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|City of Secrets|
Chapter 8: City of Secrets
The blood trickled down the steps, pooling at the bottom. It was always there, accompanied by a glint of metal. And Lu Ten always woke up screaming, hoping no one could hear.
"And this has been going on for how long?" Sora asked.
"Since a couple of days before we left home..." He put his head in his hands. "Every night since we've been here, it's the same."
She smiled sympathetically. "And you're sure it's not just a dream?"
"It's too vivid, too real. I'm...I'm afraid that, if it is a vision..."
"That it could happen to one of us." She stated matter-of-factly.
The Crown Prince nodded. "I know each one of us can take care of ourselves, but...I just can't bear watching anyone get hurt."
Sora smiled. "Then just be honest with her. Your nightmares are probably nothing, but I think she'll understand."
Lu Ten shook his head. "I don't think she does."
"Then try me." San stood in the doorway, concern etched on her face.
Fiora and Chikyuu walked back to the Tower, both frustrated at having been left behind. "It's okay; it's cool. Just leave the two youngest members of the group to fend for themselves."
The young Earthbender cocked her head. "Why are you talking to yourself?"
Fiora shook her head. "Forget it."
"Mom says talking to yourself means you're crazy."
A bemused smile came to the princess' face. "Am I crazy?"
Chikyuu thought about it for a second. "No, I don't think so." Fiora smiled. "But Lu Ten says you're crazy all the time."
She narrowed her eyes. "Of course he does."
As they came to the street corner, three men stepped out of the shadows, each one wielding a sword or knife. "Well, well, looks like we'll be eating good tonight, gents." The middle one stepped forward. "This here's the princess of the Fire Nation, and traveling without an escort, too."
"Hey! What about me?!" Chikyuu cried, incredulous.
The man glanced at her. "And Shrimpy over here."
Fiora looked at their odds before turning to Chikyuu and grinning. "Are you gonna take that?"
She frowned. "No, I'm not!" The man in the middle backed away as Chikyuu launched a pillar of earth at him. He jumped over the pillar, barely clearing it, only to be met by two rocks to the stomach and face. When his comrades saw him drop, they attempted to make a run for it.
"Hm, I don't think so." Fiora whipped out several kunai in each hand, launching them at her fleeing opponents. Both men gave surprised grunts as their limbs were pinned to the nearest wall.
"We didn't mean anything by it, honest!" One of the men's eyes widened as Chikyuu twirled two small rocks in her hand. "No, wait—!"
Before he could finish, the Earthbender knocked them both unconscious with well-placed rocks to the head.
Chikyuu smiled at her triumph, but her elation was tempered when she felt two more coming up behind Fiora. "Look out!" She cried as she turned around. The Fire Nation princess didn't have time to turn around, and both men brought their blades down.
Thwip, thwip. The two men fell to the ground with arrows in their backs before they could attack. Fiora took the opportunity to roll out of the way, and both girls saw uniformed officers running to the scene.
"Are you girls all right?" One of the officers, a large man, knelt down. "My name is Officer Tao," he said as his men formed handcuffs around the potential muggers.
Fiora nodded. "We're fine. We got most of 'em, but if you guys hadn't shown up when you did..."
Chikyuu's head bobbed up and down. "Yeah! Thanks a lot!"
The large officer chuckled. "Well, my men and I can't take any of the credit for that. That was accomplished by one of our veterans."
The archer, a wiry man with black hair leaped from the ledge of the building he'd been sitting in and landed directly in front of them. He looked at Tao and nodded. "Ladies, may I introduce our best non-bending officer: Longshot."
Tenzin glanced around at all of the armed and armored personnel that surrounded them. "Equality, that's all you're after?"
Pema stepped toward him. "We only want to make sure that we non-benders get our due. We're tired of watching from the sidelines as benders get the best of everything and we get the scraps."
The cousins glanced at each other before Tenzin began to laugh.
Pema cocked her head. "What's so funny?"
Solf folded his arms. "Yes, I too am confused. What is so humorous about our plight?"
The Airbender's laugh died to a chuckle. "I wouldn't really call it much of a plight. I haven't seen anything remotely resembling the horrors you make benders out to be."
"Tenzin, be careful..." Kyani whispered.
Koruhagi shook his head. "You simply have not seen what we have, such blatant prejudice and disregard. You cannot be faulted for being the lucky ones."
Pema glanced aside. "Maybe I made a mistake..."
He waved her off. "Not at all, they simply have not realized it yet." He turned to the cousins. "We cannot expect you to fight for us without having seen such adversity, but I do hope you'll think about our proposal."
Kyani bowed. "It was an honor to meet such a dedicated group, and rest assured, we will search through this matter in depth."
The silver haired man smiled. "I hope you make the right choice. Pema will show you out, and, if you change your minds, you can contact us through her."
Tenzin grinned. "When and if the time comes, we'll be sure to do just that."
As they exited the warehouse, Pema turned toward them. "If you change your minds, or if you want to know more, simply sit on a bench in the courtyard across from the Fire Nation Royal Family's residence. It's a big building that—."
Tenzin interrupted her. "We know where that is. The courtyard you're talking about, it's the one with the giant fountain, isn't it?"
Pema nodded. "Mm-hm. Sit on a bench by the fountain and I'll meet you within five minutes."
"Thank you for considering us, Pema." Kyani offered his hand. "We will think this over."
She shook his hand and reentered the warehouse, and it was at that point that Kyani whirled and punched the wall closest to him.
"Somebody's not happy..." Tenzin smirked as he strolled away. "Try not to break your hand."
The young swordmaster stomped after him. "That guy had the nerve to insult my blade work! Can you believe it?!"
"To be fair, you did seem off your game..."
Kyani stopped walking and began to compose himself, breathing rhythmically. "I'm not angry about my performance; I am angry because he insulted me!"
Tenzin held up his hands. "Okay, okay..." He glanced back at the building. "Did anything seem off to you back there?"
"Yeah...a lot of things..."
San sat down against the wall as Sora left the training hall. "Lu Ten...do these nightmares really have you so worried?"
He shook his head. "I don't know, but I don't want to risk anyone's safety."
She smiled. "I don't think the Pro Bending tournament is going to be quite that bad."
The Crown Prince chuckled. "I guess not." He looked at her, seriousness permeating his expression. "Please, San, don't take any unnecessary risks." I don't want to lose anyone, least of all you.
Sanaki smirked. "You know me better than that, Prince Lu Ten."
"That's Crown Prince, Peasant!" Lu Ten replied in a mocking royal tone. "For what it's worth...I'm sorry. I haven't been thinking clearly lately..."
She stood and offered him her hand. "Apology accepted. And besides, maybe we can alternate matches or something?"
He took her hand as she helped him up and nodded. "Maybe."
They both turned as Sora burst into the training hall. "Fiora and Chikyuu were just attacked!"
"What?!" They cried out at the same time.
"Is Fiora okay?" Not her; please don't let it be her!
The Waterbender nodded. "They're both fine. Some muggers attempted to get the drop on them, but it didn't go so well."
Lu Ten exhaled, releasing his fears as he realized no harm had come to them.
San took a step forward. "Did they get injured?"
"No, one of the Law Enforcement officers aided them in taking two of the guys down, and they're now in their custody."
"That's good." The bookworm raised an eyebrow. "Wait, where are Kyani and Tenzin?"
"They met us outside on their way back from...wherever they've been."
"Oh..." San grabbed Lu Ten's hand to pull him along. "C'mon! We're gonna go see them."
Sora covered her smile, but a chuckle escaped as Lu Ten was dragged away.
The young Bei Fong soaked in the attention from her friends as they made sure she and Fiora were alright. "I told you guys a million times: we're fine!" A triumphant grin grew on her face. "We beat 'em!"
"With a lot of help." Fiora chimed in. "Officer Longshot saved my life, though he didn't really talk too much."
Chikyuu pushed herself to her feet. "He didn't talk at all!"
Tenzin smiled and tousled Chikyuu's hair. "Quite an exciting day for you, huh, Chie—!"
She whirled before he could finish. "Don't say it."
"I'm just glad no one was hurt." Kyani said as his statement was met by nods from Lu Ten and San. He looked out of the corner of his eye at Tenzin. What are we going to tell them? What are we going to do?
"The officers said that Chikyuu and Fiora could come by the Police Station tomorrow to finish with some last minute report details." Sora sat down on the floor. "And you three," She indicated Tenzin, San, and Chikyuu. "Need to prepare for your first match."
Sanaki's eyes widened. "It's tomorrow?!"
Tenzin nodded. "Yep, and we are gonna be ready! We need to practice working as a team, at least tonight. That way we won't get in each other's way during the fight."
"Aw..." Chikyuu blew a strand of hair out of her face. "Do we have to practice tonight?"
Kyani smirked. "Practice makes perfect, kiddo."
Sora turned to her relatives as everyone else reentered the tower. "What have you guys been up to all day?"
The cousins glanced at each other. "We, uh...we met Pema's little group." Tenzin offered an awkward grin as Kyani put his head in his hands.
Kyani sighed. "The girl we rescued."
"Oh, and what did you find?"
Another side glance to each other. There's definitely something they're not telling me...
Kyani leaned against the wall. "Turns out she's in some kind of activist group, something about equality for non-benders?"
Sora folded her arms. "Sounds innocent enough." She grinned. "I'm sorry that Tenzin's love-struck ways and poor impulse control have gotten you involved, Kyani."
"Hey!" Tenzin called after her in a weak attempt to reassert control over the situation. He spun around to his cousin. "We cannot tell her about what we discussed."
The swordsman shrugged. "As long as they don't cause any harm, we won't have to."
Another first for Kyani, this time was the first time he'd ever seen Tenzin torn. "That's what I'm worried about."
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