|By Neo Bahamut||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from Neo Bahamut||Adventure, romance||PG-13||See main page||See main page|
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Euryale waved and said brightly, "Hello, Kali! Sorry to keep you waiting!"
"Apologize to the Chief," Kali said simply, turning to open the doors. This put a pep in Euryale's step, and the girls trotted after Kali.
Inside the town hall, the Council was gathered. The Fire Nation Councilwoman glared to her left, where an additional chair had been set up for Keter Aurora, wearing a dark dress that clung to her figure and stopped at mid-calves, as well as a blue shawl and matching, elbow-length evening gloves. For her part, Keter paid her no interest, sitting with her hands folded neatly over the top of the desk. Euryale made a loud squealing noise that was instantly silenced with a harsh glare from Chief Beifong, standing at attention behind Franz.
Euryale stood rigidly and saluted. When the Chief turned her attention back to the Council table, Euryale did the same, noticing additional chairs set up beside Franz and the Earth Councilman. At another desk sat a very androgynous-looking, rail-thin individual with chalk white hair. He or she wore circular, gold-wire glasses, a white dress shirt with black bow tie, dark gold-trimmed vest, and matching cap with upturned-brim. This person, the council page, was sitting bolt upright, clutching the body and earpiece of a candlestick phone and staring intently at it, sweating slightly, as though about to face off against it in an Agni Kai.
"Shouldn't the other delegates be here by now?" Aroma whispered, darting behind Euryale when Chief Beifong refocused her glare.
But Aroma would have her answer soon enough. The second the phone rang, the earpiece shot to the head of the council page, who squeakily announced that they were speaking for the Council. Seconds later, their eyes widened.
"The train is under attack by Purists, Sir!"
The water tinkled softly as a crowd trudged through the high-vaulted sewer tunnels, only a few lantern beams cutting through the pitch darkness.
"This will be our last chance to stop," the Purist Leader's voice rang out, "Check your weapons for jammed firebows, wet ammunition, knotted bolas, or the like."
She squeezed down the line as the others went about their tasks. The Purists had grouped together into 3 distinct platoons, grouped around either Ivan, Amon, or the currently leaderless platoon that she now looped back towards. 25 Purists per platoon, for a total of 75.
"Do you remember your missions?" she asked, coming to an abrupt halt.
"Execute the Triad scum!" a roar came out from in front of her.
Simultaneously, Amon's platoon shouted in unison, "Free our comrades!"
"Retrieve our arms from the evidence locker!" answered Ivan's platoon.
"Correct. Then you are all to return to me so that we may prepare for the counterattack from the boars."
The Purists returned to checking their weapons, taking occasional gulps from canteens. When the Purist Leader saw some of them begin to fidget, casting their eyes around as though searching for a way out, she surged forward. Automatically, her platoon followed her as a wave, and Ivan's and Amon's followed suit.
"Remember, the brutes may seem powerful, but they crumble when you strike at their weak points," she spoke, more to keep their minds on fighting than anything else, "Fire tossing comes from the breath, so strike at their throats. Try to conserve the CO2 bombs. They are limited, and can impede your own vision and breathing as well. Use elevation against water savages, separate them from their weapons. Break a filth thrower's stance to bury them beneath their own dirt."
As she spoke, the tunnel became narrower. Lee and J'nani ran ahead to pack blasting jelly against the ceiling. Once it had been liberally coated and worked into the gaps in the brickwork, they ran back to their places by the Purist Leader's side.
"Fire," she said coolly. On cue, Ivan leveled his metallic firebow at the ceiling. Less than a second after he pulled the trigger, the stones blew apart in a furious blaze. Without missing a beat, Purists with and without shields ran forward. Those with the shields stayed close to their comrades, holding them up to defend their heads, but also waved their arms slightly to waft the cloud of smoke up into the halls above. Those without shields swung their bolas up, wrapping around the shadowy, hazy images of pipes above them.
As they began to climb, other Purists seized the fallen rocks and rushed forward, packing them into a ramp of debris to make the complex more accessible to invasion. The Purist Leader could hear panicked shouts as she climbed it. A burst of orange caught the corner of her left eye, firebending barely visible in the smoke-filled room.
Swinging the bola from her waist, she snared the man's arm and threw him into the wall to knock him out. Registering the outline of the Purist he was fighting rushing forward to finish the job, she turned her attention to her right. A man and a woman, both pale brunettes wearing simple gray jumpsuits were rushing to the door, brown eyes wide with panic as they tried to cover their mouths. Coughing, they frantically gestured behind them with their free hands, sending puddles on the floor shooting well over the invaders' heads, splashing uselessly against the wall. These were no highly trained fighters, just custodial workers.
Ivan dropped the man with a shot to the back of the head, but his weapon was too slow to reload for the other shot. This ceased to matter when the Purist who took out the firebender stepped in front of the woman, grabbing her wrists. She kicked out wildly, but he swept her remaining leg out from under her, forcing her to the ground. While she was dazed, he prevented her from screaming with a quick jab to the throat.
As the Purist Leader led the charge out of the boiler room and into the cramped concrete halls, Ivan could be heard withdrawing his bolt with a wet crunching sound. The Purists reached the stairwell without incident and stormed upward.
They slowed as they entered the cell blocks. Rows upon rows of cells stretched both before and above them, most accessible only via hanging ledges and staircases of steel, so that the guards could see the entire prison at all times. Splitting into 2 groups, they stayed under these ledges, slinking through shadows, ducking under the peep slots in the cell doors.
This cover would not last long, but it would be enough. Far above them, at the left-hand corner of the 3rd "floor," a guard turned towards them, but was dispatched by Ivan as he opened his mouth to raise the alarm, slumping backwards and sliding down the wall. Another guard was brought down just as he turned to see what had happened. Ivan next aimed for a guard running across the 5th "floor," but even a Yu Yan archer armed with their latest model of firebow would be hard-pressed to hit that target. After he pulled a switch and sirens began singing, he lifted his arms, trying to raise walls around the Purists.
Using their bolas, several rank-and-file Purists swung up to the 2nd "floor," then the 3rd. The officer swung a cable, knocking a large swath of them down, but soon he was being rushed at from both sides. He attempted to escape by jumping down, but this time, Ivan hit him in mid-jump, before he and his platoon rushed through the door to the office space. Those prisoners foolish enough to come watch saw a knife forced through their peepholes towards them.
A pair of police cruisers sped down the avenue. Euryale could see the shimmering silver of Keter's head in the rear window of the front car. She and Franz had insisted in accompanying Chief Beifong and Kali, though the rest of the Council had stayed behind. This time, Lilith was sitting beside Euryale, the Healers behind them.
"Alright, let's go!" Euryale shouted briskly as she pulled into headquarters, the Chief speeding on ahead. The girls all scrambled to get out, Lilith and Euryale ushering the Healers towards the door. "We need to get you to safety as quickly as possible, so I can go back up the chief!"
But once inside, safety was the last thing they could expect to find; the walls and support beams of the lobby were faintly pockmarked, and they could hear crashes further inside. Beyond that, the building seemed to be deserted. Aroma, who had been leaning on Euryale for support, squeezed closer to her.
"Don't bother," Euryale said as she saw Thiera rush to the desk phone, "I can see that the line's been cut."
"We need to get Aroma and my sister out of here," Lilith said.
"No!" Thiera cried, "If the building is under attack, Healers will be needed now more than ever!"
Aroma nodded vigorously. Taking note of her out of the corner of her eye, Euryale closed her eyes and breathed deeply before snapping them back open, setting her jaw into a determined grimace.
"Okay," she said sidelong at Lilith, "They're right. We need to get them to the infirmary and round up a guard for them as quickly as possible."
And so, looking to avoid the Purists, they rushed through the archway to the right, Thiera supporting Aroma by her shoulders. After going about 20 feet, Euryale held up her hand, signaling to stop. Then she dug her fingers into the wall and quite literally opened it like a sliding door. She caught the amber eye of a Purist running on the other side. He turned toward her and took aim, but Euryale saw the glint of the firebow and jerked her hand, redirecting his shot to the ceiling just before he fired. Aroma yelped as the bolt ricocheted and landed with a clatter near Euryale's feet.
Lilith darted in ahead of her, partially unsheathing her weapon to strike him in the stomach with its pommel. The attacker doubled over and Lilith ducked aside so Euryale could grab him with a cable, bringing his face into the floor hard enough to knock him out. The cord snapped, coiling around him from head to toe, before fusing into a tube of solid steel.
"There are more coming!" Euryale shouted when they stepped through and saw that a crowd armed with firebows was indeed approaching at a gallop, "Let's go!"
And so, as they ran on, she raised her hands, hearing the arrows pelt the wall she raised just in the nick of time. She proceeded after her friends, and they encountered no more resistance en route to the infirmary, save for a locked door, which Euryale easily unsealed.
"Naakée and her sister should be here!" Thiera cried out in alarm, rushing into the room with Aroma frantically hopping to keep up. "Where is she?!" she added as they looked around.
Sure enough, a pale head with short, raven hair peeked out above the desk, trembling down to at least her shoulders. "Th—Thiera? Is that you...?" Moments later, her sister followed suit, looking rather similar to Naakée, but with dark skin.
"I appreciate that you're frightened," Euryale said, "But this is exactly the kind of thing you signed on for."
"She is right," Thiera said consolingly as she put a hand on Naakée's shoulder, Aroma patting her sister on the back, "You should be aware of the standard protocol. I won't force you to put yourselves in danger, but if you fail to fulfill your healing duties, I will have to ask for your resignations."
"N—no, I'll be fine," she answered, gazing up at Thiera with watery eyes. Her sister nodded, looking like she was biting back vomit.
Euryale closed the door and stomped on the ground, screwing her eyes up in concentration. "...I can't feel any officers nearby, and it's not safe to leave you to go look for them."
"Are the Purists coming?!" Aroma asked, a shudder running through her and the intern sisters.
"No, but they are in the nearby halls. I think they're transporting weapons from evidence." After a loud rattling and clanging reverberated through the halls, she added, "And they found the cell door controls."
"So they've just released all of the prisoners?" Lilith asked. "That might work out in our favor, the Agni Kais and Triple Threats still have every reason to hate them."
"Actually, we don't house benders and nonbenders together for safety reasons. If any of them have any experience with the prison layout, they could release anyone they want."
"Such as a former United Forces officer who could check in any time he wished?" Thiera asked rhetorically.
By this point, there were so many footsteps thundering through the halls around them that they didn't need Euryale to explain that the Purists were regrouping. "This is bad," she said, "This could be even bigger than the fight on North Silk Street, we have no way of contacting any reinforcements, and the Chief could be all the way across town by now."
"But we'll be safe in here, won't we?" Naakée asked, she and her sister still shaking from head to toe.
"Actually," Euryale explained slowly without looking back, "It makes more sense that the infirmary would be among the first locations they attack."
Sure enough, the door began to rattle on its hinges as something massive banged into it. Only Euryale and Lilith didn't jump, instead shifting to more rigid stances, the former pushing back against the door with both hands, the latter placing her hand on the hilt of her sword. Eventually, the door finally gave way, almost comically falling out of its frame. Euryale tried to push it back into place with a pair of stiff cables, but an enemy wrenched it out of her grasp with a pair of sickles and tossed it somewhere down the hall. Without skipping a beat, Euryale raised a fist and, with it, a stone wall to keep most of the attackers sealed off in the hall.
A trio of Purists managed to slip through just before the barrier was raised; there was Vyanna with her swords drawn, a tall and thin masked Purist with the pair of sickles, and a hulking wall of muscle of a man with a shield on each arm, cast on his left foot, and a missing chunk of stubble that Thiera recognized.
"So," she coldly spoke just above a whisper, "You were a spy the entire time. I believe this is the part where you say, 'revenge is a dish best served cold.'."
"What?" he asked, squinting. "Of course it isn't, that line is awful."
"It most certainly is not!" Thiera shouted, throwing her hands into the air, "You sold food, it is a witticism!"
"Thi, please stop arguing with the enormous thug and get down!" Lilith shouted.
"Oh?" he sneered down at her. "An 'enormous thug,' am I?" Abruptly, he swung an arm like a wrecking ball, still staring at Lilith but aiming at Euryale, who was standing at his side. By this point, she was able to take a boxing posture, and so she quickly raised her arms to defend. Plastic thumped against clanging metal, but the man was 2 heads taller than her and built like a gorilla goat, so even she stumbled slightly, at which point Vyanna darted to her other side.
"I brought you down once," she cried gleefully, "And I can do it again!"
The second she aimed at a gap in Euryale's armor, the metalbender shifted her left foot, the plates rearranging themselves so the sword deflected against solid steel. Vyanna swung her other sword at Euryale's neck and the hulking man aimed another punch at her, but Euryale grabbed Vyanna's wrist and spun so that the lieutenant took the punch to the base of the spine. Euryale then did a backflip, flinging a chunk of concrete up at the bigger Purist's chin, which he narrowly deflected with the arm he wasn't using to hold on to the dazed Vyanna.
Meanwhile, the remaining man had rushed towards Lilith. She drew her blade and slashed in a single motion, but he hooked her sword with the sickles. Shifting them both to his left hand, he drew a bola from his belt and spun it twice before swinging the weights at the side of Lilith's head. She ducked, but the cord caught her braid, and she was pulled down to the floor, barely able to grab the man's foot as he tried to stomp her head. He brought the sickles down to her back, but a burst of water knocked him off-balance, forcing him to roll across the floor.
Behind the desk, Thiera swiped her hand, sending her water zooming across the room to slice the tap off of the sink. Soon enough, water was spraying all over the infirmary.
"I need the both of you to follow my example!" Thiera shouted. She and the intern sisters reared back, sweeping their hands as though drawing a curtain. Stepping forward, they thrust their palms out and, with them, a wall of water, frosting over as it crashed along the ground. Lilith ducked aside and the man jumped on a counter to avoid it.
Quickly tying each end of his bola to the base of a sickle, he threw the left toward Thiera at an angle, only for her to raise a wall of ice to deflect it. He swung the other at Lilith, at which point she ducked and cut the line. Aroma shrieked as the sickle embedded itself into the wall right where her head was a second ago.
Meanwhile, Euryale kept ducking around to the side of the man that was occupied holding his superior. "You may be stronger than me," she taunted, kicking him in the back of the knee, ducking around his counterattack, and aiming a pair of quick jabs into his other side, "But I'm the better fighter. You're too slow, in several ways."
Grunting, nose wrinkled, he made the mistake of trying to charge her, at which point she used her cables to vault over him while he slipped across the slick floor, careening headfirst into the wall. For added measure, Euryale landed with a heavy stomp on his wounded leg, shattering the cast. He went down, clutching his leg with an agonized howl that seemed to revitalize Vyanna, still under his arm.
Rising, she thrust out with both swords, and the second Euryale leaned away, quickly spun her right blade and stabbed downwards into the earthbender's foot. Now it was her turn to grunt. Vyanna once again tried to smack her in the temple with the pommel of her sword, at which point Euryale thrust out with both hands, causing the ground beneath her to lurch and throw Vyanna into the wall.
Pulling the Purist's discarded sword out of her foot, she swung at her, the pair clashing swords. Vyanna gripped her weapon with both hands, angling Euryale's sword down before stabbing upward at her neck. Euryale ducked aside, sustaining a small nick that oozed like a pomegranate, and snared Vyanna's own neck with a cable, tossing her aside. She then fell, her bleeding foot trembling so bad it rolled, dropping her to her knees.
The sickle-armed Purist proved quite flexible, leaping through the air and twisting at odd angles to avoid the ice spikes the waterbenders shot at him, as they moved in front of the desk to get better shots. When he reached them, he quickly wrapped his cord taut around the trio, binding their arms and hips, raising his sickle for a finishing strike. They cried out, struggling against their bonds. Lilith cried out, charging forward. Aroma cried out, and struck him in the arm, which went limp.
He stared at her in shock, but not too much shock to remember to bend over backwards so Lilith's slash went over him, and kick the sword out of her hand. With Aroma busy staring at her fists in awe, Lilith was on her own to twist around the man's slashes, before he snaked behind her back, grabbing her fists and forcing her arms behind her. She decided to head-butt his chin and, snarling with the exertion, duck down to throw him over her head. Traveling through the air like a snowflake, he landed, spider-rat-like, on the desk.
Ever level-headed, Thiera used her breath to freeze the water under Vyanna. As she slid forward, Euryale punched a rock pillar up into her path. She fell over, slipping as she scrabbled to get up.
By this point, a muffled boom and a series of crackling noises signaled that the Purists had managed to pack bombs against the stone wall and collapse it. Waving her hand, Euryale gathered the rock fragments into a wave and slammed as many of the Purists she could against the outside wall, but more poured in. She ducked a hammer swing and punched out, her fist meeting a shield. She was quickly surrounded and jabbed at with stiletto knives.
"Aroma!" Lilith shouted, grabbing the bola cord to pull her opponent off of the desk. "Sword!"
"Oh—right!" Aroma answered, using the desk for support as she hobbled to grab the discarded weapon, which she now saw bore silvery-white etchings of flowering vines running from the gilded guard and up the gentle curvature of the rose-tinged blade. Why would she commission something so beautiful just to jab it into someone's organs? She wondered vaguely as she snatched it and hobbled back the way she came.
Lilith brought a sharp heel kick down on the man's spine, jumping back when he twisted his good arm around and tried to jab her ankle. The waterbending trio blew, freezing the growing amount of water to bind him in a thick layer of ice. When Aroma came back, Lilith took the sword and quickly swiped it across the trio's bindings, freeing them.
The interns made room for Thiera to sway her body at her hips, making sweeping, circular motions with her outstretched arms. The film of water covering the ground spun in concert, gathering up the Purists in a rapidly growing waterspout. Euryale reached up, debris from the battlefield clustering over the mob's heads, before she clasped her fists together, bringing them and the rubble down with a crash.
Vyanna finally found her footing, charging at Euryale's back. Lilith intercepted her, holding her saber by the blade, as if it were a mace. When Vyanna slashed, Lilith snatched her dao in the handguard and twisted, flinging the weapon away before twisting back to swing at Vyanna's chin. The Purist ducked, but found the blade's point at her throat, supported by Lilith's other hand.
"I highly suggest surrender," she said coldly.
Slowly, Vyanna raised her hands, glaring at Lilith, but abruptly she grabbed at the soldier's wrist and jabbed at her side. Seeing this coming, Lilith stepped back and swung the sword like a lever, bringing the guard down hard on Vyanna's head with a surprising, almost humorous ping. She swayed slightly before falling forward with a soft splash. Reluctantly, Lilith flipped her with her foot, and watched her cough into the increasingly pink-tinged water.
"I'll heal Euryale," Thiera said as she walked briskly forward, "The rest of you ensure that there is no risk of the Purists drowning, then we can administer sedation."
"This is bad," Aroma said tremulously, leaning against the desk as the interns cleared Spider-Purist's airway, "That was the Purist Leader's second-in-command... she'll be sure to come looking for Vyanna if she doesn't report back soon!"
"Perhaps she will fall in battle before she has the opportunity," Thiera suggested, sweeping bloody water from Euryale's foot with her right hand while using her left to drag sterile, now-glowing water from her water skin over the wound.
Euryale's grimace relaxed, but she still spat, "Not likely."
For the collective works of the author, go here.