Chapter 9: Conspiracy
There was something odd going on that day at the Ba Sing Se palace. While they would've expected guards surrounding them at their arrival so that they probably would've had to work their way through the lines of soldiers, the royal palace was as good as abandoned. It could appear the Earth King had sent all of his soldiers to the frontlines, nevertheless, there are always soldiers who have to stay behind in order something happens to the city. So why was it that no one was here, not even a single servant. As the pair walked their way inside, the clacking noise of their sandals echoing through the entire building, it left behind a cold chill that would run a shiver all the way down her spine. Meisha remembered how busy it used it be here when she was little. She always ended up keeping her brother on a leash to prevent him from getting lost in the palace. So where was everyone?
"There's something wrong."
"Like I don't know that," and she rolled her eyes and folded her arms when they both took halt in front of the gigantic door that would take them right to the Earth King. That is, if he was home.
"I don't think we should enter."
"I have to –" and before she finished that last sentence they were trapped in some sort of metal rope that separated the two of them. Two – so it appeared – metal benders were picking them from the ground like fishes in the sea and dragged them all the way down to the other side of the room with just one single rope attached to their foot. Yet before they had time to struggle, a woman's voice too familiar spoke from behind the throne. She clapped her hands in a slow and mocking gesture while showing herself, leaving the waterbender with her mouth full teeth. "Well well Mulan," she grinned and stopped the clapping, "you're still naïve."
"Azula... I'll get you for this!" Trying to get out of the metalbender's hands, Azula took surprised a step back seeing the young girl's rage. Something was different about her, she seemed to have more confidence.
"Unfortunately it was I who got you darling, and a little extra it appears."
As the firebender slowly paraded towards Uriou and grabbed his face with more fierce one could've imagined with a woman, her eyes inspected the young adult. From a distance they could both hear Meisha yelling she had to leave him alone but this wouldn't keep her from examining him.
"Oh. An earthbender, what a lovely surprise."
Uriou's eyebrows raised. How in the world did she know that, just by seeing his face?
"What do you want Azula?!" By this the princess fiercely spun around and faced her opponent at the other side of the room. Eyes with fire met. She really seemed different. "I am here to negotiate."
"Don't make me laugh! Since when did you prefer trading? You take everything you can get!"
"Oh but I need you to get me the thing I need." That ominous smile of her didn't promise something good. "You're going to help me get the Fire Warrior."
Her eyes flushed open once she had spelled out the words Fire Warrior. Azula's smile became wider as she noticed she finally received the attention she wanted from her prisoner.
"And why the hell would I help you with that."
"Oh but I'm not going to convince you with dozens of reasons why you should," and the princess danced around in the palace acting like she owned this place until she arrived at the spot where her other victim was standing, toying with a sharp knife near his throat, enjoying the sweat of fear rolling from his forehead on the ground. "I'll crush you until you cooperate spontaneously."
"Secure all the gates! Support the main palace! Don't let anyone in!"
"Sir, the rebellions broke through the city's gate!"
"God damn it!" With all the power left in his limbs, he hit the metal walls from the ship so hard that it tingled through the entire ship. His men watched with all agony at their commander in charge that dropped his hammers to the ground and fell on his knees. Nobu was broken, exhausted and disgusted with his own hands who had taken the lives of many foes today. They were drained in all kinds of different blood types, but still it had been hopeless. The enemy had overpowered them. Although they were only facing non-benders, Azula was always one step ahead of them. They had benders, she had weapons.
"Sir!" and one of his man kneeled down to support his commander. His legs were feeble, wounded by several gunshots and cuts, only few of his team had survived. Most of them were killed and those who weren't were left behind only so that the enemy could continue to face the next district. It appeared that quality wasn't enough to beat quantity.
"We will support the main gate, prepare to leave." His breath was prostrate and talking became difficult. The man supporting him felt how Nobu heavily leaned against him, having no energy left to stand up on his own.
"But Sir, you are wounded. We should take the catacombs and go to the healers –"
"There's no time! Just drop me here, those who are still capable to fight leave!
"But Sir –"
"That's an order!"
And thus, as their captain had commanded, those who were still capable to endure battle left the ship to help the others, leaving their outrageous captain behind. With wounds all over his body so deep it would definitely leave scars, he was losing too much blood for him to be good. His sight became faint, his lungs felt heavy, the air was thick and his body felt cold and stiff. Struggling to keep his eyes open, for closing them would mean he could die here at this very moment, he thought back about his past, all the stupid things he had done in his life, how foolish he had been at that time. Children of the generation after the hundred year war were so blind and careless. Now here he was fighting a war on his own, as captain for Yue's sake. How foolish he had been those days, how stupid he had been to accept the position as captain. It was all up to his friend Kenshin now, and of course Amaya.
Forgive me for closing my eyes Amaya, I don't think I can hold on much longer.
"Kenshin, secure the palace!"
"On my way!" Children of the next generation were blind to war. Until they end up in one themselves. That was what Kenshin experienced right now, and Jianguo as well. With the help of some quick firebending he worked his way through the rebellions, walking the long stairs leading to the palace's gates. While the enemy was trying to work their way in the palace with explosions, they were suddenly burned to ashes as the Fire Warrior himself granted them the honour of meeting him. With a few fierce fire fists they were quickly finding themselves at the other side of the tribe with burn marks. More of them were coming once he had cleared the entire stairs and he shot them one by one down with fire.
"Stop toying with them Kenshin! They might be the enemy, they still are people!"
Jianguo pushed his back against his and fought side by side clearing the left corner of the palace while Kenshin took the right. With ice needles he always tried aiming for the vital spots to make it a quick and clean kill. Sometimes he missed though, and they would end up in the throat so that they died a painful dead.
"Hold them off as long as you can. I'll try sealing the door."
"Understood," and he wiped out another six or five of them running screaming towards the gate. Behind him Jianguo was gathering enough water and placed one layer after another of ice on the door to make it thicker so that the enemy wouldn't break through it. He jumped up when a soldier nearly tried stabbing him before he dropped on his knees with a Fire Nation knife in his throat. Vomiting his own blood, the man fell before the heir's feet. Jianguo's blue eyes looked at the Fire Warrior in front of him, sending him an angry glare, wondering why that was necessary.
"You're welcome," he spouted back and took on another fighting position.
The chaos around them seemed to whimper. It was so faint and weak but it sounded horrifying. As the footsteps of a man arrived and took one stair at a time, first a normal step and then the sound of metalwork hitting the ice. It continued until that man arrived at last at the top of the stairs in front of the palace's gate. Both Kenshin and Jianguo took fighting positions and prepared for a heavy fight. They were facing half a metal man nevertheless. Disguised in black rope and face covered in wrappings he faced both of them. They could hear each other breathing as other sound had become blank. He moved his hand and they prepared, but instead of drawing a sword he started unwrapping his bandages one by one. Jianguo didn't get it, he watched how the man's face slowly became visible. Long brown hair and black eyes, small scars on his face, everywhere, one deep scar across his eye, deep wrinkles. He seemed so old and tired. And why did it seem like the man was experiencing a great grief.
"Lord Kenshin, son of Lord Bai Sen and Lady Jiali."
Jianguo looked at the Fire Warrior standing next to him with an indescribable expression on his face. He had left his fighting position for what it was and just stood there, his eyes flustered open and almost shaking. He even had troubles controlling his hands, clenching them and stretching them. Jianguo's eyes wandered from foe to friend several times, examining the hate written on Kenshin's face towards this man. What was their connection to each other, how did they know one another? This couldn't be good.
"I am here to negotiate."
"Don't listen to him Kenshin, he's probably just trick –" But Kenshin silenced his commander without slipping an eye from the metal man. Obviously, this was something far deeper that could only be solved by Kenshin alone. Therefore, he didn't need Jianguo's help. His hate for this man was just too great to listen to a sane voice. Holding his ground, the man quickly understood he wanted more information.
"The stake is the Water Warrior."
Both benders' eyes widened. These were the men who had held Meisha captive all along. At that moment something snapped in Kenshin's mind. Before he even knew it, tears dwelled up. But he wasn't afraid to shed them, even though Jianguo was standing next to him. "And the terms?"
So even after all these years, they were still after him?
"You killed my nephew." Jianguo turned fearfully his face to his comrade trembling all over, trying to suppressing all of his anger. "You hurt my mother." He couldn't control his anger anymore. It was so overwhelming. How could he had foreseen that one day he would actually face the man once more that had killed his nephew. Moreover, he had thought all those years he was dead, and at last he showed up again, only to claim his powers again? For still the same damn goal as so many years ago?! It was disgusting, embarrassing, this was asking for revenge, how could he possibly face this man and not kill him after all he'd done to him?! "And you stole the only person I love!"
"Kenshin..." Jianguo tried to calm him down but it was hopeless.
"No, you won't get away with this anymore, freak! I'll kill you! And after that I'll kick and punch your dead body for pleasure! I'll burn you down till there's nothing left but a rotten pile of ash!"
In the end Kenshin could threaten him as much as he wanted, there were few things who could scare a metal man with a broken heart that was left with nothing but the ash he was talking about. Yet it was his insensitive face that didn't move a muscle that fired Kenshin up even more. Enough to already taste the blood from his wounds yet to be given. The noise of a roaring battlefield had slowly began returning again encouraging his lust for revenge. Jianguo withdrew. This was a fight to be won by him alone, for honour, something the Fire Nation still considered more important than achievement.
"Kenshin." He looked up hearing his name from his team leader, by now metres away from him and ready to secure the palace gates on his own with the little enthusiasm he had left. "Come and help me out once you cleaned him up, will you," he smiled, then nonchalantly turned around and moved out.
By the time Jianguo had taken off, Kenshin moved out as well towards his opponent going for a full strike with a ball of fire in his right hand. But instead of diving away, he seized for it and hit it with his metal fist that put out the fire like a sole candle. With now his right hand stuck, Kenshin tried the same thing with his other hand which was being dodged again. So there he was, right in front of his foe with both hands trapped in his, inhaling his breath. But he wasn't finished, not quite yet, and his sly smirk managed to provoke his enemy at least a little.
Bending fire from his feet, Saburo let go once the heat was almost burning up his face and he flew in the air landing back on his feet a few metres away. He began shooting fire fists one by one, easily deflected of course, little did he know it was just a distraction. It bought him enough time to pick up the sword of a corpse so that the real game could commence. Bending a circle of fire around them like he was fencing off their battlefield, Saburo was quickly closed in by flames and had no choice but to gain distance. Blue flames were coming from his sword that resembled Azula's. "Where do you think you're going," Kenshin smiled and with every step he took the circle was getting smaller and smaller. Trying to look for an opening with more fear he would've ever hoped to have, he found no exit. This time however, it was time he showed the tricks up to his sleeve as well. He might not be a bender, he was still a worthy warrior.
He casted a small spherical, about the size of a marble, that rolled before Kenshin's feet. Looking disappointed at it, he laughed and watched how Saburo was still standing over there as tough as ever.
You had to fight fire with fire in order to survive. It was a prototype fire bomb blowing up everything in its direct environment of 3 metres. Kenshin was hurt badly, but a few scathes weren't enough to take him down. When he started using throwing knives he protected himself with a fire barrier and casted them right back at him. It would only cause a few scratches, but at least they were even.
Using the same trick as in the beginning he bended fire from his feet again to gain distance with his enemy, using his sword from an attack in the air. He dodged it with his metal arm however and pushed him aside. He pulled out a gun and started shooting at him. Trying to cast off most of the bullets, one of them hit his arm and his entire defence broke down. Saburo held his fire as the kid reached for his arm and cried out. His mission was to capture the Fire Warrior, not to kill him. Furthermore, he was still to be used as weapon short after capturing him so he couldn't injure him severely. However, fighting with such a stubborn foe required some serious actions.
The fire ring began fading away and Saburo dropped his gun. Thinking the fight was already over, he walked to his prisoner when he suddenly, despite the fact he was losing a lot of blood, stood on his feet again and held another position that was apparently another one of his bending tricks.
One fireblast. Ducking and a low firewhip. One jump in the air and bending the fire with your feet.
"Not yet," he whispered and remembered the words of his master, the training he had endured to achieve his skills. He couldn't give up, the fight hadn't even started yet, he was capable of doing more.
It's not about being strong, it's about being skilled.
Form a firerope, turn it around, form a passage of fire, and bend the fire away by lowering your hands smoothly.
In his right hand, he bended a firerope which he flipped around until it became a circle. With his left he bended the fire forward and created a passage of fire. In the middle of the passage was Saburo standing, screaming out as the fire was eating from his skin and burning up his clothes. In a desperate attempt he managed to break through the wall and dropped himself on the ice cold floor of the Northern Tribe's landscape until he was looking at the feet of the Warrior. Looking up, the Warrior took a deep breath and moved his arms into a strange position, when suddenly the first blue electricity started making a creaking noise at the tops of his fingertips. Once the energy was gathered at the tops of his index - and middle finger, he pointed it straight towards Saburo and smiled wickedly before firing the lightning straight at his head. So the Fire Warrior had finally managed to make lightning? This was perfect for Azula.
Kenshin bended the lightning at full speed, aiming for the head, but at the very last moment the man pushed his arm aside as stabbed him with a small knife in his stomach. Automatically he grasped for it and fell on his knees before the man. His skin might've been burned from top till toe, he had a mission to fulfil for his princess. With blood dripping from his lips and shaky hands he pulled out the knife and threw it aside. Losing a lot of blood, with a wound in the stomach and a bullet in the arm, he was broken and finished, losing conscious. Thinking the battle was finally over, Saburo first treated his wound before he would lose too much blood so he bounded it. Kenshin could only cooperate because his body was too weak by now to struggle, when he suddenly heard the familiar noise of a waterbender bending water into ice and throwing it like needles, yet not fast enough to hit the target.
With his head still a little tilted to the right, he turned around slowly and looked the heir to the Northern Water Tribe straight in the eyes. Annoyed he had interfered his work, he pulled out another gun and aimed for his heart. Kenshin noticed it and warned his friend before it was too late. "He has a gun – !"
A cold silence fell upon the Northern Water Tribe as the sound of a shooting gun echoed through the entire palace. The heir of the throne fell down on his knees and grasped for the aching pain in his chest caused by a bullet. He clenched on to it with a trembling hand and coughed up blood, breathing heavy and short. Oblivious to his own pain, Kenshin gathered his strength and ran to his commanding officer, the colour of the ice slowly taking shape of the colour red. Lying on the ice cold surface of his kingdom, the Fire Warrior turned him around to see the damage with hands trembling as much as his. He was losing too much blood and looked nearly as pale as a firebender. Yet still he had a smile on his face when he saw his arch enemy's shocked face worrying about him. It was funny considering how they first hated each other and today he would die right next to him.
"Stop laughing, idiot!" and he desperately ripped off a sleeve from his shirt, keeping a pressure on his wound to stop the bleeding. He really hated this guy, especially after all that had happened, but there was just no way he was going to die today.
"Kenshin," he coughed and tried pushing his hands away, "stop it."
Jianguo's voice had never sounded so prostrate. Being the confident and selfish man he was, he never regretted anything, and he was not the kind of person to give up. But even he knew that there were certain moments when you had to. His time had come, and he would die honourable.
"Protect Meisha, will you?"
"Don't ask such stupid questions, idiot! If you talk any longer you're going to die!"
"You know," he continued, his past slowly flashing by like a short movie as his last seconds were running near. He didn't feel the cold of the ice anymore, nor did he feel Kenshin's hands on his wound trying to stop it from bleeding. Even his friend's face had become vague. There was just one thing he needed to tell someone before he died because he considered it more important than saying goodbye for the last time. "I..." and he trembled while speaking his last words, "I really did love her."
"Did you find any survivors?"
Two young soldiers had headed to the boats to find any survivors. On the ground there were hundreds of dead soldiers piled up like paperwork, most of them with eyes and mouth still open. Some were men, others were about their age.
Among them were two female healers that needed to heal those who were still alive and to be saved. The only problem was, they didn't find any survivors. There had been one man up till now. No, rather a kid. He was probably 17 years old. He was still alive, but they put him into a silent sleep of eternity to put him out of his misery. The healers had told them he couldn't be saved anymore. One of the soldiers made up the lie they were going to anaesthetize him before treatment so he could die with a smile on his face. It felt disgusting of course, but what was there left for them to do?
"Wait, isn't that the captain?"
They noticed a corpse that was wearing the armour of a captain and once arriving before struggling their way through the many kills they recognized his face as well. He was leaning against a part of a boat torn to pieces, eyes closed and a painfully cold skin. "It's the Earth Warrior."
A healer kneeled down and began investigating the body with the blue glowing water like gloves around her hand. All healers carried healing water from the spiritual cave underneath the palace. Stealthy the water disappeared inside the body.
"He's not dead," and both soldiers looked up as the other healer kneeled beside her and took out her spiritual water as well, immediately starting to treat their captain with all might she had. "He's not dead! Quick, get him to the hide-out! We can still save him!"
I'm sorry for the long update, I've been very busy these days and apparently the story's getting kind'a dragging so I was out of inspiration etc. At any rate, those who asked for some action, here you go. Sorry if the chapter is a little short but it was better to end it here so that I could begin an entire new situation in the next chap.
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