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|By The Bos||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from The Bos||Action||PG||Positive|
|Fugitive Part 1|
August 12, 2011
Fugitive Part 1 is the fifth chapter of the series.
Shenji and Kuro get split up on the road to their mission.
Shenji and Kuro run through the forest beyond the outer walls of their base. Though the sounds of nature and heavy breathing were bothersome, Shenji seemed to be revitalized by the rising sun. At least two hours away from their camp, the duo had not once stopped on their journey. "That should be enough," Kuro's voice calls from slightly ahead of Shenji. The pair stops, both doubling over from the sudden sensation of fatigue. "If not, I'll go back..." he adds with sarcasm.
"After what we did, do you think they'll let us back?" Shenji asks.
"Good point," Kuro says, leaning backwards and sitting on the ground. "After this, what are we going to do?"
"Another good point," Shenji replies while sitting down opposite his friend. "Well, if we go back, I'm sure the Captain would stick up for us."
"Yeah, but how much do you think he can do? He's a Captain, and there are Generals who are opposing him."
"So, basically what you're saying is that if we go back, we're dead?" Shenji says, surprised by the severity of their patriotic decision.
"Well, if they try to kill us, we can always leave again. They couldn't stop us the first time," Kuro says jokingly.
"I only wish we had brought food," Shenji replies, clutching his stomach in hunger.
"We probably should go looking for something to eat. Split up?" Kuro suggests, waving his hand in the air to symbolize the tentatively of the idea.
"No, let's just go together." Shenji slowly rises from his seat and glances around, confused. "Where do we go?"
Kuro straightens his back out, moving his arms in an arc while he stretched his shoulders. Eventually his index finger pointed into the sky, and his arm fell until it was parallel with the ground. "Let's go that way," he nonchalantly says, taking a few steps in the random direction. Seeing no alternative, Shenji follows him. The pair walks aimlessly through the woods, with Shenji drifting into deep thoughts.
From his dreams the previous night to his attacking of his comrades, Shenji contemplates his situation. In the eyes of the Earth Kingdom government, the military, and the general populous, he is a traitor; a coward who fled from his duty. His dreams gave him enough of an indication as to how the Fire Nation felt about him so that he didn't even need to come up with new negative emotions. The Air Nomads were gone, and he had never met anyone from the Water Tribes before; it was possible that the Fire Nation had finally wiped them out as well.
"Shenji, watch out for that-" Kuro's voice calls from up ahead. Not knowing what to do, Shenji's head jerks from left to right in search of the threat Kuro had yet to mention. Unfortunately, the hazard was one down below, as a raised tree root tripped the soldier. Barely catching himself before his face hit the ground, Shenji's face is directed into bushes, seeing a large, speckled, and smooth surface behind the shrubs. "If your reflexes are that slow, the Fire Nation will keep that fort up!" Kuro says from above.
Ignoring his friend, Shenji reaches into the bushes, his face lighting up as his hand finds its objective. "If you can't find food, you'll never even make it to the walls!" Shenji replies, pulling out a large egg from behind the bush.
"Nice. But, I hate to break it to you Shenji, one of those eggs won't feed us both," Kuro says, trying to find a flaw in Shenji's counterattack.
"I know. But a whole nest full can!" he exclaims, dividing the bush in half to show the Earthbender the treasure behind.
"Okay, you're the better soldier," Kuro concedes, reaching into the nest and picking up two eggs, one for each hand. "Now let's just go find wood to make a fire. I can already smell them cookin'!" The two set off on the path back to their clearing, taking only a few short steps before hearing a rustle in the bushes. "What was that?" Kuro asked rhetorically, turning around in frustration.
The Earthbender was met by a massive Platypus Bear, at least eight feet tall. "Really?" Shenji says, growing tired of their constant struggles. The beast lets out a loud roar, charging towards the pair while flailing its clawed limbs. The two soldiers roll out of the way, each going on an opposite side of the bear while dropping their eggs. Turning violently, the bear roars again, prompting a quick glance at their only ally in this battle. Kuro quickly stomps the ground, sending a fissure towards the massive animal.
Sensing danger, the bear lumbers to the side, avoiding an attack that would have taken out at least two Fire Nation soldiers. "Smart bear," Kuro mutters under his breath. He assumes a ready stance, unsure what action to take now that his go-to attack was ineffective. Shenji, looking from afar, sees a figure moving behind his friend.
"Kuro, look out!" he calls, prompting a turnaround from the Earthbender. Behind him, a bear only a few inches shorter than their current foe slowly approached. Kuro sent the bear into the air with two small earth columns under its feet, temporarily averting danger.
"Shenji, leave them to me!" Kuro says, near-ordering his friend to safety. Noticing that the bears had a height advantage that he couldn't match, Shenji consents by tossing his friend his hammers before sprinting off in a random direction. "Now, come at me, beasts!" Kuro mutters, widening his stance to accommodate his new weapons.
A New Mission
Luo and Cren sat in a sweltering chamber for what seemed like the third consecutive day. In reality, the pair had only been together for an hour, but their perspective was skewed by their exhaustion. Their time together was spent being drilled by various officers who were intent on having the two court martialed for allowing Shenji and Kuro to escape. Though they denied any compliance, many of the officers were not convinced. As they waited for their next questioner, they struck up a bitter conversation. "I can't believe they got away," Luo says.
"Those cowards probably couldn't take it in here anyway. I bet they're just running away."
"Why would they need to steal a map to run away?" Luo inquires.
"Maybe they are spies that finally got the information they need. I don't know, Luo, but I have a feeling they're up to something," Cren declares.
Before Luo has sufficient time for a rebuttal, the pair hears the door open. In steps their Captain, a bold man who decided to waste little time with formalities. "Greetings men, I'm sure you don't know exactly why you're still being held here, but I assure you that you are in no present danger."
"Thank you for the news, sir," Luo says. The Captain smiles, nodding to acknowledge the soldier's thanks.
"Some officers, a small number, but a few all the same, have said that you should be tried for negligence. In all honesty, I don't believe them. Shenji and Kuro are good soldiers; they just got the better of you." Before the Captain had a chance to continue, he was interrupted.
"With all due respect, sir, they simply got lucky," Cren forcefully says, believing himself to be correcting the Captain's misstatement.
The Captain, clearly a man with an ability to discern the best approach to a situation, decided to hide his displeasure. Cren may have spoken out of turn, a punishable offense, but he had given the Captain what he needed. "Lucky? Well, Cren, if you say they were lucky, it would stand to reason that you believe that you could defeat them if you were given the chance. Am I correct?"
"Absolutely, sir." the soldier says with the utmost confidence. "Sadly, we will never see them again."
"That may not be the case. You see, men, the officers who have already talked to you are not certain if you have done anything wrong." Changing subjects, the Captain moves closer to his point. "But, there is no doubt that Shenji and Kuro have committed an offense. Since they are clearly guilty, the General has ordered that they be arrested and punished upon their capture. I want you to find them."
"Are you sure, sir?" Luo asks. While he was confident in his own abilities, he was not certain that he and Cren were able to capture, manage, and return the two skilled soldiers to the campsite alone. "Will we not need more than just two of us in order to capture them?"
"From what I heard, Cren is more than capable to defeat both of them. You will be there for backup. Any questions?" the Captain asks, slyly forcing Cren's hand.
"We'll do it," Cren announces, entirely ignoring Luo's opinion. "We'll leave today."
The Captain smiles slightly, his plan having worked perfectly. "I expect nothing less," he says while exiting the room.
Shenji ducks under several low tree branches as he runs through the dense forest, hoping that a bear hadn't followed his path. "Don't get yourself killed, Kuro," Shenji mutters as he leaps over a small shrub. After several more moments of running, the soldier doubles over. He was literally running on an empty stomach, as well as lacking sleep. The combination of fatiguing agents forced Shenji to lean against a tree to rest. "Now that I think about it, we probably should have picked a rendezvous point..." he thinks retrospectively. "I guess I should just go back to where we sat down," he says aloud, pushing himself against the tree until he was back in a standing position. As he looks around at the bland wilderness, he realizes that he is lost. "Now to find out where that is..." he mutters, walking into a clearing that seemed to be a makeshift road. He turned in one direction before hearing footsteps coming from behind him. "Kuro?" he says while turning, but he was met with an unexpected turn of events.
A Fire Nation soldier wielding a single sword was running through the path, clearly not expecting to find an Earth Kingdom soldier blocking his way. Quickly switching his expression from joyous to serious, the invader drew his sword and addressed his new adversary. "Not quite, dirt scum!"
Shenji reflexively reached for his hammers, but quickly realized that he had left them with Kuro. The soldier slashed his blade at Shenji, who quickly turned to avoid the sharp metal. The unarmed Earth Kingdom soldier began throwing blows at the Fire Nation soldier, who manages to keep Shenji at bay by using his sword. After taking a step back, Shenji ducks while lunging forward, extending his left leg and ducking under the soldier's left arm. Hooking their legs together, Shenji pulls, causing the soldier to tumble to the ground. While falling, he lost grip of his sword, allowing the blade to fall to the ground five feet from the two soldiers. As the Fire Nation soldier caught his breath, Shenji picked up the blade, preparing to continue the battle.
"Hey, you up there?" a voice calls from the soldier's initial direction. Shenji turns towards the voice, his hopes being crushed by his new sight. A group of seven soldiers came into view, several wearing the typical Firebender masks. "Move in!" the same voice repeats as a Firebender points at the Earth Kingdom soldier.
Within moments, Shenji was surrounded by the soldiers: two with swords, two with spears, three wearing Firebender masks, and his previous opponent, who had taken an extra sword from a recently arrived soldier. "So, what should we do with him?" a swordsman asks.
"Does it matter?" asked a voice from behind a mask.
"Yes. You know as well as I do that the Commander loves executing the captured soldiers. Let's bring him back to camp," the lead Firebender decides, motioning for the circle to close tighter. Shenji holds his sword in front of him, preparing to fight off the first soldier who attacked him. He kept rotating, making sure that his back was covered, but constantly exposing himself to new danger, resetting his battle-honed paranoia.
"What makes you think I'll go back with you? I'll take you all on!" he bellows, hoping his absurd declaration would intimidate the opponents. The first to challenge him is a dual-swordsman, a large man who began hacking at Shenji with his curved blades. Shenji was forced to backtrack as the man's sheer power caused him to loose his balance. As he took a step back, he felt a sharp pain on the back of his head. As he fell, his body spun, giving him a look at the spearman who knocked him out. As Shenji falls to his knees on the damp ground, he plunges the blade into the soil in hopes of regaining balance. His endeavor fails, and he ends up face down on the cold earth.
A Tough Escape
Kuro stood alone in a clearing with two massive Platypus Bears preparing to maul him for raiding their nest. After a moment of peace, each bear charged towards the Earthbender, but he had a new tactic in mind. Swinging his hammers into arcs ending in the ground, Kuro raised ridges of earth at the first bear before turning and repeating the motion. Both animals stumbled back, roaring in discontent. The original bear bounds forward, preparing to tackle the soldier. Thrusting his arms at an angle, Kuro moves the ground under him to the side, sliding the Earthbender out of the range of the attack.
Immediately seizing the moment to strike, Kuro strikes the ground with the hammers, sending small pieces of the rock towards the animals. While several projectiles are blocked by the violent animals, a few lucky boulders hit their mark. While Kuro attacked the bear to his right, the remaining animal charged. By the time the Earthbender noticed, the infuriated animal was within striking distance. Reacting quickly, Kuro ducks while grabbing onto the ground. With a savage grunt, the Earthbender lifted the ground into a ramp, directing the animal over his head. After the immediate danger was averted, Kuro put the rock back into the ground before seeing that the two bears are now on either side of him. "Well, time to bail!" Kuro says, jumping a foot off the ground. As he leaves the ground, the soldier creates a hole in the soil that is about four feet in diameter. Kuro vanishes into the abyss before sealing the entrance, leaving the bears confused.
Even in the dark, dank underground, Kuro knew where he was going. He wasn't sure how, but he could feel the bears above, and could even feel the tree roots that lined the pathway. Very slowly, Kuro traced his route back to the pair's original campsite, emerging from his confinement in the earth halfway there. After walking for another few minutes, Kuro reached the empty clearing, but doesn't see Shenji. Where did he get to? Kuro wonders to himself while placing Shenji's hammers on the ground and sitting down. After a few moments, Kuro hears a voice in the woods, easily out of his immediate sight but not his walking range. He gets up slowly, walking towards the sound. Upon finding its original source, Kuro sees a sword plunged into the ground, and Fire Nation soldiers carrying a body away. Shenji... Kuro thinks to himself. Kuro recognizes the body of his friend being taken away, and he knows too well that something must be done to ensure that he will see Shenji again.
From the looks of the soldiers, Kuro can tell that the body is alive. Kuro also assumes that their camp must be nearby, as they did not have travel supplies. The Earthbender quickly returns to the open clearing to retrieve Shenji's hammers, a valuable asset, and shadows the Fire Nation soldiers, knowing that he must not loose their trail.
Shenji regains consciousness in a dark room. As he lifts his head off the ground, he grasps the back of his head in pain. "They got you too?" a voice calls from Shenji's right. The soldier turns to see an older man, clearly an Earthbender from his wide bone structure, in torn armor sitting in an ajacent metal cell. He had streaks of grey in his beard and wrinkles on his face, but his soft brown eyes shone through the dark cell.
"Yes, sir, they did," Shenji says respectfully while sitting up in his cell. It was a metal box with walls made of bars. Each box was lined up against a wall, with only a small amount of light entering the room through a crack in the doorway. "Where are we?"
"A prison. I've been here for at least three years. I wish they would have taken me out years ago..." he mutters.
"What do you mean, sir?"
"I'm no sir, boy." He slowly scratches his face, pulling a few loose hair strands out of his face before formally introducing himself. "The name's Gahn, please just call me that."
"I was part of a unit of soldiers many years ago. After the Fire Nation killed my family, I knew I had to do something to make sure that didn't happen to anyone else. So, I joined up and was part of the army for seventeen years. After that, I got captured." Gahn pauses briefly and lets out a small chuckle, somehow easing Shenji's pain. "It's actually pretty sad; I can't even remember how we got captured. The entire unit got captured that day, and now I'm the only one left."
"What happened to them all?"
Gahn's nostalgic bliss immediately vanished. "The Fire Nation killed them all; one by one. The leader of this base is beyond cruel... he's a true barbarian. Every few months, he took one of my comrades and executed him in front of his troops under the ruse of a morale boost." A mix of pain and fury flash across the old man's face; the feeling of true loss. "I don't know why he hasn't taken me yet, but every day I wish it was me."
"It's my job to give him hope," a voice from the other side of the cage exclaims. Shenji turns to see an empty cage, but seems to see something on the cage's wall through the darkness. After looking again, Shenji sees the outline of a man suspended against the wall, his limbs bound against the metal. "He's helped me so much, I just couldn't let him down. It's sad to say that I've been the only thing keeping him going for the past year."
"Who are you and why are you bound?" Shenji asks.
"Kuan, don't forget it. Anyway, I'm a Waterbender, so the Fire Nation knows to keep me unable to use my arms and legs. If they had me free, I'd be able to escape by the end of the day."
"Kuan, why are you here?"
The suspended Waterbender lets out a sigh. "Don't judge me for this; I've done some things I probably shouldn't have, but they've made me who I am today. It's a long story," he adds.
"We've got time," Shenji says sarcastically, nodding to give Kuan motive to continue.
"I grew up in the Northern Water Tribe in a nice home. My parents loved me, I loved them, and everything was alright. After I mastered Waterbending, I wanted more. I was assigned to guarding the outer wall of the city, but nothing ever happened. On my way home one day, I heard men talking about a combat job. I was interested, so I asked them what it was about. Turns out they wanted the chief dead. They said that ever since his daughter was born, he was a weak leader, and that someone new needed to step in to protect the tribe. I was never much of a patriot, and didn't care for politics, so I said I'd do it."
"Did you kill him?" Shenji asked, ensnared by the story.
"No, youthful arrogance got the better of him," Gahn says.
"Yeah, basically. I didn't expect him to be a warrior or anything... He beat me unconscious, and I was pronounced dead by the time his guards got to the room. And, the last thing I expected, I was given the traitor's burial at sea. I was starving, so I at anything that moved as I left the tribe. I made it to the tip of the northern Earth Kingdom and began bounty hunting to buy food. As I did more, I got better."
"That doesn't quite explain how you got here," Shenji adds, prompting further explanation.
"I was getting there. So, I began working for whoever would pay the most for my services. You have no idea how much the Earth Kingdom would pay to have a certain officer taken out... Anyway, I was eventually contacted by a Fire Nation officer. This General, Mung, said he wanted me to take out an Earth Kingdom officer. So I did. After I was done, I returned for my payment. Instead, he tried to send me off on another mission. I told him I'd gladly take out anyone, but I needed payment first. He ordered his men to attack me, and I beat them back for a while, then they knocked me out. They knew I was a Waterbender, and knew better than to have me killed. They've been waiting for a group to take me away, like all the other captured Waterbenders. As we all know, Messenger Hawks can only fly so fast."
"Yeah. Sad fate, that of Waterbenders," Gahn interjects. "I hear the Southern Tribe has been pretty much been wiped out. I think that they're looking to do the same thing to Earthbenders too. I guess that's why they've got me here."
Forcing Shenji to turn around, Kuan begins addressing him again. "We've told you who we are and our stories, so let's give him a chance to start. What's your name?"
Sighing quietly, Shenji begins to pull together the few facts he knows about himself. "Well, they call me Shenji. I don't know much about my past..." Shenji pauses for a moment, shaking his head for clarity before continuing. "I was struck on the head during a battle and can't remember anything since. My friend, Kuro, found me in Fire Nation armor fighting against Fire Nation soldiers. He knew I must have been a captured soldier who was put on the front lines as a decoy. That's the earliest I can remember. Ever since then, I've been in his army unit fighting the Fire Nation."
"I wish I could get out of here so I could fight them again," Gahn muses. He reclines back onto the metal floor of his cell, sighing and looking towards the light rays coming into the room. "I want the honor none of my friends got: to die fighting the Fire Nation."
"I'd love to get revenge on that General Mung. Just one more chance to let him know that he's next on my list," Kuan says darkly, his eyes nearly becoming slits.
"I want to get out so I can finish what I started." Upon receiving confused glances from both men, Shenji proceeds without further prompting. "We both deserted. Our Commander found out that the Fire Nation is building a base. This thing will threaten the entire north western part of the Kingdom if we can't stop it, so we're heading out there to do anything in our power to slow production."
"I've met many men who have deserted," Kuan begins, sharply turning his head towards Shenji. "None of them with as honorable intentions as you."
"Kuan is right, Shenji. That is one of the most important missions I've ever heard about. I think I can speak for Kuan in saying that we'd both want to take part in such an undertaking."
With a grin, Shenji glances from Kuan to Gahn. "Then we'll plan our escape."
Having gathered the supplies needed for their journey, Luo and Cren left their base. The first few hours were spent in awkward silence, with neither soldier having anything to say to the other. Luo was angry at Cren for several reasons; Cren's pompous behavior had not only lost the soldiers in the first place, but was now forcing Luo to look for him. Cren's arrogance had become Luo's downfall. Despite his anger, Luo knew that it was best to keep calm in hopes of a speedy mission. The pair continued walking through the empty forest, having left their campsite far behind. Luo's thoughts were interrupted by a sudden outburst. "They just had to leave, didn't they?" Cren asks rhetorically.
"I guess they thought it was the right thing to do," Luo says. While he didn't agree with their ignorance of orders, he consented to the ideas behind them.
"Come on, the Fire Nation can't take this area of the Kingdom. It's impossible. We've got this area nearly locked down," Cren replies.
"You forget, Cren. There used to be Four Nations. The Air Nomads are gone. I'm sure the monks thought their temples were untouchable, until they were wiped out."
"Those were monks. From what I've heard, Airbenders were all pacifists. The benders couldn't make more than a breeze."
Luo mentally laughed in response; he had been informed otherwise. "I've heard stories about Avatar Kyoshi, and how she once stopped a Waterbender from starting a coup in his city. When he refused to step down, she used Airbending to hack his hands off."
"So? She was the Avatar, not a monk!" Cren's words were true, but Luo was not unprepared.
"The point was that anything can be deadly. No matter what they get, the Fire Nation will use it as leverage for their conquest. If they've got a small base we haven't taken over yet, it would make perfect sense to fortify it."
"If the Fire Nation will gain such an advantage from this structure, why are our leaders not more concerned?" Cren retorts, ducking under a branch while proceeding forward.
"I think that was the point Kuro was trying to make. It is a genuine threat, and if we are going to save lives, it must be stopped at its conception. I don't understand why our leadership is not acting, but I think those two think they are doing what's best for our country."
"You're starting to sound like one of them, Luo," Cren jabs, lightening the tone while imposing a daunting accusation on the Earthbender.
"I'm just trying to argue my point. My dad was a lawyer, you know. I learned to argue at a young age."
"No kidding," Cren says, turning his head the other way. The pair resumed their awkward silence and continued moving through the forest in search of their targets. Another hour passed, during which the sun began torturing those caught under its heat.
As they approached a clearing, Luo sees unusual cracks in the ground. Pausing to investigate further, Luo realizes that the disheveled soil is a sign that a trained Earthbender had been through the area. Not only had he been in the area, he had a struggle. Cren seemed to notice the same thing, having crouched down and traced the footprints that lead in various directions. "Where do you think they went?" Luo asks, pacing in the direction of one set of tracks.
"One went in that direction," Cren notes, pointing past Luo. "And the other vanished. He ran around a lot, but didn't leave this area." Standing up, the Earthbender scratches his head. "I can't figure out what happened to him."
"Well, he's not here," Luo dryly adds.
"What are we going to do?" Cren asks, having grown tired of the lack of progress.
"Why don't you figure it out? You're supposed to be able to catch them both on your own. What's keeping you from it?"
Having no real insult to reply with, Cren remains silent for a moment. "If you think you're so capable, why don't you find them?"
"I will. Meet me here later." With that, Luo turns his back and walks towards an open clearing, eventually fading from Cren's eyesight.
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