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|By Agent Slash||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from Agent Slash||Drama||PG-13||None yet||N/A|
|The Beams of the Moon|
It was a cool, crisp night. The moon was shining down on Hiyuri Mountain as well as the village that it overlooked. Each of its beams illuminating the night sky and sending off a somewhat peaceful glow. Below the mountain, however, amongst the fire lilies, three people were not allowing the peace to have it's night. A young man leapt out of the way of a fireball and gripped the knife in his hand especially tight. He landed and ran at his attacker. The attacker launched a fire pinwheel at the man, but an earth wall erected from the ground to block it. The earth wall lowered, and the woman who raised it shot several boulders at the firebender. The firebender skillfully dodged each of the boulders, but looked up to see a knife zipping towards him. He sidestepped the knife, just barely avoiding being impaled by it. "That is enough for tonight," said the firebender. "You two have done well. I am impressed."
"Thank you, Master Jun," said the two young fighters.
"You two are dismissed for now," said Jun.
The two assassins bowed and left their master. "You looked great out there, Ming," said the man.
"Thanks, you did, too, Hong Wu," said Ming.
"You know where else I think you would look great?" Hong Wu asked.
"Where?" asked Ming, already expecting the answer.
"Lying next to me in our tent. Or underneath me if you want to take that route."
Ming gave her boyfriend a peck on the lips. "As good as that sounds, I think I'll pass," she said.
"Oh, come on," Hong Wu persisted. "Don't you want to congratulate me on a job well done in the training session?"
"Not tonight," Ming replied.
"Fine," Hong Wu sighed, disappointedly. The couple started to walk up to the top of the mountain.
"Can you believe it's almost been a whole year since we met?" Ming asked.
"Yeah, that was certainly a day to remember. As was the day after that," said Hong Wu.
"I wonder how the others are doing," Ming said.
"Who knows," said Hong Wu. "They'd be here with us if they'd taken me up on my offer."
"Well, you weren't exactly in the best of moods at that moment," Ming said.
"Yeah, I remember I got pretty intense that day. Everything that had happened was just too much."
"Do you still feel the same way?"
Hong Wu smiled. "You know I do."
"Just making sure."
There was silence for about a minute or so until Ming broke the silence once more. "Why do you think Jun wants the Avatar dead so badly?" she asked.
"That's the question you've been asking about him?" Hong Wu asked. "I've always wanted to know who the hell he is."
The couple finally reached the top of the mountain. "Well, here we are," said Hong Wu. "Why don't we make our way to the tent?"
"That sounds good to me," said Ming.
"Wake up. Wake up!"
It was the next morning and Hong Wu heard a voice commanding him to awaken. He was about to tell the person precisely what he thought of that idea until he realized it was Jun who was calling out to him. He whipped upward and crawled out of the tent. "Yes, master?" asked Hong Wu.
"Tell Ming to wake up as well," said Jun.
"Ming, wake up, darling," Hong Wu said. He retreated back into the tent and shook her awake.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Jun needs us for something," said Hong Wu.
Ming rubbed her eyes and sat up. "Alright."
The two of them crawled back out of the tent and stood up to face Jun. "What is it you require, Master Jun?" asked Ming.
"I require you to listen very carefully to what I'm about to tell you," said Jun. "The time has come for the two of you to prove your worthiness to me as my apprentices. I have devised three tests that will challenge your skills as mercenaries. If you survive all three of them then you may continue to work for me."
"What are these challenges, master?" asked Hong Wu.
"I am getting to that," said Jun. "Your first test is to find and kill a man wandering in the middle of this valley. He goes by the name of Fushin. You will find him in less than a day's journey if you proceed south on foot. Here is his picture." Jun handed the couple a picture of the man. He had a thin scar running down his right eye as well as brown hair and a ponytail. He looked to be in about his 40s. "Your second challenge will be to eliminate the commander of an outpost near here. His name is Mangkr and he is very dangerous. His outpost will be a good several hours away from the site of your first challenge."
"And the third?" asked Hong Wu.
"If you survive the first two challenges then report back to me and I will assign you your third challenge," said Jun.
"Very well, master," said Ming.
"Now get going," said Jun.
The two of them bowed and left. "So I guess we should start heading south," said Hong Wu.
"Yep," Ming replied.
"What do you think is so special about this guy that would make Jun want him dead?" Hong Wu asked.
"I don't know," said Ming. "But that doesn't matter right now anyway."
"Right," said Hong Wu. "Well, it looks like we've got quite a bit of walking to do."
Nine hours later, and the sun was starting to set. Both Hong Wu and Ming were exhausted, despite having stopped to rest several times. "Would I sound like I wasn't qualified for this job if I complained about how tired I am?" asked Hong Wu, jokingly.
"Yeah, I'd say so," said Ming in response. "But I do think we should set up camp here for tonight."
"That's a good idea," said Hong Wu.
The two of them began to set everything up and in about twenty minutes or so, they were finished. The couple was lying under the stars, looking up at them in awe and wonder. "Do you ever wonder if each of those stars represents a spirit?" asked Hong Wu.
"What do you mean?" asked Ming.
"Well, they say that the moon shines in the sky, because there is some kind of moon spirit that makes it so. Do you ever think it's the same way with the stars?"
"I don't know. I've never really thought about it. I mean, that's a lot of stars. How big can the Spirit World be?"
"I guess you're right."
"Besides, I've never really believed in spirits. I think it's all made up. I think that the moon sits up there on it's own."
"But what about when you die? Don't you believe in life in the Spirit World after death?"
"Well, I don't believe you're reincarnated or you go into someone else's body or anything like that, but I do believe that once you die you move on to the Spirit World and hopefully I'll get to be there with you one day and we can spend the rest of eternity together."
"Aw, that's so-" Ming paused. "Wait, are you proposing?" she asked.
Hong Wu got up on one knee and looked down on his girlfriend. "I know this isn't exactly the best time, but I wasn't expecting Jun to give us these challenges today.
Ming sat up and did not speak.
"Ming, will you marry me?" Hong Wu asked.
Ming threw herself at Hong Wu. "Yes! She said. Of course!" The two shared a deep, passionate kiss under the stars. "How are we going to do it?" she asked.
"We'll find a way. Someone in that town near the mountain can marry us. It doesn't have to be a big wedding. Not even Jun has to know about it," Hong Wu replied.
"Okay," Ming said. "I have a surprise for you, too," Ming started.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, an object went flying towards the couple. They both barely dodged it and, once they got a better look at it, saw that it was a meteor hammer. Out of the darkness, a woman dressed in black leapt out. She had long, brown hair and a sword sheathed on her back. The couple stared at the woman until she spoke. "What are you doing in my territory?" she asked.
"Your territory?" asked Ming.
"That's right; my territory. This area is off-limits to anyone who doesn't have a death wish," said the woman.
"Look, all we were doing was stopping to camp for the night," Hong Wu explained. "We were going to set off in a few hours."
"I'd really prefer if you left now," said the woman.
"Well, that's too bad, because we're not going anywhere," said Ming.
The woman retracted her meteor hammer and swung it around above her head. "Well, I guess this will be a great chance for you to see if the spirits are real or not," said the woman. "Because you're both about to cross over to the Spirit World." She hurled the hammer at her opponents, but Ming shot an earth pillar out of the ground which hit the hammer and sent it flying back towards the woman. Hong Wu grabbed a knife and ran at her. The man swung the knife, but the woman dodged his blows every time. Again and again he swung and again and again he missed. The woman struck back and gave Hong Wu an uppercut to the face. The assassin was thrown back and as soon as he collected himself once more, he saw that Ming had covered her arm in earth armor and was swinging at their attacker. Hong Wu leapt into the trees and waited for the two women to stumble over to the spot just below him. The attacker threw her meteor hammer once more at Ming, who barely dodged it by leaping back. The attacker followed her over. Perfect. Hong Wu hurled several knifes at the attacker, hitting her clothes and pinning her down to the ground. He then leapt down and joined his fiancé.
"Now why don't you consider this whole valley our territory?" Hong Wu said, definitively.
The woman struggled to get up, but could not. "Wow, you're pretty good," she said. "Those are some impressive skills. Where did you learn them?"
"Why do you care?" Hong Wu asked.
"I just thought I would complement your skills. You have the makings of a true assassin," she said. "And you," she said, referring to Ming. "You have a lot of potential, but your fighting skills are not good enough."
"Well, it was enough to take you down, wasn't it?" Ming retorted. "Besides, I'm not exactly at my best tonight."
Hong Wu eyed her, questioningly. "Why is that?" he asked.
"I'm just a little tired, that's all," Ming explained.
Satisfied with Ming's answer, Hong Wu turned back to the attacker. "I learned those moves from my old master, Xiang. He taught me everything I know."
"Xiang?" the woman asked. "Wait, you don't mean the Xiang, do you? Middle aged, big, black beard, deep voice?"
"You know him?" Hong Wu asked.
"Of course!" said the attacker. "Xiang is a legendary the mercenary community. He has been training them for years. I heard he died about a year ago in some freak incident with some kind of giant machine."
"Yeah, that's because I killed him," Hong Wu said.
"What?!" the attacker asked. "You actually managed to kill him?"
"That's right," said Ming. "I was there. He killed him in cold blood."
"Why?" asked the attacker.
"Well, for one thing, he was trying to kill me. And two, he wasn't the same man he used to be. He used to be a man of honor and he had a pure heart, but when I saw him that day, he was just... corrupt," Hong Wu elaborated.
"And now?" asked the attacker.
"And now I'm not the person I used to be either, but I'm not like him. I've changed for the better. I've always believed since the day I was orphaned that all of the nations are evil. Always. But that day I realized that instead of trying to help destroy the evil in the nations, you should only worry about yourself and those around you. You've got to watch the backs of those closest to you and you have to watch your own."
"So now what do you do?" asked the attacker.
"We serve a man named Jun. I guess you could say he's pretty evil," Ming said. "But we serve him, because we've expanded to different horizons in the past year. A year ago, we would have said 'no' to him if he asked us to be his protégés, but in addition to all that other stuff, we learned that if you can't beat 'em, then join 'em."
"So you threw away your moral compass?" the attacker asked.
"When Xiang betrayed me, I ultimately decided that morals were no longer a factor in my life and I decided to abandon them for the most part," Hong Wu said. "And I got this through to Ming also."
The attacker was silent. "I would be honored to join you two," she said.
"What?" the couple asked, simultaneously.
"You two know exactly what you're talking about," she said. "Your words have inspired me as have your fighting skills. Do you think this Jun will take on another apprentice?"
Hong Wu and Ming looked at each other. "I'm sure he would allow it," said Ming.
"Do you really think so?" the attacker asked.
"Sure," Hong Wu replied. "And what's the worst he could do, say no?"
"You're right," said the attacker.
Hong Wu bent down and unpinned the woman from the ground. "What is your name?" he asked.
"Mitsuki," said the woman.
"It's an honor to meet you, Mitsuki," said Hong Wu.
"Yes, truly an honor indeed," said Ming.
"The honor is all mine," said Mitsuki.
"Now may I ask what you do?" said Hong Wu.
"I'm a drifter," Mitsuki said. "I take on any jobs I want and then I come back here to my home."
"Well now you can travel with us," said Ming. "We're in the process of completing three challenges. We have to kill three people. One is a few miles from here, the second is a little bit further in an outpost, and we'll find out who the third is once we complete the first two."
"Alright, then let's get moving," said Mitsuki.
Several more hours later and the trio had reached the location where this man was supposedly hiding. "So he should be here?" Mitsuki asked.
"Yes," said Hong Wu.
The three of them kept searching. They looked all around the woods for the man, but there was no one there. "What are we going to do?" asked Ming.
"Maybe if I climb to the top of this tree, I can spot him," said Hong Wu.
"That could work," said Mitsuki.
"Wait, what about this cave?" Ming asked. "He could be in there."
"I suppose we could look in here," said Hong Wu. The three of them approached the cave.
"What's this guy's name anyway?" asked Mitsuki.
"His name is Fushin," said Hong Wu. Just then, a large roar of fire was unleashed from the cave. Ming raised an earth barrier around the three of them just in time to protect them. Then a man came running out of the cave. He looked exactly like the man in the picture. "So, you must be Fushin?" Hong Wu asked.
"Why are you after me?" Fushin asked. The man was very gruff and sounded that way when he spoke.
"I'm an assassin. Although I may sometimes wonder what the reason my master wants certain people dead is, it doesn't really matter. We are assassins and therefore we must kill you regardless.
"I'm warning you!" The man yelled. "You better stay back!" He generated two small balls of fire in his hands.
Mitsuki flung her meteor hammer at the man with lightning speed. With no time to react, Fushin was struck in the legs and went down with a scream of intense pain. Then Ming bound his hands to the ground and Hong Wu approached him. "That was too easy," he said.
Fushin looked upon the man who was about to murder him and noticed something. "Wait, you look familiar to me," he said. "Your face, I can't believe I recognize it!"
"What are you babbling about?" asked Hong Wu.
"Is your name Hong Wu?" Fushin asked.
"How do you know my name?" asked Hong Wu.
"Well, I guess I should tell you my real name," said Fushin.
"What?" asked Hong Wu.
"Fushin is just an alias I use to avoid people who want to kill me. My real name is Ba Wu," said Fushin.
"Ba Wu?" asked Hong Wu. "That's... my father's name."
The trio looked upon Hong Wu's father with shock and surprise. "This is your father?" Ming asked.
"That must be part of the test," said Hong Wu. "I'm supposed to eliminate my own father as a challenge of my ability to do what needs to be done."
"Well, how does that challenge me? Ming asked.
"It challenges you in the sense that you had to capture him," said Mitsuki.
"She's right," said Hong Wu. "Now where were we?" Hong Wu took his knife and brought it up to Ba Wu's throat.
"You wouldn't just kill your own father, would you?" asked Ba Wu.
"You abandoned me before I could even talk, you son of a bitch!" Hong Wu screamed. "Maybe if you had been there, mother and I wouldn't have had to live as refugees and then I wouldn't have had to deal with all of the sorrow I've felt my whole life! Just think of this as payback." He swung the knife upward and then swung back down, cutting the man's head clear off.
"Damn," said Ming. "That was cold. I really admire the way you just did that, honey."
"Me, too," said Mitsuki.
Hong Wu took a deep breath before saying anything.
"Honey, are you okay?" asked Ming, putting her hand on his shoulder.
"I'm fine," said Hong Wu. "Now let's get out of here."
Hong Wu walked off into the woods with Ming and Mitsuki following behind him.
For the collective works of the author, go here.