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|His Darkest Hour|
I tried to sleep, but the pain was too great. My body was shaking, my mind blanking. I had thought that I'd seen it all. That the Skinners had shown me all there was. I was wrong. So wrong. The Skinners were amateurs, thinking that brute strength was the best way to inflict pain. But he knew better. He knew that striking precisely where it hurt could worth all the punches in the face of the world. He knew that broking a phalanx was way more effective than cutting a finger. And that it was repeatable. But he also knew that hurting the mind was as important as the body.
"Let's play a game," he would say with his dreadful, insane voice each time he would enter the room. And every single time, he would whisper me the very same rules in my ear. "If you don't scream, I'll stop. But if you do..." Then he would laugh. A laugh that would haunt me every second spent alone in the dark. A mad, demented laugh. And then would come the pain. Of course, I would lose the game, so it would last until he would switch. Until the other one would take his place. The frightfully serene one. "I'm sorry," he would say with pity, but without regret. "But I have no choice. It's the only way to satisfy him". And he would leave. Until the next day. Or maybe he came at night. I didn't know. I didn't care.
To keep me alive, Mayvin, the waterbender of Cerberus, came to my metal cell regularly to feed me some dry bread and heal my wounds that were potentially lethal. That was my only solace in this hell. But it was also my curse. Because I knew that each healed wound would be the target of a new one, and that the pain would repeat over and over again.
The world is breaking. Spinning, collapsing. He's smiling at me. I can't see him, but I can feel it. He looks at my maimed body and he smiles. He laughs while I try to endure this pain. But I'm broken now, so why should I try? I've got no choice but to bare this pain within me. Once, I tried to control this world of mine in which I've been thrown in, pledging to achieve the goal that I had decided for myself no matter what. Laughable. Pathetic. Ludicrous. Admirable. Stupid. Why? Ignorant. Pathetic. Naïve. Sickening, revolting, foolish, pathetic, noble, disgusting, filthy nasty repugnant pathetic putrid greatness detestable idiotic pathetic pathetic pathetic...
The world is breaking. Spinning, collapsing. I'm smiling at him.
"Eat up," said Mayvin nonchalantly. "If you die, I'll be the one he'll blame."
I couldn't understand this waterbender. He obviously had no affection towards the other two Cerberus members and he didn't seem to have any goal either, so why was he part of this group? Clearly, he wasn't enjoying my suffering, but he didn't pity me neither. He simply didn't care. Was he afraid of the man who inflicted me all this pain? Or was he just doing this because he had nothing else to do? I guess it didn't matter after all; he was keeping me alive. Was that or good or bad thing though, I did not know. After making sure I ate all my food and healing some of my wounds, he begun making his way out of the cell. For a second, I thought on assaulting him from behind, but quickly realized that I had no chance. All I could do was shrivel up in a corner and cry. Or was I laughing?
The pain won't stop. His laugh won't leave my head. He's enjoying my screams like a gentle melody. I want to kill him. I want him to kill me. Kill. Kill. I want to kill them all. Every single one of them. Why should I be the only one to be hurt? Come, let me show you my world. A world of despair and suffering. I smile and laugh until, far away, I hear my own voice. But soon, it's not even mine anymore.
I looked into the mirroring water of a small pond. Its reflection was that of a small child who only dreamt of a simple life with his parents. His young, naive green eyes were looking at me with a strong curiosity and his smile warmed my heart of a profound nostalgia. Then, a tall man with snow white hair and golden eyes appeared behind me and put a hand on my small head.
"Hello, Anvy," he said with his warm and suave voice while kneeling to be at the same level as me. "What are you doing here?"
"I don't want to go back there," I answered, pouting. "They're doing bad things to me."
"I'm so sorry," he replied with genuine pity on his face. "But you can't stay here indefinitely, it is not your world and this child is not who you are anymore."
"But I can't go back," I insisted. "The third head of the big bad dog is hurting me with its electricity. I just want to go home. I want my mom and dad."
"You know you can't," he said. "Remember who you are. Your parents are dead, you need to let them go. But you shouldn't forget them. Remember all of those you lost, all of those who you once held dear and then think about those who are still here. Those who you must protect. Can you remember what you must do for all of their sake?"
"Stop... Stop it!" I exclaimed, burying my face into my childish hands. "I don't want to be hurt anymore! I don't care about anything else. I just want all of this to stop..."
"So... Are you giving up? If you really wish it, then I can end it all for you right now." He stood back up and looked down at me, the sun behind him casting his shadow onto my short body. On his backlit face, all I could see were two ferocious amber eyes looking directly into my very soul. "I ask of you, Anvil," he said imperiously, using my real name; a name that I had never gave him. "Do you wish to die?"
Deep inside of me, a young man enchained in a dark place and tortured to madness screamed "yes". But something in the eyes of the man before me stopped me from listening to him.
"Why?" ask desperately the anguished young man inside of me through my child's body. "You know nothing! The pain of lightning passing through your body. The suffering of your skin getting ripped off again and again. The sensation as the bones of your body get broken one by one. The anguish of hundred needles piercing through your most painful nerves. The burn of a red-hot iron scorching your skin. The... The..." Unable to think about it anymore, his voice died out while I fell on my knees, crying and sobbing. "I just want the pain to stop," said the voices of both the child and the maimed young man.
"I can't stop it," replied the white haired man. "But I can help you making it stop yourself."
Surprised, I looked up at the man with hope. He was smiling sorrowfully and his eyes were full of sadness. Then, he kneeled once again to be at my size and put one of his hand on my chest and the other on my forehead. A second later, his eyes widened and suddenly glowed of a bright blue. A beautiful blue. Soon after, I was back on my feet, enlightened, and the tall man got up to match my size which had returned to normal.
"Sky," I said sorely while fading away. "This is probably the last time we see each other."
"I wouldn't be so sure of it," he replied as I completely disappeared.
A lesson without pain is meaningless, for one cannot obtain anything without scarifying something else in return. Therefore, to defeat a monster...
I became one myself.
"Let's play a game," he whispered in my ear. Like each time, my hands were tied by metal cuffs linked to a chain hooked to the ceiling, hanging me above ground. "If you don't scream, I'll stop." In a swift movement, I forced my wrists against the cuffs while bending the metal so that it would break on the impact. Surprised, the mad man took a step back, but before he could get far enough or react and even before my feet touched the ground, I threw my hands towards his face and pierced both of his eyes with my fingers. Shocked and in pain, he moved back, screaming in terror.
"DAMN YOU! You're no metalbender!" he shouted, painfully confused.
As my feet landed on the ground, I realised that I was standing on earth, so immediately scanned the area with my seismic sense.
"Underground? Were you so confident that you thought it wouldn't be necessary to deprive me of earth?"
He clicked his tongue. "I'm also an earthbender, you dog!" he said while throwing two punches in the air, launching the same number of rocks from the wall behind him towards me.
"Impressive," I said calmly as I raised a finger, creating an earth wall on which my foe's rocks crashed. "Even in this state you're still able to fight? But you can't afford to stop my seismic sight now that you've lost your eyes too."
"How...? You didn't even move!" As panicked as he was, I couldn't even determine which one of them was speaking right now.
"I did," I replied, moving another finger. Behind him, two spikes emerged at high speed from the wall and pierced him in each of his calves. Then, in a second, I had closed the gap between us, put my hand on his face and slammed his head against the wall. I smiled.
Suffer. Scream. Die. Kill. Pain.
Not giving up, he tried to punch me but I dodged it by jumping back. Then, before he could tried anything else, I repeated the same move as earlier and multiple spikes pierced through his hands, arms and thighs, immobilizing him completely. There, pinned on the wall, he was defenseless and at my mercy. My smile widened. Slowly, I walked towards him and brought my mouth near his ear.
"Let's play a game," I whispered.
He screams, I smile. I break, he cries. There's something deep inside of me trying to hold me down, but there's no turning back. It's too late. I'm crazy, but I have control. Somewhere, a small child tries to stop me, his light collides with my darkness. But it's no use. I reject him. He's too pure and I'm too damaged. "Who are you?" he asks me. He stares at me. I need to protect him. I can't let him get hurt anymore. I will be the monster pulling the strings. You can rest, now. Leave the rest up to me.
I was trying to wipe the blood of my hands when I sensed them. Five people were running around randomly, as if they were looking for something. Suddenly, one of them left my sight for several seconds before touching the ground again. I focused my seismic sight and confirmed what I had suspected; it was Hikari. Were they here to rescue me? I snorted. I was about to go look for the other Cerberus's member when I recognize one of the five people.
"Copper?" I mumbled, confused. No. Stay away. What was she doing here? She wasn't even a fighter. I don't want you to see what I've become. As if she knew her way around, the girl was approaching my position at a high pace. Please, stop searching. I don't want to hurt you. I couldn't bare to hurt you. Before I could do anything about the mutilated corpse on the wall and all of the blood on my body, she entered the room.
"Anvy?" she said, dumbfounded as she froze from seeing me in that state.
Don't look at me. Your gaze would haunt me. "What are you doing here, Copper?" I asked with an empty voice. Please, leave me alone. Those dirty hands can never touch you again.
Probably terrified by the man pinned on the wall, she fell on her knees while gasping and putting her hands before her mouth. I was so focused on Copper that I didn't notice Hikari coming from behind her. Silently, she looked at me and at the body, trying to figure out what happened.
"Did you do that?" asked anxiously Copper.
I don't want to lose you. But for that, you have to lose me. "Obviously," I answered, conceited. "Now, go back. I still have things to do." On those words, I turned my back on them and started to walk away. Forgive me.
"Wait!" she tried to stop me. "Please, Anvy. Let's go home..."
Shut up! "Home? Copper, my home is a time a place that ceased to exist a long time ago. I'm not going back to the rebellion. They are of no use to me anymore. I'll go directly for the Avatar." Behind me, I felt her tears running down her cheeks.
"Then... Then let me come with you." I stopped and turned around. Slowly, I made my way back to her and crouch before her the same way I did the first time we met.
"I have no need for the weak," I said harshly. You deserve better. A monster can't be your savior. "It's best if you forget about me." Don't forget. You can't forget. You won't. DON'T YOU DARE! Please... Don't forget about me. Remember me the way I used to be. As who I still should be.
"Take me with you then," said a voice that I had never heard before. It was feminine yet powerful. Wild yet melodious. The voice of a warrior. I turned my face towards Hikari. "I don't know what happened, but you're not the naive kid you used to be anymore. Also, I agree with you, the rebellion is useless. If you're going for the Avatar then I'm in."
I considered her words for some time before deciding. Admittedly, fighting the Avatar alone would be stupid. Moreover, Hikari was strong, a true genius in the art of killing and I wouldn't care if she'd die or not. An idea arose in my head.
"Alright," I answered, putting myself in front of her with a menacing look on my face. "But let me be clear; I'm the one in charge. Let's go, follow me. I know where to start." Without waiting for her answer, I turned around and walked away. Behind me, she snorted, but still obeyed.
"Anvy," Copper called me with a weak voice. "Do you remember when you said that your eyes couldn't see me? That the way I looked did not matter for those who mattered? That day, you opened your eyes to me and I saw what you said you heard. The most beautiful thing I remembered seeing since forever. Your eyes were the light of hope in my world of despair. Blind they were, but never before had I seen so much life in one's eyes. Like two emeralds shinning in the dark, they guided me out of misery. So why? Why is it that right now, as I look into what used to be my light, all I see is lifeless and silent agony?"
I did not stop or turn around.
In silence, I led Hikari through the mazes formed by underground caves until we reached a natural underground lake. The sight might have been incredibly wonderful if my eyes could actually see anything. At the edge of the lake, Mayvin was soaking his feet, completely disinterested by our presence. At his sight, Hikari quickly took a combat stance, ready to leap in the air. She probably was still upset about the beating the waterbender gave her during their last encounter.
"Mayvin," I said composedly before the airbender could do anything rash. "Your chief is dead."
"Is that so?" he replied with a bored sigh without looking at us. "Look, I have no interest in stopping you if you want to leave. Fighting you would be too much of a pain."
"I'm not here to fight. I want you to join me." Startled, Mayvin turned his head and stared at me in incomprehension. Behind me, I could feel Hikari's astonishment.
After a while, the waterbender chuckled softly. "This intimidating look on your face... It's even worse than his. Are you going to Imperial City?"
"We are," I answered.
"Then I'll stick around until then." Leisurely, he came out of the water, dried his feet with his waterbender and put his boots back on. "Shall we get moving then?" he asked with his usual monotone voice.
"There's one thing I want to know before that," I said. "Where is the lightning bender? I have things to settle with him."
"With her, you mean," he replied. "Zapp went off on a mission not so long ago."
"Do you know where?"
"I do. You want to go after her?" he asked reluctantly, not really wanting to know.
"I want to hunt her," I replied sharply. Then, without warning, I moved two fingers and a pillar of earth rose under our feet, lifting us vertically at tremendous speed. Before we crashed on the ceiling, I raised my arm and a tunnel opened all the way up to the surface. A few seconds later, we were outside. Neither of them showed it, but I could feel their awe.
"Something happened, right?" suddenly asked Mayvin. "You didn't gain power, no, just... Knowledge."
I ignored him. "Which way?" He pointed north and I started walking.
"Then let's go, Cerberus."
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