Silent Witness.

Justforkix, I'm doing a very short oneshot based on the rules laid down by Loopy777 in The Ember Island Lighthouse: A Beacon of Insanity, chapter 9. Go there, have a go yourself, you've got nothing to lose.

This had been a really, really bad idea, you know. See the world, you said. Travel incognito, you said. You thought you could examine your kingdom from within, after seeing it for so long from afar. Of course, what did that get you?

It got you two months of terrible, awful food, worse sleep, blisters on your feet, you dropped your glasses and they broke so now you can barely read (and really, that should get you closer to your people, but now you're so close you can smell them and you're wondering if there is no romance left in the world after all). It got you three bar fights, it took your money, and it left you here.

Hiding out in an abandoned house in some run-down town, holding your breath as you press your back against a wall while some ruffian is padding around. Looking for you.

He's going to kill you.

Look on the bright side. Maybe he'll just sell you to the Fire Nation.

Look on the bright side. Maybe he's going to kill you.

His footsteps are getting closer now. You're going to have to bolt. And then get caught. And then die.

-Hang on. He's stopped. You aren't sure, but you think that he might have turned around, back towards the stairs.

"You." His voice is dull, and cracked. Underused, you think.

"Me," a voice replies, and that voice is anything but dull, dripping with (dark, blood red) colour and excitement and with the faintest hint of a life that you're more aware than ever before that you as a twenty-five year old man should really know more about by now-

"Hnf." The voice of the ruffian is coloured Unimpressed. And grey.

"Oh, cut the small talk, Huise," the Voice drawls, amused and irritated all at once. "You know why I'm here, and I know why you're here."

"You know the outcome. Leave me alone, save yourself some time."

"No qualms about hitting a girl?" the Voice says, playfully. "Well, not so much hitting, but-" she sighed. "I'm wasting my time with you, aren't I?"

"Leave me alone." This... Huise is as flat as ever, you think. It's preferable to thinking about what he's planning on doing to you.

"Now, I don't think I can do that, somehow. I'm being paid embarrassingly well, and you know I don't embarrass easy," the voice leers, and you hear a grin so wide you can count the teeth from here "to make sure that this shmuck, whoever he is, stays healthy. Not exactly my usual line of work, but the pay's good enough for me to make an exception." You try to take all this in, but the only thing that sticks is the important one: this Voice is on your side.

"Hnf. You might have a problem, there." This one, however, is not. "My associates and I have realised that for the good of all of us, this one should be... handled." By the standards of this man, it's practically a speech.

"You're going to fight me, Huise?" The Voice is incredulous. "Really? Over some peasant?"

There's a moment of silence. Huise seems to be trying to catch his breath. Or maybe just standing still, the dust long settled on his thin frame and thinner hair.

"You don't know who this man is?" The first flash of emotion you can register from this man is surprise. It's gone in seconds. "Hnf."

"Stop huffing at me, Huise. It's aggravating." Something in her Voice tells you that this isn't someone to aggravate.

"You're in over your head, June." The grey wall is cracking, a tighter voice piercing through. "I really think you should leave now. It's for your own good." There's a sudden shift of leather, and a creak of floorboards as he shifts, you think.

"Put your toy down, Huise. I'm not impressed," the Voice, now identified as June, drawls, and you can't help but wonder how she's keeping her cool, now obviously staring down that strange weapon.

"It's not a toy. It's a chu-ke-nu, designed to fire off up to three bolts in five seconds, more than enough to stop you and him," the man says, without rancour or pride. He just... says it.

"Do it, then," the Voice says, and silently you scream what are you doing? You've seen him fire that bow-thing once today. It's not pretty. "Go on. Fire. Prove to me you've got the balls-"

He does.

He does, and you have no idea what you're doing, but you're up and rushing around the corner, screaming like a madman with your arms flailing and wham-

Walked right into his elbow. You idiot.

Your eyes uncross, and suddenly a boot is slammed onto your chest and you're pinned to the floor and ow, you thought you and pain had become quite well acquainted over the past month, but you suddenly realise that pain has friends when-

A coil of leather wraps around the man's strange, horizontal bow, tearing it from his grip. A delicate fist slams into his jaw. His head slams into the wall and he goes down, crumpling next to you.

You wonder if it would be proper to pass out right now. But no, there are ladies present.

You admit, there wasn't much in the etiquette classes on proper times to pass out, but as a general rule, if you're unsure if it is Proper or not, then don't do it when a lady is present. It's a rule of thumb that has served you well.

"Alright, look alive," she snaps, all business, and a pale arm grabs you by your shirt and you're hauled up, suddenly face to face with the most beautiful woman you have ever seen.

You have seen plenty of beautiful women. Porcelain skin. Coal black hair. Alabaster eyes. All cold, dead, and now you realise it, utterly fake. All those court women were trying, and failing miserably, to imitate the woman standing in front of you.

"You hear a word I said? I told you we have to go. My employer is waiting." There's no hint in her voice of the pain you know she must be feeling, a ragged wound torn into her upper arm, a testament to her ability to dodge, you think.

"What? Oh- thank you-" You can't recall the last time you were at a loss for words that didn't involve heavily armed men threatening you.

"Save it." She turned towards the stairwell. "Come on- what's your name?"

"What? Oh- um, Kuei."

"Well, Kuei, there's an old man on the beach who would very much like to meet you. For some reason."

I have no idea if that properly fits the criteria. But I'll be damned if it wasn't fun to write. Also I got to indulge my Kuei/June fanboyishness. Yay.