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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|
|"Koh made sure that whoever killed me would get a treasure greater than the biggest treasure in the world. More useful than power, and rarer than gold. The reward that Koh promised to anyone that killed me was immortality. He wanted me, the boy who fooled a spirit, to suffer. And since than I've had to worry about the Quadrination Bandits, an organization whose sole purpose is to get my reward, to kill me. The Bandits have four members, master benders from each nation. They want me dead."|
|— Shinji From The Fire Nomad|
|"Shinji felt more as a friend than a partner to Shirou. He wasn't The Fire Nomad anymore. They were a team. "|
|— From The Poison Farm|
August 5, 2011
This is Chapter 16 in The Avatar Rhythm Series
Shirou rubbed his eyes, waking up with the bright sun shining down in his face. Glancing over, he realized Shinji was still asleep on his bed, which happened to be a big clump of rocks with a coat laid over them. A chilling breeze gust through the air, and Shirou wiggled out of his sleeping bag, stood up, and stretched his arms.
"Wake up," he called to Shinji, whose eyes immediately opened. "We have to go."
Shinji instantly started to pick up his things, along with Shirou's sleeping bag, which he tossed into their boat. "Okay then," he announced. "Let's go."
"Woah. That was quick." Shirou stated. "Why are you in such a hurry?"
"I've told you millions of times!" Shinji shouted, pointing behind them. "The Quadrination Bandits are probably right behind us! All they want to do is kill me! To become immortal! They're stronger than you, Shirou! If they find us, we're both dead!"
The duo stared at each other, and awkwardly, Shirou scooted over to the boat. "Okay then, let's set sail."
For hours after, they were sailing around the perimeter of the large island they camped out on, looking for the shortest path they could make to the next one. When the boat was out in open waters, they could easily be tracked.
"How much do you know about the Quadrination Bandits?" Shirou asked. "How much should I know?"
"It's very complicated," Shinji answered. "They've been hunting me since I was fifteen. One year after I received the bounty from Koh. They killed both my parents, and I barely escaped to a nearby village. I still have nightmares of that morning my parents were murdered. Though it's strange, whenever I have the nightmares there's always five bandits shown."
"I thought you said there were only four," Shirou said.
"There are four!" Shinji shouted. "And there all of them are menaces! Anil, their Airbender, is quick and tricky. Kyong, the Waterbender, able to bend blood and always will go for the kill. Their Firebender, Zhena, is the only female in the group. Her cute looks are deceiving, and she'll never think twice about striking you in the heart with a bolt a lightning. The Earthbender, Gephel, is bold, bright, and will bend the earth in your bones until they crack. You can't mess around with any of them. They're too strong."
The two just stared off into the distance. "Wait a second," Shirou said, pointing at a small strange green gate coming closer to them, "What's that?"
The duo looked closer. About 100 feet away, there was a great metal gate sticking out of the water, painted green, with two large boats on either side. Suddenly, a siren went off, and another gate gate popped up out of the water next to the first one, and then another, and then another, until there was a massive metal wall surrounding their boat.
"What the," Shinji muttered. The two huge boats started sailing towards them, and Shirou and Shinji realized there was nowhere for them to go but confront these people. The boats, at least twenty feet taller than theirs, stopped on either side of them. Each was filled with people in green Earth Kingdom uniforms.
"The Procession," Shirou scowled. He was right. Two members of the Procession from each boat jumped onto theirs, and ran down to their cargo hold. None of them spoke.
"What are they doing?" Shinji asked under his breath.
Shirou had to ponder this question for a second. "Wait? Didn't those islanders from the last village say The Procession had a base around here? They probably think we're going to steal their money or something. Just make sure they don't find out your a bender."
Shunji nodded, but didn't get to answer. The four Procession members who had hijacked their ship returned from the cargo hold, carrying all of the duo's weapons. Two knives, a sword, plus some extra blades. Luckily, they didn't suspect anything of the jar containing The Venomsprout, or the container holding it's cure.
"We found these on the ship!" the member holding the knives said. "They're criminals."
A couple hors later, Shirou and Shinji were handcuffed and in a small cell that was also filled with many Air Nomads from nearby villages. Every one of them was distressed.
The base itself was some thing else. The whole thing was made of huge planks of wood, towering hundreds of feet into the air, every wall at least three feet thick. The second extreme was that the base was floating out in the ocean. The whole contraption was about 200 feet from the coast of the nearby island, tied up so it couldn't get washed away. It was unescapable. This was the Western Headquarters of The Procession.
"How do you suppose we get out?" Shinji asked. "We need our boat, and that's tied up on the other side of this floating prison."
"You could Firebend," Shirou suggested. "The place is made of wood, isn't it?"
Shinji shook his head. "The walls are too thick. You can tell people have already tried that."
They looked around. He was right. The walls were completely scorched. Firebenders had tried already, and failed. Shirou looked around, and noticed there were no windows either, and thought of something.
"Shinji," he said, "How are we breathing? The walls and floors are made of thick, solid wood, and there's no doors or windows."
They looked up. There, in the corner of the ceiling was a vertical ventilation shaft, just small enough for a skinny man to crawl through.
"How do you suppose we get in there?" Shirou asked, walking to the shaft in the ceiling.
An imprisoned Air Nomad from the other side of the room spoke up. "Don't try. We all have. The shaft's too thin. Even if you got out, you'd just make it to another cell. Just live out your year here."
Shirou didn't care. "We are getting out of this base. Shinji, lift me up."
Shinji hesitated, then put his hands under Shirou's feet, and hoisted him up so his fingers could just reach a crack within the shaft, a good foothole. "Raise me higher!"
Shinji, with straining muscles, lifted Shirou up over his head, who immediately jumped up, squeezing through the ventilation shaft, grabbing for the top. He was stuck. Shirou wouldn't fall back down. If he could reach to the top of the shaft, he might be able to lift himself out, but his fingers just could barely scratch the edge. "Shinji!" he shouted, "I just need to be like another inch higher!"
Shinji thought for a second. He tried pushing Shirou up the shaft, but he wouldn't budge.
"Shirou," he said, "This is going to get hot!"
Shinji jumped up while kicking down, creating a jet of fire beneath him that propelled him into Shirou, up the shaft, and burst him and his friend through the top, splinters flying everywhere, sparks shooting in every direction.
"Ouch..." Shirou muttered, smacking into one of the solid wooden walls. Regaining composure, they looked around, and realized that the Air Nomad below was right. They just got to an empty cell. This one did have a door to it, one with a barred window, but soon Procession members would come and they would be finished.
Shirou realized their situation, ran to the door, and kicked it strong and firmly, smashing it to the floor.
"Nice," Shinji mumbled, following out into a main wooden hallway of the base.
"We need to get to our boat," Shirou said. "That's way on the other side of the base. I bet The Procession heard us escape, so we better get going."
Without hesitation, Shirou and Shinji sprinted down the hallway, turning at every corner, checking every door for the dock where their boat was being stored.
Suddenly, the sound of footsteps behind them could be heard. "They're coming..." Shinji muttered, running down another hallway.
"Go up those stairs!" Shirou yelled, pointing to a large flight of stairs in the corner of the room. They started running up it, but stopped at the sight of Procession members running down. "Never mind, turn around!"
The duo rushed down another hall, with the sound of footsteps behind them growing greatly.
"Shirou!" Shinji screamed, turning down another hall, "We're doomed!"
He was right. They were at a dead end.
Behind them was a locked door labeled, "Main Vault".
In front of them, at least forty Procession members blocked the way out.
On either side of them were thick wooden walls.
"You can do the honors," one Procession member said to their leader, who raised a rock out of his pocket, and crushed into tiny pieces which he formed into a spike shape.
"Shinji," Shirou whispered, "Duck!"
Immediately, the duo fell to the ground, missing the stone bullet that The Procession leader fired at them, which instead of piercing through Shirou's heart, smashed straight through the lock of the door labeled "Main Vault", which fell to the ground with a thud.
The duo looked glanced over into the room, and were amazed to see what was inside. The Main Vault stored all the taxes that were collected by The Procession, so filled to the brim of the room, covering every wall, were thousands and thousands of gold coins, shining, shimmering, and plan-inspiring.
But there was no time to let all of it in. The Procession members were running towards the duo, who had no place to hide but The Main Vault.
Now, hope of escaping seemed completely gone.
Ten Procession members had stone bullets by their palms, ready to fire. "If you move an inch," their leader said, "You will die."
Shinji gulped. "Shirou, there's no place to go, but down. Think about it. This place is floating over the water."
"Good thinking," Shirou muttered. "Just leave it to me now."
The Procession members marched forward, and the duo stayed completely still. "What are you doing?" Shinji asked, impatiently. "You're going to get us killed."
Coins surrounded them. Rocks were at the ready to fly through both of their heads. All Shirou had was agility and swordsmanship.
"My friends," Shirou announced to The Procession. "If you spare us, we'll hand over an extremely dangerous weapon that may be of some use to you."
"Your not in the position to bargain right now," The Procession leader stated. "We could kill you if we wanted to."
Shirou's smile widened. "Is that so? Then I must have mistaken these coins around me as yours. I'm sure you wouldn't even care if they lay in the ocean floor." He abruptly raised his foot, still in iron shackles, and smashed it down to the floor, which cracked open, with water from below bubbling out. He picked a coin from the floor, and slid it through the crack.
The Procession members gasped as Shirou lifted his foot up again, ready to make the crack even bigger. "Drop your weapons," he commanded. "I am now in the position to bargain." The Procession members obeyed, and Shinji had to admit, he was impressed.
Shirou, still smiling, smashed his foot down to the ground again, and cracked open a gaping hole in the floor, which coins started to fall into. While The Procession was still shocked, Shirou kicked the floor one final time, sending a large crack down the middle of the floor.
There was silence.
Then, it exploded. Splinters shot everywhere, Procession members screamed, hundreds of coins rained down onto the duo, and waves splashed in every direction. Utter chaos filled the room. The whole floor detached itself from the rest of the floating base, and the weight of a thousand coins sank straight to the bottom of the ocean. Shirou and Shinji, trying to hold their breath, swam through the raining coins, and popped their head out the ocean surface. Their boat was in sight.
"You know," Shinji said, "That just might come back to haunt us in the future."
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