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Chapter 4-Avatar RokuEdit
Five Days LaterEdit
Hei ground the toothpick between his teeth as he watched the horizon from the window of the temple. Ming Hua flipped down from the floor above, "Any sign of them?" "Not yet," Hei replied dryly, "Sundown's not far off. I'm starting to worry this was a bum tip." Ming Hua sat down on the window sill next to him, "I hope not. We would've rushed all the way here for nothing." Hei nodded, "Yep. We'll take it easier on the way back, no need for you and Toph to push yourselves like that anymore often than absolutely necessary."
Ming Hua made herself more comfortable, and looked at Hei slyly, "So, you and P'Li huh?" Hei managed to keep his face from doing more than twitching as he fought the urge to grin, "So it would seem." Ming Hua pulled her knees up close and rested her chin on them to look at him more closely, "I thought she wanted to be with Zaheer?" At that Hei couldn't resist any more and a vicious smile broke across his face, "Yes. Yes she does."
Ming Hua tilted her head to the side for a moment, started to say something and then realized what was going on, "Ohhh. I get it, so was it your idea or hers?" "Hers, although I think the sake might have had something to do with it." Ming Hua smiled, "So she's trying to make Zaheer jealous so he'll want her and you're trying to make him jealous just because you hate him." Hei grinned, "Got it one."
Ming Hua grinned, "Oooh he's gonna be so mad when he finds out! He's crazy about her you know." Hei grinned, "Yes indeed. If my sights weren't set elsewhere, I'd actually consider letting this go somewhere." Ming Hua raised an eyebrow, this was the first she'd heard of Hei even having sights, let alone them being set on someone. She grinned and sidled over a little bit closer, "Ooh, got a special little lady tucked away somewhere Hei? Temmetemmetemme!"
Hei looked at her with a bemused grin, "Oh I don't know that I'll be successful in this endeavor of the heart, she's not exactly an easy catch." Ming Hua immediately began rifling through every girl she knew of who might have caught his eye and quickly realized she'd have to narrow it down, "Who? Where?" Hei grinned and looked off towards the west, "Back at Central." Ming Hua immediately began rifling through a list of every girl that worked in the Royal Palace or even hung around there and after a moment had a short list compiled.
"Is it Hinata?" Hei grinned, "Nope." "Tsunade?" "Nope." "Sakura?" "Nope." "TenTen?" "Nope." "I bet it's Kuiiinaaa!" She sang teasingly. Hei smiled, "A fair guess, but no." Ming Hua blinked, she had honestly thought Kuina the most probable option, she had been one of his best friends for years and been his favorite sparring partner in training. Then another name came to her mind and she gasped as a huge smile broke across her face, "Oh my god it's Anko!"
Hei's grin grew as he shook, snorted and then burst out laughing. Ming Hua's smile grew as she took it as confirmation of her guess. She clapped her tentacles and kicked her feet with excitement, "Oh-my-god! Oh-my-god! Oh-my-god! You and Anko?!"
"NO." Hei said firmly with a huge smile on his face. "But you're in the right ballpark," he added as Ming Hua stared in surprise. Ming Hua rubbed her jaw and thought hard as Hei pulled another toothpick from his pocket and clamped it between his teeth. Suddenly a thought hit her and she reached out and caught Hei's arm with a tentacle, "Ty Lee?" Hei grinned, "Actually Ty Lee left Central about a year ago and joined the circus. Once again though, you're very close."
Ming Hua thought and thought hard, Who else is there that he'd like? Hei grinned and looked at her out the corner of his eye, "I'll give you a hint. You're too low on the food chain." Ming Hua blinked and her brows furrowed, too low on the food chain? But Anko is the great granddaughter of Fire Lord Sozin and fifth in line to the throne! The only people born higher than her family are the...
She stopped cold as realization hit her like a punch, "Seriously? The Princess?" Hei grinned at her, "Maybe." "Ahh!" Ming Hua exclaimed with a massive smile as she swatted him with her tentacles, "You freaking maniac! The Princess?!" Hei laughed as he tried to shield himself from her playful swatting. "The freaking Crown-Princess! I can't believe you!" she exclaimed excitedly. "What about my sister?" Zuko asked from the doorway. "Oh look here comes the Avatar!" Hei said quickly as a sky bison sailed over the horizon.
Twenty Minutes LaterEdit
Aang, Sokka and Katara edged into the temple warily. Upon seeing nobody, they relaxed, "So where are we going?" Sokka asked. "The statue is at the top," Aang replied, "Come on, let's find some stairs." Katara looked around warily, "Guys, I've got a bad feeling." "What kind of bad feeling?" Aang asked. "I feel like we're being watched."
Team Avatar jumped as massive stone doors slammed closed behind them. They instantly got back to back, "Who's there?!" A sudden manic laugh echoed through the small room, making their hair stand on end. A torch suddenly flared and exploded towards them. "DUCK!" Sokka yelled as they all scattered. Suddenly an armored black clad form dropped from the ceiling and slung a chain net around Aang that bent and writhed like a living thing.
As Katara and Sokka spun at Aang's surprised yelp, a second figure shot out of the shadows and hurled the chain wrapped Avatar through a hole that the first figure opened in the floor, and both black clad figures suddenly disappeared after him, the hole sealing shut as Katara and Sokka dove for the hole, "AANG!" Suddenly the lights went out.
Sokka and Katara scrambled back to their feet, and that manic cackle echoed around the room again, followed by a voice that seemed to bounce off the stone and come from every direction at once, "While my teammates deal with disabling the Avatar downstairs, I'll be taking care of you two." "Oh yeah?!" Sokka yelled back defiantly brandishing his club and boomerang, "Well I'd like to see you try it!" "Shut up!" Katara hissed as she bent her water out to a ready position, hoping she could use it for some kind of combat use.
The voice laughed again, "Wow you two are amateurs! I should've made Zuko handle you two! I wanted to watch Ming Hua cripple the Avatar! Oh well, this won't take long." Sokka and Katara were trembling, trembling with terror and a little bit of indignation at being called amateurs, "Show yourself coward!" Sokka yelled. "If you insist," Hei grinned from the shadows where he was crouched as ten burning golden points of fire flared at his fingertips. He slammed his hands into the ground and suddenly lines of fire raced around the edges of the room and the torches flared like bonfires.
Hei rose and grinned at them, plucking a toothpick from the corner of his mouth as the temperature in the room jumped thirty degrees, "In the bizarre event you somehow escape us here, there's something I think you should know. No matter where you go, no matter how far you run or how sturdy the walls you hide behind, we will come for you. We will find you. Every obstacle you place in our path shall burn, and we will make an end to the Avatar."
As Sokka and Katara shrank in terror, he seemed to grow until he looked ten feet tall. Hei grinned and continued, vicious delight dancing in the fire reflected in his eyes, "I tell you this because it will happen. Wherever sunlight shines or darkness falls, we will be there. Just when you think you have escaped us, that you've found a place to hide from us, when you feel safe and finally relax, that's when we'll strike. Take care where you close your eyes dear children and remember," the madness in his eyes glowed especially bright, "There's a good chance you'll never open them again."
The fire in the room suddenly collected into a whirling plume of fire not much bigger than a knife in his hand that burned almost white hot, "Of course, you might not live through the next few minutes." Suddenly Aang erupted through the floor in full Avatar-state. "Right on time," Hei grinned as he unleashed a whipcord tight drill of flames that punched through the wind shield Aang had manifested and hit him square in the shoulder, instantly cauterizing the wound Ming Hua had opened there and ensuring it would never heal.
Aang howled with pain and shot upward. Hei grinned and pointed a finger pistol at Sokka and Katara across the hole Aang had torn in the floor before charging ahead and leaping onto the earthen column that Toph rose through the hole on top of with P'Li, Zuko, Iroh and a very cranky Ming Hua. Hei slid to a stop and landed lounging, "How we doing ladies?" Katara grabbed Sokka as they rose out of sight, "Come on! We've got to get up there and help him!"
Hei pushed himself upright as Toph replied, "Just like you said. The minute Ming Hua laid him open to operate, he lost it and went into the Avatar State." Hei crossed his legs as the upward motion kept him from standing all the way up, "He'll contact Roku now then." He said grimly as he looked up, "Never thought I'd say it but I really wish Zaheer was here right now. He knows more than anybody about Roku."
He sighed irritably and then smiled, "I guess we'll just have to improvise." They reached the top floor just in time to see Aang rip the doors off the inner sanctum. One of the huge doors came flying at them and P'Li quickly blew it off course with a combustion blast. Hei spun to his feet as Aang sealed the inner sanctum with a large chunk of the floor. White light flashed around the edges of the new wall in their way.
Hei sighed irritably, "Guess we'll have to wait. Toph, seal that hole so that we can actually fight without falling to our deaths. Zuko, don't fall and if his friends show up deal with them. Ming Hua make sure he doesn't fall and give him a hand if his friends make it past the Fire Sages. General Iroh, if you could spare a lightning bolt when he comes out of there I'd be very grateful. P'Li, you're with me, we're going to try to blow a hole in that wall. You go right, I'll take the left. Toph after you're done with the floor if he hasn't come out yet, come give us a hand. All of you be careful and remember we're not dealing with some scared little kid anymore. Let's move!"
It took two minutes for Hei and P'Li to blast their way through the wall. By that time Toph had finished repairing the floor with the stone from the floor below and Ming Hua and Zuko had caught Sokka, Katara and one of the Fire Sages. Hei cautiously nodded to P'Li, "Cover me," And stalked through the opening, a disc of fire whirling to life in his hand. As he entered the chamber, he saw an immense cocoon of stone and growled, "Great. He set a second layer. Roku must've remembered his death."
Suddenly the stone cocoon started to shake and Hei bolted back for the door, "General we're gonna need that lightning!" Iroh began charging his lightning, but just as Roku exploded out of the stone cocoon and Iroh prepared to fire, Sokka broke an arm loose of Ming Hua's tentacles and threw his boomerang. The boomerang bonked Iroh in the back of the head with the most impossibly perfect of timing, sending Iroh's lightning bolt discharging harmlessly into a wall. Iroh staggered as Roku unleashed a fire blast. Hei and P'Li had the same thought at the same time and deflected it around their group and into the walls, which were demolished with the tremendous force of the blast.
As the dust cleared Toph sent a massive boulder flying at Roku. Roku deflected it only for the immense chunk of the metal door right behind it to knock him flying backwards, "Looks like we've got some tricks you don't!" Toph yelled exuberantly as she bent another immense chunk of metal into a cloud of shrapnel and sent it flying into Roku as he tried to surge up from the floor below. Roku narrowly managed to deflect the knives with a windblast only to be knocked reeling as Ming Hua hit him with Sokka like a flail. Roku tumbled through the wall, which crumbled to sand behind him to cushion his landing and came back out raising his hands.
Lava suddenly erupted upward, only for Toph to swing a kick into the ground. Roku's eyes widened as the lava solidified and then he was promptly blindsided by another of Hei's fire drills. Roku staggered as half his ghostly face was instantly burned away. Then P'Li nailed him with a combustion blast that knocked him out of the temple and out into the open air. The avatar's sky bison swooped and caught the avatar's flickering form as his connection to Roku faded. The avatar's companions were suddenly ripped out through the hole he had made when P'Li blasted him through the wall by a sudden miniature tornado and onto the sky bison as it flew away quick as the wind, too fast for even P'Li's parting combustion shot to catch.
Just as quickly as it had started, it was over.
Hei walked over to the hole and looked out at the quickly shrinking blob of white, "That could've gone better. Hey Toph," he said over his shoulder. "Yeah?" Toph replied. "Remind me to burn that boomerang guy's arms off next time I see him." His toothpick suddenly burst into flames as smoke roiled out of his hair, "We were so CLOSE!" he roared, leading everyone but Toph to jump at his sudden explosion. Toph laid a hand on his shoulder, unfazed by the explosions she had come to expect from her best friend, "It's alright Hei, we'll get him next time." Hei took a deep breath, "Yeah. Yeah we will."
He fished another toothpick from his pocket and clamped it between his teeth before turning back to the demolished room behind him. He walked toward the Fire Sage that had betrayed them and let the Avatar's companions in, thereby letting Sokka into the room to throw Iroh's aim off and stop them from capturing the Avatar. Hei towered over the man, easily plucking his name from the memory of their introduction earlier that day, "Shiou, why have you betrayed us?" "Because it was once our duty to serve the Avatar. It is still our duty!" Hei's eyes widened and his grin grew very dangerous, "Really now?"
He plucked his toothpick from between his teeth, "So you don't like seeing the world this way? On the verge of being united under one banner? On the verge of never having war again?" Shiou was quiet for several moments, "Not like this." He finally whispered, "Not like this." Hei's brows furrowed angrily and his eyes screamed of imminent murder, but his smile was as wide and toothy as before. Toph, Ming Hua and P'Li backed up, pulling Iroh and Zuko with them, they knew that look, something very bad was about to happen to Shiou.
Hei looked at the toothpick in his hand, then back at Shiou, "Well then," he said, his grin somehow growing wider still despite his expression being darker than a thundercloud, "I'll just take the burden of seeing this glorious future off your hands." The point of his toothpick glowed cherry red and Shiou screamed as Hei drove it into his eye and flames exploded outward from the point of impact. Before Shiou could collapse, howling in agony, Hei backhanded him with a flaming hand and sent him sprawling, unconscious.
Hei turned to the remaining Fire Sages, who were staring as the man who had been their colleague was steadily burned bald, permanently disfigured and blinded by the flames. "If any of you take into your head to act as he did and betray your Fire Lord and country, rest assured we will not be so merciful as to knock you unconscious when we deal with you." There was no question in any of their minds as they looked at the murderous light in his eyes and the evil grin still playing about his features, that a far worse fate than Shiou's awaited the next traitor.
Suddenly the terrifying, evil look was gone and Hei looked like a friendly young man again rather than a hardened executioner. He grinned as he fished another toothpick from his coat pocket and clamped it between his teeth with a large friendly smile, "But I'm not worried. You've all performed honorably today and proved your loyalty quite well. We'll be carting this traitor off to prison of course, but fret not. We'll send a crew out to repair the damage the Avatar did to your temple and I'm sure the Fire Lord will be delighted to hear of your tremendous loyalty to the throne."
He bowed slightly, "I thank you greatly for your hospitality and assistance in dealing with this Avatar matter, we will impinge upon your hospitality no more today." He straightened up and went over to Shiou's crumpled form, which had by now stopped burning. He hefted the unconscious and disfigured former sage over his shoulder like a sack of wheat before turning back to them, "We'll be heading off now," he told them with a cheerful bow as he started towards the stairs, "I wish you luck with restoring your temple. Let's go team! High Admiral Jeong-Jeong is probably wondering where we are."
The others bowed to the Fire Sages on the way past and then left behind Hei. The head Fire Sage couldn't help but notice how very stunned Zuko looked on his way past, and also that Zuko was the only one in their group who looked surprised by the Ye Gui Li's brutality. The others were all smiling cheerfully as they filed out.
Meanwhile, Many Miles AwayEdit
Aang gasped as Katara bandaged his head where Hei's fire drill had nailed Roku but only grazed Aang. "How can there be benders that strong?" "I want to know why there are earth and water benders working for the Fire Nation!" Sokka called over his shoulder from Appa's head. "That's a good question too," Aang said quietly, the first words he'd uttered since the fight. "Aang!" Katara exclaimed, "You're alright!" Aang yelped as she wrapped him in a hug. Then Katara noticed the burned gash in his sleeve and knelt to examine it, "Oh my god Aang, what did they do to you?"
Aang gasped with pain as she touched it, "They were trying to keep me from evAAAHR!" he yelled as Katara gently probed the burned flesh, "ever bending again," he finished quietly after he caught his breath back. "By cutting your arm off?!" Katara exclaimed. "WHAT?!" Sokka exclaimed, suddenly scrambling around to look. His gut sank as he took in the horrible burned gash in Aang's shoulder, "Whoa..."
Suddenly Katara's hand brushed over something tucked into Aang's shirt, something that crackled. She quickly fished the folded up piece of paper out, "What's this?" Aang raised his head weakly to look, and Sokka scrambled up into the saddle with them. "It's a letter," Katara said as she looked, then she shook her head, "No, it's an ultimatum." "WILL YOU JUST TELL US WHAT IT SAYS ALREADY?!" Sokka yelled, his patience gone the way of his severely frayed nerves in wake of the absolute defeat they had just been handed.
Katara glared at him and began to read,
"Avatar and friends, If you are reading this, you got away from us. This time. Turn yourselves over, and we will not harm you. As thanks for your compliance in keeping your nose out of our ending this war, we will ensure safe passage home for the two from the Southern Water Tribe, and see to it that their village is allowed to rebuild. We will also assist the Avatar in rebuilding the Air Nation. You have two weeks to comply. If you refuse and do not comply, then rest assured, you will be hunted down and use of your arm will be the least of what we take from you. This ultimatum has been cleared at the highest levels, this deal will stand if you accept it. Or do not, and face the full fury of the Fire Nation. We will see you soon, The Ye Gui Li
Katara was pale and her hands shook slightly as Aang and Sokka stared, "What do we do?" "What are you talking about?!" Sokka exclaimed, "We can't just give up!" "But, they said they'd let us go home and the village would be safe!" "They're Fire-Benders Katara! FI-RE BEN-DERS!" Sokka yelled angrily. "And an earth bender, and a water bender," Aang said quietly. "What is wrong with you?!" Sokka bellowed, "We can't just let them take over the world! Pull yourselves together! We are going to win and they'll eat these words! I'll find that guy with the toothpick and ram this letter down his throat!"
Aang and Katara smiled, "Your right Sokka," Aang said quietly, "We'll win. We have to." Sokka nodded triumphantly as Katara agreed and went back to take the reins on Appa's head, but Aang and Katara both still shook with fear and temptation to take the Ye Gui Li up on their fantastic offer rather than face down whatever other terrors the Fire Nation might have up their sleeve.