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|The Impenetrable City, Pt. 2|
This chapter focuses mostly on the relationships of the characters, specifically two certain people.
Chapter 21: The Impenetrable City, Pt. 2
Yun Zhen sat on the bed in his quarters, sorrow filling his heart. The first day of the World Meeting had ended with the news of Bumi's death. My mentor... he's gone.
He remembered the old king's laugh, his grin, and his enduring kindness. The kindness that allowed him to train a young, disabled young man in Earthbending.
"I should have been there to help..." Tears filled his eyes, but he blinked them away. "Why! I've had everything taken away from me! My parents and my mentor are both dead..." He raised his fists. "Why has everyone I love been taken from me?!"
His mother's green eyes and warm smile formed in his mind, as well as his father's kind demeanor and sense of humor.
He felt her footsteps before she even got to the door, and he opened it. Ty Lee stood, ready to knock, but quickly and sheepishly pulled back her hand. "I'm sorry, Yun."
"It's alright; you weren't really interrupting anything." She's the closest friend I have right now. I have no one else who knows what I'm going through.
"No, I didn't mean that. I meant about Bumi. Can I come in?"
"Sure." Yun gestured to his room. "It's a lot nicer than what I'm normally used to."
"Are you going to be okay?"
Yun narrowed his eyes. "I don't know how you'll feel when I tell you this, but no, I won't be okay. Not until Bumi's murderer has been dealt with."
Ty Lee debated for a moment how to react, how to answer. His aura shifted quickly between the warm orange of a sunset and the intense color of flame. She leaned against the wall. "I don't understand what you've been through, Yun, but I'm here if you want to talk."
Yun sighed; she cared so much. Why? What in the world have I done to deserve someone in my life like her? His heart began beating like a drum, and even he didn't expect what came out of his mouth. "Do you want to... I don't know... go out and... uh... do something? To be honest, I need to get out of here, and I'd like to have your company."
Her expression brightened considerably, and it made Yun slightly happier to see her like that. "Sure! I'd love that! What do you have in mind?"
Yun hesitantly reached for her hand, which she accepted. "Well... there is this one tea shop that I've heard a lot about..."
Aang and Katara stood on the balcony of Aang's suite; it was the only room on that side of the palace with one.
"The sunset is so beautiful..." Katara said wistfully.
"Yeah, it is. It almost made me forget about today's meeting." Aang grinned.
"How did it feel, being there with all those leaders?"
"Honestly, it was really scary." Aang laughed. "I'm the Avatar, and the only thing that scares me is a little meeting..." He gazed at Katara. "That and losing the people I love."
Katara smiled and pulled him in for a kiss, but Hakoda chose that moment to open the balcony door. "Katara, I wanted to know—!" He stood, mouth gaped open."Dad!" Katara yelled, indignant.
The Southern Water Tribe Chieftain shook his head. "I can see that you two are... busy, so... I'll come back later..." Hakoda backed away before closing the door.
Katara rolled her eyes. "Fathers!"
Zuko and Mai sat in the Jasmine Dragon, enjoying tea and fruit tarts. "Thank you for making all of this in advance, Uncle."
Iroh shrugged. "It's not every day that the Fire Lord comes to my shop with his girlfriend. Besides, it's been slow."
Zuko cocked his head. "Representatives from all four nations are here in Ba Sing Se, and business is slow?"
"No, no, I was talking about Pai Sho! People don't play as often as they used to." Iroh glanced at Zuko out of the corner of his eye. "If only someone would play just one game with a lonely old man..."
Zuko chuckled. "Sorry, Uncle, but I'm not too sure Mai would put up with having to watch."
Mai nodded. "It's true. I'm just a spoiled brat." She softened the comment with a small smile.
"I'll play." Piandao said as he walked through the door. "It's been quite a while since I have lost to the great General Iroh."
Iroh beamed. "Excellent! A worthy opponent to match my skill and wit, who is nothing like my bad sport of a nephew!"
As the two Lotus members sat down to play, Yun and Ty Lee walked through the door. "Excuse me for a moment Master Piandao." Iroh said as he got up to greet his customers.
"Take all the time you need, General; it will give me more time to create my strategy..." Piandao replied as he stroked his goatee, deep in thought.
Yun couldn't help but notice Mai glaring at him as he walked past. "Better put her on my 'People to Avoid for the Sake of my Health' list," he said to himself.
"Welcome to the Jasmine Dragon! How may I be of service?"
Yun recognized the man as the Grand Lotus at the meeting next to Guru Pathik. "Well, sir, I'd like to know what kind of tea you serve. I'm not really...um... knowledgeable about the different kinds." He turned to Ty Lee. "What would you like?"
"Oh, I don't know..." She looked at the board outlining the different kinds. "What's your favorite, Iroh?"
"Well, young lady, my personal favorite is Jasmine, but for you, I'd recommend White Dragon. It is a high quality leaf that is rare and has an exquisite taste."
"Ooh, that's sounds wonderful."
Yun wasn't paying much attention to the exchange. Iroh, isn't that the general who... no, it couldn't be..."And what would you like, young man?"
Forcibly brought back to reality, Yun quickly glanced at the board. "Uh... I'll have Green Tea, please, sir."
"Ah, a brilliant choice, Green Tea aids in one's health and well-being." Iroh looked more closely at the patron in front of him. "I'm surprised to see a young man from the Fire Nation here. Are you one of the officer's servants?"
Yun's eyes widened. How does everyone know this? Am I about to find a long lost grandfather?! "Uh... no... how did you...?"
Iroh poured their tea. "It's your eyes, young man, amber is not an eye color native to any other nation but the Fire Nation, mostly nobility." He handed them each their cups. "If it is not a subject you want discussed..."
"No, it's fine. I guess it was just more obvious than I thought."
All three turned as Piandao interrupted. "Especially if you're family..."
Katara paced the room like a caged tigerdillo. "I just can't believe he doesn't trust me enough to respect my privacy!"
Aang held up his hands. "Easy, Katara, so he accidentally walked in on us; what's the big deal?"
Katara shook her head. "Oh, no, that was no accident! He did that on purpose!"
"Maybe he was just trying to help?" Aang offered weakly.
"Oh, yeah, even though I'm a Waterbending master, he still thinks I need protection. Well I don't!"
"He's just trying to be a good father, Katara, calm down."
Katara sighed. "Maybe you're right... it probably was just an accident."
Aang smiled. "See? What'd I tell you?"
"I just hope he doesn't blow things out of proportion..."
Hakoda sat on a bench outside of his room. "I'm telling you, Bato, I'm losing my grip on my family. I'm Dad, but why don't I feel like Dad?"
Bato leaned against the wall. "There's a simple solution to your dilemma: be Dad. While your children may be powerful warriors, you're still in charge. They have to see that."
Hakoda sighed. "Well, my daughter is making out with the Avatar... that, Bato, is any father's nightmare. The kid may be young, but he could still beat me with both hands behind his back."
"So what exactly is the problem?"
Hakoda half smiled. "I guess I just don't want to lose my daughter too soon."
"Hey, you've got two years until she's marrying age Big Papa!" Bato slapped him on the back. "And besides, if you really want the kid to go away, you could tell him some of your jokes."
"I'm just messing with you." Bato grinned, but that quickly faded as he gave it careful thought. "Besides, if the Avatar finds Sokka funny, it probably wouldn't work anyway."
Yun gave Iroh two gold pieces as payment. "Thank you for stopping by!" He suddenly stopped them as they went to leave. "Wait!"
Yun turned. "What is it?"
"I don't believe that I ever asked you your name."
"Yun Zhen, sir."
"Ah, a wonderful name, and I believe aptly so. It means 'Flourishing Loyalty.' Does that not describe you?"
Yun nodded. "I guess it does. Thanks again!"
"You're very welcome."
As they left the tea shop, Yun and Ty Lee failed to notice the two Dai Li agents perched on the roof across from the shop.
"The Fire Lord is in that building; maybe we should take him out now."
"No!" The other one said. "Our orders are to observe and report, nothing more. Besides, the two of us would be killed going up against him and the Dragon of the West alone."
"Agreed," replied the first, "Go alert Long Feng; I'll follow the two that just left."
Yun and Ty Lee walked the streets of the upper ring. "So, Ty Lee, you know my life story in a nutshell, but I don't know that much about you."
Ty Lee jumped up onto the walkway railing, never losing step. "Where do I start? I guess I'll just tell you about my family. I was born one of seven sisters who all looked exactly alike, and well... that was never fun. I could never be myself because there were carbon copies of me everywhere. It wasn't until after I took up acrobatics that I began to feel like... like I mattered."
"But you do matter." Especially...especially to me, I guess.
She giggled. "Thanks, Yun, you're sweet, but back then I wanted to get away from being a part of a matched set. When I joined the circus, I felt unique, accepted."
"It makes your current situation kind of ironic then." What are you doing? Stop talking before you get yourself into trouble!
"What do you mean?"
"Well," Shut up! Shut up! "I mean, you didn't want to be part of a matched set, but now that you're with the Kyoshi Warriors, who dress a fight alike, you kinda are." Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!
Ty Lee looked at the ground. "I'd never thought of it that way."
"I didn't mean that the way it sounded; it just sorta came out." Yun apologized hoping he hadn't upset her.
"No, I mean I'd really never thought of it that way before." She smiled as Yun blushed. "But it's nice to know that you care about my feelings."
They stopped when they reached a fountain with lanterns all around.
"Oh my gosh, it's so pretty." Ty Lee said as she stared at the water, which reflected the orange light of the lanterns.
Yun stared at the lanterns until he felt Ty Lee squeeze his hand. "Thank you for this, Yun."
"What'd I do?"
She turned to him. "You accepted me."
Yun's breath was stolen away as she pulled him in for a kiss. They both drank deep in tender caress that lasted for several seconds.
"Uh... you're welcome." This was all Yun could say as they held each other close.
Long Feng stood and watched as the two teens enjoyed themselves. They presented an opportunity. "Move in, both have connections to the Avatar and Fire Lord Zuko; capture them both alive!"
"Yes, Long Feng!" The Dai Li agents replied as they descended from the roof.
Yun felt them a second too late. "Watch ou—!" He felt a fist graze his chin and knock him into the pool. Two more sets of rock gloves restrained Ty Lee's hands and feet. The Dai Li opened up a passage and carried her under.
Yun Zhen jumped out of the water and stuck his arms into the earth. "Ty Lee!" He felt one of the agent sending fissure toward him, so he jumped to the left and promptly relieved the man of his bending through strategically placed pressure strikes. He then proceeded to break his nose with an open-handed palm.
I need my sword. Yun thought as he deprived more agents of their bending. He followed the trail underground and saw Long Feng with two more Dai Li, one of whom was carrying Ty Lee. Yun launched spikes from his gauntlets at Long Feng, but the more experienced Earthbender grabbed Ty Lee as he fired them and tossed her in their path.
"No!" Yun had no time to think; he simply stomped the earth and raised a slab that saved Ty Lee's life. The intense pain returned. "Augh!" Yun slumped over, trying to stay conscious.
"Yun!" Ty Lee cried.
Long Feng picked Ty Lee up off of the ground. "He is weakened; restrain him and bring him with you."
"Yes, Long Feng!" The two said as they closed in.
- Writing Hakoda's 'therapy session' was especially fun
- In answering any potential questions, yes I do have a 'People to Avoid for the Sake of my Health' list
For the collective works of the author, go here.