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|Shien Kai, Pt. 3- Brave Soldiers|
Chapter 14: Shien Kai, Pt. 3- Brave Soldiers
Ri Wu dropped Yuan Chong's body and rushed forward, intent on killing Zuko in retaliation, but as he thrust forward with an earth slab, Iroh broke it apart with a flaming parry.
"It is you and me now, general." He readied himself.
Ri Wu snickered. "I can't believe I finally get to face the great General Iroh! It is as if fate has delivered you into my hands!"
"Destiny has a fickle temperament." Iroh replied as he launched a massive fireball.
Sokka, upon hearing the order to attack, stopped moving toward Toph and drew his sword. We can always resolve this later. He glanced briefly at Katara, but her face, an expression of abject terror plastered there, made him look away.
The first in the line of soldiers that came at him and the others fell before even reaching them, thanks to the Yu Yan Archers. Sokka flipped his sword around in his hand, looking for Aang, but he was gone.
Piandao stood beside his student. "You have come far, Sokka, and you have passed every test. You have learned all you can from me. I am no longer your master, and you are no longer my student." He smiled. "Are you ready, Swordmaster Sokka?"
All childishness was removed from his expression. "I sure hope so..."
Yun Zhen and Haru began by submerging the front lines' feet in earth so that they would be unprepared for the arrow volley to follow, and it worked. Yuan Chong's army scattered, leaderless and under assault. It was a free-for-all.
Ty Lee, Suki, and Mai ripped through the Earthbenders like they weren't even there, with dozens falling in a matter of minutes. Suki whipped her fan across the face of an unfortunate soldier while jamming her katana through another's midsection. Ty Lee weaved in between fighters so quickly that ten of them fell before they could even register the attack. Mai ducked under a flying rock and stabbed up under a man's chin with her sai. When another attempted to charge her with a spear, she flicked her wrist, sending a dart into his chest.
Yun and Mai ended up fighting back-to-back, with Yun making use of his sword. "We need a plan!"
"We have one; distract until the next volley!"
A head rolled when Yun whipped his blade in an arc. "I'm not sure we have that much time!"
"Correct. You have none." General Yung stood with multiple Earthbenders and a massive Dai Li agent.
Koh slithered back toward the shrine, elated at his success. Two faces, and now another Avatar might yet come to fight. He would have an Avatar's face; all he needed was one.
"Koh!" The spirit turned, shocked to hear not the current Avatar's voice, but another.
"Avatar Kuruk...." He grinned. "What a surprise. Have you come for your wife's face?" Koh switched to Ummi's face. "She really misses you."
The Avatar closed his eyes, and his expression contorted in rage. Koh licked his lips in anticipation of the completion of his goal, an Avatar's face.
"Give her back to me!!" Kuruk opened his eyes, a blue glow replacing his pupils.
The spirit recoiled, seeing nothing but light; taking his face now would be suicide. "You've learned Kuruk..."
"And you've finally made the mistake that will allow me to kill you! You're on earth now; I can bend!" The Avatar ripped a chunk of earth the size of a small hill and threw it at the spirit. Koh slid as he was struck in the side.
His face switched to that of the blue Oni. "This will be fun."
The rock wall that Ri Wu put up disintegrated under the force of Iroh's fireball, and the Earthbender quickly responded with a massive boulder. The Grand Lotus crescent kicked it aside and was driven back by an earth pillar that struck him in the stomach. As Ri Wu followed up with a rock chain, Iroh used the final pillar as a launching point. He flipped and generated a fire column aimed at the general. However, as he dodged, it expanded and knocked him into the wall.
The Earthbender stood, a feral grin on his face. "I commend you General Iroh. None have challenged me like this in a long time."
Iroh just stared at his opponent. "It seems another did."
"This..." Ri Wu indicated the large scar that covered his chest. "Was done to me by a mere child. It is my mark of shame, and I will mitigate it by your death." He launched another boulder while sending a spike chain toward his feet.
Iroh lunged in between the attacks and spun, ending by firing a massive blast at RI Wu.
Yun stood among the bodies, and only Yung stood in front of him. "Why?"
Bumi's former captain narrowed his eyes. "They deserve this! They nearly brought the Earth Kingdom to its knees, and we intend to return the favor!" He reached his hand forward. "You of all people should understand. Join us for your parents."
Ty Lee shook her head, imploring him to refuse, but Yun Zhen merely brandished his blade. "My parents were Fire Nation, I am Fire Nation, and I will fight to defend my home."
"Your—?" General Yung sidestepped as Yun lunged forward. "Fine." He shoved Yun back. "You wish to join your 'people'? Than join them!" He neglected using the mace at his side in order launch several rocks at Yun in quick succession.
"No!" Ty Lee moved forward, ready to attack the Earthbender, but the Dai Li agent stepped in front of her. He said nothing as shards of earth flew from his gloves.
Kuruk jumped over one of the spirit's legs, which swung at him in counterattack. He quickly charged a fire blast and struck Koh's Oni mask, wincing as an ear piercing scream of pain ripped through the plaza. The scream was followed by a hideous laugh.
"Excellent, Kuruk...." The Face Stealer whipped his entire back half at blinding speed, and it struck the Avatar, knocking him through a wall.
An air wave disintegrated everything in its path before reaching Koh. The spirit was lifted off of the ground and bashed against a statue in the clearing. He flipped over almost immediately and intercepted the enraged Water Tribe Avatar, clotheslining him with one leg and stabbing him in the stomach with the point of the other.
His face changed to that of Kuruk's wife, but it was so unlike the Ummi Kuruk had known. An expression of triumph and hunger was evident as Koh loomed over the Avatar.
"I shall savor your pain and sorrow, my old friend."
Ty Lee flipped over the attack, and her foot connected with the main nerve on the agent's left arm. She followed up with a knuckle strike to the nerve above the man's knee. However, he merely growled and brought his other knee up into her stomach. As she doubled over, he grabbed her braid and pulled her off of her feet. The Dai Li agent grinned as he punched her full force in the stomach.
She nearly choked as the wind was knocked out of her. Tears formed at the edges of her eyes, but she quickly shook them off. The young acrobat wrapped her feet around his right arm, twisting until she felt a snap.
The agent grunted and let go, attempting to round kick as she landed. Ty Lee rolled back, dodging completely. He continued his assault, swinging at Ty Lee with his left arm as his right hung uselessly by his side. A battle cry erupted from him as she dodged strike after strike, but one finally connected with her jaw. Ty Lee got to her knees as the agent pulled out a small dagger.
As he brought the blade down, the Kyoshi Warrior kicked with her left foot and slid to her opponent's unprotected right side. She flipped to her feet and lunged, punching him full force in the throat. A pained gurgle emanated from the man as he grasped at his crushed windpipe and collapsed.
Ty Lee just stood there for a second, shocked to see the man's lifeless body on the ground. She then simply sat down, bringing her knees up to her chest, and she wept.
Ri Wu knew he didn't have enough time to dodge or set up a wall, so he dipped his head and let his helmet take the blow, sliding back a few feet upon doing so. Iroh didn't even give him the chance to fight back; he just kept launching fire blast after fire blast. Ri Wu was losing, and he knew it. The Earthbender's eyes narrowed in rage as he raised two massive columns of loose earth.
"Today the Fire Nation pays dearly for their crimes!" Both columns weaved around, heading straight for Iroh, who blocked one with a concentrated fire ball while the other pushed him into a wall. Ri Wu sneered as he compacted the loose earth, pinning the Dragon of the West to the wall.
"Now you're mine, General."
Iroh simply closed his eyes. "Perhaps."
Zuko staggered as he made his way to the first line of troops; the duel had taken its toll. "General Shinu, move the 5th forward only after the Yu Yan Archers fire their volleys."
Shinu bowed. "Yes, Fire Lord Zuko."
The young Fire Lord looked out on the battle, smiling as he realized his friends held the line. The Yu Yan lined up behind him, and he barely heard Shinu's firing order before hundreds of arrows were let loose.
Yun turned when he noticed Yung staring in horror, and he grinned in triumph. The arrow volley decimated Yuan Chong's ranks with ease, and the 5th Regiment moved forward to end the fight. The young Earthbender was brought back to reality when a rock struck him in the face, knocking him back.
"We will not lose!" Yung fired rock after rock at Yun, and Yun found himself unable to accurately see where they were coming from.
He quickly realized that his head injury was bleeding, and that made him unable to focus. Yun felt rock after rock pelt him mercilessly, and only his earth armor kept him from being crushed. As he collapsed to his knees, he had only one question.
Kuruk looked up at the spirit, never letting go of the Avatar State.
"Come, now...release the Avatar State. If I kill you now, the cycle ends. Do it; sacrifice your spirit in order to save countless others."
Kuruk. He heard the voice in the back of his mind. Kuruk! "Aang?"
I know what to do. And now, so did the Water Tribe Avatar. He reached up and quickly placed both hands, forefinger and thumb in an 'L' shape over his eyes.
"What are you—?" Koh was silenced by a chanting that seemed to come from the depths of the Spirit World itself.
Kuruk grimaced. "Getting my wife back, you monster!"
A bright blue light emanated from the two figures, and Kuruk's hands sunk into the stolen face of his wife. He pulled with all his might and ripped his wife's soul from Koh's body. An unearthly shriek came as the spirit recoiled from his assailant, but Kuruk did not notice. He smiled at his wife as she embraced him.
Kuruk smiled. "We are together once more, my beloved. He will never hurt you again."
The Water Tribe Avatar and his wife stepped away from the wounded spirit, and Aang stood as their spirits disappeared, finally moving on. "Good luck, Kuruk..."
Iroh watched with a small grin on his face as Ri Wu exalted in his apparent victory. "The great and powerful General Iroh has fallen by my hand! There will be songs written about my victory here in years to come!"
"Perhaps you celebrate too early; I am not out of this fight yet."
The Earthbender laughed. "You expect me to believe that you will be able to escape with your hands and feet trapped by inches of solid earth? You are truly a fool, General." He began to twirl three small stones above his hand playfully. "And also the second Fire Nation Royal I've killed."
Iroh's eyes widened, and Ri Wu sneered. "Yes, I've killed another. After you left my city, I was informed as to the nature of the soldier that did this." He indicated his scar. "They told me that it was a prince."
Iroh closed his eyes and turned away. "No..."
"Yes, you Fire Nation filth, I killed your son. I killed Lu Ten."
Iroh inhaled and exhaled calmly; anger could not help him now. He would only grieve again for his son, slaughtered by a monster.
Leaves from the vine
Falling so slow
Like fragile, tiny shells
Drifting in the foam
Little soldier boy
Come marching home
Brave soldier boy
Comes marching home.
Yes, he would remember Lu Ten, beloved Lu Ten. His son's death finally and completely brought to light. He smiled, his conscience assuaged.
The Earthbender scowled. "I just told you how your son died! How can you even function?"
Iroh kept smiling. "It is really a simple matter. Simply knowing how he died brings me the peace I've sought for years. That, and the fact that he went down fighting, as I will."
Ri Wu bellowed out a laugh dripping with scorn. "And how will you do that?"
"Do you know why I am called the 'Dragon of the West'?"
"Yes...I've heard the—!" Ri Wu only had time to block the fire blast with his helmet. The old fool blew fire at me!
The general's jaw dropped when, in a not insubstantial explosion, Iroh burst from his earthen prison.
Yung stood over Yun Zhen. "Why?! The Fire Nation took my city! They uprooted and destroyed lives!"
"That doesn't justify this..."
Yung shook his head. "I don't care! They will pay for their transgressions!"
Yun said nothing for a moment, until he thought of his mentor. "Bumi wouldn't want this..."
The general's expression softened. "You think I don't know that? You think I don't weep every time I think about that awful, necessary thing we had to do?"
Tears welled up in Yun's eyes. "You killed him."
Yung shook his head. "I didn't do the deed, but I might as well have. I did what was necessary then, and I will do the same now."
C'mon, Ty Lee, pull yourself together. The young warrior swallowed her horror and stood, but she was still unable to even look at the body. She scanned the battlefield, and what she saw immediately snapped her back to reality: Yun was in trouble. General Yung stood over him with a boulder cocked back, ready to strike.
"No, no one else we know dies!"
The acrobat did the only thing she could; she ran full speed at the Earthbender.
Aang faced Koh, still in the Avatar State. The spirit was breathing heavily and trying to stand.
"Heh...well played...Avatar...that impressed me." He began to circle around Aang. "Unfortunately, I have other matters to attend to..."
A wall of earth rose up in front of him. "You're not going anywhere until you give her back to me."
Koh laughed. "You don't mince words, do you, Avatar Aang? I am sorry, but you won't be taking this one from me."
Aang stepped in his way, and all the voices of the past Avatars flowed from his mouth. "Give her back! Or I will take her myself!"
The face stealer chuckled. "Good luck. I'm not making this one accessible."
The earth cracked beneath Koh and pulled him under, leaving only his head. "You will not have her!"
General Yung felt his breath leave him as he was forced to drop the rock, and he watched in disbelief as an acrobatic warrior flipped over him to land in front of Yun.
"Stop!" The girl stood in between them.
"This doesn't concern you." Yung quickly gripped the mace at his side and whipped it out aimed at her head. However, the Kyoshi Warrior back flipped away before it struck. This time, Yun stepped in.
"Your right; it doesn't." He turned to Ty Lee, who gasped when she saw the blood on his forehead. "Ty Lee, please go. I won't have you get hurt on my account."
Her eyes narrowed. "I won't leave."
"Ty Lee, I won't let you die here!"
She frowned. "Neither will I."
Yung stared at both of them; each one was willing to give their life for the other. What camaraderie did Yuan Chong's army have compared to this. Theirs was the larger force, more powerful, but still they had lost.
Both Yun and Ty Lee turned at the sound of metal clanging. "You both won't have to worry." Yung's expression was filled with surrender. "I didn't sign up for this. I'm done."
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