|By Nathan Miranda||See other fanon and fan fiction works from Nathan Miranda.|
Here are the entries for Round 3 of the Avatar Writing Contest by Nathan Miranda. The entries for Round 4 will be posted when the winner is announced.
The winner of Round 3 was!
Why didn't they understand her? Toph walked away from her home. "More like a prison," she said to herself. Why? That was the question. She wasn't as useless as they thought. Toph walked away towards Earth Rumble VI.
Ever since she had rn away from her prison and met the badgermoles, Toph had an intense desire to Earthbend more. Earthbending was her freedom – her self-expression ever-denied to her by her parents. Upon discovering she could Earthbend, her parents had paid one of the instructors in the area to give her private lessons. But being as overprotective as they were, they had her at nine learning moves any four year-old could do.
Toph had much more potential than they gave her credit for. With her parents away for the afternoon, she had managed to escape the confines of her prison using Earthbending on the wall. As long as she was back before nightfall, she doubted that she would be found out. Besides, this was something she had to do. Earth Rumble VI would give her the opportunity to see – or rather, feel – some real human Earthbenders in action.
As she approached the stadium, Toph overheard some of the fans discussing the competition. "I really think The Boulder's going to win this time," a tall, dangly teen-aged boy told his friend.
"Hah," his friend with dreadlocks scoffed at him. "The Boulder's alright, but The Maniacal Moose-Lion is going to win the title again, like always. By the way, that ticket lady creeps me out. She reminds me of that woman Joo Dee from last time I went to Ba Sing Se."
Toph froze in her tracks. She had not even thought of how she was going to get a ticket to this. She could not charge her family's account for this. Suddenly, she heard some rattling change in the pocket of the boy with dreads. It was wrong...but she had come this far. Toph distracted him by making a noise by Earthbending rocks in the other direction, then discretely went over and pulled the coins out of his pocket. Then, not wasting any time, she purchased her ticket. The boy was right – the lady was creepy.
Once she was inside, she took a seat in the stands where she could feel what was going on in the center using her seismic sense. There were many great Earthbenders there and the moves they used were quite advanced. However, at the same time, this was not as exciting as she thought it would be. It seemed crazy, but Toph had the idea that she could do better than these people.
Suddenly, she was yanked off her seat vigorously. The boy with dreads had grabbed her by the arm and he was angry. "Hey! You're that little brat who stole money from me earlier. What's your name, little girl?"
Although she rarely left her home, Toph knew well about her family's reputation. She would not be able to use her real name. "Err...Joo Dee."
"Well, Joo Dee, I believe you owe me some change. Hand over what you pickpocketed!" he bellowd down at her.
"I...I don't have it," she trembled. "I spent it on the ticket." Just like when she had run away and gotten lost in that cave, Toph was now scared.
"Attention everyone!" came the booming voice of Xin Fu, the head announcer at Earth Rumble VI. "For anyone who can defeat The Maniacal Moose-Lion in the ring – a sack of 100 gold pieces!"
"Well, that's your cue," said the boy with dreads, arms crossed. "Get in there!"
"Come on, don't make her do that," his friend told him from behind. "She's just a kid. And I think she's blind."
"Meh, even if I don't get my money back The Maniacal Moose-Lion can tear this little bandit apart. Now get up there before I drag you myself!"
Toph timidly trotted toward the ring. Now she was in for it. Maybe I should just run home now, she thought to herself. I am getting into a lot of trouble. But before she knew it, she was in the ring, standing across from The Maniacal Moose-Lion, the large, mean-sounding, three-time defending champion of Earth Rumble VI. I am going to die, Toph thought to herself as she heard roars of laughter from the crowd around her, looking at this pathetic nine year-old girl standing against this massive Earthbending master.
As her opponent prepared to chuck a large rock her way, she did what the badgermoles taught her and sensed the motions by feeling the ground with her foot. As that rock was soaring toward her through the air, she ducked, allowing it to pass over her head and land just behind her. Then, she bended the rock around her left side and shot it back towards The Maniacal Moose-Lion, knocking him off his feet and out of the ring.
The entire place suddenly went quiet. Then a roar of cheers erupted from the stands. They were now cheering for her – this unrecognized girl who had beaten the best of the best. This was unlike any feeling she had ever gotten in her sheltered life with her parents.
Toph overheard Xin Fu talking to another referee. "Hmmm...he's a little unorthodox, but with the right marketing I think she might catch on."
Xin Fu came forward and stood in front of her. "What's your name, kid?" He then put the microphone to her face.
She decided to give her fake name again. "Joo Dee."
Xin Fu shook his head. "No, no! I mean what's your fighting name?"
For the second time Toph had to come up with a name for herself on the spot. But this one would stick with her a lot longer.
"The Blind Bandit."
Why didn't they understand her? Toph walked away from her home. "More like a prison," she said to herself. Why? That was the question. She wasn't as useless as they thought. Toph walked away towards Earth Rumble VI. Maybe one day they will understand, maybe one day they will see... No. They are blinder than her. They will never understand. Toph could feel the excitement in the air. She could hear her name. Bandit! Bandit! Bandit! It was glorious. This is what she lived for. The cheers grew louder as she entered the ring. It too was glorious, the ring, the sweat, the anticipation, and the fear she sensed in her opponents. They feared her. "Ladies and gentlemen, his opponent: The Blind Bandit!" She punched the air with fervent vim. She felt so alive, so free. She did not care about her parents anymore. Who needs them anyway? Xin Fu's voice boomed once more. It was now time to fight. It was now time to show the world what she was made of. She felt a boulder come her way and stopped it in its tracks, splitting it in two and sending back a flurry of earthen spikes. "Is that the best you've got?" She taunted. "The Boulder will show you what he's got, little girl!" Little girl. Toph hesitated. Little girl. She was in fact a little girl. NO! She was the Blind Bandit! The greatest Earthbender in the world! With a cry she lunged her arms forward and thrust the earth with her fists sending a violent volley of earth towards The Boulder. He absorbed the attack but his stance was clearly broken. That's what I can do. That's what I am. The Boulder stomped the ground to produce a large boulder and flung it Toph's way. She caught it above her and prepared to hurl it back. "Can The Boulder help you with that? It looks heavy." They don't understand her! They want to help her. They think she is frail and weak. Little girl. "NO!" Tears gushed from her eyes. She let loose with a vicious assault. The Boulder was overwhelmed and soon beaten. She did not stop. She did not care. "I am the greatest Earthbender in the world! I don't need them!" She stormed out the ring, chucking rocks at Xin Fu as he tried to stop her. She ran. She did not know where she would go but she ran. The wind and her salty tears caressed her face. She stopped. She just stopped. They're my parents. I can't just run away... But they will never, ever understand. One day, perhaps... One day she will find a friend. One day.
Toph's feet hammered the ground as she angrily marched off, leaving a trail of small craters in the earthen road. She let her frustrations stream out in a series of growled outbursts. 'They won't even let me blow my damn soup! I can't go for a walk in our own garden without supervision! 'Be careful, sweetie. We don't want you to wander around alone.' Why?! So some dumb guard can push branches out of my way, while he trips over the roots of the same tree himself? The roots I feel as soon as I set one foot outside! Those fools have to protect me?!' The swinging of her clenched fists caused small fissures to appear in the surface of the road. 'Keeping me away from the whole world! Locked up behind a safe enclosure. Like trying to trap a Badgermole in a wooden cage!'
Toph took a right turn to a by-road and thereby left the village. The narrow road was bordered on one side by a row of proud oaks. Their branches engaged in a slow contest of growing as high as possible, competing to catch as much of the sun's life bringing glow as they could. Across the richness of their dark green leaves, at the other side of the road, there was nothing but fields of warm yellow wheat. The tranquility of the wheat stalks, waving gently in the wind, contrasted sharply with the stormy mood of the twelve year old girl that flogged the road with her footsteps. Her long, elegant dress hindered her movements. It added to her already abundant irritation. Toph bended over and grabbed the hem, that was decorated with a refined floral motive. She lifted it, finally creating some space for her feet. 'I know they just want to protect me, but what's the point? Keeping me alive? What's the use if they won't let me live?! They've demonstrated that once again.' Toph stopped to roll up the long sleeves that came down to the palms of her hands. The reaction of her mother and father still played through her mind. Their rules out of concern came down on her like an avalanche. The continuous restrictions buried her ever deeper under the weight of her parents' worries. 'It's just so stupid! I was so careful not to go wandering too deep into the garden by myself, so they couldn't blame me for that. I thought I was alone. How could I know they would look out of the window just as I was bending a bit?'
Toph hadn't even been doing something impressive. She was sitting on a bench in the garden, close to the house. She enjoyed the gentle rays of the sun on her cheeks and the small gust of wind that stroked through her hair. But she was utterly bored. She couldn't care less for the singing of the Sparrowkeets in the bird cages or the activities of the gardeners. Every thought that popped up in Toph's mind, was counting down. The minutes to the moment when she would be able to leave for Earth Rumble VI, passed by agonizingly slowly. Why not warm up a little for the competition? After checking – and double checking – whether no one was around, Toph bended over to the ground. The difference between the elegantly curled, white legs of the bench and the dark brown, raw soil was striking. Toph would prefer the pureness of the latter any time. She picked up a lump of earth and shaped a small ball out of it. She hopped it from her left hand to her arm, rolling it up to her left shoulder. With a quick gesture, Toph made the lump leap over her head to her other shoulder. Then it slid down to her right wrist. Before it would fall off, a jerk of her hand shortly brought the ball up in the air. Toph giggled as she was lucky enough to catch it on the tip of her index finger. With a quick twist, she kept the round lump spinning there. Right then, her father looked up from his desk to dart a glance at the apple of his eye. Lao Bei Fong jumped to his feet as soon as he saw his daughter bending. His comfortable blue chair tumbled over by his hastened movement. As his wife looked up in amazement, he sprinted outside. 'Lao? My dearest, what's wrong?' Her voice was unable to catch up with him. Poppy quickly made her way over to the window and darted a glance outside. The same worry that had alarmed her husband now took a hold of her and forced her outside. In her haste, she stumbled across the chair that Lao's rapid departure had knocked to the ground. Poppy regained her balance just in time. She lifted her dress as much as decency allowed and hurried after her husband. 'Toph! Cut it out!' Lao yelled it before he even reached her, to make sure she would stop as quickly as possible. His scream echoed through the garden. Toph's earthen ball slipped off her index finger and hit the bench with a dull thud. A small dusty stain appeared on the clean white wood. Busted. ' You shouldn't be earth bending without any supervision! That's far too dangerous!' 'I wasn't doing anything dangerous, Dad.' The smile that adorned her face was obviously fake, but it was the best one she could to produce. 'Yes, you were and you know it. If you hadn't heard one of our guards approaching, you could have injured him.' The ruffling of her mother's hastened footsteps on the neatly cut grass reached Toph's feet sooner than her husband's ears. 'Toph! Are you all right?' Her daughter had trouble to suppress her urge to role her unseeing eyes. 'Of course, Mom.' Toph's sigh got picked up and carried away by the afternoon breeze, unheard by her worried parents. She wished the wind could erase their protective rules just as swiftly. They were smothering. Toph felt just like the Sparrowkeets in their garden: loved, protected, but caged. She hungered for a moment when the locked door would swing open. 'I listened carefully, Dad. No one was around,' Toph mumbled. 'That's not our main concern,' Lao replied fiercely. Poppy linked arms with him, caressing his shoulder with her free hand. Toph didn't need to see her to know that she was nodding in agreement. Her father's voice sounded shrill as he continued: 'You are! You could have hurt yourself!' Irritation boiled up inside of Toph. She had heard enough. I don't need this overprotective crap. Not again. Toph stood up. She seemed calm, but the glowing annoyance inside increased with every breath she took. 'I'm sorry that I worried you.' The words came out stiffly. She bowed shortly in their direction before taking off as fast as she could. As she walked away, Toph heard her father mumble to her mother: 'I'll have a word with Master Yu. I don't want him to let her do anything dangerous.'
That last remark still echoed in her head. Now she would get even less opportunities to earth bend. 'If only I could tell them that I already won Earth Rumble V...' Toph noticed a familiar bump in the road and turned towards a large space between two of the ten feet high oaks. She stepped out of the long stretched shade of one of the trees into the light of the lowering sun. Toph simultaneously brought up her clenched fists diagonally. She completed the angle by joining them at the end. A spacious earthen tent rose up from ground. Toph went inside and closed it. While she exchanged her long dress for clothes that wouldn't obstruct her movements, her thoughts drifted through her memories of Earth Rumble V. Toph remembered it as clearly as the discussion with her parents that afternoon. The atmosphere. The tension. The feeling of the dirt in the arena. The smell of the contesters' sweat. The spotlights on her as she walked into the ring... Well, she assumed there had been spotlights. The thrill of being seen by a whole stadium full of people after being kept secret from the world for all those years. She had enjoyed her battles against adult earth benders. But while she buttoned up her green trousers, the memory of one specific confrontation crept up her mind. Even though Toph despised the end of it, it anchored there, unfolding itself once again.
The Seismic Wave. That's how he called himself. Big muscles, small brains, like most of her opponents. Toph looked forward to getting some serious bending action and hoped that he could provide it. He underestimated her, it was clear from the words he spat out. 'Hah! Shouldn't you go home, little girl? Run back to your Mommy!' Toph's mouth curled into a grin. Like I hadn't expected you to say that, moron. You're too easy. 'Why would I do that? Your skills don't scare me and my blindness saves me from seeing that ugly face of yours,' was her quick reply. The Seismic Wave was dazed for a short second. Toph loved it. She knew she was pushing him, driving him to anger. And that was exactly what she wanted. A real challenge. A little excitement to compensate all of the protection that trapped her at home. Once the Seismic Wave realized the full meaning of her jab, he opened his mouth while trying to think of a come-back. Toph interrupted him before he even had the chance to say anything. 'Why don't we get started? So you can quickly Seismic Wave goodbye.' A self-satisfied laugh welled up from her throat. The Seismic Wave growled and brought up his hand, his fingers curved into a claw. A large rock was torn loose from the ground. He fired it at Toph at incredible speed. She evaded it without really making an effort. Next the Seismic Wave turned ninety degrees, the side of his right foot directed at Toph. He swept it across the ground towards her, supporting the movement with his hands. An earthen wave erected itself. It came thundering down at his young opponent. The audience held its breath, wondering whether it would end that quickly. As the wave crashed down, the Seismic Wave roared with laughter. He didn't notice that Toph came up from underneath the ground right behind him. Toph lifted her arms simultaneously. Stone walls rose up at each of his sides. 'My turn.' The Seismic Wave looked surprised as he heard her. He turned around, but didn't get a chance to look at her properly. Did the girl just shake the gravel out of her hair? No. Her head had turned as part of one fluent movement: a forceful punch of her right fist. Before he realized what would follow, a horizontal stone column shot forth from the right wall at the height of his knees. The Seismic Wave bumped into the opposing wall. It cost him a lot of effort to stay up. Fine dust troubled his sight. Before he could recover from the blow, a new pillar slammed him against the other side of the narrow corridor that Toph had created. While Toph made a stomping gesture to the left with her right fist, she lowered her left arm. The corresponding wall sunk into the ground again, when another column appeared from the right wall. If it had hit the Seismic Wave, he would have been ejected out of the ring. But her opponent already expected her to do that. Before the pillar could touch him, he launched himself into the air. The Seismic Wave landed at the other side of the right wall. 'Did you really think it would be that easy?' he yelled as he yanked a large piece of rock from the wall. He lifted it by raising his arms above his head, ready to smash it at her like a volleyball. A crucial mistake. 'No. This easy.' As soon as the Seismic Wave put his arms up and thereby exposed his torso, Toph bended another horizontal stone pillar out of the remains of the wall next to him. It hit him full on in his unprotected side. He never even saw it coming. The Seismic Wave got launched out of the ring. He crashed into the audience's seats before his rock could hit the ground. Toph raised her arms in triumph. Internally, she basked herself in the cheering of the crowd. She let it stream over her. The glorious sound of the admiration of hundreds of spectators filled her mind once again as Toph relived her memory. But then she had heard it. As the Seismic Wave crawled back to his feet, he yelled something that still infuriated her as much now as it had done then: 'I let her win because she's a helpless little blind girl.' 'What?!' Toph turned towards him. 'Come back here, if you have the guts! And fight me like a man this time, instead of like a toddler!' The coward turned his back and left, a bit too fast for his excuse to stay believable.
Toph's frustrations urged her again to hit something like they had back then. The side of her earthen dressing room shattered as soon as her fist met it. Pieces were launched into every direction. Some fragments pierced the bark of the oaks, still trembling there for a few seconds afterwards. Other chunks rained down on the wheat field, breaking the stalks as the Seismic Wave's remark had snapped her victorious happiness. 'Everyone underestimates me!' Toph pulled her backpack open. As she jammed her dress in it, she felt something on the bottom. Her fingers found her championship belt and closed around it. Toph yanked it out. 'They all don't have the slightest idea as to who they're dealing with!' A soft ringing sound tingled in the air after she threw her trophy against a tree. Toph lowered her voice as she imitated her father: 'Oh, don't teach our little Toph decent earth bending, Master Yu. She's so helpless. And tiny. She's far too fragile to do anything dange-' She paused as her annoyance gathered in her chest, throbbing in the same beat as her heart. The rest of the sentence came out in her own voice, loaded with scorching frustration. '- to do anything at all! And why?! I'm already better than that lousy earth worm of a Yu will ever be!' Toph's hands formed fists as she raised her left knee, balancing shortly on her right foot. Then she put her left foot down. She slid it forward, then curled her toes upwards. In a fluent movement, the ball of her foot left the ground and she rested on her heel. Between the roots of the tree, the earth curled up like a wave. It launched the belt into the air. It fell down right in front of Toph's feet. The soft thud was muffled by the grass it landed on. The young earth bender nonchalantly gestured with her hand. An earth pillar erected itself, carrying the belt up to its owner. 'Bunch of nit-wits with the combined I.Q. of a Cow hippo!'
Toph had sensed the man who traveled the by-road in her direction from quite a distance. She had ignored the fact that he was approaching and focused completely on outing her frustration. But now that he had stopped at only a few feet away, he drew her attention again. He stood next to his Ostrich horse as he was shamelessly looked at her, curious about her frustrated mutterings. 'What are you staring at?' Toph snarled at him, while she shoved the belt into her backpack. The stranger almost jumped behind his steed of surprise. He hadn't expected her to notice that he was watching. 'H-how did you know I was staring?' he stuttered out. The man took a step back when he saw Toph's sour expression. She swung her backpack over her shoulder. 'I exchanged my normal vision for the ability to read idiotic minds like yours! So unless you have any more stupid questions, I suggest you back the hell off!' Toph growled, her eyes narrowing. Without paying any more attention to him, she marched past him. I can't wait to use this energy in the competition. 'But... Uhm...' Toph froze in her movement. What. Now? She clenched her fists as she waited for what he was about to say. Hesitatingly, the traveler continued: 'I-if you can read my mind, why did you ask what I was staring at? 'Cause you already knew then...' The girl's nostrils opened wider as she took a deep breath. Is he kidding?! This is it! Toph slowly turned around.
As Toph's silhouette shrunk into the distance to the size of a singing Groundhog, the traveler still didn't give up yelling for her to come back. 'Please, let me out of this! I beg you!' He desperately kicked his feet in an attempt to reach the ground. Trapped between four sloping earthen plates, he could hardly move his torso. Two of them pressed against his chest and back. The others ran from the ground up to right under his armpits, leaving him extremely uncomfortable as he hung there, only inches away from the ground. As Toph disappeared behind a hill, he finally fell silent. The man wriggled in an attempt to push himself out. It was no use: he was as stuck as a Camelephant in a rabbit hole. Next he stretched his right leg as far as he could. If only I could reach the ground... Nothing. His tongue curled upwards outside his mouth while he tried again with his left leg. Just... A... Little... Further... YEAH! His euphoria quickly faded as he realized the tip of his big toe had only stroked along the top of the grass. Still no ground. 'Awwwww...' Panic struck him as he saw his Ostrich horse slowly wandering off in search of a fresh green grassy snack. His shrieks sounded across the wheat field: 'No, Azulon! Don't leave me too! Come back!'
Toph felt a little better as she walked in the direction of the stadium. She took a deep breath... And exhaled... Although her frustration didn't burn in her veins anymore, the warm residue of her annoyance still lingered. She would use it during the competition. Those pussies at Earth Rumble VI better be prepared. I'm in a fun mood. Unintentionally, Toph smirked by herself. Helpless? I'll show them.
Three small girls played in the downtown street. One was jumping over the twirling rope that the other two were spinning and landing on the ground with her delicate feet. The rope brushed against the ground at the bottom of its swing, the tiny muscles in her feet flexed as she was about to jump and ten toes gripped the earth when she landed. Three streets away, in the massive Bei Fong manor, another young girl laid in her room. She stared blankly at her ceiling with blind eyes, feeling every motion of the distant playtime through the vibrations in the ground with a deep longing. Her father opened the door to her room and immediately berated her. "Toph! What are you doing, sitting in the dark like this?" He stalked across the room, pulling open the heavy curtains and letting light spill in. "You're perfectly aware that it isn't proper." "Dad, I'm sitting in the dark whether the stupid curtains are open or not, so what's the point?" Toph retorted angrily, sitting up on the bed, losing focus on the playing girls. "Don't take that tone with me, young lady!" "Oh, yeah, heaven forbid if someone actually speaks their mind in the Bei Fong family," said Toph, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "That is enough!" Toph's father screamed and Toph knew she had taken it too far. "I was going to take you shopping today, but I think it's better that you stay in your room until you know how to be civilized." Her father left the room with his nose held high and Toph fell to the bed in exasperation. Maybe she shouldn't have done that; she had very few opportunities to go outside at all and it would have been nice to have just felt the sun on her face. Maybe she'd even get to play with those jumping girls... No. She never could do that, not when her father coddled her. Jumping half a foot off the ground was far too dangerous for his precious little defenseless daughter. She was stuck in a prison of his over-protectiveness and his ridiculous high society rules. Suddenly, the ground shook. It wasn't a big tremor, but Toph easily felt the shaking of the earth and it didn't just shake once, but again and again like a giant was striding across a distant village. She could still hear her parents talking animatedly in the other room. They obviously couldn't feel the tremors like she could. She tried to ignore them, but she couldn't. She couldn't block it out; it was driving her insane. Half an hour later, she'd pulled on her green traveling clothes that a relative had bought her a few months ago, but her father had never let her use. She carefully snuck out of the window in her room and down into the garden. The badgermoles had taught her how to tunnel pretty well in her youth, so with a few quick, hand motions, she let the ground beneath her swallow her whole and she tunneled towards the source of the tremors. The quakes got closer and closer until Toph was nearly on top of them. Through the earth, she felt that there was a massive arena structure in front of her with dozens of people inside. She tunneled her way closer and into a small, empty side-room. It was small, with a desk inside covered in paper, though Toph couldn't tell what was written on them. There was a large safe in the corner too, big enough to fit a person into, presumably for money. Toph shuddered slightly, she wouldn't want to be stuck in there for too long. The quakes were massive now! They shook the whole room Toph was standing in, but now cheers of excitement and gasps of awe accompanied them from the massive arena next door. What could they possibly be? Toph walked towards the door ready to find out... The door suddenly flew open, revealing two men. One were long dark hair that framed his sunken face and fell to his shoulders; the other muscular and shirtless, with a traditional Earth Kingdom beard. The longhaired one spoke: "Are you ready for your fight? Everyone out there is waiting for you to take to the ring." "As soon as Gecko and Wild Man are finished, the Boulder shall take the stage!" replied the muscular one. The longhaired man rolled his eyes and began his next sentence, but then caught sight of Toph in the next room. His eyes narrowed, giving him a snakelike look on his face. Toph began to mutter an apology, but the man made a quick motion with his hands that made a pillar of earth shoot out from the ground and pin Toph against the rear wall. "Thief! Bandit!" he screamed. "You thought you could steal from Xin Fu? Boulder, crush her." Toph tried to mutter that it was all a mistake, and that she wasn't really stealing, but the earth that held her was incredibly heavy: it made breathing difficult, yet alone talking. She clenched her fists, making the earth pinning her blow open with a massive blast. Xin Fu was barreled over, falling on his back as Toph fell to the floor and coughed loudly, trying to breathe. The Boulder leaped out from behind the small wall of Earth he used to defend himself from Toph's blast. "The Boulder does not appreciate thievery!" Toph stood up as quickly as she could, ready to defend herself. She'd never been in a fight before, not like this anyway, so she adopted the stance she'd used ever since the badgermoles taught her how to bend with her legs apart and palms facing upward. "Ha!" sneered the Boulder. "Even your stance is wrong!" He brought a rock up from the ground and flung it at Toph. She stopped it in midflight and turned it around to fly back at the Boulder, who managed a quick 'oh!' before it crashed into his face and sent him flying against the wall. Xin Fu jumped and created a rock wall, which he slid violently towards Toph. She sweeped her hands, splitting the wall in two and sending the two halves in opposite directions away from her. She lashed out, causing a pillar of earth to erupt from the ground by Xin Fu's feet. It clocked him in the jaw and the man fell to the unconscious and limp. Toph ran towards another of the walls and created another tunnel, which she ran through as fast as she could, back towards her home. Fear and exhaustion gripped her, but there was something else as well... Excitement. She ran and ran through the tunnels she made until she thought she was a safe distance away before she took a moment to breathe. A smile broke across her face, then she broke into loud uncontrollable laughter, because she didn't know what else to do. Exhilaration rushed through her like water flooding a bay... She'd never felt anything like it. She'd never felt so alive! After she'd finally stopped laughing and most of the excitement had worn off, she made her way back to Bei Fong Manor and snuck into her room. She quickly took off her green clothes, which were now covered in dirt and mud and hid them in the closet, replacing them with a more noble looking white dress. There was knock at her door. "Toph," came her father's voice from outside her room. "I'm very sorry about earlier, but we've some guests round for dinner and I'd like you to be there. Come down in ten minutes or so, yes?" Toph didn't respond straight away, so her father said her name again, this time with a sterner tone. "Yes. Sorry, father. Be right there," she answered half-heartedly. The dinner was cold and cordial. The guests treated Toph nicely and asked questions, but her father answered almost all of them for her. He had their servant pick the bones out of her fish and add ice to her tea so it wasn't too hot. Overall, it was monotonous and dull, and all Toph could think about was that fight she had earlier. Her father and his guest droned on about something utterly pointless, as in her mind's eye, she pictured a battle between her and the Boulder. She pictured all the moves she could do: fissures, sinkholes, earthquakes... and she longed to escape the cruel prison of formality and enjoy the brutal rush of combat again.
Three days later, Xin Fu walked into his office next to the arena, reading a report on all of the bets taken in the last week. He smiled at the good news. He glanced up from the report and immediately dropped it when he saw the green-robed little girl standing in the center of the small room. He dropped into his combat ready stance. She looked up at him, revealing clouded eyes that gave away severe cataracts. "So, the bandit is blind?" Xin Fu snarled. "That's unexpected." "I'm not a bandit," said the girl. "I don't want your money." "Why break into my office then? What do you want?" "I just want to fight." Xin Fu smiled, then extended his hand in a friendly gesture that seemed strange on a man that looked so snakelike. "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful partnership." Toph took his hand and shook it tightly. "Who do I get to beat first?" she said, returning his smile.
Earth Rumble VI Arena Toph walked into the arena in her attire, the green and yellow dress, headband, and bracelets around her wrists and ankles, feet exposed. She didn't quite know where she was. Only to hear a strange voice calling out to her. "Excuse me, little girl, but I think you are out of place here." "Who are you to say?" The blind Earthbender snapped back. "Me, Xin Fu. Do you know where you have gotten yourself into? You are at the home of Earth Rumble VI, Gaoling's roughest Earthbending wrestling tournament. I am the host of this particular event. With that said, you have no place here." "Excuse me, but I think I can handle myself, tough guy. Give me a chance. I will take on all your best wrestlers, and then we'll see who the little girls are around here!" Toph snapped. Xin Fu laughed heartily. "Fine! If you want to be this foolish, be my guest! You can wrestle our defending champion, The Gecko! And if you don't mind, allow me to suggest that you use a good nickname. I don't think you want your real name being used here." "Very well. As I will steal a win, and am blind, I shall call myself...The Blind Bandit." "Blind, too? Good luck with that, Blind Bandit!" He exclaimed. As she exited, he could only laugh. "The final match of this night will be a quick one." Watching the Unexpected
"Ladies and Gentlemen!!!!" Xin Fu seized his audience's attention. "We have a new entrant to into our final match tonight! Our final match features our champion, The Landslide..versus...The Blind Bandit!!!"
Toph stepped out into the ring. The audience murmured amongst itself curiously, wondering how this young blind girl had even any chance versus the champion.
The Landslide stood six feet tall and boistered large muscles. He had defeated four competitors already tonight with similar stature. He looked upon the young Earthbender and wondered if he was being insulted.
"Wrestlers...prepare for battle!" Xin Fu yelled. "One...two...three!"
The Landslide struck first, sticking up part of the ring and pushing Toph to the edge of the circle. However, she felt the whole thing. Okay...so he's over there somewhere.
Toph assumed her stance. She began shifting left to right, dodging a series of attacks she picked up with her seisimic sense. "You can run, little girl, but you can't hide!" The Landslide proudly declared, knowing he was likely to win this battle. However, Toph proved she was a match. She continued to pick up all his movements as he tried to attack. She then found her chance to move. With all her might, Toph picked up the rock in the center of the ring, and fired it at The Landslide. With one fell swoop, the champion hit the ground. Continuing to feel his movements, she picked up a large rock, and fired it at him. He fell right out of the ring. All noise ceased. The audience dropped their heads in collective shock. Xin Fu couldn't believe what he saw. Regathering his composure, he took the champion's belt and walked over to the blind girl who just became champion. "Ladies and gentlemen...the winner...and new champion of Earth Rumble VI...The Blind Bandit!!!" The audience re-gathered themselves and cheered loud for the new champion. Toph found herself overcome. She grinned from ear to ear. She was finally accomplished. She felt liberated. There was a slight problem though... Hiding a secret Xin Fu approached her after the match. "Blind Bandit...I underestimated you. You are as great as any of the best fighters here. You have great skill...please, return for our next competition..." Toph smiled. "Gladly." Toph left the Earth Rumble arena with a new reputation. "The Blind Bandit..." she muttered to herself in great enjoyment. She finally knew people who understood just how strong she was. Why couldn't her parents understand? My parents! I can't let them find out... As she prepared to return to her large home, she had to find a way to hide the championship belt she had just received as champion of Earth Rumble VI. Her parents could never know about what she had done. Or what she was going to do. Just...how could she keep it secret? They would never understand me. If they found out....I would never be allowed to have freedom again. Toph went to the courtyard, and found some dirt to hide the belt under. She bent up the ground, and put her new accomplishment under it. Her pride...now hidden. The time will come when someone will understand...right? Someone will come to help? To free me from this prison? She teared up as she re-entered the Bei Fong estate.
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