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I landed softly on the tips of my feet, welling up nothing but a tiny haze of dust as I straightened up from my slightly-bended position. The cover of the glimmering darkness was slowly fading away, yet it didn't hinder me anymore. Let them all know the purple-haired demon had returned to Ba Sing Se.
My feet drummed on the concrete of rooftops and walls as I jumped from house to apartment, avoiding the crowded and filthy streets. It was quite hot today, but nothing compared to the time in that dreadful desert. I could still feel the sticky sweat dripping down my bare chest and slip between the folds of my shirt. A sudden breeze made my hair obscure my vision, and the futile attempt of holding one hand to the side of my face held no avail. That was irritating. After a few minutes, I could tell I was approaching the middle ring by the texture of the roofs, the smell of sewers below and the increased number of guards, so I jumped down.
Intentionally, I had been standing on top of the Ranse Mei hotel, or "Stained Rose". There could have been no more suitable name for it. The Love Hotel had been the residence of many generations of historically non-existing scandals and hundreds of unnamed lovers, the dark secrets of near every nobleman ranging from lowly diplomats to military officers to even the Earth King himself. Next to the hotel was a partly-crumbled fountain, the one with the deepest basin of whole Ba Sing Se and once said to be amongst the most awe-inspiring too. Many drunk hobblers had found their irreversible end in it, as some sort of cruel irony. To die drinking. The Lord, thou be merciful.
The bottom of the fountain was composed of shining marble, yet the various chunks of broken bottles and other waist scattered across the floor greatly disfigured it's beauty. During my leap, I saw my reflection within a forgotten mirror shard for a split second. My own blue eyes stared back at me, and I was afraid of them. I didn't saw any sign of humanity in those endless pools. Only pure murderous intent. And I liked it. With a soundless splash I breached the soiled water's surface and upon reaching the fountain's bottom, I flipped around and pushed myself back at the sky, shooting up from the water like a lava plume in a volcanic eruption. Water didn't obstruct me. It served me. It honored me.
It worshiped me.
There was no one in the street, and despite my dive my clothes showed no contact of liquid contact. As I entered the hidden niche which gave access to the small pathway into the Middle Ring, I couldn't help but notice the air was suddenly a lot cleaner. I calmly slowed my pace, anchored that there was no need to hurry here. A messenger boy shoved a pair of letters under the door of a gigantic house, most likely to announce their fortunate migration into the Upper Ring. What a bunch of ass-licking idiots. I had always despised them, the so-called "upper class". Their arrogance couldn't be hidden in the least underneath their wealthy robes, nor could the inches-thick make-up of their women disguise the repulsive ugliness lying beneath.
A patrol of seven earthbenders marched through the still abandoned streets. I had already slipped into a backgarden before any of them could see me, and any further potential suspicion on my part was eliminated by an angry, cocksure politician who shouted at the soldiers out of his bedroom window for waking him up so early. I saw how one of the guys was just itching to bend the crap out of that guy, but it was his taxes that got him his salary, so nothing really interesting happened. The patrol leader excused himself and said something ancient, straight-out-of-the-manual about protecting the citizens' safety above all and other gibberish. As expected, it had no effect at all, but the guy was obviously to sleepy to start a real argument, grumblingly closing his window to step back into his bed that was already squeaking under the weight of his fat-stuffed wife.
The journey into the Upper Ring passed by as a haze to me. I moved instinctively, my mind already stirring behind palace gates. There was no need nor time anymore for silent approach, I'd just bump my way through every person hindering my path. I'd soon all be over. Everything, everyone. Fortunately, - or maybe not, I no longer held any cognitive sense regarding my emotions - there where no hindrances on my way, my pathway thus cleansed of crimson red. The southern gate of the Palace appeared quickly within my vision, as did the ox-pulled cart filled with spices and perfume. The driver was arguing with the guards about his passage and the fragility of his goods, while the guards insisted on checking the carriage on possible dangers. How ironic. I slipped past them in a second, simply walking into the palace grounds. Remarkably easy.
It Got Worse.
The first impact of the earthen trapezoid caught me by surprise. Even though it was several feet away, it's force made me lose my footing for a second. How couldn't I have sensed it? I rested my hand on the rock. It was as dry as sand and as hard as iron. They compressed the rocks? Bastards. Two other rocks were fired at my position. One of them missed, I side-stepped the other one. Once again I felt the arid stone underneath my fingertips, yet my senses reached far further, spreading themselves onto the core of the rock like ancient tree roots. There was still some liquid within the earth, barely detectable, yet present. I closed my eyes, ignoring another projectile coming my way, and retracted my hand from the stone. A thread of droplets dangled motionlessly within the aerial wake. Perfect.
I glanced almost disinterested at another incoming boulder, letting it collide willingly. Specs of dust troubled my eyes as the rock was caved in around my figure, almost welling up an emotionless tear. The remaining projectile mantled me harmlessly, and with a loud thwack plummeted to the ground, smashing apart once it had reached it due it's now-brittle structure. I could only imagine the flabbergasted faces of the Palace Guards whom had just seen their strongest long-range weapon proving to be completely ineffective, and the orders of panic that were distributed by the higher officials. With a gentle pace, I prosecuted my earlier stride to the palace. There was no need to run.
One foot in front of the other, one foot in front of the other, one foot...
The pattern of the tiles I passed remembered me of my childhood days, where I would always try to step on nothing but the small dirt lines between. In a sudden impulse of nostalgic remembrance, I reenacted my infantile game, although it was a lot less animating than before. Probably because my sense of balance had become nigh faultless over the decades, depriving the playgame of most of its tension. If there was any. I forced my mindset back to the present, finding the drizzle of high-speed stones had petered out. Ripping my gaze from the Royal Palace's intricate inlay, I found a new obstacle blocking my fateful path. A green-and-brown wall of flesh and blood sheathed in shining metal plates awaited my arrival, their stances and determination unwavering. If I were to pay the demons a visit anyway tonight, I might as well bring some friends along. Yes, a good reason indeed. Loneliness was so pitiful, even in the afterlife.
I quickened my tread and forwent to run in a straight line like a living practice target. No, I became a gigantic hare, that no longer fled from its bloodthirsty hunters but reversed the role and got it's well-deserved defense. The Main Hall towered high above the soldiers, despite even my odium for it a breathtaking view. There was no time for admiration of any kid, however, as the well-oiled machine of royal earthbenders were already kicking up and flinging their missiles of mother earth at my person, and I had to put in the fullest of my acrobatic expertise to weave a graceful dance through it. A simple manipulation of hydrogen molecules in the air that encompassed me was all it took to suspend myself a tad longer in mid-air, performing a spinning motion to aid in velocity. During the said movement, I flicked both of my arms alternatively at the army gathered to halt me. I could only imagine what went through my opponents' minds upon seeing these seemingly unfruitful - and even quite feminine - displays of agility.
The screams that erupted from their sky-clad lungs were rather inaudible anyhow due the copious amounts of blood that was filling up their throats.
The underside of my cloak got soaked in blood when I carefully tried to step over the corpses. At any other time, I would have cursed, because it was my most expensive and long-lasting piece of clothing. At any other time, but not this day. The stairs that I scaled hadn't changed one bit from twenty years ago. I could do the whole trip blind-folded, but decided it would be best to keep my eyes open for surprises. And, oh look, my believes were not unjustified! And a very pleasant one, I had to say. At the end of the staircase, I found the trembling figure of a scarce old figure with eyes wider than a full moon on a swarthy midnight. His jaw had dropped down, yet it didn't seem that he was making any sound. In a vengeful, symbolic way I gripped his bare forehead between the palm of my hand and with one snatch forced the old geezer on his knees. The way he now gazed up at my person was like a sinner in church, the burning sun wreathing my head transforming me into an angel of judgment.
And that I would be.
The internal organisms of the man were raging beneath my fingertips, the heartbeat pulsating faster than the run of an incited Eel Hound. Whatever conceptions that were rumbling through my soon-to-be-victim's psyche were certainly chaotic, the electric sparks within the brain fluids setting off and on at untraceable speeds. What were they? Regrets? Memories? Or maybe the so-called "movie of life", which every soul that was ready to meet it's maker was forced to see and attend until the very end? It didn't matter, not for me at least. Clenching my fingers oh-so-slightly, I felt how the pressure within the man's very roots of life rose, the precious red liquid it contained raging like a disastrous hurricane. It was unbelievable what the human body could bare, seeing as the old man still managed to slowly reach out his right hand at my chest before his head exploded in bloody chunks of flesh, fluids and pieces of brain. Peacefully, I wiped the blood off my own face before continuing my way, leaving behind the dismembered body like the pile of trash it was.
Long time no see, master.
Tud, tud, tud
I had always adored how the sound of footsteps resonated within the great corridor. It made you feel like you where visiting the mighty heavens themselves, readying yourself for that blissful coronation that would be your first step into godhood. Of course, a hallway directing at the Earth King himself had to be impressive, if not awe-inspiring. They couldn't waist their money on stupid doings such as feeding beggars or curing invalids, could they? Of course not, such ridicule is simply unimaginable within the borders of the spiritual heart of Ba Sing Se. What would the other noblemen and -women say if there would be no superfluously expensive artwork within the framework, or no real bōsīde silk curtains? The shame would be to unbearable for words, not to mention how displeased the various wives and mistresses would be if they would have to life in such a low-class residence. Tss, tss, tss. Whore-screwing assholes. All of them.
The humongous door towering above me as the only obstacle left in my way. Well, disregarding the patrol of Dai Li agents that were probably awaiting my homecoming. The fancy door opened more smoothly than a zebra-eel in an oil bath when I pushed it tenderly. Suspiciousness. My discomfort with the situation was proven more rightful than ever when a barrage of finger-shaped rock bullets welcomed me the second the doors were fully overt. I ducked to the left, protruding my right hand at one of the Dai Li as soon as my landing halted. A familiar feeling of might an control overwhelmed me as I felt the fluids within the unfortunate agent's raging against their usual flow. The agent turned to the left and, without even some kind of protest or expression of unwillingness, shot down his peers with the deadly rock gloves every Dai Li wore. The lonely miserable was than forced into an awkward pose where he placed his outstretched hand at his temple, delivering a last cruel salute to the world. The stone gauntlets then propelled themselves into his forehead and behind his eyes, extinguishing the light within them instantly.
The whole spectacle took less than ten seconds, but even if it had lasted more than an hour the terrified geezer wouldn't have been able to do anything about it. He looked pathetic in that little throne of his, his crown sinked askew when he fruitlessly tried to distance himself from the slaughter by moving back within his seat. Yet, there was no one to help him, and his paralyzed legs - which he surely hadn't caught during any kind of battle-like event - denied him the possibility to run away like the coward he was. I marched silently, side-stepping the noiselessly-screaming corpses gracelessly, and positioned myself in front of the throne and it's forlorn ruler. My face was blank, void of any enjoyment or disgust to the task I was about to commit. It was all part of my destiny.
With one hand, I reached for the Earth King's throat and lifted him up without the slightest tremble. Any effort to protest was immediately crushed literally when I strengthened my grip, feeling how the various vessels and pipes within were eradicated like shadow in the pale sun.
"There's gonna be no chit-chat to get you out this time, brother."
And I was gonna keep my word. For months, years I had pondered on how to spend these last times, even preparing lines and speeches. Yet, when it eventually all came down to this, I did not yearn of extensive talking or rubbing in my victory. I yearned for blood, as soon and as much as possible. I let my grip go of the King's throat, yet he remained suspended, outfoxing reality with the solidified water I had gathered around his limp feet. He would certainly not die as a cripple, if that was a bright side for him. Cupping my hands together, I gently placed them on my brother's chest, to create a link between my spiritual and his physical essence. His body was already withering due his partial numbness, though this didn't mean there was no fight let within him. Seconds passed, in awkward silence on an awkward scene should any outside spectator behold this.
There it was.
Drawing my hands back slowly, it surprised me how had this simple task was. The King's Chi was restraining my grip, fasting itself to my fingers like ropes and desiring to pull me back so I could re-inject them into their proper household. A second of nothingness, a deep breath on my part and a rattling one on my brother's before I trusted my cupped palms back forward until they touched his body again. A horrifying splattering sound was what followed, before, as I released my grip on the water molecules around him, my brother's crippled body plummeted to the ground. The stone badgermole that he was floating in front of had been disgraced with an enormous quantity of blood, sequacious since the King had been deprived of the precious liquid completely. As I stared down on the mutilated figure that once a leader of nations, the gigantic wound encompassing his whole back almost made me nauseate, granting me a direct view into his shrunken, drained organs and the ripped-open veins.
It had been done.
I held my arm in front of me as ice crystals began to appear on my skin. Was this the "retribution" Luya had cautioned about? Not that it mattered, my goal had been accomplished and I had no further reason to live. Even though I had promised Luya to come back, she knew well that it was an empty one. This mission had been a one-way ticket before it had even brought up, and no magician or divinity could change that. My arm was now fully covered with ice, and no longer did I held any kind of sense within it. In my final act of revenge, I kicked the Earth King's throne into pieces. If I weren't the one to be seated upon it, no one would. The ice had now stretched up to my shoulder, creeping upwards via my neck and chin. My vision turned blurred by the icy prison that was slowly blanketing me, and quickly the white turned into a fading black. The last thing I heard was the thud of my own body on the imported throne room tiles, and even my near blinded sight could still vaguely discern a disfigured figure lying besides me.
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