Remind me never to think that "it's just a little break" ever again. There goes those hours I was planning to use for sleep tonight...
Anyway, my idea of a "break" happens to be 2K words apparently, so I've collapsed the scene for you here. The rest of the chapter may appear soon (stupid exam in my way!), but for now I hope ya enjoy this :) And to my newer readers, beware of spoilers!
Click here for a snippet of Chapter 20!
Ning sighed as she leaned upon the polished windowsill of her bedroom and gazed outside. The Upper Ring was too quiet and spacious as usual, and the only movement she saw was the occasional bumble of a fancy carriage in the distance. She secretly wished that one of them would pull up to her house and return her son to her.
The last time he’d left had been unbearable for her. She couldn’t make him stay, and she knew that he couldn’t even if he wanted to. But it she just hated the thought of him sitting somewhere alone in his dreary headquarters, wherever it was, heartbroken and pining for Riya. She wanted him to come home, where she could comfort him and remind him that he was one very special young man, who all the silly girls in the world would be fortunate to even meet, let alone date.
Mrs. Tsen never imagined that Riya would dump her son so brutally. She was irritably aware that some found the girl “above his league” – which was ridiculous, because she would’ve loved to see someone else try boasting a boyfriend who was not only handsome, but also wildly talented to the point of recognition from Sir Long Feng himself. But to throw it in those gossipers’ faces, this mother happened to know that the “girl above his league" had, in fact, gone soft for Yuhan long before he returned any feelings. Not that Ning would've expected him to, seeing as he was seven years old at the time. But it was hard to miss the shy little girl who kept watching her oblivious Hannie play soccer every day, who lowered her bright pink face whenever he turned to her after scoring another goal with a grin. Her son always made time for the lonely ‘Afro Girl,’ even if just to rest after one of his games, and sometimes she'd spot him carrying over a Pai Sho board to the girl's house on rainy days. His shy companion was more than grateful for his company, and his cluelessness towards her little crush only made it cuter to the adults, her parents included. Ning found it too adorable for words when fate revealed that Yuhan would end up falling for Riya years later. The young woman had always kept a special place for him in her heart.
…Which was why it was even more infuriating to Yuhan’s mother when it turned out that the heartless wench had gone and dumped her son without mercy. It had been such an adorable story, darnit! What was wrong with that girl, and what in the name of the Spirits had Yuhan done to deserve this?
She couldn’t rage completely in peace, however, with the horrible memory of Yuhan screaming at her to believe him when he declared that Riya wasn’t at fault. Of course, he could have been too head-over-heels for the girl to judge her fairly anymore...but Ning just couldn’t help feeling as if there was something else. Something beyond a breakup. He was clearly heartbroken, but could a breakup really produce such an unnatural, traumatized expression on Yuhan’s face? Something just wasn’t right about it at all.
Yuhan’s mother gave a long sigh as she ran her fingers through her silky black hair. No matter how well she knew her son, the furthest she would ever get was only the fact that he was hiding something from her...
A crash as the bedroom door slammed open startled her. Ning turned around to discover the pale face of her husband, who only had time to share a panicked gaze with her a split second before two Dai Li agents marched out from behind him and obscured him from view.
Ning knew that uniform too well. She loved the way her son looked in it, and she had nothing but respect for his organization. However, she could tell that today the uniform was a bad thing. The faces of the Dai Li agents were cold and unwelcoming as they gazed down at her, their eyes darkened by the shadows beneath their pointed hats.
“Mrs. Tsen.” The robotic voice didn’t sound like it belonged to a human being at all. “We regret to inform you that you and your husband will be taken into custody as of today.” There was a deathly moment of silence. “Your son has been dismissed from the Dai Li for treachery.”
Her body seemed to lose all feeling as the shock swept over it, her throat going dry, her fingers cold. And just like her husband, whose emerald eyes were still staring bleakly about the room as if waiting to awaken from a nightmare, she suddenly couldn’t remember how to speak.
Anyone who was even remotely familiar with the Dai Li knew that the word alone meant horror. No one in the organization wished to be associated with it.
Both parents didn’t even seem aware that they were being pulled forcefully from their own home, as the trauma still blinded their vision. Ning’s fragmented thoughts could only revolve around one thing, despite the stony fingers painfully gripping her arms as they dragged her forward: Yuhan.
Yuhan, the hardest-working agent in the Dai Li. Yuhan, the acclaimed keeper of peace, the embodiment of everything Sir Long Feng desired in a soldier. Yuhan…the traitor. Her son. The traitor.
Above all else, Ning was a mother. Her voice suddenly found itself, loud and demanding all at once. She rooted her feet so forcefully that even the agent dragging her along had to come to a stop. “Where is Yuhan?” she declared.
A few feet ahead of her, Yunxu rapidly shook his head for her not to continue. They’d both realized that wherever they were headed now, it would surely pale in comparison to Yuhan’s fate - but her husband seemed more aware of the circumstances. He was silently begging her not to give the organization even more reason to torment their son.
She was painfully aware of all this, but she couldn’t control herself. “Please…” she asked again, straining to keep the composure in her tone. The panic she felt for Yuhan had killed any fear she had for her captors, and she gazed firmly into their expressionless eyes. “I believe that I have a right to know…what you have done…to my son. As well as…the crimes he committed to deserve this.”
Such a shallow bunch, these men were. Only weeks ago, they’d spoken to her with such reverence due to their deep respect towards Yuhan. Today, it seemed like she and her husband weren’t even worth the effort of speaking to. “It is none of your concern, nor our obligation to disclose that kind of information,” the agent leading her replied dismissively. “Your son has simply dishonored our organization and is being dealt with accordingly. Frankly, I suggest that you review your parenting for now.”
Ning wouldn’t have hesitated to smack the bastard across the face right at that moment – but alas, life had a very interesting way of timing horrible events. Both the agent and woman were caught completely off-guard by the messenger boy that suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
Seeing how their gazes clearly indicated that his presence was unwelcome, the messenger gave a quick and nervous bow before the two agents, while Yuhan’s parents watched with dull curiosity. “I-I apologize for the interruption, sir,” stuttered the boy, unrolling a formal little scroll for a brief second as if to assure that he’d been sent by decree of their leader. “But Princess Azula has asked all agents in the Dai Li to report to the Outer Wall within an hour. She has given word to the Fire Nation army and expects them to arrive shortly.”
If looks could kill… The messenger was already scurrying away for his life by the time the first agent began to glare down at him. In his defense, it wasn’t as if the matter was going to be much of a secret to the entire city – but it simply wasn’t the right place nor time for these agents.
Having been surrounded by several refugees in the Lower Ring, Ning had never been oblivious to the war outside, even if she never spoke of it. Her son had urged her to refrain several times, explaining to her how the Dai Li preferred not to disturb the peaceful lives of the citizens with such talk and sometimes “took it too seriously.” Ning gazed warily after the messenger boy. Did she really just hear everything correctly?
All of it hit her at once, along with a heart-wrenching realization that suddenly welled up her grey eyes with tears. There was a reason why that messenger boy had appeared now, and only now. It was all connected – the treachery, the Fire Nation…the elite keeper of peace. The true protector of Ba Sing Se.
Yunxu didn’t even have time to register what his wife was doing, let alone try to stop her. He himself nearly toppled over with the agents during that moment, when the ground crackled violently beneath them in response to her boiling rage. The horror twisted his face as he regained his balance. “Ning!” he shouted desperately. “Don’t –”
The chains latched onto her body before he could finish, yanking her off-balance immediately and digging painfully into her skin as they tightened. Even her husband suddenly felt both his arms being bound behind his back by the cold metal, just for precaution. Dai Li agents were simply too used to these kinds of reactions, and far too organized.
“I’ll silence you myself if you keep this up,” snarled Ning’s captor, who had to maintain a very firm grip on the restraints to keep her from thrashing about. His irritation had won over any efforts to maintain his earlier formality. It wasn’t so much that he felt threatened by her, but that passerby were starting to watch curiously and that no Dai Li agent preferred to make such a spectacle out of his true colors. “Now if you ever want to see that traitor son of yours again, you will learn proper respect –“
He’d already fired his stony fist at her face even before the sentence was finished - but the sad irony of it all was that even the Dai Li couldn’t look down upon Yuhan’s earthbending prowess, regardless of his actions. The two agents were reminded during this very moment that talent often started with blood, and that it had to have come from somewhere.
It was good enough for Ning, even if she could only move her hand freely. The earthen fist gave a violent lurch as it twisted midair.
The agent was suddenly on the verge of choking, fighting to wrench the fingers of his own glove loose from his neck as Yuhan’s mother gazed murderously into his eyes. Yunxu’s expression was a mixture of both awe and dread for her as he stared. “You came here today…to tell me that my son will pay for being a traitor?” Ning's voice started off low and venomous, but grew shriller by the second as the mother in her grieved. The other agent was now yanking on her chains and twisting her forearm painfully to snap her out of it, but her fingers stubbornly retained their death grip over the stony glove. “You say that my son will suffer for his crimes?" The hot tears began streaking down her face involuntarily. “You blatantly invite the Fire Nation into our city, and you call MY son the traitor?!” she screeched.
It was all over in a matter of seconds. Her captor recovered from the unexpected attack soon enough, reaching beneath the fingers of his stony glove eventually and yanking it out of his way as he stepped forward. With a sharp swing, he landed the next blow with his own fist and muscle, without hesitation.
Something horrible suddenly flared in Yunxu’s emerald irises, when his wife’s tear-streaked face immediately went dull and dropped to the ground along with the rest of her body…
It was the gossip of the day for the Dai Li. Agent Tsen wasn’t the only one who went insane; his whole family was crazy, too. They apparently didn’t take the news very well. The two agents who returned shared many disdainful laughs with the others over how badly the couple had been beaten down. Traitors these days – you’d have thought they learned not to cross the organization by now.
Deep down inside, however, the agents couldn’t help feeling a little spooked by recent events. Some were still painfully tending to their wounded eyes from a certain night… To be honest, it was probably a good thing that those psychos were where they belonged now. One should never let a Tsen near dirt.
The agents chuckled nervously amongst themselves. Traitors these days…
Well hello again, hope ya enjoyed Chapter 18. In January! ^^ As awesome as I am at updating fast, however, I can say that today's chapter is one of the most pivotal in the story. And most difficult to write. But this really is the update to read, if you were waiting! Come check out Chapter 19 if ya can :)
Thank you, however I am not writing any novels, the Infinite Empire articles are purely for my entertainment. As for the continuity and universe, some one a while ago just put those on my fanon pages and I just left it there. I might write some book relating to the Infinite Empire eventually though.
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