|By Agent Slash||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
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In and out. In and out. Day after day. In and out. In and out. Not week after week. I don't think that far ahead anymore. I constantly find myself thinking about whether I'm even going to make it to next week before I use my beloved knives to slit my wrists. I haven't done it yet, but I've considered it. The only thing that stops me is hope that I'll find her. The love of my life. Ming. My name is Hong Wu. I am a wanderer. I am a killer. I am a thief. I wonder how many times I can steal food from Mrs. Cho's diner before she notices something is amiss. That's right. I've been living here in this rat-hole town of Shu Jing stealing food for six months. For the last eight and a half years I've wandered all over the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation. But enough of the monologue. Let's move on.
As the rain came pouring down from the sky like some sort of Water Tribe festival, I walked back to my home for warmth. When I say 'my home' I mean a very uncomfortable dumpster in an alleyway. At least the dumpster was empty. No one had used it since the store in front of it went out of business. I climbed inside and sat down with a warm bowl of soup I stole from Mrs. Cho's diner. As I sipped the soup I looked up at the sky. And, as usual, I counted another day gone by without seeing Ming. Today marked day 3,650 otherwise known as the ten-year anniversary of the day I last saw her. For all I knew it would be another ten years before I saw her again. Of all the blasted towns and cities in the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom, you would think it wouldn't be so difficult to find one person. Think again.
After I finished my soup, I climbed out of my dumpster and walked across the street to Pong's candle factory. Pong should have been just about finished closing up shop. I looked in the window and, sure enough, there he was sweeping the floor. I was sure he wouldn't mind if I entered without knocking. Not that I cared. As I entered, he looked up and approached me with a warm grin.
"Hong Wu, my friend, how are you?" he asked.
"Today marks ten years, Pong. Ten years since I lost her. I've been looking everywhere for her and what do I have to show for it? I live in a dumpster in this rat-hole town."
"Let me give you a job here," Pong offered. "Why won't you let me?"
"Because, Pong, I can't stay in one place for too long," I replied. "I have to keep moving."
"At least stay long enough for you to earn some decent money," Pong insisted. He was a very persistent man. "So that when you do move on, you may move to your next destination with the means to buy a nice meal. So that when you leave this place you call a rat-hole town, you will have had a taste of the more successful side of it."
This sounded tempting. Again and again Pong had offered me a job in his candle factory and again and again I turned him down. Always meaning to leave sooner, but finding myself still here. But this time his words, the way they were spoken so warm and smooth, convinced me. "Alright," I said. "But you understand I can't stay here for much longer.
"I understand. I will simply have to enjoy your company while you're still here," Pong said, shaking my hand. "I'll see you first thing tomorrow morning, yes?"
"I guess so," I said. On my way out, I turned around and asked him a question. "Pong, why are you so friendly to me? Anyone else in their right mind would not want anything to do with me."
Pong chuckled. "Maybe that is because unlike so many others, I see goodness in every man and woman. If they look rough and rugged on the outside, it is not their fault. Society is to blame for them looking that way. You, my friend, are one of these people. You just need to be guided in the right direction."
I nodded and opened the door to the shop. "I'll see you tomorrow morning," I said as I left. What Pong said might have gotten through to me had it not been for what happened the following morning when I came to work. I climbed out of my dumpster, crossed the street, went into the candle factory and saw Pong and the other employees all standing together facing me.
"Everyone, today we welcome our newest employee, Hong Wu. Although he will only be with us for a short while, we are still going to try our best to make him feel welcome in our family here at the candle shop. Now get to work, everyone! The customers don't like to wait."
His enthusiasm was unreal. All this for someone he'd known for six months and would be gone in less than one.
Anyhow, it wasn't long before shit went down. Twenty minutes after the doors opened, all of us heard someone shouting outside. "Tell us where he is or else we'll burn this town to ashes, brick by brick if we have to!" someone yelled.
While the other employees were looking outside, trying to see what all of the commotion was about, I was running towards the back of the building. On my way, Pong stopped me. "Hong Wu, my friend, where are you going? Does this concern you?" he asked me.
"I don't have time to explain," I said. "Do you have a back entrance?"
"No, I'm sorry," he said.
Before he could say anything more, I was already running for the front entrance. I knew the soldiers outside would see me, but I had a better chance of escape if I ran for it rather than stay in the shop and wait for them to come to me. Predictably, one of the soldiers yelled when he saw me. "There he goes!"
I'm assuming he knew it was me based on the fact that I was running away. It may or may not surprise you that I am not as strong as I once was, so the reason they eventually captured me with their nets is because of that. Once they had me, they dragged me on top of one of their komodo rhinos and rode away with me. Deciding escape was useless, I allowed myself to drift off to sleep.
As everything slowly faded into view, I saw a man sitting across from me. One whom even I recognized. The old spider rat bastard himself, Fire Lord Azulon. As soon as I got my strength back, I lunged myself at him. What I failed to realize was that there were guards behind me whose purpose was to keep me from attacking the old son of a bitch.
"Now why would you do that?" Azulon asked in a typical, pompous manner. "Is what I have done to you really worth lunging at me like that?"
"You... killed... my mother," was all I could get out.
"Your mother?" Azulon asked, oblivious to his crime. "When did this happen?"
"Twenty-three years ago," I panted, seething with rage. "In the Xiji Province." I wanted so badly to mutilate his disgusting, old body in so many ways. As you most likely know already, I blame this man for my suffering in many ways. Had he not ordered the attack on the province where I lived when I was a boy, my life might have gone very differently.
"Oh? I was unaware of this," Azulon said. "If it helps soothe your pain, I am deeply sorry for killing your mother, but you must understand I had to wipe those rebels out."
"My mother wanted nothing to do with this war! She was forced to go!" I panted.
"Well, I guess you've already made us even since you killed a dear friend of mine. You may be familiar with Commander Mangkr? You murdered him ten years ago. I know you remember, because that is why you've been running for me all these years. That's why you've been brought here to be given your sentence."
"Go ahead and kill me!" I spat at him. "It won't make a difference!"
"Kill you? Who said I was going to do that? Oh, no. I'm going to use a very old-fashioned method of doing things."
"What do you mean?" I inquired.
"I won't kill you, but I will make you kill other people. You have gained quite a reputation for killing people over the years. Since you fled, you've become quite the assassin," Azulon started.
"I was an assassin before I killed your friend," I corrected him.
"Wrong," Azulon said. "You were a soldier and then you started your career as an assassin when you killed Mangkr."
This was pretty much true. "Go on," I said.
"I will without your permission," Azulon retorted. I know he said that just to irk me. "Since the beginning of the War, we have implemented many programs that help us come closer to winning. Many of them are secret programs that involve things not meant to be heard by civilian ears. One of these programs has been in operation for over eighty years. It's a nice program and I like it, but after the assignment I'm giving to you, I think I'm going to retire it."
"What program?" I asked, impatiently.
"I was getting to that," Azulon said. "This program-"
Suddenly, two small children burst through the door. One was a boy and one was a girl. "Give it back, Azula!" the boy shouted.
"Make me, dum-dum!" the girl replied, teasingly, holding something that must have belonged to the boy.
"Zuko, Azula, get out at once!" Azulon ordered.
"She stole something from me!" Zuko whined.
"I don't care!" Azulon shouted. "Both of you settle this outside!"
The boy, apparently named Zuko, left the room immediately, followed by his sister shortly afterward. On their way out, I heard them whisper. "Who do you think he is?" asked Azula.
"Probably one of grandpa's business partners," Zuko said.
"I want to ask him who he is," said Azula.
"Why do you care so much?" Zuko asked. "I doubt either of us will ever see him again." That was the last thing I heard them say before the door closed.
"As I was saying," Azulon continued. "This program enables us to take in people who would never want to work for us and convince them to help us assassinate those who are a nuisance to our war effort."
"You're asking me to assassinate someone for you?" I asked, befuddled by this man's request. "You've got to be out of your spiritdamn mind!"
"That's what they all say at first. It isn't until they learn who we're holding hostage that they agree to do what we want," Azulon said.
"Who could you possibly have in captivity that I care anything about?" I was so sure he wouldn't be able to produce an answer. I had cut off all ties to everyone I knew. Jun, my old war buddies, everyone.
"Your sister." Those two words made my eyes widen and my heart skip a beat. These spiritdamn, spider rat bastards actually found my sister. "You have Mera?"
"That's right. And you'll never see her alive again if you don't agree to do what we say. So you had better improve that attitude of yours."
My teeth were gritted, my fingers were digging into my legs, and my eyes were blazing with intensity. I had no choice, though. "Alright," I growled.
"Very well. Now let me lay out your assignment," Azulon said. "There is a group of Separatists known as the Kang Ho. The Kang Ho are broken up into several divisions, each one representing the cities and towns they come from. There is going to be a summit in four days where each of the Kang Ho leaders will meet and during this meeting they will declare their independence from the Fire Nation. Your job is to kill them all before this can happen. There can be no talk of rebellion or separation. What kind of message does that send to the rest of the nation?"
"I get the idea," I said.
"Very well. You will leave immediately," Azulon said. "But not without some help."
"Help?" I asked, insulted. "I am a capable enough assassin to do this without help."
"But I am not going to take any chances," Azulon said. "Send them in," he said to his aide standing by the door. It looked like I wasn't going at this alone. But what miserable saps would he throw at me? I had my answer as I saw two men enter the room. "I believe you know both of these men," Azulon said. He pointed to the first man. "This is Hoku, a Dai Li agent we captured a while ago. He is helping you in exchange for his return to the Earth Kingdom." He then pointed at the second man. "And this is Colonel Mongke of the Rough Rhinos. I understand you two have a less than friendly relationship, but I expect you to get along on your mission. Now get out of here."
"With pleasure," I replied. And with that, the three of us left the room together. "Hoku," I said to my friend. "Spirits, it's been twelve years since we last saw each other."
"I know," said Hoku. "Good to see you again, old pal."
"Which is much more than I can say for you," I said to Mongke.
"I'm not happy about this either," Mongke said. "So let's just focus on the mission."
The three of us promptly walked out into the courtyard and saw two animals: an ostrich horse and a komodo rhino. Mongke, of course, boarded the rhino while Hoku and I mounted the ostrich horse. "And away we go," I remarked. With a whip of the reigns, we were off on our quest and all of the atrocities that lay ahead.
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