|More from Minnichi||Romance/Angst/Action||PG-13||Very positive|
|Tea House Scuffles|
Summary of Last Chapter
Yuhan pulls a major Earthbending fluke and gets one of his uniforms ruined by nasty Lake Laogai water. Hiroshu ends up tagging along on his way back to the city to drop it off for cleaning. They end up at a Lower Ring tea shop afterwards, and some rebels have decided to mention the Fire Nation. Things probably won't go smoothly.
The patrol partners stood up swiftly and stiffened their stances into the typical Dai Li pose. Personally, they both thought that marching around with their hands hidden in their sleeves and clasped rigidly behind their backs was pretty uncomfortable to maintain all day, but Long Feng insisted that it was an authoritative show of their "highly esteemed presence" around commoners. The two friends privately agreed that the peasants were probably more concerned with their lethal earthbending than any fancy arm poses, but of course they had to comply.
Yuhan and Hiroshu strode towards the bickering table as synchronized as they could manage, straining to keep their faces devoid of emotion. The onlookers began to watch them with fear rather than their earlier curiosity, having recognized the stiff and mechanical movements immediately.
The large, drunk man who'd slammed his fist had apparently begun to lose it. His clouded grey eyes were wild as he reached forward towards the girl, muttering some vile threat. His equally intoxicated friends didn't bother stopping him. The young woman, who appeared excessively thin and tiny in comparison, soon realized the danger of his growing malice. She slowly began to back away in her chair, fearfully eyeing the enormous hand that moved closer and closer to her neck.
The two agents stopped abruptly behind the large man before he could go any further. He paused, having sensed the sudden presence when all of his friends turned in surprise. Hiroshu elbowed Yuhan. Yuhan elbowed him back. An awkward silence began creeping upon the table as the peasants all shifted their attention to them.
Yuhan cleared his throat irritably, flickering a glare at his patrol partner. "Is there a problem here?" The girl with that strange auburn hair was watching him with a very peculiar gaze, and for some reason he made extra effort not to catch her eye.
The fat peasant slowly turned around. He appeared to be sickened by the very sound of Yuhan's voice. "As a matter of fact, there is," he replied icily. He glared straight into Yuhan's eyes.
It was hard to ignore the death stare. This guy was going to be really annoying to convert at headquarters. "From what I've observed, I understand that you are attempting to terrorize an innocent woman with disturbing stories?" Yuhan asked plainly.
At the words "disturbing stories," every face around the table (aside from the girl's) suddenly glowered at Yuhan with eyes like poisoned black wells.
Hiroshu opened his mouth to speak, the girl beat him to it of all people. "Yes, they're scaring me to death!" she cried. "They were all harassing and threatening me!" With that, she suddenly sprang up from the table and ran to hide behind Yuhan, clinging onto one of his sleeves and peering at the angry men over his shoulder. Hiroshu raised an eyebrow.
Yuhan felt all of his limbs suddenly lock into place. He loudly cleared his throat, his face strangely warm. "Well then, I guess that leaves us no choice but to arrest all of you," he continued simply, trying his best to ignore it. "Please cooperate, and no one will get hurt."
He already knew that things weren't going to work out that way.
"I'LL SHOW YOU WHO'S GETTING HURT!" screamed the large man, his greasy black plait of hair whipping about wildly in his rage. He threw up a saggy arm and whacked a steaming cup of tea off the table. The cup sailed straight at Hiroshu's face, who smoothly stepped aside and let its contents splatter across the floor. Yuhan could've sworn that he heard an elderly voice somewhere in the distance cry out "What a shameful waste!" as the water hissed and disappeared into the ground, but he focused his attention upon the rampaging group, who'd begun to hurl anything they could find at him. Shifting all his weight into his foot, he stepped forward with a slam of his boot against the floor and thrust his free arm towards the ceiling. The ground split open with a deafening crack as a stony wall shot up, shielding him and the girl behind his shoulder just before a chair, flower vase, plate, and chopstick came crashing against it. He began to rush forward but had to stop himself because of the iron grip that wouldn't let go of his sleeve.
"Ma'am, I'm going to have to ask you to stay under here." Yuhan quickly pushed her (ever so gently) underneath a table, where she sat wide-eyed and trembling, hugging her knees. Most of the other peasants in the shop were doing the same.
After narrowly dodging a couple of more vases, Yuhan kicked himself off from the ground, landing swiftly on top of the wall he'd just created in a low crouch. He lifted his arms, holding his palms forward with outstretched fingers, and his rigid stone gloves immediately shot themselves towards the crazy men below. One of the rocky fists grabbed onto the scrawniest man's forearm, lurching him forward. He hit the floor face-first before the earthen fingers dug into the ground around his wrist and melded with the earth. The other glove seized the ankle of the large, fat man who'd started the fight, yanking his leg out from underneath him and causing him to flop onto his back with a ground-shaking impact. Yuhan leapt back down from his wall as this unfolded, and the bottom of his rock soles hit the floor with a clang as he landed in a crisp stance. He then shot his arms forward with tightened fists, guiding the sharp impact through the ground. The earth responded immediately, cracking straight up through the dull floor tiles to solidify around his attackers' remaining limbs.
Letting out a long breath, Yuhan finally turned around to see how his patrol partner was holding up.
Hiroshu was taking on the two other drunkards at once, or rather, letting them continue their clumsy fist-swinging as if this were child's play. He casually backed away from the blows as the peasants seethed with rage, to the point of reaching his earlier table and picking up his menu again. One of his hands seemed to waft their movements away as he read from the other - until he noticed a murderous pair of sleep-deprived eyes gazing impatiently at him from across the room. The momentary pause gave one of the rebels the opportunity to snatch up an unfinished cup of tea outside his notice.
By reflex, Hiroshu quickly held up the thick paper as a makeshift shield right as the steaming liquid splattered in all directions. He twitched a little as a few droplets hissed against the back of his hand...which actually felt nothing, being covered in rock. It was the wide gold trimming of his sleeve that was now infected by a huge, nasty green stain. Hiroshu examined it irritably for a long moment as the intoxicated men attempted to attack again.
Like lightning, Hiroshu suddenly whipped out his arms. Both of the rebels' faces were met with a crushing stone fist in the blink of an eye. Yuhan resisted the urge to sigh as their bodies dropped to the ground like rag dolls. One strike, as always. Even when he wasn't on hitman duty, Hiroshu somehow always managed to break at least one nose whenever trouble stirred up.
The two agents looked awkwardly around at the debris covering the entire tea shop as the two remaining conscious rebels continued yelling and trying uselessly to free their limbs. On the bright side, though, Yuhan supposed it could've been worse if those men had been earthbenders.
The strange girl crept back out from under her table, returning to Yuhan's side and – he immediately stiffened – grabbing onto his left sleeve again. He made sure to keep his hands rigidly folded behind his back.
Her voice came out rather shakily, but triumphant. "You see?" She glared down at the half-conscious fat peasant. "They do protect us!" Yuhan found himself unable to say anything. He pulled his hat lower to cover his eyes, hoping that the young woman would never recognize him again.
The other peasants silently emerged from beneath the tables as well, carefully avoiding the bits of broken glass on the floor as they stepped forward. Hiroshu found the owner of the tea shop sitting waveringly in a small corner. Bending down to face him, he pulled some money from within his pockets. "Uh, here...15 gold pieces. That oughta fix your place up."
The skinny old man nodded hastily, nervously taking the pouch of coins into his hands.
Yuhan kept staring anywhere he could away from the sleeve-clinger. "Well, er... Everything's under control now," he announced uncomfortably. As he spoke, he took note of a second, fatter old man and the scarred angry teenager emerging from their hiding place in back of the shop. "Oh, and I should get rid of this for you..." Yuhan shot an arm towards the floor with his palm parallel to the ground. The random wall he'd placed in the middle of the shop earlier rumbled back down.
Why won't she let go already...? Yuhan was relieved to see two more Dai Li agents stepping through the entrance. They hardly greeted their fellow members, only nodding a little in acknowledgement as they moved quickly towards the rebels. They'd been on patrol nearby and were just informed of the incident by Joo Dee (who was everywhere), and a barred carriage was already waiting outside.
Within minutes, the second pair of agents had tossed the men behind the bars and were riding well on their way to Lake Laogai. The peasants remaining in the shop quietly gazed after the retreating carriage.
Hiroshu was the first to break the silence. "Can I still order tea?"
The fat old man smiled brightly. "Why, of course you can!" he exclaimed. "Would you like another menu?" Yuhan recognized the voice as the one agonizing over the spilled cup of tea earlier. Well...he supposed it took that kind of passion to make the shop so famous. He watched Hiroshu follow the merry old brewer to the back, accompanied by the always-angry teenager, and sighed when it occurred to him that someone still hadn't let go of his sleeve.
"I believe you're now safe to go wherever you please, Ma'am," Yuhan told her softly. He was kind enough to walk her to the entrance before she finally let go.
He'd deliberately hidden so much of his face that he could only see the bottom half of hers as she addressed him. Compared to earlier, the young woman's voice was very shy and polite as she spoke. Sweet, almost. "Thank you so much for helping today...and saving me from those men. I'll always appreciate it." She smiled and bowed her head, causing some of her long, auburn-brown hair to brush the sides of her cheeks.
Yuhan could only reply with a curt nod, keeping his eyes concealed beneath the brim of his hat. Part of him suddenly wished that his main job wasn't just to silence anyone who spoke of the war, so that he wouldn't have to feel so...guilty, since this girl's safety hadn't been a priority. When he was sure that she'd completely turned her back to him, he finally lifted his face again to look.
His emerald eyes watched forlornly as the humble young woman began to make her way down the shoddy streets of the Lower Ring. It was true that natives here often grew up without even knowing about the war, thanks to the Dai Li. But this girl just looked too soft, too painfully naïve in her simple, ragged dress as her quiet footsteps began to fade. Everything around the shadowy environment looked far too dangerous for someone that gentle...like that weird, suspicious-looking hobo sitting in the corner. And that creepy, cackling old woman crossing the street. And that mohawked freak brandishing a dagger, staring at her with a very disturbing gleam in his eyes.
Yuhan didn't know what he was doing. "Hiroshu, I'm gonna head out now!" he yelled back into the shop. His patrol partner, too busy glugging another cup of tea, simply waved his free hand in reply.
And with that, the Dai Li's head Peace Orator strode briskly after the gentle young woman. She heard his footsteps and turned around, pleasantly surprised.
"Er, the Lower Ring is full of dangerous – well, I saw something that might put you in – (ahem) Would you like me to escort you home today?"
- ...Yeah, I should totally go back to studying for my final that's tomorrow >_>
- (3 years after above) Yeah, I should totally go back to studying, but I've given up not being distracted long ago.
|Silent Hero in Emerald|
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