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Previously on The Avatar Rhythm
|"Crazy Earth Kingdom taxpayers," Goro replied. "They call themselves The Procession. They torture every citizen from every nation. The Earth Kingdom pays them with the taxes they collect, so only about half of the money we give away is actually given to the government. I got news that they just very recently started working in the Water Tribes, too."|
|— From The Fire Lord|
|""I have no interest in money," he replied. " I will help you kill whoever you want dead, as long as you protect me from the Quadrination Bandits." "|
|— Shinji from The Fire Nomad|
|"Shirou and Shinji were packing their supplies into a small sailboat. Both of them we're silent. They had been up all night planning, and now they were about to leave, and the sun hadn't even risen. |
"Let's go," Shirou said, "It's a long way to the Western Air Temple." "
|— From The Fire Nomad|
|The Poison Farm|
August 3, 2011
This is Chapter 15 in The Avatar Rhythm Series
A cold wind swept through the mountains as Shirou and Shinji, new allies with a frightening deal, tied up their boat to a nearby tree. The duo had reached a small island covered in forests and hills, and there was smoke of an Air Nomad village in sight.
"I bet you there's a market there," Shinji muttered, "I'm starving, and dying for good food. At the last island they only fed me the village's leftover crackers."
Shirou didn't say anything, slung his bag over his back, and started hiking up a small trail leading through the woods from the dock.
Shinji looked around and followed. "What are you thinking about?" he asked.
"Hotaru. The Avatar. She's probably even stronger than the last time I saw her. And the last time I saw her she almost erupted a volcano that's been dormant for over a thousand years. Now she's sixteen and an airbender, too."
The two continued on the trail, and as they walked under a vast group of extremely large trees, it became very dark.
"Why do you hate her so much?" Shinji asked, lighting a flame to see around the dark with Firebending. "What could she have done, only a being a child?"
Shirou took a deep breath. "It goes back to my grandfather Kaito, the old Water Tribe chief. He created this awesome club called the Dry Warriors, that taught non-benders like me a lot of useful warrior skills. He gave them a life. But when the Great Battle of Omashu sprung up, he went with Avatar Mikio, Hotaru's previous incarnation, to fight. Kaito was injured during the battle, and while healing, an accidental fire-blast from Mikio burned down the hut he was in, and Kaito, my only chance of doing anything in my life of royalty, was killed. Him, along with a very important scroll of his, was burned to a crisp. The Dry Warriors disbanded. The Avatar destroyed the life I never had."
"Ouch," Shinji muttered. "That's harsh..."
Before Shirou could respond, and dry voice pierced through the air. "Hello!"
The duo stepped back, but regained composure when they saw the voice came only came from an elderly woman, dressed in an Air Nomad robe, trotting down the path towards them. She looked at the flame Shinji created to see around the dark woods. "You're benders!" she exclaimed.
Shirou pointed at Shinji. "Well, he is."
"We need you," the woman said. "Our village is in grave danger."
The duo looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders, and followed the woman.
An hour later, they were standing around a crowd of about fifteen Air Nomads from the nearby village, all at least over sixty years old.
The woman who had brought them to the village was talking. "I found these youngsters on the trail. If I didn't come, they probably would of went to the farm."
Shirou didn't know why, but for some reason she said that like it was a bad thing.
"They're benders," she continued. "Well, one of them is."
"Benders!" another woman shouted. "That's just what we need! You see young travelers, this village is in terrible trouble."
"Our farm has been infested with a very deadly plant." somebody else said. "We've had to evacuate the whole farm area."
"The Venomsprout," another Air Nomad confirmed. "They're everywhere. When it makes contact with water, The Venomsprout excretes an very dangerous gas. You can't see it, smell it, or taste it, and it's extremely fatal. The storm from a couple days ago set them off, and we're helpless."
"Can't you control the farm?" Shinji asked.
"We used to be able to," one woman said. "Until The Procession came."
An elderly man spoke up. "Those insane Earth Kingdom tax collectors take away everything we have! They have a base near here, every week they come to torture us. We can't afford to control the farm. And without the farm, we can't produce any money. Once we run out, The Procession will recruit us to work for them. That's what they do if you can't pay the taxes. We need you to help us."
"Fine," they said in unison. "When do we start?"
By nightfall, Shirou and Shinji were creeping through the woods, with masks on to protect them from the Venomsprout's fumes.
"There it is," Shirou said, pointing to a large, flat area filled with dying crops. "There's the farm. Now, I think they said the Venomsprouts were a dark purple color."
"Shirou," Shinji muttered. "Why are you so enthusiastic about this? We're just wasting time."
"Come on," he replied, "They need us. And what do have to lose? Hotaru isn't going to master Airbending until the end of Autumn."
"Yeah, that's not what I'm worried about," Shinji answered. "You have an end to this deal too, remember? The more time we spend in each village, the more easy it will get for The Quadrination Bandits to catch us. After this, no more stopping. We have people to kill."
"Okay then." Shirou said. "But we're here now, and we have a job to do. Lets rid this farm of the Venomsprout."
They looked at each other, silent.
"What do you want me to do, Firebend them?" Shinji asked. "That would burn the whole farm. There's still some good plants here."
"What do you want me to do, cut them down with my sword?" Shirou asked. "Then they'd just be in two pieces. The Nomads said they only die when they're completely destroyed." He paused. "That's it! I'll chop the right ones, and while their in the air, you can Firebend them out! Let's try it."
Shirou drew his sword out, and slashed it across a nearby patch of mysterious purple flowers, and while they were in the air from the cut, Shinji sent out a small burst of fire that left a pile of ashes by their feet.
And as dusk turned to night, and night turned to dawn, the duo continued cutting and burning the deadly plant that had been troubling the village. The flames illuminated the dark depths of night, and the slash's piercing cut sent sounds into the silent solemnness of darkness. No plant could withstand their force. And finally, Shinji felt more as a friend than a partner to Shirou. He wasn't The Fire Nomad anymore. They were a team. The amount of Venomsprouts left was decreasing, but their fumes were catching up on the duo.
"Shinji," Shirou mumbled through his mask as he slashed his sword through a small patch of purple flowers, "I don't feel very good. I think the powers of the Venomsprout are getting to me."
Shinji wasn't very disturbed. "We've only got like nine more patches, you can make it."
Shirou coughed, "Fine, but lets get those quickly."
He drew his sword, and waited for Shinji to lift his fists up.
"Come on, there's only nine more, just like you said. We've done like, a zillion already, and I want to get over with this. I'm dying over here."
"No," Shinji answered. "I've been thinking. We should pluck a couple of these things for ourselves first."
Shirou turned his head quizzically. "Why?"
"Think about it," Shinji said, "We have the Quadrination Bandits on our toes, and we are against the Avatar, who as you said is probably really tough, plus I bet we're going to get some more enemies on our way, so... Well, I think it might be handy to have a little instant death on our hands. I mean, look what it's doing to you." He dug around in his backpack, and pulled out a small crystal jar, with screw-on metal cap. "We can put the Venomsprouts in here, than take one out if we really need one, to wipe out enemies around us."
Shirou hesitated, then mumbled, "Fine, I just want to get back to the village where they have medicine for this." He plucked a single Venomsprout, and with a swipe of his sword, cut down all the others. "We'll take one. And we're only going to use it if you're going to die otherwise."
"Thank you," Shinji said, burning the patch of Venomsprouts that Shirou cut down. "Eight more to go."
And Shirou kept slashing and coughing while Shinji burned sprout after sprout, until there were just two patches left, and Shirou was dying - literally. Using all the muscle he had left, he slashed the penultimate patch, which Shinji burned as it flung into the air.
"I know there's only one left," Shirou said wearily, coughing, "But I don't think I can make it."
Shinji looked down at his friend like he was lying, but after Shirou collapsed on the ground, he became serious. "Shirou!" he exclaimed. Shinji picked him up, grabbed his sword, slashed down the last Venomsprouts, and burned them with a kick. Then he turned around and started walking back.
By the afternoon, Shirou was sitting up in a chair of the village, drinking a strange cure for the poison of the Venomsprout and talking with Shinji. Air Nomads were thanking them for eliminating the threatful flower, some were hugging the duo, others giving them presents such as maps, necklaces, and baskets filled with fruit. One even gave them a small wooden canister with Venomsprout medicine, in case they ever met up with the plant again. No one noticed the sound of a jar jangling around in Shinji's pack.
"You two saved our lives!" a man said. "The Procession isn't going to take any of us away!"
"Thank you so much," another Nomad exclaimed, "I've never been so happy in my life!"
"I'm so glad," Shinji said, "But we better be going now." He looked towards Shirou, who hesitantly followed him out the door.
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