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|Equal, Pt. 2|
Chapter 8: Equal, Pt. 2
Lu Ten and San glanced back, and neither of the adults was in sight. There was no one around, really, just the skyscrapers.
"I guess we got ahead of them." The Crown Prince said with a small grin.
San smiled back. "They were so immersed in each other that they probably didn't notice." She cupped his face with her hands. "And, y'know...that's not such a bad thing..."
Lu Ten felt his heart turn in his chest. "Really?"
She pulled him close and kissed him on the lips. "Yeah..."
He offered a stupid grin in response as his face turned red. "I guess not."
Both teenagers turned away, awkwardly rubbing the back of their heads. Once the moment passed, however, San's eyes widened.
"Hey, I want to show you something!"
Lu Ten raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"I think I've figured it out!"
The Crown Prince chuckled. "Figured what out?"
She grinned. "Watch." She put her fingers together and snapped upwards, causing a spark to fly into the air. Her grin intensified, only to turn into a frown as it failed to combust.
"So...what am I supposed to be watching?" Lu Ten asked playfully.
Her frown turned into a pout as she elbowed him. "Shut up..."
He raised his hands in a gesture of surrender, and San just rolled her eyes in response. "Why are you so...?"
"Exasperating?" The Crown Prince offered.
He began to laugh as he took her hand once more. "I don't know. Once you find out, my parents will want to know, too."
Thunk! Thunk! Two metallic crunching noises came from behind the teens, who whirled around. Upon doing so, they found themselves face-to-face with two heavily armored Equalists. They sported metal armor with thick pads beneath it, and both had arm shields on their left arms.
"Get behind me, San." Lu Ten said as he stepped in front of her.
"How about I stand beside you." She replied, which garnered an appreciative smile from the Crown Prince. "There are two of them."
Toph Bei Fong, Officer Tao, and the three teenagers that had met with her now walked down the straightaway inside the Central Hall. Today, today would be the day that she ended the Equalist threat. Finally, she would be able to bring down Kiryu Iran; finally the anti-benders would stop disturbing the tenuous peace.
"I want you three to stay by my side. If the Governor-General resists, Tao and I will take him down. Stay out of our way; you're only here as witnesses. I want to make sure that this is done right."
Pema glanced away. "Don't hurt him like you hurt the others."
"If he resists," Toph's expression darkened. "I will have no choice."
Tenzin could only look on as relations within their little group got worse. He was surprised as it was that Toph had even considered the idea, though that too had taken a lot of convincing.
"No, it wouldn't help if you told me that Solf Koruhagi is being hidden by Kiryu Iran because I can't do anything about it!"
Fiora, who hadn't spoken the entire time, finally decided to contribute to the matter at hand. "Why not? Isn't this the evidence you've been waiting for?"
The police chief's response consisted solely of a mirthful chuckle. "If only it were that simple...the fact that this witness testimony comes from a child and is unverifiable makes it inadmissible as evidence. Kiryu Iran would go free."
Pema pursed her lips. "What else would you need?"
The Blind Bandit smirked. "You really don't want to face this, do you?"
The former Equalist shook her head. "No, that's not it. You have to understand, Mrs. Bei Fong—."
"Chief Bei Fong." Toph growled.
"Chief...these people...they were my family."
"Some family." The Earthbender snorted.
"THEY TOOK ME IN AFTER BENDERS KILLED MY PARENTS!!" Pema cried.
Tenzin had not expected that, and he certainly had not expected Fiora to react as she did. As soon as Pema had finished her sentence, Fiora was already moving to give her a hug. The gesture had surprised her, as evidenced by her facial expression.
The revelation, however, had brought with it realization...and guilt. Tenzin still hadn't worked up the courage, even over the twenty minutes they'd spent travelling to the Central Hall. And truth be told, Pema hadn't either. The plea she'd made to Toph a minute prior had been the first time she'd spoken since then.
I have to say something...but what?
He shook it off; they had work to do. Tao's info had been the clincher, and the elder Bei Fong had been quick to capitalize on her opportunity.
Tao entered the chief's office waving a piece of paper. "Chief, I found what I said I would!"
Toph smirked as the three teens whirled around. "And what, pray tell, is that?"
He proudly laid the paper on her desk and smiled triumphantly.
Toph sighed. "You're going to have to tell me what I'm looking at, officer."
"Of course, my mistake. What I have just set on your desk is but a portion of the records of correspondence we found from Kiryu Iran to Solf Koruhagi!"
The chief turned toward Pema. "What was that you were saying before?"
Tenzin shook his head as they began to move faster. All of this, and he wasn't any closer to figuring Pema out. She seemed sincere, but he could tell that she was conflicted.
"This is exactly what I need right now..." He muttered under his breath.
His reverie was interrupted, however, when they arrived at Kiryu Iran's office. Toph and Tao ensured that their armor was properly adjusted, and the chief turned to the teenagers.
"Remember, leave Kiryu Iran to us." She glared at Pema. "And if you even think about turning on us, I'll have your butt thrown in jail so fast—!"
Pema scowled. "I won't. I've come too far for that..."
"Good. Now, Officer Tao, if you would open the door..." The Blind Bandit cracked her knuckles. "...we can end this."
Her second-in-command obliged, pushing open the door.
"Chief Bei Fong." Kiryu Iran nodded as they walked through the doorway. "I trust you have a good explanation for interrupting me while I'm with my grandson."
Kyani circled his opponents, and they mimicked his movements.
"You would wish potential harm on innocent civilians?" One of his foes inquired.
The young swordsman shook his head. "Of course not. But you...this city needs to see who you really are, and I am not going to help you hide!"
He flicked both shotos out and lunged forward, initiating the battle. He remembered, in detail, his fight with Jin and Sho several weeks prior and built his strategy accordingly. As one opponent thrust forward and the other jumped and spun for a downward strike, Kyani slid inside the thrust with a reverse grip on the right and blocked upward. The follow-up came when the swordsman finished parrying his foe's thrust while reversing his own momentum on the upward block to send his attacker into the ground.
The other Equalist recovered fairly quickly and proceeded to take another stab at Kyani, an attack that failed when he simply spun to the side and whipped his right shoto around as well, feeling a little sick as he felt it cut into the man's kidney. As he staggered backward and emitted a pained grunt, his partner flipped to his feet and renewed his charge. Kyani nimbly dodged the man's strikes, and when one overshot his head, he whipped his left blade up and sliced his hand, causing the sword to go flying.
"Ow!" The anti-bender gripped his hand. "You little—!" His rant was cut short when a burly man, one of the passersby, tackled him to the ground.
"Where do you get off, huh? Attacking children!" The stranger cried as he wrestled the Equalist to the ground.
Kyani glanced back to his other opponent, only to find him also being subdued by several random strangers.
"T-thank you..." Those were the only words he could manage as his jaw dropped.
"Don't mention it." The original rescuer replied. "This is what they get for attacking a friend of the Avatar's kid."
Kyani looked around and saw the three children, all of whom gave him a thumbs-up sign. "I can stay and make sure—."
The man shook his head. "The police will be here any second, kid. Go on; we can handle these yahoos."
Aang sat beside Appa, cross-legged, as the Sky Bison groaned.
"I'm so sorry, my old friend; I should not have pushed you so hard..."
Appa grunted, a simple gesture, as if he was shrugging the comment off.
"It is my fault. Maybe I could've visited the Spirit World in Republic City, or maybe I could've taken things slowly."
The Sky Bison responded by licking Aang with his massive tongue.
"Alright, alright!" Aang chuckled and raised his hands in defeat. "I'll stop blaming myself, okay?"
Appa snorted and closed his eyes, confident in his victory.
The Avatar smiled; his friend hadn't changed, even after all these years. He sighed as he scratched behind the bison's ear.
"I can't just sit around like this, but I won't leave Appa's side." He leaned against the furry animal. "I wonder..."
He sat up, renewing his cross-legged position. There's something I have to do...in the Spirit World.
His breathing became rhythmic as he attempted to meditate, all the while one thought dogging him. I have no idea where I'll end up from here, but I guess now's the perfect time for experimentation.
When he opened his eyes, Aang found himself sitting in front of Koh's tree. Perfect. He thought. I needed this little reminder. However, he soon found himself tempted to go in anyway, wanting to see what it would be like without Koh inside it.
The hollowed-out tree was still as dank, dark, and depressing as Aang remembered, although it also came with something else. Another feeling, one of dread...maybe foreboding...penetrated the Avatar's psyche. In fact, he would go so far as to say that things felt worse.
"Hello, Avatar Aang." Susanowo leaned against one of the walls. "Like what I've done with my brother's old haunt?"
"Susanowo..." Aang nearly spat out the name. "Just the spirit I wanted to see." I have to be careful; he looks...better.
He did look different. Now the Spirit of Tempests stood erect, his teeth were whiter than before, his brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and his beard was trimmed. However, Aang also noticed that he still held frailty within himself, and a gaunt look accompanied him.
"Really? Well, I am flattered, Avatar." He grinned wickedly. "Now, let us get down to business. Why are you here to see me?"
Aang's eyes narrowed. "You will leave my family alone."
The spirit chucked. "I have not touched your family, Airbender."
"Then why are you stronger!? Admit it; you've been using my daughter!"
"I will admit that your daughter's use of Bloodbending has given me copious amounts of strength. You should be proud; Sora is an incredibly powerful Waterbender."
In an instant, Aang's hand was wrapped around the spirit's throat. "You do not get to speak her name. You do not have that right!"
The Avatar felt the air leave his lungs as Susanowo pushed him backward. "Keep in mind that you cannot bend here, Airbender. Meanwhile, I am a powerful spirit. To physically assault my person is foolishness, and I once again implore you to let go of your hubris."
"What...what are you talking about?"
Susanowo smirked. "You have neglected your duties as Avatar, and it will come back to haunt this world. However..."
"What do you mean? I saved the world!"
"You did not let me finish. However, the area you have neglected is not an area you could've seen coming. It would have required fate to be on your side, but alas, it was not."
Aang clenched his teeth in rage. "Stop speaking in riddles!"
The Spirit of Tempests shook his head. "If you cannot solve my riddle, you will never know what has occurred. What I mean when I refer to your hubris is this: you fail to consider the inevitable conclusion of various events. You have failed to see that if I am gaining strength, someone is using my art."
Aang's eyes widened. "Sora..."
He nodded. "She is, at this moment, Bloodbending, and I can feel energy and life returning to me."
The Avatar whirled on him. "Make her stop. Now!"
"Oh, please! I am not controlling her; I learned from my brother's mistake when he messed with your loved ones. However, if she continues, she will likely do things that she would not normally." His mouth split into a wide grin. "Would you like to see?"
Aang leaned against the wall for support. "No...I don't think I do..."
"Too bad." Susanowo pressed two fingers to Aang's head. "Because I intend to show you anyway."
His voice moved further and further away, and Aang found himself looking straight at his daughter. She was facing two assailants, both immobile, and Chikyuu cowered off to the side. The thing that scared him, though, was her appearance. Almost chalk-white and with bright red eyes, she looked completely different.
Lu Ten wiped the blood from his chin; these opponents proved themselves, thus far, to be resistant to their Firebending, or, more truthfully, to the impact. He glanced at San, who was staggering to her feet, and readied himself.
They still hadn't said one word, and that probably scared him more than anything. "I can do this all day..."
The anti-benders just looked at one another and advanced. The Crown Prince responded with three quick fireballs, more to distract than anything else, and followed with sideways flip that ended in a fire-empowered kick to the face.
As Lu Ten's opponent stepped back from the assault, Sanaki executed a roundhouse kick to the left side of her foe's face, but he blocked the blow with his arm shield and sent her spinning in the other direction. Unfortunately for him, the spin only served to change her strategy, and San retaliated by completing the spin in the other direction, striking her attacker in the neck.
The successful attack brought the Equalist to his knees, and the young Firebender knew that she'd have to bring him down. She took both of her hands, two fingers outstretched on each, and jammed them in between the plates of his armor.
This isn't gonna be pretty...
And it wasn't. The only noise the man made during the entire battle was the scream that emanated from him as Sanaki seared him with a massive close-quarters fire blast.
Lu Ten got a brief glimpse of the kill before catching a shield strike to his face. Flashes of light flittered across his vision as he collapsed, and the anti-bender loomed over him, ready for the finishing blow.
"Rest in peace, bender." As he raised his fist, Lu Ten barely heard a snap in the back of his mind, and a spark slammed into the Equalist and exploded. The reprieve allowed the Crown Prince to sit up, and he smiled when he saw San's wide eyes.
"I-I did it! I did it!"
"Just in time, too."
Their moment of peace was interrupted when the downed opponent stood and shook off his stupor. Unfortunately, it was not over by a long shot; another armored Equalist dropped from the roof.
"Ready, Lu Ten?" San asked tentatively.
Both anti-benders advanced on their tired and outmatched opponents, but they stopped when two figures stepped in front of Lu Ten and San.
"Get the hell away from my daughter, monsters!" Yun Zhen narrowed his eyes, sword drawn, and Ty Lee bounced on the balls of her feet.
She turned to the teens. "Sit this one out, kids; they're ours."
"S-s-sora...?" Chikyuu inched backward. "What's wrong with you?"
The Waterbender turned her red eyes on the girl. "Stay out of this, Chikyuu. I'm saving you."
The young Earthbender's eyes widened and glistened as Sora moved her hands around, causing the Equalists under her control to squirm and cry out.
"Sora, stop!!" Chikyuu stood shakily, clutching her wounded shoulder. "You're killing them!"
"They deserve it for what they did to you." Sora said, almost as if she was explaining her actions like a child would. "They...they deserve it."
As the Equalists gurgled and thrashed, tears began to fall from Chikyuu's face. "Please, Sora...stop..."
Sora winced. "Chikyuu..." She lowered her hands. "Okay..."
The little girl's lower lip still trembled. "Here, let me heal your wound."
As she reached out to her, the young Bei Fong shrank back and shook her head rapidly. "No...I'm fine..."
Sora offered a small smile, traits unchanged. "Chikyuu, I'm not going to hurt you."
"Mm-mm..." She shook her head as she continued to back away. "Please, just...change back..."
The Avatar's daughter furrowed her brow. "What do you—?" Oh no! No, no, no... "No...I-I didn't..." Come on, come on! I have to stop!
"Sora, you're scaring me."
"I'm sorry, Chikyuu; I...don't know what came over me."
The young Earthbender curled into a ball. "I want my mom..."
"Unfortunately, that will not be happening." Three more Equalists dropped down, two of them throwing bolas.
One of the projectiles wrapped around Sora's arms, while the other spun toward Chikyuu. It never reached her, though, because Sora intercepted that one as well.
Chikyuu went to cry out, but as she fell, Sora silenced her with a look. "Go." She mouthed, her eyes retaking their sky blue color.
One of the Equalists who had been at the Waterbender's mercy stood and prepared to grab the young girl, but she finally complied with Sora's wish, sinking down into the earth and immediately making a beeline for the tower.
Tenzin's eyes widened as he noticed the child sitting in the Governor-General's lap.
"Grandpa, why are the police here?"
Toph stepped forward. "Kiryu Iran, you are under arrest. Put down the kid, and come quietly."
Kiryu Iran smiled sadly. "So it has come to this, then? Very well..." He glanced at the boy. "I guess our talk has to be cut short." He set him, feet first, on the floor.
As he stood, Toph and Tao shot their arms forward, causing four thin, metal cables to wrap around the older man's wrists. "Don't try anything."
"Do not fear, Chief Bei Fong; I have every intention of going quietly."
The little boy took a step forward. "Grandpa...?"
Fiora stepped forward and took his hand. "C'mon, we'll sort this out, okay?"
The child glanced at Iran, who smiled and nodded, and gripped the princess' hand.
"Lead the way, Chief Bei Fong."
For the collective works of the author, go here.