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|Lightning War, Part 2|
Book 1: Deceit
Writer Who Has Yet To Make An Account
August 4, 2010
A Street in the Fire Fountain City
"Are we there yet?" Sokka whined.
"No. Now shut up," Zuko replied shortly.
"...How about now?"
Kya smiled, strolling comfortably between the two. Even moments away from an important battle, her uncle seemed unable to be anything other than amusing. Every few seconds, he saw fit to pester Zuko about trivial matters. Zuko was obviously annoyed, but Kya thought that Sokka had the right idea. There really wasn't any point in making the situation more intimidating than it already was. A little humor was nice.
Kya was pretty sure that she had ended up in one of the best groups. Of course, she would have liked to be with her mother and brother or with one of her friends, but there was something about Zuko and Sokka that made her feel very comfortable. Obviously, there was Sokka with his jokes... But Zuko had some kind of quality to him that eased her worried mind and made her feel at peace. Perhaps it was just his quiet attitude, but Kya knew that, as long as he was around, she found it easy to remain calm.
"Hey, Zuko!" Sokka began once more.
"No!" Zuko shot back. "We are not there yet. You would know if we were, because there would be a giant fountain spouting flames in front of you!"
"Right... So how about now!?"
"Sokka!" Kya laughed. "Quit bothering poor Zuko. It'd be a shame if you two got into a fight before we even get there."
"Yeah," Sokka answered, "I guess you're right, Kya. So, tell me... Are we there yet?"
"Yes!" Zuko practically shouted. "We're here! Are you happy, you crazy igloo-man!? We're here, we're here, we're here!"
"Uh-oh," Kya said. "Sokka, I think you broke him."
Sokka chuckled, but as Kya turned to gaze upon the scene before her, she was suddenly unable to find much humor in their situation.
Alongside a Quiet Factory
"Hey, Mom!" Gyatso called, staring around in awe at the unfamiliar city. "Is it true? What Sokka told me?"
"Hm?" Katara replied. "What's that?"
"Do you and Toph really have criminal records here?"
Katara pursed her lips tightly together and shot him a sharp look. Gyatso felt his own eyes widen. So it was true!
"Why exactly did he choose to share this special piece of information with you?" Katara questioned.
Gyatso shrugged, distracted by the architectural style of the buildings. He would never admit it, but he thought that architecture was one of the coolest things in the world. There were so many styles and so many purposes... Of course, no one would ever expect Gyatso – the single hottest guy in the world, in his opinion – to be interested in something so mathematical, so he kept it to himself.
"My guilty pleasure," he thought contentedly.
"Gyatso... Why are you staring lovingly at that random house?"
Gyatso whipped around to face Cyrene, who was looking at him with a highly confused – and perhaps somewhat concerned, in terms of his mental stability – expression on her face. Rohan walked beside her, looking utterly disinterested by the conversation.
"Oh!" Gyatso said, quickly formulating an excuse. "I was just thinking of how awesome it would be to SMASH these stupid buildings!"
"Mm," Rohan replied. "The architecture is kind of nice, though."
"Uh... Ha! Who needs architecture when you can DEMOLISH!"
"Alright!" Cyrene broke in. "Gosh, forget I asked."
Katara stopped, gazing around at their surroundings. They were standing between a line of houses and a factory that emitted thick puffs of steam. Her blue eyes were intense, as though she were searching for something. Then, in a rapid action, she bended the steam close to her and lifted it into a fog screen.
"Mom, what're you doing?" Gyatso asked.
Katara did not get a chance to answer. Instantly, they were surrounded by a group of the same people who had attacked them by the docks. At least, he thought that they were. It was difficult to see anything through the cover of fog that Katara had provided, but he knew that it was necessary. That meant that the rioters could not see them either.
"Be ready to defend yourselves," Katara instructed. "We won't accomplish anything until I take this down, and they'll see us as soon as I do. Cyrene, once we've weakened them enough, you and I can begin to immobilize them."
Cyrene pulled an arrow from the quiver on her back and strung it on her bow. Beside her, Rohan pulled his enormous sword from its sheath, gripping the black handle with one strong hand. In his other hand, he held a round, metallic shield, engraved with the logo of the Water Tribes. Gyatso remembered that Rohan had once said something about how it was a modernized version of earlier models. Of course, he had said it in so few words and with such little expression that Gyatso hadn't found it too memorable.
Instinctively, Gyatso began to take a stance for airbending. Then, however, he remembered the protective fog screen that his mother had drawn up around them and began to relax. There was nothing he could do.
Katara lifted her arms slowly, concentrating on the steam. At her will, it condensed into liquid water and rushed forward, engulfing several of their opponents at once. Then it stopped and froze into ice, trapping them where they stood. Although momentarily stunned by her attack, the other rioters quickly pulled themselves together and charged in the direction of the small group.
Cyrene let her arrow fly, and it struck a firebender in the leg. He screamed, falling to the ground and clutching the wound.
The two sides clashed.
In a Dimly Lit Alley Lined with Houses
"They're up ahead!" Toph hissed under her breath. "We're catching up pretty fast. Keep up, fan girl!"
"Toph, I'm right next to you," Suki muttered.
Liv kept pace easily with the older women, smiling with anticipation. It had been a long time since she had fought an opponent worthy of her skill. A battle was just what she needed right now.
"Down here!" Toph called.
Liv came to a stop at the mouth of a dark alley, adrenaline pulsing through her veins. Toph had been right; at the back of the small passageway was a small group of people, armed with simple weapons such as pitchforks and small knives. Liv smirked. There was no way these imbeciles could take on three experienced fighters. Victory was certain.
She thought too soon.
The doors of the unassuming buildings that lined both sides of the narrow alley slammed open, and a mass of rebels swarmed out into the tiny space. A line of ominous-looking men shot fireballs from their fists, and Toph raised a wall of earth to block the sudden onslaught. Liv whipped around to face the line of firebenders behind her, hastily bending the flames back upon them. Unable to retaliate, they leaped out of the way of her vicious attack.
"Nice one!" Toph complimented her casually, as though they were not surrounded by an army of foes who wanted their blood. In the same breath, she turned and wiped out a line of attackers with a heavy block of earth.
Liv turned around quickly to make sure that Suki was holding up well. The former Kyoshi Warrior was beating up a man twice her size, using her superior agility to outmaneuver him. As he was thrown through the wall of one of the buildings, Liv decided that Suki was in no need of help.
"Oh, shoot!" Toph exclaimed suddenly. "Guys, hurry up!"
"What!?" Liv demanded, punching another firebender in the face.
"Why?" Suki questioned. "Aren't you having fun?"
"I'll tell you later!" Toph replied "Just hurry up and get this over with. We need to get to the fire fountain as soon as we can!"
At the Fire Fountain Plaza
Kya panted, shooting yet another jet of water out in front of her as a wave of attackers crashed upon her. Her muscles ached, and she was beginning to become exhausted. They had been at this for awhile now, and there seemed to be no end to the huge number of rebels that had been sent to meet them at the fire fountain.
She risked a quick glance over her shoulder, where Zuko and Sokka were still fighting valiantly to hold off the endless forces. Despite their predicament, she could not help but be amazed by their strength. But she knew that, if they wanted to come away from this fight, she would have to be strong as well, and she did not want to show weakness in front of the two men who had been like fathers to her.
Kya barely turned in time to defend herself from her opponents as they shot more flames in her direction. She brought up her bending water in front of her, barely staving off the attack. When the steam cleared, she gazed in dismay of what was left. She had brought a full supply of water with her, but the fire produced by these skilled fighters was hot enough to evaporate it at a greater speed than she had anticipated. Judging by the amount of water she still had, this battle absolutely could not go on much longer, or she would be left defenseless.
Startled by the sudden outburst, Kya twisted her neck to look at Sokka. He was pulling off some kind of strange move that made him look a bit like a flightless bird, but he seemed to be just as spirited as he had been at the beginning of the battle. But her attention was not held long by his antics. Kya's eyes fell on the fire fountain, which spouted flaming oil, and an inconspicuous smile touched her lips. She did still have one option, if she ran out of water to bend...
Oh well... Desperate times call for desperate measures.
"Kya!" Zuko yelled over the noise. "Watch out!"
Kya barely had time to react. Instinctively, she surrounded herself with a veil of water just in time to watch a wall of flames crash against her feeble defense. She braced herself, waiting for the pain of burning into a small pile of smoldering ashes, but it never came. The screen had been enough, but just enough, to block the flames. With that, the water was completely gone.
Darn. I really didn't wanna hit people with flaming oil!
But that was before they made her mad.
Kya bended the searing oil from the fountain into a wall that forced her enemies to back away from her, then separated it into a million tiny droplets. With a flick of her fingers, she shot the beads of oil forward, taking care to hit her enemies in areas of their bodies that would not permanently maim them. At once, the tide turned, and they began to shove past each other in an attempt to get away from her, screaming in pain as they went.
"Sorry!" Kya called after them. "It's for your own good! Really!"
"Dang, girl!" Sokka called. "If I've ever offended you, I'm really, really sorry."
"WE'RE HERE TO SAVE YOU!"
Kya raised her eyebrows, turning her eyes in the direction of the unnecessarily loud greeting. Liv had charged into the fray, one fist raised above her head. When she saw the retreating figures, however, she lowered her arm and frowned disappointedly.
"Looks like we're a little late," Toph noted, flinging a rock at one of the last rebels to remain fighting.
"Pfft," Liv said. "We shouldn't have bothered. Totally wasn't worth the fuss..."
Kya looked at Zuko in confusion, noticing the thoughtful expression on his face. Before she had a chance to blink, he darted forward at full speed and grabbed one of the defeated attackers by his collar. His gold eyes were livid; for once, Kya found herself actually frightened by his anger.
"Let's go!" the man demanded defiantly.
"Shut up!" Zuko shouted in his face. "SHUT UP! What the hell is this!?"
Kya turned around just in time to see Katara running toward them with Gyatso, Rohan, and Cyrene following close behind. Her mother's eyes were concerned, and she stopped a few feet away from the Fire Lord, one hand raised as though to lay it on his shoulder.
"Tell me who's behind this!" Zuko demanded. "Tell me! I know you're the leader of this asinine plan, putting all these poorly-trained people in danger. Tell me who's idea it was! There's no way this revolt was just a local squabble."
"No... But it's just what you deserve, you pathetic excuse for a ruler," the man sneered. "Associating this great nation with those Water Tribe savages and Earth Kingdom clowns. Befriendingcommoners! But we'll see the Fire Nation restored to its former glory. A change is coming, and you can't stop it. You can't stop us."
"Who's 'us'?" Zuko interrogated.
"The Knights of the Phoenix," the man replied snidely. "The saviors of the old order. Haven't you figured out by now that this took funds? Who else could have done such a glorious deed in this place? This confrontation, where oppressed citizens were put down by an elite force of the Fire Lord's benders, will not be forgotten any time soon..."
"Enough," Katara broke in suddenly. "Zuko..."
"I know," Zuko said, his voice dangerously low. "I've heard enough. We can take him back to the Palace City, have him tried there for treason... Let's go home. Now."
Kya blinked in astonishment, astounded by the scene that had just unfolded before her. And, at the same time, the leader's words sent a cold chill down her spine. The Knights of the Phoenix... Even the name sounded ominous.
She could not explain it, but she had a feeling that this was not the last time they would hear from these 'saviors of the old order'.
- This is definitely not the last time the characters will be hearing from the "Knights of the Phoenix".
For the collective works of the author, go here.