Book 1: AIR
AUTUMN TWILIGHT, PART 2
Kan was down the basin before anyone could blink. He sent a wave of water through the air to Zhong, but he masterfully pushed it aside and gave his own cold smile. "Not much for someone who's apparently been the longest one with this ability." Zhong mocked as he ducked and did a quick thrust. A wave of earth rose up and Kan had to jump out of the way to avoid it. "Come on! I thought you wanted to fight."
Kan pushed the earth out behind him and he rocketed through the air towards Zhong. He flipped in the air and a spiral of fire shot out. Zhong grabbed the flame in his hands and twirled it over his head. He caught Kan on the ankle and whipped him into a tree. The tree began to bend and Kan used it as a catapult to throw himself at Zhong once more. He held out his hand and the bark on the tree wrenched itself off. It flew at Zhong who grabbed his sword and cut clean through them. He did a large kick and then a thrust of both his arms. A shield of water rose up as an air blast sent Kan back into the same tree. Kan fell to the ground this time.
Long-hin had grabbed Aer and was now on his way up the side of the mountain. A canyon crawler caught him in the corner of its fourth eye and lashed out at him. He did a flip and knocked the creature further down the mountain. He reached the top and laid her down on a mat. "Get me some water." Long-hin shouted to Bakiko as he ran to the water sack.
"Do you always get into this kind of trouble?" Mizu asked as she sent a large rock tumbling onto two of the canyon crawlers.
"No, not always." Bakiko shot as he ran to Long-hin with the water sack. Fire was now shouting out of the basin as Kan and Zhong continued their fight below. Long-hin poured it over Aer's face as she sputtered back to consciousness.
"It's him." Aer murmured as she tried to sit up. Long-hin forced her back down.
"No. You stay here." He said to her. "We'll handle the soldiers."
"No. I'm an airbender. I can fight." Aer sat up and tried to push Long-hin off of her.
"I'm sure you can, but not now." Long-hin said as he once again attempted to set her back down on her mat. Another rocket lit off in the air and almost hit Long-hin in the back if Bakiko had not grabbed it with airbending and sent if back over the cliff. It exploded and they felt a quake as the mountain shook with the explosion.
Kan dodged a boulder and then bent a fire shield around himself to protect him from another large boulder aimed for him. It blasted to bits. Kan let the shield down and quickly dodged as Zhong caught the pieces of earth with his bending abilities and shot them back at Kan.
Kan ducked behind a rock and conjured water from a small pool of water to slink its way towards Zhong. It caught him in the chest and hoisted him up. Zhong cut free with a fire blade and jumped on top of the rock Kan was hiding behind. Kan thrust the rock into the air and Zhong did a small flip backwards. He sent a large tree careening at Kan which Kan dodged and then tore the bark off of. He used it as armor as Zhong began attacking him with a water whip.
"He needs help." Kizu said as he looked down at the fight progressing.
"Why don't you help him?" Bakiko asked as he tossed another canyon crawler off the mountain courtesy of earthbending. An arrow barrage began to descend upon them as seven canyon crawlers and riders force their way through Mizu's defenses onto the mountain. Mizu put an earth shield around the group, giving them time to think.
"We have to get a plan made now." Long-hin said as he helped Aer to her feet for an escape.
"Whatever happened to that bison you guys had?" Mizu asked. "We could use him."
"Most likely we are using him." Jip said as Bakiko finished cutting them loose from the sticky net. "He flew of to fight below for us. He's probably defending the mountain's base from getting any more canyon crawlers up here."
"Well, he isn't doing a very good job." Kizu said as the shield was rocked by a simultaneous barrage of rockets and bombs. Mizu fixed a hole in the shield.
"We're running out of time." Mizu pointed out. "Make a plan and let's go!" Long-hin set about trying to formulate something in his mind. It was then that they heard something happen outside. The soldiers were shouting and you could hear men shifting to the sides.
"Come out, you!" a commander said. "If you refuse to surrender yourselves, we will be forced to take lethal action upon him."
"Upon who?" Bakiko shouted through the shield.
"Not going to answer?" the commander said. He gave a humph and some whispers could be heard.
"He can't hear us." Kizu said.
"But we can hear him!" Bakiko shouted.
"I'll do it." Aer said as she left long-hin's side and conjured what looked like a small ripple of wind in the palm of her hand. She held it up to her mouth and soundbended her voice outside of the shield.
"Who is it that you are threatening to eliminate?" Aer asked in a voice that seemed to echo inside of the protective zone.
"Why an answer." The commander said excitedly. "We were just testing. Unless, one of you actually cares about Tirji."
Kizu's eyes lit up. "That's my brother!" he shouted. "Put the shield down, they've got my brother!" Kizu made to bring the shield down but Aer put a hand to his shoulder.
"No, he isn't." Aer said solemnly. "They're testing us again. They're trying to get us to come out. He isn't with them."
"But they just said…" Kizu began.
"How can you be sure?" Mizu asked as she cut Kizu off.
"I can hear voices outside of the shield and they are all whispering about how we bought it." Aer answered. "They are laughing at the joke. He isn't really out there."
Kizu's head fell. The shield was rocked again, clearly indicating that the commander now knew the joke was up. Aer let the ripple of air die in her hand and she paced around the shield, stopping every so often. They all watched her as the rockets boomed and creatures shrieked. Then they heard a magnificent fire blast go off somewhere and a hush fall over the crowd. It began slowly but then began to grow.
They were cheering.
Something had happened to Kan.
Kan dove through the air with an air blast and hit Zhong in the chest, sending him backwards into the wall. He closed Zhongs hands in with earthbending and made to give the final blow. Zhong kicked him off with his foot and threw a dart at Kan. Kan deflected it with an air shield and Zhong freed himself in a blast of fire. "Aren't you tired of this same old game? All we do is go back and forth trying to knock the other one down but it never works."
"Then maybe you had better give up." Kan said as he prepared for another fight. A soldier or two had taken their eyes off the earth shield to watch the action below.
"Oh, boy. This is going to be one lesson you learn the hard way!" Zhong chuckled. He made a loud shout and jumped. He landed and spun around, thrusting his arms out at the end. Dirt blew into Kan's eyes, blinding him. Zhong chuckled as he leapt at Kan and delivered a fire blast to Kan's face.
The sound rattled through the air and the soldiers became deathly quiet as all turned to see the fight come to a firry conclusion. Kan's scream lit up the cold twilight as he fell backwards, a lone piece of airbending keeping the flame from killing him.
Kan hit the ground and fell onto his face. He got up slowly and then fell back down.
His entire right hand side was now permanently scarred red from the blast.
Zhong gave a triumphant laugh along with his men as he drew out his sword and made to finish the job.
"I have to save him." Long-hin said as the shield lowered. No men were even attempting to attack them now.
"Long-hin don't be some brave…" Aer began. Before she could finish Long-hin had turned around and embraced her in a passionate kiss.
The world faded as Aer let her defenses go away and Long-hin let a single tear fall. They fell out of the beautiful moment and Long-hin noticed Aer was crying now as well.
"Long-hin…" Aer began softly. She reached up and touched his face. "I'm sor…"
"In case you never got the memo," Long-hin said softly. "I love you." Long-hin kissed her on the forehead and leapt down into the basin. The soldier's cries of victory quickly turned into shouts of anger as another opponent entered the ring.
"They've got Alpha!" Jip screamed as she and Ran-fo were staring over the cliff side. Jip had used airbending to move the mist away and see below. Alpha was indeed enclosed in a large net and being pushed and tugged onto a ferry of sorts. Aer rounded on the soldiers.
"You hurt my friend and then you take my pet!" Aer screamed at the men. "It's time you saw how dangerous the wind can be!" The wind increased on the mountain top as Aer threw her hands up. The armor went flying off into the wind and clothes began to flap in the strong current, some flying clean off. Aer sent a spiral of air around the mountain top, causing the men to fall on their backs. The gang was left unharmed, kept safe behind a shield of air.
Long-hin reached into his quiver and took out three arrows. He shot each one at Zhong with an air blast. They lit on fire halfway through the air and almost hit their target. Zhong had evaded them and chuckled. "You want the same fate as your friend?" Zhong said confidently. "Then be my guest."
Zhong attempted the same trick as before with the dust but Long-hin was prepared. He put an air shield in front of him and knocked Zhong to the ground with a kick. Zhong growled and shot a piece of earth at Long-hin. He jumped away and cut a slice of water at Zhong. It cut Zhong's cape off and destroyed his helmet but the man himself was still intact. Long-hin dodged a blast of water and jumped into the air. He bent himself higher with airbending and the tree bark rose into the air with him. He set them on fire and jumped over Zhong. The flaming bark shot down at him, one hitting him in the chest. Zhong threw off her chest plate and arm cuffs, leaving him with nothing but his shin guards and under armor.
"This seems like a fair fight now." Long-hin said as his swatches of fabric blew in the breeze.
Aer lifted the group into the air and threw them off the cliff. She jumped down after them, bending a ball of air around herself to keep her in flight. She grabbed the soldiers and tossed them into the sides of the mountain and them blasted the canyon crawlers into the sea. She made a large gust of air sweep over the sea, over turning the boats that held reserve troops and arms. She flew back to the top of the mountain and looked down on the men struggling to survive in the water.
She had to look on painfully though as the ferry with her bison crossed ever further to the horizon. She lowered the air shield on her friends and sighed. She threw her arms down and did a sweeping motion. She knocked all remaining men off the mountain as a ring of air shot down at them. "They deserve whatever fate befalls them." Aer said slowly. "But let it be known that I left it up to fate to decide their fates."
No one even dared to open their mouths against her.
Long-hin dodged the earth wall and sent another earth wall back at Zhong. :Don't you have anything original?" Zhong mocked.
"You have no idea." Long-hin replied. He summoned up all his breath and did a spinning jump into the air. Thre trees shot at Zhong as a ring of fire and earth also flew at him. Zhong made a hole in the earth and jumped in. He rose a second later and threw a blast of both earth and fire at the same time at Long-hin. Long-hin also sent a beam of water and air at Zhong with each hand.
They collided in the middle and began to mix. The basin lit up with purple light as the energies blended.
Air met Earth.
Fire met Water.
They sustained themselves in those beams for a while. Then the elements faded, falling limp onto the ground as the pure energy within them remained. It was now a singular purple beam and each opponent fighting to control it. Long-hin began to slowly move forward as Zhong grunted.
"You're just a weak kid! You cannot beat me! Im Genearl Zhong, Head of the Global Army!" Long-hin was a few steps from Zhong when he tossed his hands to the side, breaking the beam of energy. He thrust his right hand onto Zhong's forhead and his left hand onto his chest.
Long-hin's eyes turned a solid yellow and his mouth did too. Beams shot out of them, filling the air with a golden light.
Zhong's eyes and mouth glowed a solid green. The beams that erupted from him mixed with Long-hin's in the air. Slowly, their souls began to reveal themselves. Long-hin's yellow soul was the brighter of the two while Zhong's was a very dull green. The earth shook as the souls then proceeded to mix. Long-hin's soul began to overpower Zhong's.
The gang stood on top of the mountain looking down on the scene. Kizu had fetched Kan up during the whole purple energy beam thing and had laid him on the mountain top. Kan began to stir as the sun finally set on autumn.
Long-hin's soul had now almost completely enveloped Zhong's soul. A weird sort of sound could be heard in the air. It sounded like a cross between a hiss and a chime. Then, Zhong's energy began to creep back. Their souls were now back the where they had started with little motion between either.
There was a crack and the light disappeared quickly. A small spark could be seen go off between the two and then an explosion of light set forth from between them.
The kids reeled back as the earth shook again and the light was taken up into the sky.
The basin was quiet for a moment before something stirred below. The kids looked over with bated breath, waiting to see who would emerge.
The messenger reached the Master early the next morning.
Zhong is dead.
The Maser raised a hand to his forehead as he mulled over it. "He was right then." The Master said as he got up and strolled to a window. "Those kids could not be trusted."
The kids climbed down into the basin, hoping beyond belief that something would be stirring and prayed it would not be Zhong.
"Put out an official notice to all cities and villages. These benders are menaces and I was a fool to think that they are mere children. They must be stopped and brought to a quick end. I want all cities fighting in this now global war. These benders will pay for killing our hero. We will see the end of the benders, once and for all!"
Zhong lay spread eagle in the basin, his eyes staring up at the sky, blank and unmoving.
Long-hin was gone too.
Aer cradled his head and began to cry over his body. His eyes had no emotion in them. His soul was as incorruptible as Zhong's was. Their energies canceled each other's out and they had paid the price for bending someone else's energy.
Aer looked up at the new group, shaken from what had happened in that autumn twilight. She looked to Kan, now permanently changed from this night. She cried as she looked at him.
"What have we done?"