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|More from Minnichi||Romance/Angst/Action||PG-13||Very positive|
|Chapter 7 - The Favor (SHiE)|
Summary of the Last Chapter
Yuhan and Riya have a bit of a tough time admitting the obvious (that they *like* each other). But Hiroshu gives them a little push, and everything in his scheme works out beautifully. Meanwhile, the Dai Li have taken the Avatar's sky bison into custody.
BANG. "Long Feng Sir requests your presence." The harsh knock that struck the metal door of Yuhan's dorm echoed loudly. The noise woke several other agents with rooms nearby, who grumpily ignored it soon after. As usual, Yuhan was one of the few members called up this early in the morning.
The young agent snapped his eyes open after two hours worth of sleep. Honestly, he didn't really mind today. He'd thought that sleep would bring him some inner peace, but after his nightmare he wasn't sure he'd ever want to try again.
It wasn't the first time he'd had a bad dream. The old man that he witnessed Hiroshu assassinate seven years ago would often haunt his memories, even in his sleep. This time, however, Riya was part of the nightmare. She'd been standing before him, her bloody body wilted and barely holding itself up, and she'd pointed a single, battered arm at his face. Her head drooped unnaturally to the side, while crimson tears leaked from her empty eye sockets. "You'll pay for what you did. You're going to burn to the ground." As she gurgled this, her two foster parents appeared behind her shoulders, looking equally undead. They were followed by a crowd bearing wrathful faces that Yuhan recognized from the conversion chamber. Each of them carried huge, burning torches, which were all pointed at him as they slowly closed in around his body. The agent screamed in pain as the flames climbed up to his face, scorching every inch of his body. Riya threw her head back and cackled as he writhed on the ground. She only laughed harder when he tried desperately to reach towards her for help, and she ground her foot down over his burning hand. When Yuhan thought he would surely die, the sudden bang outside his room pulled him back into reality.
The troubled agent sat back up with a jolt. His breathing slowly began to relax as he cautiously looked around the small room, making sure that there was no fire anywhere in sight and wiping sweat off his forehead. He shook off the dream using a memory of the real Riya smiling sweetly at him, her shy hazel eyes glimmering with affection. Of course, that memory also brought with it a familiar pang of guilt, but it was better than picturing the horrible image from his nightmare.
Long Feng Sir requests your presence. Yuhan finally remembered why he was woken up in the first place and hurriedly pulled on his robes. He emerged from his room still adjusting his hat's sash around his chin. This better not be something related to the sky bison again. Anything but that.
"Yuhan, I have some important tasks for you regarding Avatar Aang's sky bison."
"...What is it, sir?"
"As you know already, the Avatar and his friends have been searching relentlessly for their lost pet," Long Feng explained, frowning slightly at Yuhan's strangely curt reply. The agent quickly erased all traces of emotion from his face. "And as you also know, they must not be allowed to succeed if we want to keep the war a secret from the Earth King," continued the Cultural Minister. "The bison is our only means of keeping those children silent. It appears so far that Joo Dee is doing a poor job of keeping them occupied. I have therefore decided to send you to take some extra measures."
Lucky me... "It is an honor to be chosen to carry out your will," replied the agent, who'd long perfected the art of lying. "What would you have me do, sir?"
"Yuhan, your fellow agents have recently taken an acquaintance of the Avatar's into our custody. The boy is a refugee known by the name Jet. You must convert this boy separately from any other rebels to ensure that the results remain permanently effective," Long Feng commanded. "It is crucial that Jet does not regain his memories when he is allowed to reunite with the Avatar and his friends."
Reunite...Avatar...friends? What exactly did the Grand Secretariat have up his sleeve this time? "I understand, sir." The leader bore one of his unnatural, smirk-like smiles. "What instructions am I to give this 'Jet' upon his conversion?" Yuhan asked simply.
"After erasing his memories of the war and of the Dai Li headquarters, you must convince this boy that he works as a waiter at the Liang Family restaurant of the Lower Ring's 6th Division, next to the fur trading stables," ordered the Minister. "While you are doing that, I will send word to our spy there to expect your arrival, and you will pass my instructions onto him." Yuhan felt his face growing a little paler as the information continued to pile on. "When all is done, Jet will have 'overheard' that the bison has been sold to Whale Tail Island and will relay the information back to the Avatar. Once the boy and his friends follow this trail, we will finally be free of his nuisance and continue maintaining utopia in Ba Sing Se without any problems."
Holy Spirits, that's a complicated brainwashing he's asking for. "I will do everything in my ability to ensure that Jet's mind is secured. You have my word, sir." The young agent bowed grimly.
"I can see that you find this task much more difficult than usual, Yuhan, but you must understand and accept that you are one of the Dai Li's most talented Peace Orators," Long Feng explained matter-of-factly. "I cannot risk relying on anyone else." His eyes showed no sympathy, but such a compliment was still highly unusual. Even so, the praise didn't do much to ease the agent's dull spirits.
"Thank you, sir. I understand and will begin right away." Yuhan honestly just wanted to get out of the office already.
"Conversion Chamber #3. You may leave."
Yuhan circled aimlessly around headquarters for a while before actually looking for Conversion Chamber #3. So Avatar Aang was in Ba Sing Se, still looking for his bison... The agent wondered if he'd caught onto the Dai Li's interference already. As the master of all four elements, the boy certainly didn't seem to him like someone that Long Feng could fool too easily. Still...as long as this "Jet" was brainwashed effectively, there was no one, not even the Avatar, who could suspect him of lying about Whale Tail Island. After all, how would anyone be able to tell if Jet himself couldn't? The only problem now was that Yuhan was not in any mood whatsoever to brainwash today - especially after that horrible nightmare.
But an order was an order.
Even so, the tired agent's mind suddenly halted its automatic obedience for a moment. The Avatar, if he remembered correctly, was supposed to be the bringer of peace. Wouldn't that have put him on the same page as the Dai Li? In fact, if the legends were correct, the Avatar could do much more than the organization and bring peace to the entire world...not just Ba Sing Se. Now that Yuhan thought about it, Long Feng's random schemes didn't seem to make much sense.
...Then again, the current master of elements was a 12-year-old boy who'd disappeared for a hundred years while the rest of the world burned - quite literally. The efforts of the Dai Li had kept the city free of the Fire Nation all this time, not the Avatar. To expect the boy to do any good now was probably unwise. If anything, he'd just drag everyone into war with his overly optimistic attitude and end up adding Ba Sing Se to the list of Fire Nation victories. The Impenetrable City would be reduced to a laughingstock and supply source for the enemy. There was certainly no need for that. Long Feng was probably right again. The agent shrugged and continued pacing to his designated conversion chamber.
Still, there was that cursed bison. No matter the reason, the young agent couldn't help feeling a little cruel for separating an animal that was famous for being the Avatar's closest companion. And...there was that night on the Outer Wall, with the full moon. No matter how hard he tried, Yuhan simply couldn't stop the tender memory from interfering with his willingness to do anything that might harm the creature.
Why do I happen to be good at something stupid like brainwashing? The Spirits couldn't let me be better at literature or something? At least then I could settle somewhere alone in the University Library, free from all naggy Cultural Ministers and glowing lanterns...and spend more time with her for a change...
The tired agent finally came to a stop at the door of Conversion Chamber #3.
Hiroshu had been trotting down the same hallway on his way to breakfast, still rubbing at his freshly woken eyes. He paused when he suddenly caught sight of his partner in front of the entrance to a conversion chamber. It struck him as odd that Yuhan was just standing there; the kid should've gotten more than comfortable with brainwashing long ago, considering his now 237 record.
The older agent started laughing when his partner still hadn't moved after several more seconds. "What's wrong with you today, getting nervous at a time like this? I think we all know that you have a better chance at succeeding than most of –"
"I don't feel like it."
"Huh?" Hiroshu had never heard his buddy speak such a blunt opinion of brainwashing before, or even downright refuse to brainwash. "You tired?" he asked instantly.
Yuhan dully turned around with his sleep-deprived eyes.
Oh...of course the kid was tired. Maybe Hiroshu should've been more specific. "So what's going on?" he decided to add.
The Peace Orator gazed back with a weird, unfamiliar expression. His eyes were more shadowed and zombie-like than ever. Maybe he'd finally gone insane from no sleep (Hiroshu wouldn't have been surprised). But the older agent had already seen those half-dead eyes many times before. Why was today so different?
"I said...I really don't feel like it," his partner finally replied, somehow drearier than usual. "But I should stop complaining now. See ya later..." Yuhan slowly turned back around and glumly began pushing aside the heavy metal door.
Hiroshu quickly stopped his partner, bringing a hand down upon his shoulder. "Okay buddy, you're being flat-out weird today," he remarked, chuckling a little. "What happened to my workaholic friend?" There was no reply. "You know what? I really don't want to know why." The kid probably cracked from all of Long Feng's annoying demands. But in that case... "It's finally time for you to take that break you've always needed," Hiroshu declared. "Tell me what Long Feng wanted you to do with this rebel and get out of here. Go spend more time with your girlfriend." He didn't really have anything to do, anyway...not to mention he could get Yuhan to buy him some lychee nuts from the city.
"W-What? But Long Feng said that I have to –"
"And I said that I don't care," Hiroshu coolly cut in. "You're not the only brainwasher around here." He sighed when his partner refused to move out of the way. "The guy's not gonna notice anything, seriously. Get out of here! Tell Riya I said hi."
Moments later, an unusually monotone Hiroshu stood before the puffy-haired boy named Jet, reciting the infamous anti-war speech as the blinding lantern whizzed across their faces. Yuhan had slipped quietly from the tunnel at the surface of Lake Laogai, with his partner's list of snacks stuffed into a sleeve.
Long Feng was correct. Most of the Dai Li didn't have the ability to instill permanent memory retention like Yuhan. Hiroshu was included. And though the generous agent followed the instructions perfectly, Jet's knowledge of the war and of headquarters still laid too close to the surface for the leader's liking.
But of course, the Cultural Minister was completely unaware that his best Peace Orator happened to be grocery shopping outside with a shy, hazel-eyed girl. He was still sitting back in his dark, green-lit office, contently sipping tea and expecting news of the Avatar's leave any day now. Who could've predicted the drastic consequences of one little favor?
Alright...just 7 more chapters to post...I can do this! x_x
I wonder when I'll actually get to start working on a real update again, lol.
- The author has accidentally memorized the entire transcripts of City of Walls and Secrets and Lake Laogai due to referencing the episodes so many times in her attempts to improve fanon accuracy.
- The author is never sure of what the Dai Li are supposed to call Long Feng, so she just stuck in "Long Feng Sir" for the heck of it, just from that one time she heard them address him. She'll appreciate any better suggestions.
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