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Previously on The Avatar Rhythm
|"Since this nation is still growing, the law is also still growing, and many criminals have settled in this island chain. Think before you make the greatest mistake of your life."|
|— Akata's mother describing the New Air Nomads from The Island|
|""Let's go," Shirou said, "It's a long way to the Western Air Temple." |
"It will be easy," Shinji muttered.
|— From The Fire Nomad|
|The Black Market|
August 13, 2011
This is Chapter 19 in The Avatar Rhythm Series
The docks of an old Air Nomad island creaked and cracked as Shirou and Shinji walked across them, shaking weeks worth of dirt off their feet into the ocean. It had been two days since they faced the swarm of fruit flies, but the duo was still tired.
"This doesn't look like a normal island that would be around here," Shirou stated.
Shinji looked up. "You're right." There were barely any small yellow huts in sight, and almost everyone walking around were in dark coats or sweatshirts. All the buildings were run down, with their paint peeling off - and it took Shirou a minute to remember he was in New Air Nomad territory.
"What, is this?"
They looked around, and walked down a nearby sidewalk, which was made of cracked black stone, littered with trash, rotting food, and oozing with mold. It was disgusting. Shirou looked down at a man curled up under the corner of a nearby house.
"Hey," Shirou asked, "Do you know what happened with this town?"
The man said nothing.
"Hey!" Shirou asked again, "I said, do you-"
"I know what you said," the man mumbled. "Go away."
Shinji nudged his friend. "Come on, let's go." They walked away, grimacing. "It's just a criminal town, Shirou," he said. "People trading things at low prices. It's all part of the black market, selling weapons and stuff like that. It's where all the robbers, murderers, bandits, and assassins come together, trading and stealing things from each other."
"Did you say, weapons?" Shirou asked. "When we were attacked by the Quadrination Bandits a couple days ago, I lost my sword in the battle, remember? I bet you we could get a new one a good price here."
"Great idea!" Shinji exclaimed sarcastically. "Now, along with being enemies of The Procession and wanted by a group of powerful bandits, we can get a record of illegally acquiring dangerous weapons! Shirou, you are a genius. No really, you're an idiot. Wait, Shirou?" He looked over at his friend, who was currently having a conversation with a scary looking stranger walking down the street.
"The Black Market?" the stranger asked.
Shirou was nodding his head, and Shinji looked away, scowling.
The stranger continued. "Go to the down to the bakery, and on it's left side, there's a small staircase that goes to an underground market. Oh, I'm going to get in serious trouble for telling you this."
Shirou turned his head quizzically.
"Well, stop standing there!" the stranger shouted. "Move! Go! Out of my way!"
Meanwhile, in a dark, cloudy room, lit only by flickering candles, a shopkeeper hunched his head over a countertop, talking to another man, hoping he wasn't overheard. The room was filled with bustling people equipped with all sorts of weapons, always shaking people's hands or simply just cutting them off. It was a dangerous place.
"When will they be here?" the shopkeeper asked the man across the counter. "When will the Quadrination Bandits be here?"
"Keep your voice down." the other man said. "We don't want anyone in the Black Market to know they're coming. From what I've heard, the bandits are just buying weapons or something, but it's better safe than sorry. I think they're going to be here in about ten minutes, but I'm not sure. I'd hope you're good enough to spot them out."
"I've been running the Black Market for twenty years. Stop doubting me. Get out of my sight." The shopkeeper slashed his knife down inches away from the man's face, who left without another word.
Another man came up to shopkeeper. "Get me a poison knife," he said, smacking a handful of silver coins on the counter. "And make it quick."
The shopkeeper opened a drawer, and pulled out a sharp knife with a very thick handle. "It's got shirshu venom in it." He dropped the knife, blade first, onto the counter, and it stuck into the stone. As the man took his knife, the shopkeeper saw the door of the Black Market creak open, and out of it, Shirou and Shinji walked in.
They were dressed in dark colors.
It had been about ten minutes.
"That's got to be the Quadrination Bandits," the clueless man muttered under his breath. He shouted over to Shirou, "Hey you, come over here!"
Shinji sat down on a stool in the corner of the room while Shirou walked up to the shopkeeper. The misled man behind the counter whispered, "So, your the messenger for the Quadrination Bandits, right?"
Shirou gasped for a second, but quickly regained composure, and lied, "Umm... Yeah, that's me."
"Okay, good." stated the shopkeeper. "What do you need?"
Shirou gulped, and asked, "What's the best sword you have? The bandits, err... need one... just in case. I guess."
The shopkeeper disappeared behind a counter for a second, and came back holding an extremely sleek sword; with a shining silver blade, and a black hilt engraved with the design of a dragon around it.
As Shirou gently took it from the shopkeeper's hand, Shinji, who was sitting on a stool in the back of the room, saw the Black Market door open again, and out stepped all for members of the Quadrination Bandits.
Anil, Kyong, Gephel, and Zhena. He turned his head down.
If they saw him, he was dead.
If they saw Shirou taking their equipment, Shirou was dead.
If he tried to warn Shirou, they'd both be dead.
Meanwhile, the shopkeeper glanced behind Shirou, and saw the Quadrination Bandits walk towards them. All the other criminals backed away from the band of benders in fright.
"Oh, hello!" the shopkeeper mumbled, and Shirou turned around and gasped. "I was just giving your messenger the sword that you needed."
The bandit's Waterbender, Kyong, spoke up in his raspy voice. "Messenger? We never hired a messenger."
Shirou saw Shinji in the back of the room shaking his head, pointing at the door.
"What, don't you remember me?" Shirou teased. "I think we did some business together at a certain New Air Nomad village."
"He's Shinji's idiot bodyguard!" yelled Gephel, and all the bandits scowled. Zhena twirled her fingers around, and sent small blue sparks crackling above her hand. "Oh, I remember that business," she said. "It's time we pay you back for that - with lightning."
"Oh don't bother," Shirou said, staying with the joke. "I really don't think I deserve to be payed. I mean, I practically volunteered for job!"
He saw Shinji roll his eyes in the back of the room, and as Zhena started creating a huge circle of electricity with her fingertips, he realized it might be time to start helping.
Shirou, agile and quick, jumped atop the counter, and kicked the shopkeeper, who immediately fell to the ground. Taking the sword in one hand, he grabbed a knife off the wall with the other, and threw it in the air as Zhena shot a blast of lightning at him. The electricity was conducted to the knife he had thrown, and after being shocked, it fell to the ground.
Shirou took his sword, and holding it below him, jumped over The Quadrination Bandit's heads, who ducked in fear of being cut in half.
"Come on Shinji," he yelled, "Lets go!" The duo ran out the door, as Zhena commanded, "Get them!"
Shirou and Shinji sprinted up the stairs, out of the Black Market, and there, at the top step, was a bearded man dressed in Air Nomad robes. "Come with me." he stated. The duo hesitated, but after remembering that four powerful benders that wanted them dead were chasing them, they followed. The man ran down a nearby street, and turned down a dark alleyway. In the middle was a yellow Air Nomad house.
"Come in," the Air Nomad stated, opening the door. "And make it quick."
Shirou and Shinji walked into the one-room house. Other than a stool and table, the only thing in the room was a mysterious hatch in the floor.
"Why did you bring us here?" Shirou asked. "We need to get to The Western Air Temple."
"Just like I expected," the man said, smiling. "You don't have a flying bison with you, right?"
"Does it look like we do?"
"Well, no," he continued. "There's only one way you can get there without a flying bison. You'll have to go to a village known as Nun Gate. At the village, services there can bring you to the Western Air Temple."
"How do we get there?" asked Shinji, looking annoyed.
The Air Nomad replied, "What do you think is behind the trapdoor in the floor?" he opened it up, and a small tunnel was revealed. "That goes on for a couple miles. Don't worry, you'll be able to breathe. At the end you'll come to another house just like this one at Nun Gate."
Shirou crawled into the tunnel, and Shinji followed.
"Go!" yelled the Air Nomad. "Those bandits will be here any minute now!"
And with that, he shut the trapdoor behind them.
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