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|Crushed, Pt. 1|
Book 2: Sound
Chapter 10: Crushed, Pt. 1
Moro watched as the massive airship, at least twice the size of Susanowo's, passed overhead. She narrowed her eyes as her mind wandered back to that one moment on Susanowo's airship.
I have to get to Caldera City... The Waterbender made her way toward one of the crew members as the capital came into view.
"Are they going to let us dock?"
He shook his head. "I doubt it, but we have to try. We can't just sit out on the ocean with all this going on? Why are the Air Nomads here?"
She grimaced. "I can't answer that...but I wish I could." Why...why did I have to make that choice...why was I forced to?
The boat moved faster, as did the airship, as they both raced toward the same destination. War had all but arrived.
"So you're from the Eastern Air Temple?" Ling asked as he bagged a cut of meat.
Malu nodded. "Yes...my mother managed to save me from the genocide..." Her voice grew heavy. "...but she died in the process."
"I'm..." He knew it sounded empty. "I'm sorry..."
"Thanks...for everything, Ling." She chuckled mirthlessly. "Y'know, what you said...about living...another said that same thing. But...it wasn't with quite the same care...."
"Well, this person must've cared about you to some degree, to say that." He smiled warmly. "Now, how much of this did you want again?"
Malu rolled her eyes. "And we were having a serious conversation, too...quit trying to distract me, Ling."
The Airbender's features and clothes morphed, and Moro Kenshi stood where she once did. "You're...you're trying to distract me!" An icicle formed in her hand.
Shen lurched up, coughing and sputtering as he clutched at his stomach where he had been wounded. Sweat poured down his face as his chest heaved, and bells rang in his ears. The room spun as he tried desperately to get his bearings, and he soon noticed that the ringing was not in his head. It was an alarm.
"What...what is—?" It clicked. "No...not now..."
He gingerly stood as the room continued to spin. The fever had broken, but he was nowhere near better. The Airbender slid his boots on as fast as he could manage, but the room swirled and closed in. He leaned against the wall and slid to the floor.
"I...can't even move..." His mind flitted back to his dream, despite what he knew to be occurring. "Why...spirits...why was Moro...? Who is Malu? Spirits..." Shen had no strength in his body, but he managed to find the will to stand regardless. Gripping his sword for support, he turned and staggered out of his room.
Saitei stood waiting for him, along with Rioku and Nasaki. "You, young Airbender, are not going anywhere. You need to stay here; we will handle the attack as it comes."
Before he could protest, Rioku stepped forward. "Shen, listen to reason! You can't help anyone in your condition. They only have one airship; we can handle them."
Shen's gaze darkened. "You think so...but you don't have any idea the lengths they're willing to go to get this done."
"The attack?" Saitei shook her head as the palace shook once more. "We can handle that."
"No...you still don't get it..." The Airbender gritted his teeth. "They are out to kill you, Saitei! You...and anyone else in the Royal Family..."
The Fire Lady's eyes widened. "Guards! Guards!"
Two of the Palace Guard ran toward them. "Milady!"
"Get men over to my brother's house, now! He and his family are in danger!"
He bowed. "At once, Fire Lady!"
She whirled to face Shen. "Do they know?"
He nodded. "Petrine is thorough, and this info wouldn't be hard to find."
She twisted back toward Nasaki. "Are you with me?"
"Then come. We have work to do."
The two of them ran down the hall as Shen and Rioku stared at each other, forced into an impasse.
"Rioku...I can't just lay in bed!"
The Earthbender glared at him. "You don't have a choice. Argho and Kuan Ti will be more than capable of handling Petrine and Otokami."
Shen pressed his back against the wall. "I wish I could believe you..."
"No!" The port guard cried as the ship captain pleaded with him. "Do you here those alarms? Do you see that airship? We can't let anybody into the city!"
As if on cue, a massive shadow covered them. "Please! My men and my passengers will be sitting turtle-ducks!"
He shook his head. "Sorry, no can do."
Moro would've intervened, had her focus not been on the flying machine. Her heart skipped a beat as compartments began to open on the sides and Air Nation soldiers with gliders jumped into the open air.
The Waterbender vaulted over the railing of the steamship and bent the water directly below into an ice platform, ignoring the cries of protest from several of the sailors. She thrust her hands back, allowing the renewed current to push her platform toward the dock, and she flipped upward and landed on her feet.
Her red eyes met those of the port guard, who raised his rifle. "Stop right there!"
She raised her hand, and his body stiffened. "I'm here to help, but neither of us can do any good if you are pointing a gun at me."
"R-release me immediately or my men will be forced to fire!"
On cue, several other guards raised their weapons, and others manifested fire in their hands.
Moro glanced back and forth before raising her other hand and ensnaring them as well. She furrowed her brow. "I can't do this all day, but I'm going to be straight with you. You're out of your league on multiple counts; you need all the help you can get."
He gritted his teeth. "I don't think so! I won't be intimidated by—!"
A creaking sound drew their collective attention upwards as large gong-like structures were revealed on the sides of the airship.
"Damn it!" The port guard cried. "Where is the airship fleet!?"
Things worsened when a massive hammer mechanism swung down on the gong from above, and several Soundbenders directed it diagonally toward the city below. The waves slammed against the stone and brick, ripping large chunks of it and throwing it around.
"See that?!" Moro gestured toward the vessel, releasing them at the same time. "You have a lot more to worry about than one Bloodbender!"
"Fine..." He hissed, before turning to the others. "Men! See if you can't get anyone from the airship fleet on the line, and make sure that you get the civilians out of harm's way!"
Moro took the opportunity to move away before he changed his mind. The Palace...have to get to the Palace!
Saitei and Nasaki stood on the large balcony, with Galba's form hovering above them. The Fire Lady watched as the Soundbending weapons wreaked havoc in the distance.
"Galba, you know what to do..." She smirked. "We'll ride today, just like old times, but first—"
"I know, Saitei. It will be done swiftly."
She nodded. "Go then, old friend."
Nasaki stepped forward as the dragon flew off. "What of the airship fleet?"
The Fire Lady grimaced. "When this is over...I will find out how we were so woefully unprepared for sabotage..."
The bodyguard's eyes widened. "Milady...? Sabotage...but..."
"We cannot do anything about it now. Besides, those weapons they have—combined with that thing's size—would most likely tear ours apart."
Nasaki nodded. "What now?"
"We give them a target. If they want me..." She began waving her arms, allowing lightning to crackle around them before launching it straight up in the air. "...they can come and get me!"
The bodyguard cocked her head. "But...why make yourself a target?"
Saitei sighed. "If they are going after the Royal Family like Shen said they were, I want to make sure my brother and his family get to safety."
"So we're the bait, then."
"Yes. Now..." The Fire Lady grinned. "I have something to show you."
A buzzing noise grew in the air above Moro, and she looked up to find biplanes swarming out of the sides of the airship. There were at least two dozen of them lining the sky as the massive airship hovered in place. In addition, the gongs were still raining wave after wave down on the city, and the Airbenders that had been gliding around began landing in the street.
"No..." She watched as they encountered the Fire Nation army.
"You...Airbenders! You think you can come here and just destroy?!" One of the soldiers cried out. "These are homes and lives that you're destroying!"
"A necessary sacrifice." One of the attackers responded. "We only come for the Royal Family." He put an odd mechanism to his lips, and a shrill whistle assaulted Moro's ears. The technique, however, was not aimed at her, but at the soldiers who fell to the ground without a fight, blood pouring from their ears and noses.
The Waterbender gritted her teeth. What did you have to go through, Shen...to watch your people become this?
As more soldiers rushed forward, Moro, too, leapt into the fight. Pulling water from the skins at her hips, she formed two ice hammers and began by tripping up the lead Airbender and slamming him into the ground.
Before the two close Air Nation soldiers could comprehend what was happening, Moro gripped both of them with her Bloodbending and twisted her hands, sending them to the ground, unconscious.
Her anger burned, and the Blood Seal throbbed. "They should suffer for what they're doing...but no..." No...for Shen.
Several of the biplanes remained in the air, and Moro wondered why for only a moment. As bullets peppered the street, her heart sank. "Spirits!"
The water in her skins was not enough, so she pulled some from the air to form an ice wall. It covered both her and the Firebenders as the gunfire slapped against it. One of them glanced her way.
"Thanks...I don't know if we could've survived that."
"Don't mention it. We need to get off of the street." The buzzing of the planes grew louder as they made another pass, and the stone exploded as the gongs continued their work.
He nodded and ducked further under the ice wall. "Agreed."
Petrine smiled as Otokami, a few Airbenders, and herself entered the Throne Room. The guards had attempted to do their job, but they failed. They died. The Fire Lady was nowhere to be found, although the lightning should've indicated that much.
"Grand Elder, it was as easy as you said it'd be. Shall we go finish this?"
She nodded solemnly. "Yes, but take no chances. She's likely in her bedroom, but I want you to suck the air from it. She will be too powerful to fight directly."
They bowed. "Of course. Will you and the Spirit of Sound be waiting here, then?"
"Yes, we will draw the Avatar's attention. Do our nation proud."
Otokami turned his armored head toward the door, silence hanging over the room.
Petrine sighed. "I did not expect to find you waiting for us, Avatar Argho."
The Avatar and the Equalist stepped out of the shadows. The former wore a slight smirk, while the latter simply scowled.
"How stupid did you think we were?"
Rioku placed himself in the doorway to block Shen's path. "I told you; you aren't going anywhere. You will be a hindrance, a distraction!"
"Why don't you just tell it like it is?! You..." The Airbender staggered. "You think I'll betray Argho! Otokami doesn't work that way, and I wouldn't even if he did!"
"Stand down, Shen!" The Earthbender growled. "I will not say it again."
"I won't! I can't watch my people destroy themselves!" Beads of sweat fell from his forehead. "I can't watch my friends lose themselves!" He took a step forward. "If you're gonna stop me, you'd better be prepared to do some Earthbending! Out of my way, Rioku!"
Rioku's good eye bored into the young man. "Spirits, you are really set on this. With that fire in your eyes, I can't see you betraying anyone, but you're still sick. You need to heal."
"I don't have time..." Shen grimaced. "I don't intend to try and fight, but if I can talk Petrine down, we can end this."
A sigh of exasperation fell from the Earthbender's mouth. "Fine. But I am going with you."
The air grew drier as Moro was forced to pull more water from it, and her ice wall was still falling apart. She glanced at the men taking shelter under it and frowned. Stupid Fire Nation...why does it have to be so hot!?
One of the biplanes opened fire, cracking at the already unstable wall. Fortunately, one of the Firebenders managed to come out of hiding long enough to launch a few fireballs at the vessel. The wing erupted as one of them struck home, but that meant that the plane was now barreling toward them.
Moro's red eyes widened. "Everybody move now!"
Ice chunks flew in all directions as the plane impacted next to their former hiding place. Moro watched in horror as one of those ice chunks crushed the head of an unfortunate soldier. She turned her gaze toward the plane's wreckage and held out her hand.
A body rose from the twisted metal and flame, bleeding and weak. The Bloodbender gritted her teeth.
"I thought Airbenders were supposed to respect life!" She clenched her hand, causing him to cry out. "What are you doing, following a spirit who will lead you to ruin?!"
Her eyes widened as she watched him squirm, and he dropped to the ground unconscious.
As Moro pressed her fingers against her Blood Seal, she swore she could hear Susanowo's laughter.
- Just in case anyone is confused, the pic above is Nasaki.
- Book 2 is going to be shorter than I anticipated...oh well, what can ya do?
- It looks like Team Avatar is back! Well...sort of...they're in the same city. That counts, I'm telling you!
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