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|Chapter 5: A Warning Part 1|
4th August 2013 (original)
October 24th 2015 (re-write)
The men moved closer on all of the students. All of the younger ones fled. Some older ones stayed. Only Fong stayed of the teachers. They all lined up, Hakoda stood next to Fong, prompting everyone else to file in next to them. It felt like they were lining up for school. Another school fight and Toph could take part. Toph knew they were outnumbered but out matched? "Certainly not" she thought.
Toph was eager to fight. After all, she had missed all of this. The fighting, the shouting, the chaos she just revelled in it. It was a blessing. But she couldn't enjoy it yet, she still had one more obstacle before she was free. She would have to take down these energy what's it which she had no problem doing. With Sokka by her side, she knew she could do it, though she'd much rather have Katara (at least she could bend)
Sokka could tell by Toph's face that she was definitely enjoying this moment, this moment of danger. She most certainly wanted to kick theses benders butts but she didn't understand. Sokka was eager to do the same. With dad on his left and Toph on his right with him they could certainly beat them. They knew they were severely outnumbered; must be at least thirty opponents to their small ten. Still Sokka was also eager to get into the fight and was merely waiting for this sinister monster to give the order.
The leader approached them slowly. He wasn't the man at the house that stood out to Sokka straight away. He was a taller, more slender man with a no beard, or moustache, no facial hair really. Sokka couldn't help but look at his own beard which consisted of a simple shadow of black hair. Sokka felt it made him seem more like a man. He looked by at the man. He had stopped moving now. As the women fled, Sokka saw one or two move forward only for the leader to raise his left arm with a rough face, he didn't even look at them. One walked forward "Sir, we only need the requested three, we have no need for all of those" the taller, more muscular man said, indicating the students and the older gentlemen, who Sokka assumed must be head of the school.
"If they choose to defend their pitiful school then so be it" With that, the leader lowered his arm.
As expected several men and women too charge d forward with swords and clubs, others in red robed clothing charged with hands of fire, while the remainder – dressed in green robes – glided forward as earth soldiers. Sokka and his companions did the same, splitting off to different opponents. Toph charged right through every one, aiming to reach the leader. Hakoda stayed near the students, as did the headmaster. The leader and the muscular man just watched, as did Sokka, all three wanting to take their time. Sokka had little patience for this though.
Sokka instantly strode to the first person to reach him, being much quicker, he countered the man's attempt at a whack with his club with a swift duck followed with a slash of his sword through across the man's stomach. All he heard was a groan as the man dropped to the floor in agony, crimson shining through his hand clenched to his gut.
He looked straight at his next target, two firebenders: one launching at him with a fist of fire, the other patiently watching for Sokka to dodge. Sokka did just that, he duck then used his free hand to land a cross to the left cheek, the momentum of the punch knocked the man to the floor. The other threw a fist which projected a jet of fire towards Sokka. A quick role to the side and Sokka was safe. The flame died in seconds.
The first had recovered and by now had stood up and began launching fire at him too. Sokka crossed his swords like a shield, moving the flame away like a breeze. Soon two others had appeared. Sokka knew he was in trouble.
"What do we do now?" The muscle filled man ask the leader, seeking guidance.
"Let these pitiful excuses of people defend what they feel is right. It matters not to me what they do, we will win one way or another." The leader calmly said, arms gripped behind his back, watching as Sokka backed away into another area of the school, while Hakoda, Fong and the girls tried their best to equal the armada of opponents.
The leader was most interested in Toph and another, smaller girl. The air pushing through the troops. Toph was fastest but the smaller girl was doing well. They were not disarming the opposition, merely pushing through. "How amusing, the girlies think they will reach me" The leader said swiftly turning around to proceed out the hole they came.
"Master?" the muscle man said, with a slight impression of cowardice.
"It is best to let them tire themselves. Besides, I have no interest in facing those children and the old men, let out friends deal with them. Once we have a look around will we return, come Koba."
With that the leader walked off, hands still behind his back, while his partner, Koba, followed.
Dodge after dodge, roll after roll, block after block. Sokka soon felt the strain and the tediousness of this senseless spiral in circles. The fatigue of his dodging was wearing him down. With every role his legs got wobbly, his arms heavy, eyes aching in the flashes of fire. Sokka felt like sitting down now. That was when they advanced.
They each made a step closer to him, with every jet and flash of blazing fire. Sokka couldn't help but jump and roll back. Even his back ached on the hard ground beneath him. He soon rolled back only to hit a wall. He recovered quickly, barely dodging another flare of heat. The four of them were no more than a few feet away. If only he could bend something at them.
Sokka remembered he still had his boomerang.
With that Sokka had his free left hand reach into his back scabbard for his boomerang during a swift side jump. He launched it out in an instant. Except...
"Aw come on" Sokka moaned in exhaustion.
His boomerang had missed by a mile, it gained him nothing but a flinch from his opponents. He swore he heard one chuckle at his pathetic attempt of a throw.
The jets continued again and again. How Sokka prayed for something, someone to help him. And something did.
No sooner had he wished it, the boomerang came whizzing back, slamming the unsuspecting bender on the neck; who fell forward with a thud. The other three looked in astonishment, only for a second to be struck on the head as the projectile zoomed back down onto the head. Sokka seized the moment.
He struck the third with a slash of his rapier, causing the red armoured man to fall in agony. "Three losers down, one to go" Sokka gleefully acknowledged.
"But where am I?" the fourth requested.
Sokka spun around on his heel to face the speaker, only to be met with earth, now scarred with ember and soot.
"On the floor" came a husky voice.
Sokka turned again to strike only to see his father standing triumphantly over the fourth man, grinning; sweat dripping down his head, along with a red mark on his cheek, with fragments of earth over it. Sokka's boomerang was in hand.
"Good work dad, but you've got a big bruise there" Sokka said, using his sword to point at the bruise covered cheek.
"I'll be fine," he said, wiping the fragments off with the back of his hand. "Luck shot you are with this thing" Hakoda stated, staring at the throw able tool.
"It isn't luck, its skill" Sokka happily responded.
"Yeah, keep believing that. Now, let's finish this" Hakoda declared, handing Sokka his trusted boomerang.
"You bet dad."
The pair jogged back into the main area of the fighting. Sokka saw he was surrounded by crumbled earth and bodies alike, once they arrived. None of the students were around apart from Toph and (what was her name?) Anna.
They ran towards them, Toph helping Anna up. "What happened?" Sokka asked strongly.
"Well, Sokka while you were stuck fighting over there, we had a massive fight on our hands." Hakoda answered.
"We were severely outmatched" Anna said, softly.
"There were too many. But we managed to beat them all, I don't know where the leader and that big guy went. They kind of just disappeared in the middle of it all" Toph agreed, helping walk Anna to a big, dome like, area. "Anna got hurt in it all, an earthbender got a lucky shot to gut, and then a firebender burned her leg." Toph continued.
As the four walked out of the battle field, Sokka couldn't help but let his curiosity break the serene silence again. "So what exactly do these guys want?"
"I don't know Sokka" Toph said, quite sarcastically, even though Sokka asked his dad, despite being stood next to Toph. "Oh yeah, sorry Toph. Forgot you couldn't "see" clearly."
"Well you should do, at least I remember how old you are" Toph spoke, in a low tone.
"So how old am I then?" Sokka asked, pushing his head out closer, with a cheesy smile over his face.
"18" Toph said. She was right. Sokka shrunk his head back and carried on walking, almost sulkily.
They soon entered the dome, which Sokka noticed was a hall of sorts. A few of the students were in there, refusing to go away with the students who had fled before them as the headmaster was ordering.
"Fong we are not going!" one taller girl declared.
"Please ladies, you have already made a valiant yet too risky an effort to show your dedication to this school, but you have to go. Only once the teachers return with the authorities will this place be truly be safe. I admire your courage but it is just too risky. Please...for me."
With that, the battered, yet admirable women made there leave down a passage under a statue. The old man sighed and turned, not expecting to see Sokka and the others in the room. He looked the worse. Apart from being exhausted like all of them, apart from Toph, he had a cut going down his face, the remains of his hair were singed, his robes torn and black. The aura he gave off was just one of severe exhaustion, yet still living.
He immediately, on sight of them, recovered: doing his best to straighten up, despite the groans of pain in attempts to hide the cuts and bruises hidden under his robes.
"I know you will stay..." He began. "But excuse...I wish to restrain our... guests" the man groaned in the most delicate yet ghostly voice. Sokka noticed Toph was severely shocked in such a change in voice.
The impressive gentleman strolled past, only dropping his posture once he reached the doors. Sokka felt bad for him, but with no waterbenders, there wasn't much to be done.
"I hope he is okay." Anna said.
"He will be" Toph stiffly said, a sense of admiration in her voice "He is stronger than he appears."
Once they had settled, Anna was comfortable, and they were sure they were safe did Hakoda end their solemn silence of thought to answer much questions Sokka was sure he knew was on their minds.
"Anyway, moving on to what you really wanted to know Sokka..." Hakoda reminded them "These people with have little knowledge about, we can't say for sure yet if they are the ones Aang warned us about, but all we know is they wanted to take over Omashu."
"But that is a guess right?" Anna asked, trying to not show the pain she was feeling in her leg as her eyes swelled with tears at the sheer attempt of putting pressure on it.
"Well...yes" Hakoda admitted. "But we do know from Aang that they want to target you kids, like they targeted him."
"So they are the ones who attacked the school" Sokka quizzed.
"Probably, but we don't know for sure. If only Aang could have included a diagram of them..."
"So is that why you guys are here then?" Toph asked, roughly.
"Yes it is" answered Hakoda.
"So does that mean we are getting back together?"
"Seems so, once we meet up at the Southern Water Tribe with the others." Sokka informed.
"Finally, I might finally have the chance to have my own adventure with Zuko!" gleefully cheered, something to unusual for Sokka's taste. "Yeah, you will Toph."
"Could I come?" Anna quizzed.
Sokka had no idea who this person was but something in Toph's voice when she said, "Of course!" did Sokka also agree. It wasn't often he agreed with many people these days, but something about Toph made everything feel normal again.
"Guess that's that then. Once we have that leg of yours healed, your parents informed, off we sail home" Hakoda addressed, raising his finger into the air, unable to not gesture.
"That won't be a problem, my parents won't miss me" Anna said, much to Sokka and Toph's surprise.
"Well, erm...it would be better to inform them" Sokka delicately said.
"ARGGHHHH" came a piercing scream from outside.
The four stared at the door, Sokka and Anna with a brief look of fear, Toph looking in concern at the floor. Hakoda had already made for the door, drawing his damaged (but still usable) club.
"That was Wong, he's hurt" Toph said, only to shout. Toph too began to go to the door. Sokka motioned to run too, only for Toph stop herself to turn around to him and pointed blankly at Anna. "You look after her."
"What why me?" Sokka quizzed, slightly annoyed.
BANG! The most ear breaking explosion came from the door, just as Hakoda reached it. He was blasted back all the way across the gigantic hall, all the way back to Sokka's feet. Sokka only saw his dad in a crippled; with more severe injuries than before, specifically his face now had a smoke emitting burn on his left cheek, with his bruise only serving as a minor injury to what he now suffered. His clothing was completely burned, his club and spear simmered away by the gentle gust of the wind as two figures entered, with one holding the headmaster.
Sokka wanted to see more than just the shadow, but could only keep his eyes of his dad's body, the heavy breathing and groaning being the only signs of life that remained. He dropped at his father's feet, sobbing relentlessly. He knew Anna was shaking for him to move to cover as the two figures advanced. He cradled his dad's body in his arms, tears dripping onto the bleeding forehead. He had no hope, no care in the world only that his father didn't die.
Only when the view became blocked by a brown shield did he finally realise they were being attacked.
"Sokka, we have to move" he heard Anna scream into his ear, something he didn't expect from someone so small. His hearing returned in force. He was met with the sounds of clanging metal with metal, the sizzle of fire and the stomps that Toph in anger was emitting. Sokka released his father's body, placing him back on the ground; turning the Anna. He picked her up and made his way to the statue. He was thinking of a plan.
Sokka carried Anna who was skilfully making more shields for them despite only having her arms. "Did this school teach modern methods over traditional methods?" He asked aloud with glee, receiving no reply. He now had an idea.
They reached the statue.
"Okay, Anna, bend this thing," Sokka demanded; yet still softly.
"I'll try," Anna whispered, lacking confidence.
"You can do it!" Sokka assured her. He truly didn't know she could do it, but all he needed now was a little bit of luck. Sokka began to make his way back to Hakoda who was no longer protected by the earth barrier. Anna was safe behind the statue to attempt to bend the statue; he could afford to leave her for only a minute.
As soon as he reached his dad, he was blasted by a flare of fire coming from in front of him. He fell back, a roaring pain infecting his chest. He was sure he had been burned but he didn't care he just began to crawl back to his father, he had to get him out of there. Sokka noticed Toph had been forced back also, but she still stood strong and formed an earth barrier in front of her and around Sokka and his dad.
"You can't hide from me. I will find you". A man cackled, as he blasted the centre of Sokka's earth shield with his firebending. He seemed to start doing some sort of movement while his muscular partner moved towards Toph barrier, with a huge metal sledge hammer in hand. It was the leader and his subordinate from before. They had chosen this moment to strike.
Sokka reached his father after an eternity of walking. The leader was walking, wanting Sokka to come out. Toph was assaulted by the ogre-like man; the shield crumbled away like pastry being crushed by fingers. Toph fled back to an arch.
Sokka could feel the sweat on his brow, as the burning sensation in his stomach rose to his neck and head. Burning flesh. He was scared. For once in his life he had no answer, no way to get out of this death trap. He closed his eyes wishing for it to end.
"Come on, Sokka. Just think what would daddy do?" the leader taunted.
Sokka eyes blinked wide open in seconds, he saw his father's groaning body. Sokka mouthed those words when he came to realize what his father had once said to him. "Stand up and fight son, fight for me, your friends, your mother, your sister and above all...yourself!" With that Sokka stood up.
"What are you doing?" Toph asked completely puzzled, feeling Sokka pull out his rapier and motion into a crouch. "Standing up and fighting."
With that Sokka jumped from cover and ran right at the lean yet intimidating leader, not daring to turn back. Sokka saw the man's menacing eyes, his memory of that fateful day flashed to him.
"Thank you, Sokka," the familiar face gently said, a sense of joy seeping through.
The man grinned then, pointing his finger at Sokka, let a blue wave of energy flow out of him right into Sokka who dropped to the floor becoming limp. Sokka turned to Toph as he fell. He raised a weak smile. An instantaneous jolt of pain connected with the fire he felt race through his bloodstream. They became one. The light faded from his eyes and he was in utter darkness.
To be continued...
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