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A Tale of Rebels



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Chapter 7: Assassins, Pt. 2

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Chapter 9: The Grand March, Pt. 1

Vengeance is the eight chapter of Sep0815's A Tale of Rebels.

Previously in A Tale of Rebels

In Ba Sing Se, the seven assassins succeed in their mission of eliminating Imperial Marshal Han, and escape, while Grand Secretariat Zoruka and Yi Ming work out a plan to conduct vengeance for the assassination.

Meanwhile, General Kanyzon puts an end to an era of disunity and warfare in the Fire Nation by uniting it.

Chapter 8: Vengeance

"At last, you joined us." Yi Ming's words were of a rather annoyed tone, as Zoruka and her agents had arrived late. The small hill Yi Ming's guards and Zoruka's agents had gathered on overlooked a brook's valley, which was the only occurrence of trees in a radius of more than one kilometre. Just by the brook, the village of Li Di Ce laid, consisting of some twenty complexes consisting of a house, a barn and a storehouse each, lined up on a dirt road roughly parallel to the brook, a well in its centre. Yi Ming called the leaders of each, his guards and Zoruka's agents, to him, whispered orders in their ears, after which their subordinates positioned themselves around the village, only the leaders staying with Yi Ming and Zoruka. Glancing around, from the village to the positions the soldiers and agents were taking, she couldn't hold back a question of hers.

"What about the other village, this... Rejaki?", she asked out of curiosity, afterwards glancing around, finding out the people living in the village were likely herders of some sorts.

"Yes, that one... is being dealt with as we speak, my guards will do the job. However, we must proceed with Li Di Ce before the sun rises again. Onwards now!" Yi Ming changed from an explaining to an ordering tone within a split second, and began moving towards the settlement. Just as they began their movement, the agents and guards, all positioned in pairs, started walking as well. Unsure how to feel about it, Zoruka decided just to play along. However, as they passed an invisible barrier, all agents ceased their motion, and spread to effectively surround the village, while the rest kept moving. After a walk of about five minutes from the hilltop on, they had entered the village itself. After glancing around for half a minute, Yi Ming shouted his next order. "Wake them! Gather them in the village's centre, gather all of them, without exception! Understood?!"

The guards obeyed immediately. Always in pairs, they went up to the house's doors, and knocked at the door violently. After - in no case, which Zoruka found understandable at such an hour - nobody answered the door, the doors were crushed with a pillar of earth, and the pairs went inside. In some cases, Zoruka could hear some of the villagers resisting violently - those were carried outside by their family members - whereas cursing occurred in almost every case. No matter in what way, the villagers were gathered, whether they liked it or not. They were assembled in a half circle around Yi Ming, fleeing or attacks of any kind being restricted by the guards. There were elderly women and men alike, often - quite obviously - suffering from health issues occurring with age, there were middle aged people of both genders, looking far older than they were, there were younger couples, some of whom were only covered in something resembling blankets, seemingly pulled out of their most intimate moments, there were adolescents and children alike, even infants in the hands of their mothers - everyone an ordinary village housed. And then there were the unconscious ones, who sat upright by their relatives and friends. A deafening, a tense silence set over the whole village, a deafeningly silent cry of distress. Zoruka took the time to analyse the people's looks, their soundless cries for help - mostly, there was fear, and also anger - but if there was something she would never do, it certainly was aiding the others, the few others who had the courage to wear a defiant expression of hatred. Then, she was pulled out of her thoughts, as Yi Ming began to speak again.

"Who of you is housing the rebels?!" The shouting was surely audible in a kilometre's radius. As no reaction followed, the Emperor decided to make it a bit more interesting, and walked over to the commoners, selected a certain individual, an elder lady, pulled her out of the crowd, and levitated a boulder over her. "WHO IS HOUSING THE REBELS?!"

Though shaky and insecure, the elderly woman hissed, "Oh, for spirits' sake, do it, I'm gonna die soon anyway."

Somewhat obeying, Yi Ming let the boulder follow the call of gravity and, in the process, crush the woman's body. After the first execution, he once again demanded an answer. "WHO IS HIDING THE TERRORISTS WHO ASSASSINATED IMPERIAL MARSHAL HAN?!"

Who spoke up this time was - when compared to the other villagers' clothes - well robed elder man, who stepped forth, and begged, "Please, your majesty, your highly honoured majesty, have mercy! We are a simple people, we- "

"ARE YOU THEIR LEADER?", the Emperor asked the commoner, pulling him close, before the latter replied, "We have no leader, we live in a commune, we- "

The elder man was tossed to the ground, and Yi Ming sent a rock immediately after, aimed at the head. Having lost his temper, the elder monarch repeated his question once more. "WHERE ARE THEY? WHO IS HIDING THEM?!"

Zoruka herself now felt nervous. She couldn't get her eyes off the elder's dead body, with the crushed skull, and now, after this display of sheer cruelty, feared to herself becoming Yi Ming's victim.

"YOU REFUSE TO COOPERATE?! SO BE IT THEN!" The Emperor now indeed was fully enraged. He randomly pointed into the crowd, and, that way, selected a - seemingly recently wed - young man, whom he then ordered. "You... step forth... GUARDS! EXECUTE HIM!"

Zoruka shook as the dead body dropped after a rock had crushed his chest, remembering her father's demise. Just as she was shaken, a young woman in the small crowd of villagers shook violently, and started sobbing. One more time, Yi Ming repeated the procedure, but Zoruka was too focused on her own thoughts to notice it, however, the next of her only superior's orders she could hear. "Lock them into their houses! Barricade all possibilities for escape!"

Being trained to comply with each and every of his orders, the Imperial Guards carried the command out without question - after about twenty minutes, they had gathered in the village's centre again. "Now... set them on fire! BURN THE VILLAGE! BURN THE TRAITORS!"

This was when Zoruka couldn't take it anymore. She ripped her Grand Secretary's robe off to display her red armour, jumped into a firebending stance, and launched a fireball at Yi Ming's back, shakingly saying a defiant "No". In that moment, everything seemed to freeze. The guards all were shocked at the sudden action, but not nearly as much as Yi Ming. The fireball had burnt through the armour, and scorched his skin in the area of his left bladebone. His expression shifted back to an enraged one, and he spun around, shooting a small chunk of earth at the firebender's head, but, unlike anticipated, she managed to evade it, or so everyone thought. However, fortunate for Yi Ming, she was too slow. The chunk had struck her in her left eye, making the fragile organ burst. The cry of pain following was deafening, but ignored. Zoruka collapsed on the ground and soon, more out of reflex than willingly, assumed a foetal position, while the loss of blood and the heavy smoke around carried her into a deep, dreamless and likely mortal sleep.

The ceremony had greater importance, more representation than those of its kind had had in the previous hundred years. The whole Coronation Plaza including its temple were coated in red and black, representing the dark day the death of a Fire Lord was, in contrast to the new one's white robes. Kanyzon wore a smile of accomplishment as he stepped out. The plaza was crowded - commoners and nobles alike wanted to attend this historical event - the official rise of a new dynasty of the Fire Nation. As he stepped into the bright sunlight, his robes shone through the dark surroundings, only to be the one - instead of the Fire Sages - to light what laid on display on the bier. However, it wasn't the dead Fire Lord Tokai's body, it was a massive pile of documents justifying the previously reigning Liang Dynasty's rule. As the paper burnt, Kanyzon nodded to the Fire Sages, whose territory he had recently conquered, and the High Sage began a brief speech.

"Rejoice, citizens of the Fire Nation! After a century of disunity, of internal quarrels, of weak rulers, we, at last, we can exult, for the last of the weaklings of the Liang Dynasty are replaced, with someone far more powerful! At last, we are united again! And only this man, this unificator deserves the right to the throne, only the powerful do!" The High Sage had, despite his advanced age, a very strong voice that carried the words all across the plaza. He readied himself to crown Kanyzon, but to his astonishment, the man refused to kneel. On top of all, Kanyzon took the crown headpiece out of the High Sage's hands, and held it before himself.

"It is as it has always been - only the strongest deserves the right to rule!" Kanyzon's only words were the ones to break the silence. The second part of them were his first words as Fire Lord - he had crowned himself. The silence was annihilated by thunderous applause, during which the dark red and black pieces of cloth were burnt, and in their stead, Kanyzon's battle flags - pennants of red colour, bearing a golden Fire Nation insignia, all framed by golden cloth, which made the whole flag seem like a single flame - were hoisted. The people's reaction was as he had wished, and just after the High Sage had muttered the - in such a case, more out of tradition than to indicate the new Fire Lord's coronation - "All hail Fire Lord Kanyzon", the monarch retreated into the palace that was now his, making use of the palanquin of his.

"The Nation still is divided, deep down. Some nobles from the subjugated territory, which equals almost all of the Fire Nation, may I remind you, plot uprisings to regain former autonomy and power, and I am most certain several scholars would join them, the commoners following. If that happens, we might not have the power to subdue them, to put them down. There is a way, however, to prevent that." He found it quite comfortable to sit on the throne, to command his Generals from a higher position. They were gathered around a map of the world.

One General decided to question his superior's intention. "I personally find it rather paranoid to suspect a rebellion right now, when our armies have journeyed through the lands, pillaging, they ought to be at their lowest."

"Yes, but perhaps, the pillaging might be the exact reason for a potential uprising? Thought of that? Take a look at the Earth Empire, and the Wedding of Omashu. The Wedding of Omashu is still remembered as one of the greatest atrocity of all of history, and lead to the formation of the so-called Liberation Alliance. Now, if the dear Emperor was to commit another of comparable atrocities to put the Liberation Alliance down, it would likely serve the Liberation Alliance, as they were able to prove that the Emperor relies on force, and force alone. We, however, we need to show, as we are far more united than the Earth Empire, that we are one people. And I know one possibility, one that would rob the regional nobility of influence as well."

"Now, your majesty, what is your plan, if I might ask?", the General from before asked the Fire Lord. The latter sighed, before briefly stroking his beard. Then, he decided to answer.

"A common campaign against the Earth Empire. It is a completely megalomaniac plan, but to conquer it would still be the official reason. What would you Generals think of that plan?", Kanyzon explained, descending from his dragon throne, and pacing onto the map.

"Of course, I understand it is just a rough outline of a plan, but... what if the Emperor decides to strike back? History has shown that Yi Ming is an unforgiving man, and prefers collective punishment over all other forms, therefore a counter strike of the Earth Empire's would be devastating. What if that happens?" Once more, no other than the General from before had decided to speak.

"I trust the Avatar would prevent- " For once, another General, one across the previous, had raised his voice, but was cut off by Kanyzon personally.

"The Avatar is a self-centred hermit living somewhere in the rural Fire Nation, where he practises his bending, his mastery of the Avatar state and whatnot - he doesn't give a damn what happens in the world, and the past Avatar was a General of Yi Ming's. There's little to no hope for the Avatar to intervene in the case the Fire Nation would be attacked, but even so, we would stand our ground to the last man!"

"...and the last woman, and child. Waging war against Yi Ming means risking one's people's existence.", yet another General chimed in.

"SHUT UP!", Fire Lord Kanyzon shouted furiously, directing at all the Generals, before continuing. "We will now begin working on our plan, shall we not? We need to organise an expeditionary army, and a landing fleet, both equipped with every piece of war machinery we can provide. That aside, we also need to ally with the Liberation Alliance, so it would seem like we actually had a chance to somewhat fulfill the requirements of the official causus belli."

Thus, the Fire Lord and his Generals began planning the campaign that should once and for all time unify the Fire Nation, though not entirely in the way they had wished.

"It's getting dark, perhaps we should stop and set up a camp... ", noted Skado after taking a look westwards. "Maybe we'll have a chance of eating what we could get at this... What was it?"

"Oh, Rejaki you mean?" Ranju answered his question and ended his sentence subsequently. "Where this lad, this... major of ours provided us the food? Sounds like an idea."

"...right. We're not far from our next station, where we... should get a carriage? Right. Anyway, we better not set up our camp on the road, we'd be too easy to spot... " Shizon too contributed a logical proposal, and then gestured at a somewhat rocky hill to the dirt road's left. "How about up there? Should be easy to hide there, shouldn't it?"

"Whatever floats your boat... " Other than his comrades, Senqok was rather exhausted, thus far less talkative.

Just then, the group stopped their walk, and took a look around. In the few kilometres between themselves and the farming village of Rejaki, the landscape had become dryer and more prairie-like, thus having little alternatives to the rocky hill. After a minute of rest, they decided to step off the dirt road into equally rough terrain, before walking up the hill, halting halfway to its top to set up their tents. As everyone struggled with the dry, rocky and hard soil, Noki, sighing, decided to help them a bit, and erected earthen tents between the rocks, one for each of them. Afterwards, the others covered their respective tents' entrances with cloth to shield the inside from the night's chill, before Shizon built, positioned in the centre of their camp, a small campfire with the little firewood they could gather on the way, whereas Kabura climbed up the rest of the hill to find a sole tree growing there, but also a view of the surroundings in a radius of several kilometres, reaching even to the village of Li Di Ce. As she returned to the camp, Skado had begun cooking some kind of soup, the water for which Senqok had fetched, Shizon keeping the fire going, Ranju supplying it with firewood. The crackling of the fire and the bubbling of the soup were the only noises in the intensifying darkness, until Skado noticed the expectant look on everyone's faces.

"Just a minute!", he assured them, before, after being handed bowls, handing out the soup. Noki, who idly had sat by, seemingly struggeled eating the liquid, and let Kabura help her.

"Well... thanks, but I think I got it now... again.", the blind earthbender stated, then, after eating another spoon of the soup, asking, "And, Kabura? What did you see up there?"

"Well, aside that there's, against all logic, a small tree up there, one has an excellent view from there, I mean, I could see some kilometres far, and that in dusk! Think of how far you'll- ", Kabura explained enthusiastically, but, noticing her mistake, then closed rather awkwardly. "Oh wait, right. My bad."

Other than expected, Noki commented it not with a display of dismay, but rather with a slight chuckle. After the few words were spoken, everyone focussed more on their meal rather than conversation, and the silence lasted until everyone was finished, and the bowls were collected again, and Skado stored the dinnerware in his knapsack again, after which Ranju noted, "I think we should stand guard in case someone comes near our camp. Sure, we're hidden, but just to be sure."

Once again, Senqok was too weary to reply lengthily, thus repeated his reply from before. "Whatever floats your boat... "

"How about this: first stands Ranju guard, then Shizon, then Noki and finally Senqok? That way, we'd always have a bender guard us, and- oh forget it... ", Skado proposed at first enthusiastically.

Ranju and Shizon glanced at each other, and then nodded, the latter then speaking for both, "Sure, sounds like a plan."

Noki only sighed, then, as though it were inevitable, spoke an annoyed, "Whatever... "

Skado was about to ask for Senqok's opinion, but just then, the latter once again repeated his answer. "Whatever floats your boat... "

The matter settled, they all, except Ranju, went to sleep, trusting the airbender to guard them.

A small column of earth shot up just beneath Senqok's ear, and hit him there, barely enough to wake him up. He had slept deeply, fatigued from the past days' journey, but now was all but sleepy. Assuming it had been Noki waking him up, he took his sword, his water pouch and crawled out of his tent, almost falling on a sharp-edged rock immediately afterwards. Grunting, he stood up, and then, to be able to warn the others of a nearing enemy in advance, climbed up to the single tree. The first thing that struck him was the view of thee near village of Li Di Ce. Where small farmsteads should have stood, only black, most likely burnt, stumps stood and greyish ash laid. Driven by his curiosity, he stormed off the hill and towards the village. As he approached it with big steps, he got more and more disturbed of the view that presented itself, yet the more he wanted to know what had happened. As he reached the closes farmstead, what he first noticed out of the greyish mass of ash were the partially burnt cadavers of whether animals had been held, whether they had been ostrich horses or various breeds of hybrid pigs. The fire that had devastated the village had also deformed and severely damaged the bodies of the animals there. Senqok couldn't handle looking there for too long, and walked on, stepping on something that made a creaky sound. Turning around, the Water Tribal was shortly before vomiting - it was a human skull.

Shocked would have been a far underestimation for the state Senqok was in as he stormed out of what once had been farming house, onto the road. He had seen a lot, but now he couldn't hold himself back from - crying. He collapsed in the middle of the dirt road and cried, Senqok, who actually was a grown man. But then, he noticed a not clothed part of his arm touching human skin - intact human skin. He was shocked once more, but then got up and started to investigate it, still teary-eyed. He shrank away from what he found having laid on in his blindness. An almost unharmed human, a young woman, to be exact, that was. Except for her left eye, she was alright. The eye, however, was, though still in one piece, exploded, the fragments of it hanging together on narrow twines of the sclera. The whole area was coated in dried blood, in the eye itself stuck a piece of rock. After examining the damage done, he concluded, the only way she could have died as through bleeding to death, thus he checked her breath and pulse. After multiple times checking it, he was sure of it - she was alive. Deciding to tell the others of his discovery, he rose to his feet, and took one last look at the unconscious body, thinking, So we meet again, Zoruka... So we meet again...

"Senqok! You moron! Where were you all the time?!" Shizon's tone was more than accusing, it sounded threatening even. "We could've all died!"

"I have foun- I need to start from the beginning. I was in Li Di Ce, and, well, the village is... exterminated. Burnt down, the population... " Senqok explained calmly, before his tone became shakily. "...dead. I found a single one alive, and that one's not a native."

Kabura pushed Shizon, who started cursing violently, aside, and asked inquisitive, "How'd you know?"

"That she's no native, you mean?" - Kabura nodded - "Well, she's... Crown Princess of the Fire Nation and Grand Secretariat of the Earth Empire, Zoruka, but given the piece of rock in her- "

"WHAT?!", Shizon shouted outraged. "ZORUKA WAS AROUND IN THE NIGHT? WHY DID NO- ?"

"Because, I presume, everyone focused more on the camp than the surroundings?" The waterbender spoke confident now. "So, well, I've come here to ask... well, to beg you to help me save her. She's in literal grave danger, and, well- "

"No.", Shzion decided, "Just no."

Kabura furrowed her brows. "Well... I'd like to, but she's our enemy and all... "

"I second that. Kabura's statement, that is.", Ranju spoke.

Skado looked at Noki, then, after noticing she wouldn't notice let alone understand the gesture, poked her arm, and exchanged a few whispers, after which Noki stated, "So do we."

"She's no enemy, I'm sure of it!", Senqok stated his opinion, then explaining it, "Her left eyeball was exploded by a ROCK SHARD! Let's say what happened to Li Di Ce was an act of vengeance, then I could imagine Yi Ming being there, and Zoruka as well. In that case, Zoruka would be well-guarded and almost impossible to be struck like that. Thus, she either was on a mission on herself, which is very improbable, also given the small size of Li Di Ce, or she decided to... betray Yi Ming, which is, I think, the most probable. SHE IS NO ENEMY!"

"Under these circumstances... well... we'll... " Kabura, who had spoken, took a look around, glancing from Skado to Ranju and from Ranju to Noki, then deciding, "Well, we'll help."

Shizon narrowed his eyes. "A very vague hypothesis, and I doubt Zoruka would be our ally, but given the others agree... well, I'll agree as well then... "

The six armed themselves and departed for the village.

Senqok had fallen silent, leading them through the village, careful not to let anyone take a glance into the former houses. The road was, like the whole area, partially covered in ash, which hindered walking a bit, but still, they arrived at the village's centre, where Zoruka's unconscious body laid, within a few minutes. Shizon shuddered at the sight of her, partly because of her eye, partially because of her - his enemy's - sheer presence. He turned around, which caused Senqok to speak the first words since entering the village. "You can go looking for something to build a handbarrow with if you don't want to help directly, just DON'T LOOK INTO THE HOUSES, FOR YOUR OWN FUCKING SAKE!"

The firebender shrunk back at first, but then obeyed, and went off the road, then following the brook's course. The others looked at Senqok, concerned.

"Just stick to that sentence if you want to stay sane... ", Senqok answered their looks, then continuing, after having once again checked Zoruka's pulse and breath. "She's still alive, barely, but alive. She's lost lots of blood, as it seems, and- er, because her left eyeball is kind of... well, look at it. It's still in one piece, but exploded. Since you volunteered to help, we need to get her onto proper ground, which I didn't want to do, since I feared I'd risk killing her in the process."

The others only listened with half their ears, as they were preoccupied examining the disturbing sight. Kabura almost immediately had her healing water at hand and examined what the others could not see. "This rock shard is blocking the blood's path out. We should leave it in as long as it doesn't infect her, in other words, as long as possible. The rest of her body is relatively unharmed, except for some minor bruises... However, as long as we're not in a proper town with a proper hospital, we can only keep her in her current state.", the healer stated, her eyes closed as she concentrated on her water.

"I think I know approximately how a human eye is composed... ", Skado thought aloud, catching everyone's attention. "If I'm given instruments, I could - with your help of course - restore the eye, about her eyesight I'm not sure... "

When the others attempted to rise the Crown Princess' armour-bearing body from the ground, Noki helped then and thrust it up, shocking the others.

"JUST WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?!", was Senqok's reaction, to which the earthbender retorted, "Not to worry, she's still alive... "

"Wait, Noki! Once we get the chance to fix- er, operate her eye, you can tell us whether her pulse is constant, rising, falling, about her breath, everything!", Skado exclaimed, proceeding with hugging the blind earthbender. However, the latter found it less pleasing than Skado appeared to, and pushed him away just as he said, "You're brilliant!"

As Skado was unsure how to feel about Noki, and Senqok, Ranju and Kabura closely examined Zoruka's body, Shizon arrived again, only with an important difference. He sat on a carriage pulled by four ostrich horses, waving to the others, and shouting, "Hop on! We'll get our stuff and then head for the nearest town!"

Not finding any reason to question his orders, the others loaded Zoruka on the lengthy carriage and subsequently themselves leapt onto it. Then, Shizon cracked the reins and they raced henceforth.

Anyang was nervous, and strode up and down in front of Wei's desk. The superior currently was reading reports from the other three generals of the Alliance, Generals Ranchi, Akol and Vikuna, based in Gaoling, the Fusang Province, and Taku, respectively. Even though Anyang's report was about to be delivered in person, and the airbending General had flown thousands of kilometres within fifty hours non-stop, Wei decided to remain focused on the papers in front of him, reporting of an increasing number of mining output and also a slight increase of membership.

"Anyang, for spirits' sake, sit down, you're making me nervous!", he ordered, not even looking up from the papers of his.

"I fly here, thousands of kilometres, non-stop, fifty hours long. How do you think- " Anyang began quite angered, but then was cut off.

"Then rest, dammit!" Wei tossed his reports aside, and stood up, went over to Anyang, grasped both his shoulders, and pushed him down to sit at the table, right across him, before returning to his papers. "Better. Now... Well, the Fusang Province is ours!"

"It already was, wasn't it?" Anyang tried to seem interested in the news.

"Yes, but this Water Tribal really managed to take it over, all of it, even Gibaru village! That aside, Gaoling could double their mining output under this firebender freak - amazing, eh? - from which of course they could immediately manufacture crossbows for the whole Alliance. Oh, and in Taku province, five percent of all men fit for military service are members of ours now, seems like this damn healer really has found a way of effectively recruiting, eh?" Wei made a short pause, after which he continued enthusiastically, wildly gesturing. "If we keep going at this rate, in five years' time, we'll- "

" able to open up a new manufactory. Wei, I'm being serious. Just because recent reports haven't been all too well, it doesn't mean that this is great. Also, Vikuna might as well use her, uh, attractiveness for recruiting. I'm just saying it's an option, I mean, she wasn't always the most... bashful. Also, in Gaoling, you know how it is there, when they find a new lode of whatever they're mining, their output can reach the quadruple of the previous, it's only normal. About Fusang Province... it was only a matter of time till we conquered all of it. Now- " Anyang decided to take a rather down-to-earth approach, despite him being an airbender. That was, until Wei cut him off.

"You're trying to promote your report by downplaying the others' importance again?" Wei wore a sarcastic smile, only to have his question answered with a chuckle. Anyang, however, decided to speak as well. "Of course I do that, or else you'd ignore me forever. Now, may I start?"

"Of course, I'm eager to hear what you accomplished." Wei stated, then somewhat sarcastically adding, "Oh, right. Exactly what I instructed you to do."

"Alright then. Well, no one suspected us of being undercover commandos, furthermore was it important that we confronted no agents of the Grand Secretariat within Ba Sing Se, or at all, all security forces we faced were ordinary soldiers and guards. About the conduction of the mission, well, we entered the city with little to no complications - except Senqok and Kabura being held up a little longer for their false identities' origin - and got a room in a Middle Ring hotel, and could make plans there undisturbed. The assassination of the Imperial Marshal was also possible without interference, as was the very swift flight out of the city." Anyang spoke relatively freely about what had occurred, closing, "In short, the mission was an overall success."

"That is good news, I assume you have some information about the unit's - Noki's, Kabura's, Senqok's, Shizon's, Ranju's and Skado's - way back to Omashu?" Wei's voice was expectant, but then disappointed as all Anyang could answer with was a mere "Fuck". To compensate for the lack of knowledge of the Alliance's most important commando's whereabouts and also to not let Wei speak, Anyang decided to propose an idea of his.

"Coming back to the aforementioned recruiting, I tend to believe, given the success of our mission, Yi Ming won't wait long to revenge his fallen fellow, and when he does it, it will be bloody. While this could cost us numerous members, it could also serve as source of such. Think about it. If he comes to exterminate whole neighbourhoods, then many will grieve for their family members and friends lost, and their friends will be pulled into it, and so forth. Whereas he can justify such actions to people like the Avatar, he cannot do the same to a mother who lost her son. So, we could use his revenge as the basis for recruiting. In the recent years, the whole conflict's been heating up, and we need supporters to survive against Yi Ming. We need to start a recruiting campaign, with posters, flyers, protests and all that, to get people on our side. Whereas the latter surely would immediately met with military force, the distribution of the other two could be done by any soldiers trained in basic stealth, therefore... You know what I aim to reach, don't you? I want us to start recruiting en masse, so we can pose an actual threat to Yi Ming. We just need to wait for his reaction to the assassination."

"Well... sounds... brilliant!" Wei was amazed by just how fast Anyang had come up with the idea, before he then ordered Anyang, "Anyang, I will consider and work out your proposal... you keep watch on all roads leading north in a radius of a hundred kilometres, keep a watch for the commando. But for now, rest, you have provided enough for today. Dismissed."

The room - an ordinary hotel room in an equally ordinary provincial town - was sterile, as were the - rather primitive - instruments, just as he had requested it. It indeed was a miracle what some money could do, even in the most peripheral province. Zoruka laid strapped to the - just as well sterile - table, and was approached by the six in - what a surprise, sterile - coats. They assumed previously discussed positions: Shizon stood always ready to hand Skado any instrument he desired, Ranju was there to assist as well, but with the operation itself, by lighting the whole scene, whereas Noki had the function Skado had suggested, to tell them the state of Zoruka's breathing and pulse. Senqok, Kabura and of course Skado were the ones conducting the actual operation. Those three reached Zoruka's head, and - after receiving reassuring looks from the other two - Senqok pulled the shard of rock out of Zoruka's eye. Blood began, as feared, dripping, but first, the three had other desires. As discussed previously, Senqok bent prepared - sterile, naturally - water and cleaned the whole area as far as possible, which allowed Skado to examine the eye itself. After being handed some instrument which seemed to be no more than a piece of wire, the latter examined the separate fragments remaining of the organ. After a few minutes of examination, he declared, "The eye is complete. We can restore it."

After having the area once again cleaned of blood and dirt and whatnot, the nonbender began rearrange torn parts of skin-like tissue he declared to be parts of the so-called choroid and retina. After a few minutes, he handed another instrument of the same kind to Kabura and whispered orders to her. After another minute, they were finished with the first part of their work, and Senqok bent water of his into the severed eye-socket to heal the choroid and the retina the two of his colleagues had rearranged, only enough to seal the fissures in between. Then, when he retreated his water, Skado began gathering pieces of some gelatinous material he denoted to be the vitreous, which was particularly difficult to arrange, as it was of aforementioned gelatinous consistence. With this task, he was finished surprisingly soon, and as it required no healing, he moved on immediately, however not conducting the task himself, but rather instructing Senqok to find the lens and the iris, and then place them - as central as possible - atop the vitreous. Having found the lens - with several fine fibres leading off - and the iris being torn into parts all hanging on their respective strands of the coronoid, his task was all but difficult. He simply took the lens with a pair of tweezers Shizon had handed him and placed it where he had been instructed to, and covered the rest of the vitreous with the iris, afterwards healing it punctually again, just barely enough to seal it. The last part still missing was - aside the aqueous fluid, which the body itself produced - the cornea to cover the eye. Tasked with finding, positioning said piece of skin, and subsequently healing the eye overall was Kabura, who, receiving the pair of tweezers from Senqok, found the cornea clinging to the rock shard's end. Quickly, she sealed up the area above the iris with her finding, and then took out her water to apply it to the eye to heal it. After a few minutes of constant and concentrated healing, she all of sudden shouted, "I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE!"

Senqok was the one to take over healing while Kabura stormed out of the room for whatever reason, Shizon, Ranju following her, and Noki attempting, only to be held up by Skado. "Why were you so silent? What was your task?!"

"Oh, come on, until now- ", Noki began justifying her behaviour, before her eyes widened in shock at what she felt of Zoruka. "Oh damn. Her pulse and breathing's getting stronger, much stronger, like she was actually... sleeping. Well, nevermind... "

"Good. Senqok, you stay here, I'm out getting a eye-patch, and Noki, or, well, all of you- we'll meet here again at six p.m., a'ight?", Skado ordered the others, earning satisfied groans, while he closed the door after him. After he felt himself almost fainting as he focused entirely on healing, Senqok ceased it and decided to sit. After a few minutes, he could notice a twitching in Zoruka's left eyelids, and removed the construct holding them far open, and also removed the straps to grant her a bit freedom, before sitting himself again. Smiling, he fell asleep. When he, hours later, awoke, however, he had less reason to smile - the first thing he saw once awake were Zoruka's eyes - both of them - opening at lightning speed.

Notes and Trivia

  • The term "commune" is used with a similar meaning to the Imperial Russian Obshchina, where peasants held their land in communal ownership.
  • Ranchi is a name shamelessly taken from the city of Ranchi, Jharkhand, India.
  • "If we keep going at this rate, in five years' time, we'll- " -" able to open up a new manufactory." is a reference to the Five Year Plans of the USSR.

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For the collective works of the author, go here.

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