his previous attitude. He stood up, and helped those up he'd knocked down, before approaching Kabura, and unsheathing his sword to cut the rope. "Senqok! What are you doing!? This is the only rope we have! Don't cut it!", Anyang's somewhat desperate voice sounded, and startled Senqok, who then immediately obeyed and sheathed his sword again. The waterbender tried to open the knot, but failed to accomplish it for almost a whole three minutes, before Kabura decided to take it into her own hands and opened it without looking and herself being bound within seconds. As she rose again, Anyang already assigned them to the next training exercise. They all received crossbows and bolts as Anyang built up a few targets, before he left through a trap door, returning into the tunnel network below. Senqok and Skado, standing next to each other, both loaded their crossbow simultaneously, and as he inserted the bolt, something he had thought about came to Senqok's mind.
"You know, Skado, your little crossbow construction has a little fault, I think... " He didn't pay attention to shooting, and therefore failed to notice he had struck the target's centre.
"Yeah? What about it?" Skado's reply was short and almost sounded trivial as the nonbender loaded the weapon again.
"It's the loading mechanism. Your construction would require a lot of strength to- " He pulled the trigger. " -to operate, I mean, simply pulling the string back would be easier than the idea of yours." He hit the centre of another target without taking notice, and somewhere behind him, Shizon let out a cry of dismay.
"So? Got a better idea?" Skado once again replied short as he loaded his weapon of choice.
"As a matter of fact I do. The trigger mechanism is great and all, that we can keep. But I would replace that pull-action with something- " Once again, he hit some other target's centre unknowingly. " -with some kind of lever, with a gear-wheel attached to it, which then... "
"I think I know what you mean. Keep going." Skado seemed interested as he too now paid more attention to the conversation than to shooting.
"...which then, uh, actuates another, smaller gear-wheel which then again... impels some kind of gear-rod which cocks the string. What do you think?" Senqok had ceased to load and to fire afterwards altogether, and simply stared at the slightly corpulent figure of Skado.
"Well... we could work out a construction together. It sounds fragile, your idea, but we could try... " Skado smiled slightly at the first sentence, before returning his attention to his crossbow. Senqok followed his example and kept loading, taking aim, and firing, and then repeating. He noticed his aim apparently was somewhat better if he didn't pay attention to it, as he now, fully concentrating on aiming, couldn't come close to the centre with any of his bolts. After a few shots more, he was out of ammunition, and, noticing Skado too was, nodded at him with a serious expression, and descended through the trap door into the city's underground.
The bulky figure of Yi Ming stood in the doorway. Zoruka pressed herself against the bed's frame, trying to appear intimidating, but failing. The horrified look she shot Yi Ming was enough to tell him what she has seen.
"So you witnessed it.", he stated bluntly.
Zoruka refused to reply, but after a few tense minutes of silence found herself forced. "What... and why?!"
The tears almost came back, but she held them back. Showing weakness was no option.
"You mean... "
"I know the reason you killed him, dammit! But... WHY?!" Her shouting was desperate, and seemed to have made Yi Ming cringe a bit.
"I will not give an ethical explanation of why I murdered your father, if that is what you request. However, you asked, "'what.' May I ask what exactly you meant by this?" Yi Ming's voice was utterly calm, as before. The similarity to the scene she had witnessed horrified Zoruka, and made her slowly crawl up the bed, away from the Emperor. There, she couldn't resist, and collapsed again. Her sobs were quiet, but hard, and seemed to even make the unforgiving Emperor feel pity. He walked up to her, and laid an arm around her. She kept sobbing, and, after about five minutes, she answered his question, that was, after pushing him away forcefully. "Sometime after our... ceremony, I somehow fell... unconscious. When I awoke again, I... laid in this room, clothed differently than when I had lost my consciousness."
"I see where your thoughts went... I can say one thing: you're a rebellious one, you indeed are your father's daughter - that doesn't mean you'll face the same fate. But it means for you, as my - at least nominal - wife, that those who would make you suffer in any way will follow your father - if they're luck, that is." Again, Yi Ming spoke calmer than anyone else would speaking of such topics. Zoruka looked at him with teary eyes, confused. "In other words... you'll kill everyone who- ?"
"Yes. Although I don't view you as a wife, no, not after so many others... anyway, I view you more like a... co-worker. Maybe inferior in position, but somewhat equal. You have great power in you, and I'm not only talking about your - supposedly - extraordinary bending abilities. You are intelligent. Therefore, I propose you to take a high position called Grand Secretariat of the Earth Empire. You would- "
"Go." The sudden interruption surprised Yi Ming greatly, and he narrowed his eyes, thinking of the interruption as suspicious.
"What did you just say?"
"Go. I need time." Zoruka slowly became angry on how soon Yi Ming had trailed off to politics. To support her order, she created a flame in her palm, and spoke, "Go. Unless you want your pretty little white beard and everything around scorched."
Yi Ming rose, which Zoruka took as a threat, but then sarcastically and yet angrily spoke, "Very well then, if the missus wishes so... ", and left the room. Zoruka breathed a sigh of relief, and then collapsed again. Lying on the bed, she tried to cry again, the mental agony overpowering her, but failed. She didn't know why, but, despite her growing grief and sadness, she couldn't cry over her father's death.
The nonbender leaned over his blueprints. "So, what exactly do you want to change?"
Senqok looked at the papers, and then pushed Skado aside, took a pen and a ruler, before he drew a rough gear-rod onto the construction sheet, adding two roughly-sketched gear-wheels below, and a schematic lever attached to the lower, bigger gear-wheel. "That ought to be it, thanks."
To use "outraged" to describe Skado's state would've been an understatement. He looked at Senqok with a look of utter and complete anger, snarling, and knocked Senqok to the side, directly into one of beds carved out of the rock, turned the paper and began drawing once more. Senqok watched him idly for hours, fascinated by the speed at which the nonbender drew line after line, before the lines came to slowly form a crossbow, first the trigger mechanism, then the cocking mechanism, before he came to draw the bow and the stock, afterwards proceeding with drawing the separate parts and the two mechanisms. Slowly, he lost interest when the nonbender, having ignored the waterbender, had begun constructing the single pieces, and stood up, realising he himself had been watched for quite some time - Anyang stood in the doorway, having risen an eyebrow. "So... what ARE you doing?"
"Well, just constructing a crossbow that will likely turn warfare inside out, nothing serious... " Senqok spoke casually as he walked past the airbender, and took his sword - which he had laid on his own bed - with him on the way. He kept going through the maze until he had found the trap door he had been looking for, and climbed the ladder beneath it. Above was the hall that served as one of the training facilities of their base, the one he had left hours ago. Now, his fellows were training swordfight, as it seemed, or at least its most basic forms. They were using the standard sword of the Alliance, which had a straight, long blade, and a grip similar to the one of a Jian, but were missing cross-guards and possessed ring pommels. Senqok had noticed almost everyone he had met in the tunnels carrying such a sword, and noticed that all his fellows were practicing their skills, except the absent Skado and Noki, due to her blindness.
"Hey, Senqok! You sure know swordfight with a single, straight blade? C'mon, help me, I can't instruct them, dammit!" Shizon's call was one of distress, and Senqok noticed that Kabura and Ranju stood around the firebender, and demanded forms' explanations from him. Senqok smiled and decided to provide the help Shizon couldn't, relieving him of the burden of being the instructor. Almost instantly upon arrival, he was greeted, and asked, "Well, what do you need help with, ladies?"
"Hey, I too could use some explanations!"
"Well then, ladies and Shizon, what do you need help with?"
Kabura and Ranju glanced at each other, nodded, and spoke, almost simultaneously, "Basically with everything."
Senqok sighed, muttering under his breath, "This is gonna be a long day... "
"In the past days, Skado's never been outside our room, not to speak of the quarters. I think we should ask him- " Shizon's concerned speech was interrupted by Senqok's. "Trust me, I know what he's doing, I doubt that he's ever gonna leave- "
"You've known him for maybe two weeks, I've known him for years! Dammit Senqok, you don't know shit 'bout him!"
Shizon had stopped in the corridor, but Senqok kept walking. His red-haired acquaintance just looked at the waterbender, baffled, and remained where he was. Senqok had entered their quarters, and immediately had caught sight of Skado trying to cock a crossbow. The crossbow looked somewhat weird to Senqok, its stock didn't end with its grip, as it was common with crossbows, but rather fattened after the – incorporated - grip. Skado also had added a metal sling below its bow to make loading easier, but seemingly himself struggled. After having attempted to load it with all his might for several minutes, he surrendered to the force the metal bow had, and partially turned his attention to Senqok. "Hey there! You see, your idea allowed even more powerful crossbows to be constructed, and that, well, required this so-called buttstock, because the recoil would've made aiming inaccurate."
"Please don't tell me you found this out by building crossbow after crossbow." Senqok's tone sounded rather absent, as he focused on examining the crossbow. The mechanisms weren't visible at all, it was hidden beneath a coating of iron plates, which also coated the upper half of most of the weapon. Skado grinned at Senqok. "Nope, but let's just say... the wonder of physical mathematics is truly amazing. I calculated everything. The only issue is that, now, it's too strong to be cocked by hand."
Senqok gasped in awe at what the nonbender had spoken, as the latter picked up something from his messy table, and tried to insert it at the weapon's left side, but failed, thus tried to lay the crossbow on the table and insert it with a little more force, which too failed. " ...you ...calculated ...everything? You- just, like, WHAT?!"
"Yep, but I only spent little time calculating. Most of the time went into building it." Skado now too spoke more trivial, being preoccupied with the assembly of the seemingly last part. "Speaking of which, could you please hold this thing and the crossbow? I need to find my mallet... "
Without waiting for an answer, he handed the still baffled Water Tribal the weapon and the thing he previously had attempted to insert. Senqok now realised it was the lever used for reloading, which seemed to be cast from iron. Holding the somewhat bulky weapon in one and it's only missing part in the other, he tried to insert it exactly the other way Skado had attempted it, and succeeded within seconds. "Uh, Skado, you need to sleep. You tried to insert the lever's handle."
"Oh well- wait, you assembled it? Great! Now we just need to present it and- " Skado's euphoric speech was interrupted by him hitting his table's edge, before he rose from his crouching position and grabbed the crossbow from Senqok. "Nevermind, actually."
The - slightly confused - waterbender intended to walk out and convince Shizon of the fact Skado was okay, but the latter stormed out of the room and down the corridor, towards Anyang's. All with risen eyebrows, Shizon, Senqok, Kabura and Ranju, the latter two just leaning out of their respective beds, watched him as he ran.
"Sir! General Anyang! I've finished it at last, as you wished!", the sleep-deprived engineer spoke to their commander as he had opened the door. The only one to comment the happenings was Ranju, who stated, "Is it just me or is Skado slightly going mad?"
"Everyone's going mad, Ranju, just some are slower than others." Kabura had resumed reading as she responded.
Senqok took a serious glance towards Shizon. "Mad, maybe, but Skado might've just caused a revolution of warfare... "
Notes and Trivia Edit
- Should it not be clear, the two storylines happen at two different (yet close) timelines.
- Skado's original construction of the crossbow actually is kinda like a pump-gun, while the improved version is more of a crossbow-version of a bolt-action rifle.
- Senqok's reaction to Skado's calculations is also mine - the author's - reaction to almost every time a physician or alike speak of their calculations.
For the collective works of the author, go here.