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|More from AvatarRokusGhost|| Drama/Romance/Action/
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February 6, 2014
Ratana and June did not have to wait all that long before making their move to reenter the city. With every guard on every corner, it did not take them long to search Gangkouz from top to bottom, and they therefore predicted she might have left the city limits, which was true, but they did not predict she would reenter them so quickly. Ratana added to this illusion herself by jiggling about a pile of rocks about a hundred feet from the hiding place where she and the bounty hunter sent after her stood. It took immense concentration on her part to even move the boulders a little bit from such a long distance, but it was noticeable enough for the city guardsmen to catch sight of it and head off in that direction, following a false trail that they assumed would lead them to the fugitive earthbender.
As for Nyla, he had to be left behind. June required the better part of an hour to convince the giant shirshu to tuck himself behind a tree and out of sight until she returned from her outing alone with Ratana. The Terra Team earthbender noted the level of communication that the assassin had with her pet who could not talk on his own, and, in her mind, likened it to her own connection to the element of earth.
For what felt like the hundredth time, Ratana found herself in Khomin Square, relieved that nobody had yet recognized her. "This is almost to the place we have to get. I'll make a quick withdrawal and you'll have your money."
"It's about time," June voiced with a loud, clearly forced, yawn. "This does seem an odd place to find a bank..."
Just like earlier in the day, Ratana found a familiar standing close to the statue. "It's you again," the thief boy acknowledged her, backing away. "What do you want now?"
"You said that the Huoxilong triad had a new base now," Ratana stated, bending herself down to the boy's eye level. "Do you know where it is?"
"Of course I do."
"Can you show us?"
"Depends," the boy told her with a shrug. "What do I get in return?"
Ratana reached out and grabbed his left arm firmly, giving it a partial twist, with a small, warning amount of pain sent through his limb. "In return, I'll leave you alone from now on. Deal?"
"Okay, okay!" the boy raised his voice. He rubbed his left arm with his right as soon as Ratana released him.
By the time they followed the boy down a few side streets toward the end of yet another abandoned alleyway, June had grown more suspicious of the situation. "Ratana, do you know these 'Huoxilong' bankers that you're taking your money from?"
"Sort of," Ratana admitted. "We had a rough encounter a while ago; but they're not exactly normal everyday bankers."
June's eyebrows cringed. "What sort of game are you playing with me?"
"This is no game," Ratana answered calmly. "I told you we were coming here to make a withdrawal, and we are."
"Do they know we're coming?"
June gawked at her. "This is not what I signed up for!"
"I've been perfectly honest so far. When I said I had a bank account, I meant one back home. Why on Earth would I have one here? And we are here to make a withdrawal. Those were both true statements, but separate ones. If you created some association between them in your mind to give yourself a false impression, that's your fault."
"It is not; you tricked me!"
"Oh, come on," Ratana told her, pointing forward. "All that you asked for is right up ahead. Don't get cold feet now that we're already here. That's no good."
June turned from her reluctant partner to their mutual guide. "So, little boy, how do you know these Huoxilong people?"
"I used to do some work for them a few years ago," the boy explained. "When it got dark out, they would take me to large houses, hoist me through one of the windows and have me walk around to unlock the front door for them so that they could enter and rob the place."
"I see," chimed in Ratana. "Perfect," she said as she noticed a miniature window nine feet above the street level, just beyond her reach. "You can do the same for us here. I'll give you a boost and you climb in and let June and I in."
"Nuh-uh!" the boy scoffed. "I said I'd bring you here and I did. I already did my part of the deal and now you're on your own!"
Ratana seized him by the arm once again and looked him straight in the eye. "Not yet you haven't. I asked you to bring us to the hideout and now I just want to get inside. It's the same deal; I merely want to be closer to it."
The boy hung his head for a few moments, then turned back to her, his lower lip pouting. "Come on, lady. Why are you being so mean to me?"
"Oh no, don't try playing innocent!" she snapped back. "You had me fooled with that before, but I won't let that happen again."
The boy ceased pouting immediately and shook his arm free. Then, he allowed for Ratana to lift his feet off the ground and balance him on top of her shoulders just long enough for him to crawl through the window and hop down onto the wooden floor below. From there, he directed Ratana and June to the side entranceway, which he slipped open for them, and the trio tip-toed into the stony hideout together. June remained alert and vigilant while Ratana ran her fingers and toes on the walls and floor, checking for nearby lurkers.
"I hope you're satisfied," the boy companion complained. "Thank the spirits that no one's around."
"Now what?" asked June.
"There's someone coming from this direction," Ratana cautioned her, putting her finger to her mouth.
The boy raised an eyebrow. "How can you tell?"
Suddenly, a man in a raspberry-red, uneven tunic emerged from around the opposite corner of the hall and opened his mouth to alert his comrades, but he found himself silenced by Ratana's quick instincts before an audible sound could even escape him. A diagonal, rocky ledge with a square face sprung up and knocked him in the jaw, rendering him unconscious. She wasted no time in bringing her arms back round and sinking the earth back into the floor, so everything appeared just as it had before.
The boy's mouth fell open. "You're that earthbender in town everyone's been talking about!"
"Yes," Ratana nodded. "If you don't mind, I'm going to get my stuff now. I don't feel like wasting any more time here than I have to."
The boy turned to June and spoke soft enough that he thought Ratana would not be able to hear. "Want to turn her in and split the reward? I hear that it's fifty gold pieces!"
June chuckled at the boy's proposal. "You're a sharp one, kid. Normally I'd say yes, but she owes more than that to me."
"Really? How much?"
June hesitated. "She's covering a reward that's also fifty gold pieces, but she's paying double, which makes a hundred."
"Are you sure that you want to keep dealing with her, though?" asked the boy. "It seems like she brings trouble wherever she goes."
"Oh, I'm definitely not disputing you on that."
Ratana had to feel the ground for a few more minutes and peak inside a few deserted rooms before she came across the one that she was looking for. Like some bizarre, assorted warehouse, the room was filled with antiques, valuable jewels, purses, clothing, machinery and various other items. It did not take an expert to realize that this was a place where the gang kept recently-stolen or extorted goods.
At long last, she found her own bag buried near one of the corners. "I'm surprised that almost everything is still inside," she voiced aloud, rooting through several changes of clothing she did not expect to see again, her camping gear, and sure enough, her money and the map the Council of Five had entrusted her with.
"I'm not," the boy said simply. "Sure, it's been a few days, but it probably takes them a while to sort through all this, and the Huoxilong's have had bigger problems to deal with lately."
Almost in response to his statement, Ratana, June and the boy had a problem of their own on their hands. "What are you doing in our hideout?" came a gruff man's voice that Ratana knew all too well. It was the man that she had met before when disguised as Nookyazu that called himself Jiro. "You're that wench who dressed herself as one of our own!" Clearly, Jiro had not forgotten her, either. The new leader of the triad was flanked by four or five of his lackeys on either of his sides, so that the reluctant trio were very much outnumbered.
Unfortunately for them, Ratana had a surprise for them as well. Now that she was ready to leave Gangkouz and had already exposed herself once, she had less reservation about earthbending in front of people again. Ratana spun-kicked a boulder from the floor out at them, scattering the men and breaking a pair of precious vases in the process. Meanwhile, June swung her whip across at the Huoxilong triad members, forcing most of them in her way to take a step back, and brought her own dagger out to meet the short sword of one of theirs.
Attempting to do battle with Ratana in a one-on-one hand-to-hand duel, Jiro boldly swung his fist at her face, but Ratana dodged and punched his chest with her own chi pulsating, breaking off a chunk of the nearby wall at the same time and cracking it on top of his crown, burying her adversary with smashed rubble that shook the foundation of the very building they were in. With another boulder-to-the-front-wall, Ratana broke open a hole large enough for her and June to leap through and head out the same way they came in, despite the fact that there were more Huoxilong members there than they first thought.
The boy, who had been laying low this whole time, was spotted just as June and Ratana both escaped. Trembling, he backed himself into the corner, without any trace of acting this time. Jiro, climbing out from under the crushed wall and regaining himself, spotted him. "You!" he called over in the boy's direction, his eyes boiling with rage. "You brought them here! You showed them the way! I'll kill you!"
As the boy found himself being lifted up by both his arms and restrained by two of Jiro's underlings, he found his liberator in the woman who brought him there. Bringing both her arms up, Ratana trapped the arms of the two holders with hastily-erected earthen columns and pinned Jiro to the opposite wall by his shirt with a rounded, cylindrical earthen spike.
"Come on," she yelled to the boy after he shook himself free once more. "Let's go!"
"Yes, Ma'am..." he uttered in awe as Ratana incapacitated the last of the Huoxilong guards with her earthbending antics and led them to safety.
- The triad's using of the boy as an accomplice in robbery is similar to something criminals did in the book Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens.
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