Authors: black_goose and umberela
Pairing: Baekhyun/Chanyeol, Sehun/Luhan, Tao/Kris, Kai/D.O
Word count: 4,227
Summary: "The Oracle has seen the twelve united. War is coming to the Nations. We must prepare for battle."
A/N: I wanted to put this in the AN of the last chapter but there were too many words, but basically, we just want to say thank you for all the comments! and that even though we can't reply to them (because there are so many omg), we read every one and appreciate them all :)
also we're not sorry for being giant trolls.
Kyungsoo tapped his fingers against the arm of his chair, watching tensely as the Healers he had brought in worked on Kai. He had instructed them to do as much as they could. It wasn’t enough for him to know that Kai was out of danger, he needed to know that Kai had been fixed. After he had given those orders, one of the Healers had tentatively asked if he required a sedative of some kind, so perhaps a little of his fear and anger was escaping the iron hold he had on it.
Kai had fallen asleep once he had been placed on the bed, slipping easily into sleep. Kyungsoo had left the room only long enough to request the Healers, and since then had taken his place in the chair, refusing to move until he knew that Kai was well again. In an ideal world, he could sit on the floor and be comforted with the ground under his palms, but the Healers already seemed to think he was close to cracking up and he didn’t need their focus distracted.
Underneath his mostly calm exterior — he didn’t think he had ever, in all his life, had such control over his own expression — he was simmering. It had been one thing when the Elders were merely stuffy and uptight, one thing when the worst they would do was splutter and yell and demand things that no one, in reality, actually listened to, particularly not Kai. It was quite another to attempt bodily harm, when Kai was unable to protest against it. He felt as though they had been waiting for their chance, their adherence to the word of the law almost suspect. Their refusal to listen to the Oracle had been infuriating, and Kyungsoo wondered if maybe they hadn’t wanted to listen, had been waiting for so long for a change to legitimately get rid of Kai. The thought of them all sitting around and waiting for Kai to put a toe out of line so they could eliminate him was terrifying. Under that kind of scrutiny Kyungsoo could only protect him for so long.
The flaps of the tent opened and Suho stepped in, looking tired and harassed. “Kyungsoo,” he said quietly, drawing up to where Kyungsoo sat and looking at the bed where Kai was being healed. “How is he?”
“Alive,” said Kyungsoo. He felt, after the scene with the Elders, that was the most important thing.
“And you?” Suho lay a hand on his shoulder. “How are you holding up?”
Kyungsoo turned his face towards him and smiled weakly. He could feel cracks in his blank mask forming. “I’m fine,” he said sardonically.
“You should sleep,” Suho said. “It’s late...or early, I suppose.”
Kyungsoo waved a hand at Kai. “My bed is taken.”
Suho inclined his head. “I can get someone to bring another in for you,” he said. “It may not be as comfortable but it will do.”
Kyungsoo raised an eyebrow. The thought of laying on something less comfortable than the bed he had been using thus far seemed next to impossible. He stared down at Kai for a moment before saying softly, “No, we won’t be needing another bed.”
“Oh,” said Suho, looking a little surprised.
“I don’t think I’ll be getting much sleep anyway,” Kyungsoo added with a shrug.
“Oh,” repeated Suho. He lifted his hand off Kyungsoo’s shoulder and nodded, somewhat stiffly. “I guess I will...leave you to it, then. I will talk to you tomorrow morning? The Oracle brought us important information, but it can wait until morning.”
Kyungsoo nodded, and turned back to the bed while Suho left the tent. A few minutes later, the Healers stepped back, all of them looking exhausted, but none of them showing signs of the Bleeds yet. “We’ve done what you asked,” the leader of them said. “He will be weak for a while since we cannot replenish the energy he lost, but we have repaired all the damage he suffered. He should be back to normal in a day or so.”
“Thank you,” said Kyungsoo, genuine relief rushing through him. He dismissed them gratefully and then stood and paced up and down the length of the tent for a minute or so until he heard a movement from the bed.
He turned to find Kai watching him, his eyes bright in the light of the candles that had been lit. “So,” he said, his voice somewhat husky from sleep, “why aren’t you getting much sleep tonight, Princess?” The glint in his eyes was wicked.
Kyungsoo felt the flush to the tips of his ears. “That is not what I meant,” he said, flustered. “I just — you mean you were awake for that?”
Kai nodded and yawned. “I wanted to see if you’d say anything nice about me, since you thought I couldn’t hear.”
Kyungsoo glared at him. “Not very likely at this moment in time,” he said. “You absolute moron.”
Kai blinked at him. “What?”
“What the hell were you thinking?” Kyungsoo hissed, striding over to the bed and glaring down at Kai with his arms folded across his chest. “Running off into enemy territory, with the Oracle of all people! You’re already on the Elders’ shit list, you want to make it worse?”
“You could have been killed even without the Bleeds! What if you’d been caught sneaking around, I don’t think they’d be interested in taking you as a prisoner of war. You’ve seen how the Phoenix is right now, he’d have burnt you to a crisp before you could blink.”
“It wasn’t my idea,” Kai said, frowning. “It was Lu — the Oracle’s.”
“Oh yes!” Kyungsoo said, throwing his hands up. “The Oracle, whose order you apparently couldn’t refuse. The Oracle, whose ideas are quite frankly dangerous and stupid. I really just don’t know what you were thinking, going along with it.”
“I didn’t expect this to happen,” Kai said, voice raised, struggling to lift himself into a sitting position. “I didn’t know he was going to be so hard to transport, or that we’d be picking up the lightning Shifter along the way. I thought it was going to be simple. I have moved things far larger than Luhan, and he—” Kai broke off. “I won’t do it again.”
Kyungsoo threw his hands up. “What would you have done if I wasn’t there? Or if I had showed up a few minutes later? You know the Elders have it out for you.”
Kai slumped. “Died,” he said simply. “I would have died. You would have arrived and seen me dead on the ground with my throat slit.”
Kyungsoo was brought up short because he hadn’t realized exactly how close they’d cut it. It knocked the breath out of him. He rubbed a hand over his face. “You can’t do this to me.”
“I told you, I won’t do it again.”
Kyungsoo sat down on the edge of the bed, one hand still pressed over his face. He didn’t just feel tired, he could feel absolute exhaustion in every part of his body, felt as though someone was pulling on all his limbs and making him ache. When he had argued with his father all that time ago, he had been naive. He hadn’t known anything about war, or how it could feel to come so close to losing someone you truly cared about.
“I didn’t sign up for any of this,” he said, voice muffled against his hand.
Kai touched his other hand where it was resting against the bed, fingers half tangling with Kyungsoo’s. “I don’t think anyone signed up for this,” he said quietly. Kai tugged on his hand gently and Kyungsoo let himself fall beside him on the bed.
He curled into Kai’s side, resting his head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat.
Tao stood on the Southern edge of camp in the dim light, staring at where the Fire Nation camp should be. Some time in the night, they had packed up and begun heading south again. He could still see them on the horizon, retreating slowly.
He couldn’t understand it. If the battle had been lost beyond salvaging, it may have made sense, but their loss had been minor, their casualties of a similar number to the Air and Water Nation army. They also had the Phoenix, a tactical advantage that Tao would, at this stage, kill to have. Retreating under these circumstances made no sense.
“Where are they going?” a voice said from behind Tao.
Tao jumped a little, turning to see Suho. “I think they’re heading back to their capitol.”
Suho stepped up beside him, squinting in the dim light. The sun was barely peeking up. “Why?”
“I do not know,” Tao said with a sigh. “But the generals are holding a meeting later to discuss our next move. They are making noises about following them south, and seizing the capitol.”
“That would be a smart move, if we could succeed.” Suho bit his bottom lip. He looked exhausted.
Tao turned away from him, staring at the retreating speck of the opposing army. There was something ominous lingering in the air.
“I just don’t understand,” he muttered. He shook his head. “Shall I go wake Prince Kyungsoo? It may be wise to speak about this among us Head Shifters before the meeting.”
For some reason Suho’s cheeks turned slightly pink. “No. I think it best if we let Kyungsoo sleep.” He rubbed a hand over the back of his neck. “He’ll join us when he’s ready.”
“Oh. Alright.” Tao frowned. “I hope he is well. After the spectacle last night...” Tao broke off and shook his head.
Suho cocked his head to the side. “Do you think he should have let the Elders kill Kai?”
Tao was jolted a little by the use of the Shadow Walker’s name. He thought for a moment. “I don’t think he should have put the Oracle in such danger. But no, I don’t think he should have been killed for it either.”
Suho nodded thoughtfully. “It was a stupid thing for them to do,” he said, sighing. “But the Oracle has brought us information that we can use, so I am less angry about it.”
“Come,” Tao said. “We’ll have an early breakfast and discuss all we’ve learned.”
“Have you found Kris?” Suho asked, softly, but it was still like all the wind had been knocked out of Tao. Wordlessly he shook his head. “Go look for him. We’ll have time to discuss the war later.”
“I can’t find him,” Tao said stiffly. “He isn’t with the soldiers, nor is he on any list of the. The dead.”
Suho’s eyes were sympathetic and Tao looked away. “Have you checked the Healers’ tents? They had to set up more for overflow.” This was news to Tao, and he shook his head again. “Check them, and if you still can’t find him, I’ll help you look.” He put a warm hand on Tao’s shoulder, and Tao tried to find comfort in it.
“I will see you at the meeting, Lord Suho,” Tao murmured.
Suho nodded and left, still showing signs of his injuries. Tao watched him go, a heavy feeling settling in his stomach. In reality, he was scared. Looking over the list of the dead had brought relief when he hadn’t seen Kris’s name on them, only to have it cut short once he had realized that the list was by no means complete at this stage. They were still pulling bodies from the battle ground, still trying to work out who people were underneath the horrific burns that had killed them. Looking for Kris meant that he may have to face up to one of those bodies, disfigured beyond all hope, would be him.
He could put it off no longer, though. If nothing else, if he didn’t find Kris, then Suho would do it for him. He squared his shoulders and strode through the camp to the main Healer tent. It was packed, every bed filled and then some. He snagged a Healer who was passing by looking harried.
“I heard you’ve set up other tents for the injured. Can you tell me where they are?” he asked softly.
She gave him directions. There were two, apparently. He remembered her from the previous evening when he’d combed over the injured here, searching for Kris. She made no mention of it, and he thanked her and left.
The other two Healer tents were easily as full of the main one, and Tao found himself surprised. They didn’t have enough Healers for this amount of people, he knew that. No wonder the female Healer had been harried and didn’t seem to remember him; she had probably seen many faces pass through the tents over the past night.
He didn’t find Kris in the first tent that he searched. Each face that he passed which didn’t belong to Kris made the heavy feeling in his stomach stronger, leaving him unsettled and increasingly upset. Running away from it was far better than this, he thought. It felt like he was walking straight into something that he didn’t want to acknowledge.
He scanned the last tent, hoping a familiar face would jump out at him so he wouldn’t have to pass by every bed, wouldn’t have to stare at any more disfigured faces trying to discern if they were his friend’s or not. He wasn’t so lucky, and he fought the urge to walk right back out. He forced himself to walk through the rows of beds, heartbeat speeding up as the number of beds he hadn’t gone by lessened. If Kris wasn’t here then he was on the battlefield somewhere, gone. Tao didn’t know what he’d do then. He’d be made to sit in meetings and function and he just couldn’t imagine being able to.
One thing at a time, he reminded himself. He was so busy trying not to have a panic attack he almost passed right by what he’d been seeking. As it was he jolted to stop, heart jumping into his throat, because Kris was laying on a bed, face blessedly recognizable and untouched. For a moment time seemed to stop, as his joy at finding Kris momentarily eclipsed the fact that Kris was in this tent for a reason.
His eyes raked over Kris’s form, searching for the crisp white of bandages, and when he found them his brain momentarily couldn’t register what he was seeing. He reached his hand out, touching the sheets beside Kris, where Kris’s right hand should be, but wasn’t. There were bandages thick around Kris’s right arm, ending suddenly halfway down the forearm. Tao pressed his hand against the sheets, as if to put pressure on the hand that wasn’t there. He shut his eyes for a few seconds and then opened them again, checking that his mind wasn’t playing tricks on him.
It wasn’t. When he opened his eyes again Kris was still missing his hand. He sobbed, clapping his hands over his mouth. The sound woke Kris, and he jolted awake, eyes snapping open.
Tao had no words. He couldn’t think. In his effort to stop the sobs he was breathing too quickly, and he felt faint. He couldn’t seem to get a grip on himself.
“You’re freaking out worse than I did,” Kris said, voice flat.
“I’m sorry,” Tao gasped. There was a horrible emptiness in Kris’s eyes. “I-I’m—” Tao broke off.
“Don’t,” said Kris. He lifted himself into a sitting position with his uninjured arm, wincing. “You don’t have to—”
“I should have been there!” Tao blurted, guilt suddenly sweeping through him. How was it fair that he was unharmed while Kris had been hurt so irreversibly. “I should have helped to—”
“Believe me,” Kris said, voice utterly void of emotion, “it was better that you weren’t there.” He brought his knees up, hunching over them, face hidden behind his hair. “I was unlucky,” he said.
“Lucky enough to be alive,” Tao said, still wiping tears from his face with his sleeve. “I was so scared — I thought, when I couldn’t find you, that you’d—”
“Almost,” Kris said. “It was close, but he took too much time doing this to me.” Kris stared down at the stump.
Tao swallowed. “It wasn’t cut off?”
Kris gave a short humorless laugh. “No.”
This time, when he turned his face up to Tao, there was only a blank despair there. “I can’t fight anymore,” he said. “I don’t have — what will I do, Taozi?”
Tao was crying again, not the wracking sobs of before, silent tears that poured down his face. “Oh, Kris.”
Kris shook his head, looking down at the sheets and hiding his face once more. Tao sat beside him on the bed and reached out, pulling Kris to him so he could hold him while he wept.
“We’ll find something,” Tao said fiercely. “I’m here. I’m not leaving.”
Kris clutched at him with his remaining hand and turned his face into Tao’s shoulder. It was the first time Tao could ever remember Kris crying.
Chen’s first emotion when he opened his eyes was a vague surprise at being alive. He stared at the canvas ceiling of a tent, waiting for the pain to start, for the burns that they had inflicted on him to make themselves known in screaming agony.
He shifted and winced as his stiff joints protested the movement. He felt weak and his muscles ached, but the kind of pain that he had expected didn’t appear. He tried to sit up and then gave up, too tired. He tipped his head on the pillow to look around the unfamiliar room, which was small and sparse.
The only other person in the room was a man sitting on a wooden chair at the end of the bed. He appeared to be asleep, head drooped forward onto his chest, arms folded. There was the silver symbol of the Healers pinned to his chest. Chen’s throat constricted with fear, and he sunk into the bed, unsure of whether he needed to leave while he still had the chance. Suddenly his lack of pain made more sense; it was like how it had been in the jailcell, the torture and then the Healing so that he could go through it all over again. He should have known that Hwang wouldn’t have let him off as easily as a mere execution.
The burning had been a thousand times worse than what he had suffered in the cell, however, and his body remembered it, the ghost of the pain coming back to haunt him, and he forced himself to sit up, intent on struggling out of the tent any way that he could. The movement woke the Healer at the end of the bed, the man startled enough that he almost jumped out of the chair and onto the floor.
“Oh!” he said cheerfully. “You’re awake. How do you feel?”
Chen struggled to control his breathing, fingers clenched in the sheets. “Where am I?” he asked.
“Somewhere safe,” said the man, still chipper, remarkably so for someone who had just woken up and had dark shadows under his eyes. “You don’t remember what happened?”
“I don’t—” Chen felt close to passing out, unable to breathe at all now, breath coming short and fast. “Where am I? I don’t understand, tell me where I am!”
The Healer stood, hands outstretched. Chen shrank back from him, almost flinching, and the Healer stopped dead. “You’re in the camp of the Air and Water Nation,” he said, voice softer now. “You were brought here injured and we healed you.”
“Why?” Chen was pressed against the wall now, feeling horribly like a mouse caught in a trap. “Why would you Heal me? I’m...I fight for the Fire Nation, why would you possibly Heal me?”
“We needed to—”
“Do you need information? Is that it, you’ve Healed me just so you can hurt me for information?”
The Healer looked shocked. “We Healed you because you needed to be Healed,” he said. “Why would you be hurt? You’re not our prisoner, you’re a guest of the Oracle.”
“The...Oracle?” Chen was certain now that he was being tricked in some way. He had only heard of the Oracle through word of mouth, had never even laid eyes on the man. “That makes no sense, please, you don’t have to hurt me, I won’t—”
“No one is going to hurt you!” the Healer cried. He looked completely at a loss for a moment or so, before he sat back down on his chair. “My name is Yixing,” he said. “I half killed myself Healing you. I am not going to let anyone hurt you after all that.”
“Because that is our job,” Yixing said, somewhat heatedly. “I don’t know what the Healers working for the Fire Nation had been doing but we’re supposed to stop people from being hurt, not the other way around.”
“I don’t understand,” Chen whispered, dropping his head into his hands.
“You’re safe here,” Yixing said gently. “The Oracle and the Shadow Walker saved you last night. You’re here under the protection of the Oracle. You don’t need to worry.”
Chen remembered the heat of the fire, the pain of his skin burning under the hands of the guards who dragged him. That seemed real enough, but the idea that somehow he had been saved from that by people such as the Oracle and the Shadow Walker seemed beyond belief. What interest could he be of to them?
“What were they even doing there?” he asked, suspicious, narrowing his eyes at Yixing.
Yixing shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said. “The Oracle’s motives are not something I’m privy to. Or at least that’s what I was told when I was asked.”
Chen swallowed, relaxing just a little. “It all seemed so strange,” he said. “Almost as though it’s so strange it can’t be anything other than true.”
“It is true,” Yixing said gently. “I don’t know why they brought you here, or how you were so horribly burnt. Or,” he added, smiling a little, “even who you are. But the Oracle has vouched for you and so you won’t be harmed.”
Chen nodded, uncertain but too tired to argue any longer. Yixing did not seem like he was telling him lies. “I’m Chen,” he said. “My people are...were the lightning Shifters. I—” He broke off, grabbing at his right hand. “My ring,” he gasped. “Do you have it, was it left at—”
“Calm down,” Yixing said, smiling at him. “It is being kept for you, along with your other things.”
Chen relaxed back into the mattress. “What is the Fire Nation army doing?” he asked. “Has there been more fighting?”
“No,” said Yixing, frowning a little. “There has been nothing. In fact, when we woke up this morning, they had retreated, heading back to their capitol. No decisions have been made yet but there is talk that we will follow—”
Chen’s gasp cut him off, sudden realization flooding into him. “That’s not it,” he said breathlessly, hurriedly. “They’re not retreating, they’re — it’s a trap, they’re trying to draw you further into the Fire Nation because—” He cut off, suddenly wheezing.
“Don’t,” said Yixing, hurrying to him and this time, Chen let him lay his hands on his chest. The blue light made him tense up but Yixing didn’t seem like he noticed. “You’ve sustained a lot of smoke damage and there’s only so much we can do if you insist on destroying all our work.”
“You don’t understand,” Chen said, grasping his wrist. Yixing drew back, looking unnerved. “This isn’t their entire army, half of their troops are currently marching up through the west. They plan on moving up through the border of the Earth Nation and attacking the Air Nation from that side.”
“It’s a trap, this entire thing was a trap. The further you are into their territory, the further they can get into yours. But unlike their capitol, yours is almost entirely undefended right now.”
Yixing scanned his face and then nodded grimly. “I think I’d better get Lord Suho,” he said. “You need to stay here and rest until I return.”
Chen nodded and Yixing left without another word. He lay still on the bed, his mind chaotic with different trains of thought; wondering why he had been saved, what had happened with Chanyeol after he had been forced to leave, the memory of the fire burning high into the sky. Despite this, his exhaustion was so complete that after a couple of minutes he found his eyes drooping shut, sleep threatening.
The sudden thought that maybe, just maybe, this was a Fire Nation trap came to him just before he dropped under, and shocked him awake. He may have just been caught willingly giving out information to the “enemy”.
He shivered and curled up on his side, drawing himself in, staring at the blank spot on his hand where his scorpion ring should have been.