|More from Wonderfully_weird||Action, Mystery, Romance||PG-13||None||As they come|
This is the third chapter of Fanon:Deadman written by Wonderfully_weird.
The Story So Far
While Toph contemplates trying to talk to Khan about what had happened, Khan has to deal with Guiren, who was responsible for marring him ten years earlier during the Siege of Ba Sing Se.
The next morning, Toph speaks with Iroh, trying to explain her situation. Some time later, Khan gets news from his assistant, Sung Jie, that one of the city's detectives has been murdered. Upon approaching the crim scene, however, everyone seems to be baffled by its strangeness.
It was almost noon, which meant Toph needed to leave for the Middle Ring to teach; she only had one student today. Perhaps she'd side track after her student's lessons to fulfill her self-made promise. So, as her departure ritual usually went, after helping Iroh open the teashop, Toph kissed her mother goodbye and promised to be back before dark. Then off to work she went.
She jaunted through the walkways leading to the gate entrance of the Middle Ring, enjoying the shrill winter songs of cold mocking-jays and cobalt canaries, but had to do so with haste, however, since the lesson began at one o'clock sharp!
"Twenty minutes," she breathed, frozen mist spewing like dragon's smoke.
Now in the Middle Ring, Toph couldn't help but sense a rather queer vibration, an aura of panic and shock. She tried not to be distracted by it, seeing how she needed to be at the outer edge of the Ring to get to her student, but couldn't help it. After years of doing nothing, aside from teaching kids for any form of pay (some of the families didn't have much money, so they'd offer her rice, tea leaves, or stinky tofu instead), helping out a part of a city that was supposedly disaster stricken could cure her boredom. Finally, she found the hub. Based on their voices, they seemed like police personnel, and, within the house, more people, moving now, that had surrounded a limp object. Toph decided to give the place a look.
"Sorry, miss. This crime scene is off limits to the public."
Toph scoffed then scowled at the hag.
"Could I at least know what's going on?"
"Child, that information is confidential."
As much as Toph wanted to correct the woman for calling her a child, she refrained from such action. But, based on the woman's tone of voice, that hag had no clue what was going on ether. Toph wasn't surprised by this.
"...Sung Jie, this is probably going to be another long one, so at least try to not get on my nerves..."
Toph knew that voice.
"Oh my goodness! Toph!"
Khan ran toward her, beaming widely.
"So Khan, what's up? What happened?"
"Later, Toph. Busy."
"Another case? But I thought you had two more weeks off."
He nudged her to walk a little farther away from the house. Toph knew something bad had happened, but needed more details.
"So...did someone...you know...die?"
"She was one of our own, too. And now, we think there's the possibility of others being killed in the near future...Dammit, I shouldn't have told you that!"
He tried to chuckle it off.
"So...when do you get off work."
"Toph...to be honest, I have no idea. Late probably. By the way, don't you have a student in a few minutes?"
"What time is it?"
"Almost one o'clock."
"Dammit! I'm gonna be late! Good luck with the case!"
She ran off. Sung Jie and Ari caught up to Khan.
"Who was that girl?"
"She's a friend of mine. That's all you need to know."
Uneventful. The days working in the Jasmine Dragon were always uneventful now that Zuko was busy with being a leader and raising a daughter, Sokka being married, and Aang and Katara now engaged while taking care of their one year old son, Kunsang ("Since the boy's not an airbender, they're bound to have more children. Hopefully not anytime soon," Poppy snarked.)
"Most of the customers seem to come during the evenings the past few nights anyway," Poppy said, limp on her chair. She was sitting at a table near the entrance, for Iroh had assigned her as a greeter due to her elegant air and lovely voice; she wasn't much good for anything else, seeing that she had trouble walking, even standing for long periods of time. When asking her about this, Poppy declared Iroh was a perverted crackpot, and that it wasn't a man's business; some things, perhaps, were never mean to be understood.
"Is everything alright? Do you need me to get you anything?" Iroh asked Poppy, walking toward her.
"No thank you, Iroh, but how sweet of you to ask," she smiled. "I'm surprised Toph is working on a day like this. The cold seems more bitter than normal, not to mention there are rumors of a murderer on the loose."
"Why of course! While you were in the kitchen keeping everything in line and organized, I was out here listening to customers' conversations, and they just couldn't stop talking about a murder that had happened last night! Perhaps that is the reason why we aren't receiving many customers right now."
Iroh didn't think it was appropriate to comment. Then, the two heard people approaching.
"Iroh, do you think they are customers?"
Iroh shook his head. Based on the three men's attire and serene faces, these were Palace Guards.
"Good afternoon Sir and Madam. Is Toph Bei Fong present?"
Poppy shook her head, "She's teaching at the moment. However, she will probably come by here in about an hour if you wish to come back later."
"Or we have tea if you choose to wait! It will be on me."
The Guards obliged to this hospitable gesture. Within a few minutes, to everyone's surprise, Toph showed up earlier than Poppy predicted.
"Toph, darling! Wonderful to see you! Did your student cancel? Toph, you don't look so good, what's wrong?"
Silence. As she lolled onto a chair. Blinked. Sighed. Said nothing. It took a Palace Guard to break the silence.
"Miss Bei Fong, we have a message for you from the Earth King."
"Thank you. You may leave."
The Palace Guards left.
"Toph, you look as though you'd witnessed a murder."
Toph bit her lip upon hearing her mother's voice, "That's because my student was murdered."
"What the fuck?"
Two murders. First a homicide detective then a little school girl. Anyone could be the next target.
"Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!"
"Khan, I don't think using expletives is going to help solve the case."
"Shut the fuck up Sung Jie!"
"You kiss you're girlfriend with that mouth?"
"Ari, she's not my girlfriend!"
The victim's parents were less than five feet away from the detective, shivering in sorrow for their little girl, fear for their safety, and disgust due to Khan's language. Not standing the sight of the blubbering couple, Khan went into the house in search of the girl's bedroom. His intuition paid off. And, like the last murder, the girl shows no signs of struggle or injury and a haiku was painted on the walls with something that looked like blood:
Tangled in a web
Of your very creation
Good luck getting out
"Whoever this bastard is, he's getting on my nerves."
Ari found Khan staring at the wall.
"You got anything yet, Ari? It's obvious this individual is on a killing spree, but...it's all so random. The people killed thus far. The haikus on the walls. Only a sociopath would do something like this."
He plopped himself unto the hard wood floor, leaning his head against his shoulder, wishing Toph's hip were there instead.
"Hmmm...I know you'll probably hate me for this, but I have no idea what these riddles are signifying...yet...Don't worry, though. Once we realize what it is, it'll be really obvious...I hope."
Khan scowled. Sung Jie then came bumbling into the room with some Dai Li Nouveaux Agents that came to examine evidence and draw pictures of the crime scene.
"Guys, I have a funky idea. About the riddles."
Ari and Khan looked at each other, then at Sung Jie.
"Maybe...maybe...maybe the riddles aren't meant to tell us anything. I think the riddles are there to distract us from catching this guy in the act!"
"But she could still take my input? Eh? Right, Khan?"
"Alright Sung Jie, knock it off with the bullshit or you'll be the next murder victim in this city—"
"Khan! Sung Jie! Cut it out! You both may look like grown, professional men, but you're acting like little boys! We need to get this case solved before more lives are put in jeopardy. This city is depending on us to keep it safe, and getting annoyed over something so frivolous isn't going to do that. Now...Sung Jie, I will consider you're idea, but do realize that your job is assist Khan with interpreting evidence, not to solve the murderer's odd riddles. Okay?"
A truce was made. For now. As Sung Jie and Ari left the room, Khan stayed behind to read the haiku riddle again:
Tangled in a web
Of your very creation
Good luck getting out
It couldn't describe the past decade of his life any better.
Khan couldn't help but remember the day he awoke after being unconscious for...who knows how long...after the Siege. All that he knew was that he wasn't where he had left himself last; he could have sworn that he'd last been on a dusty plain before a large, crumbling structure, with rolling green hills beyond, so why the hell was he in a murky green-lit dungeon? All that he really knew for certain was that he was naked, hairless, chained down to the floor, and that his face, right arm, and chest were throbbing. Khan would have screamed, cursing his regiment and Guiren to high heaven, but simply moving his mouth caused him great agony. In a situation like this, what was anyone to do?
Then, the door to his cell opened, an ominous man in long, dark green robes and a wide brimmed hat entering, along with others identically dressed. Khan would have asked what was going on, but his mouth hurt so badly. Instead, he thought of his mother and how sweet and bubbly and beautiful she was, her soft curves, her deep bronze and freckled skin, her mahogany hair. He remembered his mother's saffron eyes and lavender scent. But it was his mother's sensual laugh he was trying to recollect. That, and her pearly-white smile. Yet those thoughts seemed to lead into memories of his father, that stocky, pale, and ever graying man whom Khan most physically resembled except for frame and height; that damned bastard was the last thing he wanted to have on his mind.
Suddenly, Khan was thrown against a chair with rocks and gravel pinning him to his seat. A yellowed flicker was the chamber's sole light source. Then, he saw the silhouette of a man enter; based on his stature and demeanor alone, he seemed quite important. This assumption was confirmed as soon as the gentleman stepped into the light. Unlike the others Khan had seen, this man wore slightly nicer attire and didn't sport a hat; he did, however, sport a mustache and goatee. When the man moved, ever so slightly, a long trailing braid was seen behind his back. Khan knew he wasn't going to like this guy one bit, especially after getting a glimpse of his pale jade eyes; like daggers they were.
"Hello," his voice was deep and chilling. "Good to see that you are...alive, young man."
Khan really knew that he wasn't going to like this guy with a voice like that. Now, despite the pain that rocked his face, he decided to voice his discontent.
"Whur um I? Whur's mu r'g'mnt? Ur uh d'tr'ps? Wh'd dud uh do?"
"Ha! You're an interesting young fellow, aren't you, boy?"
"Um nut uh boy! Um uh gr'n man nuAHHHH!"
He opened his mouth too wide.
"Oh...how sad! It even pains you to mumble!"
Khan couldn't help but cry, but that too caused him pain, for the tears made his face sting and his right eye burn. However, his searing tears made speech appear painless.
Ouch. His head flung back.
"Calm down, boy, I want to ask you something."
"Unser my qu'stions f'rst: Where am I? Where's my regiment or all of the other troops? And what did I do?"
"In order, you are beneath Lake Laogai, the Fire Nation troops have long since retreated back to their homeland, disgraced naturally after a pitiful surrender, and you...you died! And were dead for three whole days!"
"Then why...why am I here?"
"Khan, are you alright?"
Present tense. The girl's bedroom. Ari was trying to talk to him.
"Oh, nothing! I was just...never mind."
Ari cocked a dark, thick brow.
"Khan, are you sure? You look paler than you did earlier, and you're pretty fair skinned!"
Khan forced out a sterile chuckle.
"My old man was fair skinned."
For the collective works of the author, go here.