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|Thieves and Benders Revealed|
- Reunion and Rebirth
- Doubts and Desires
- Prison and Practice
- Companions and Complications
- Short and Sweet
- Bending and Break Out
New Gaipan. Republic State of Equality. Summer.
"Excuse me! Look out! Make way! Sorry!" Kaito apologized to the people he was weaving in and out of and occasionally brushing shoulders with as he sped down the street with surprising speed and agility. His eyes constantly looking ahead not only to find the path of least resistance through the crowd but to find the thief that had pickpocketed his wallet. A few people cursed him as he raced by but they didn't understand the urgency of the situation. He was nearing the end of the street and still hadn't seen the familiar face of the girl with the fingerless gloves. It was like she disappeared into thin air.
He leapt over a cabbage cart at the end of the block and came skidding to a halt on the sidewalk. He had reached the end of the street and looked in every direction possible for the yellow jacket she had been wearing. There was no sign of the girl or the wallet and Kaito was now faced with a four way intersection. She had escaped.
He slapped an open palm to his forehead and dragged it down his face in disbelief, as if it would wake him up from a bad dream. "It's gone!" He yelled in frustration and a few pedestrians on the street looked to him uneasily.
Kazuma came sprinting up behind him and must have realized while tailing Kaito what had happened, he tried to console his younger brother. "It's alright, Kaito. We'll find her." Kazuma was breathing heavily and obviously winded so he plopped down on the edge of the sidewalk next to the large cart of cabbage. "You're the fastest guy I know. She was faster."
Kazuma prodded at his brother even in uneasy times. It was just the nature of their close bond.
Kaito ignored the remark and paced the street corner back and forth looking in every direction for any sign of the girl. He was beginning to really worry now, what would be the next step? It's not like they could call the authorities, after all, they weren't even registered citizens.
"I'll take two cabbages." A man said behind Kaito, he paid the cart vendor and looked down to Kazuma. The man who was cabbage shopping threw some change down to Kazuma and must have assumed that he was homeless. It landed in Kazuma's lap and as he got up to return it to the man the owner of the cabbage cart started to yell.
"Hey!" The merchant exclaimed with his right arm delved deep within the mound of cabbage. He was grabbing for something and the look of surprise on his face had turned to determination and with a wrench he pulled out a handful of long brown hair and there was movement in the cart underneath the cabbages. "Get out of my cabbages!" The vendor yelled at the intruder.
There was a sudden burst of air that whipped up from within the cart and suddenly cabbages were sent flying everywhere. "My cabbages!" The man exclaimed and started to frantically rush around trying to snatch as many as he could out of the air while the rest of the patrons on the street ducked for cover or yelled in shock.
High above the street was the source of the sudden wind. It was a girl who was now suspended in mid-air by the whirling gusts beneath her. Kaito and Kazuma had avoided the debris and were forced to squint just to see the Airbending female. Kaito instantly recognized her as the girl who had bumped into him.
"She's an Airbender," he said in awe as he looked up to the beautiful girl rotating her arms as to prevent herself from falling too fast. The wind was whipping about the crowded intersection and Kaito's hair was fluttering in his face as people either stared to the sky in shock or ran for their lives. He snapped out of his daze. She may have been pretty but the fact that she was hiding in the cabbage cart was an admission of guilt.
"Hey! Give me my wallet back!" Kaito yelled up to the girl and she looked down to him like she had forgotten he was there, she had lost her concentration momentarily and the wind began to die down. She started to slowly drift down towards the ground and appeared to be struggling to continue airbending and sustain her current altitude. Kazuma had thrown his arm in front of his face to shield his eyes from the dust being rustled up from the street as she lowered closer.
"She's a bender!" A man on the street yelled and pointed at the girl Airbending, he threw his arms in the air and fled in the opposite direction.
"Mommy, how's she doing that?" A little girl asked her mother who scooped her up into her arms and started to run. Others started to gather around and yell insults angrily or suggest someone alert the authorities.
"Call the Yi Yang!"
"Get out of here!"
Someone from the crowd of on-lookers hurled a glass bottle at the girl descending to the ground. After Kaito had broken her concentration her lack of skill in Airbending was apparent. She was wafting her arms through the air to try and balance herself while bending when the bottle struck her. Blood started to gush from her forehead. Her entire body went limp and the wind suddenly died as she plummeted towards the ground.
Kaito rushed forward to try and catch the girl and leapt into the air just as she was a few feet above the street and half-tackled her into his arms before she could hit the ground. Kaito had taken the brunt of the blow when they landed and his skin was rubbed raw as they slid across the pavement.
He would have groaned but all the air had been forced from his lungs from the impact. He lifted himself into a sitting position a little faster than he would have liked, he winced, and then brushed back the thief's hair to examine her wound. It was a deep gash along her hairline and the blood was running down her face. "She's bleeding! Someone get help!" Kaito yelled to no one in particular as he pulled the hair matted by blood away from her face. He looked up expecting to see someone scrambling about to help but instead he saw the crowd had started to close in around him.
"Who cares?!" Someone yelled from out of sight.
"The Yi Yang will help her!" Another voice boomed out sarcastically. The Yi Yang is the Republic State's Elite Police. They deal with internal issues within the State mostly relating to suspected benders, people harboring benders, and nearly any kind of threat that may come from bending. They operate separately from the normal police and are much better trained.
Kaito laid the unconscious female down and pushed himself up onto his knees and then heaved her up into his arms once again. He managed to rise up from his knees and pulled her close to him as the unfriendly mob continued to grow and pushed in closer from all sides. The seediest of the bunch were the vagabonds who were rampant in these parts of New Gaipan and tended to be drunk and confrontational regularly. A small group of them were the closest people to Kaito and the wounded Airbender.
"You should have let her go splat, kid." One of the homeless men said and took a swig from his bottle. "You know this lady?" He asked and a slight crack in his voice was heard, the way he had slurred his words indicated that he was probably intoxicated. His clothes were tattered and torn and his hair was long and greasy. Dirt seemed to emanate from him and his stench carried with the wind and one of his eyes was swollen half shut.
"No, no. I don't know her." Kaito could sense that this situation was quickly getting hostile. In Kaito's mind, he was just helping someone in need the way any good person should. These men, however, saw his 'giving aid' to the bender as a sign of Kaito's overall acceptance of benders. Acceptance of benders or bending wasn't tolerated in the Republic State. Not by its government and not by its brainwashed people.
There was even more prejudice against those that believed in the spirits. They were generally regarded as 'just too ignorant to see the truth' by Equalist party members for their beliefs. The Republic State had labeled 'chi' as ludicrous superstition. According to Republic University professors, mankind's ancestors invented the term chi to 'try and understand and categorize that which we could not understand, but science can now explain'.
"Why catch her then?"
The same drunken man had asked, apparently not pleased with Kaito's long daydream. He started to circle the two young adults in the center of the now large crowd, his hands were clasped behind his back like he was in a position of authority. He continued to interrogate. "Lee had a great toss. You could have made the Yi Yang's job a lot easier. Maybe, you're a bender too?" He accused.
"I'm no bender." He lied and made sure that the way he said it inferred that he didn't like them either.
"I was just trying to help someone. That a problem?" It was Kaito's turn now to get hostile. Kazuma and Kaito had been rambunctious kids, as expected for children who are forced to fend for themselves. They had been in multiple scuffles, between each other, other kids, sometimes adults and most of the time the brothers won.
"Oh, no. No problem at all." The self-appointed leader of the crowd spoke again and it was obvious he was lying and wasn't trying very hard to conceal it. "If that were true though then why did I see you chasing her down the street? Did your bender girlfriend get upset and take off? Couldn't control her bending and now this poor man is out of his cabbage cart?" He was twisting the situation to suit his point-of-view and the crowds. Kaito wasn't sure if there was a right answer at this point.
"She's not my girlfriend." He responded and his eyes started to scan the faces around him for Kazuma but his brother was nowhere to be seen. "I was chasing her because she stole my wallet." He continued to explain and attempt to diffuse the situation.
"A bender that's a thief, there's a surprise!" Someone yelled from behind the man. People had started to throw things again and Kaito had to sidestep out of the way of a flying apple. It was time for them to leave before things got any more out of hand. He tried to push through the back of the circle and away from the prejudice vagabonds but as soon as he applied any force to try and move through the people he was shoved by a long haired man who smelled terrible and found himself again in the middle of the circle.
More and more foods and vegetables were sent flying through the air and Kaito did his best to avoid them. "Please, let us leave. She needs help." He pleaded to the man and an engine was heard revving to life somewhere behind the crowd. It was probably someone fleeing the scene, it was apparent that the situation was about to reach it's boiling point. Now, small children in tattered clothes were picking up pebbles and trying to hit Kaito in the eyes. He wasn't fast enough to avoid all the incoming produce and he had started to accumulate splatters over his clothes and chest. It looked like he had been rummaging through the trash behind a restaurant.
"We don't want any trouble! She's hurt, whether she's a bender or not she's just a girl and she needs medical attention." He spoke loud enough to address the entire mob. He was shocked that none of these people surrounding him were willing to help her at all just because she was a Bender. Prejudice was rampant in the Republic State but he hadn't known it was this bad.
The vagabond who had instigated the entire incident smiled mischievously. He finished off what was left in his bottle and let it fall to the ground, breaking into pieces. In one motion he drew back his fist and charged towards Kaito. He swung at Kaito and struck his right cheek with his fist and Kaito started to stumble.
He had tasted blood instantly and struggled to keep his balance and hold up the girl. His vision started to blur and all he could hear was the hooting and hollering of the crowd. He spat blood from his mouth and turned to look for his attacker.
The vagabond had his arms thrown in the air like he had won a Pro-bending tournament and the people cheered him on. Another bottle broke near Kaito's feet and he edged back still trying to fully recover. He had finally straightened himself up and saw another unfortunate sight. Another homeless man had a toothy grin plastered on his face. He ripped a cloth from his sleeve and stuffed it into a bottle, pulled a box of matches from under his hat, lit the end of the fabric, and tossed it at Kaito's feet laughing maniacally.
The bottle broke at his ankles and the lit fabric mixed with the flammable alcohol burst into flames. The bottoms of his pant legs were on fire and so was some of the street near him. People were still throwing things when Kaito heard sirens far off in the distance. He had bigger problems at the moment, however, and started to flail his leg through the air to put out the flame meanwhile still holding the unconscious Airbender.
Something hard hit the back of his head, and he nearly doubled over and fell. Kaito was furious now. He clenched his teeth but he couldn't retaliate with the girl in his arms and his feet aflame. He started trying to kick up dirt to put it out but it wasn't working and he was really panicking now. He kicked again and the flame that had been on his leg doubled in size unnaturally.
"Help!" He screamed and was starting to be burnt; he felt the heat climbing up his legs. He finally had dropped the girl and brought his leg up to try and put it out. He could feel the tiny heart beat of the flickering flame and for the first time in years he embraced that connection but just as he did the fire died out. He wasn't sure if it was his own power that put out the fire or coincidence but he wasn't taking any chances.
"Get 'em!" A woman snarled brandishing a cane but if Kaito hadn't read her lips he wouldn't have known what she said from the sound of a motorcycle.
Suddenly there was a honk of a horn and people were being flung aside. Kazuma came bursting through the angry crowd on a motorcycle and wasn't slowing down for anyone to get out of his way. The sirens were nearly deafening and now even the non-bending citizens seemed scared and they started to run from the brothers.
"You're late!" Kaito screamed at Kazuma who seemed genuinely hurt by the comment. Kaito flung the girl over his shoulder and hopped on the back of the motorcycle. He would have to figure out what had just happened with the fire later, for right now, they needed to escape.
As soon as Kaito was seated Kazuma took off and the bike tore down the street. It was wobbly at first but Kazuma had quickly adjusted his balance to sustain the extra weight. He was a skilled rider it seemed.
"I couldn't find a motorcycle I liked. " Kazuma yelled back to his brother and was navigating the bike through the streets and occasionally taking sharp turns down narrow alleys. People were jumping out of the way and screaming at the three as they went whizzing by. Kaito had to close his eyes half of the ride because Kazuma had been dangerously close to hitting pedestrians, cars, or street signs.
"You've got to go faster! The Yi Yang!" Kaito was yelling over the roar of the engine and the occasional scrape of the bottom panels of the motorcycle. Its body was barely off the ground from the weight of three people on it and the rough driving that Kazuma was putting it through. They made a sudden left down an alley and Kaito had to cling to Kazuma with his one free arm so he wasn't flung off the bike.
"Are right in front of us!" Kazuma yelled and slammed on the brakes. At the end of an alley a huge black Saitovan had pulled up suddenly and blocked their exit. The sudden decrease in speed and the extra weight was too much for Kazuma and the bike buckled underneath them and the three were thrown from the bike. The motorcycle, Kazuma, Kaito and the girl all went tumbling down the street until they finally stopped rolling.
Kaito was on the brink of unconsciousness from the wreck. His vision was blacking in and out and his head was pounding. He rolled to his stomach and his chest instantly ached in pain. He groaned and clung his chest and stopped trying to move, his head rolled to one side. It felt as if it was too heavy to hold up. Kaito's line of sight had conveniently fallen to now face his elder brother. Kazuma was sprawled on all fours, struggling to push himself onto his feet.
"Kaito.." Kazuma said to his brother when he noticed his eyes were open. "We've got to go." He groaned and started crawling towards his little brother. Suddenly there was a sound like the crack of a whip and Kazuma was knocked back to the ground. He had been hit by one of the Yi Yang's bolas and the two weighted balls spiraled around Kazuma's body and had wrapped him tightly within its cords.
That was the last thing Kaito could remember seeing before darkness overtook him.
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