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Previously on The Avatar Rhythm
|""Oh no!" Hotaru shouted. "It's tax day! The Procession has arrived! They're going to get slaughtered!" |
"And we might, too." said Shirou. "Remember how I dumped thousands of their coins into the ocean? I don't think that there here solely for collecting taxes." "
|— From The Winds of Destruction: Part 1|
|"As the duo ran towards The Procession's nearby airship, running from all their friends, all their hope, watching the Western Air Temple being taken over by the Quadrination Bandits, they both knew that running wouldn't do anything. "|
|— From The Winds of Destruction: Part 2|
|The Land of Ice and Fear|
September 17, 2011
This is Chapter 25 in The Avatar Rhythm Series
The damp smell of rusting metal and decaying food wafted through the low drafty cargo hold of The Procession's airship. Shirou, sweaty and exhausted, popped his head out of the crate of cabbage he had been using to hide in for the past month, which luckily had been emptied of its cabbages. He tapped his finger on the box marked "Rice" next to him, and whispered, "Shinji, get up. You're on watch duty now."
The top of the crate of rice popped open, and Shinji's tired face peered out. He was rubbing his eyes as he asked, "It's been two hours already?"
"I counted each second."
"Fine. It's my turn to watch. Did you hear anything from the Procession members that were down here?"
"Well, what did they say? How far are we from the Earth Kingdom?"
"We're not going to the Earth Kingdom. The Procession's airship has to stop by the Northern Water Tribe first. The whole crew is getting off, along with the cargo. Along with us."
"That's good," Shinji replied. "You have family in the Northern Water Tribe. Royal family."
Shirou frowned. "I'm not sure how glad they'll be to see me. Anyway, we don't want to show ourselves to the world. If I return, they'll hold a ceremony or something, and bring us to all the important meetings. Sooner or later, The Procession will bump into us, and they hate me."
Shinji sighed. "You're right. Plus, once the Quadrination Bandits realize that we escaped the Western Air Temple, they'll be on us too."
The duo looked at each other for a second.
"Okay then," Shirou said. "I'm taking a nap. Stay on guard and tap on my box if you need me." He lowered the top back on the cabbage crate he was hiding in, and curled up in ball in the bottom of the small wooden space, trying to disregard the moldy smell of the air as he drifted off into a partial sleep.
Meanwhile, Hotaru was sitting on a seat of ice in the chilly city of Sapphire Plateau, the Northern Water Tribe Capital. She twiddled her thumbs, looking up at the fairly large man sitting in front of her. He had a thin beard that covered his chin, and thick black hair that barely reached his wide chest. Big, but strong.
"Ken," Hotaru asked, "When will we start actually Waterbending? I've been doing exercises for over a week now and we said I'd begin bending yesterday."
The large man Ken brought his hands up, popping a bowl of ice out of the ground, and he bent a splash of water into it from the fountain in a corner of the room. "If you think you can Waterbend, then do it."
Hotaru put a hand out and brought it back in, turning it around, just as Ken had taught her to push and pull small waves. The water in the bowl barely rippled.
Ken chuckled. "See? Now lets practice that move some more." He got up, and fixed Hotaru's stance. "Try again."
Shinji was about to drift off into sleep while on guard duty when he heard sudden footsteps in the cargo hold of the airship. He scurried over to the peephole in his box that was supposed to be holding rice, and saw two scrawny Procession members walking towards him and Shirou's hiding places. Placing his ear to side of the wood around him, he heard the men speak.
"Where are we bringing these?" one of them asked.
Shinji pressed his ear harder against the wood, and listened to the other man's reply. "Captain said he wanted to keep them here. Besides the food. That'll go bad if it hasn't already."
Within his crate, Shinji gasped, but before he could warn Shirou, he felt two hands reach under his crate, and he was lifted it off the ground. "Rice sure comes heavy these days," the dim Procession member said, carrying the box Shinji was in over to the other side of the room. "Let's get these out to the port."
The other man picked up the cabbage crate, and Shirou, who was inside, suddenly opened his eyes, and reached for the knife in his belt. It was ready if he needed it.
Suddenly, the airship loudspeakers went on, and the metallic voice of the captain boomed through the halls and shafts of the large ship, muffled through machinery. "Attention! We have just docked at the Northern Water Tribe! All crew members should report to the landing deck immediately for instructions! I repeat, all crew members should report to the landing deck!"
The two Procession members dropped the boxes Shirou and Shinji were in, and looked at each other. "Should we go down there?"
"It can't hurt."
After the men left down the hall, Shirou waited a full ten minutes before he popped his head out of his crate, and pulled off the top of Shinji's. "Lets get out of here, quick. Those fools will be back any second now."
Shinji stood up, stretching his legs out of his curled up position for the first time in hours. "I'm tired."
"Okay, okay," he mumbled, nodding, pulling his backpack out of the crate, along with Shirou's sword. "Take this." He tossed the blade over to his friend, who caught it in one hand, and slid it into the bent up sheath around his back.
The duo looked at each other. "Let's go." They walked down the hall, peering over the side of the next doorway. The room ahead of them was empty, and they walked around the edge of the wall. Shirou pressed his ear up against the metal, and heard voices.
"There are people in that room," he said.
All of a sudden, the loudspeaker went on. "Attention! Crew members are now dismissed from landing deck! Please resume unpacking cargo."
Shinji gulped. "I think we're going to get some company."
Before they could run, a voice shot through the hall. "You there! Who are you?" A Processon member in large armor, high ranking by the looks of it, was walking down the nearest metal corridor, and he had spotted the duo. "I said, who are you?"
Shinji quickly ran up to the man, pushed him backwards, and watched Shirou pin him to wall with his knife. "Let's get out of here!"
The duo sprinted down the halls, and pushed over any Procession members who got in their way. "Look out!" Shirou shouted, looking at two huge metal doors, closing in front of them. "Faster!"
They leaped through the doors, and as the metal behind them slammed shut, the loudspeakers crackled on once more. "Attention crew! A code blue lockdown has begun! Secure all doors! Unauthorized personnel have been spotted in the airship, and Admiral Gamshow has been ambushed. I repeat, a code blue lockdown has begun!"
As dim blue lights flashed on through the halls, an alarm blared in the air, and the scene became tense. "We need get to out of this airship!" Shinji yelled through the chaos of the corridor, pounding a nearby Procession member against the wall, sprinting forward towards an "EXIT" sign.
Shirou smashed down a door to their left with the back of his sword, and kicked down the man behind it. "No kidding." He looked around the room he had broken into, but there was nothing inside.
Shirou suddenly ducked, watching a blast of earth soar over his head, and looked at a Procession member who had snuck up behind them. Shinji turned around, and kicked the man in the head, knocking him over. He grabbed the collar of the man's uniform, and pulled it up to his face. "Where is the landing deck?"
The Procession member, shaking violently, muttered a few words. "I don't, I don't know..."
Shinji shook his head. "That's too bad." He raised his hand up and made a small flame. "Then I'll-"
"Okay!" the man yelled. "Go down this hall and take a left. Now run!"
Shirou pushed him on the ground, and ran off with Shinji. Suddenly, the blaring loudspeakers crackled back on, and the sound of the captains voice filled the hall. "Attention crew! A code red lockdown has begun! Close down this airship - immediately! One of the unauthorized men here is Shirou of the Water Tribe, the man who put The Procession in debt by over one thousand gold coins! I repeat, a code red lockdown has begun!" As soon as the announcement faded, the whole airship seemed to shake, and the duo were violently thrown off balance.
"The airship is taking off! The Procession's leaving the Water Tribe Port!"
Shirou looked around. "They're making sure we can't leave! There's no time to lose!"
They sprinted down the hall, taking out a line of Earthbenders around them. "We can't make it out fast enough," Shinji mumbled. "Give me your sword."
Shirou raised an eyebrow, but handed him his sword anyway. Shinji grabbed it, and clumsily thrust the blade into an electronic panel in the side of the wall, shooting sparks from the large crack device. All of a sudden, the screeching noise of metal filled the hall, and the duo smiled.
"Okay, Shirou said, taking his sword back. "Follow me!"
They took a left turn, and climbed down a ladder, leading to a metal platform jutting out of the airship and into the open air, rising higher and higher. There was one Procession member on the deck who shot a volley of rocks at them, but Shinji kicked ducked, and threw the man off.
Time was running out.
The Procession's airship was flying away, and the Northern Water Tribe was getting farther and farther away. Below them was a two hundred foot drop leading to the arctic ocean. "We need to jump," Shirou said.
All of a sudden, a line of Procession members filed onto the metal platform. There were two many to count. They raised stones in front of their fists, and compressed them into small bullets of earth.
Shirou and Shinji gave each other a quick "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" look, and before The Procession could fire, the duo jumped off the airship into the ocean below.
For a second harsh winds just enveloped their bodies, but when they hit the ocean, they hit it hard. Freezing cold chills ran up their spines, and the water instantly soaked through everything they had on them. Gasping for air, they lunged themselves onto a block of ice floating in the water, watching the airship fly away.
Shinji turned over to his friend. "I don't think those guys like you very much."
That night, Shirou and Shinji were huddled underneath a large cliff in the Northern Water Tribe port, chilly, but dry. Shinji made a small fire, but it went out pretty quickly. There they were, two wanted men, one by The Procession, one by the Quadrination Bandits, without a home, trying to stay alive in the cold.
"We need to make a life here," Shinji said. "We need your family."
Shirou looked away. "I'm sorry, but I can't. I can't go back there. I ran way and now it would be foolish for me to come back. I'd look like a coward."
"Then what do want to do now?"
"I don't know..." Shirou mumbled.
"You want to hunt down Hotaru?"
"No..." Shirou said. "I'm over that. For now at least. We can't afford to risk our lives any more." He paused. "What do you have in your backpack that isn't completely destroyed?"
Shinji pulled over his cold leather pack, and emptied out the contents. One sleeping bag, a tarp, the bottle with a Venomsprout in it, and the vile with its cure."
Shirou sighed. "I don't think we're gonna make it in this place. In the Land of Ice and Fear."
Meanwhile, back in The Procession's airship, two crew members bowed in front of a large metal desk. Behind it was a skinny man, wearing thin black armor and a flowing green cape. "What do you want?" he asked.
"Commissioner Markale," one of the Procession members said. "Shirou and his friend have escaped the airship. Where should we be headed?"
The man behind the desk shook his head. "Get to the Earth Kingdom. We need repairs, and recruits. Also, would you mind sending a message to the Northern Headquarters in the Water Tribe? Tell them that I want Shirou, alive."
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