|More from Minnichi||Romance/Angst/Action||PG-13||Very Positive|
|Chapter 9 - Duty First (SHiE)|
Summary of the Last Chapter
Yuhan almost epic fails when he presents Riya a panda lily - mostly because she's too worked up that it came from a steaming volcano. However, she quickly learns of its significance after she passes onto him a bracelet from her stepparents; it has virtually the same meaning, after all. Yuhan accepts it, though his guilt about her parents' situation only grows worse.
"Hiroshu...I think I'll consider murdering you again."
The low, bickering voices echoed loudly throughout the vast, gloomy space surrounding them.
"Don't act like you didn't do anything! Look at this mess!" snapped the Peace Orator, motioning below himself with a stony palm.
"Stop overreacting!" his partner groaned. "What did I do? Really?"
"Huh, you tell me..." the tired agent replied dryly. "What did you do?"
"Nothing! Now if you'd kindly point that glove away from me..."
"If you did 'nothing', then could you please tell me why we're 30 feet off the ground?"
The two agents were hanging from the jagged ceiling of a wide, open chamber of headquarters. The room was almost pitch black, and its coarse, rocky walls made it resemble a large cave. Yuhan was clinging onto a huge, rusty chain with a hooked end for support while Hiroshu dangled upside down beside him, sticking to the ceiling from his stone boots. Several other agents were suspended around them as they argued, keeping themselves off the ground using similar means.
Hiroshu shifted uncomfortably as a fold of his robe flopped down over his face. "I told you, I didn't do anything wrong!" He declared indignantly. "Long Feng wanted that kid brainwashed, so I brainwashed him! No one's ever found their way back here before, so I'm sure it has nothing to do with anything I did -"
"The only way he could've found his way back here is if he remembered something, Hiroshu!" Yuhan cut in, his sleep-deprived eyes flaring. "That means conversion! Brainwashing! You! Your fault!"
"Shut up, you two!" Tyru hissed furiously, hanging a few chains away. "Are you deaf? They're right there!"
Every agent in the room fell completely silent. All eyes focused on the thick, metal door separating the chamber from the rest of headquarters. Hushed and anxious voices could be heard on the other side, echoing clearly in the darkness.
"I think it's through here."
Hiroshu gulped, recognizing the voice immediately. It belonged to Jet. Meanwhile, Yuhan tightened his grip on the chain he hung from. Though his partner had done a poor job of brainwashing, the tired agent felt truly to blame for the whole ordeal. Long Feng had entrusted him alone to Jet's conversion, and he'd let his personal problems stop him from obeying. Because of his negligence, the entire Dai Li headquarters was now in danger of being discovered. Jet had regained all of his memories and had somehow infiltrated headquarters. Even worse, the Avatar was with him. Yuhan had never felt more ashamed in his life.
The door screeched loudly as it slid open, and a crack of dim light shining in from the hallway outside began to stretch across the shadowy room. The agents clinging to the ceiling didn't move a muscle, listening quietly to the solitary sounds of timid footsteps entering the chamber.
Almost everyone in the room jumped when the door suddenly slammed shut again, causing some dust to fall from the walls. At once, the crystal lanterns placed throughout the chamber reacted to the sudden darkness, illuminating the air with a stunning green light. Yuhan blinked and peered down at the small shapes moving across the floor.
Every single member of the little group was very young. "Now that's something different." The speaker appeared to be the Water Tribe boy that Long Feng had mentioned (Soak-a? Sokka? Socks? Yuhan couldn't recall his name). Shifting uncomfortably in his sleeveless and ocean-colored tunic, he looked up and caught the Peace Orator's eye for a moment before gazing around at the other agents. There were a total of seven children in the little group. One of them, who stood out brightly in orange and yellow, caught Yuhan's attention immediately. Every agent in the Dai li had been taught to recognize certain unmistakable features of Avatar Aang, and his clothing was only one of them. From where he was, though, Yuhan could barely make out the blue patterns of the boy's distinct tattoos. Nevertheless, it was a peculiar feeling to actually see the Avatar for the first time. The sleep-deprived agent was almost tempted to lean closer for a better look until Long Feng's intimidating voice cut through the silence. He appeared behind the young group, accompanied by two other agents.
"You have made yourselves enemies of the state." From the tone of his voice, Yuhan could tell that his leader was beyond peeved about the situation. The middle-aged man would probably kill the sky bison itself out of spite, if he could.
The group of children on the ground all positioned themselves into unique stances, preparing for battle. The Peace Orator sighed. His cue was next.
"Take them into custody."
Yuhan and the rest of the agents dropped quietly from the chamber ceiling, landing swiftly around the Avatar and his friends and surrounding them completely.
"Ow..." Hiroshu rolled over on the ground, rubbing his stomach. Yuhan was sitting a few feet away, gingerly lifting an arm up to examine his own injuries. His sleeve bore a huge, gaping hole where Jet had stabbed – no, hooked his sword through the fabric. The young Orator had been aiming one of his stone gloves at the group's Earthbender, distinguishable by her pale yellow tunic and loose green undershirt. Though she was blind, the little girl (named Toph, he believed...or Tough?) was noticeably wreaking havoc among all the agents. If there was a chance of catching her off guard at all, it came from projectile attacks. However, the glove ended up misfiring and hit Hiroshu instead when Jet sprang out of nowhere, latching his sword onto Yuhan's sleeve and jerking his arm backwards.
Hiroshu initially ignored the blow, and the two partners had dashed up onto the chamber walls on either side of the blind Earthbender to land an attack. She not only miraculously dodged the massive pillars that shot out from the walls, but kicked up two boulders from her high platform with impossible speed, chucking them straight at the partners before they could even react. Hiroshu had taken the blow right in the gut and was currently feeling the aftermath as he lay on the dusty floor. Yuhan had managed to swing an arm out in front before being hit and falling 20 feet to the ground. Clumsily resting himself against the fragment of a large boulder as his arm dangled numbly, he wondered if it even mattered now.
"That...girl..." Hiroshu muttered, along with some other curses that Yuhan couldn't make out. The two glumly watched as Jet and the Avatar ran from the room after Long Feng and as their fellow agents were met with a variety of blows; some were being whipped backwards by a long, seemingly alive streak of water, while others were struggling to ward off an endless flow of arrows. Some were even falling from the impact of what looked like...a boomerang. The vast majority, however, were still being pummeled by that terrifying blind girl. As Yuhan and Hiroshu observed these agents disappearing beneath massive walls of rocks and landslides, they began to feel more appreciative of their own injuries.
The chamber continued to shake and echo as its walls cracked open and as the ground became further distorted beneath the will of the blind Earthbender. Any attempts to catch her off guard with projectiles or gloves were continually prevented by her friends. The rest of the Dai Li agents eventually joined Yuhan and Hiroshu on the ground.
"We've gotta catch up to Aang and Jet! Come on!" yelled Soak-a/Sokka/Socks. His friends quickly gathered behind him as they rushed for the exit. The room went completely silent, save for the groans of several injured agents.
Hiroshu managed to sit back up again, one hand still over his aching stomach. He let out a shaky whistle, despite his battered state. "Where can I learn to earthbend like that?" Almost every other agent in the room, who'd all suffered damage from the blind girl, shot him a hateful glare. "What?" he remarked innocently. "I'm just saying!"
Yuhan wanted to shoot his glove at his partner again, but he stopped after realizing that his arm still felt numb and that the stone plates were already long gone. He gave up and gazed warily at Hiroshu. "You..."
"YOU FOOLS!" Long Feng came crashing back into the room atop his own wave of earth, his frightening voice causing everyone to cringe. "The Avatar and his friends are getting away!" he roared. "Do you want all of Ba Sing Se to find out about the war? We must pursue them at once!" He glanced around for a moment at his battered agents laying about the room. "Those of you still capable of combat, follow me!" he commanded, disappearing from the room just as quickly with a loud rumble.
Yuhan and several other agents staggered to their feet, brushing debris from their dusty uniforms. Hiroshu stayed sitting on the floor. "I think I'll pass." He leaned contently against what was left of the chamber wall, folding his hands behind his head.
Hiroshu's partner rolled his eyes before joining the other agents as they began gliding swiftly across the stone floor with their boots. He stopped abruptly and almost tripped when the Grand Secretariat appeared suddenly before him.
"Yuhan. I presume that Jet's conversion was a failure?" Long Feng's expression was unreadable, which made it all the more terrifying.
The young Orator hung his head. "Yes, sir..." he mumbled. "The conversion was initially successful, but it did not last as long as your expectations. I apologize greatly." Yuhan was determined not to let Hiroshu share any of the certain punishment. He alone was to blame for ignoring his duties.
Long Feng stared down the young agent for an eternity before finally speaking again. "As my most talented Peace Orator..." he began slowly, "I would have expected a much longer lasting memory retention from you, if not a permanent alteration of the mind." The agent could not respond. "However, those associated with the Avatar have always been known to cause extreme disturbances in our activities, be it conversions or maintaining utopia." The Cultural Minister sighed, his expression showing very rare signs of uneasiness. "I suppose their knack for trouble has proven too great for even your skills to contain," he concluded dismissively. "Well - off we go, then."
Yuhan had barely taken two steps after his leader before being stopped again. Long Feng stroked his beard in consideration for a moment. "Actually, Jet's friends are still with him in Chamber 27. We wouldn't want them wandering around headquarters for long now, would we?" he remarked. "Go see to their conversion, and take extra precaution this time."
"Yes...sir?" The Cultural Minister had disappeared in a flurry of earth before the agent could even answer. Yuhan darted back in the opposite direction. He wasn't really bothered by his change of orders at all. Right now, even brainwashing sounded better than facing that blind girl again, anyway.
The Peace Orator was almost hit with a spiraling arrow the moment he reached Chamber 27. Though he swiftly shot up a wall from the ground, the earth sprang up crumbly and unevenly as he winced from the pain of his injured arm. The arrow scraped the side of his hat as it soared past him with threatening speed. The startled agent barely had time to look up, narrowly dodging another arrow that accompanied a small dagger.
Yuhan was moving too fast to make out the two distorted figures standing in the distance as he avoided more attacks. It soon occurred to him that there was an odd pattern with the arrows - or a complete lack of a pattern. They were being shot blindly and recklessly in his general direction, as if whoever wielded them purely wanted to hurt him, frighteningly enough.
The agent leapt off the floor to avoid a new flurry of arrows that flew at his feet. During the split second that he was suspended in the air, Yuhan finally caught a good enough glimpse of his attackers to see where they were positioned. He came back down hard on the ground, his feet landing in a firm stance as he gave a crisp and decisive thrust of his arms. His teeth gritted from the pain of his earlier injuries, but the attack carried through precisely.
The arrows instantly ceased fire as several large shards of rock jutted up from the earth below Yuhan's attackers. One of them gave a small yell of surprise as the pointed shards closed in, pinning her (or his?) arms to her body and coming to a halt right beneath her neck. The other lost his grip on his bow, causing it to clatter across the ground as the stone enclosed his body as well.
The attackers struggled for only a few seconds before realizing that they were utterly trapped. Yuhan slowly paced across the ground towards them, rubbing his injured arm. He stopped when his gaze suddenly shifted to a third figure that he hadn't noticed before. His eyes widened.
There was a body between his attackers.
Its limbs were spread out upon the cold floor, laying completely still and silent. The agent cringed as a haunting vision suddenly took hold of his mind. The still figure of a certain old man looked quite similar to what he saw now. Yuhan gradually inched closer and closer to the body, hesitating before looking down at its face.
It was Jet.
"GET AWAY FROM HIM!" The sheer anguish and fury of the sudden voice caused Yuhan to take a sharp step backwards, and he whipped his head towards the speaker. It was the female attacker (he was sure of her gender after hearing her high tone). Her small, short figure was almost obscured beneath her dull, padded armor. Puffy brown hair covered her head, similar to but flatter than Jet's. Her dark blue headband hid her brows and almost the top of her eyelids as well. What was left of them was heavily swollen with tears.
Expressionless green eyes met hateful red eyes. Yuhan was reminded of Liu. He turned uncomfortably to look at the other attacker. This one was a tall, thin, and pale boy. His course black hair was tied back in a short tail beneath a wide rice hat, and his thick eyebrows were narrowed with rage. Though he said nothing, his vile expression was no different than the girl's.
The agent decided to turn his back to Jet's two companions, stooping low towards the still body lying before him. He could sense his prisoners struggling furiously despite the hard stone encased around them. Though he tried not to look at the lifeless face for too long, Jet's expression seemed to indicate a peaceful departure...at the very least. He gently lifted the boy's back from the ground and slid the limp body over his shoulder. The female attacker let out another tortured sob. Yuhan's entire body seemed to go numb from having to carry the remains of someone so full of energy only about an hour ago. He rose heavily from the ground beneath the extra weight, finally facing the exit. His good arm supported Jet on his shoulder while his injured arm slowly reached out before him. The tall shards of rock enclosed around the two prisoners began shifting across the ground towards the door, pushing along the trapped bodies within them.
Yuhan followed his rock encasements/prisoners out the exit, trying not to make too much noise. The two companions' heads hung low as their bodies dragged across the floor. After traveling only few feet from the chamber, however, the agent suddenly thought twice. He quickly made his way back into the dark room and gently lowered Jet to the ground once more.
He'd have to come back to the boy later. His primary instructions were to convert the prisoners first. They stared in disbelief as he briskly walked back out, leaving the body behind dragging them towards the nearest conversion chamber.
Long Feng's best Peace Orator now stood before Jet's companions, carefully lighting the soon-to-be revolving lantern. The two stood side by side, their bodies pinned securely beneath stone restraints against the wall before him. As he silently repositioned the lantern some more, he could feel their eyes boring holes into his skin, burning with questions.
Because it was his duty, he wanted to tell them. Because Long Feng murdered Jet for his lack of obedience. Because that lack of obedience came from Yuhan's negligence to convert him. Because...Jet's death was his fault. And because they, as violent threats to the Dai Li (unlike Liu and Mina), would be killed too if he didn't do it right this time. But only silence passed between the agent and his prisoners.
The young agent eventually moved to his usual position in front of the lantern, folding his hands behind his back as he faced Jet's companions. As expected, they stared back with a mixture of hate and confusion. He could no longer let those expressions affect him. He was a Dai Li agent and a Peace Orator, completely detached from any commoners who fell to his brainwashing prowess. He knew now that no one - not even her - could be allowed to interfere with his duties. The consequences were too great. Yuhan would not fail this time.
"There is no war in Ba Sing Se."
The lamp floated across its rail, glowing brightly.
I think we all know which episode this was from ^^
|Silent Hero in Emerald<|
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