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|By Agent Slash||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from Agent Slash||Action/Adventure, Drama||PG-PG13||Positive||N/A|
|The Field Trip, Part 2: Wu Li|
"He's coming. I promise," said a woman dressed in black robes. She stood with eight others in a dark, candlelit room.
"Are you sure he took the bait?" asked another woman wearing identical robes.
"Yes," the first woman replied. "He's just that predictable."
"Alright," said the latter. "Then we should prepare for his arrival." The nine of them exited the room, ready to welcome their future guest.
Zuko and Toph rode Feng slowly through the woods. After their battle with Xin Fu, they both thought it was a good idea to take caution. Zuko scanned the forest as they went, watching out for any threats. "How close are we, Sifu Hotman?" Toph asked, clearly annoyed that they hadn't found their target yet.
"June said she was near here," Zuko replied. "So we can't be too far away." Out of nowhere, an earth pillar shot out of the ground. Both heroes were instantly alert. "Not again," Zuko muttered, aggravated with the constant attacks. He leapt off of the eel hound and shot two fireballs in the direction the pillar came from.
Then a voice was heard from behind the trees. "Whoa, whoa, stop!" shouted a man. Zuko halted his attack. Out from behind the trees emerged a man with long, brown, wild hair and a thin mustache. He was dressed in green and had a wily look about him. "I wasn't trying to hurt anybody, geez," said the man.
"Oh, really?" asked Zuko.
"Then what were you trying to do?" asked Toph, who had just gotten down from Feng.
"I was just trying to mess with you guys," the man said, chuckling to himself.
"Someone could have gotten hurt," said Zuko, not amused by this man's humor.
"Oh, come on, it was just a practical joke!" the man insisted. "Lighten up!"
At this point, Toph was laughing as well. "That was pretty funny," she agreed. "What's your name?" she inquired.
"The name's Wu Li," said the man. "I'm a drifter. I go wherever I want whenever I want."
"Hi, Wu Li," said Toph. "I'm-"
"A pretty fine looking gal if I do say so myself," Wu Li said.
Toph immediately became more uncomfortable. "What now?" she asked, thinking about whether she should be flattered or pummel him into the ground.
"I've been to quite a few places in my days and I've seen quite a few people, but never before have I ever seen anyone quite like you," said Wu Li.
"Well, that's-" Toph started.
"Okay, look, we don't have time for this," said Zuko, trying desperately to get rid of this pest. "We have something important to do."
"What kind of thing?" Wu Li asked. He was really starting to push Zuko's buttons.
"Important stuff that you have no business being a part of!" Zuko explained.
"Great! I haven't done anything important in a while. I could use a change for now," said Wu Li. The earthbender hopped up on top of Feng just behind Toph. "So, where are we going?"
"Hold on," said Toph. "Who said you could come?"
"Aw, come on. You know you want me to," Wu Li insisted.
"Listen, you sound like a cool guy, but-"
"But what?" asked Wu Li.
"But I'm not sure what I actually think about you."
"Only one way to find out," said Wu Li.
"For the last time, you are not coming with us!" Zuko yelled.
"I can't believe he's coming with us," Zuko muttered to himself.
"So there I am hiding behind the trees when this rich guy in a carriage is just coming through the woods. So I wait until just the right moment and make this huge dragon-looking thing using my bending!" Wu Li said, captivating Toph with a story. "The guy shrieked like a little girl! I swear I saw a stain on his pants when he walked out. It was priceless!" Toph laughed at Wu Li's story, amused by the man's prank. "I wish you could've seen the look on his face."
"Yeah, me, too," said Toph. Wu Li, of course, didn't know what she meant.
"So have you decided what you think of me yet?" asked Wu Li.
"I've gotta admit, I thought I had you pegged as a sleaze, but you're actually pretty cool," Toph admitted.
"Yep, the ladies just can't resist me once they lay eyes on me," said Wu Li.
"Yeah, about that," said Toph. "I don't exactly see like you do."
"What do you mean?" Wu Li questioned.
"Well, I see with earthbending. I sense the vibrations in the earth and I can see where everything is."
"Wow, just like a badgermole."
"Yeah, my teachers were badgermoles."
"That is so cool," said Wu Li. "So you're a police chief and ol' Grumpy McScarface up there is the Fire Lord?"
"Yeah," said Toph.
"What did you just call me?" asked Zuko.
"Sorry, your Fieriness," Wu Li apologized.
Zuko simply turned around and muttered to himself under his breath.
"You know, I like my women headstrong," Wu Li said, more seriously now, but still with a light-hearted charm.
"Wait, are you serious about being interested in me?" asked Toph.
"Well, yeah, did you think I was kidding?" asked Wu Li.
"Well, you do seem to do a lot of kidding."
"Guilty as charged. But, yeah, I really do find you interesting, Toph," said Wu Li. Feeling uncomfortable once again, Toph leaned away from her new friend. "What's wrong, Toph?"
"Look, it's just, I like you a lot, but not that way," said Toph.
"Is there a reason why?"
"Well, it's complicated."
"I assume we still have enough time."
"Well, something happened back a long time ago where I... fell in love with someone and they turned around and stabbed me and several of my friends in the back. I just can't risk that ever happening again. I won't let it happen."
"Wow, that sounds-"
Before any more could be said, Zuko shouted. "Watch out!" Toph instantly became more alert while Wu Li whipped his head towards Zuko. Everywhere, darts where zooming towards them. They came from the treetops, from the bushes, even from directly ahead and all of them were aimed at Zuko. Acting on instinct, Wu Li grabbed Toph and leapt off of Feng, avoiding the darts. The eel hound went down, letting out a low cry of pain and collapsing to the ground. Several of the darts managed to penetrate Zuko as well. Without enough time to react, Zuko was defenseless against the speeding weapons. He collapsed as well just moments after impact. As his vision and consciousness faded, he saw several women surround him and then everything went black.
Standing over them, the leader spoke. "Grab him!" Two of the women grabbed the Fire Lord and dragged him along with them. "What about the others?" asked another of the women.
"They've probably run off into the woods for now," said the leader. "And if they come back, then we'll just have to be prepared."
Toph and Wu Li were, in fact, hiding right next to Feng, squatting low so they couldn't be seen.
"Alright, girls, let's get out of here," the leader said.
"Yes, ma'am," the others responded. The group retreated into the woods, taking their prize with them.
"What are we going to do?" asked Wu Li.
"Don't worry. We just have to follow them quietly," said Toph. "I can feel where they're going. We just trail them back to their hideout and – bam! We've got them."
"Wow, that's pretty clever."
"Yeah, I know," Toph replied. "I use this little trick back in Republic City all of the time." The two of them heard Feng let out a soft whimper of pain as he lay on his side. "That's alright, Feng," said Toph. "You stay here and regain your strength. We'll handle this on our own." Thrusting her arm towards the ground, she opened up a hole and jumped inside. "Jump in," she ordered. Wu Li hopped into the hole and Toph sealed it up. "Alright, just follow my lead," she said.
"I can't even see you," said Wu Li. "How am I supposed to follow you?"
"You can't walk in a straight line until I tell you to stop?" Toph shot back.
Wu Li chose not to respond. He instead followed Toph through the darkness. The two trudged on, hoping that they would soon find whatever base these women were hiding out in. "So why does Zuko's girlfriend want to kill him?" asked Wu Li.
Toph thought for a moment. This was the first time she realized that she didn't know the answer to that question. "I'm not completely sure," she responded. "I always just assumed she wanted payback for the breakup... but she was the one who dumped Zuko."
"Well, I guess we'll just have to ask her then."
"Wait, stop!" Toph ordered. Wu Li did as he was told and came to a halt. "I can feel something above us. It's made of metal."
"Well, considering we're a forest, I'd say that's probably what we're looking for."
Toph bent the earth above them and opened another hole. She leapt out followed by Wu Li. The two stood before the entrance to a small building. "Not quite as big as I expected," Wu Li quipped.
"Come on," said Toph.
"No problem. I'll just-"
"Hold on, you should probably leave it to me." Toph slammed her fists into the door and knocked it clean off of its hinges. Wu Li stood, amazed at Toph's powers. "You're a metalbender?!"
"Sure am. Now come on!" She took off running through the building.
"It's like the Spirits wrapped up everything I loved in a woman and just threw her in the woods!" Wu Li exclaimed before taking off after her.
Zuko could feel his consciousness returning. He opened his eyes and moved his head around, but everything was black. He could not see a single thing! He tried blinking, hoping his vision would restore itself, but to no avail. Then he had a terrible thought. What if the darts had injected some kind of blinding poison in him? Would he never be able to see again? He struggled to move, but found himself restrained. As his senses came back to him, he noticed he was bound against the wall and also noticed the bag over his head as well, explaining his lack of vision. He then heard a voice he recognized, even though it had aged. "Well, it seems that Fire Lord Zuko has left the comfort of his throne," said the leader.
"Why don't you take off the bag and let me look you in the eye," Zuko said.
"You don't give the orders around here, your highness," said the woman.
"Take the bag off, Mai!" Zuko demanded.
Mai quickly ripped the bag off of Zuko's head and looked the Fire Lord in the eye. He hadn't seen her in over ten years. For the first time since then, he saw her ever-gloomy face, which now appeared to have doubled in depression, as well as the two long strands of hair that ran down it and the red cloak that she wore. "I'm going to kill you, you son of a bitch!" she threatened.
"How could you possibly be angry with me?!" Zuko asked. "You were the one who ended it all!"
"You think I wanted to, Zuko?!" Mai shot back. "You and your secrets are what ended it!"
"I was confused!" Zuko defended himself. "I wasn't thinking clearly! Everything would have gotten better!"
"You've become too much of an optimist, Zuko. It disgusts me!"
"So go ahead and kill me," Zuko challenged.
"Oh, I will. And afterwards, I'll drag your carcass back to the Fire Nation," Mai replied.
"Then why did you go to the trouble of luring me out here?" asked Zuko.
"I had to get you away from your guards, from your palace, all the way out here into the woods with nobody else around. And you fell for it like a sucker."
Zuko looked around and saw the other women in the room. "Are you going to introduce me to your little friends?"
"They're my followers," said Mai. "They all have the same goal that I do: your dethronement. We mostly work by ourselves, but when people need our help making someone disappear, we get the job done. I've had a lot of time to think, Zuko, and over the years, I've grown to resent you more and more. I've decided that you need to go down. So, Fire Lord, it looks like you're about to meet your end brought to you by the Daughters of Ozai."
"The what?!" Zuko asked, appalled at the similarity to Banhen's organization.
"Oh, didn't I mention? These ladies are all former members of the Sons of Ozai; scattered after the Liberation of the Fire Nation."
"You mean to tell me that after all of those months we spent fighting off the Sons of Ozai so many years ago that now you've become one of them?!" Zuko could not believe what he was hearing.
"Face it, Zuko, I've changed," Mai said. "You know all about that, don't you?" She slipped a knife out from under her robe and brought it back, preparing to hurl it. She threw it at Zuko, but the metal object was thrown sideways and struck the wall instead.
"Well, well, if it isn't Miss Gloomy," said Toph. "Having heard the last little bit of that speech, I've gotta say, even I'm disappointed at how low you've sunk."
"This feels just like old times again, doesn't it, Toph?" Mai asked. She pulled out another knife and threw it at the blind earthbender. Toph bent the metal off of the floor, encased her arm in it, and raised it so that it blocked the dagger. The other women in the room immediately sprang into action. Two of them bent fire streams at Toph and Wu Li, but Toph raised the metal off of the floor and created a shield to protect them. She then made an outwards dent in the metal on the wall the two ladies were nearest and knocked them over to the other side of the room.
"Wu Li, distract them!" Toph said, running over to help Zuko.
"Me? Whoa, I can't bend in here!" Wu Li protested. He dodged several more knives as the zipped at him.
Toph slid between two more women and dented the metal on the floor beneath them, knocking them over as well. She stood back up and broke Zuko's metal restraints, freeing him. However, Mai had her hand raised in the air and was about to throw another dagger. Just before she threw it, Wu Li ran over and slapped her arm, causing her to drop the weapon. "I bet your last boyfriend didn't risk his life to save you," Wu Li bragged.
"Actually, he did, but-" Toph started. Two more firebenders hurled flaming disks at them, but Zuko leapt in front of Toph and nullified them.
"Let's get out of here!" Zuko said.
"Aw, come on, I'm just starting to have fun," said Toph.
"Yeah, I know, this would be a lot of fun for me, too, if I could bend," Wu Li admitted. "You guys are so lucky!"
"Come on!" Zuko yelled, having lost his patience.
Toph and Wu Li didn't question him. They followed him out of the building and reached the exit. "You're just going to leave them there?" Toph asked.
"No, I'm going to burn this place down," said Zuko. He outstretched his hand just before a dagger struck it. Zuko cried out in pain as Mai ran outside to join them.
"You're not getting away!" she yelled.
"Yes, we are," said Toph. She bent the three of them underground and out of sight. Mai gritted her teeth and returned to the base.
Yet another hole opened up in the ground and spewed out Toph, Zuko, and Wu Li. Feng was now back on his feet. "Don't worry, Zuko, we'll get that hand healed up I no time," said Toph.
"Where is Katara when you need her," Zuko half joked.
"So, Wu Li, that was some good fighting out there today," said Toph.
"Yeah, I hate to admit it, but you did well," said Zuko.
"Do you want to come back with us?" asked Toph.
"Nah, thanks for the offer, but it just isn't my thing," said Wu Li.
"What?" Toph asked, shocked. "I thought-"
"That I liked you? Yeah, I do, but I'm not sure I want to get mixed up in this whole crazy thing you've got going on. And from a wild boy like me, that's saying something! He earthbent a column from the ground and sprang himself into the air. "See you guys around... or not!"
Toph smirked as she watched Wu Li fade. "Men," she muttered.
"Alright, let's get back to Republic City," said Zuko.
"Fine by me," said Toph. The pair climbed on top of Feng, whipped his reigns and headed for the water.
For the collective works of the author, go here.