|By The Bos||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
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|Fugitive Part 2|
September 22, 2011
Fugitive Part 2 is the sixth chapter of.
Shenji and his prisonmates try to find a way to escape, while Kuro encounters an unexpected ally.
"What do you mean 'No one has ever escaped'?" Shenji asks, shocked.
"As in, no one has ever escaped," Kuan reiterates, putting emphasis on the statement. "Everyone who has tried has been discovered and killed before their attempt. They say that death is the only way out," he says, his voice fading.
"My friend used to always tell me that if you are closed in on all sides, go up."
Shenji looks at Gahn with a clearly bamboozled expression. Sensing Shenji's confusion, Kuan offers a way out. "Yeah, I don't understand half the stuff he says either. What is it supposed to mean?"
"It means that we need to keep trying. I am sad to say I never thought of that in my years in here. While no one has made it out of here before it can't be impossible."
"But how exactly are we going to get out?"
"The Fire Nation is always a step ahead. They knew I was an Earthbender, so they put me in a metal prison. They knew that Kuan was a Waterbender, so they bound his limbs so he couldn't pull the water from the air to use. There's got to be something they haven't thought of."
"I can say I don't know much about who I am; I can't tell you where I grew up, who my parents were, or why I joined the fight against the savages, but I can tell you that I know I'm not a person who gives up. If death is the only way out, then we'll take some soldiers with us too. We have to keep trying."
Clash of Motives
Right after Shenji was carried away, Kuro began following his captors through the forest. Eventually arriving at the soldier's camp, he watched helplessly as they carried Shenji's body into a building. While scoping out the building, he sees the soldiers leave, again carrying Shenji's body like it was a trophy. "Scum," Kuro mutters under his breath. The soldiers bring Shenji's body close to the center of the camp, leaving Kuro behind the trees at the outskirts. He loses track of the group in the crowd of other soldiers in camp, forcing the distraught Earthbender to retreat from the perimeter.
Finding himself in a clearing, Kuro crouches down behind a tree in order to hide himself from nearby soldiers. He begins wracking his brain to figure out a way to get his friend to freedom. A direct assault would make him a walking target for the various invaders around him; doing nothing was a death warrant for Shenji. As he sat and waited, he heard a rustling in the bushes nearby. Kuro quickly rolled behind the tree in order to figure out who had entered the area. "I know someone's there," a voice called sternly.
"Come out in peace and this will be easier for both of us." Kuro inched across the ground, hoping to get a good enough angle to see who was there. Hearing more movement, Kuro moved back behind his makeshift shield, having only seen green on the other side of the tree.
Kuro moved to the other side, silently moving until he could see the figure that was forcing his concealment. He first notices the wide frame; atypical of Fire Nation soldiers. From there, Kuro noticed that the soldier was not from the Fire Nation, but rather a member of his old unit. "Luo?" Kuro mutters unintentionally in recognition of his comrade.
Kuro's outburst was more than just rhetoric; Luo was able to hone in on the sound. From behind the tree, Kuro was launched into the air until he fell on the ground in the center of the clearing. "There you are, Kuro. How goes the deserting?"
Rising to his feet, Kuro stares at a former ally with contempt. "I don't have time for this now, Luo. Go back to your rule following and leave me be."
"Quite the contrary... I'm following my orders right now. I'm here to bring you back," he says, menacingly dragging his foot back to signal his readiness for battle. Kuro, on the other hand, launched the first strike. He quickly widened his stance and thrust his arms into the air. Small rocks begin rising from the ground, creating a semi-solid mass of earth under Kuro's control. Kuro quickly slid his foot back and thrust his palm forward. The rising pillars of earth made a sharp turn and began plummeting towards Luo. Luo, in turn, ducked and smashed his fists into the earth, raising a sheet of earth that blocked the incoming strike. When his danger had been averted, Luo kicks the slab, sending the entire sheet towards Kuro as an attack.
Kuro waited until the rock was within striking distance before taking action. As it approached, he punched the tablet, splitting Luo's attack in half. As Kuro moved to strike again, Luo set a trap. Before Kuro's foot struck the ground, Luo slid his foot across the ground and sharply jerked it back. A hole appeared right below Kuro's foot, surrounding the Earthbender's foot after it entered.
With his foot caught, Kuro could do nothing more than struggle while Luo paced closer. "Now, where is your friend?"
"If you had let me finish, I would have told you that he got captured," Kuro says spitefully.
"Captured by who?"
"The Fire Nation! They're going to kill him if we don't rescue him! That's why I'm here and that's why I'm not going with you!" Kuro announces, shattering the ground around his foot and sending a boulder hurling towards Luo. Standing his ground, Luo shatters the stone in front of him, making the dust fall to the ground around him.
"If I helped you, would you come with me?" Luo asks, relaxing his stance.
"Why would you help me?" Kuro retorts.
"I don't want to be here. I don't want to be fighting you. I got drafted into the Army and my term is almost up. This mission is going to be one of my last. I don't want to spend more time in the Army than I have to. My Uncle Lao said he'd be able to set up a new life for me once I finished my service. I want nothing more than a life away from violence and bloodshed. I want to believe that this mission is one of my last; that if I finish this, I'll be able to go home."
"What if taking us back leads to more missions? What if you have to stay longer?"
"I need to believe this, Kuro. I want to see my family again, I want to be able to wake up and not fear for their lives..."
Kuro finally relented from his stance, having stood firm waiting for an inevitable attack. "You know Luo, we're more alike than I thought. You just want your loved ones safe. I want everyone in the Earth Kingdom to be able to sleep soundly like that! I want mothers to not fear every knock at their door because it might be the one telling her that her son died. I want younger brothers to always have their older brother as a role model. I'd do anything to get that serene peace again; fight, rescue... or kill."
"But you don't believe that your own government has the best interests of the people at heart?"
"Whether they do or don't is irrelevant to me. What I know is that there are issues that must be dealt with individually. Like Shenji! The military wouldn't authorize a mission to rescue one soldier! But I'm willing to sacrifice anything to rescue him because it's the right thing to do! That's why we left!" Kuro's tone was near screaming; Luo could see a throbbing vein on his forehead. Kuro was not one to have his motives questioned, but Luo decided to use his passion against him.
"You really want him back?" Luo asks calmly.
"I already lost one friend to the Fire Nation. I won't let it happen again," Kuro somberly replied, turning his head slightly as a tear trickled down his face.
Without a second's pause, Luo unfolds his plan. "I'll help you."
"If I help you, will you come back with me?"
After thinking for a moment, Kuro nods his head slowly. "Yes; we will." With that, the unlikely pair set out on a mission to rescue someone who was both a friend and a trophy; a prize and a companion. Kuro lead Luo back towards the Fire Nation's campsite, stopping to point out key buildings he remembered from his stakeout. "And that," Kuro says, pointing towards a metal building in the center of the camp with a look of fury in his eye, "is the prison. It's where they're keeping Shenji. The problem is that I don't know how to get in there."
"Did you try underground?"
The plan was so obvious Kuro had overlooked it. "Wow... having you around was a good idea after all." After analyzing the plan again, Kuro found its flaw. Wait, how are we going to get in there? The building's made of metal; we can't tunnel in!"
"Hmm..." Luo mutters, cupping his chin in thought. "I've got a plan," he announces. "If we could sneak in, then we could get them."
"How are we going to sneak in? With the first sight of our armor, we'll be deflecting fire balls from all directions!"
"That's why we don't just walk in in our Earth Kingdom clothes. We find their armory, and take theirs. We get into the prison, set Shenji free, give him some armor, and walk out."
"That sounds too simple to work, but we can always fight our way out."
"Didn't you just say that you couldn't make it through the camp alone?"
"No, I said we couldn't make it to the prison and back. We can make it out quickly, but we just need to make it look like we're taking him somewhere. The Fire Nation likes executions, right?"
"Okay, so that's our cover. Do you want to go first?" Luo says, having removed his outer armor and set it on the ground. He planted his foot firmly in the ground and twisted his hand, causing a hole to grow out of the earth in front of him. Kuro motioned for Luo to go first as he shed his armor as well, placing both sets near a tree in order to conceal them. By the time he looked back, Luo had sunk into the ground, giving the remaining soldier the indication that it was time to move on.
Leaping into the hole and sealing its entrance, Kuro follows the tunnel Luo made while he was hiding its existence. "How do you know where you're going?"
"Just trust me on this one. I don't know why, but I can kind of feel where the buildings are above us. It's like seeing through the earth. I can't explain it."
"Odd. You should probably get that checked out," Kuro says calmly while looking around through the darkness.
"Well, we might as well go with it, since we have no other indication," Luo rationally states. Lacking a better option, Kuro sighs in agreement, giving his unnecessary consent. The rest of the journey, taking roughly five minutes, was spent in silence. When Kuro finally saw light again, it was the dim flickering of a few torches illuminating several shelves of military paraphernalia. Each shelf was lined with a copious amount of armor, helmets, clothes and boots, making the Earthbenders' job of blending in too easy.
Quickly trying on their disguises, the pair sealed the tunnel used to enter the room. "Problem," Kuro says.
"What now?" Luo replies, not believing something could be going wrong already.
"How are we going to get the armor to Shenji? We can't just walk in and say we've got armor for the prisoner!"
After a few moments of thought, Luo comes up with an idea. "We go in, get him out, and lead him out of the camp as if he's a prisoner!"
"Not sure how we can convince him to go along with it, but it's the best we've got." The two walk out of the building cautiously,
only relaxing after seeing that no one in the camp took the time to notice them. "This could be easier than I thought," Kuro
"Don't go ahead of yourself. We could always have some sort of problem," Luo reminds him as they continue walking through the camp.
The camp, Kuro was surprised to find, happened to be teaming with soldiers relaxing and making conversation, much like his own unit.
The laughter on the soldier's faces was new to Kuro; he always saw them as their skull-themed faceplate; an anonymous enforcer of the Fire Lord's whims. Happiness and humor was not what he was taught to expect when faced with Fire Nation soldiers.
"This shouldn't be happening. The Fire Nation is supposed to be, I don't know, killing people in their spare time. They're not supposed to have lives!"
"My dad always said that life happens wherever you are. The Fire Nation has people too, most of them just seem to not have hearts," Luo blandly states as they approach the prison. Three men guard the prison door, seeming to be in conversation between each other about a topic neither Earthbender particularly cared about. Approaching the three, Luo is the first to speak. "Hey there guys," he says in a lax tone atypical of the strictly disciplined soldier. "You got a lucky break. The General sent us to take over your shift."
"Really?" one asks, pushing off of the side of the building he was leaning against. "That's not like General Mung."
Having picked up on the ruse, Kuro steps in. "Hey, if you want to keep working, go ahead. We don't know why he decided to have us come here, but you got off early today."
Another soldier who resembled the first approached him and tapped him on the back. "Yeah, lighten up Tazo. Today is just our lucky day. Now let's go relax before Jidui finds us another job!"
"Fine. Let's go Inata," he says, turning his head back towards the final soldier, who simply nods and begins on his way. Tazo and the other soldier follow, with Tazo and the first soldier waving and signaling their thanks for an unexpected break. After they were far out of sight, and when no other soldiers were paying attention, the Earthbenders snuck into the metal box.
The three prisoners sat within their confines; none making a sound. Each man was deep in thought, hoping to find a way to bring freedom to his friends. Gahn sat against the wall with his eyes closed, a tranquil demeanor emanating from him. On the other side of the building, Kuan was still unable to move. His mental activity was making up for his lack of motion; his eyes quickly darted from one part of the room to another as he attempted to formulate a master strategy. Shenji casually drifted from one possibility to the next; his thoughts never lingered on a single possibility for more than a few moments, as he felt each idea was too ineffective. He was briefly distracted by the conversation outside the building, but could not, as usual, discern what was being said. After giving up on listening, Shenji stared at the bars to his side. The soldier let his head fall back, striking his skull on the cold metal behind him. The headache was nothing compared to the pain of lethargy. Shenji thirsted for more; knew he could do more. Despite his desires, he was pent up in a cage for the pleasure of invading barbarians. Having spent a relative eternity reflecting on their options, Shenji decided it was time the group pooled their ideas as a sort of springboard. "So, anyone got anything?"
"Nope," Kuan bitterly says, turning his head towards the two Earth Kingdom soldiers.
"I have not made any progress in our escape attempt, but I have realized that my recent back problems have been from sitting against the bars instead of the wall. Shenji, I'd recommend moving," he calmly says with a smile.
"Don't worry, he does that a lot," Kuan says to a disappointed Shenji. "But I'm confident that he'll come up with the idea that will get us out of here."
The group's plotting was cut short by the door screeching open. Shenji cringed at the horrid noise, while the other two prisoners simply closed their eyes slightly. Curious as to who entered yet cautious as to not seem suspicious, Shenji turned slowly. His vision was simply unreal. "So, Shenji, ready to get out of here?" Kuro asks, his familiar face grinning. Shenji is taken aback by the sudden entrance of his friend, rendering him unable to breath for a few moments. When he is finally able to gasp his needed air, Kuro takes it upon himself to explain. "I know, you're wondering how we got here. Pretty much, we stole some uniforms and walked on in here. Now we're getting you out!"
The prisoners watched in silence as their liberators located the keys to their freedom. As they approached his cell, Shenji realized that he must act on behalf of his friends. "Let them out too," he says, gesturing towards the cells on either side of him.
"Yeah, please do," Kuan says from his cell.
"I hadn't even noticed them there," Kuro replies. "Are you sure it's a good idea?"
"More sure of this than anything we're doing," Shenji assertively states. "They're coming with us." Kuro nods, accepting Shenji's judgment without a second thought. He releases Shenji first, then moving on and opening Gahn's cell.
"You're finally free, sir."
Standing up and exiting the cell, Shenji notes a subtle joy in the man's movements. "Thank you, sir, for risking your life to rescue your friend from this prison. I can be honest when I say that it will take that kind of valor to finally win this war." Shenji takes the keys and unlocks Kuan's cell, approaching the bound Waterbender with the key to his freedom.
With a few swift turns of the key, Kuan was standing on his own feet for the first time in a year. Though he first doubled over, he was quickly invigorated enough to stand alone. "How are we getting out?" the Waterbender asks while rubbing his wrists.
"Well, we only brought enough clothes for one person's disguise."
Kuan leans backwards, stretching and letting out a loud groan. "We should have Gahn do it."
"Any reason?" Luo asks skeptically. "I don't want this plan to crash and burn on a whim."
"Look at him; he could pass for an officer. He can walk around with an official and dignified air, and we can use his authority to lead us out. Trust me, I've had to get out of my share of sticky situations. I think he's the man for the job."
Bowing to show reverence, Luo poses the offer. "Sir, do you want to do this? If not, I'm sure we can come up with another plan."
"I've been saying this a lot, but I'm no sir. And if it helps you all out, it'll be my honor." With that, Luo and Kuro pulled out all Fire Nation clothing they could spare and gave it to the aging Earthbender.
After he was fully prepared, Gahn was in perfect disguise. "I know he's Earth Kingdom, but I still want to start attacking him," Kuro muttered to Shenji, who then realized the plan was ready for action.
"Now what do we do?" Gahn asked in a deeper, more imposing voice.
"Now we're just going to walk out quietly."
Kuro's eyes lit up with alarm. "That's never going to work! You said you had a plan!"
Luo turns his head back, whispering harshly to detract attention. "I said I had a plan to get us in, not to get us out. I guess we'll have to play this by ear..."
"I take it these friends of yours are not the best at planning?" Kuan whispers to Shenji.
"Only one of them is my friend, really. But no, he's not the best at planning."
"We're all going to die in the middle of a Fire Nation camp," Kuan blandly states, preparing to leave.
"All right, then," Luo states. "For this to work, it's going to need to be convincing. Kuro and I will walk behind each of you, with our officer in front. He'll handle any questions we have from any soldiers. We just need to get to the outside of the camp as quickly as we can."
Having found two sets of handcuffs in the jail, Luo and Kuro placed them around Kuan and Shenji's wrists, locking them but keeping the keys in each soldier's hand. Kuan's idea was to create the illusion of stability, but keep the pair's reactive potential against threats. "Let's just go," Kuan says blandly. After taking a deep breath, Gahn opens the door and takes his first step into sunlight in years. He is followed by Shenji, who is being escorted by Kuro. Luo is holding Kuan in a similar fashion as the group of five continues through the camp. The Fire Nation soldiers pay more attention this time, as prisoners going out are usually a sign of an execution. Some look with a smile as Kuan glances menacingly towards them. "Scum," the Waterbender mutters under his breath.
As Gahn walks turns around a corner, he encounters a burly man whose large sideburns were an indication of both his temper and his size. Gahn moves to pass the soldier, but is verbally stopped. "Soldier, how dare you disrespect your general in such a manner."
Gahn enters into a deep bow, clenching his fist into his palm as his torso descends to show respect. "My apologies, sir. I must have been thinking of something else. Please accept my condolences for my trespass."
"Be thankful for my mercy. Ensure it doesn't happen again." Gahn bows again as the General paces past, leaving his aides in the dust.
As he passes the corner, he sees the prisoners. "What are you doing out of here?" he exclaims in fear.
"Hi there,," Kuan darkly says, his sneer growing as he witnesses the General's terror.
"You were locked away! You were going to be shipped to the Fire Nation!" he says, backing up slowly, clearly mortified at his current foe.
"No one is going to control where I go anymore," Kuan announces, turning the key and letting his shackles fall to the ground. Pulling his arms up vertically in front of him, Kuan tears water from the plant life around him, creating a stream of water pulsating diagonally around his torso. The Waterbender performs a cartwheel, vaulting over Mung's motionless body while spreading his hands.
Water expanded down upon the Fire Nation General, forcing him onto his knees and freezing most of his body in place. With his remaining water, Kuan forms a blade extending five inches past his clenched hand. "You are going to pay for what you have done," he informs the stunned Firebender. Approaching from behind, Kuan places the makeshift blade under Mung's right eye. "You're going to wish you had been honest for the first time in your life," he whispers, before plunging the blade into his face. Ignoring Mung's screams, Kuan carves a large arc in the Firebender's face. The blade itself chipped, prompting a quick pause to refine the blade.
In the seconds that it took Kuan to incapacitate Mung, the prison escapees were surrounded by Fire Nation soldiers. "No mercy to traitors!" Luo and Kuro turned to protect the weaponless Shenji as the Firebenders began to attack, raising an earth shield to defend him before attacks came his way. The Earth Kingdom soldiers were wise to have begun fortifications, as the Firebenders attacked immediately. Luo began the first retaliation, sending several stones at each grouping of soldiers. While several are stalled by the attack, more continue their onslaught.
Three soldiers leap forward and combine attacks, the center soldier letting out a ferocious cry as his blast blazes forward.
Following their model, Kuro and Luo raise a thick slab of rock to block the attack. Kuro parts the stone slab and smashes his fist into the ground, creating pillars in the ground that knock the three attackers into soldiers behind them. "Now, run!" Luo orders, smashing a fist into the ground, turning the raised stone into scattering rocks the size of pebbles that took out several nearby Fire Nation soldiers.
"Why didn't you ever do that during a battle?" Kuro asked as he begins running through the hole in the soldiers.
"I didn't know it would work!" he replies, pulling Shenji along with him.
"Good to know it did," Shenji adds, leaning down and picking up an unconscious soldier's spear. Approaching a corner, they see Gahn defeating the final man in a group of seven soldiers. With a swift elbow to the face, Gahn incapacitates the final soldier, turning and surveying his surroundings as his opponent falls to the ground.
"Is it time to go?" Gahn asks with a smile.
"Yeah, and we're only going to find more trouble if we wait up!" Luo shoots back, motioning for the false Fire Nation officer to move on.
The soldiers sprint out of camp, using their bending to defeat startled guards. The soldiers would come out of an alley, shocked to see prisoners sprinting out of the campsite, only to be met with a fierce water whip or miniature landslide. "Which way is out?"
Shenji asks, knowing nothing about the campsite's layout.
"Don't ask me, the camp has changed a lot since I've been locked away!" Gahn replies with a chuckle. "Wouldn't your friends know about how to get out?" he adds.
"We came in underground. We have as much of an idea as anyone else," Kuro answers. The Earthbender nearly runs into Luo, who had stopped at a clearing. Three soldiers, the same ones that were guarding the prison earlier, stand and approach the escaped prisoners.
"What are you doing with the prisoners?" the first soldier asks. He wore a scowl, infuriated that his trust had been breached.
The silent guard was the first to respond, having already analyzed the situation. "They were never Fire Nation soldiers. They came to get their friend, and they're trying to get out before they get stopped. Pity their plan won't work," he says with a grin, uncharacteristic of his usual apathy.
"Then it's simple," the final soldier replies. "We've got to stop them. Inata," he says, gesturing to the large soldier, who nods. "and Tazo," he says, turning to a soldier he resembled. "Who gets the first honors?" he says with a smile. Inata ignored the young soldier's offering and thrust his fists forward, sending two jets of fire Luo and Kuan. Luo stomps and raises his right hand, lifting a diagonal slab of earth to block both blasts.
Kuan vaults over the raised slab and tears water from the surrounding bushes, using his new arsenal to unleash a spike rain on the Fire Nation soldiers. Tazo ran to the front of the group and surrounded his friends in a dome of fire, melting the ice and protecting the soldiers within. When the inferno cleared, the youngest soldier sprinted forward with a sword in hand, a powerful mental rush enhancing his natural speed.
Taking his new spear, Shenji moved out to the side in order to divide the styles of combat. Shenji assumes his stance sees the swordsman change course to approach him instead. When he was within range, Shenji used the spear to sweep his enemy's feet from under him. The swordsman avoided the blow, leaping into the air and slashing at Shenji's neck. After backpedaling to dodge, Shenji stops and stabs at his foe with the blade. Shenji's spear is deflected by his enemy's sword, leaving both soldiers open for attack. Shenji makes use of the situation, taking the opportunity to kick the swordsman in the center of his torso. As he falls, the swordsman catches Shenji's leg, taking him down as well.
Kuan and Kuro had teamed up on Inata, while Luo and Gahn fought Tazo. Each Firebender proved to be his own challenge; Inata's ferocious attacks kept Kuro on the defensive while evaporating most of Kuan's water and Tazo's skill outmatched the rusty Earthbender so much Luo had to keep watch over him during the battle. Kuan swiped his ice daggers at Inata's face, hoping to defeat the Firebender through physical incapacitation. Inata, however, sent small fire blasts that intentionally melted Kuan's ice before it hit its mark. Kuro launched several attacks at the Firebender, each either dodged or deflected. While Kuan began distracting Inata, Kuro began sent earthen columns at the raging Firebender. Removing his attention from Kuan, the large Firebender rolls out of the way to avoid the series of attacks intended for him. Instead of continuing on frivolously, they had an unintended side effect.
From the corner of his eye, Tazo sees a horrific sight. Kuro's attack struck Shenji's opponent in the neck, whipping his body in an unnatural, spastic motion. When the dust cleared, the swordsman laid sprawled on the ground, his blade sheathed in the ground. "!" Tazo screams in shock. Before he can approach the body, he is struck in the back by Luo's bending. The second solder succumbs to the battle and falls to the ground, unable to continue. Inata turned to see what Tazo's exclamation was for, giving Kuro enough time to subdue him as well. With a thud, Inata collapsed to the ground, letting the group of escapees go to freedom.
Turning, Gahn sees larger a group of soldiers approaching through the camp's narrow pathway, numbering more than the group had previously defeated. "More are coming!" he announces, alerting the group to their impending danger.
"We need to go now!" Luo orders, taking charge and backing a few steps away.
"They'll never stop chasing us, will they?" Shenji asks.
After a sigh, Gahn lets out a chuckle. "I never told you how my friend's proverb ended," Gahn said with a faint smile. "If you can't go up, then make it easier on the next person trapped. I am staying behind. I've been here long enough," he says while turning his back on the group.
"Gahn, we're not leaving you!" Kuan exclaims.
Looking back with an expression of rage, he calmly states his terms. "If you don't leave now, I will fight you off myself." In his career as an assassin, Kuan had never been as terrified as he was of his friend's fury. "I'm warning you. If you don't leave now, we'll all die here!" the old officer orders, his face rendered nearly unrecognizable with his dark, grimacing stare. "Go now!" he reiterates, while spreading his feet wide.
Being already ahead of the pack, Luo is the first to listen. "If he refuses to leave, we can't stay here."
"If you leave now, I'll come find you," Gahn says, his voice calmer yet still retaining its urgency.
Nodding his head, Kuan winces slightly. "You better come back!" Kuan screams, immediately turning and running out of the camp. Luo begins following him, with Shenji and Kuro picking up the rear.
"Kuan knows he will never see him again, right?" Kuro asks solemnly, quietly enough so that Shenji is the only one who can hear.
"I'm sure of it. It's what he needs to believe. It's what's going to keep him going," he replies, equally as calm, while pulling ahead. Kuro bowed his head and powered forward, leaving the Fire Nation camp behind.
Night had fallen on the land, and the four surviving members of the escape all sat against several nearby trees. Kuro had brought back Shenji's hammers, and everyone present was wearing their nation's clothing. They were sitting in silence and had been for nearly an hour. Kuan stared blankly into the darkness, while Shenji simply relished his freedom. Luo was the one who broke the silence.
"Alright, I've given you long enough. You two are coming with me," he orders, pointing at the two Earth Kingdom soldiers.
"Wait, what?" Shenji asks.
"Don't take them," Kuan asks, having not moved from his state of repose.
"What makes you have an opinion all of a sudden?" Luo asks the Waterbender. "You don't even know them!"
Kuan slowly turns his head to face Luo, giving the soldier a stern stare before beginning his address. "I know that my friend and mentor would sacrifice his freedom to see their mission go through. If it is that important to him, it is that important to me, and is more than worth the freedom of these two men. I'll ask you again, please don't take them," he says, never once raising his voice.
"My own life is riding on their return. If their mission is so important, I'll let the officers decide," Luo says, approaching the soldiers in blatant disregard of Kuan's plea.
Kuro springs to his feet immediately. "You're not going to take Shenji. The deal was between you and me. Leave him out of it."
"But the deal was made concerning him. You're both coming," Luo calmly states.
Kuan silently rises from his seat, pulling water from the tree behind him and from nearby plants. "They will go free!" he bellows, forming the water into a whip and wrapping it around Luo's torso. He then throws soldier against a tree, freezing the water around his torso to the tree. With the remainder of the whip, Kuan encased Luo in a sheet of ice, leaving only his face free. As Luo struggles in vain, Kuan gives him a calm message. "I owe you a debt, so I repay it with your life. I owe these men a debt, so I repay it with their freedom. I owe Gahn a debt, and I will repay it by aiding them on the mission he sacrificed his freedom for. The next time I see you, I hope you will have reconsidered what Gahn gave up for you."
"So you're just going to leave me here?" Luo asks, hoping for pity.
"We are going to leave now," Kuan states, turning to Shenji and Kuro, who nod in both agreement and thanks. "And the ice will eventually melt. Then you will be free to go. I ask that you give us one day."
Luo watched with anger as his targets, so close within his grasp, walked away into the forest. Eventually calming down, Luo began the long wait until his eventual release.
When the ice shell melted enough for Luo to break through, night had fallen. After reorienting himself, Luo trudged back to the site of his challenge in the cold darkness, knowing full well that Cren would have something obnoxious to say. Even so, he knew that he wouldn't say much, very beneficial to Luo's love of silence. As he enters the campsite, he finds Cren leaned up against a tree trunk basking in the light of a campfire. "So, expert hunter... Where is your prey?"
"I didn't find them." Luo knew that now was not the time to mention that he had them within his sights; Cren persisted anyway.
"Aww... So I guess you're just not as good as you thought you were, are you?"
"I'm plenty good as I think, Cren. I'd recommend examining your own hubris before making outlandish accusations," the more refined soldier says with a stoic demeanor. As Luo predicted, Cren had nothing to say.
Sitting down in front of the fire, Luo sighs and closes his eyes, reflecting on the day's events. I may not know what motivates them to leave, but something tells me that it needs to be done, he thinks to himself, sighing as he realizes his own subtle belief in the new trio's cause.
This chapter was part of a lengthy process needed to introduce Kuan into the main series. In the original drafts, The Bos had Kuan simply encounter Shenji and Kuro while traveling down a river. After realizing how unrealistic the situation sounded, The Bos knew he needed to change it. All other characters were developed in order to support this event, the most notable being Gahn, whose death served as an epiphany to Kuan. The conclusion of this chapter concludes the origin arc of the series, and the main quest towards the series' plot is able to continue from here.
- This is currently the longest chapter of
- It also took the longest to write.
- This is how Mung got his scars.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
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