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Shot in the Dark is the fifth chapter of Book 2 of MightyBrit'sand the fifteenth chapter overall. Unlike most chapters, which shift between many different characters, this chapter focuses entirely on Toph Bei Fong and is one of the longest so far in the series.
|Shot in the Dark|
Avatar Zali, MightyBrit
The Home of Toph Bei Fong
Toph and her father stood awkwardly in the room, neither quite knew what to do with the other, so both just stood there, waiting for the other one to speak up.
"I...uh...hope the room's okay," said Toph, scratching the back of her head.
"It's almost as large as the ones we have back home. You must be doing very well for yourself," replied Lao Bei Fong, almost as awkwardly. He glanced around the room, although it was large, the furniture was simple and functional and all the walls were bare. "Shame about the decoration though."
"Yeah, sorry 'bout that. Don't really have much use for artwork and such. I keep meaning to ask Katara to come over and pick a few things out, but I've just been busy."
"Guarding the Earth King?" asked Lao.
"Guarding, advising. Whatever he needs really."
There was another long, awkward pause. Eventually, Lao broke it. "Your mother and I miss you terribly." Toph didn't answer, so Lao asked the obvious question. "Do you miss us at all, Toph?"
Toph turned her blind eyes away so she couldn't feel her father's gaze. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't occasionally, but I can't be myself there. I'm not a noblewoman; I'm not the daughter you want me to be. I'm a warrior and my place is here."
"I guess that's my cue to say goodnight, then," said Lao, hanging his head.
"Yes. Good night, father."
The Next Morning
The next morning, before her father had awoken, Toph sat silently in the main room of her home drinking her morning tea when a knock came at the door.
"Who is it?"
"It's Mishi!" came the shout from the other end of the door and Toph rose to open it. When she did, the middle-aged woman stepped into the room carrying a basket full of bread.
"I know it's a little earlier than usual, but I have to run to the market today and I thought you wouldn't mind too much if I brought your bread a little early," said Mishi. A large smile was pasted across her face, as usual.
"It's no trouble. Just shove them in the kitchen for me."
"Is everything alright, Toph? You seem a little less...well, you."
"Yeah, it's fine. Just my father is in town."
"Oh, I see. Well, if there's anything I can do to help, please let me know. I know I don't have any kids of my own, but I may be able to do something useful."
Toph stifled a smile. Mishi had two children: one who was currently ruling the Fire Nation and the other who was permanently locked away in an insane asylum; she simply couldn't remember either of them.
"And, of course, I'll bring you another loaf as soon as I get back from the market," added Mishi.
"What? No, there's no need!" Toph protested.
"It's not a problem. You've got an extra mouth to feed."
"He doesn't need feeding, and besides, you give me a free loaf every day. You don't need to do this for me."
"You have done so much for me and my husband, Toph. You protect us, you get us amazing work, and I still don't know what I've done to deserve such special treatment. The least I can do is give you a few free loaves of bread."
"Keep it, Mishi. I'll be fine. Please."
"All right," said Mishi, heading for the door. "How long is your father in town?"
"He says he's here on business, which hopefully means not long," said Toph with annoyance. "Is it wrong that I keep hoping something terrible will happen, so I don't have to deal with him?"
"I'll see you tomorrow, Toph," said Mishi with a smile as she left the house.
"You got it," replied Toph as she returned to her tea.
One hour later at Toph's Home
An hour later and Toph's father had still woken up. From the living room, Toph could feel him, still on the bed, breathing softly and steadily. She threw her head back and let out a long exasperated sigh of boredom, then she began bending the earth in the meteor bracelet Sokka had given to her years earlier and that she still wore tightly around her wrist.
Suddenly, shouts came. Screams of panic from outside echoed in through the windows and Toph could feel dozens of passers-by outside instantly change course and flee for cover.
Toph ran for the door and threw it open. "What is it? What's going on?"
She felt the vibrations in the earth. There were the panicked people, running for cover and cowering in any doorway or behind any crate; there were a couple bodies strewn in the street, impaled by arrows; and there were a few soft footsteps, barely noticeable even to Toph, walking calmly through the streets.
"Miss Bei Fong, invaders! It's the Yu Yan Arch—" a passer-by managed before an arrow pierced his heart and he fell silently to the ground.
Toph felt three of the Yu Yan Archers creep towards her house and sent out a wave of earth with her foot, knocking them all onto their backs. She quickly summoned up a wall of rock to block the entrance to her home, and then ran to the guest room where her father was staying.
"Get up!" she yelled boisterously as she charged into the door. "Invaders! We have to go? Man, how the heck did they get in? Only an earthbender can get past the walls of Ba Sing Se."
"Oh!" croaked her father groggily. "Then, we should get out of here. Where can we hide?"
"Hide?! We're not hiding! We're going to go help the Earth King!"
"Oh, yes, of course," stuttered Lao unconvincingly.
Something was up and Toph knew it. "Why aren't you scared?"
"What are you talking about Toph?"
"Your heart isn't beating any faster than it normally does. You're not scared at all."
"Well...uh...It's because I have you to protect me."
"And now you're lying to me, Father. What's going on?"
"I'm not lying, Toph."
"Yes, you are, and you just did it again. Your heart keeps fluttering every time you do it. What aren't you telling me?"
"Now, Toph, just because you have grown up doesn't mean I will allow you to talk to me like that..."
"Oh, shut up Dad and tell me..." It dawned on Toph. Her blind eyes widened with shock. "You knew this was coming, didn't you?"
"Nonsense, how could I have possibly known?"
"You just lied again...and now you're scared. You let them in, didn't you?"
"Now, Toph, you don't know the situation, the Cult have terrorized our town and ruined our home..."
"So, you what?" screamed Toph, her anger rising. "Gained access to Ba Sing Se, then bribed some ignorant soldier to open the gates? Do you have any idea what you've done?"
"I've saved our family, Toph."
"Stop saying my name like we have a connection, Dad! We don't! I remember when I came home after the war and the not-so-warm welcome I got!"
"But, Toph, the war never ended... and we can't win... The Cult will. The only chance I have to preserve the Bei Fong name is to help them and earn their favor!"
"Are you kidding me?! I thought they threatened to kill you or something!" Toph was screaming full pelt, the whole house shook as her anger grew and grew. "You're telling me that you're helping them so you preserve your name? Your money? Your nobility?"
Lao moved closer to try and touch Toph and explain things, but Toph was having none of it and made the earth from the floor hold him in place.
"Let me go!" screamed Lao. "I am your father!"
"NO!" Toph exploded. "You are nothing but a coward and a traitor! You're so scared of living without your big house and fancy table manners that you're willing to betray everything that's actually important! Tell me everything! How many did you let in? Who's leading them?"
"Toph, you must see reason," said Lao, trying his best to put a calm voice. Toph responded by having the earth suck him down, so Lao was up to his waist in solid rock.
"Tell me. Now," said Toph. She was so furious that she wasn't yelling any more, just speaking in normal tones that sounded a thousand times more deadly.
"There were about a dozen archers," conceded Lao. "They called themselves the Yu Yan Archers and they are led by a young woman named Xiani."
"They were accompanied by two firebenders with strange tattoos and... there was something else there too. Something they all were afraid of but seemed to respect and obey as well."
"What do you mean something?"
"A figure made of black smoke... I heard it speak once; it seemed distant and disembodied like it was missing most of itself. That's all I know, I swear."
Toph turned for the door without a word. Her father's voice came from behind her, stopping her before she left.
"What are you going to do to me?"
She pounded her foot and Lao was sprung out from the ground, crash-landing on the floor. "Consider that the last thing you'll ever get from me," Toph said without turning around. "From this point on, I renounce the name Bei Fong and all of the other stuff that goes with it. I've got another family now, a better one, and I don't need yours."
She opened the door and stepped through it with determination. "Don't be here when I get back," she said coldly before slamming the door, leaving her teary-eyed father on all fours in the small, colorless room.
In the Living Room
Toph pulled on her battle armor, and then sat in a meditation position. This was a new technique she'd been trying, but it took a lot of concentration on her part, so she closed her eyes and focused intensely.
She followed the vibrations of the earth in her mind, out of her home, past the panicked people in the streets... all the way to the royal palace where the Earth King Kuei sat on his throne. His guards and himself were still ignorant of the situation below as the Yu Yan Archers mercilessly cut down anyone who tried to warn them.
Earthbending from such a long distance away was truly difficult and Toph had to be precise. Sending messages this way would be a lot simpler if she could write, but she had to make do with a small demonstration. She focused on the throne room floor, then bent it.
She made the rock twist into shapes and rise out of the ground. She made a miniature wall of Ba Sing Se, then small figures with flames on their chest march through them.
Miles away, Kuei watched the earthbending with amazement and fear. The guards instantly got the message and escorted Kuei to a safer place than the courtroom. As soon as Toph felt the guards move Kuei out of the throne room, she stopped concentrating and let the figures and models she had made collapse into rubble and mud.
Normally, she would run to the palace and be there by his side for invasions like this, but Kuei would have to manage on his own this time: Toph had someone else she had to protect. She'd made a promise to a friend. She bulldozed out of her house, letting the wall of rock fly outwards, then ran as fast as she could towards the marketplace.
Somewhere in the Shadows of the Ba Sing Se
Hidden in the shadows of Ba Sing Se, a beautiful young woman watched the events unfold. Dark auburn hair framed her perfect features and golden eyes as she squinted to see Toph charge towards the marketplace.
"She's onto us," the girl said. "She didn't take the bait."
The shadows shifted, swirling around the girl. The voice that came from them was disembodied, cold and distorted. "Move in, Xiani. Don't fail me."
Xiani drew a red-feathered arrow with delicate fingers and strung it into her bow. "Take to the roofs and send in the Twins. Take down Toph," she said to the few soldiers around her as she took a quick glance into a small mirror she had mounted on her bow. "And get me Ursa."
In the Central Marketplace
"Mishi!" yelled Toph as she arrived in the center marketplace. "Mishi!"
The whole place was in chaos with dozens of citizens running for their lives. Toph scanned the entire market, checking every last person for a heartbeat. She isolated the enemy soldiers by their calmer heartbeats than those of the panicked citizens. Across the market, near an overturned cabbage cart, Toph heard Mishi screaming in fear as two archers attempted to drag her off into a back alley.
Toph flicked both her hands and sent two boulders from the ground into the enemies' chests, sending them reeling. She ran next to Mishi and then enclosed them both in a cocoon of earth.
"You all right?" asked Toph.
"Yes," answered a teary-eyed Mishi. "Thanks to you."
"Don't mention it."
The mass of panicked citizens began to clear and Toph noticed the enemy soldiers run to the nearby houses and begin to climb up to the roofs. Outside, numerous arrows clashed into their earthen cocoon with a thunk.
Toph swore under her breath.
"What's the matter?" asked Mishi, though her terrified heartbeat nearly drowned out the sound. "You've been in worse places than this."
"Whoever's attacking us knows me. They've planned this whole attack with me in mind."
"For one, they're using arrows. I hate arrows. I can't see them when they're flying; I have to see the archer and guess the route of the arrow. Two, as soon as I showed up, they've climbed onto the roofs of the buildings."
"The roofs in the sector are made of thatch, which is dead grass that I can't see through very well."
"You can't see them at all?"
"Well, I could probably feel them if they jumped up and down, but these guys are almost as bad as Twinkletoes...I don't have a clue where they are right now."
Mishi let out a scared whimper.
"Don't worry, Mishi. I've got a plan...wait....Two of them are on the ground now; they're heavier-footed than the rest...." Toph put a confused look on her face. "And they're holding hands..."
Two identical girls stepped into the market place, their hands locked in a tight embrace. Strange, twisting tattoos reached up from their fingertips all the way up their arms and onto their cheeks. The tattoos made the girls mirror images of the other that almost seemed to be chained together by their tattoos. They stepped closer, in unison, then breathed deeply in through their nose.
Toph's eyes widened. She'd felt the girl breathe in and recognized the motion. "Oh, no... We have to move!" she yelled, breaking out of the cocoon and dragging Mishi behind her.
The twins grunted with effort, letting loose of beam of superheated air from between them. It collided with what was left of Toph's protective cocoon and exploded outwards, hurling Toph and Mishi across the marketplace.
Toph's mind raced. The girls knew combustion, like Sparky Sparky Boom Boom Man all those years ago. He had had a weak spot, a focus, but where was the girls' weak point? The faint twang of a distant bowstring distracted her and she threw up of wall of earth to block the arrow. She felt the twins breathe in again, so she grabbed Mishi and ran to avoid the resulting explosion.
"What do we do?" screamed Mishi, terrified. "We need help!"
"The palace is too far..." said Toph, running as fast as she could, dragging the older woman behind her. "Follow me!"
"After her!" Toph heard the command coming from behind the firebending twins. "Archers, stay on the roofs! Twins, blow the earthbender into the mud she loves so much!"
Toph ran as fast as she could while dragging Mishi. She darted in zigzag patterns down the alleyways to avoid the arrows that rained down from above and the explosions that rocked the buildings behind them.
She finally arrived at the one of the largest plazas on this level of Ba Sing Se with a large ornate fountain in the middle. The water rippled as the explosions rattled the area, distorting the reflection of the Jasmine Dragon Tea Shop that stood proudly on the plaza's northern side.
The twins created another explosion that blasted the fountain to pieces; shards of rock flew through the air, but diverted them by waving her free hand. "Go, Mishi! Get inside!" yelled Toph.
"Toph, this is a tea shop!" Mishi cried back.
"I know! Get inside!" Toph cried, pushing Mishi in through the door.
She heard the familiar twangs of more bowstrings ahead and quickly cocooned herself in earth again. Arrows thumped into it milliseconds after she threw it up.
Toph concentrated. She had an idea, but it only had one shot at working. She thumped her foot to send the cocoon back into the ground, then gestured towards the broken fountain. Water flowed freely onto the ground now, mixing with the earth and creating a thick mud that covered the plaza.
With Toph's gestures, the mud rose up. She closed her eyes to concentrate; mud was so much less solid than regular earth and was harder to control. She wondered briefly how Katara could bend all that water all the time, but then her mind snapped back to the task at hand. She opened her hands and eyes and in that instant, the mud exploded outwards, covering everything in the plaza and the surrounding houses in mud.
Some of the archers on the roofs slipped in the sticky mud and fell into the plaza below. Another swipe of her hands and the mud crashed swept down off the roofs, creating an avalanche of mud into the plaza and dragging the remaining archers to the ground. Most of them fell immediately unconscious from the fall and Toph dispatched the rest with flying rocks.
Suddenly, an arrow spun out of nowhere. The avalanche of mud and screaming of the archers muffled the sound of the bowstring and Toph, too busy concentrating on controlling all of the mud, could do nothing to stop it. It sunk deep into her side and she yelled out in pain.
On the other side of the broken fountain, Xiani stepped out from inside one of the house, sheltered from the mud. "Ew," she said as she stepped into the mud and she flicked her hair and checked her reflection before she strung another arrow into her bow. Behind her, the twins silently followed, their hands still locked together.
"It's over, earthbender," said Xiani with a smirk. "There's a paralytic drug on the arrowhead."
Toph growled as she felt the drug seeping through her system. She fell to her knees as she tried to pull the arrow out of her side, but only managed in breaking off the wooden shaft, leaving the arrowhead still inside.
The shadowy mist returned and formed a dark shadowy figure next to Xiani, though it was invisible to Toph's earth sense. "Destroy her!" it said.
"My pleasure..." replied Xiani cruelly as she drew her bowstring back past her ear.
A thin dash of flame shot towards her, igniting the bowstring. The flames licked Xiani's perfect skin, burning a long thin line on the side of her face. "My face! My face!" she screamed loudly and hysterically.
Toph fell to all fours as the paralysis got worse, but she smiled anyway as Iroh stood in front of her, his arms spread defensively and his little red bird sitting calmly on his shoulder. Mishi looked on anxiously from the teashop door.
"What are you waiting for?" screamed Xiani, clutching at her burnt face. "Blast them!" The twins stepped forward, ready to loose their combustion.
"No!" cried Iroh, raising a hand to stop them. "Please, we must not firebend, not beyond what we must! Not in these dark times..."
The twins ignored him completely and breathed in deeply.
"I am sorry, my friend," Iroh said to the little bird on his shoulder, who let out a sad tweet and flew away.
Superheated air twisted its way towards Iroh, exploding less than a foot away from him. "IROH!" yelled Toph in concern.
But, the explosion didn't expand outward. The blast was completely contained between Iroh's hands as he held the explosion in place with his firebending. Iroh closed his eyes for a moment to concentrate, and then breathed in deeply through his nose, sucking the flames in until none remained at all. He breathed out a long stream of cold gray smoke and resumed his defensive stance.
The twins' eyes went wide in amazement and Toph used the last of her strength to make the earth beneath their feet shoot off in opposite directions. Both twins suddenly fell towards each other and knocked themselves out on each others'heads. Toph smiled broadly before she collapsed completely as the paralytic took total hold.
The figure of shadow swirled into a pillar of smoke, then reformed inches in front of Iroh. Even though its face was featureless, its fury was obvious.
"You will not get what you desire here," said Iroh calmly. "You have failed."
The cold, distorted voice rang out from the shadows. "I'll be back, Uncle."
"And I will be ready, Azula," Iroh responded as he watched the dark figure in front of him morph into mist and shoot out of the ruined plaza. On the other side of the fountain, the twins still lay unconscious in the mud, but Xiani was nowhere to be seen.
I don't know yet. Please let me know... I hope to get the next chapter up within the next couple of weeks.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Child of Destiny Chapters|
Book 1: Fear
The First Airbender - Stolen - Sharks and Sea Serpents - Asylum Seeker - The Swordmaster of Kyoshi Island - Cold Snap - Due North - Better to Have Loved and Lost - Wrath of the Blackened Blade - Water's Fall
Book 2: Anger