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June 25, 2012
Chapter one of Street Rats.
And introduction to our four main gang members.
The city glowed at night.
Iralei always reveled in nighttime Republic City. The smell of it, the cold air brushing against her skin, and the lights, oh the lights!
It was at times like these, sitting on the ledge of a skyscraper and marveling at the scenery before her, blonde hair flowing in the nighttime breeze, that she was glad she came to the city.
She sighed longingly. Iralei loved the place, truly, she did. Republic City was a magical place, where a person could dream.
Dreams, though, could always be shattered.
The city held a dark and threatening side under all its lights and glamor. She remembered her first day in the city all too well.
Iralei rounded the small corner.
"Wow," she breathed. "This place is amazing!"
She marveled at the sight in front of her as if it were priceless art, though in truth it was nothing but a normal alleyway.
It was then that two men came out of a side alley. They were tall and lanky. They stood leaning back slightly, and walked with a strut.
The more respectable of the two men approached her. He took off his fedora and bowed slightly, then put it on again.
"Why heeeellloooo there, missy," he said. His voice was nice, but held a faint air of malicious intent.
"New here to Republic City, are ya?"
She looked up at him and replied, "Yes, sir, I am."
"Well, didn't your daddy ever teach you to stay out of dark alleyways?"
"Erm, no, sir, he didn't."
The man smiled, and his friend stepped forward.
"Well, ain't that just too bad."
She remembered his words as he walked away from her bruised body.
"Remember, kid. The streets ain't easy on nobody."
She shuddered. No way that was happening again. She'd been training in the month she was in the city. Honing her firebending.
Tonight was the night. She needed protection. It was a big city, with lots of very real threats. She was going to be safe. She was going to be fed.
She was going to join the Triple Threat Triad, one of the city's most notorious gangs.
She wasn't sure if she wanted to, truly. She had heard stories of the horrible things they had done. But sitting there, looking out across the skyline of the magnificent city, she knew that this was the only way. Otherwise she'd be nothing more than a street rat forever.
She looked behind her as two men approached. She swung her legs back onto the roof, jumping up.
"I suppose you're my contact?" she said, shaking her arms a bit to stretch them.
The foremost man nodded.
"Well, girl, you're up to be a Triple Threat. Me and my friend here are gonna see what you got. You're a firebender, right?"
"Alright, then. Jin, step up."
The man beside him stepped forward.
"Show me what you got," Jin said.
He launched forward, his fist enveloped in fire. He punched with an uppercut, headed towards her chin.
She launched herself backwards, dodging his attack. He swung again with a right hook. She ducked under it, and swung up. Her fist surrounded with fire, it flew through the air, and connected with Jin's stomach. He was lifted into the air by the force of it. He stumbled back a bit, and launched two fireballs towards Iralei. She sidestepped the one. The next one, she punched straight into with her right fist, and it dissipated. She drew back, and punched forward with both fists.
Jin was sent flying back. He landed hard on his back. He chuckled a bit, looked at his friend, and gave him a thumbs up. His friend turned to Iralei.
"Well, kid, you're not half bad. You're in. Report to headquarters tomorrow." He ruffled through his jacket and gave her a card. "Here's a map to get there. The name's Utio. I have a feeling we'll be seeing each other."
She nodded and gave him her thanks. After Utio and Jin left, she turned back to the skyline. She sighed, looking out on the night city.
"Things are looking up," she whispered to herself.
She gazed again at the glowing city.
Honour of the Outlaw
Joji clutched the sword at his side. Most people those days didn't use swords, even non-benders. But his family was steeped in tradition. His father had taught him the way of the sword. He had even given him the family katana.
Joji had mastered the sword. Bender, non-bender, it didn't matter to him. All fell before the way of the sword.
He had never wanted to be gang affiliated. He only strove to give his family honour. But the government of the city he had wandered to had no honour. He had to look below for true honour. Even though they were criminals, the Agni Kai Triad had an odd sense of outlaw's honour.
Normally, the Agni Kais only recruited firebenders. Joji had given them reason to accept him.
A younger Joji approached the Agni Kai headquarters, his hand on his sword in its hilt.
He marched up to the Agni Kai leader, Koo Sim. He put his sword in the ground, and calmly demanded to be accepted into the Agni Kais.
Koo Sim laughed. "Alright, kid, I gotta say, I like your guts. I'll give you this: You defeat three of my firebenders, and I'll let you join us."
He called three of his best forward. Joji grabbed his sword from the ground and lifted it out. He shifted into an attack stance, as the firebenders charged.
He jumped back from one fire blast. As soon as he did, another firebender launched a fireball at him. He jerked back forward, running up and slashing one bender, opening him from hip to shoulder.
He dodged to the side again, and then ducked under another blast. One of his opponents jumped, as the other swirled his legs around, sending out a ring of fire. Joji jumped up and forward. He slashed down as he landed, killing another bender.
The last one panicked a bit. He launched fireballs at Joji, but he simply stepped to the side of them as he approached. The firebender started to spray fire at him. Joji circled around the man, until his back was to the bender's back. He stabbed backwards, impaling and killing the man.
Koo Sim's applause echoed through the hall. He chuckled.
"Excellent, excellent," he said. "Didn't think you'd make it out of that one. You're in."
Joji smiled at the memory. He had risen through the ranks quickly, and was now one of the Agni Kai's top enforcers. He reveled in it.
The Satomobile he was in slowed to a halt and he got out. The driver stepped out, as well.
"Well, Joji, this is it. You ready?" the driver asked. Joji nodded, and kicked open the door of the building in front of him.
Three men looked up from their newspapers as he did. When they saw who it was, they stood up hurriedly. One man pulled a knife from his pocket, a second man lifted a rock from the ground, and the third pulled water from a nearby sink. "Leave, Joji," the man with the knife said. "You ain't welcome here."
"Like I care where I'm welcome or not. Where's Tyros."
"Like I'd tell you, jackass!"
Joji lunged at him, flipped his knife from his hands, drew his sword, and put it up on the man's throat. He nodded at the driver, who went upstairs.
"I'll ask again. Where's Tyros."
The second man punched, launching his rock at Joji. He dodged back, slashing an ice spike from the third man. He ducked as the earthbender launched rock pellets from a nearby wall. Sliding on his back, he slid up to the man and stabbed up, killing him.
The waterbender slashed with water. Joji dodged to the right, though the water grazed him on his left shoulder. He ducked under a horizontal slash, dodged to the left of yet another vertical slash, and slashed the man's chest with his sword.
Joji sheathed his katana and looked back at the non-bender.
"I'll ask once more. Where the hell is Tyros."
"H-h-he's in the basement! There's a secret exit, and he's makin' his getaway! P-please, just don't hurt me!"
Joji walked past the man, who sighed in relief as he passed him.
His sigh was cut short when Joji stabbed him in the back, not even looking backwards.
"That's what happens when you cross the Agni Kais," he said, sheathing his sword and walking away again as the man bled to death on the ground.
The driver came back down again.
"All clear up there. I see you took care of them, well done. Get the info?"
"Tyros is downstairs, trying to escape."
"Let's go!" The two of them raced down a flight of stairs to the basement. They found a section of the wall opened.
"He's making a getaway, move it!" Joji yelled.
The two of them sprinted down the hallway. It eventually opened up in an alleyway. They got out just in time to see a Satomobile start up and begin to drive down the alley.
"He's in there!" the driver yelled, throwing a fireball at it.
Joji sprinted forward and took a small ball out of his robe. He lit the fuse on it and threw it. The bomb caught on the car. A few seconds later, it exploded, right as the car drove out of the alley.
It flew out onto the street, laying on its side. Joji walked into the middle of the street, examining the wreckage. He pulled a man out of it.
"Tyros. Long time no see."
"W-what'd I do, Joji?!"
"Don't play dumb, jackass. You sold us out to the cops. We lost twenty thousand yuans thanks to you."
"L-listen, I'll give you money, alright! I'll pay it all back, just let me go!"
"You have no honour, Tyros."
Joji stabbed the man through the stomach, pulled his katana free, sheathed it, and walked away.
King breathed in the cool night air. The night lights shone out in the streets, but in the alleyways it was dark.
King, her brother Kun, and five other waterbenders stood in the alleyway. Kun was an earthbender, and the only non-waterbender in the Red Monsoons. Normally they only took on waterbenders, but King had managed to get Kun in with her.
"Ready, sis?" Kun asked. King sighed. "As I'll ever be."
The leader of the small group nodded to Kun. He readied himself, and punched the wall in front of them. He then stomped on the ground. The wall fell inwards. He caught it before it landed, and set it down gently, making as little noise as possible.
The seven people in the alleyway all put their black hoods up, along with pieces of cloth to cover their mouths. All that showed was their eyes.
They entered the building one by one. It was entirely dark.
"Ha, what idiots," one of them whispered. "They didn't even bother to get metal walls."
The rest of them sniggered as they made it over to the large safe in front of them.
"Alright, King," the leader whispered. "Go."
She nodded, and walked up to the safe. She pulled water from a pouch on her hip, and covered the lock with it. She froze it solid, and nodded to Kun.
He advanced forward and stuck his hands out. He reached into the metal, felt it. He twisted both hands, and the lock twisted, then shattered, weakened by the ice.
"Good job, kid," the leader said, patting Kun on the shoulder. He nodded, and metalbended the safe door open.
"Alright, guys, take as much as you can carry and get back to the cars."
The leader stepped through the portal and entered the safe.
As he did, the lights sprang on throughout the building. Alarms blared.
"Dammit!" the leader swore, kicking the wall. "I knew we shoulda checked for alarms... Alright, Yuro, Shi, Nio, Rea, you four take the money. Kun, King, you and me are gonna fight off whatever guards come."
The two nodded, and settled into a fighting stance.
Five guards came into the room.
"Stop right there!" one of them yelled. "Put your hands in the air! You're under arrest!"
Kun smiled and cracked his fingers.
"Screw you," he said. He pulled up a piece of earth under one guard, sending him flying. He pulled up two boulders, and kicked. A guard dodged one, only to run straight into the second.
"Two down, one to go!" the leader yelled. He brought his water out, and sent spikes of ice out. A guard put his hand up and shattered all of them. When he did, King slashed down with her water. He grabbed the water out of the air and began to send it back at her. As he did, Kun sent another boulder at him.
The leader ran forward, and slashed at a guard with ice. He dodged, and the next guard came at him from behind. King sent a stream of water at the second guard, knocking him unconscious, as the leader stabbed the last guard through with ice.
"Nice job," he said. "Glad to have you two with us. Now grab some cash and run!"
They did as he said. They ran from the building with guards on their tail and bags of yuans in their hands. They grabbed onto a gang Satomobile as the guards fired at them with earth, water and fire. They were too late, though. They had already made their escape.
The only other girl besides King in the small group, Rea, turned back and smiled.
"Nice job, you guys," she said. "A clean getaway."
King smiled at her. Kun sighed, and looked out the window at the nighttime city's lights.
"It's a nice night," he said. "Can't wait to get back. Who's up for a few beers?"
They drove back towards the Red Monsoon headquarter, victorious.
And so, Iralei the firebender girl, Joji the non-bender, King the waterbender and Kun the earthbender admired the city's nighttime scenery. All four of them drank in the sights, loving the city that had given them their lives, not knowing how it would change all four of them.
- Joji was inspired by the character Jin from Samurai Champloo.
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