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|More from Wonderfully_weird||Action, Mystery, Romance||PG-13||Positive||As they come|
The Story Thus Far
After Toph received a letter regarding a job offer from the Earth King, Aang stumbles into the Jasmine Dragon with an interesting realization: the Murderer is not a person, but a Spirit. However, the news causes Toph to worry even more about Khan's safety.
Meanwhile, confined in the Police Department due to worsening weather conditions, Khan questions Jin about things that had happened.
The winds moaned and sighed as if they were grieving over the death of a lost soul, perhaps in reply to the mysterious killings that had occurred. Being that this was a spiritual matter, Aang was contemplating how he should handle the situation. Though having a vague idea of what he wanted to do, he couldn't execute any part of his plan until the blizzard stopped. He sighed.
Aang was currently in the back room with Appa, lying on the floor, recollecting the events of the past two years. New Year's Eve was a huge mistake, but he did learn that mysterious pink, burning liquid made him do weird things. Like impregnating his girlfriend. Way to be a shining example for the world there, Avatar! And he would have married Katara if he weren't so caught up in doing his job. Ack! Despite the madness that he caused, Aang and Katara couldn't have loved each other more, though they were constantly fighting for half of the pregnancy. Then the baby came a whole month early, born in an ostrich horse stable. Life seemed to be smoother from there on out, but that didn't stop people from asking questions or giving him dirty looks. And to think that his little boy was a year old now. Aang stroked Appa's paws. Toph entered the room.
"Twinkle Toes, why're you back here?"
"Well...I was trying to sleep, but then I couldn't, so a thought about... never mind. I have an idea, regarding this rampant spirit. We'll have to wait for better weather for us to do anything—"
"What do you mean by 'us'? Look, I know it's probably best to have back up in a situation like this, but I don't want worry ab...nah, forget about it."
"Who is it that you don't want to have worrying about you?"
"You don't know him."
"I'm not talking." "Is he the new Sokka?
"Realize I'm doing this because you call me Twinkle Toes!"
"Fine. His name is Khan. He's the detective heading the murder cases. He's a war veteran that fought for Iroh!"
"He's Fire Nation?"
"Yeah. But no one except for me knows that. Also, his name isn't actually Khan."
"Then what is it?"
"I can't really answer your question."
Some time passed between that conversation, and during that time, the winds seemed to have died down considerably. Aang smirked when he heard complete silence from the world outside. Toph growled. She knew what Aang was up to something. Her not coming with Aang was no longer an option. She pointed to a small trunk near the entrance of the back room. Suddenly, a furred cape was flung at her.
"It's going to be very cold Toph. Layer up."
Finally, at nightfall, the winds died down enough for Khan and his crew to head for the Lower Ring. Actually getting there would be another feat in itself; upon walking outside, they saw the snow was up to Jin's knees!
"I'll carry her if need be," Ari offered.
"I can handle myself, thank you very much!" Jin retorted in turn. Khan rolled his eyes, implying for the four of them to head on out quickly, for the storm could start again at any given moment. Thankfully, the gate to the Lower Ring wasn't too far from the Middle Ring's Police Department, which would make the trip slightly shorter and, hopefully, less problematic.
"There's nobody out here!" Sung Jie remarked upon nearing the Lower Ring. "And no one's manning that gate! Step aside folks!"
Cracking his knuckles spread fingered, Sung Jie used is earthbending to get himself and the rest of the party through the wall. Just like with the Middle Ring, not a soul could be seen in the old, dark streets. All was ghostly quiet as the four sauntered in the snow, awed by the bluish gray world the winter storm had created. Every eve and bough was blanketed in a soft layer of glistening white. Windows of homes, tenement and shops were glazed in intricate, crystallized patterns. It was all so majestic yet equally chilling.
"It is as if Death came through here," Ari said, her arm around Jin. Though only having known her for a few hours, it was more than obvious to Khan of how educated and astute the Ari was.
"Damn it's cold!" Sung Jie exclaimed. Khan was tempted to smack the kid across his blotched, hyper-pigmented face for being Captain Obvious. To be honest, Khan thought Sung Jie's more-than-apparent notations were funny when they'd initially met; the remarks became rather old after month or so. This hatred was not going to get anything done, as Ari mentioned earlier back at the dead girl's house. What was here name again?
"Do you guys remember the name of the kid that we found dead this afternoon?" Khan asked.
"I believe the girl's name was Haruko," Ari shouted back. Then a spark went off in her head, causing her to whisper a question into Jin's ear. Ari then ran (more like jumping) toward Khan, giddy and childlike.
"You're landlady's name is Hao Yun, right?" "Yeah..."
"I think I solved the riddles! But we need to hurry to the apartment then! So, let's go!"
On her command, the lonely foursome scurried through the snow, hanging on the hope that Ari might be right.
By the time Aang, Toph, and Appa reached the house of the first victim, some of the clouds were starting to scatter off, revealing a white smiling moon.
"Be careful Toph. I know you can't see the stuff, but the snow looks pretty deep; Appa's toes are buried in this stuff!"
They dismounted Appa, rushing into the abandoned house. When they entered the main room, Aang felt a curious sensation in his limbs, followed by a few shocks in the areas around his scars.
"I feel a body in that room," Toph jittered, pointing at an archway mere footsteps away. They entered, finding a collapsed woman grasping onto a knife she never seemed to have used. Immediately, Aang was drawn by the energy exuding from splattered writings on an adjacent wall. His scars pricked the closer he walked.
"Aang, why are you staring at the wall?"
"Because there's a noroi on it."
Toph laughed until her eyes began to tear.
"Are you serious, Aang? A noroi? Aren't those spells?"
"Not quite. These are curses made by spirits. And whoever this spirit is, they really like haikus. Listen: The Pale Autumn Moon gives way to Cold Winter Suns before Spring's child comes. How pretty!"
"The riddle was either made by the spirit to distract Khan or stump him."
Aang dabbed his fingers into the strange gelatin-like consistency. It burned to the touch, aging his whole hand until it resembled that of an ancient man. Yet, when Aang drew his fingers away, his skin transformed back to its current, youthful state.
"I'm not so sure. The stuff the haiku was written in is...age goo."
He turned around, noticing something strange about the corpse: mist was coming out of her nose, as if she were breathing. Then, he began to glow.
"Aang, what's up with your voice?"
"Does she have a pulse?"
"Aang, you didn't answer my question! And no, the woman has no pulse. If she did, I'd feel it upon entering the room."
"Check if she's breath—"
"Aang, the woman's dead! And you still haven't told me why you sound so funny all of a sudden!"
"Put your hand over her stomach."
Toph thought Aang was losing his mind, thinking that either fatherhood or maximum exposure to Katara's undying optimism was making him loose in the head. And the whole ominous voice thing was really giving her the creeps. But, he was the Avatar; he had to be on to something. So, Toph put her hands on the woman's stomach, feeling something swirl and crackle.
"It's like lightning!"
"Which means she still has some of her chi."
"So she's...not dead then?"
"So she's alive then?"
Aang shook his head. Seriously: what was up with Twinkle Toes?
"Toph...she was intentionally placed into limbo. Limbo is a state when the body is neither dead nor alive."
A stark silence fell for a second or two. Aang returned from the Avatar State and continued to speak. "The spirit that was here used a noroi to extract some of her chi, but left some behind so she wouldn't be fully dead."
Toph was convinced that Aang was stoned, with all his voice changes and strange advice.
"So...this writing that you're talking about was written with her chi?"
Aang sighed, shrugging his shoulders.
"What can I say? Spirituality is very confusing! And...sorry about creeping you out with the sudden transfer into the Avatar State. Didn't mean to scare you!"
"You didn't scare me! Not at all!" she lied. "Anyway, we can assume that something similar happened with my student, Haruko, or any other potential person this spirit will knock out. However, it's one thing to figure out the what, but something completely different to explain the why?"
Aang couldn't agree more. However, he sensed something was bothering Toph.
"I hope Khan's okay. I remember him saying he'd be coming home late tonight. Well, it's late. Should we check on him?"
Aang wasn't so sure if they should go through with Toph's suggestion. But something in his gut was urging him to say...
"Sure. It'd be good to make sure this angry spirit didn't do anything to your boyfriend."
"He's not my boyfriend!"
Poppy was startled awake from a strange dream. No, it was a memory, the memory of finding Lao in the bathtub. Heart attack. Then drowned. If only she would have known...
She breathed deeply, looking around at the empty teashop. Empty aside from Iroh and the literal handful of employees scattered about, sleeping on the floor. She didn't see Toph or Aang, however. Poppy recalled that they had been in the back room, but she fell asleep fairly early, and wasn't sure if they'd moved around during the night. She also remembered that Iroh and the other employees hit the hay merely moments after she did, so, if awakened, wouldn't know where Toph or Aang would be either.
Carefully, in order to not hurt her feet, Poppy rose herself from the tile floor, grabbing on to a nearby stool for balance. Then, she crept toward the kitchen, making sure not to wake anyone up. Once in the kitchen, all she had to do was lift a latch and—
"Where are they?"
Her jaw might as well have dropped off her face, for there was nothing in the room. Nothing, except for an opened trunk and Appa's stench. Hand gaped over her mouth, Poppy began to yelp her daughter's name, turning over aprons, cooking wares, towels, breaking tea cups, tea pots and chop sticks, hoping the ruckus would bring her daughter running back to her. Nothing. Poppy screamed louder and louder. Not again! Not like last time! Still nothing. No sign of Toph. Her beloved and only Toph! A slip in the kitchen while speeding out toward the foyer, sharp pains riding up her shins for her feet couldn't handle this kind of sudden force. Leaping sprints through the foyer, still screaming her daughter's name to high heaven. A burst through the barred doors, a gush of snow flakes into the teashop.
Iroh and the employees woke up to the chill of a stagnant breeze, a scream, and a thud. Iroh rose to his feet, the employees not too far behind.
A trail of blood led to a sobbing body lying in the snow.
Her left foot was bleeding profusely through the bandage it was wrapped in. This was bad.
"Iroh, what is it?" chimed a young employee.
"Tell Fu to find towels and gauze, Li to find the long table and Kao to start a pot of hot water. Nianzu, help me carry Lady Bei Fong back into the foyer. Be wary of her feet!"
For the collective works of the author, go here.