Outcasts Chapteer 16
A/N: Bleh, kind of a weak chapter in terms of relationship stuff. I'm not fully past my writer's block, so some of the interactions will be lukewarm, I think. At any rate, this chapter delves into some of Nioh-An's past. Hope you enjoy. PS: PLEASE SOMEBODY GUESS WHERE HUAIKE AND NIOH-AN ARE FROM! I'll write something just for you. ;)
“So, you kissed Sokka?”
“Nothing,” Lee told Toph. “He just sort of blushed, and didn’t say anything until you guys came back.” Toph nodded and leaned back against the saddle of Appa. The group had successfully thwarted the assassination attempt of the mercenaries, though failed in capturing them.
“So that’s why he’s been all loopy,” she said. “Well, congratulations, I guess. Traumatize him again, and I bet you can get to third base.”
“I did not traumatize him,” Lee muttered.
“Trauma,” Toph said in a singsong voice. Lee swatted at the girl, but missed.
“What are you guys talking about?” Katara interrupted, moving down to sit next to them. Aang and Sokka were at the reigns, talking together and occasionally looking back at the others almost conspiratorially. “Aang and Sokka won’t let me sit with them.”
“Lee’s love life,” Toph said nonchalantly. Lee shot a pointed look at her, and then blushed as he realized she couldn’t see it.
“Oh, really? Find a girl you like in Omashu, Lee?” Katara asked, moving closer to him. Lee blushed and looked away.
“More or less,” he confessed. Katara clapped her hands in delight and squealed.
“Who is it? Do I know them?” she inquired.
“Oh yeah. You know ‘em,” Toph cackled. Lee felt like he was going to die.
Not far from the group assembled on Appa’s back, Ty Lee, Nioh-An, and Huaike rode tirelessly through the mountainous terrain of the Earth Kingdom. They had been running ever since Omashu, and although they had lost their pursuers long ago, they didn’t want to risk the chance of being caught. Nioh-An was in the lead, being most familiar with the area. In truth, he had been leading them blindly; following any open path he thought wouldn’t lead to a dead end. The two hadn’t caught on yet, it seemed.
“Oi, An!” Huaike called from behind him. “Where are we going?”
“You’ll see in a moment!” he lied. He turned his head back to the fore— and halted.
They had come to a stop at the edge of a valley. The mountains surrounding the low land formed a bowl shape before evening out at the valley floor. A river ran through the valley to the other side. It was picturesque, and could inspire many poems or pieces of art. But this was not why Miao Nioh-An had stopped.
“An, what’s wrong?” Huaike inquired as he and Ty Lee stopped next to him. The archer dismounted and walked to where Nioh-An still sat, dumbstruck.
“I know this place,” was all he said.
“Oma and Shu knew that their love was forbidden, but that did not deter them. They would visit each other at the top of the mountain as often as possible to continue a love that burned brighter than the sun, was deeper than the ocean, stronger than a mountain, and reached beyond the sky. They began to watch Badgermoles, and in their actions, they learned the secrets of bending earth to their will. They created a secret path inside the mountain separating their tribes, and in the caves center, were able to find solace.” Nioh-An sat back and listened to the story that the village’s minstrel told. It was an old one, and everyone knew it, but it was still nice to stop and listen. He and several others were gathered around a fire in the center of the village, listening as the man told his stories. Next to him was his friend Shao Huan, a girl he befriended when they were children. She turned her head and smiled at him. Nioh-An smiled back before looking back at the minstrel.
“One day, though, Shu was called to war against the village of Oma. The two promised to meet once again, but that was not to be. Shu died in battle not long after he had left. News reached Oma sooner, and the woman became embittered. In a fit of rage, Oma used her Earth bending to call an end to the war. Not long after, she taught others how to Earth bend, and together, they built the beginnings of the great city of Omashu, named after the two lovers.” The minstrel bowed as clapping commenced. The story was over.
“Nioh-An,” Shao Huan called out as the teenaged boy got up to leave. Nioh-An turned around and looked at the girl curiously. “Don’t you just love that story?” she asked the man as she stood up. “I mean, Oma and Shu were so willing to give up everything for each other. It was so sad that Shu had to die like that.”
“It was war. Things like that happen all the time,” Nioh-An told the girl. “Just like now.” He ran a hand through his long jet-black hair, combing out some leaves that had gotten stuck inside of the locks.
Shao Huan grimaced and stuck her tongue out at him. “You’re so gloomy, Nioh-An. You need to lighten up a bit. Life’s not all doom and gloom.”
“You’re the only one who ever seems to think I’m gloomy,” Nioh-An told her with no change of tone or inflection.
“I’m the only one who ever says anything,” she corrected, smiling. “We better get home. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Night, Shao Huan.”
“So he kissed you?”
“And you didn’t do anything.”
“And you’re planning on avoiding him until…”
“I figure out what to do,” Sokka told Aang, eyes fixed on the patch of sky in his line of sight.
“Don’t you think that’s unfair to Lee to do that?” Aang inquired.
“Don’t you think it’s unfair to keep leading my sister on like you’re doing?”
Nioh-An waited outside of his home with Shao Huan. Their parents were inside at the moment, discussing something important that they would not clue in to their children. They had been waiting outside for almost an hour, not daring to go far from Nioh-An’s home, for the two were ordered to stay near.
“So what do you think they’re talking about, Nioh-An?” Shao Huan asked as she tried to peer into his home through the slats over his windows. “It must be important.”
“I’m sure they’ll tell us when they’re done,” Nioh-An reassured the girl. “I don’t think looking into my house will make it go any faster.”
“Sit down, Shao Huan,” Nioh-An commanded, grabbing the girl by her robe and pulling her down. Shao Huan groaned and punched Nioh-An lightly.
“Have I ever told you that you were boring?” she asked him.
She groaned again and stood up, just as his doors opened. Out came his parents and hers, all with wide smiles on their faces. Nioh-An stood and bowed respectfully, as did Shao Huan.
“Shao Huan, Nioh-An, we have come to a decision. This took some time, and we all agreed it was for the best.” Nioh An looked at his father as the man spoke. He couldn’t suppress a sudden well of apprehension as the man continued.
“We have made arrangements for your betrothal.”
Sokka sighed as his line penetrated the surface of the cool mountain stream. They’d just set up camp, and Sokka had decided to get away from everyone, to clear his mind. The one thing he seemed to lack nowadays was privacy, an odd change of events from the last time he’d set out with the Avatar. He sighed contentedly, knowing that no one would bother him. They were all training Aang at the moment, and for that reason alone, Sokka became nonexistent.
“What are you doing?” a soft voice inquired next to his ear. Sokka jumped in surprise and whipped his head around to see Lee. The scarred boy sat next to Sokka and smiled.
“H-hey, Lee,” Sokka said nervously, looking away from the boy. “Why aren’t you with the others?”
“They don’t need me right now,” he told him. “Aang’s learning Earth bending right now. I lack said powers to instruct him there.” Silence.
“That’s good,” Sokka said, breaking the silence.
“Sure,” Lee said casually. Another moment of silence, then, “Why are you avoiding me?”
Shit. “I’m not avoiding you,” he lied.
“Don’t lie, Sokka. I hate it when people lie.”
Nioh-An’s village was now far away from him. He’d run away the moment that his parents had announced his betrothal. True, he liked Shao Huan, but he only saw her as a friend, nothing more. To force him to marry her like that…he just couldn’t stay. He stopped on a hill in the valley he was born in and looked down. His village was the only one in the valley, and as such, the people here had led a sheltered life, relatively free from the war.
He sat down there and sighed. Life wasn’t fair, true, but Nioh-An wasn’t one to gripe. He’d make the best of his situation, and try and see if he could live with the decision his parents made. His eyes wandered back to the village as he heard the sound of some large animal running in the distance. He looked around, and a minute later, near his village, a squad of Komodo Rhinos came up over a hill.
Nioh-An watched in horror as screams echoed in the valley, the village laid to waste. In an hour’s time, Miao Nioh-An was sole survivor of the Teniao-Lan Massacre. For some reason, he couldn’t shake it off.
After all, it was war. Things like that happened all the time.
“Nioh-An? Are you alright?” Huaike asked as they made it down the valley. The tall man nodded silently. The man hadn’t spoken a word since they’d come to the valley, and although he was silent, it was starting to unnerve the smaller of the two lovers.
Once again, Nioh-An came to a sudden stop. Not too far off, what looked like the remains of some man-made structure, long since destroyed, rose from the grass like a craggy monument. Nioh-An dismounted from his Komodo Rhino and walked into the midst of the ruins, before falling to his knees. Before him was a stone column. Upon it was adorned several items, trinkets from random people, all hanging from a single black braid. Nioh-An ran a hand through his short hair and looked at the items, belongings of several people he had once known.
“I’m sorry it’s been so long,” he said quietly.
“I don’t know how to react to what you did back in Omashu, Lee,” Sokka finally confessed. “You’ve had me so confused lately. I’ve been starting to get feelings for you that I shouldn’t. You’re my friend.”
Lee nodded, lowering his head in disappointment. “I haven’t thought of you as a friend in a long while. I thought some of the things you’ve done meant that you thought the same way.”
Sokka sighed. “I don’t know what to think, Lee. Just…give me some time, ok?”