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|By Agent Slash||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from Agent Slash||Drama||PG-13||None yet||N/A|
|Plunged Into Sorrow|
The night still had it's hold on Tanamera Valley. Gazing out at it was a dark-skinned man with a bald head and dressed in Fire Nation armor. Another man approached from behind him. A man with black hair fashioned in a top-knot as well as a beard that ran down his face and a mustache that extended to the same length. "Commander Mangkr," the man started.
"What is it, Bujing?" asked Mangkr.
"Sir, he knows where you are," said Bujing.
"Who knows?" Mangkr asked.
"The man in the mask. He has found you," Bujing replied.
"After all these years since that Zui Zhong fiasco that monster still wants to kill me," Mangkr said, running his hand down the scar on his right eye. "Have I ever actually told you that story?"
"No, sir, you haven't," said Bujing.
"Then listen well, because I am about to tell you now," Mangkr declared. "It was twenty years ago. I was in charge of Zui Zhong Prison: what used to be the deadliest and most inescapable prison on Earth. It was an entire complex built underground and it housed the deadliest criminals in the Fire Nation. One day we captured Jun, the masked man. He had been burning down Fire Nation villages with the most ruthless display of firebending I have ever seen. We somehow managed to subdue him and bring him back to the prison. Once we got him there, we only had him for about thirty minutes and then," Mangkr paused. Clearly, remembering this was traumatic for him. "And then he burnt down the whole damn place. Every last man and woman in that prison was killed except for me. But I did not escape unscathed." Mangkr touched the scar on his face. "And he didn't just burn the place down. He showed all of us who he truly was: the Avatar."
"What?!" Bujing yelled. "The last airbender?!"
"No, a different Avatar. One that has been dead for thousands of years," Mangkr explained. "He killed everyone else so that no one would know of his identity."
"Why have you not informed the Fire Lord of this?!" Bujing asked.
"Because the Fire Lord is busy fighting a war. He can't waste his time chasing after some spirit. No, I have a feeling justice will catch up with our friend soon. I have a feeling one way or another he will see the light," Mangkr said, not knowing just how true his words were.
"Commander, we have six men who are here to see you," a soldier said, interrupting him.
"Who?" asked Mangkr.
"They did not give us their names, but one of them says he is a relative of yours," said the soldier.
"Send them in," said Mangkr.
He and Bujing faced the entrance to the room and saw six men enter. One of them had a small beard, a thin mustache and brown hair and another of them had a feathered top-knot, a beard and a nose ring. The second man spoke first. "Cousin Mangkr!" he exclaimed. "It is so good to see you!"
"Ah, cousin Mongke," Mangkr said, less enthusiastically. "And who are these other people?"
"This is my unit," Mongke said.
"And I am the leader of that unit," said the first man. "My name is Banhen. And this is Ogodei, Kahchi, Vachir, and Yeh-Lu," he said, referring to the four others.
"The Rough Rhinos," Mangkr said. "I've heard of you. Your skills in battle are legendary."
"Yeah, and we're a hell of a singing group, too," Banhen added.
"Why have you come here?" asked Mangkr.
"We just busted out of prison several months ago and we have no place to go," said Banhen.
"So I thought it would be best to stay here with you, dear cousin," said Mongke.
Mangkr pondered this for a moment. "Very well," he agreed. "You will be of use to me by getting rid of the assassins that have been sent to kill me."
"Sounds like fun to me," said Banhen.
"So where exactly is this outpost that we're supposed to storm?" asked Mitsuki.
"It is supposed to be near here," said Hong Wu.
"How much longer before we arrive?" she asked.
"Probably about ten minutes," said Ming.
"So what's the plan for when we get there?" asked Mitsuki.
"We'll have to scan the perimeter once we get there," said Hong Wu.
The trio continued walking through the forest silently until once of them decided to strike up a conversation. "Hey, can I ask why Xiang betrayed you?" Mitsuki inquired. "I'm just curious."
"It's kind of complicated," said Hong Wu.
"We have time," Mitsuki said.
"Alright," Hong Wu agreed. "I don't suppose you've heard of the prophecy?"
"No," Mitsuki replied.
"It says that 'although the conqueror has fallen, a warrior of light will arise and dominate every weakling in his path'. He believed that by siding with the Fire Nation he would be given protection from this warrior."
"Warrior of light? What does that even mean?" asked Mitsuki.
"Neither one of us has ever been able to figure it out," said Ming. "For all we know he could have misread it. It could have said might or something."
"That's not the Xiang I knew," said Mitsuki.
"It's not the one I knew either," said Hong Wu.
"Alright, it looks like we're here," said Ming.
Hong Wu and Mitsuki looked out through the trees and saw it. The outpost was considerably smaller than any of them had expected. "I guess they don't need as much protection as they would in the Earth Kingdom," said Mitsuki.
"Alright, now let's survey the area," said Ming.
Each one of them did a quick scan of the area and saw four separate guard towers atop the structure. "Alright, it looks like we'll have to time our movements," said Hong Wu. "Wait for the guards to turn around then make a run for it."
Then Ming bent a hole in the ground big enough to fit them through. "Or we could just go this way."
Hong Wu grinned. "Good idea," he agreed. He jumped down into the hole followed by Mitsuki and then Ming who sealed the hole shut. The three of them walked through the pitch black tunnel waiting for just the right moment to pop back up. "How will we know when to go back above ground?" asked Hong Wu.
"Trust me, we'll get back up okay," Ming said. They kept walking for a few moments more until Ming said something. "Stop," she ordered. The other two stopped and waited for Ming to do her thing. The woman earthbent the three of them above ground at the entrance to the fortress. Waiting there were several guards. Taken by surprise, the guards were easily defeated by the three assassins who took them down swiftly and silently. Hong Wu stabbed two of them while Ming bashed one in the head with a rock and Mitsuki stabbed the last one.
"Alright, everybody put these on," said Hong Wu, referring to the guards' uniforms. The three of them slipped on the uniforms quickly and marched inside.
"Alright, everybody act natural until we find Mangkr," said Ming.
The three continued to move through the corridors of the building in search of their target. It wasn't until about seven minutes later that a soldier stopped them. "Where are you three headed?" he asked.
"We're reporting to Commander Mangkr's chamber," said Hong Wu. "He sent for us just a little while ago."
"Well, be on high alert. There are three assassins on their way to murder him. We need every soldier we've got to be on the lookout. Got it?"
"Yes, sir!" the trio said simultaneously.
The guard walked off and the three friends breathed sighs of relief. They kept walking until they approached the largest room they had seen yet. "This must be Mangkr's chamber," said Mitsuki.
"This is so easy," said Hong Wu. "We'll make sure he's dead and no one will even know it was us. And the best part is that no one here recognizes us."
They walked up to the door and spoke to the two guards positioned there. "Excuse us, Commander Mangkr sent for us," said Ming.
The two guards opened the door, letting the three assassins in. They walked in and their eyes widened when they saw who else was in the room. Mangkr stood facing them along with Bujing and the Rough Rhinos. "You!" shouted Banhen. He and Mongke blasted two fire streams at them, but the mercenaries dodged the blasts just in time.
"What is wrong?" Mangkr demanded. "Why are you attacking my own guards?!"
"They're the assassins, sir," Mongke stated. "They're the very same ones that left us in prison."
"Isn't this a nice coincidence," said Banhen. "Now we can pick up right where we left off." With their combined strength, Banhen and Mongke shot two bolting fireballs at Hong Wu and Ming. Hong Wu leapt over the fireballs while Ming slid to the side to avoid them. Meanwhile, while their attention was focused on the battle, Mitsuki hurled her meteor hammer and Kahchi and Vachir, wrapping up both of their legs and sending them crashing down to the floor. She then pulled on the hammer and brought them closer to her. This alerted everybody else in the room that the trio of mercenaries was outnumbered.
Bujing aimed at Mitsuki and prepared to take a shot, but was stopped by Ogodei. "Wait, what are you doing?" he demanded. "If you shoot her, then you'll kill our guys!"
"Then they should have thought of that before letting their guard down," Bujing replied coldly. He outstretched his arm and was at least a second away from firing when Yeh-Lu grabbed his arm. "What is the meaning of this, fool?" asked an outraged Bujing.
"Allow me," said Ogodei. He swung his bogo chains and struck the chains forming Mitsuki's meteor hammer, freeing Vachir and Kahchi.
In an instant, Mitsuki unsheathed her sword and pointed it at the two Rough Rhinos. She looked up at Bujing, Ogodei, and Yeh-Lu. "Go ahead," she said. "Shoot me and I'll kill them both."
"That still sounds good to me," said Bujing.
"No, there has to be another way," said Ogodei.
"Don't let him shoot us!" Kahchi yelled to his teammate.
"Everybody freeze," Mangkr yelled.
Hong Wu and Ming were frozen where they stood as they looked up at Banhen and Mongke who were prepared to strike once again. Mangkr took a look around the room, scanning it from where he stood. "You three made a big mistake coming here," he said. "I can have all three of you executed right now. As a matter of fact, I think that's what I'll do." He turned to Mitsuki. "Put down your blade and surrender," he ordered.
"Why should I?" Mitsuki asked.
"I will have my guards outside fire on your friends if you do not lower your weapon," said Mangkr.
While tension filled the air in the room, Hong Wu whispered to Ming. "You see that guy over there with the mask?"
"Yeah," Ming replied.
"He's got a ton of explosives on him. If we can manage to set one off, we could climb through the window safely and take all of these guys out at once," Hong Wu elaborated.
"Okay, but how do we do that?" Ming asked.
"Follow my lead," said Hong Wu. "Okay, we surrender," he said aloud.
"Yes, we can't win. We're no match for you," said Ming.
"Guys, what are you doing?" Mitsuki asked. While her guard was down, Kahchi and Vachir grabbed the woman and forced her hands behind her back. Banhen and Mongke quickly apprehended Hong Wu and Ming as well.
"Put them up against the wall," Mangkr ordered. The Rough Rhinos all did as they were told. Once they reached the wall, Kahchi, Ogodei, Vachir, and Yeh-Lu all stood close by to make sure they wouldn't try to escape while Banhen, Mongke, and Bujing all lined up in front of them, preparing to shoot them. "Ready...aim..." Mangkr was not able to finish his sentence. Hong Wu zipped a concealed knife right into Yeh-Lu's bomb pouch. The Rough Rhino, knowing of the danger, immediately threw the pack to the other side of the room and ran out the door. The other Rhinos joined him shortly after as well as Bujing.
"Move!" Hong Wu shouted. The three of them immediately ran for the windows on the other side of the room as fast as they could, knowing they did not have much time before the grenades detonated. However, Mangkr grabbed Ming from behind.
"I'm not letting you get away!" Mangkr yelled.
Then, the commander was jerked backwards. Hong Wu and Ming saw that Mitsuki had grabbed him. "Go!" Mitsuki yelled. "Get out of here!"
"What?!" Hong Wu and Ming both shouted.
"I'll be fine!" she shouted.
"Don't be so sure!" Mangkr threatened.
"You're sacrificing yourself for us?" Ming questioned. "You hardly know us!"
"You're the only people I've ever really felt close to! You guys inspire me! You're both engaged! You deserve to live longer! GO!!!" Hong Wu and Ming sprinted over to the window and crawled out less than a second before the room exploded. The two were hurled away from the building and landed outside. Once they got back up, the two of them looked at the building. "She sacrificed herself for us," said Ming.
"She really was a loner," Hong Wu added. "She must not have had a real relationship with anyone on any level ever."
"And now she'll never be able to," said Ming, sorrowfully. "Do you think there's any chance she survived?"
"No, I doubt it," Hong Wu replied. The two of them had a moment of silence for their fallen comrade.
"Alright, now let's go see what the third challenge is," said Ming. The two left the fiery complex, vanishing into the woods.
On the other side of the complex, Bujing and the Rough Rhinos were at a loss for what to do. "Perhaps there is a village near here where we can take refuge," said Mongke. "We can look for one."
"That sounds like an excellent idea," said Bujing.
"Thank you for not allowing Bujing to fire on us," Kahchi said to Ogodei and Yeh-Lu.
"Hey, no problem, man," Ogodei replied. "You know our motto: you mess with one of the Rhinos, you mess with all of the Rhinos."
"Well, this Rough Rhino quits," said Banhen.
The other Rough Rhinos looked over at their leader in surprise. "Why, Banhen?" Mongke asked.
"This just isn't my style anymore," said Banhen. "Besides, this group is holding me back. I want to move up in the world, you know? Achieve higher ranks. Besides, I'm sure you'll do a great job as leader, Mongke."
"Me, sir?" Mongke asked.
"Of course!" Banhen said. "You're like a brother to me and you're my second-in-command."
"Very well, my brother," Mongke said.
"You fight with a fire unlike anything I have ever seen before," said Bujing. "If you ever need a favor, send a hawk my way. I'd be glad to work with you again."
"I'll remember that," said Banhen. "Now let's get out of here."
About a day later, Hong Wu and Ming returned to Hiyuri Mountain and were walking up to the top. "Just think, in just a few days we're going to be married," said Ming.
"Yes, I know," said Hong Wu. "I am excited as well. I just want you to know that no matter what we go through that nothing will ever tear us apart. I love you and I always will."
"I know," said Ming. "I love you, too, and I hope the future brings us many opportunities. There's also something I must tell you," said Ming, as soon as they reached the top. Standing there was Jun, staring straight at them.
"Oh, Master Jun," said Hong Wu. "We are back."
"Have you completed the first two challenges?" asked Jun.
"Yes, master," said Ming. "Both Fushin and Mangkr are dead."
"Very good," said Jun. "And now you must past only one more test in order for you to continue serving me. Come to me and I will tell you what it is." Both Hong Wu and Ming were very suspicious of their master, but the couple walked over to him regardless. Still, they sensed something was aloof. Neither knew what it was, but they both had their guards up. Once they reached Jun, he spoke. "You must kill each other."
It took several moments for what Jun said to register with Hong Wu and Ming. Neither of them actually believed he had said it. "I'm sorry, master?" Hong Wu asked.
"You must kill each other," Jun repeated. "One of you will live to be my apprentice and the other will die and get to visit the Spirit World." Hong Wu and Ming looked at each other with absolute disbelief. Neither of them even knew what to begin to say. However, Jun's patience was dissolving. "You will do it or I will kill you both right now," Jun said. Hong Wu took out his knife and walked closer to Ming.
Ming, in turn, was very alarmed. "No! No!" she shouted. "Please, Hong Wu, don't listen to him!" she screamed. "Please, I love you! We can fight him!"
A single tear ran down Hong Wu's face. "Everything is going to be okay," he whispered to her. "Please be quiet. Please." Jun watched as Hong Wu took his knife and stabbed his fiancé in the back. The woman fell to the ground and was silent.
Jun approached Hong Wu. "From this moment on, Hong Wu, you are my one and only apprentice. You shall serve me and follow me wherever I go."
Enraged, Hong Wu looked at his master with teary eyes. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't kill you," he said.
"Even if that was possible, where would you go? What would you do? You would be alone in the middle of nowhere with the Fire Nation army looking for you," Jun retorted.
Defeated, Hong Wu dropped to the ground and bowed his head. "Yes, master. I will serve you."
"Good," Jun said. "Collect your things and meet me at the bottom of the mountain. We are moving to a different location." Jun walked away and left Hong Wu's sight.
"Alright, you can get up now," Hong Wu said.
Ming got up off of the ground and looked at Hong Wu. "I-I thought you were actually going to kill me," she said.
"No, but I have to go with him now. If I don't he'll chase us both down and kill us."
"Are you sure there's no other way?"
"I am sorry, but there is not."
The two lovers embraced each other in a hug, the last one they would ever have. "I love you," said Hong Wu.
"I love you, too," said Ming.
Hong Wu quickly collected his things and left. As he walked down the mountain, he mumbled to himself. "I swear, from now on, I will spend every waking moment of every day thinking of ways to kill you, Jun, you despicable, inhuman monster."
And with that, Ming watched her love walk away, wondering if she had done the right thing by not telling him she was pregnant.
Nine months later, and Ming had arrived on Kyoshi Island. She walked along through the village until she stopped to ask a villager for directions. "Excuse me, can you tell me where Tenshi and Hana live?"
"Yes, they live in that house right down there," said the villager. Ming walked three houses over, approached the door, and knocked. It was answered by Hana.
"Ming! What a nice surprise," she said. "Please come in." Ming walked inside and closed the door. "Tenshi, we have a guest!" Hana called out. Tenshi entered the room and saw Ming.
"Hey, look who it is!" he said excitedly. "And who have we here?" he asked, referring to the two infants in Ming's arms.
"These are my two daughters," said Ming. "I just had them last week. I've been trying to find this place for a while now. Where is your child?"
"Oh, yes," Hana said. "Our child, the one that your friend helped us deliver, she grew very sick and weak and, well, she passed away four months ago."
"Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that," said Ming.
"So, anyway, what brings you here?" asked Tenshi.
"Well, I've decided that I can only care for one of these babies. I simply can't take care of two in my current condition. I was going to give one of them to you," Ming explained.
"Are you serious?" asked Hana.
"Yes," said Ming. "Please raise her right. I will try to do the same with this one."
"What are their names?" asked Tenshi.
"I've decided to name this one Song Wu after her father," said Ming, referring to the one she was keeping. "And this one, I'm naming Suki, after a dear friend of mine who sacrificed her life to save me."
"Suki... that was our child's name," said Hana.
"Well, now you have a new one," said Ming. "Think of this as a chance to start over."
"Thank you so much," said Tenshi. "We cannot repay you enough for giving us this child."
"Please raise her well," said Ming who was getting teary.
"We will," said Hana. "We will love her so much."
"Thank you," said Ming. She got up and left, leaving for parts unknown.
Atop a mountain, Hong Wu stared at the stars in the sky. Every night he stared at them, they reminded him of the night he proposed to Ming. He couldn't stop thinking about her and about how much sorrow had entered his life since that fateful night he left her. He got up, his eyes filled with tears, and screamed louder than he had ever heard himself scream.
For the collective works of the author, go here.