|By Agent Slash||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
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Normally this is the part where I'd say something like, 'as we rode through the Fire Nation,' or something of that nature, but I'm sure the Kang Ho are doing something right now that's important and since I can't really tell you what they are doing, I'll let you hear about it in a different way.
"Sir, people are starting to arrive," said a bright-eyed, blonde-haired woman. "Are you going to come out and greet them?"
"Yes, of course," said the man she was addressing. He had short, black hair, an impressive build, and a voice that would make any woman faint. He was not a ladies' man, though. He was a man of the people and he would see to it that his people saw justice and freedom from the Fire Nation's oppressive tyranny. He turned to face his aide and walked towards the door. "Let's go say hello, shall we?"
"Yes, sir, Imori," said his aide.
So now that you know what they are up to, we can get on with what I am doing. We were sprinting atop the earth, moving faster than a speeding mongoose dragon, when I posed the question, "How much longer before we get there?"
"Ask him," Hoku replied. "I don't even know where I'm going."
"It's too early to start asking how long it will be before we arrive," said Mongke. "It will be a few days."
"And how many do we have again?" I asked.
"Two," Mongke replied.
"I thought we had three," I said.
"They have decided to move it up a day," said Mongke. "Or at least that's what those people back in Hira'a told us."
"Great," I muttered. "That gives us even less time."
"Don't worry. We'll make it," said Hoku.
I just hoped he was right. As we went on, we entered a particularly dark, green forest. It became harder to navigate through, so Hoku ceased making the earth wave and we all found ourselves standing flat on our feet. "Where are we?" I asked.
"I don't know," said Hoku. "But I don't like the look of this place. There's something ominous about it."
"I know where we are," said Mongke. "We are in the Forgetful Valley. It is said that people who enter this place never come out."
Without saying another word, each of us accepted that we would have to navigate through this forest if we were to get to our destination, so we all walked through slowly, taking mind of our surroundings.
"So what do you think is in here that is so deadly?" asked Hoku, breaking the silence.
"They say this place has some sort of connection to the Spirit World," Mongke said. "Of course, that can't be true, so stay alert for any real threats."
I found myself raising an eyebrow at Mongke's statement. "What do you mean that can't be true? Do you not believe in the spirits?"
"Of course not," Mongke said. "Do you?"
"I have always believed in the spirits," I replied.
Mongke let out a chuckle. "Come on, don't be so ridiculous, Hong Wu," he said. "Spirits are nothing more than fairy tale creatures used to put children to sleep at night."
"You had better hope there aren't any of them in this forest. With that attitude, they would gladly attack you."
"Then let them show themselves. Where are they now?"
The three of us covered our ears following the ear-splitting sound that followed Mongke's inquiry. The whole forest echoed with the sound of animals shrieking and it was nearly too much for our eardrums to bear. Finally it subsided and a voice was heard. "You don't believe in spirits?" said a high-pitched voice. "You don't believe in spirits?! Do you believe in them now?!"
As if from nowhere, hundreds of creatures swarmed at us, intent on killing us right there in the forest. From moth wasps to piranhapillers to raven doves, the animals charged. Like a fool, Mongke started firebending at the creatures, to which I protested. "Stop attacking them, you moron! You're only making them angrier!"
"Then what would you do? Have them tear our eyes out?" Mongke shot back.
"Let's just run for it!" Hoku called out.
"We can't even see where we're running!" I called back.
"DO YOU BELIEVE IN SPIRITS NOW?!?!" The high-pitched voice roared.
"Yes! Yes, I believe in spirits!" Mongke answered.
"Good. What you won't believe, though, is how fast they can catch you!"
Suddenly, all of the creatures shot up into the air, then dove back down, coming straight for us.
"Run!" I shouted. The three of us took off, desperately trying to outrun the animals. We brushed aside vines and leaves, attempting to make our way out of this literal spirit forsaken valley. We sprinted until we came to a pool in a clearing. It was then that we realized that this would be our end. As the animals homed in on us, their stingers and talons sharp and ready, we braced ourselves to enter the Spirit World itself. Then they all dispersed.
And as all of the animals scattered away, we heard the voice from nowhere cackling. "That gave you quite a workout, didn't it?" it asked. "Let this be a reminder to you that the spirits are very real and very touchy about any disbelief in them. You ought to listen to your friend. He is obviously more intelligent than you."
"Thank you, oh, kind and gracious valley spirit," I said. "We thank you for allowing us to live and leave this valley."
The three of us then proceeded to walk on until we finally reached the end of the valley. "Could you possibly have sucked up to it more?" Mongke asked.
Before I could respond, I stopped short and looked before me with widened eyes. There was no land in front of us! Just miles and miles of open sea.
"Um, am I the only one who sees the ocean in front of us?" Hoku asked.
"No, you're not," I replied. "Do you want to explain this, Mongke?"
"Relax," Mongke said. "I have a plan."
"And what plan might that be?" I asked.
"Hoku, bend the earth up from the sea floor to make a path. We'll walk along it the rest of the way," Mongke said.
"Are you sure that will work?" asked Hoku. "The sea floor could be miles below the surface of the ocean."
"Well, then you better hope that this works or else this is a dead end."
Hoku nodded, understanding what he had to do. He moved his arms around and motioned upward with his outstretched arms, summoning the earth beneath the waves. Several moments passed and then a pathway lay before us. Hoku wiped the sweat off of his brow and sighed. "That was convenient."
"That was pretty clever of you," I noted. Indeed, Mongke's plan took me off guard. I had never known him to be anything other than a loud, simple-minded brute.
"I'm not known just for my firebending prowess, Hong Wu," he replied.
"Alright, let's move," said Hoku. "We've wasted enough time in this valley."
So we walked along the pathway, having to stop every once in a while for a few seconds to allow Hoku to raise more earth up. The important thing, though, is we were on our way.
The three of us were still walking along our path in the middle of the sea, nearly exhausted from our never ending day's journey. "Guys," Hoku started. "We've got to stop and rest for the night. I... can't... go on anymore." He then collapsed on the pathway, breathing sharply and hoarsely for breath.
"He's right," I said. "We have to stop here."
"Alright," Mongke agreed.
He and I lied down and attempted to fall asleep, but not before I posed the question, "Hey, what if one of us rolls over and falls into the ocean?"
"Then we have an unfortunate situation on our hands," Mongke replied. There was a pause before he spoke again. "You know, you're not all that bad, Hong Wu. I know we've had our differences in the past, but you've proven to be a worthy ally and fighter on this mission."
"You really think that?" I asked. "Even though I killed your cousin?"
"He was an asshole anyway," Mongke said.
"I suppose you aren't all that bad either," I admitted. "I'm sure Hoku would say the same thing if he could speak."
"You're...o....kay," Hoku slowly wheezed.
"See? Anyway, it's a good thing we've settled our differences, because we're going to need to be fully in unison tomorrow if we're going to win," I said.
"Indeed," Mongke replied.
Then the three of us closed our eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Just a few hours later, we awoke. Hoku, surprisingly, was the first person up. I saw him readying himself as I opened my eyes. I suppose those Dai Li agents really are supernatural. I stood up and stretched, twisting my arms around as I spotted Mongke standing behind me, putting his armor on. "So, are we all ready?" I asked.
"Yes," Hoku replied. "We should be there by noon."
"Excellent," I said.
"Alright, then, let's get a move on," Mongke said.
So Hoku kept raising our pathway out of the ocean, allowing us to walk along it with ease. It bewildered me how, after so many hours, he was able to keep going. "Are you sure you will have enough strength left to fight?" I asked him.
"Don't you worry about that," Hoku replied. "I'll be just fine."
Hours passed by, the sun moved further and further west, and the air got hotter and hotter as we trudged on. Then finally, at long last, we saw land. "Land ho!" Mongke called out.
"Finally," Hoku said, obviously relieved. "Now let's do what we came to do." With greater speed than before, Hoku raised the ocean floor out from beneath the water, taking us closer and closer to the shores of Xinzhi.
"And you're sure this is the right place?" I asked.
"This should be the correct location," Mongke replied.
"It better be," said Hoku.
Finally we reached the shore and felt the soft, brushy grass beneath our feet. "I've never been so happy to feel grass in all my life," I said.
"Same goes for me," said Hoku. "And I'm and earthbender."
"So how long before we reach the city?" I asked.
"From here to the city, it should take an hour to get there," Mongke answered.
"Then let's not waste any time," I said. Since the summit has surely begun by now or perhaps is about to begin, you should probably know what they're up to.
All of the Kang Ho supporters sat watching the leaders as the summit started. They all stood at their podiums in a circle as they began the discussion.
"We all know why we are here," said Imori. "We are here to break away from the Fire Nation and become our own democratic nation!" This was met with much applause. "And we do not do this without cause. Fire Lord Azulon has given us all a reason for being here today. To show what a horrible monster he is and just why we no longer want any part of him, I call upon my fellow leaders to speak of the atrocities committed by him on each of your homelands."
A heavyset man who was mostly bald, save for hair on the sides and back of his head, spoke first. "That bastard Azulon runs this country like a prison! He has total control, total authority, and total disregard for the citizens of my city and for all the cities in the Fire Nation! This is not the way a government should be run! The city of Qiangying supports the motion of secession."
"Thank you, Kenta," Imori said. "Who will speak next?"
A woman wearing pink robes and face paint resembling that of a geisha's stood and spoke next. "The Fire Nation has treated it's people so cruelly for almost a whole century now," she said with a soft, sorrowful voice. "All that should matter to people is being nice to each other, but Fire Lord Azulon so evilly does away with people like they are nothing. Why, just earlier today I heard of an attack on my town and many people were killed. The town of Hira'a supports the motion of secession."
"I am deeply sorry to hear that, Yuu," said Imori. "Who next?"
"Me!" said a man with grey hair and a raspy voice. "The Fire Nation treats it's soldiers like dirt! Did any of you know that there are actually Fire Nation generals whose battle strategies involve sacrificing their own battalions, using them as fresh meat?!" The man was met with an uproar of gasps. "As a former war veteran, this makes me sick to my stomach. The town of Shi'er supports the motion of secession."
"Unbelievable. Even I was unaware of that," said Imori. "I'm deeply sorry to hear that, Osamu. Who will speak now?"
"I will," said another man. One with tattered, burned clothes and the charred remains of his beard. "The way the Fire Nation treats it's wildlife is despicable! They burn down forests and hunt animals for sport! I got these wounds just the other day escaping assassins sent by the Fire Lord who burned down the beloved forest in which I live!" The man was hysterical. "The village of Dongwu, or what is left of it anyway, supports the motion of secession."
"Thank you, Zong," said Imori. "And I suppose we only have one person left."
A rather voluptuous woman with long, brown hair spoke next. "The Fire Nation has come into my home without giving us a choice of whether or not we want them there. They have polluted our river and they have poisoned our food, leaving many of us sick, starving, and even some people have died and yet they refuse to listen to us, despite our protests. The village of Jang Hui supports the motion of secession."
"Thank you, Sora," said Imori. "As for me, I wish to secede, because for nearly one hundred years, the Fire Nation has been the world's greatest evil. They wiped out the Air Nomads and have been on a quest for total world domination. They have killed countless families, whether they be from the Fire Nation, the Earth Kingdom, the Water Tribes, or the Air Nomads and I cannot stand to be a part of a nation that is run by the embodiment of evil itself. My father spoke out against the government just as I do now and he was silenced by the Fire Lord. I will not let his death be in vain. The city of Xinzhi supports the motion of secession."
Now that you know what's going on there, let's get back to us. We were riding through the city on a mongoose dragon we picked up about twenty minutes after we left the shore. "It's a good thing we found this mongoose dragon," said Mongke. "Or this would have been nearly impossible."
Ignoring him, I asked, "Where is the summit being held?"
"Do you see that large building over there? The one that is far larger than all the others?" asked Mongke.
"Yes," both Hoku and I said.
"It's being held there on the fourteenth floor."
"Alright, then," I said. I whipped the mongoose dragon's reigns and we sped up towards the building. When we reached the building, I tugged on the reigns, getting the animal to stop. The three of us got off and I relayed instructions to the others. "Mongke, I want you to propel yourself up there," I instructed. "Hoku, I need you to give us a lift." The two of them nodded and waited for my order. "Ready? Go!"
Mongke jet propelled himself up to the fourteenth floor window while Hoku lifted us up with an earth slab. We could hear one of the Kang Ho members speaking as we got nearer the window.
"Then it is official," said Imori. "On this day, we declare secession from the Fire Nation and become our own independent nation!" This was met with cheer from the followers.
The three of us got to the fourteenth floor window and Mongke blasted through the glass, turning the cheers to screams. The three of us entered the room, witnessing the surprised looks of the leaders and the panicked followers running away.
"What is the meaning of this?" asked Imori. "Who are you?"
"Those are the heathens who burned down my forest!" shouted Zong.
"Yes, and I'm sorry to say that there will be no independence for you today, my friends," said Mongke.
"He's right," I said. "Just give up and make it easier on us."
"You bums are outta your minds if you think we're giving in to you!" said Kenta. "Imori, let's waste these bozos!"
"Yes, let's," said Imori. The two leaders unleashed great fire streams at the three of us, with Mongke blocking Kenta's attack and Hoku nullifying Imori's with an earth wall.
I slipped out and ran around the circular room, looking for a target to strike. I eyed the old hermit, Zong, and remembered how he lied to us before. I pulled out a knife and whisked it in his direction, aiming for his head. The old dirt bag saw it and ducked, responding with a fire blast himself. I leaped out of the way, barely escaping the long arm of fire that tried to grab me. I then found myself being attacked by a rather intense looking man with gray hair.
"We'll take him down together, Osamu!" Zong called out. So that was his name. I was ducking left and right trying not to get roasted by the two. I then ran straight at them, leaping over their heads as they tried to blast me, and landed behind them. I stabbed Zong in the back before he could turn around, sending a blood-curdling shriek into the air.
Osamu turned around and, upon seeing his dead comrade, his teeth gritted and his eyes lit up with burning fury. "Don't worry, Zong, you will be avenged!" He declared. He lunged at me with a fireball, but missed. With each swipe of his hands, he got angrier. "You small, pathetic elephant rat!" he spat.
Meanwhile, Hoku and Mongke were occupied with Imori and Kenta. The two leaders were bombarding the two with fire blasts, not to mention they had the better ground. I figured if I could help them out, it would be easier, but I had soldier boy to deal with, not to mention the woman covered in face paint. Osamu was really starting to get under my skin, so I thought of how to end this fight as quickly as possible. As Yuu fired a blast right at me, I ducked and it nailed Osamu right in the face.
Yuu gasped and began to cry at the sight of her dead friend. "Why would you make me do that?" she asked.
"Stop being so dramatic," I said. Yes I know that is a bit of an ironic statement coming from me, but this woman was unbelievable! I grew two more knives and prepared to send them into Yuu's throat, but I was stopped by someone ramming into me and knocking me to the floor. I looked up to see a rather fat woman standing above me.
"You owe me one, Yuu," she said. She then covered her fist in flames and slammed it towards me, barely missing me as I rolled over. Her fist slammed the floor and I got up unharmed. I stabbed her in the back, much to Yuu's dismay.
"Sora! No!" she cried. She hurled more flames at me, lashing at me with a fire whip.
I did a backflip, avoiding her and then saw my friends barely holding their ground. While avoiding Yuu's fire whips, I pulled out a knife and aimed it at Kenta. The bald, bulky bastard would never see it coming. I whizzed the blade into Kenta's back, causing him to let up on his attack and fall over.
Hoku then proceeded to earthbend him through the roof with an earth slab. So now there were only two left.
Imori blew Mongke to the ground and looked at me. "You son of a bitch!" he yelled. "I am going to take care of you myself!" He charged at me like a hungry tigerdillo running towards it's prey and sent a tunnel of fire my way. My only option was to leap through it, so that is what I did. I ran towards the fire tunnel and leaped right through it to the other side.
Meanwhile, Hoku was fighting Yuu. He created an earth slide, sending it right toward her, but she sidestepped it and shot a fire slash at him. Hoku then leaped up in the air and fired his rock gloves at her, covering her hands. She fell to the ground and looked up at Hoku, tears in her eyes. He walked over to her and examined her. "You certainly seem like a nice girl," he said. "Kind, peaceful, and well-behaved. Then again, what do I know about you? I just met you. At the Dai Li Academy, they teach you to kill your target no matter how nice the person is, but it's been an awfully long time since I've been to Ba Sing Se. I think I'll spare you."
Yuu's eyes lit up with relief. Then the rest of her body lit up with flames as Mongke burned her to a crisp.
Stunned, Hoku looked over at his comrade.
"That's how it's done," said Mongke.
"You didn't have to do that," Hoku said.
"Our orders are to kill every one of them," said Mongke. "Now let's go help Hong Wu."
I was glad to hear him say that, because even I was having trouble with Imori. The man was a dynamo! I knew I could only hold out for so long. Then both fire and earth were my saviors for once as they took Imori down. The man tried to get back up, but the three of us loomed over him, making it clear he would die if he made a move. I moved down closer to him and drew a knife.
"Listen, whatever Azulon is paying you, I will double it!" Imori said.
"Can you free my sister?" I asked.
"No," he replied.
"Then you are no good to me."
He was only able to wheeze out a couple more sentences. "I can help you," he said. "The Fire Nation has obviously wronged you. Please work with me towards a peaceful solution. We can make sure that the nations are in peace. We can heal the scars left on the world by the Fire Nation and all of the families that have been lost can rest in peace."
He was getting to me. The man was actually, seriously getting to me. He was right. I believed he could help me, but I still had to kill him. I had to. "I'm sorry. I'm afraid I can't do that," I replied.
He sighed in defeat as he accepted his fate. "You're good at killing and good at staying alive," he said, quietly. "What are you?" I raised the knife over my head and replied. "I am a wanderer. I am a killer. I am a thief. I am an assassin." I then plunged the knife downwards into his heart, killing him. I stood up and walked over to the broken windows, looking at the sky.
Hoku walked over to me and put his hand on my shoulder. "Hey, are you alright?" he asked.
My eyes stinging with tears, I answered my friend. "When I was a little boy, I never thought this is how my life would be. I never imagined my path would lead me here. I never dreamed that I would suffer through the things I have." I then began sobbing, hoping that Mongke would not hear me. "I guess I just can't escape this, my destiny."
"I'm sorry," said Hoku. "I truly am. Come on. Let's get back to the capital. Let's go see your sister."
I turned around and walked for the exit, wiping the tears out of my eyes as Mongke approached me. "Hong Wu, you have shown today that you are an exceptionally brave and ferocious warrior. If you ever want to be on a team with me again, I would be happy to."
"Thank you, Mongke," said Hong Wu. "I will keep that in mind." I then headed for the exit with Hoku and Mongke following behind me.
Three days later and we were back in the Fire Nation capital. We entered Azulon's quarters and spoke to him. "Can I see my sister now?" I asked.
"Yes, indeed," said Azulon. "And Hoku, you are free to go now."
"Great. Thanks," said Hoku.
"Bring her in," Azulon ordered his guards.
The guards brought Mera in and somehow she looked as great as ever. They must have given her time to get ready before I arrived.
"Hong Wu!" she said. "It's so great to see you!" The two of us embraced before everyone else.
"It is good to see you, too, Mera," I said.
"Alright, alright, finish this reunion somewhere else!" Azulon spat.
So the four of us left and Mongke turned around. "This is where we part ways," he said. "Farewell, my friends."
"Farewell, indeed," I said.
"Goodbye," said Hoku.
And with that, Mongke left and we went out to the courtyard, making our own way out of the palace.
"I can't believe how long it's been," said Mera. "You've only shown up to the island twice. I figured you had gotten yourself killed."
"I got sidetracked," said Hong Wu.
"So, I guess you haven't found her yet," she said.
"I'm sorry," she said.
"So now that this is all over, where are you going to go now?" Hoku asked.
"I realize now what I have to do," I said. "I'm going to go back to Jun."
"What?!" Hoku and Mera asked simultaneously.
"Why would you do that?" asked Mera.
"Because I can't travel on my own anymore," I replied. "Besides, it will only be temporary. I will definitely kill him when the time comes. And since he knows his way around, we'll be traveling and I will surely find Ming at some point."
"Are you sure, Hong Wu?" asked Mera.
"Yes, Mera, I am sure. I've realized that I cannot escape my destiny. It is better that I embrace the killer in me and make my life easier."
"Alright, then," said Hoku. "I guess this is goodbye for now."
"Indeed it is," I said. The two of us embraced each other and spoke our goodbyes. "Thank you for always being a great teammate and a pal," I said. "You truly are my best friend."
"Same to you," said Hoku. "You're a great friend and fighter even if you are a little nuts. And don't worry. I'll make sure that Mera gets to the Earth Kingdom safely."
"Thank you," I said.
"I better make sure you get there safely," said Mera. "Because I can handle myself."
"I don't doubt it," said Hoku.
So we walked to the shore and went our separate ways.
"I am impressed, Hong Wu. I am impressed that you were able to find me and that you had the gall to come back here after the way you left," said Jun to a kneeling Hong Wu. "So you really want to come back and be my apprentice once more?"
"Yes, Master Jun," I said.
"And why should I take you back?" Jun questioned.
"Because, master, I have changed. I will now kill without question. I realize that it is my destiny to be an assassin. It was meant to be. Do you believe in fate?"
"Fate is powerless against me!" Jun bellowed. "But I do believe that it is no mere coincidence that you have found me again. Very well. I will take you back."
Upon hearing this, I rose and grinned. "Thank you, Master Jun."
For the collective works of the author, go here.