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October 18, 2014
With the Dai Li hunting them, Zaheer and Anu will have to rest at the abandoned village of Boru.
One after the other, the pebbles jetted through the wind, their minute nature teasing the mind. Zaheer could feel them coming, and one after another, he dodged them. He found it useless to see where they were coming from. He waded it out though. Whatever it was, they couldn't keep it going forever. Finally, he caught one in his hands. Its rugged edges fell in between his fingers perfectly, and he turned to deliver it in the direction of the wind. In less than a moment, the firing had stopped.
"A pointless notion," he told the mysterious force. "Come out."
Zaheer turned to see someone gliding down the rooftop of an abandoned convenience store until he skimmed the ground. In a rush, a sword, pulled from its scabbard, tore through the wind, grazing Zaheer's shoulder. He flipped backwards, only to find a pebble tripping him and a sword pointed to his face. A sort of sneer dawned upon his face. The tall and lean man, sheathed his sword, and offered his hand to his apprentice. Zaheer gladly accepted and stood to face his friend.
"Okay," his friend said, "practice is over."
"Oh come on, Anu," Zaheer replied, "we've barely done anything. Besides, Boru is the perfect place to be doing this. It's abandoned."
"If this is why you wanted me to accompany you, you might as well be asking a Dai Li agent to play tag with you in Tu Zin. We have to keep moving."
"The law is low here. We should at least stay here until tomorrow. And there's no need to argue with me. . . You could use the practice too. Pebbles - really? It's a wonder that you can barely earthbend. Besides, the sky isn't the best place for a bender like you. Not to mention that you can never stay in one place."
"And what makes you the keeper of airbending technique? Last time I recalled, you're not a bender at all."
"I'm starting to question why did I bring you along?"
"Well, you don't expect to just take out the Dai Li without knowing how to fight."
Zaheer was aware of the trouble the Dai Li had caused in the Lower Ring. How he was the only one of his family to get out of that place, taking Anu with him. "I need a fighter to teach me, regardless of if he's on the wrong side of the law."
Anu told him, "There can be no doubt they're after me, but fine. We can stay."
* * *
Nightfall had come quick. From inside the tent, Zaheer would watch Anu earthbend. Only once every few tries would he create a decent amount of earth which could sustain itself, but the rest were all flops. And yet, he felt no sympathy for him. A voice would occasionally find its way into his head. He would block it out, but it would only come back. In a sort of raw form, this soft voice would seep into his ears. What was it, he thought. He sat down with crossed legs, his mind open to whatever would fill the void. When he reopen them, he'd find himself in a different area, filled with both light and dark. Creatures of all types would encircle him as he opened up to their presence. One in particular grabbed hold of his attention. In the dark hollow of a glowing tree, surrounded by a forest of talking fungi and plants, was a small and secluded spirit. There was an aura of impatience and loneliness surrounding it, and Zaheer saw the light in the dark. Slow and steady, the spirit slithered out of the hollow, and its face was upon Zaheer. He himself questioned it, but felt as though the ground held his feet in place. He was supposed to see the spirit.
"Oh how I wish to have been a spirit that never entered this place so long ago. It's been ten thousand years since I've seen a human, even in this form." The spirit had a soft voice with green long tendrils for arms. He had a sort of blue sheet over his body, and his feet had not shone.
Zaheer inquired, "Are you this voice that's been in my head?"
"Can't say, but if you were brought to me, then hopefully, you'll be able to connect these dots."
Zaheer did not recognize the voice, nor did he envision its body to be like that. It was completely indistinguishable, but it stood out to him. Its nature was like his own. "I do believe you're who I need to see. What are you exactly."
"I am a spirit who believes in freedom, which is why I am indeed alone. The only use in people is what they'll bring to you, but in time, they will not satisfy you."
Zaheer questioned him. "And why would you want me?"
"We think and act in ways which you would not understand."
"And it was you who brought me to the Spirit World?"
"Of course not! Your company will not satisfy me, so it cannot be me who sent you. Like I said, I am a lonely spirit. But if you wish to know who wished for your presence, you must know it is my master who wants you. I myself am only his pawn. However, I owe him. He is a friend to spirits and respects their nature."
"Where is he? Is he with you?" Zaheer asked the spirit.
"How should I know! Remember, I work alone." As the spirit started vanishing back into the shadows, he muttered, "I have a feeling we'll see each other more often so you can call me Kane."
As soon as he faded, Zaheer awoke, back in the village of Boru, but he couldn't be more tired. He looked to Anu who was asleep on the ground, and then to the sky. The stars were looking down to him, and they were proud for what he had done. He had not seen it yet, but soon, he would. And he looked past it all, the sky, the stars, the village; and beyond it, he saw something intriguing. Trails of dust behind figures billowed. The earth shook and thumped. The dust moved in a form of order, and a fear grew in Zaheer's heart. Something he always felt when this would happen. The Dai Li were coming.
Without taking a second glance, he gathered his and Anu's belongings. Layers of angst toppled on one another, making Zaheer's hands shake. Quickly he took hold of everything and raced to Anu. He woke him hastily, warning him of the potential danger. However, they now faced a problem that they couldn't run away from.
"On foot, the Dai Li are certain to catch us," said Anu.
Zaheer had a feeling this was to happen, and he knew what had to be done. "We'll fight."
Anu's speculations had been confirmed. Zaheer was crazy. But even he had to address the facts. It had to be done. "Fine."
* * *
Deep in the shadows, there remained a helpless person. Someone who was alone in the world.
The Dai Li agent trapped the boy in a prison of earth, threatening to throw him in a fissure in the ground. The boy did his best to break the rock, but the agent was strong. "Say goodbye to your family, boy."
"I don't have a family," he groaned.
"Good. You'll have no one to miss when you're gone," he said ominously. And then she appeared out of the shadows of the alley.
"Leave him alone," she said.
"Get out of here, girl, or you'll meet the same fate."
She was indistinguishable, remaining mostly in the shadows. Only the bottom part of her face was visible. But she remained in the shadows, testing the Dai Li agent. He fired at her a glove of flat earth. She raised a dagger and shattered the glove. The boy watched both dazed and bewildered. The woman moved like a blur, quickly putting the fight on her terms. She flung her many knives at the man, but it was her metal fan that caught the light of the moon that had intimidated him. She began to jab him across his arms and legs. Rapidly, she moved behind him and ran her folded fingers sharply over his back. Finally, she knuckled his shoulders until he had fallen to the ground unable to get up. His earth gloves had come apart and the earth encasing the boy had loosened. When he pushed out of it, the woman had vanished back into the shadows, leaving only a gust of wind brushing over the boy.
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