|More from AvatarBearcat||Adventure||G||None|
|Companions and Complications|
Chapter 7: Companions and Complications
25 Days Later
The past three or so weeks had gone by relatively fast despite still being in prison. The days were all about the same. He would wake up and eat breakfast. Shovel coal until lunch. Meet with Azora. Return to shoveling coal. Eat Dinner. Possibly practice Firebending in the evening if they weren't given something dreadful to do instead.
Restraint was something he hadn't mastered but he was definitely learning by frustration. Azora had only allowed him to actually create fire very few times which he understood but that didn't mean he had to like it. It was difficult enough to try and learn Firebending without being caught by the guards, if he was out in the field shooting fire everyday they would have already been caught by now.
As his abilities progressed he felt more and more inclined to unleash his full power just for a demonstration but Azora had constantly stressed patience and he fully intended to obey his teacher.
Most days the drying laundry provided cover and other days cover was scarcer depending on the amount of laundry hung out after lunch. There had been four separate occasions they were nearly caught by a wandering patrol. Thanks to Azora's keen senses they had always avoided confrontation but on those days the lesson were cut short. The days had started growing harder on Kaito but at least he had hope. Without Azora's lessons he would have had nothing to look forward to and he would have already accepted defeat.
It was the only time during the day he wasn't riddled with worry and actually felt at peace. Sometimes this peace was momentarily interrupted by a conk on the head from Azora.
On this day, he was seated at the end of a huge table in the mess hall eating his breakfast gloop when he heard a voice across him.
"You related to that old lady?"
Kaito looked up from his plate of gray slop and saw his white-haired bunkmate seated on the opposite side of the table. It was the first time the two had ever spoken and the first time anyone had ever mentioned Azora to him. Kaito was taken by surprise and it was apparent in the white-haired teenager's face that he noticed Kaito's reaction. Come on, Kaito! Think of something!
"Yes, uh, yes. We are related." It sounded less than convincing. Kaito started to rub the back of his head nervously and ate another spoonful of gloop. "I'm in the bunk below you, my name's Kaito." He had attempted to change the subject by introducing himself.
"I don't buy that. I've seen you two out there squatting and punching. She's got the bruises of a bender. The guards are stupid around here.. I'm not."
Kaito looked around nervously but there were no guards in the vicinity and the closest prisoners seated to them at the table were having a conversation of their own. Kaito was panicking and unsure how to answer or what lie to tell.
"Look, my name is Khan. Khan Li. " Khan extended a hand and Kaito reluctantly shook it. "I know that whatever it is you're doing out there..You're doing it to escape and I want in."
"Listen, I don't know what you're talking about. That's my Aunt Eunice!" Kaito lied and tried to sound confused.
"I'm a weapons expert, and I'm not that bad in a fist fight. I can be useful in close quarters." He had obviously ignored the Aunt Eunice remark. "Let me help you and the hag. We'll part ways once we're over the wall."
Kaito sat silent as he mulled over his offer and Khan grew impatient. "I'm escaping with you or I may just let the suggestion slip near the guards for them to check out the laundry rows every day. Got it?" Khan was now blackmailing him.
"I guess I don't have a choice." Kaito sighed at the addition of another member to the escape plan. "I'll have to talk to Azora. I don't know how you can even help because in all honesty I don't even know the full details of the plan."
"Step One tends to be a good place to start when describing an escape plan." Khan said matter-of-factly.
"She's teaching me to Firebend and we have to escape by the summer solstice. That's all I know."
"You're a Firebender? Why don't you have bruises?" Khan asked.
"I never Firebend, never been trained. They took me in assuming that I wasn't a Bender. That's what we're relying on, the element of surprise." He answered him in a hushed whisper.
"That's got to be the dumbest plan I've ever heard of. What does the solstice have to do with anything?" Khan seemed just as perplexed as Kaito had been when he first heard Azora mention escaping by the solstice.
"I know it sounds impossible but what other options do we have?" Kaito wasn't sure of the answer himself. "I don't know why we need to be out by the solstice but I'm not complaining. It's only a few weeks off. You're going to blackmail me to get involved and then complain? I can't believe this. Are you in or out?" Kaito was getting frustrated at the sudden realization that he didn't have any specific answers about the plan for Khan. He felt unprepared and now that someone besides Azora was saying how ridiculous it was he had started to doubt the plan.
Khan still didn't seem satisfied. "The old lady isn't helping?"
"They block her chi every hour so it's not like she can Firebend and like I told you before; I'll have to talk to her. "
"I'll work on stealing a weapon from the forge in the meantime. We shouldn't be seen talking again. It's already a big enough coincidence we're bunkmates and assigned the same job we don't want to draw any attention to ourselves. I think it's best I don't speak to the old lady until the day we attempt to breakout. Get some more specific details from the old broad and relay them to me when we get back to the bunks." Khan didn't give Kaito a chance to respond before he got up and walked off and out the doors of the mess hall.
LATER THAT DAY
"The more the merrier!" Azora yelled and slapped Kaito hard enough on his back that he winced, that could have also been because she hit him in exactly the same spot at least five times a day. He had just finished telling her that Khan had forced himself into their plans.
"He would have escaped anyway but the help is appreciated!" She gave thumbs up in the direction of Khan, his white hair could be seen across the field pushing a wheel barrow, he may have seen her because he suddenly looked flustered and picked up his pace until he disappeared out of sight into the Forge.
"You know him?" Kaito had been confused by her wording.
"No, can't say I've ever met him in my entire life. Good looking young man though."
"So then why did you assume he would have escaped anyway?" Confusion was a typically felt emotion when around Azora. He wondered if she didn't make sense on purpose or if she was actually insane.
"Everyone's escaping!" She threw her arms wide to signify every prisoner within eye sight.
"Well, I guess you could say we're freeing everyone! Same thing!" That maniacal smile was plastered on her face and Kaito knew by now that meant she was entirely serious. Kaito slapped his palm to his forehead in disbelief.
"Well, our original plan is pretty ridiculous so I guess I should have known you intended on freeing everyone." He shook his head in disbelief at Azora but he wouldn't complain aloud.
"If that's the case I think I know someone who might be able to help us as well."
FOUR DAYS LATER
"What do you want?" She practically spat at him and he could tell in her face that she seriously disliked him.
"My name's Kaito." He held his hand out to her but she only stared at it. He had seen her a few tables over at breakfast and decided to ask her to join their group; in Kaito's mind she owed him one for the loss of his wallet.
She had lost several pounds since the day she had stolen his wallet on the street. Her face had a layer of dirt just like every other prisoner and her hair was a frizzled mess but she still looked very pretty. She also had bruises along her chi paths to signify that she was a Bender but her abilities had been blocked.
She looked away from his hand and continued eating her meal pretending as if he wasn't there. He rolled his eyes and moved his head so that he could meet her gaze. Kaito was never very good with words but he attempted.
"I'm not angry with you. I'm not here to lecture you. I know what it's like to be all alone and desperate." He wasn't lying. He did know what it was like to be on the move and fending for yourself, it made it difficult to trust people and Kaito understood that perfectly.
She finally looked up from her plate to look into his eyes as he continued.
"I've been forced to steal. I've been forced to run. I don't blame you. Do you understand?" Their gaze hadn't unlocked from one another's yet; it was like she was making sure he wasn't lying. She wanted to know that he was sincere; that he truly knew pain and eventually she nodded in acceptance.
"Good. Now, listen. We're planning an escape. I'm telling you this because since I've been here I've changed as a person and I know how embarrassing that sounds." He spoke confidently even when he saw her cheeks flush red in embarrassment for him. "I want to include you because I think you can help. Are you interested?"
She smiled at him and for the first time she spoke to him without contempt in her voice. "Nice to meet you, Kaito. I'm Yakiri." She extended her hand to him as if the conversation had completely restarted. He smiled and shook her hand.
For the collective works of the author, go here.