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Bonus Scene #2
A lot changed between this version and the current one. Here, Smellerbee and Longshot were still spies within the Ba Sing Se chapter of the Guild. All these different chapters were gathering together -for some unknown but undoubtedly nefarious purpose. Toph was given a heads up that new allies would be coming with the new recruits.
"Keep an eye out," Smellerbee whispered.
Longshot nodded, just once.
They both scanned the crowd as inconspicuously as possible, but it was large and hectic. They were constantly jostled and shoved as rebels sought for friends among the newly arrived rebels.
Smellerbee ran a cursory eye over the camp, trained to pick out details, though she hadn't resorted to those methods in years. She noticed that the camp was laid out in sections. Whether planned or unintentional, it seemed each of the rebel groups had settled down together for familiar surroundings.
It didn't escape her that their group –the one representing Ba Sing Se– was the smallest. But not even half their number had come, and she wondered if that was the same for these other groups. Doing a quick sum in her head, she really, really hoped not.
Tani, the 'leader' in Ba Sing Se, had insisted that all new recruits –like Longshot and herself– be the ones to travel to this meeting. She wondered if that was significant.
Someone plowed into Smellerbee. What began as a casual bump sent both of them stumbling. Smellerbee quickly righted herself, but the other woman clutched onto her arm to keep from falling.
"How clumsy of me!" the bumper said with a laugh.
"It's all right," Smellerbee replied.
She tried to turn away, but the woman didn't let go of her arm.
Alarm bells went off in Smellerbee's head, but she forced herself to remain calm. It was probably nothing.
"I'm sorry," the young woman said, "I just keep getting carried away in this crowd."
Smellerbee noticed. The woman's tight grasp was the only thing holding her there. And yet, despite the surging bodies, Longshot somehow maintained position at Smellerbee's shoulder. She wondered how he did that. "Crowds will do that," she replied. Her voice was not cold exactly, but it wasn't welcoming either.
The young woman didn't seem to notice; actually, Smellerbee got the distinct impression that she ignored the comment, tossing her black hair almost mockingly.
"I'm looking for some friends who just came in from Ba Sing Se," she told Smellerbee. "Have you seen them?"
Smellerbee sighed. "What do they look like?"
The woman laughed. "I don't actually know!"
She tossed her long hair again, and this time Smellerbee caught sight of her eyes gazing obliviously into the distance. She was blind. Smellerbee blushed, floundering for something to say, when the woman continued.
"They're actually friends of a friend," the woman went on, "And I doubt they know I'm here. Looking for them."
Longshot pressed close enough to shoot Smellerbee a knowing look. Smellerbee nodded in reply before turning back. "Who's your mutual friend?"
The woman smiled. "Well, I like to call him Mr. Tea."
Longshot's eyebrow shot up.
"What?" Smellerbee croaked.
"His favorite is ginseng," the woman pressed, digging her fingers into Smellerbee's arm, "But if he doesn't get his jasmine he can be a real dragon."
The two friends didn't even need to confer with looks. The Jasmine Dragon; quite an obvious clue.
"I think we know who you're looking for."
"Really?" the woman asked innocently. But she was grinning, and she'd eased her hold on Smellerbee's arm. "Could you ask them to meet me outside the camp, to the north? I've been waiting forever to find them." She released Smellerbee's forearm and drifted away into the crowd, somehow managing to avoid anymore collisions, even with her blindness.
"So you found them?"
Toph shrugged. "They seemed to get my 'Mr. Tea' hint."
Haru winced. "You didn't really say that, did you? It sounds so foolish..."
Toph slugged him in the arm. "Try and cheer up a little, would you? Sometimes it's fun to act like a fool."
Haru shook his head. "Usually, I pity the fool." But he laughed, and Toph did too.
I really should not be that proud of this reference.
And yet...I am.
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