I am alive, people! I am alive! I am SO sorry I just left YLW hanging like that! It was completely unintentional! I spent those couple of months working my arse off studying for my final exams. But after finishing them and graduating high school, I am now back! I am starting work on the 2nd of January 2014 so I will have little time to write but rest assured, I will never abandon you guys and my stories! I have grown way too attached to them to ever let them go!
Anyway, I don't know if I'm too late or anything but... Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/etc to All! Christmas is finishing up here in Malaysia so I am hoping it will be the 25th by the time this 'airs'. I hope all of you had/have a lovely Christmas(generally) and I wish you all had a fabulous 2013~ :)
Now, without further ado...
CHAPTER 32: WAKING UP
A splash of freezing cold water was what woke Zuko up. Usually if that was his wake up call, he would fly into one of his rages, threatening to burn something or someone into a blackened crisp.
However this time, he was too drained to even lift a finger. Instead, the only flying he did was when his eyelids flew open, only to face the underground ceiling of the rebel's Sanctuary.
"Morning!" Bacca wished him in a chirpy voice, dripping bucket in hand, and a wide grin that stretched from ear to ear plastered on his face. "Wow. You look horrible! But it's expected, after what you achieved the other night. Congratulations, Lee! I am so happy for you!"
Zuko frowned. The only thing he remembered was generating lightning for the very first time after being continuously 'prodded' by Masuta. All the pain and rage and despair that filled him – all out in anguished roars and bending, before finally creating his first ribbon of the cold-blooded fire.
The teen let out a tortured groan as he sat up, feeling every muscle in his body scream voiceless protests at him – begging him to lie back down on his plank of a bed and not move forever. Everything hurt. Zuko wiggled his toes to check - even they hurt. The physical agony was also accompanied by a horrid stiffness that made him feel like a marble statue that was waking up after centuries' of stillness.
A brief moment of panic washed over Zuko as he quickly placed his hands over his face, making sure that his scar wasn't showing; and let out a mental sigh of relief when he could still feel the concealer hiding his facial imperfection, albeit it was dampened from his wake up splash.
Bacca zipped off to replace the bucket with a small cup of water that Zuko downed and threw across the room in less than a second.
"So…how do you feel?" Bacca asked, as his 'big brother' lightly ran his hands over his face, before running his fingers through his hair. "Masuta and Reza had to drag you back here after you passed out. You sure knocked out for a long time."
Zuko's frown deepened as he stared hard at Bacca. "How long was I even out?"
The younger boy looked instantly sheepish, but still bravely kept eye contact with the glaring Fire Lord.
Zuko's throat was too parched to even yell, so his eyes did the yelling for him. The second his eyes widened, Bacca instantly shuffled several steps backwards, the latter silently and intensely thankful that Zuko was in physical pain.
"Uh…great…" he moaned, trying to straighten his back without wincing. "So what happened while I was out? Any plans made on the attack? Anything? Progress?"
Bacca nodded with excitement, his wide smile returning. "Yeah! We're really getting there! We're fully recruited...more than enough rebels! And thanks to you, Masuta managed to speed up the progress of other older firebenders who can't bend lightning. Shan and Nazuma can easily divide us according to our bending abilities. So far they divided us in fours. I am in the First Division since I'm not that great. Most of us in the First are quite young, slightly older than me or my age. Not many of us though. Second Division is for those who are like the average ones, you know? You and Reza are in the Third Division, being all great in firebending and all. But if you can control lightning better, they'll bump you up to the Fourth. Amai and Onni are in the Fourth. The Fourth is mainly led by Shan and Nazuma because it's mostly Masters. They have already mastered controlling lightning. But each Division is led by one Master. I think the Third is led by either Qin or Masuta."
Zuko took a moment of silence to process what Bacca had just unloaded onto him. Four days and they already have enough lightning wielders to make up a division? He let out an exhausted groan before forcing his body to straighten up.
"You should probably wash up and get something to eat," Bacca said, looking up at the tired firebender with concern. "Masuta is really pleased with your progress. If you're feeling better, do train with us."
The young boy was about to take his leave when Zuko stopped him by calling out his name. Bacca immediately halted and turned to look at Zuko.
"You're young, Bacca. Most benders in the First Division are children. Why risk your lives for a dangerous rebellion? You've got your whole lives ahead of you. The new Fire Lord hasn't even done anything yet," Zuko asked. Even though he knew that even the young ones were out for his head – it didn't seem right that eight to nine year olds should be fighting in a rebellion, let alone kill.
And be killed.
Bacca frowned. "Maybe you shouldn't train after all. You must be really exhausted to say that, Lee," he answered. "We defend our true Fire Lord. We want a Fire Lord that is strong and great. Prince Zuko is weak and will crumble under the pressures of ruling a Nation as great as the Fire Nation. Ozai can lead us to a future where Fire is always King. We are young, and yes, we have our whole lives... But we are fighting for a cause. We are fighting for a future we want."
Zuko squashed the instinct to widen his eyes in shock. He felt his insides sting with Bacca's words. Instead he simply nodded Bacca off, silently keeping his anger and worry locked in a metal vault within himself.
After the boy left, Zuko was left wondering whether he would be able to be compassionate when fighting these rebels in the very, very near future.
"Very good, Katara, you really are improving very quickly," Iroh said approvingly, watching with admiration and satisfaction as Katara easily manipulated a lightning fused ball of water as if it was second nature. "Now this time make sure you don't electrocute either one of us."
Katara smirked as she continued making small, circular hand movements in the air – controlling her water-lightning ball. "You know Uncle Iroh; this is a really crazy test of trust as well. You're putting both our lives in risk here. Again. I don't think I can deal with that bad hair day again."
Iroh chuckled and patted his bald spot. "Lightning becomes less and less effective the longer it stays in your element. It shouldn't be as bad as the last time. We should be fine. Just remember to keep calm. Control, then let it go. I worry for both our hair though…"
The waterbender smiled before directing her focus towards the three metal dummies in front of her – all three placed at different points on the courtyard. The farthest dummy was the one on the right, and the closest was the one in the middle. Even the closest dummy required her to squint in order to get a good, detailed look of it.
After a quick deep breath, Katara then sharply pushed her arms down and out with her open palms facing forward and straight fingers inwards, sending the ball of electrified water onto the ground. Instead of spreading out into a large puddle, it quickly split into three water snakes and slithered towards the three dummies with the speed of lightning. The second the crackling water made contact with their respective conductor dummies, each hunk of shaped metal was engulfed by electricity – representing an electrocuted foe.
As the bright translucent blue of the lightning surged through the metal, the vibrant light danced against the beaming waterbender. Violent crackles sounded in the air, along with Iroh's pleased laugh.
"Well done!" Iroh exclaimed, clapping proudly, watching as the electricity slowly died down. "Well done, Katara! I am very proud of you! If this keeps up, you'll be able to control lightning with water as your medium. Defending yourself against the rebels will be much, much easier at this rate."
Katara sighed happily. "Thank you so much Iroh. This really is great news! " she replied, relief ringing clear in her tone. Not only was she ecstatic that she had learned another new skill, she was washed with relief that she wouldn't have to be defenseless against lightning anymore.
And Zuko won't have to risk his life for me again… she added mentally to herself, recalling the dreadful moment when Zuko could've lost his life to Azula in order to save her. Katara shuddered at the memory, pushing it to the farthest, darkest recesses of her mind. She never, ever wanted to relive that, ever again; and thankfully, now she wouldn't have to.
Iroh gave an approving nod, before looking up at the hot noon sky, the sun blazing down on them like a giant, sweltering spotlight. Not a single cloud was in sight to help shield them from the glare.
"Katara, we have been training for hours! You deserve a break. Come, let us retire to the dining room and have some tea. I have to help Aang with his training later, I'm sure you can manage on your own."
Katara nodded, wiping the beads of sweat that had gathered on her forehead with the back of her hand. With a simple flick of her wrist, the tiny sweat drops removed themselves from her person and evaporated into the dry air.
Katara followed Iroh in comfortable silence, with only the soft sounds of their footsteps and breathing echoing around them. The sound of stepping on earth was quickly replaced with the soft pattering of shoes against marble and tile.
Katara twiddled her thumbs as she kept her eyes on the floor. "Do you think Zuko is alright? We haven't heard anything from him for a while… He's just busy… I assume… Of course I could just be overreacting or over-thinking..."
The retired Dragon of the West looked up at Katara's worried face and gave her a supporting smile despite the equal worry that surrounded his old but strong heart.
"You and I both know my nephew is very strong and very, very stubborn. We must stay positive, Katara," he said in a wise tone. "We cannot expect the best of everything, but we can still hope for it. There is a difference. I am sure he is fine, dear. Zuko knows that this is of utmost importance. He will not slip easily, nor will he allow it."
Katara cracked a small smile and nodded. "You're right. Maybe I am just jumping to conclusions..." she sighed.
As the old firebender and the young waterbender walked side by side towards the dining room, Katara still couldn't help but feel the worry that threatened to cloud her like a thick fog. She cared about Zuko, she was starting to care for him a lot – if not…too much. That frightened her. Her heart ached whenever she thought about him, before she forced herself to squash that ache.
He'll be fine… she assured herself silently. It's Zuko. He'll be fine.
"I am fine, damn it!" Zuko yelled at Amai, exiting his room after dumping off his dirty clothes. He had finished taking a good, much-needed shower when Amai ambushed him on the way to their room. She went on about how battered Zuko looked after he knocked out and how Bacca had to carefully tend to his injuries every moment of every day. After that Amai was hell-bent on making sure that he was fully functioning.
Amai let out an irritated huff. "Well don't get all hotheaded on me!" she snapped with a childish pout and a frown. "Masuta has been bugging me the whole time you were out. He keeps checking on you – whether you're awake or not. Grumpy boy creates lightning and the whole Sanctuary goes haywire."
Zuko rolled his eyes. "Whatever. I am surprised you're still speaking to me," he merely muttered.
Amai shrugged and let out a frustrated sigh. "Onni said that I need to be more mature and just let it go. Plus Nazuma wants us all to play nice if not the whole plan will fall apart. I am still like, steaming from your stupidity, but…Nazuma will have my head."
A small groan escaped Zuko's lips. So he still had to put up with her. Fantastic.
Then a light went off in his head.
"Whole plan? Shan and Nazuma have already planned the attack on the Palace?" Zuko asked, his eyes widening.
Amai nodded. "Yeah. The second the night of the New Moon befalls us, half of us will split up underground while the other half will sneak in from the air. The underground benders will then attack the Palace head on. In the heat of the battle, we will strike through the air. Some will burn the architecture, so they'll be nowhere to hide. But they have yet to decide on who will attack where."
Zuko frowned. "That's it? That was…fast..." He was 'gone' for four days, and all these plans happen without him even knowing. How long has it been since they first made the plans anyway?
The female firebender simply shrugged it off. "Meh. I try not to question Shan and Nazuma. One never knows what they're really thinking. They're smart like that. They never reveal their secrets," she said. "Anyway, since you're back to your normal self, you should report to Masuta. Like, now."
The undercover Fire Lord disappeared from Amai's sight faster than Sokka's consumption of food, unable to tolerate the girl anymore.
When Zuko found Masuta, he was training a whole bunch of rebels. Some were about the Fire Lord's age, and some were already young to mature adults.
Technically, Masuta wasn't training anyone. The rest of his students were standing up in a huddled group watching as Masuta kicked a man in the abdomen who was on all fours with his head bowed. Zuko guessed that the man was roughly two or three years older than the former. The Master's right leg swung up hard – kicking the man's stomach. The man yelled out in pain as he landed on his forearms and shins from the kick. Sweat drenched his short black hair and poured down his reddened, haggard-looking face. His eyes were squeezed shut and his calloused hands were clenched into two tight fists until his knuckles were white. A violent shudder surged through his body as he tried to get back up with little to no success.
Zuko stared in disbelief. What was Masuta doing? Quickly but quietly, he approached the training platform, nearing the raised ground with soft footsteps.
"I had a teenage rookie perform better than you, Lim!" Masuta shouted fiercely at the man, circling the latter. His expression was hard and fierce, with his fists steaming - probably from firebending. "You are a disgrace! Do you want to be in the Second Division? Or the First? The First are for the little fighters that we have! Those little things clearly have better drive than you do! Maybe you should be dumped there! You're just like a little, itty, bitty boy! Or worse! Should I get Shan to create Division Zero for the slugs like you?"
Zuko's jaw clenched, realizing what Masuta was doing. He was trying to force lightning generation out of the other firebenders.
Masuta held up his right hand, with his palm facing up, and lit a giant fireball.
"Maybe if I mark you like how our Phoenix King marked the so-called Prince – then you will actually show me some results!" he shouted, and prepared to slam the flaming ball of destruction down onto Lim.
"NO!" Zuko roared, and managed to leap forward in front of Lim and punched Masuta's arm away. He then held his left arm out as if to shield a shuddering Lim while he pointed a fire dagger at Masuta with the other.
"Lee!" Masuta exclaimed. He then allowed an evil smile to spread across his lips as he turned to face his other students. "Look see, you weaklings! This is the rookie that finally managed to spit out his true fire! With just a few pushes, at last, he got to creating the cold-blooded fire! A rookie! A teenager! Younger than all of you fools! You should be ashamed of yourselves! Let this young pretty boy be an example and inspiration to you all!"
Masuta then turned towards Zuko. He briefly cocked his head towards the group, as if gesturing for Zuko to move aside.
"Move, Lee," he ordered sharply. "I'm in a middle of a lesson. Don't be a rude little prat and run along. I'll train you later. I have to finish teaching these so-called firebenders."
Zuko narrowed his eyes and made his fire dagger burn even brighter and bigger, the tip of the blazing blade elongating as if threatening with small crackles.
"Not like this, Masuta," Zuko snapped fiercely. "You may have forced it out of me but you cannot do the same to everyone. Not everyone is like me. You're not even supposed to beat it out of benders like this. It's not safe."
Masuta scoffed and crossed his bulky arms across his sweaty chest. "Give me a break. I broke it out of you and you're fine. Just a few days of rest and you're already snappy mouthed. Go on; beat it so I can beat Lim to unleashing his true potential."
Zuko growled lowly and placed the point of his dagger right below Masuta's chin.
"No," he said with finality.
Masuta frowned, and slapped Zuko's arm away as if he was swatting a bug. Zuko ignored the pain that amplified his soreness, and brought his arms out to shield Lim. Although he felt bitter towards the rebels that were out seeking his blood, he would not see people beaten down by a powerful sadist.
One corner of Masuta's lips quirked up into a half smirk, as he took two steps back, before lighting up his fists.
"Lim, get back into the group," he ordered, his flame-illuminated eyes fixated on the teen in front of him.
Zuko looked down and met Lim's bloodshot, wide, almost yellow eyes – before the shuddering man quickly made his way towards the other firebenders, his exhausted form caught and supported by his allies.
"So you want to be tough, huh, Lee?" Masuta asked, a deep frown creasing into his face. He then brought his fists up in front of him in a fighting stance – as if readying himself to throw fast punches with blazing fists. "Well, tough guy. Let's see what you've got, hmm?"
Half of Zuko smiled at the challenge, while the other half was determined to take down this son of madness. Instead of having fire at the ready, he simply shifted into a fighting stance. His legs taking a wide horse stance as his left arm was bent and raised with his elbow pointing backwards and a fist just above his head, while his right arm was also slightly bent out in front of him, with an open palm facing a downwards left diagonal.
Masuta snorted out a quick exhalation, before letting out a quick roar and punched both his fists out and sideways towards Zuko, sending a sideways hurricane of fire at the teenager.
The young Fire Lord was ready – ready to humiliate Masuta, ready to blast his teacher off the platform. He would've managed to singlehandedly deflect Masuta's attack if it weren't for the fact that another blast of fire that came from his right managed to subdue it into nothing but overheated air. The blast was accompanied by a fierce yet feminine shout.
Both Masuta and Zuko turned towards the direction of the blast and its wielder, and found a very irritated Nazuma standing in full, lightweight body armor with her arms crossed over her chest. Her face etched with an expression that could burn. Shan, who stood next to her, was also clad in body armor and also looked rather annoyed but…amused at the same time, as if he was pleased that some sort of drama was about to take place.
Immediately everyone except for Zuko and Masuta dropped to their knees with their heads bowed.
"Masuta," Nazuma snapped fiercely. "You were supposed to be teaching, not challenging your little prodigy who just woke up after a breakthrough. What, couldn't help but poke at a new lightning prodigy?"
Masuta frowned. "He's my prodigy, isn't he? I can poke him whenever I want. And he was being a little fool, interrupting my classes. He stopped me from trying to get Lim over there to generate lightning."
Nazuma raised an eyebrow and made eye contact with Zuko, who stood stiffly with no intention of getting down on his knees.
"Why did you stop Masuta from doing his job, Lee?" Nazuma asked in a firm tone.
Zuko straightened up. Just because he was to be 'part of them' didn't mean that he couldn't instill some change.
"I don't think it is right for the Masters to physically abuse the trainees in order for them to let go of their emotions and the sort so that they can learn to generate lightning," Zuko replied without fear. "The skill will be forced out of them instead of letting it come to them naturally. They need to learn to let go on their own. I have had it beaten out of me, I know how it feels. No one else should be subjected to such brutality."
"We're in a rush, Lee," Shan immediately said, stepping forward. "These people knew very well what they were getting themselves into when they became a child of the Phoenix. And like you said, you had it beaten out of you – and yet, here you are, still standing and bending."
Zuko frowned. "After being unconscious for four days!"
Shan shrugged. "It may vary. Lim might recover sooner than you. Not everyone has a chuck load of emotional baggage. And you better watch your tongue, Lee, you're still on the Third Division. Not the Fourth. You're still no better than a rookie."
The aggravated male leader was about to continue, until his sister held up a hand before laying it on her brother's shoulder.
"Now, now, Shan. Let's not scold the poor boy. He is a brave and bold one," Nazuma said soothingly, calming her brother whose face was slowly reddening. "He has fire coursing through his veins. We all do. Does this not show that he truly has the qualities of a Phoenix Son?"
Immediately, Shan settled down, and stubbornly nodded in agreement. Nazuma then turned to Masuta.
"Masuta, perhaps Lee is right. Tone down the beatings for a while, yes?" she said to him. Her lips then slowly curved up into an evil smile. "Oh, but if nature and the trainees don't cooperate… Show them what you can really do with lightning. You know where the special whips are, right?"
Zuko's eyes widened, and he felt his body go cold. But Nazuma wasn't finished. She then turned to face her brother, who looked pretty smug.
"I think we should really make it challenge, shouldn't we, brother?" she asked him sweetly – the kind of sickening sweetness that hid the most disgusting poison. "I think we should really heighten the standards of each Division… Lightning generation really is so difficult to learn on your own…"
Shan grinned maliciously and nodded. "Indeed, sister," he said, and met Zuko's wide, speechless eyes. "Well done, Lee. Looks like you standing up for your brothers and sisters worked after all. They get their chance to let it flow. However, I am very sorry to say that you have officially been bumped down to the Second Division. After all, you are still a beginner with lightning, yes? You have not grasped the possibilities of lightning. You have yet to truly discover its true power, and how we can really wield it."
With that being said, Shan and Nazuma left the training compound, heads held high with triumph.
Zuko let out the breath he didn't realize he was holding in, before turning his head to examine the damage. Masuta had his hands on his hips, his face practically glowing with smugness and success. The young Fire Lord then turned to meet the glares of the watching rebels. His "brothers and sisters".
Oh Spirits… What have I done…
He silently left, ignoring the glares and harsh whispers that surrounded him like darkness. The second he was out of sight, Masuta resumed his lesson.
Zuko collapsed in a heap of exhaustion and pain into his room that was thankfully empty. He groaned as he tried to push himself up, and supported his body on all fours. He crawled as if grovelling towards the water bucket that currently sat at the foot of his bed, he then reached out and grabbed the bucket by the brim, dragging it closer to his person.
Seeing that it was empty, Zuko instantly upchucked into the wooden bucket. He heaved and retched as matter from his insides escaped from the cavity of his body and into the bucket. Sweat poured down his face as his hands clutched the bucket until his nails dug into it and his knuckles turned white. His body shuddered and shivered violently.
Once his body felt emptied, Zuko let out an agonized groan as he shakily leaned his forehead against the rim of the bucket, ignoring the smell of acid, bile, and Spirits know what else he managed to hack up.
Rewind a few hours ago…
After training for a while on his own, Zuko tried to make it back to his room as fast as he could by speed walking. After all the death glares he'd gotten this morning…it would be best if he had minimal contact with anyone at the moment. While walking through an emptying hallway, he stayed as close as he could to the wall.
However, apparently the Spirits weren't done with him yet; as someone from his right with immense strength suddenly decked him in the jaw that sent him stumbling and crashing into the wall, and grabbed him by the collar of his shirt before shoving him up against the wall – his feet dangling in the air. Zuko grunted in pain as the hard wall scratched against his still sore back and ignored the throbbing pain in his jaw. He then shook his hair out of his sight and met the angry eyes of Lim.
"You idiot!" Lim shouted at him, digging his knuckles against Zuko's collarbones. Zuko then saw that Lim had company – a rebel mixture of genders and ages standing behind him. All of them had similar angry expressions on their faces.
"What were you trying to prove?" Lim continued, practically spitting venom in Zuko's face. "Now thanks to you we're all being screwed over! Kicked off to the lower Divisions and getting harsher lashings from the Masters! We don't need your sympathy! We don't need your help you fool! We never needed them! Since when did we ask for your pity?"
Zuko frowned at Lim. He then grabbed hold of Lim's thin wrists and managed to shove him away. The younger man landed on the ground with a thump as he glared back at Lim.
"I was only trying to help," Zuko stated firmly, not wanting to rouse any more aggression. He knew he had done more than enough earlier. "I had lightning forced out of me, I didn't want it to happen to anyone else."
Lim scoffed, as did some of the other rebels that stood behind him.
"You had no right to just step in like that," Lim spat, jabbing a finger at Zuko. "Now we'll have to get harsher beatings in order to prove ourselves to Shan and Nazuma. Worse than yours, rookie."
Anger began to swell within Zuko, but he instantly squashed it stubbornly, knowing that snapping back won't do him any good.
"I am sorry," he apologized sincerely albeit through gritted teeth. "I did not step in to make things worse. Believe me, I had better intentions at heart."
A petite but muscular woman behind Lim let out a loud 'HA', and stepped forward next to Lim. She then turned around to the small rebel crowd behind her and cocked her head in Zuko's direction. The small crowd split in half, revealing a young man – no older than Zuko, fighting for breath as his arms were draped around two female necks. His head bowed as his long, sweat-soaked, hay-like hair hid his face. His body was as muscular as Zuko's, and was drenched in his own sweat as well as the dirt of the Sanctuary. However, unlike Zuko's pale form that had seen mild to not-so-serious wounds and injuries, this man – even through the labour-acquired golden tan of his skin, Zuko could easily see the large blossoming bruises that stained his body, even his limp legs. Perfectly thin lacerations marred his torso and limbs; and blood, dirt and sweat were mixed to form a filthy spill all over his heavy, heaving form.
"I am sorry," Zuko repeated, his voice softer now – inwardly wincing at the pain that poor man must have faced earlier. The only thing that assured him was the very faint sounds of the man's weak breathing.
"That's not it," the woman who was supporting the man on his left said coldly, she then turned to her partner and nodded. The two women then slowly turned him around so that his back would be facing Zuko.
It took every fibre of the young Fire Lord's strength to keep his stoic mask on, and not produce any response after seeing what had been done.
The man's back looked as if he had been through several brutal punishments. Every inch of the man's skin was lashed with bloody wounds. From lacerations to deep cuts that made the acids in Zuko's stomach churn painfully. Zuko could not count how many lashes had been cracked against his back, for lashes and cuts overlapped each other, creating one giant mess of an open wound. Dark blood stained the yellowed waistband of his pants, and crusted scarlet along with the filth of the underground dirtied his mauled back. The metallic stench of blood filled Zuko's nose, and it took everything within him to tolerate it. He could almost taste the bile that was rising from his throat.
'Special whips…' he thought bitterly, remembering Nazuma's words. Zuko then turned to glare at Lim, who looked both angry and satisfied.
"How sorry are you now?" Lim snapped, arching an eyebrow.
"You've made your point," Zuko snapped back. "Now get out of my sight before I burn you right here and now."
Lim narrowed his eyes. At that moment, as if on cue, the majority of the rebels dispersed and removed themselves from the scene, including the man who had been cruelly abused. Only Lim, and three other muscular men stayed. One of them even had the build of Masuta's.
The situation slowly clicked, and Zuko made a move to leave.
"I don't want any trouble. I will not fight you over this matter," Zuko said calmly, but before he could even turn his body, Lim grabbed his shoulders and quickly shoved him to the ground. Zuko groaned as his sore back collided with the floor, and he felt a heavy foot slam against his chest, pinning him down. It was the man with the body of his Master. Zuko winced at the weight that held him down.
"Good. Then this will be easy for us and faster for you," Lim said coldly, hovering over the Fire Lord.
Before Zuko could react, all four men were kicking and beating his body up, unforgiving and unrelenting without pause. Zuko let out a roar and crossed his arms in front of his face before spreading them out, sending a flashing ring of fire to send his attackers back, allowing him to jump up onto his feet, ignoring the throbbing pains that stayed with his body.
However, Lim and his allies were unfazed by his bending. If anything they were more riled up than ever. Within seconds, Zuko was defending himself against hard punches and kicks from four men, with his back against the wall. The close range attacks cornered him, and the four men left no room for Zuko to escape. They left neither space nor time for him to move. Every punch and kick was merciless. It was as if Zuko was their own punching bag. Luckily, Zuko managed to land several of his own attacks, and even managed to punch one man in the face – that is, until Lim managed to sweep Zuko off his feet, and the teenager fell against the floor again. Heavy kicks swung hard against his abdomen, eliciting loud yells from Zuko. He felt his bruises getting pummeled and scrapes opening into bigger wounds. Physical pain stabbed at him from every direction.
After a short while, even through all the pain, Zuko could feel his beatings slowing down. This gave him the opportunity to get back on his feet, and let out an angered roar as he struck his hands down in front of him, bringing a large wall of fire that separated him from his attackers, giving him enough time to flee. He would not waste his time and energy to fight a pointless 'battle', and he needed every last drop of his energy to save himself physically, or risk jeopardizing his true mission.
Lim and the others did not follow. Instead they simply watched with satisfaction as 'Lee' quickly limped away from them, clawing at the hallway walls for support while his other arm held his middle.
"Lee!" Bacca cried, racing to Zuko's side after entering their room. He gently shook Zuko's shoulders, and the latter weakly raised his head. "Lee, are you alright? What happened to you?"
Zuko pushed away the bucket of sick, before pushing back his hair. He then looked into the wide, worried eyes of the little boy, and nodded weakly, accompanied with a very small and reassuring crack of a smile.
"I'll be fine," he rasped, his throat raw from throwing up. Bacca then slowly helped Zuko up to sit on the bed.
"Do you need anything?" Bacca asked worriedly, taking in the pale and battered form of his roommate.
Zuko shook his head. "I am going out for a while," he muttered, in a tone that told Bacca not to question him. He needed to update his friends and uncle – before any more surprises could be introduced.
I know I know, I am really mean for beating up Zuko like that! But I needed some juicy drama to liven up his rebel life! And if you thought Zuko seemed 'weak' for allowing a handful of rebels to beat him up, come on - he just finished training and is tired - not to mention still sore from being knocked out for four days. Zuko may be powerful and strong, but he is still another person. A young person, might I add.
Anyway, I really hope you enjoyed this chapter, I am SO very sorry for being so M.I.A! I am back, I am alive, and I am...back. :)
Till the next chapter, Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good...Evening. It's Evening over here anyways. :)