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|Echoes of Defeat Tremor Throughout Their Bones|
Warning and Exasperated Sigh of Relief
This is my pent-up rage chapter. It's a bit... Sketch. And I finished Book Two before the New Year! I'm going to wait a while longer before Book Three for new readers to catch up. If there are any new readers...
What will become of Team Avatar?
"Urk..." The room spun. Lights blared. Blinding. His head pounded like a metronome armed with a sledgehammer. It took a moment, but the room began to steady. A light aimed directly in his light proved a hindrance, but Ishio could make out the figure of a portly old man beside him. Besides a few guards—recognizable by their rigid posture—the room held only Ishio and the old man.
Darkness. The old man had moved the light out of Ishio's eyes. Dark spinning circles obstructed the Avatar's vision now, but these too faded after a moment. Enough light shone in the room for Ishio to make out the face of the old man. Not anyone he knew. A round face, with round glasses sliding off of his nose. A balding head, barely covered with an ugly comb-over. A thin moustache dashing his upper lip. Hardly the face of intimidation. His moustache curved upwards as he smiled, and despite the fact that it looked like a sincere smile, something about this man's aura made Ishio sick to his stomach.
"Good morning sunshine." The man's voice was as unassuming as the rest of his appearance. That, or the nature of his words made his voice seem as such.
Ishio blinked and squinted, groaning as he tried to shift. His hands and feet were bound to a metal chair, and with this motion he realized that this old man was his captor. "Where am I?" He asked groggily.
"Republic City. The Police Headquarters." The old man held nothing back in his reply. It seemed as though if Ishio asked, the old man would give him the street address and nearest exit.
"Who are you?" Ishio pressed once more with a less groggy inquiry.
"I am Police Chief Sumi. You've caused quite a bit of trouble in the past few months, haven't you, Avatar?" Suddenly, the old man didn't seem so unassuming. His words, though his tone did not change at all, now held a sting. Each word was a buffalo bee stabbing through Ishio's flesh. He could not find words to reply.
"You destroyed our prized machines, killed hundreds of police, caused an uprising in the Fire Nation..." Sumi went on, listing all of the "crimes" Ishio was charged with. But Ishio was hardly listening. Overcome with lightheadedness, Ishio couldn't even realize why this man gave him such bad vibes. He had faced several high-ranking officers, but for some reason this one made him so uncomfortable that he felt like vomiting.
"Not to mention poor Tang. A good man, always so obedient. It took all of our resources just to revive him..."
These words clicked Ishio's mind back into focus. Even after being shot several times and left in a collapsing building, Tang had survived? "Tang is alive?" Ishio replied in shock.
"Indeed. Quite the chimerical experiment. Literally infused him with the organs of benders who met their... unfortunate and untimely demise under our supervision." The police chief paused in the middle of his statement, phrasing the murder of benders in a way that only a man involved in politics could.
Once more, Ishio struggled against his binds. Sumi smiled his unnerving smile, and Ishio once more settled in the chair. "How did United Republic get that sort of technology?" Ishio asked, disgusted and unsettled by this man. "And why do the police have so much power? Shouldn't the military be entrusted with the ability to take away bending and bring back someone from the dead?"
Chief Sumi adjusted his glasses and smiled once more. "It's because of me, my dear friend. I trained under Chief Bei Fong long ago, before bending was illegal. As events shifted, I became the unofficial advisor for the President, and the police became entrusted with more power."
The President. Put in power not too long ago to govern the previously Fire Nation colonies in the Earth Kingdom, turning United Republic into its own independent nation. Ishio bit his lower lip. "So you were a Metalbending cop who got on the President's good side. And you just admitted to being a bender and being involved in political corruption. That a slip up, Chief?"
"No, not a slip up," Sumi's eyes twinkled ominously. "You see, Avatar, you are a teenager. You couldn't hope to understand politics. The fact that I am simply a good friend of the President who gives him advice occasionally. Or the more important fact. Benders are criminals, just as thieves. But a bender isn't illegal if he doesn't bend, as a thief is not illegal if he doesn't steal. I am no criminal. Just as your Firebending friend was not a criminal until he betrayed us."
"So you're a weasel, then. Got it."
"How amusing! Are you trying to frustrate me?" He laughed and continued to smile.
"Nah. I'm just saying what's on my mind."
"Ah yes. I can tell."
Once more, Sumi directed the light at Ishio's face. The Avatar tilted his head and grimaced to avoid the glare. "This is quite inconvenient. We don't have the resources to take away your bending anymore, and if we kill you you'll just be reincarnated." Due to the light shining in his eyes, Ishio did not respond and the Chief continued, "Mind going into the Avatar State so we could permanently kill the Avatar?" Even with his eyes focused against the light, Ishio remained silent. Sumi laughed. "It's a joke. Regardless, we can't just put you in a camp with the rest of the benders, you might incite another rebellion... What to do, what to do..."
"Oh! That's it!" He snapped, speaking as if he had just got an idea. But Ishio knew that whatever the police chief would say next, he had thought of all along. "We'll keep you here until we get our machines up and running again. Last time, it took around twelve years. Hope you don't mind waiting around a bit."
The matter was not up for discussion. Sumi stood, and Ishio grimaced once more. As the chief left, he shut off the lights. With a clink, the door locked behind him and Ishio was stuck in complete darkness.
Seated in a leather arm chair, Ai Shi could only stare at the wall opposite her. A desk stood between herself and the wall, though no one was seated. She appeared to be in some sort of office. Curious. Her glasses slid off her nose slighly, and she pushed them back into place.
"Goodness, goodness." The door to the office opened, allowing a short, chubby old man to enter. He stroked his moustache, looked briefly at Ai Shi, then took a seat behind the desk. "I have been informed that you are not a bender. What's your name, young lady?" His voice was kind, like a voice one would expect from a nice grandfather.
"Ai... Shi," she replied hesitantly. "Who are you?"
"Police Chief Sumi. Allow me to apologize for the misunderstanding." He continued to smile, still seeming far from menacing.
"Police Chief? Where are my friends?!" Ai Shi questioned quickly, completely disregarding the apology.
"Ah... Are you referring to the Avatar and the others? They are quite alright, we'll just be holding them for some investigation."
"Do you really expect me to believe that?"
"Believe what you will." Sumi said flatly, beginning to sift through some papers. "Interesting. You file in our database is clean, at least compared to your friends. I don't believe there's any reason for us to confine you."
"But what about my friends?! Are you only letting me go because I'm a nonbender?"
"Your friends will be okay, Ai Shi. But we really have no reason to hold you here any longer." The door to the office swung open mysteriously, and Sumi smiled once more. "Please be on your way, and I hope that you'll call Republic City police if you encounter any trouble. It's a dangerous world out there for a young lady such as yourself."
Ai Shi stood. After she had turned from the police chief, she guffawed under her breath.
"Show yourself! I'm not afraid of you!" Haneul's hands and feet were bound as he scrambled throughout the dank dungeon. Like something from the old days: water dripping from the ceiling, cold, darkness, and stone rubbing against his skin. A voice had been speaking to him since he got here, mysteriously whispering only a single word at a time, like a phantom. Betrayal, secrets, lies, all littered the cryptic language. Despite Haneul's words, sweat saturated his body. Someone was in here, and someone was torturing him slowly.
Once more, the voice reached his ears, this time with a longer sentence. "You joined your mother's killer..." It said, resonating against the walls as if it came from within the very stones.
"My mother was killed because of the police..." Haneul moved about the darkness, shaking with nervous fear. "Ishio wouldn't have killed her if the police hadn't attacked him first... Show yourself already!"
But the owner of the voice would not humor him. "Your father only wanted you to survive, and you began slowly killing yourself."
"You don't know me!" The Airbender shouted in denial.
"I'll bet you wish that were so." From the shadows, a figure emerged. His face was bloody, torn apart. Pieces of flesh were missing, whole chunks of his skin. And the chunks of skin missing were in the same place as Air Nomad tattoos. Like a ragdoll, his feet dragged across the floor. Limbs hanging at unnatural angles, head tilted back, eyes blank. As he neared, Haneul recognized the beard, and the kind, if dead, eyes.
Haneul fell backwards, unable to support his own weight anymore. "Master... Bingwen...?" He stammered, hoping that this frightening corpse wouldn't confirm that identity.
"Yes." The voice replied. But it did not come from Bingwen's body. Just behind him, a figure approached with a twisted grin. His hand slowly flexed and retracted, moving the dead Monk across the floor. The twisted puppeteer.
Unnaturally thin, the owner of the voice seemed more skeletal than Master Bingwen. Pale, with even paler scars lining his visible flesh. Garbed in old-fashioned robes which hung off his body like drapes, he continued to approach. Bingwen's body dragged in front of him, moving in a way that continued to sicken Haneul. He had not a hair on his head, but plenty of wrinkles, and blue eyes so pale they seemed almost blank. His bony hands continued to manipulate Master Bingwen's body, before dropping it just before Haneul.
"What... did you... do...?" Haneul stammered, almost unable to find the words.
"Fear..." The puppeteer replied, not answering Haneul's question. "I can taste your fear. As delicious as the Monks. This one did not have such sweet fear. Courage is a bitter taste."
"Yes... I killed him..." The puppeteer's mouth twisted into a smile, revealing gnarled yellow teeth. "All of them... My terms for working with the police... were the Nomads... All of them... Just for me."
"You killed all of them?!" Shock rang throughout Haneul's voice, ending in almost a shriek.
"All of them... I collect those arrow tattoos, just for myself... All of them..."
"Why? That is not the right question." The puppeteer's right hand moved up to his mouth, and he licked the tip of his fingers with a disgustingly gray tongue. "The old hag never saw it coming..."
"I killed her! HEEHEEHEEHEEHEE... Killed her, killed her. Killed her dead, that damn hag." His laugh was wicked, insane. Haneul recoiled in alarm. Before Haneul could question this man once more, he continued, "Mother and father preferred the Nomads.... That hag told me she was doing me a favor... Does this look like a favor? Does it? Hm? Bloodbending was the only gift that hag gave me... I killed her, killed her, killed her. Now all the Nomads will follow. Mother and father could not bend the air, but they were Nomads... They were Monks..."
Haneul found bits of strength in his legs. Too quickly, he stood to get away from the crazed man and Bingwen's corpse. Feet still bound, he fell backwards with a desperate cry. The puppeteer closed in on him. "You're next... In the end, they told me everything... Everything about you... You're father will be the last... The last Airbender, HEEHEEHEEHEEHEE!"
Bang! Both turned to see the door to the dungeon bang open. A thin man clothed in a suit entered, and looked between the crazy man and the prisoner. "This one isn't a Monk, puppeteer. He goes with the rest of the benders." The new arrival picked up Haneul roughly by the caller, lifting him like a sack of potatoes despite the man's thinness. Meanwhile, the puppeteer looked like he was in shock. With Haneul cast over his shoulder, the thin man began to leave.
"So that man has gone back on his agreement, has he...? Oh he'll pay... They'll all pay..." His voice came out in a few strangled words, barely even audible.
"Sure they will." The suited man replied sarcastically.
Clicking and screaming filled the room. What a nerve-wracking place to be held captive. Frost paced the floor, arms folded uneasily as she tried to decipher the noises. The clicking noise was unidentifiable; even a monkey could understand the nature of the screaming. In her pacing, she glanced down at her nails. Perfectly done, just the night before. Now, in the confinements of who knows where, she laughed at her previous material values. Always had been a weak point. Even in the rings, she wanted to keep her makeup done perfectly. But undoing her nails wouldn't get her out of here, so she simply decided to live with her choices.
Another bloody clinking noise. Frost turned towards the source, seeing the barred door swing open and allow a figure to enter. She didn't recognize him, and didn't care to recognize him. Some background character. Prison Warden, was probably his name. Something like that. His waist held a set of keys, which had undoubtedly opened her cell. Several guards gathered behind him.
Arms folded authoritatively, he droned in a gravely voice, "You're being moved." He didn't have to tell her to come. She sighed, but moved into step behind him without question.
A solid fist lodged in Liwei's side. Two men held onto either of his arms, locking him into place for the assault. The man beating him was a man he knew all to well. Tang beat against him, throwing several hard, vengeful blows to Liwei's torso. As he said earlier it was the newest craze: to beat prisoners where no one could see their bruises. Most of his ribs had long since shattered, and it was a matter of time before a fragment would lodge itself in his lungs, or another nearby organ.
"How does it feel, traitor?!" Tang asked as another blow slammed against Liwei's ribs. "The pain you feel is nowhere near the pain I've felt since you left me for dead! The pain of feeling and seeing your dead organs removed, and watching as the organs of your enemy are put within your own body! I'd rather die than live off of the life force of a bender, yet here I am!"
Liwei could not respond. He grit his teeth against the pain, causing his teeth to tear apart his mouth. Blood began to drip down his chin, but he would not scream. He would not cry out. Just cringe with the pain. Tang's own knuckles were torn from the force of his blows, yet he would not cease.
After the assault, Tang's arm fell. Liwei looked up at his attacker to see that the police officer had no motivation left. "Even now, I'm not allowed to kill you for what you've done." A quick gestured towards the two men holding Liwei. "Take him away..." He commanded dryly. The two others nodded, and obeyed the command.
Thus, Team Avatar was disbanded.
Book Two: Air - End
- "Sumi" means something in Japanese... Kufufu, spoilers.
End of Book Trivia
- You might have noticed the appearance of "TV-14" as a rating. "What's the difference between that and PG-13?" you might wonder. The answer is simple. Nothing. I only use "TV-14" to differentiate between sketchy PG-13 and not sketchy PG-13, because that one number difference gives the illusion of being higher rated. Cheers.
- One hundred twenty-two pages, in the end. Not as long as Book One, but Book Three is going to be epic.
- Winter's almost over. Coming next, half a book of fight scenes.
For the collective works of the author, go here.