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|Rage and Pain|
Rage and Pain
-"The Dai Li managed to overpower us, and the singled out Sozu as the firebender. Without any airbenders to stop them from raiding the temple, their leader recognized Juji and loaded them into the helicopter. He told me that he would be taking them to the Yincang Caves in the Earth Kingdom. He added that if you want them back alive, you and Yang need to go there, alone."
"Yang, pack your things, get another wingsuit and get to Maya. We need to get to them now."
-"It's a trap, Sai."
"What are you suggesting? That we just leave them in the hands of a maniac?!"
Yang was slightly taken aback by Sai's sharp response. "Of course not. I'm just saying, whatever we do next, he has planned for it. The Dai Li might not be the earthbenders they once were, but Lee is smart, methodical and thorough. He knows that you'd do anything to save them."
Sai sighed, and calmed down a little. "You're right. But what do we do next? Like I said, we can't just abandon them."
Jinora offered a suggestion. "They violated the treaty. If I were to call it in, the United Republic could mount an operation."
Sai immediately shot down the suggestion. "No, that wouldn't work. As soon as that happened, they would kill them anyway, because they need me out of the way."
-"What do you mean?"
"I'm the Avatar. This is Sozin's strategy all over again." He got bewildered looks from both airbenders. "Fire Lord Sozin wiping out the Air Nomads to get to Avatar Aang? I had to hear it second-hand from Juji and a couple of airbenders don't even know their own heritage? Fuck!"
-"Calm down, Sai," Jinora said, with a soothing voice.
He took a deep breath and continued. "Sozin wiped out the Air Nomads so that the Avatar wouldn't stand in his way of world dominance. Maybe the aspirations of the Earth Kingdom aren't that big, and they just want to invade the Republic. But they know I would be in the side of the Republic, doing everything in my power to stop them. Now they have leverage over me," he said, face falling as he spoke those last few words.
-"Okay, I won't report this attack until we figure this thing out."
Sai walked over to the railing, leaning heavily on it and letting his head hang. Yang cautiously followed him, not knowing what he'd do next.
"It's all my fault. I shouldn't have let them get this close. But I did, and now we're all targets."
Yang hated the sight of defeat on him. "Sai, this isn't your fault. They chose to go with you, remember? They knew the risk, and agreed with it. They both did." She hesitated for a moment. "I did. And no matter what you decide to do next, I'm with you, you know that."
A small smile cracked across his face. "I appreciate that, Yang. But I still painted a target on their backs the moment we docked at Ember Island. First they raided the Serizawa Manor, now this... I'm just not sure what to think of it all. We have to get them back."
-"Are you saying you'd... give yourself up?"
"Got any better suggestions?"
Yang opened her mouth, but couldn't find anything to say.
"I don't have a choice. Plus, I'd like to see them contain me. I have a pretty decent handle on three out of four elements, that would have to be a pretty sturdy prison."
-"I know, but still. The chances of us walking out there are not good, and you know it."
"I do. But that's an occupational hazard." She didn't respond. "We have some preparing to do."
They went to Jinora, who took them back to her study. After Sai convinced her of his standpoint, she took out a large map of the world and an atlas.
-"The Yincang Caves are not far from the Northern Air Temple, a good day's worth of flying."
"Shit, that's all the way across the Earth Kingdom. It'll take us a week to get up there!"
-"Maybe not." Jinora had a plan, that much was apparent. "The Dai Li Captain only said that you need to come alone, he didn't say anything about people helping you get there."
Sai was intrigued now. "What do you have in mind?"
-"I can call Opal, tell her that you need to take Maya to the Northern Air Temple fast. Her twin brothers are the patriarchs of Zaofu, they have a whole range of military equipment at their disposal. I'm sure they can spare a cargo plane."
-"So can the Dai Li. We'll never catch them on the way." Yang wasn't too optimistic about their chances.
"That won't matter. They have the initiative, but they don't know that we can save this much time. That gives us an advantage."
They both nodded approvingly, and they set their plan in motion. It didn't take long for Jinora to arrange the plane, and soon, they were ready to leave.
-"Sai, Yang?" Jinora had tears in her eyes as they looked down at her from Maya. "Just... Be careful."
Sai smiled at her. "We will be. Thank you for everything, Master Jinora."
With one mighty swing of her tail, Maya took off again.
They kept on flying through the night to Zaofu, making good time. They switched between sleeping and flying, and eventually made it to the metal city just after noon of the following day. They were taken to the leaders directly. Wei and Wing Beifong looked just alike, and the fact that they dressed similarly didn't help at all. Also present was Suyin. They all sported worried looks, but they had received Opal's call.
Sai and Yang hadn't slept much, or very well. The elderly metalbender expressed her concern. "Avatar Sai... are you alright?"
-"Tell me what Opal told you and I can fill you in."
One of the twins interrupted them. "Opal told us to prepare a military cargo plane immediately, capable of flying a sky bison to the Northern Air Temple. She didn't say why."
Sia looked over to Yang, and she nodded. "Two of our friends were taken by the Dai Li. They have proposed an exchange: them for me. They are being held in a cave complex near the Northern Air Temple." That the Dai Li attacked them in the Air Nation was something he kept quiet.
The twins gave each other and their mother a worried look. Suyin posed the question hanging between the Beifongs. "And you really think it's wise to give yourself up?"
"Truth be told, I have no clue what I'm doing. But they got captured because of me, and I can't just leave my friends when they need me the most."
Suyin nodded understandingly. "I can appreciate that, Sai. But I must urge you to think this through properly, and not do anything rash."
"I'm not. I talked this over and decided that this is the best way. I have a decent handle on three elements now, I think I can figure something out if they imprison me."
-"Alright Sai. I'll get you to the plane." It was either one of the twins that had spoken. "Meet us with your bison at the airfield."
Sai and Yang went to Maya, and flew to the airfield in a nearby flat stretch of land. Wei and Wing were waiting for them in a hangar with one massive plane in it. It taxied out onto the runway, and Yang gently moved Maya into the plane, while the twins gave Sai some last-minute advice.
-"The pilots have been instructed where to fly. I recommend you to jump out a few miles from the caves, so that Dai Li won't suspect you weren't coming alone."
"I will. Thank you for everything."
-"Don't mention it, kid. Take care of yourself."
With that, Sai and Yang both boarded the plane, and it took off.
The plane ride was a good time for Maya to catch some sleep again, they didn't know what was in store for them at the Yincang Caves. Sai and Yang tried to sleep as well, but their attempts proved mostly fruitless.
The pilots woke them up when they were nearly there. They opened the cargo ramp, and the massive beast gently slid down the ramp, and when she was clear, she soared through the sky again. Sai and Yang thanked the pilots for everything, and jumped after Maya.
They quickly caught up, landing gently on the saddle. It took them a while to find the entrance, but they finally landed at the cave. Soon, four Dai Li agents showed up. They silently gestured Sai and Yang to go inside. One of the agents preceded them, the twisting cave being lit by small bulbs every couple of feet. It wasn't much, but they could reasonably see where they were going.
Eventually, they reached a large open hall. Light here was brighter, and Sai could see just how high it was. Easily three normal stories. There were open gantries following the long walls, where they had entered on the short side of the rectangular room. There were lots of Dai Li agents standing on them, all watching Sai and Yang. The four agents escorting them turned around and walked back in the direction they came from.
But it was all to do for what was in the middle. There were two walls, and Sozu and Juji were securely cuffed to them. Lee was standing in between them.
-"You came. You're a better friend than I gave you credit for, I must say that." The smug self-satisfaction was dripping from the voice of the captain. "Now, as you can see, you are completely surrounded. We control all the exits, so don't bother trying to escape with force. If you're leaving here, it's on my terms. Understand?"
Sai just slowly nodded. Even though he was at least a 60 feet away from Captain Lee, the agent did see it. "Good. Now get over here, and I'll release your friends."
He looked over to Yang, and she nodded. He took a few steps forward, then stopped. "I get over there, you let them go. Like you said, I have nowhere to go anyway."
Lee eyed him up, and eventually gave him a bit of lean. "One goes when you get here, the second when you're in cuffs."
Sai nodded again, and walked up to Lee, about twenty feet in front of him. Lee undid the cuffs of Juji, and she immediately sprinted over to Sai and hugged him. "You came! Iwassoscaredanddidn'tknowwhattodoand..."
"It's alright. I'm here. Are you okay?" Sai never took his gaze off Lee while he was talking to her.
"Good. Get over to Yang. She's going to take you away when I get Sozu out."
She walked away, and stood behind Yang. Two agents emerged from the walls on either side of Sai, and cuffed him securely. With his arms and legs restrained, they retreated back to the wall they came from and shut it behind them.
"You have me, now let him go too!"
Captain Lee just stood there, with a sly smile on his face. "I never told you why I did this, did I?"
"I'm not really in the mood for stories."
-"Oh but you will be. You see, I come from the Republic, just like you. I wasn't always an Earth Kingdom citizen. But then Sozin's Comet came back. My father and brother were firebenders, and were under a protection racket from the triad, and they were forced into fighting when the comet came back. Otherwise, me and my mother would get it. And you know what happened? Avatar Korra killed them both. Blew them right out of the sky, leaving them horribly broken. My mother never got over it. But I swore that I would find you, and I would break you."
Sai was more on edge than he had ever been. "So what? Are you going to kill me now? Would that make you happy?"
-"Oh no, then you'll just be reborn. I will break your soul, and you will regret the day you mocked me."
Sai took a few steps forward, slightly hindered by the cuffs. "Don't you dare..."
Lee's eyes narrowed. "Avatar Sai... Consider us even." With a single move from his hand, he moved a block from the wall Sozu was cuffed to forward. Not far, but it was too much.
A dry snap broke through the otherwise silent hall. Lee had forced a brick into the back of Sozu's neck, breaking it and killing him.
-"NOOO!" Yang and Juji sprinted to Sozu, and Yang was blasting away at Lee. "YOU - MOTHER - FUCKING - SON OF A BITCH!"
He easily dodged all attacks. With a single gesture from his hand, his men on the high gantries started breaking down their rock gloves into bullets, shooting them At Yang and Juji, who were now beside Sai. They ducked, but the bullets kept hanging in mid-air, all around them.
Sai hadn't moved an inch. Yang turned around to face him, and saw that his eyes were closed. The rock bullets stopped coming as the agents they weren't hitting anything but air. Suddenly, his eyes shot open, revealing the white glow of the Avatar State. A spike came up from the ground, breaking through his cuffs. He threw his hands outward, shooting all bullets back where they came from. Along the entire length of the room, two massive walls of fire rose up so that they were shielded from the Dai Li agents. Sai slowly walked forward, facing Lee. The captain shot multiple rocks at Sai, but he braced, and broke all of them. With one massive air blast, he blew Lee all the way against the far wall, easily a hundred feet from where he was standing. Lee looked up at Sai, and decided to turn around, before punching a hole through the back wall, which turned out to only be a few feet thick.
Juji ran after Sai, and tried to stop him, by putting a hand on his shoulder. "Sai, no!"
He turned head to Juji, his face angrier than it had ever been. Sai smacked her in the face with the back of his hand, knocking her back a few feet. Then he launched himself after Lee with his firebending, propelling himself forward. He blew out the entire back wall on his way out, straight after the captain, who was sliding along the ground on his rock shoes. Sai shot a massive stream of fire at him, while Lee veered off to the left, narrowly escaping Sai's attack. He made a feeble attempt to attack the airborne Avatar by shooting up three rocks with a swirl around his axis but these all missed. Sai sent a fissure along the ground, and Lee was launched into the air at the high speed he was sliding along the ground at.
The captain broke off a slab of rock from the cliff he was flying past, and moved it into Sai's path, but he just flew straight through. Sai tackled Lee in mid-air, but Lee worked himself free and landed on the ground, cracking it at the spot. He tried to slide away again, but Sai was giving him no leniency. He had pulled water from a lake he had flown over, crashing down a huge volume on Lee, who couldn't avoid it this time. Lee ended up on his back, and Sai shot a small jab at each of his limbs pinning them all to the ground as they turned to ice as soon as they hit.
Sai lifted a stream of rocks, shot a massive blast of fire from one and a blast of air from the other, sending all four elements high into the air, formed a spike with each one, and brought them all down on the captain, piercing his heart.
Sai closed his eyes and gently let himself descend to the ground, passing out when he touched down.
Author's notes, something I don't usually do. I have been playing with this idea since I watched "The Desert", because I always wondered, what if Aang accidentally killed one of the sandbenders? He wouldn't stop at much, so it wouldn't surprise me if he did. Actually, it would, of course, but you get the point. The idea shot through my head again during Sozin's Comet when he pinned Ozai to the ground, this of course being the direct inspiration for Lee's death.
For the collective works of the author, go here.