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Book 2: Water
October 17, 2013
The gang arrive at Nuo Ju, where a few people have gone missing.
Chapter 13: Kidnapped
Book 2: Water
Chapter 13: Kidnapped
Throughout the mildly cold breeze that the winter days that the Earth Kingdom brings, the gang didn't really need use of any thicker clothing. But since they were heading towards the Northern Water Tribe, it was a requirement or else you'd freeze to death.
Rong Yan had been navigating and had seen a mountain range, just below the mountain range happened to be the town Nuo Ju. Across the mountain range, and across the barren land were the walls of the grand city of Ba Sing Se. Though at the moment the gang had no business in the Earth Kingdom capital, they stopped by the town, just in the outskirts where they placed Shen.
Though Rong Yan thought it was wrong to leave his dragon unattended, he pulled the reigns of his dragon and led it into the town. Asking directions for a stable master, they were led south west in the town to the local stable master.
Walking throughout the fairly large town they had seen two guards trying to calm down a sobbing woman, who was crying on one of the guard's shoulders. The sobbing woman had caught their attention, and they approached the guards and the woman.
"Is there anything we may do to help? I am the Avatar." Rong Yan suggested.
The sobbing woman quickly lets go of the guard and leaps into Rong Yan's arms sobbing continuously. Trying to stop crying the woman tries her best to regain control of herself and tell the Avatar her problem.
"M-my da-daugh-daughter was kid-kidnapped!" the woman cried.
"What's your name? By who?" Rong Yan asked.
"My n-name is, Chouqi. And I bet it was that good for nothing hermit." Chouqi replied.
"My daughter's name is Huanle. She's a teenage girl, with tan skin, brown eyes like mine, and brown hair." Chouqi described her daughter.
"There anything else I should know?" Rong Yan asked.
"Rumor has it the hermit lives atop the mountain range, Avatar." one of the guards mentioned.
"Everyone blames him for all the negative things going on at night. Especially very loud noises...we believe he practices black magic!" the other guard claims.
The woman had calmed down a little now, she stopped sobbing. Just a few tears here and there fall out of her eyes every now and again. She then adds, "He lives in a small hut on the Nuo Ju mountain range. There's a path somewhere within the outskirts of town that leads up the mountain range and most likely his home."
They begin to explore the town, and hopefully ask anyone if they have seen the town. Just on the porch of a home they find an old dirty man, picking something out of his toenails with a flat headed tool.
When they approach him, he finally gets it out, and it his Unaraq on his forehead. Unaraq jumped around, disgusted rubbing his forehead from whatever had hit him. He runs over to a nearby pail, and dumps the pail of water on his head. Now completely soaked in water, he looks over at the old man. The old man, just gives him a hearty chuckle and a big smile.
Rong Yan asks the old man, "Do you know anything on the whereabouts of Huanle, the daughter of Chouqi? She was kidnapped by some hermit. And we wanted to know if you knew anything."
"Huanle? No. Although, I've been told that Chouqi has taken a severe blow to the head as of late, she has memory loss. And that blow must've made her insane. The hermit? There is a hermit, but he's harmless." the old man replied.
Unaraq examines the old man, he looked a little out of place. "No, I think its just you." Unaraq said.
"That too!" the old man replied with a huge smile.
"THEN WE CAN'T BELIEVE YOU!" Unaraq yelled at the old man.
They really didn't believe the old man's story, the woman's was more convincing. Though the guards had no knowledge of Huanle's existence. Maybe Chouqi is nuts? Well if you think about not every guard is going to know the name and face of every living soul in the town.
They decided to head off to Nuo Ju mountain range anyway which happens to be just half a mile away from the town's outskirts. Walking down a small path that leads up a small mountain, they see smoke rising from the top of the hill. Unaraq points up at the smoke, as Aloi and the others look up to where he's pointing.
"There! Do you see the smoke? That must be where the hermit's house is at!" Unaraq said.
They continue to talk up that path, and hope that it leads them to the house. Twenty minutes later they reach the top of the small mountain, which actually looks like a hill compared to the mountains next to it. At the very top they see a small sized hut enough to house a few people to say the least.
The small house had a little garden next it full of vegetation, next it in a small pen was a Cow-Hippo and a baby Calf-Hippo. On the left side of the home there was a small oven outside made out of clay, just like the ones Rong Yan had seen in the Southern Air Temple. The smoke was radiating from the oven, there was a fire inside and it was still burning.
They enter the house, but to no avail there was no one inside other than a few stacks of books, and some empty parchment. The wooden floor was creaking though, so the house itself must've been pretty old.
All a meanwhile, from a top of a tree, brown boots where only visible, and whatever was behind those tree branches was glaring down at the gang. The figure was just sitting there. The figure just leaps off into the distance, as the gang leave the house of the hermit. Though they did not hear the sounds of branches bristling, it was too quiet other than the ambient sounds of nature surrounding them.
Later that night they return to the hermit's home to see if he is there. As they begin approaching the home once again, they hear very loud scream. Stopping Unaraq jumps behind his sister Tanaraq.
"DID YOU HEAR THAT?!" Unaraq shouted shakingly.
"Yes, Unaraq I heard it too. Please don't scream in my ear next time!" Tanaraq replied.
"Let's go that way, guys!" Aloi responded. Rong Yan, Aloi, Tanaraq, and Unaraq ran off in the direction that they heard the loud scream.
Upon arriving to the location where they believe the scream was heard, they see a fairly large house, with a few men leaving the house on ostrich horses, and someone sitting on the ground with their head between their knees. This person was a woman, she was sobbing, and they approached her after the men had gotten out of line of sight and earshot.
The woman hears footsteps and cowers a bit and scoots back a bit. "Please! Don't hurt me!" the sobbing woman cried out.
"We're not here to hurt you. We heard you scream, and we ran over here as quick as we could. What's wrong? Who were those men?" Aloi asked.
"Th-those men are supposed to 'soldiers' protecting us from the dangers out in the land. They're not Earth Kingdom troops, they're bullies collecting taxes from the poor! Earth King Qiang Zhen clearly passed a law where you are not supposed to take money from the poor. But they're only breaking his laws, they're criminals!" the woman replied, trying to regain herself.
The woman had wiped her left eye from any remaining tears and had calmed herself. Tanaraq lent her hand out and the woman gleefully grabbed it, as Tanaraq helped the woman up.
"Thank you, young lady." the woman was appreciated.
"Would you four like to come in? It is quite cold out here." the woman offered.
"Yes, please. That would be nice." Rong Yan answered.
The woman opens her house door, and they all walk into her home, she leads them over to her kitchen table which happens to be pretty big. The woman had enough chairs for everyone. They all sat down and Aloi who was interested about the situation asked the woman more questions.
"Why are they taxing you anyway?" Aloi questioned.
"The Earth Kingdom government, doesn't pay them enough to feed their families nor clothe themselves. So these bullies come around here and collect taxes from everyone here in Nuo Ju and its outskirts." the woman replied.
"What is your name?" Aloi asked.
"My name is, Qizi." Qizi replied.
"I am Aloi. This is Unaraq, Tanaraq, and Avatar Rong Yan." Aloi said.
"The Avatar?" Qizi said surprisingly.
"Yes, ma'am." Rong Yan added.
"Why aren't the guards of Nuo Ju doing anything?" Rong Yan asked.
"The guards have no authority over the soldiers. Plus they don't have enough evidence to prove these troops are collecting taxes from the poor. They threaten us weekly if not daily that they will destroy our homes." Qizi said.
"I can't pay any taxes right now. I don't have the money, I spent most of our savings to give my husband a proper burial." Qizi added.
"I'm sorry to hear that..." Aloi responded, everything fell silent. They decided to give Qizi's husband a moment of silence.
The woman gets up and offers them food, and somewhere to rest for the night. "I made some soup, would you four like some? Also if you need a place to rest, you may stay here for the night. I'm sure those tax collectors will be back tomorrow to destroy my house." Qizi offered.
"If its not too much trouble, that'll be fine with us." Unaraq said.
The gang ate up their host's delicious soup and quickly headed off to sleep in Qizi's guest rooms. The next morning came, and Qizi was up reading some books, the gang had gotten up and began to dress. A loud knock came to the door, and Qizi opened the door.
There stood a man, with two other men behind him, all three were wearing Earth Kingdom military uniforms. Equipped with swords except the man in front of them. The man spoke to Qizi.
"Qizi, do you have the money I'm asking for? You need to pay your taxes, or we will make you homeless." the tax collector said.
Qizi moved from her spot, and Rong Yan stepped by the door, behind him were Unaraq and Tanaraq. The gang stepped out, and the soldiers took a step back. The tax collector took one look at Unaraq and Tanaraq, and then he ordered his men to attack.
"Water Tribe! Kill them!" the tax collector ordered.
The two men had pulled their swords out of their handles, and charged at Unaraq and Tanaraq. One of the men ran at Tanaraq, about to swing his blade at her, Unaraq jumped in front of his sister and parried the blow with his club. Unaraq tried to overpower the man and hopefully disarm him. The man sweeped Unaraq's legs, and Unaraq fell onto his back.
The swordsman was about to stab the sword into Unaraq's chest, but he rolled out of the way, Tanaraq bended water out of her waterskin, and uppercutted the man, and then froze the water around his head. He fell to the ground dropped his sword.
Unaraq quickly got back up and with his club, hit the ice around the man's head, breaking it and knocking him out unconscious. Rong Yan, was fighting off the other swordsman. Blasting a small fireball at the man's shoulder, he felt excruciating pain and grabbed his shoulder with his other hand, dropping his sword.
Aloi was had blasted a strong gust of wind at the earthbender, the earthbender countered by lifting an earth wall, to block the gust of wind. Kicking down the earth wall, he used his other foot to kick it towards Aloi. She inhaled and exhaled and shot herself up in the air.
Again the tax collector had shot a boulder up to her altitude, in hopes of hitting her. While in mid air, she slided the boulder in half with her foot. The boulder cut into two and fell on opposite ends. Using and air cushion to break her fall, the air blade had still gone towards the man, hitting the earth near him. Knocking him back, dazing him.
Tanaraq shot pressurized glob of water at the tax collector, heading him in the chest. He had fallen back hard. He rubbed his chest, in agonizing pain but still had some strength, he lifted up his unconscious comrade, and the other who had a burn wound on his shoulder got back onto his feet and they limped off to their base of operations.
Before leaving the tax collector looked back and shouted with any ounce of breath he had and yelled, "Y-y-you made a big mistake!"
"Good riddance, thank you for saving me. Those men often kidnap folks too." Qizi thanked them. When Unaraq had listened to what she had said, Chouqi's daughter her popped into his mind. He then walked up to Qizi and asked curiously.
"You said..they kidnap people correct?" Unaraq asked.
"Yes." Qizi reassured.
"Why?" Unaraq added.
"They used the kidnapped people for ransom on taxes. Like I said, yesterday, the whole town of Nuo Ju is shaken about this. The guards have no authority over them." Qizi replied.
"What if, the people don't have enough of the money for the ransom?" Unaraq questioned.
"If you don't have the money, they kill your loved one in front of you." Qizi answered.
Qizi falls on her knees and begins to sob, Tanaraq kneels beside her and places her hand on Qizi's shoulder. Trying to calm the poor widow, in a sobbing tone she then mentions, "...I-I didn't have enough money to pay their taxes..and they k-killed my husband in front of me. After that I ran home and isolated myself, I was too afraid to tell anyone! They have been bullying and threatening me for the past month!" Qizi mentioned.
They share their farewells with the widow and head back into town. While walking the streets, a man in the shadows of an alley makes the psst sound loud enough for the group to hear him.
Rong Yan hears the sound and turns to see a man leaning back against a house, and he decides to walk towards the man. The man had slick dark brown hair, had tan skin, and brown eyes. He wore a white long sleeve shirt, a brown vest, brown trousers and brown shoes. He also had a stubble and small piece of wheat in his mouth.
He looks at Rong Yan and then says, "I've been told that you guys were looking into the investigation about the tax collectors and missing girl. Well you're just in luck I happen to have connection with the Captain of the Ba Sing Se Royal Guard. I can personally write a letter and have it sent to him, he will send royal troops out here to Nuo Ju to eradicate those men."
"Why should we trust you?" Tanaraq asked.
"Because, those bastards took my father, and if I don't have enough money by tomorrow they will murder my father. I'm no earthbender but I sure as hell can throw in a few punches!" the man replied.
"I have carefully scouted their hideout but never fully assaulted their base. There's only one of me, and five of them. Their hideout, is behind a small waterfall, the cave there isn't too far deep, its pretty small actually. I would know because I've been in there before they inhabited it." the man added.
"The name's Beiyin." he introduced himself.
"We are now evenly matched since there is now five of us, and five of them as well." Beiyin said.
"Well we encountered the tax collector himself, along with two other men. We injured them. So technically, there's only two left." Unaraq mentioned.
"That may be true, but the tax collector himself is strong character. He might've not showed you his full potential. We must be more careful with him. We must not kill them, I believe life in prison is a far worse punishment for them. When you have weakened them I want you to knock them out unconscious. When we free my father, he is an earthbender, he can wrap their wrists in earth." Beiyin planned.
"You're a waterbender yes?" Beiyin pointed at Tanaraq.
Tanaraq nodded, and he told her, "There are two guards about five feet within the cave, I want you to use the water from the waterfall and freeze them against the cave walls. From then on we can fight the other three. Like you said you injured three of them, so the two guards that are with the tax collector shouldn't be so hard to take care of."
"When you knock the last three unconscious, we need to search them for any identification they have. When we place them under citizen arrest, I will send the names of these men in that letter to my friend who is the captain of the Royal Guard. He will personally come down here with a few men to take them and throw them in prison. I can assured you." Beiyin said.
"We must go now, they're not expecting me until tomorrow, but we should head off now. We don't know what these men can do if we let them recuperate." Beiyin added.
With that Beiyin and the group ran off, with Beiyin as lead, after running through the outskirts of town, they run to a nearby stream. Crossing the stream they see a small waterfall and behind it they could make out the cave.
Tanaraq concentrates on the waterfall, and bends the water upwards, as Rong Yan, Beiyin, Unaraq and Aloi run into the cave. She runs in right after, and bends large portions of water. One of the men was patrolling the beginning of the cave, before turning around to spot, them he slams against the cave walls, and unable to move he sees ice around him.
Tanaraq looks at him, she gives him the look to not yell, she then freezes his mouth. Aloi, searches his pockets which were left unfrozen. Grabbing a card of identification, she places it into her pocket. The other was sitting down writing something down, him to was slammed and encased in ice. Aloi took the identification card from him as well.
They continued down the cave, and from the corner where they hid they could see a large table, the tax collector was seen walking back and forth. One of the men was sitting putting ointment on his burn wound, after doing so, he bandaged himself up. Other seemed just find, he was sharpening his blade against a rock. The tax collector slammed his fists down on his desk.
"Tomorrow Beiyin will come in, he needs to pay up! Even when he pays off his taxes, I will still kill his father in front of him!" the tax collector said.
"Aye boss, when will we ransack the widow's home?" the guard who was sharpening his blade asked.
"Tomorrow as planned, in the afternoon after we deal with the girl, the old man, and Beiyin." the tax collector replied.
Rong Yan looks over at the girl and the old man, who look at him and well, they both begin to shake while in their chains, as they shout for help. The tax collector looks up, and sees the gang at the entrance to the his base.
He kicks his desk over, and punches the ground sending a tremor towards the gang. They all jump out of the way, they run in as Beiyin, pulls small lock picks out of his pockets and runs over to where his father and the girl are chained up.
"Father, I'm here for you." Beiyin whispered to his father.
"Thank you, son. Please release my young friend here. She was kidnapped as well from her mother." his father responded.
"Yes, father." Beiyin replied.
Tanaraq pulled some water out of her waterskin, and froze the still injured man with the bandages on his shoulder. Snaring him against the wall, only leaving two of them left. She searching his pockets and took his identification card.
Unaraq took the man's sword and dual-wielded his club and the sword, he had just picked up. He ran after the other man who had just sharpened his blade, charging at him, the man parries Unaraq's blade. With the club Unaraq knocked the man unto his rear. Hitting the man upside the head with the handle of the sword, knocking him out.
Dodging the chunks of earth that thrown at him, Rong Yan retaliates with the move that Takumi had invented. The fire wheel kick, jumping into the air, and kicking a wheel of fire at the tax collector. The collector, forms an X with his arms, to block the fire, but realizes that that would be a stupid move.
Though he was too late, the wheel of fire, had hit his arms, burning them, as he slid back not losing his footing. Ignoring the pain, through the surge of adrenaline rushing through his body, he continues to fight. This time, he forms sharp earth bullets and shoots them at Rong Yan and the gang who with the help of Aloi, they both form a large air dome.
The air of the dome deflects the earth bullets, as they shoot back at tax collector. Raising a slab of earth to block the bullets, and sinks the slab back into the ground. Rong Yan, takes control of the air dome, and forms it into a large air wave, and sends it towards the tax collector, slamming him real hard onto the wall behind him, and knocking him out unconscious.
Rong Yan, grabs his identification card, and Beiyin releases his father and the girl. Beiyin's father bends earth around each of the criminal's wrists putting them under citizen arrest. They collect the money bags and escort the men back to town. When they returned to town that afternoon they had seen Chouqi begging the guards to find her missing daughter.
When she looked in the direction that the gang and the missing victims were coming from, she burst into tears and ran for her daughter Huanle. Huanle as well ran over to her mother to reunite with her mother.
"Huanle!" Chouqi shouted.
"Mom!" Huanle cried.
"I was so worried about you, I thought I've lost you." Chouqi said, wiping a tear from her right eye. Beiyin, had put his hand on his father's right shoulder, his father reached into his pocket, and walked over to Rong Yan.
Turning the Avatar over, he grabs a small sack full of copper and silver coins and hands it over to Rong Yan. "Here Avatar, take this. You'll need it for your next destination." the old man said.
"Thank you, but I think I'm going to stay here longer. I want to meet with the hermit who lives up on the hill outside of town." Rong Yan responded.
"Good luck then, Avatar. From experience he is great man. These people treat him like he's evil." the old man claimed.
"Rong Yan, wait. Do you still have the identification cards of the soldiers? We have them tied up right over there. They're not going anywhere but the guard barracks until my friend arrives." Beiyin asked.
"Oh yeah, here are the identification cards of those men." Rong Yan replied. Rong Yan handed the cards with the soldiers names on each one. Beiyin, grabbed a piece of parchment and walked off to his home.
When he reached his house and he went to his beaten down desk and began to write the names of the men of the parchment letter he was going to send to his friend the captain of the Royal Guard.
Here are the names of the soldiers who have repeatedly threatened the citizens of Nuo Jo and collected taxes from these poor folks.
I also would like to mention, that not only were they collecting taxes from the poor, they had also assaulted civilians, kidnapped relatives of the folks who they were collecting taxes from, and sometimes would kill their kidnap victims.
Rolling up the scroll, he had run off to the barracks, where a courier was awaiting for Beiyin to bring him the letter. Waiting outside was the man on top of his ostrich horse, Beiyin ran to the man, and handed him the letter.
"I was afraid you would never show up." the courier chuckled. The courier snapped the ostrich horse's reigns and bolted off to Ba Sing Se.
Meanwhile, in the upper ring of residency of Ba Sing Se, another courier had arrived to a large home. The courier had knocked on the door lightly, an average size and greatly built old man answered the door.
He was bald and had several wrinkles here and there but still managed to move about like he was in his fifty's though he might've been at least seventy something. The courier took one look at the muscular old man and asked, "Is this the Laobing residence?"
"Yes, what is it?" Laobing asked.
"A letter for you, sir." the courier replied.
Lucky Laobing closed the door behind him, and opened up the scroll, the letter happened to be from the bounty hunter Shang Jin. The letter included,
This letter that I have written to you is going to bring you grim news. Your grandson Wei and I, did at one point capture General Senlin. As we headed over here to Ba Sing Se, we were ambushed by two Water Tribe men.
One of the men was Admiral Palartok, and the other well I don't recognize the other man. We fought tooth and nail with the waterbenders, but alas they defeated your grandson and I. In the end, General Senlin had knowledge of Wei being your relative.
I am sorry to bring this to you, but Wei was killed by General Senlin. He spared me to write you this message. I think Senlin wants to lure you towards him, to bring you harm. Its a trap, but everyone around the Earth Kingdom knows who you are, I hope you find this monster. And bring justice to your grandson's death.
- Shang Jin"
"Senlin, has killed my grandson, Wei." Laobing muttered to himself.
"Lucky" Laobing scrunched up the scroll and threw it, putting his hand under his diner table he flipped it over in anger. Stomping his foot down, he jutted his arms to each side then down. All of sudden an earth wall sunk into the ground, and secret room appeared.
As he walked within the secret room, inside was a wooden cabinet, and wardrobe. He first opened the wardrobe, and within the contents of the wardrobe was his old Earth Kingdom military uniform.
Laobing, quickly put on the attire, and fastened everything, to make sure it still fit. Miraculously, in his old age it still did fit, he was grateful for that, opening the cabinet, there were two large warhammers. He sheathed both the warhammers on his back, looking behind him on a small table, was a dusty helmet. Laobing, blew the dust off the helmet and carried it in his arms. He then saluted himself, just like he would salute his superiors when he was a young man.
"Laobing, reporting for duty!" the old man said to himself. After the short flashbacks of war, he burst out the front door.
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