This is my second oneshot from the LAF Continuous Fanfic Contest. It's rated M for violence and suggestive sexual themes. I highly recommend not reading this if you're 13 or younger. Or even 14. Even though I wrote this and I'm 15. Ha. Anyways, it's about a mystery boy. Please don't read reviews just in case people spoil who he is. And don't scroll down; his name is at the bottom. I want you to see how long it takes to figure it out. Hope you, uh... Enjoy? Yeah. I guess so.
Driving Force, previously called Overwhelming Flood.
Three dark outlines jumped silently through the brush of the thickly wooded forest, a splotch of light beaming down through the trees occasionally hitting one of their faces. Their faces portrayed them to be young individuals beaten and torn both physically and emotionally by this endless war which they so desperately desired to end. They moved swiftly, trying to elude something; what or whom they were fleeing remains a mystery at this time in our story.
One of the trio, a young man about sixteen, suddenly stopped and lifted his hand up. The other two came to a quick halt in unison, obeying the signal. After a moment of silence, the leader dropped his bag on the forest floor, allowing the other two traveling with him to ease up and do like-wise. The sun was reaching its final stages of the day and within half an hour would no longer emit light on their path.
"We'll be safe here for the night. We can unpack and make camp." The obvious leader spoke softly. His voice was filled with the strength of youth, but from each word he muttered, sorrow and fear dripped.
The group of youth consisted of two young men, the one aforementioned and another who was tall and trim: in decent shape, but not muscular. He wore a large hat, along with a bow on his back. He was about the same age as his leader, perhaps older, perhaps younger. Sharing the minor details of his life was one thing he never did... nor did he share many major details such as age. The other was a young girl, probably aged around fourteen, with a very warrior-like body. She carried two daggers with her, curved and slanted as a result of both purposeful intention and lack of crafting skill. Her ragged, nut-brown hair was short, not exceeding her shoulders. Their leader? He was a gloomy creature... dark and depressed on the inside, angry and determined for revenge on the outside. He wanted nothing more than to kill the evil bastards who had taken everything away from him.
He sat there for a matter of hours, watching the campfire the girl had made. The other young man had gone to sleep, leaving just the leader and the girl to warm themselves by the fire. The moon had risen, and for this boy, his head began to fill with thoughts and reminiscences of the past. Hauntings of burning buildings, screaming babies, and tortured women... the nightmares flooded his subconscious every night when he was attempting to pass into the realm of unconsciousness, although he didn't ultimately know why he kept trying each night. The nightmares were far worse in dreams than in reality. So generally he just stayed awake and freely allowed the shady phantasms to overtake his entire being. Sangmu's screams of terror and wails of pain drowned his entire mentality.
"Do you wanna talk about it?" A voice interrupted the flood of memories. "I know I've asked before. But are you sure you don't want to just... tell me about it?" She continued, her words like a dam, blocking off the overwhelming surge.
The young man looked towards his companion, her eyes begging for an answer. She knew that it would help ease his mind, at least a little. He barely ever talked about his past, and the little that he did share was shallow. A sharp exhale chilled the young man's throat as he turned his gaze back into the fire.
"You really wanna know, don't you?" He asked the young girl.
"I'm your friend. I want to be here for you," She pleaded. He was the closest person she ever knew. He was the brother she never had, and she hated seeing him like this. "Come on, it will make you feel better."
Silence ensued, during which the young man continued to stare blankly into the fire; but his mind was not blank, no. Not in the slightest. The past once again returned to him. His face began to drip; it was so hot on that terrible night eight years ago. The heat had been almost unbearable. He had been terrified, being the little boy he was at the time, and shook in fear as he watched those men do such unforgivable things to his family. And as he sat there staring into the fire, he forgot all about answering the girl's question, and was overtaken by the former events, allowing the effects of the past to influence him in the present. His face began to sweat; his body began lapse into tremors; his gaze deepened into the fire and he began to lean towards it.
Two hands pushed his shoulder back, snapping him out of his nightmare.
"Stop doing that," she said.
"Sorry..." he replied. "I just can't get them out of my head."
"Yes, you can," she replied. He looked up at her, confused. "Talk it out." She put plainly.
He took a deep breath, finally deciding that he could at least tell her the beginning. She was older and could handle it now, he told himself, although he believed deep down that it was a lie. No one should be able to handle that. After a pause, he answered her.
"Okay..." At his acceptance she sat up quickly. "How much do you know already?"
"Well I know they killed all of your family... and I know you were eight, and you escaped with..." She stopped herself from saying his name, seeing the pain written on his face. "I'm sorry."
"Is that all you know?" he questioned.
"That's all you've told me. I mean, there were rumors that went around back home, but no one really knew much more than that. Neither of you gave any more details."
"I know. There's a reason we never told anyone. We agreed not to as long as we were back at the base. Now that you and me are out, I'll tell you. My family was preparing for dinner. My infant brother, Denkatsu, he was asleep. My parents had called me down a few minutes earlier than dinner was normally ready. Mom sounded scared, and Dad was in a rush. I came out of my room, into the kitchen where my parents were rushing around, grabbing things. I asked them what was going on and they told me to grab a few things quickly. That's when I started to hear screams from outside. Commotion and fighting... and then suddenly... this heat. An intense and suffocating heat. And my parents felt it too. They stopped what they were doing when they noticed, only to hear the sound of crackling wood flaming from above. Mom rushed back to putting things into a basket, working faster since it was obvious the house was on fire. My dad bent down and told me that the Fire Nation was here, and that we had to escape quickly. That's when my mom screamed as she realized that..." he trailed off. His companion could tell he had hit an emotional snag.
"...that Denkatsu was still in his room. She ran upstairs, Dad and I quickly following, but when we got to the top, his room was on fire, and it was spreading out into the hallway. Mom tried to run in to get him, but Dad stopped her, knowing that if she tried to save him that she would be killed too. Mom was screaming at Dad, trying to get out of his grasp... and Denkatsu's screams and cries only edged her on. I couldn't take hearing him in so much pain anymore, and seeing my parents so devastated, so I ran downstairs as fast as I could. But... but when I got to the bottom I froze in fear. There they were. Five men dressed in Fire Nation attire, setting everything in sight on fire. The leader of their squad looked down at me when he noticed my presence. I remember his playful words... 'Well what do we have here?' I tried to run but he picked me up by the collar and shoved me into a chair where another one of them then tied me up. I called for Dad, which I know now that was a mistake. When I did, the group looked to the stairs and got ready to attack. Two were ready to firebend, three had knives. I was so terrified. I could hear footsteps rushing down the stairs. Then..." He sighed. "Then it happened."
He took a deep breath as the influx of overwhelming thoughts once again surged over him. He silenced himself, no longer telling the story as the events replayed themselves in his mind.
Eshin flew down the stairs, his feet carrying him faster than his body could keep up with. He stumbled down the staircase, then looked up to see five fire nation soldiers in his home, as well as his son tied up to a chair. He tried to stand on his feet, but fell as his knees quivered from the emotional torment he was being put through. Losing one son was enough to drag him to the brink of madness, but the fear of losing two sons pushed him onward.
"What do you want with this town?" he demanded, as they grabbed his hands and held him to face their leader. Two of the soldiers were behind his back, another one binding his hands. The leader walked up to face him.
"This town refuses to submit to Fire Nation rule. We've come to claim the town by force. This should be nothing new to you. We take over villages like this all the time. By the end of the day this town will be under Fire Nation rule, and everything else burned to ash. So now we have come to your house." He leaned towards Eshin. "Speak for your family now. Will you submit and pledge your allegiance to Fire Lord Ozai?"
Eshin glanced at his son, then back at the Colonel. This was by far the most difficult decision he would ever make: whether to stand for what was right, or give in to protect his family. "This town has remained on Earth Kingdom soil for a seventy years. We will never submit to Fire Nation headship, and we will be more than happy to fight you for it."
"Well then, if that's how you'll have it..." A splatter of blood hit the floor. The colonel had shoved his dagger through Eshin's stomach. The boy in the chair began to scream and cry out for his father upon seeing the blood poured out onto the floor. Eshin let out a cry of pain. At that moment, Sangmu ran down the stairs, unable to leave her husband and son alone.
"Eshin!" She cried as she reached the bottom and ran towards him. She was stopped by the other two soldiers who were unoccupied, then bound at the hands and forced into a chair like her son.
"What a... beautiful creature. A farewell gift for our leaving this town? You shouldn't have." The colonel then created a small burst of fire around his hand. With the flaming appendage he shoved Eshin's face, causing him to scream as the heat scorched and blistered the skin. He hit the ground with a thud, squirming in pain.
"Bleed to death, pitiable filth," he said as he walked towards the woman. Elegant and beautiful she certainly was, although drenched in sweat and appearing so haggard from the current conditions. She tried to maintain a straight face but couldn't as the colonel walked up to her, then bent down to her level. He then looked down at her breasts, a terrifying emotion rearing its ugly head behind his eyes. He reached a hand out to touch one, but she jerked away quickly.
"Don't you dare!" she screamed at the top of her lungs. The colonel only put on a smug grin. He grabbed her body and began to...
A sudden rush of cold water snapped the teen out of his past.
"Agh! What was that for!" he said, standing up and shaking the frigid water out of his shoulder-length, ragged hair.
"You were lapsing again." She notified him of.
"Oh sorry. Where was I?" He asked, happy to be out of the memory, but frustrated that he had to tell her what happened next.
"Your Dad came downstairs." She answered, receiving a sigh from her friend.
"They bound him and stabbed him, then they raped my mom. Right in front of me." He continued to tell his story, this time with fewer details. The memories ran through his head as he told his story. The girl listened eagerly, trying to get a glimpse into his life, wishing to help him in any way she could. But as he spoke to her she could tell that his flashbacks were getting worse and worse. They were replaying in his head as he told them. His existence began to fade out of the present and back into the past.
Sangmu's screams of pain and terror echoed through the house. The other four soldiers just stood by and watched, chuckling at her the whole time. The young boy couldn't watch. He couldn't stand it. His head was turned as far in the opposite direction as it could be, his eyes closed. But he then heard a very faint slicing sound. Not flesh being cut, but... rope! He opened his eyes to see his dad working vigorously at the rope on his chair. His father told him to be quiet, and when he finished cutting the ropes, he assisted his son up on the countertop. It was obvious that he was in extreme pain from working with his wound. He grabbed his stomach, and with the other hand pointed out the window above the counter. He opened his mouth to say one last thing to his son, but before he could say anything, he collapsed on the floor, blood pouring out all over. There he laid, passed.
His lifeless body falling to the ground caused a thud loud enough to alert one of the soldiers, who looked back to see the ropes cut, the boy gone, and Eshin dead.
"Hey! Where's the boy?" he shouted, alerting the others. They looked up, but the leader seemed undisturbed.
"I bet you know where he'd go in a situation like this," the colonel said to Sangmu. She looked up at him, tired and beaten.
"Like I'd tell you," she answered.
"Well, I guess we'll just have to have another round then, won't we?" he eagerly spat out with a mouthful of malice.
"No!" she cried. "Stay away from me!"
As he got closer she thrashed back and forth, not allowing him to get anywhere close to her. Sangmu shouted at him to stay back. Her son watched through the back window as the man tried in vain to commit the evil deed. She would have none of it.
"Stop jumping around, now," he said roughly, but she continued evading his grip by twisting, squirming, and biting. Once she managed to grip his hand in her mouth so tightly that his hand began to bleed.
He yanked his hand away and backed off, only to assume a firebending stance.
"You'll regret that," were the last words the boy heard from that man. He jumped away from the window, not wishing to see what would happen next, and began running out of the alley towards the street. Before he could reach it, the alleyway was briefly illuminated in orange light. He heard the dreadful sound of a fire blast, followed by a scream far worse than he had ever heard from his mother. Tears flowed more and more as he kept running, hating to leave his family in such a hopeless place.
As he ran into the street he was terrified to see almost every building set ablaze. There were dead bodies scattered all over the place, puddles of blood even more common. Soldiers covered the city, one of which came up behind him and grabbed him. He struggled to get out the soldier's grasp, but to no avail.
The soldier carried him to the center of the village, where a large crowd of citizens were being herded. There were about thirty all being kept in a circle. "What do you want from us?" Shouted one of them. "Let us go!" Another. The boy was thrown into the mess of people, and ran into one of his friends which was just his age.
"Chimon? I'm so glad to see you here! We have to get out of here now!" the boy said to his friend.
"I know, but we can't get out! We're stuck here!" He said. "Where's your family?"
The boy froze up and began to cry. "They... they're gone." He managed to whimper out. Chimon's face fell.
"Oh..." He replied, downcast. "I was... I was hoping that your family could take me in... mine... mine's gone too." He said, letting a tear drip off his chin.
"They killed your family too?" The boy asked, anger fueling his words. His friend just nodded and wiped his tears. "We have to get out of here somehow! If not, they're going to kill us."
"Two young whippersnappers trying to cook up a plan, are ya?" An elderly man interrupted the two boys, pushing his way through the crowd. The two boys exchanged a glance, then nodded. The old man looked around, then pulled in four other boys from the surrounding crowd, all of great youth.
"I've waited for this this town's final stand for years. I want you six boys to listen to me, and learn a lesson from an old man like myself, understand? You have your whole lives ahead of you, and are destined to do great things. I see the fire in all of your eyes; it is fresh and newly lit, kindled by youth and not put out by the torments of age. We are all born for a reason, whether that is to do good for the earth, serve another individual, or something else; we all are called to a noble cause. My name is Gisei, and I have lived my years to their fullest; I've served my term in the army, I've rescued those in need, I've continued my family's legacy... It's now time for me to serve my final purpose in life. I want you six boys to run for it. I want you to find your purpose in life. And I want you to do everything you can to live your life to it's fullest. You can't do that if you're killed on the spot here, and that's what terrible fate we all will meet if we don't escape. And in order to escape, others must be sacrificed. I want you to run for it, understand?"
He wrapped up his monologue, all the boys understanding what he was about to do, and teamed up to escape the soldiers flooding the city. Gisei walked through the sea of people, then looked back at the boys once more, and pointed to the opposite side, signaling them to go. And so they did.
Gisei walked out of the group of people, only to be ruthlessly ordered to get back in. At once, he sent a boulder towards the man who yelled at him, knocking the wind out of him, and probably breaking a few ribs. Soon, soldiers were crawling all over him. They sent blasts of fire, only to be blocked with a wall of earth. Gisei, though aged and worn, fought with much skill, occasionally taking hits from the uncountable blasts. As the soldiers began to dwindle, some called for backup, and many from around the edges of the circle began to come to their assistance. That's when one of the six boys, particularly Eshin's son who we speak of tonight, spotted an opening in the wall of guards.
"There!" He shouted, pointing, and began running in that direction. "Just keep running! Don't stop, don't look back!" He cried as they emerged from the ocean of now-homeless citizens. At once the guards spotted them and ordered their capture. Soldiers ran towards them, trying to grab and throw back in line as many as they could. That's when a scream from Gisei was heard, his dying cries echoing in the streets as he passed on from this world. The team kept running...
...or what was left of them. When Sangmu's son got to the edge of the forest outside the city boundaries, he turned around to see that only one other boy had made it out with him. The rest must have been caught... including Chimon.
The boy cursed under his breath, then fell to the ground, crying. He lay there for a what seemed like years, just weeping his eyes out until they could weep no more. The stream of tears was unbearable. He couldn't stay like this much longer, especially when the other boy, who was slightly older than him, was standing there watching.
"A small squad is leaving the city." The older boy said suddenly. Our tragedy-stricken little boy looked up to see a group of... five. And they were only about fifty feet away. The little boy stared at them upon realizing who they were: the same men who killed his family. The bald colonel with the feather on his head slowly turned to look at the boy. All the poor soul saw was this man's stern, harsh, crude face and the burning village in the background. He stared blankly into the man's eyes for what seemed like eternity, then turned and ran into the woods as quickly as his feet could carry him. Minutes later he came to a stop, the older boy behind him catching up.
"So are we, like... a team now?" The older one asked.
"I guess." Our protagonist mumbled through sobs. "What's your name?"
The older boy fumbled for a minute, but then answered. "Call me Sneers. You?"
After a long pause the eight-year-old boy answered. "Jet."
And as he concluded his story, the girl sitting beside him released a long-held breath.
"And who would have thought that after all that, Sneers would be the one to suggest to kick you out of the Freedom Fighters?" Smellerbee replied to the story. "I'm so sorry, Jet. But I'll always be here for you, and so will Longshot."
At that, Jet laid down and rolled over in the brush, trying to catch some sleep that his body so desperately desired. But it was no use... the nightmares... the screams... the hauntings... they all overwhelmed him in a never-ending torrent, rushing through his defenseless mind, overtaking him completely.