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|Earth Rumble Day|
The three friends entered a decent-sized room with a stone floor to find a woman levitating a rock. With a flick of her wrists, the rock broke into tiny rock bullets and fired at a dummy.
"Now, who wants to try first?" she asked. "Oh, I see we have three more! Are you here for the lesson?" she inquired with a smile.
"Yes, we were told that Master Yuli would be giving lessons and holding an amateur tournament tomorrow on Earth Rumble Day," Brek responded.
"You're in the right place."
The trio introduced themselves, leaving out that Brek was the Avatar, and Brek joined the group in training. He unfortunately joined on the last day of the lessons, but Yuli was impressed with his skill. She suggested that he skip the amateur tournament and compete in the level 3 tournament instead. Brek gladly accepted his challenge.
"Wonderful! You'll be in the last round before the official Earth Rumble Tournament."
A man and his son joined the conversation.
"The Rockslide is going all the way this year for sure," the man stated.
"No way! Both the Stone Avenger and The Desert Man could beat him!" argued his son.
Ignoring the argument, Brek left and rejoined his friends.
"How'd your rock throwing classes go?" Kaeta teased.
After exchanging some friendly banter, the group finally decided to find a hotel to stay in.
Berani was concerned. "We can't afford to keep renting rooms and buying food."
"The reward for winning my competition is a sack of silver pieces," said Brek. "I guess now I really need to win."
After that, they played with Pumi for hours, ate a fish dinner, went for a walk around the city, and finally called it a night. The group didn't get much sleep, as they had to wake up early to get to the arena.
Not many fans showed up for the amateur round. Some actually laughed at the contenders whose attacks missed more often than they made contact with their opponent.
After a few rounds, a young man emerged as the winner. His celebration was cut short; however, when he faced the surprise victory round against Master Yuli, she went easy on him, but still knocked him out of the arena stage within five minutes.
Another round went by, and this time the final challenge was fighting two veteran city guards. The winner surprisingly defeated both after a solid twenty minutes of fighting. After witnessing that, Brek was beginning to worry about his tournament and what his extra challenge would be if he won.
Finally, the name "Brek" was called to the massive rock stage. The mayor, who had arrived a bit earlier, shifted his position in his chair uncomfortably when the Avatar stepped onto the stage.
Brek faced a man who looked like he was in his early fifties, but his age didn't slow him down. Immediately after the referee announced the start, the man shot a large rock with a palm strike, three smaller rocks with a double palm strike, and a medium-sized rock with a kick all in one quick succession. He ended his attack by spinning and thrusting his elbow towards Brek, which sent a line of Earth columns at him. He paused to catch his breath with his back facing the Avatar. That was his crucial mistake. Brek dodged the first rock, blocked the next three, and smashed the last. With a sidestep, he avoided the line of columns and landed sending a column of his own into the back of his opponent. The man sprung off of the stage, and Brek turned to see his two best friends cheering among others.
The next round was even shorter. Brek faced a woman who was so tired from her first round that he knocked her out by lifting the earth beneath her and tossing her over the side of the stage. His third round was the most difficult. His opponent charged at him, propelling rocks along the way. Then he launched himself into the air, smashed a rock thrown by Brek, and landed, forming an earth bomb. Brek was knocked to the edge of the stage. The man dove underground and emerged, shot out in front of him as if he had been fired by a canon. Brek was able to bend some of the ground that the man had popped out of, causing him to trip and skid off the stage. He crashed into Brek and they both fell. The referee ruled that Brek hit the ground last, so he had won. The decision was met by both cheers and boos.
Brek limped back to the stage to face his bonus round. Berani and Kaeta were cheering but became dead silent as they saw Brek's newest opponent. The Avatar couldn't believe that he was about to fight a badgermole, a master Earthbender.
The beast stomped its paws, and Brek fell backwards in an explosion of earth and dust. It was followed by it whipping its front left leg, which sent a wall of earth charging towards Brek. He braced himself and the wall shattered as Brek flew back and landed with a thud. He thought he was finished until he felt a sudden urge of confidence. He remembered gym class, when another boy suck him into the ground. He attempted to do it against a much larger target-and succeeded. Slowly, the confused badgermole sunk deeper and deeper. Brek then shook his hands, with his palms facing the beast. After a few seconds, he stomped, thrusting this elbows down. Dust exploded around the animal, and when it subsided, Brek saw that he was the only one on the arena.
There was a pause before an enormous celebration from the stands. Everyone was on their feet applauding, including Kaeta and Berani. The crowd's excitement was a great way to start the official Earth Rumble Tournament.
As the duels were fought, the fans cheered and booed. The last battle was the longest of the day. One boulder flew into the stands and almost killed a few people. In the end, the reigning champion was defeated. The mayor walked onto the stage to congratulate the victor and give him the champion's belt, but when he reached the center of the stage, something horrifying happened.
"Master Phronk, could you please join me?" The mayor's voice was trembling.
A man came to the mayor's side and faced one section of the stands. Brek recognized him as the man who attacked him in Lalu. Before he could do anything, the stage was flooded with more Earthbenders wearing the uniforms that the benders in Lalu had.
"Today, the city of Gaoling joins forces with the Isha," the mayor announced.
Screams of fear filled the air, and people rushed to the gates only to find them closed and sealed. Phronk then spoke.
"You can join us or die in this arena. The choice is yours."
"We'll never join you!" a defiant man exclaimed. One bender quickly shot a sharp rock shard through his chest.
The mayor summoned the courage to warn Brek. "Avatar Brek! Escape while you can!" He looked around for the Avatar frantically before being tackled by to Isha members.
As if on cue, eight city guards burst through the wall, a few seats behind Brek and his friends.
"Go now!" one of the guards commanded.
Without speaking, they rushed for the hole in the wall. They dodged a boulder and a few metal fists and escaped safely.
Outside, they found Pumi, who was ready for them with their bags already on his back. Berani also found a bow and a quiver full of arrows. Brek yanked Pumi's fur and the armadillo lion leaped forward through the streets of Gaoling.
"Brek, they're chasing after us!" Kaeta exclaimed.
Berani took the bow and one arrow. She pulled back the string, remembering her archery classes, and fired. It hit one man in the leg, who fell and tripped another.
Another man stomped and Pumi began to flip over. The animal and the three friends flew in the air before landing on a large ball of air that Brek somehow managed to create. He sent an earth wave after his attackers and they remounted Pumi. The animal charged forward again, and they escaped.
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