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|Illusions of War|
February 10, 2015
"Get down, Ting! If they see you, we're both as good as dead!"
Ting-Ting knelt his head down until it looked like he didn't have a neck. His legs were tucked into his body and he was leaning against a massive rock. Sweat was running down his face like a waterfall. He looked over at Masaru who peeked around the rock and tried to be careful about not being caught by the opposing side. Masaru turned and planted his back on the rock, clenching onto it for dear life whilst his teeth collided in fear.
"What's going on, Masaru?" Ting-Ting whispered.
Masaru knelt down to Ting-Ting and placed his hand on his shoulder. "The Triple Threats are moving east. We need to get closer and figure out where their hideout is."
Masaru stood up and walked around the rock with Ting-Ting following behind. Ting-Ting felt short-tempered, but only because they had been spying without any luck for the last two hours.
"I still don't understand why we're spying on the Triple Threat Triads. I've heard about them many times before, but they've never done anything that's put lives at risk."
Masaru sighed so long, it almost sounded like a groan. "I told ya, Ting, the United Forces have been getting intel from many anonymous citizens in Republic City. The Triple-Threats are planning to attack all over the city. They don't know what for yet, but we have to figure out and get backup before they can move further into this idea."
The nonbender duo tip-toed around the corner. Both peek over a building wall at the sight of a long, single file line of Triple-Threats walking into their place of stay. Masaru grabbed onto Ting-Ting's shirt collar and pulled him backwards before he got spotted by someone in line.
"Hey, what was that for?" Ting-Ting whispered in annoyance.
Masaru made a shhhh noise and placed his index finger in front of his lips. "Do you want to get caught by them?" He sighed in a frustrated manner. "From the looks of it, we're going to have to do some detective work."
"Detective work? Isn't that the police's job?"
"It would be, but the police thought this was more of the United Forces' job. They said they'd help if we'd ask them. Anyway, we need disguises - anything to get inside."
Ting-Ting looked into the distance in deep thought. Without saying a word, he grabbed onto Masaru's arm and pulled him around to the other side of the building. Ting-Ting walked down the alleyway and ran back to his friend with a huge smile on his face. "There's a door over here," Ting-Ting said in delight.
The two ran over to the back door. "Alright, lets sneak in, listen to their conversation, and get back to our ship."
Ting-Ting nodded in agreement and immediately after grabbed onto the door handle. He bent it down and tried to open the door, but it was locked from the inside. Ting-Ting grunted in frustrated whilst slapping himself in the face.
"Monkey-feathers, it's locked! What I would give to be an earthbender right now!"
"Calm down, Ting. We can listen from here. It might be the more safe way to do that anyway."
The friends placed their ears up against the door while squatting down. They could hear the sounds of the Triple-Threats talking and laughing, but they couldn't make out any of the words.
"Ugh, they're being too loud," Ting-Ting complained.
"Alright everyone, listen up!" yelled someone from inside the building.
Just then, all the noises the duo heard stopped. In return, Ting-Ting and Masaru's hearts felt like they skipped a beat with bone shaking shivers going down their spines.
"Let's face it. We all became Triple Threats for similar reasons. We don't like how Republic City runs certain things. We don't like how this city was supposed to be a place filled with peace and balance, but is just like every other town in the world. Maybe when Avatar Aang and Firelord Zuko thought up about this idea, they had good intentions. Maybe for awhile, that's how Republic City was. But it's not like that anymore! And we won't stop attacking the city until our point gets across!"
After the speech, loud, wall-shaking cheers and applauds were heard from inside. Still squatting down, Ting-Ting and Masaru looked at each other. Their eyes were wide, screaming fear from their dark pupils as if their eyes were communicating with each other. Masaru immediately stood up with power in his stance. He looked in this distance and stared at the cloudy, evening sky.
"We got all the information we need. Come on, lets get back to the United Forces."
Ting-Ting stood up with a confident smile reaching across his face. He always felt happy to get a tough job done. The two started to run away from their hiding place, but an earth formation formed in front of them before they could take another step. They looked in the direction of where the earth came from, and saw a big, bulky man standing in the middle of the street.
"I knew we were being watched by a couple United Forces operatives. You two will make the perfect prisoners."
Masaru took a couple steps back. When it came to all the operatives in the United Forces, Masaru was the best when it came to planning. In battle on the other hand; he turns into a limp noodle. Ting-Ting, however, loved a good fight. He knew how to get the better of people and he knew how to use that to his advantage. He took note of the man's appearance. He knew he was buff due to his muscles. He knew the man had an advantage on them because he's a bender. He took note of the tired look in the man's eyes from bending a single move across the street. Maybe he couldn't get the upper hand by bending, but maybe he and Masaru could outrun him. All they need was for the man to get distracted enough to get a good start.
Ting-Ting looked at Masaru. Luckily for him, Masaru looked back at him. Without having to say a word, Ting-Ting nodded at him, and Masaru nodded back. He then proceeded to reach into one of his uniform pockets, pulling out smoke bomb. Ting-Ting started to run away, knowing that the man would want to follow after him. Masaru knew this was the perfect and only time to throw the smoke bomb, so he did and started running away for his life. The duo continued to run side by side as the bomb went off and heard a hysteric cough coming from the man. They did it. They got away and they knew what they're going to report.
Ting-Ting and Masaru stood on the edge of a United Forces ship under the moonlight. They each had a glass cup in their hand and right behind them walked up their good friend, Iroh. He was holding a bottle in his hand and started to open it as his friends saw him.
"Commander Iroh," said Masaru and both he and Ting-Ting saluted him. "You don't have to reward us like this. We only got a small amount of information."
"It doesn't matter. What you two operatives did today was gutsy and you got through many obstacles to get back here in one piece. You should be proud of what you accomplished. And for that, you deserve a little drink for your bravery."
Iroh collected their glasses along with his own and poured until each glass was half full. The three reached for their drink and clanked it together in a mini-celebration.
"A toast to obtaining information and going lengths to get the job done," Iroh said before he took a sip.
Ting-Ting and Masaru took a sip right after Iroh did.
"Well, I'd love to continue celebrating with you both, but I have to make sure everything is going well with the others. I'll see you two tomorrow."
After Iroh left, the two friends continued looking down at the water, admiring the moon's rays shining down on the currents, making the water look as if it's dancing.
Masaru took another sip of his drink. "Today was a good day for us, wasn't it?"
"Yeah, I always love having days like these. What's even better is that their unexpected. I love being a part of the United Forces."
"I do too, but don't you ever, I don't know...wish things could be different?"
"What do you mean different?"
"Y'know...have a different job, and different life. Being a United Forces operative is great, but there is so much more to life than fighting in wars and getting involved in conflicts."
"I suppose you have a point, but if you feel this way, then why did you join?"
"I guess you could say I was inspired. Growing up, I always thought I would have the normal, ideal life that most people want to have. Then, I saw the way the United Forces members worked I wanted to see if that was what I wanted to do. Turns out, it's exactly what I want to do for a good part of my life. A part of me just wonders what it would've been like if I didn't take this chance."
Ting-Ting didn't respond to that at first. "For the longest time, I never knew what I wanted to do with my life. I never thought I was good at anything. I assumed I'd grow up and feel incomplete. Then I realized something. I was good at figuring people out. I knew how people felt in a certain moment whether they'd tell me or not. The more I knew a person, the easier it was to figure out the things that make them strong or weak. I decided then that I wanted to use that ability for good, so I became a member of the United Forces."
Masaru laughed at Ting-Ting. "I guess we were both a couple of small fish in a big pond, huh?"
Ting-Ting laughed back at Masaru. "Yeah, we were."
Masaru sighed as he pulled something out of another one of his pockets. "I can't wait to get back home for awhile. I've been missing my girl for weeks now," he said looking at a picture of a young woman with long, black hair. "When we get back, I'm gonna tell her how much I love her and pop the big question!"
"Well, I hope she says yes."
There was a short pause between the two before Masaru looked at Ting-Ting and said, "Tell me, Ting. You ever think about finding the love of your life? The woman of your dreams?"
Ting-Ting didn't say anything for the longest time. He continued to look over the ship at the wavy water, staring at the moon's reflection. "What are you talking about, Masaru? I already have the love of my life. Her name is war. She's a constant struggle that's always there. Sure sometimes she makes me cry and suffer, but other times she makes me feel determined and confident. Some people are annoyed by her and wish she wouldn't cause so many problems, but all she needs are people by her side to fight with her. She likes things to be painful between others, but only because she wants people to grow and gain wisdom from their struggles. And I'll admit that I can be annoyed by her at times, I love war for reminding me of who I am."
Another short paused was formed between the friends, as if an invisible brick wall had been built between them. Masaru began to laugh again; a bit louder than before. "No, Ting. I talking about a real woman. A person to hold at night. A person to hug, kiss, tell your deepest and most personal thoughts and feelings to. Someone to share a life with. Don't you want that?"
Ting-Ting looked away from Masaru and sighed looking down at the water again. "Of course I want that," Ting-Ting finally said still facing away from Masaru. "...and in a way, I envy you for having that kind of love. I've been in a couple relationships before and they didn't work out. I didn't feel like the connection we had was forever-lasting. When I joined the United Forces, I realized that I loved it. I loved the way struggling made me feel because I felt like I was fighting for something that I love. I'm not only fighting for my people or to keep others safe; I'm fighting because I love war and I think of war as the woman I'll never have. To me, war is the perfect woman, even if she isn't real. Do I think that I could meet someone that I'll love enough to want to spend the rest of my life with? I believe so. But right now, I'm in love with war."
"I can respect that. I just hope that someday, you will meet that special someone. It's alright to love war as if she's a woman, but I don't want you to get the idea that war is the love of your life. War is real, but war isn't a person. It's a thing. It's a bittersweet thing that everyone goes through whether big or small. As much as I accept the way you feel about war, I hope that a real woman will hit you so hard, you'll realize she's more important than anything else in the world."
"I'd love to stay here a little longer, but I'm getting tired and it looks like we have a long day ahead of ourselves tomorrow," Masaru said as he started to walk away from Ting-Ting.
"Good night, Ting."
Ting-Ting waited for the sound of the ships' door to close before he rested his head on the side of the ship.
Maybe Masaru is right, Ting-Ting thought. A real woman would be so much better to have than the illusion of believing war as a woman. But where would I find such a woman? Does one like that even exist? I don't think a real woman could compare to my love for war, but Masaru has given me hope that there at least could be.
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