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 :)
(This isn't the main focus of the chapter but I'm thinking it's probably not going to be trashed. But of course, lemme know if you don't think it should be there)
Yuhan shot forth from his dull sheets with a jolt, his chest heaving, his eyes leaking. A second later, however, he slumped over onto his elbows. His face grew dim as he let out a wistful sigh. It was the same as usual.
For sleeping was a nightmare, always. To stay awake was a luxury. The second he lost consciousness every night, the Peace Orator would see everything that plagued his entire life…and worse. There were times when a haggard, bone-thin old man would appear. He would say nothing – but begin to laugh instead. The manic sound would only grow worse as Yuhan stared back with hollow eyes, having finally lost what he’d taken from others for so many years. He’d stand there limply in the face of his judgment, as the old man’s promise rang truer than ever through the air: “You’ll pay for everything…”
Also as always, however…sleep contained the last traces of happiness. Because, for a fleeting moment, he would see her again. The meeting was anything but joyful, and an average person wouldn’t have even associated it with happiness – but she was there. Standing just beyond his reach, Riya was always there. Her soft eyes would gaze into his in silence, her smooth hair seeming to wisp away into the air as it flowed down her back. He would stare back, choking to find the right words as his vision blurred, his lower lip trembling. The broken, insufficient apology would linger in the air, and he always faltered in the face of her flawless presence.
Then…she would smile. It wrung his entire chest, from the center to the edges of his lungs, as her hazel eyes glistened. Her lips would curve up ever so gently, with all the tender love that he knew he didn’t deserve. It was the same, last smile she’d ever given him, the one that had vanished before the glow of the yellow lantern. And his eyes would begin to leak.
…And then of course, she would keep smiling. It would slowly begin stretching wider and wider as he stared back, her eyelids cracking open as her pupils dilated. A blink later, and Riya would vanish again. Yuhan was lurched back into excruciating consciousness as soon as Joo Dee, grinning dementedly, would begin to laugh. But even as he swiped fiercely across his eyes with a hand, his chest heaving, part of him longed to return to horrifying sleep just to see her smile again.
This is a scene that's actually not going to be trashed, guys! :P My goal was to finish the chapter before I went to sleep since I start school tomorrow, but it seems I've fallen short ;_; It should be out by the end of the week...if the demands of school allow it (sob)
Tell me how I did with characterization!
“It seems like they’ve finally finished plotting,” Hiroshu remarked as the two partners shuffled along the dark hallways of headquarters along with the rest of their organization.
Somewhere beyond the sea of pointed green hats, Yuhan could make out Azula’s regal figure standing boldly at the front of the large clearing they were headed towards. Behind her were her two companion imposters, bearing the armored green robes of the Kyoshi Warrior uniforms, golden headpieces, and face paint. Before they knew it, the patrol partners drew close enough to begin making out the details of Azula’s pale face, her threatening golden eyes…
Yuhan froze. Her cold voice seemed to cut straight through the air, even in the midst of the quiet shuffling all about him. Had she just addressed…him? He turned slowly towards the young Princess, while Hiroshu hurriedly rushed past them to join the other agents.
Dull emerald eyes met sharp golden ones. Both showed no hint of emotion as they faced one another, though the latter’s gaze seemed to pierce through everything it fell upon. “You look tired.” Azula’s simple reply matched her expression, detached yet faintly amused. Her two sharp bangs hung down the side of her smooth cheeks, complimenting the tight bun secured atop her head, having been held in place with a small, Earth Kingdom-themed ornament. Her entire outfit seemed like a sleek variation of the Dai Li uniform, with the shining emblem glinting from her chest. Everything about her just seemed so precise, without a single hair out of place.
Yuhan made no reply as he gazed back at her, his stony expression unchanged. Her words held a motive, and it was best to avoid getting caught in them.
Azula only observed the ghastly shadows beneath his eyes with even more interest. Her pretense of curiosity was flawless – Yuhan wasn’t even sure if it was a pretense at all, but he took no risks. “Having trouble with the demands of work, I assume?” she continued candidly. The other agents all fell silent as they watched.
“Yes, Princess Azula.” Though his tone was steady, Yuhan grew more uncomfortable by the second. It seemed like the longer he stood before her, the worse it became. Was it a crime in her book to be tired? What was she trying to do?
“Tell me – are there more like you?” asked the princess, her sharp eyes gazing about the room. Every face that met hers turned away involuntarily.
Her gaze finally met his once more, and her penetrating eyes demanded his answer. Don’t lie,they warned. “…Yes, Princess.” No answer seemed like the right one to Yuhan – even if he’d spoken the truth to her. He wanted to run and join the other agents more than anything else. He didn’t like being in Azula’s presence at all. It was so…ominous.
She scoffed a little. “Funny. I’d imagined Ba Sing Se’s most elite group of Earthbenders to be in much better condition. Half of you look ready to drop dead.” Once again, all eyes turned away as she scanned the room. “Does your leader look like you?” she asked, though her subtle smirk indicated that she already knew the answer.
Azula folded her hands behind her back with a long sigh. “Well, I just felt the need to ask. You’re free to go.” As a relieved Yuhan strode away and took his place among the rows of agents however, she added, “Perhaps my customs are not the same as yours, but I was under the impression that the elite would be just a little more...pampered.” All of the agents didn’t move a muscle as they listened. “You see, the Upper Class of the Fire Nation is treated like Royalty – with respect to the Fire Lord, of course. Even my most cowardly generals are showered with praise and spoiled every time they return home.”
Yuhan stared back in disbelief. Could she be…suggesting…?
“And our leaders certainly don’t leave any dirty work for the soldiers.” Azula threw a disapproving glance about the room to emphasize whom she was referring to. “Both Royalty and servants fight as one,” she continued, her powerful voice echoing deep into the minds of the agents. “Oh – and that’s how we keep winning,” she added with a smile. No one was able to make any response. “Like I said, though…I suppose things just work differently over here,” she concluded dismissively with a shrug.
All of the eyes in the room seemed mesmerized by her words. Yuhan glanced slightly to his sides. Hiroshu’s expression was no different. They were all recalling Long Feng’s endless commands, his cold threats, and his continual exceptions to himself for all his harsh policies...
“Now, you have all been called here for a very critical meeting,” Azula finally began, taking her stand in front of the dark organization. “The Earth King and the Council of Five do not trust the Dai Li. They imprisoned your leader, Long Feng. Soon they will turn on all of you – and eliminate you.”
As you may have heard, I typically trash a bunch of scenes whenever I start work on a new chapter, and there're times the whole chapter twists around before its release. This is an idea I had to start off the new chapter, but it's in danger of being trashed. I need your input! Yay or nay? Too depressing? Too cliche? Please let me know ^^
Emerald eyes met hazel ones.
“Riya.” The welt in his throat felt so swollen that it was hard for him to even breathe, let alone speak.
She gazed back at him, the betrayal having drained her entire face of any signs of hope as the blinding yellow glow passed in front of it. But she listened.
“I love you."
Time stood still. Her eyes immediately flooded over as she stared back at him for a long moment of silence. “…No you don’t.” Her voice was low and bitter as the salty droplets trickled down onto the stone restraints pinning her to the chair, causing the dull grey to discolor into black.
Yuhan’s head dropped sharply. “I-I’m sorry, Riya. I’m so sorry…” he began feebly. “But I can’t lose you…please, Riya…I don’t know what to do –”
“Kill me, then.” Her reply was so simple yet sure of itself that it brought tears to his eyes.
“Riya - no, I can’t do that…” He involuntarily stepped forward as he continued his plea, despite the glowing lantern still whizzing across both their faces. “You can’t die…I can’t live with that –“
“Yes you can,” she replied coldly, her venomous tone showing no mercy. “This is worse than death, and it’s more work for you too. How hard can it be to kill me?”
He paused in front of the curved rail as he stood silently before her, the room suddenly going quiet aside from the lantern’s eerie hum. His face suddenly hardened. His entire expression took on a new determination. “You’re right, Riya.”
For the first time that conversation, her eyes widened in surprise.
Yuhan glared for a moment at the lantern still circling around him, then flung it straight off its post with an arm. It struck the wall with a loud shatter, and the candlelight flickered away immediately, leaving the two alone in the dim green glow of the chamber. “You’re right,” he repeated. “I’m not going to do this to you.” He ducked beneath the curved metal rail and stepped forward. Riya continued to stare back at him, as if she didn’t dare to believe what she’d just seen.
How could he ever bring himself to extinguish the light within those glowing, beautiful eyes? Yuhan knelt down slowly before her, his face level with hers. She trembled a bit as he lifted a gentle hand towards her cheek, his glove retreating backwards beneath his sleeve in its separate pieces. “…But I’m not going to let you die, either.” He’d never felt more sure of himself in his life as his thumb softly stroked away a newly escaped tear from her smooth skin. His thoughts drifted back towards the harsh rules of his organization for a moment, remembering how the other agents were all waiting for him to fail, waiting to eliminate them both the moment she emerged unconverted. He let out a long sigh. “It’s going to be impossible to get out of this one…but we’ll just have to try,” he chuckled. Nothing else mattered anymore. “I love you, Riya.”
More and more warm tears continued to leak down over his fingers as Riya lifted her hand towards her face to place over his, the stone restraints having been released from her body. She began to smile, yet sobbed louder than ever in a combination of happiness and disbelief as she lowered her head. Seeing her in such a state made it very difficult for Yuhan not to join her right at that moment.
“Yuhan…” Her fingers tightened over his. “Oh, Yuhan, I lo…” The words suddenly stopped as soon as they’d left her lips.
“Riya?” He tried to gaze into her eyes, but she’d lowered her head so much that he couldn’t see any trace of them. Her whole body had gone still. “Riya – what’s wrong?” Alarmed, Yuhan finally lowered his hand again and brought it up beneath her chin.
What he saw as soon as he’d lifted her face back up made him freeze solid.
“Nothing is wrong, Agent Tsen. Why do you ask?” Her unnatural smile had stretched all the way across her face, and her blank eyes were as wide as their lids could allow.
“I – no, this isn’t right – Riya, what are you…how –“ His desperate words soon failed to escape his throat any longer as he stared back, terrified.
“What do you mean, Agent Tsen? Everything is as it should be.” Joo Dee grinned even wider, caused him to jolt backwards involuntarily, his hands shaking as they fell limply to his sides. “Everything is right. Everything is perfect. We are in Ba Sing Se!” she laughed.
“You’ll pay for everything…”An old, bitter voice began to cackle louder and louder in the distance, joining Joo Dee’s laughter as well. Yuhan sank to the floor as his hands uselessly tried to cover his ears. “You’re going to burn – and WAKE UP!”
The entire world suddenly spun crazily with the frightening new sound.
“COME ON, BUDDY, WAKE UP!”
Yuhan’s entire body jerked forward as he shot upright from his mattress. His ragged breaths slowly found their rhythm again, his tense shoulders relaxing after a few seconds. “I’ll be out in a second,” he replied half-heartedly to his door, which he knew Hiroshu stood waiting behind.
A few minutes later, and the agent emerged from his room in uniform, ready to face whatever the dreary organization wanted to force upon him today. It was one of his better mornings. This dream wasn’t as bad as the usual, after all.
Meh. I'm starting to think I'm probably going to trash this one. The more I reread it the more I ain't liking it!!! But what do you think? If you actually like it enough though I'll consider it lol
The end is near, but Team Avatar refuses to let Republic City slip into Onjing's hands. See how they react to the Council's vote in The Avatar's Sacrifice! Please, don't forget to tell me what you think in a comment.