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Book 2: Fire
Previously on The Kyoshi Chronicles
Before the Night of No Moon Kyoshi, Momzen and Bako received a vision of being collapsed on a coastal cliff having escaped a previous danger. They never figured out what the vision meant.
Eya found Kyoshi in Omashu and rescued her from General Baishu while she was in the Avatar State.
Upon travel to the Fire State Kyoshi and Eya have been arguing over Eya's Air State traditions.
Chapter 2: Customs
|"Every individual has the power to change their destiny; to come at a crossroad and decide which path to take"|
|— Kuruk to Eya|
The town of Zugatso was alive with bargains and hot, fishy fragrances. Every street was packed in with stalls of fishermen and their wives trying to sell off a deal of their catch and produce.
Kyoshi could feel her mouth water as she stared deep into the meaty legs displayed at a stall. They were wrapped in a rug soaked in vinegar and salt, the sharp smell almost overpowering the odours of dank seaweed and ship wood.
Zugatso was a fishing village and the last Earth State village south of the border. With a large port it often rolled in hefty revenues of fish and crabs, and the sea salt purified from the nearby rocks was highly praised by the locals as crisp and tangy. The air was salty but light and fresh from the coastal westerly and the sun shone down to join in on the community merriment.
"We'll take a leg," Kyoshi said to the butcher, keeping her eye on the meat.
"Six gold. Two for eleven."
Kyoshi turned to the group with a grin broad on her face.
"We've got a bargain here guys!" she whispered away from the butcher. "We can get two for only eleven gold – that's pretty good!"
She could see the hunger in her friends' eyes, but, and right on time, Eya frowned.
"We shouldn't blow all our savings. Try and barter with him," Bako suggested, looking over Kyoshi to examine the butcher.
He was a fat man, and the sweat that dribbled from his forehead and his red cheeks revealed that though he was good at cutting meat, he wasn't the best salesman.
"Make it two for nine and you've got a deal."
Kyoshi made sure to maintain eye contact, even if it was only for a few seconds, as the butcher started to shake his head.
"I'm sorry but it's been a bad haul this year. It has to be eleven or nothing."
Kyoshi shook her head too.
"We can't do eleven. Nine gold and three silver, we can do that."
The butcher crossed his arms and puffed out his chest – perhaps he was a better salesman than they all had thought.
"Eleven for the two legs and I'll throw in a free bag of rice," he bartered. "That's my final offer."
Kyoshi glanced back at her friends and Bako nodded at her to settle.
"How much for the block of tofu?" asked Eya suddenly as Kyoshi took out the gold pieces from their savings.
"Oh, the tofu? My wife makes this only from the ingredients in our garden. You'll enjoy it very much. It has a creamy texture but a smoky flavour; I don't know how she does it but it's one of the best in Zugatso."
"I'm sorry," Kyoshi interrupted, placing the twelve gold pieces on the desk. "But we're not buying tofu."
"How much is a block?" Eya continued to ask.
"Seven gold pieces."
"Well then we're definitely not buying it. Thank you, sir."
With that Kyoshi hauled the legs and the rice onto Jin Jin's saddle and passed the coin bag back to Bako.
"Hold on," Eya started, her voice getting slightly shrill.
Kyoshi rolled her eyes. It seemed there was always something wrong with Eya. For the entire trip Eya seemed to complain, or insist – and it always slowed them down. This was right on cue.
"I'm a vegetarian. We can't only buy meat."
"We've got rice, Eya, you can have seconds of that," Kyoshi hissed back.
As much as Momzen here and there tried to convince Kyoshi to accept Eya's differences, she never could do it. An airbender just wasn't fit for their situation. Eya was ruining everything.
"I can't have just rice," the airbender protested. "We're getting the tofu! It's good for you, you need a balanced diet."
"It's too expensive! You can't expect us to spend our savings on something only you want!"
Eya snatched the coin bag from Bako and stared furiously at Kyoshi, her silver eyes flaring like booming fireworks, cheeks reddening into a deep crimson.
"I put my share into the bag so I'll use that to buy the tofu!" she shouted, taking out the seven gold pieces. "Don't expect me to share any with you when you're sick from eating only meat!"
With each gold piece slammed on the butcher's counter, Kyoshi's patience fell down another peg.
"Eya! You do not have the right to tell me what to do, or the right to lead this group! You've been nothing but a nuisance this entire time!"
"Me?" Eya cackled with fury, baffled at the Avatar's rudeness. "Since I joined you all I've done is compromise! I've compromised all my customs, my entire culture, to be here with you and you possess not the slightest thread of decency to give me the respect and thanks I deserve!"
Kyoshi rolled her eyes and let out a frustrated sigh.
"You don't deserve any thanks, Eya. You've done nothing to help me!"
"Well then let me do you a favour!" she turned to the butcher. "One block of tofu, thank you!"
As the butcher, brow raised with awkwardness, turned to package the tofu Kyoshi stormed off down the street, Momzen and Gisgo following her so as to keep her out of trouble. Eya craned her neck to screech out at the Avatar.
"You'll thank me later!"
"She has to go."
Kyoshi was sitting stiffly on a rock wall looking down at the bobbing seaweed in the water. She needed to calm herself down, get away from the airbender. No. She didn't need Eya anymore. She was done putting up with it.
"Kyoshi, come on," Momzen started.
"No, Momzen," interjected the Avatar, still facing the water.
Gulls gawked endless renditions for scraps and the guttural knocking of ships on the dock swelled with the waves that crashed here and there on the city's seawall.
"I've tried to be nice, I've tried ignoring it. But this isn't about me anymore. Her customs are putting everyone in danger."
"Kyoshi, you put yourself in danger the day you decided to go against the Earth King's orders."
"She has to go."
Momzen sighed softly. There was no convincing her. But from under the shade of his brimmed hat and through the reed he chewed on Gisgo spoke. The kids had almost forgotten they were travelling with an adult. And though he was a criminal, Gisgo had more life experience than any of them and surely had some wisdom to impart.
"She has nowhere to go," the man bluntly rebutted as if it were obvious.
And it was.
"You're forgetting that, Kyoshi."
A tone much like that of a parent disciplining a child came to the forefront of his voice as Gisgo continued to speak with a sort of apathetic cynicism.
"It's not like she can just walk down the street home. She's come a long way to be with you and by sending her on her way you're basically sending her to her death."
Kyoshi chewed on her lip. As much as she wanted to never see Eya again, or shove a rock in her big, complaining mouth Gisgo was right. She had nowhere else to go. And as the Avatar, Kyoshi had to let her into their refuge – if they even had any to give.
"Kyoshi?" Momzen squeaked.
"Fine," Kyoshi snapped, getting off the wall to face her friends. "But I'm not happy."
"Well maybe you can be," started Gisgo as he walked across the dock, examining the little sailboats. "What would you say about taking one of these boats and sailing up to the Fire State?"
"Do any of us know how to sail?"
Gisgo shrugged as he jumped into a boat and tugged at the guide ropes.
"I dabbled in it when I was younger. I think I still remember some of it."
Briefly the curious history of Gisgo tickled Kyoshi's mind – what he looked like as a child, his parents – but as a breeze caught the boat's sail the Avatar returned her focus to the proposition at hand.
"It'd be a much faster way to travel," Gisgo advertised.
"And if there's no wind we have our own airbender to make some for us," added Momzen in a hopeful bid to convince Kyoshi that Eya wasn't a complete nuisance.
"Well, I'm willing to try it out," Kyoshi replied, seeing Bako lead Eya and the animals to the dock. "I'm just not sure if Eya will be."
Gisgo hopped out of the boat and walked over to the others.
"Should we get going?" said Bako, pretending as if the argument had never happened.
Gisgo patted the boy the shoulder then presented the boat to him as if it was his pride and joy.
"What do you say to a little sailing?"
Bako's eyebrows curved into an amalgam of reluctance and interest. He knew it would be a faster way to get around, even if it was wrong to take a stranger's boat.
"Wouldn't that be stealing?" Eya butted in.
A mask of unease was present on her face and her thin fingers were clutching onto the wrapped tofu with worry.
"It would be a lot better for us. We'd halve our travel time," Kyoshi explained, trying to keep her tone neutral.
"We could possibly get there by midnight," added Gisgo, before lowering his voice. "With your airbending we'd fly by."
Everyone looked at Eya, awaiting her decision. She could feel their eyes weigh down on her. It seemed she had to give up yet another moral. Never did Eya think she would be sacrificing so much – nothing could have prepared her for how hard it all was going to be. Not even Kuruk.
But then his words rang in her ears. Of how this was her destiny, of how it would be a great test of her character. Eya did not want to fail, and she did not want to be abandoned either. She could tell that the group was getting fed up with her. So instead of reciting an ancient parable to make them all reconsider, the airbender swallowed down her apprehension and nodded meekly.
"Then let's get in."
Gisgo hurried the kids into the boat, steadying the lumbering shirshu as she clambered aboard, before untying the rope from the dock and pushing the boat out to sea. He jumped on with a hefty grunt then settled down at the wheel. Eya looked back at the people on the docks. She could see the hurt in their eyes – that a group of kids had just stolen a boat from one of their townspeople – and she felt miserable because of it. Stroking a nuzzling Tori in her lap Eya turned away from the dock and stared out at the vast expanse of blue. It was an old foe. And she was terrified to face it again. She wondered how long she could keep her mouth shut about that.
The ocean stood still and silent, all except for the lapping of waves on the hull and the snuffled breathing of Jin Jin. Every now and then the shirshu would grunt too. She wasn't too fond of the sea; the rocking made her nauseous and the constant sunlight made it uncomfortable to sleep. For the entire day the group had hardly moved north. Fortunately a current had caught them and taken them out quite a bit; the land slowly becoming a green veneer on the horizon. Eya opened her eyes, her mind too cloudy with angst for any meditation, and tickled the dozing bird's head.
"Do you think we should be this far out from land?" Eya asked Gisgo.
"I don't think we'll be getting any farther out," the man replied flatly. "There's no wind anywhere."
"What if we get lost? Shouldn't we stay closer to shore so we can see where we're going?" Eya suggested.
Gisgo nodded then shrugged.
"Yeah I guess. But what if there's Earth State security? Travelling so close to shore, we'll be in plain sight."
"The last thing we need is to be marooned in the middle of the ocean, though," added Bako, siding with Eya.
He always seemed to these days, Kyoshi noticed. For some reason that always made her a little bit madder at the airbender.
"Kyoshi, what do you think?" Momzen asked, knowing that the Avatar's opinion had to be heard too.
"Well, I want to avoid Earth State security as much as possible," she said half honestly and half contrarily. "Besides, there's no wind to get us closer to shore anyway."
Eya shook her head quickly. She needed the security of the mountains, to know there was land nearby to set foot on. For too long she had spent her time at sea, and though she knew that Earth State naval security was powerful in the south she wanted to feel safe more than she wanted to be safe. She just had to have the land close by.
"Not necessarily. I can use my airbending to take us there and north. I will."
"I just seems too risky," Kyoshi continued to debate.
"Please," Eya said with genuine desperation. "I've been out at sea. Being lost out here is not good. I really think it would be better for us to be near the shore."
"Fine," Kyoshi hissed. "I just...if we get caught-"
"-We won't," interjected the airbender. "I promise."
And with that Eya stood up and faced the sails with a gusto none of them had really seen before. With a few swift motions of her arms a gust of air came to whiz them across the sea and before they knew it they were racing past magnificent sea cliffs counting down each hidden cove after the other north to the Fire State.
That was until shouts started echoing in the roaring winds from behind.
Suddenly something heavy plummeted into the water beside them, its splash sending the boat rocking.
"What was that?" Momzen screamed, steadying himself on Jin Jin's shoulder.
Gisgo cursed as he reeled the wheel in his hands. Quickly he flicked a look over his shoulder.
Kyoshi almost bit her tongue with anger. Eya almost cursed too – it was her fault.
"I knew it!" Kyoshi screamed over the wind as another rock was launched at them.
"We must be close then!" Gisgo added.
"Should I stop?" Eya blurted as icy fear began to creep through her insides.
Her arms dropped by her side as her lungs began to choke and her forehead sweat.
"No!" both Kyoshi and Gisgo shouted angrily.
Blinking away the oncoming tears Eya lifted her arms and churned the air around her into a steady stream. Two sailboats came up on either side, the grim faces of Earth State soldiers rough against the backdrop of the pale sea sky, their arms circling at an incredible pace.
"How are they moving so fast?" Momzen screamed as he punched out a fireball. "Are they waterbenders?"
The fire missed the soldiers completely and hissed into the saltwater. As the boat sailed around the next point more Earth State boats met them, soldiers with boulders at the ready.
"They've got pumice on their hulls!" Bako explained, spotting the aerated, volcanic rock lined on the outside of the boats. "It's rock that floats! Kyoshi, get it off and they won't have anything to move themselves! We're the only ones with the wind!"
Kyoshi got to her feet, looking behind their boat at the two boats on their tail. She could hear the roars of Momzen's fireballs, and Tori screeching out defiant tweets. With each hand she clenched her fingers, feeling the light pumice in her grasp, and then yanked her arms through the air, the lining of rock tearing off the hulls and drifting away. The boats slowed but soon so did they. Kyoshi turned around, her heart sinking. They were surrounded, and a giant metal ship was coming for them from the distance like a great, grey whale. It was over. And they were so close. She looked at Eya, the girl's face was frozen with shock, but somehow seemingly calm too. It infuriated the Avatar.
"This is all your fault!"
Eya looked Kyoshi in the eyes with an expression of guilt and dismay. A deep depression seemed to storm in the grey of those eyes, but nevertheless Kyoshi continued to frown.
She took a breath in. It was lumpy in her throat and filled her lungs only barely. She sighed it out haplessly then looked up. Before Kyoshi was a giant metal door, thick too. General Hao Lang, one of the General of Five and mayor of Zugatso, said that attempting to get through his border security was futile at best, and that he'd have them at Omashu in a week to face the Earth King.
For now though Kyoshi was left to starve in her cell, arms suspended in chains from the ceiling, and regret mounting on her sore shoulders. Worse too was the prisoner next to her was Eya. The one that wanted to be closer to shore, the one responsible for all this.
The airbender was hunched in defeat, black hair draped over to cover her face. She could feel Kyoshi's rage. It was like a glowing cinder, hot and orange, that could at any moment burst into wildfire. Eya had truly failed. If the Avatar despised her, what type of person did that make her?
"Avatar Kyoshi?" she muttered from under her hair.
Kyoshi craned her neck, hanging arm in her face, and looked over at the girl then away.
The word was blunt, but somehow it sliced through Eya. There was a pause as Kyoshi listened to Eya suck in some weak breaths then another pause. The silence thickened between them, distancing the two to two very different places; one in anger, the other in guilt. Then a patter came. Evidence of a tear, a dark wet spot, appeared on the floor and Kyoshi realised then that Eya was crying. She looked back at the airbender, confused, annoyed.
"I really wanted this to work," Eya managed through little sobs.
Kyoshi looked away. She didn't know what to think. She wanted to be angry. She had every right to be. But something soft and warm flickered inside her. It was forgiveness. It reeled in her heart, a ripple chaotic from some great disturbance. It was ready to pan out and settle, to return to a flat, balanced state; Kyoshi was ready to forgive.
"Eya," she began, not sure how to start. "I wanted this to work too."
Eya continued sobbing, her eyes getting hotter and heavier.
"But every time you step in, every time we argue...I just don't understand why you're here."
Slowly Eya lifted her head, her eyes shimmering – wet panes of glass in the rain. They stared at the cell door, but reflected a deep memory that had crafted Eya's very being. The memory stirred inside as the last tear dripped out.
"Do you believe in destiny, Kyoshi? That from birth the world has a plan for you?" replied Eya.
Kyoshi remained silent and wide-eyed.
"Or do you think that each individual has the ability to forge their own path? To choose whether to do good or bad."
Kyoshi looked down at the floor and thought about it. Certainly being the Avatar was her destiny, she was born with it, and the responsibilities were always going to come to her. But at the same time she could choose what to do with it. To join the Earth State or fight for the others. But the fate of either path, win or lose; what if that was already determined?
"I don't know," she mumbled, still absent in her thoughts.
"Neither do I," admitted Eya. "If you have your destiny written before you, would it be wise to follow it out, or better to make the effort to change it? Maybe the two work together separately, fate and choice, and it is the balance of the two in one's life that determines what happens to them?"
Eya smiled, and laughed.
"For a long time I thought that my destiny was to follow the customs of my people. That if I completed all the sacred rites I would become an airbending master and reach enlightenment. I still do, of course. But."
Eya's face was shiny and slippery with the few tears she had cried, and her cheeks were glowing like hot rubies. Finally the memory wafted from her lips as her croaky voice came to fill it in with words.
Another pause, one more as the airbender went through each and every feeling.
"The day I met Kuruk was the day I knew that my destiny was far different to what I thought it was. And I never thought I'd see the world like this. See it for all its cruelty, the war and the anger, and the beauty too."
The ocean shimmered orange as the sun sank under it. Eya held in a fist a lotus flower, her grip bruising the delicate petals. Sitting on the balcony railing and leaning against a pillar the girl cried into her knees. Warm tears streamed and smeared through her shawl and a breeze tickled her skin. Her heart was heavy and her world felt shattered and destroyed, cracked like an ancient vase broken by the torment of time.
Slowly the breeze built, and a haze seemed to fill the area. The crying girl took no notice. That was until suddenly a voice addressed her.
The girl raised her head. Her cheeks were flustered and eyes wet and puffy. But Eya couldn't believe what she was seeing. Was she dreaming? Before her, seemingly solid and real, was the late Avatar Kuruk.
"Avatar Kuruk!" she said, tidying herself up for the divine man. "An honour."
She hopped off the railing and bowed politely. From her lessons in the temple she had learnt the proper way to address an Avatar, and that getting a visit from one was a most holy experience.
"Young airbender, I have something important to tell you."
Eya blinked, absolutely astounded.
"What is it, Avatar?"
The man looked grim, his chiselled jaw painted with a seriousness that could never be imitated even by the most uptight monks.
"The world is at the great peril of the Earth State, and a new Avatar is born an earthbender. You have a destiny to fulfil, young airbender."
"Me?" she spluttered. "My destiny is to complete the sacred rites of the Air State and become a master airbender."
"Your destiny is far greater than you could ever have imagined. And the hardships you will face more powerful than anything you have faced before."
Eya frowned, finding it hard to swallow the news.
"I have things I need to do, Avatar Kuruk. I can't abandon my duties here."
Kuruk, faded in colour and cloudy, turned and walked along the balcony. His hands were clasped together behind his back, and the white embroidery on his Water State garb glimmered like snow in the last sunlight.
"Eya, this is not something I have assigned to you. I did not decide that you were the one to set out to find the Avatar and help them on their journey. This is your destiny. It has governed every action you have done and will govern every action you take."
Eya listened on with mixed feelings. Half of her was captivated by the Avatar's words, and was inspired to take charge of her life and go against the news she had received from her father; while the other half of her was plagued with uncertainty. The unknown and the danger sent her skin cold and stomach churning.
"So I don't have a choice?" she squeaked.
Even if she ignored Kuruk's advice would she, one way or another, end up beside the new Avatar? Kuruk shook his head.
"It is not like that. Destiny works in many strange ways. It is not a physical object. It cannot be measured and does not follow any laws. But it is changeable. Every individual has the power to change their destiny; to come at a crossroad and decide which path to take. I am only here to guide you, to tell you where you are."
Eya frowned. It seemed all day she was making important decisions.
"Right now you are at a point where you can stay here and take on the customs of the Air State, and continue to cry here on the balcony, or, take a separate path. Take destiny into your own hands. Make your way to the Earth State city of Omashu and fight alongside the Avatar. The choice is yours and yours alone, Eya. There is nothing more I can do."
Slowly Kuruk started to fade, his chiselled features and muscular body waning into the darkening sky. Still Eya had no idea what to do, the pressure mounting on her with each blink and breath.
"Wait!" she screeched, trying to grab hold of Kuruk's hand. "Wait! I need to know more! What if I make the wrong choice?"
Tears dribbled down her cheeks as the lotus she held beforehand came to mind. Finally Kuruk disappeared and Eya was left alone on the balcony with nothing but indecision to light her way through the darkness of choice and the clouds of destiny.
Kyoshi shuffled where she stood, feeling her arms starting to numb from their suspension, then licked her dry lips. Eya had finished retelling the story of how she had met Kuruk, and why she came to the Earth State. But Kyoshi couldn't believe it. Had they been connected this entire time? Had destiny planned their meeting even before they were born? Or if Eya had chosen to stay in the Air State, what would have happened to Kyoshi at Omashu?
"So you left..." Kyoshi mumbled to herself.
"Some willing sailors took me across the ocean. It was a long journey, and they were good men."
Another memory surfaced in Eya's teary pupils as she remained fixated on the door.
"But once we got close to Earth State shores we were attacked. It was horrific, the hardest thing I had ever done. I was the only survivor and managed to escape to a sea cliff and rest there."
Suddenly the vision Kyoshi received on the Night of No Moon came to her. Being collapsed on a cliff by the sea, flashes of angry, bloodied men against her vision.
"That was you!" she exclaimed, astounded.
That was Eya. They were connected. From the very beginning they were meant to be together. For some reason that made Kyoshi more forgiving towards the airbender, and with a smile growing across her frown Kyoshi could feel herself growing to like her.
"And then I found you in Omashu," Eya finished, looking over at the astonished Avatar.
"You saved my life," Kyoshi blushed. "I never thanked you for that did I?"
"No need, Kyoshi. Finding you saved me," replied Eya, her small lips curving slightly into a smile. "After the attack at sea I thought I'd never find you. That I had made the wrong choice and sent myself on a path of self-destruction. But when I found you in Omashu facing the Grand Secretariat and the White Tiger that was when I knew I was on the right path. That I had made the right choice."
Kyoshi smiled back at the girl, and then turned away to look at their cell door. It reminded her that this was still Eya's doing. And that it was her meditation and traditions that had slowed their travel to the Fire State.
"If you left the Air State behind, why did you always insist on practicing their customs?" Kyoshi asked, making sure to sound gentle.
Eya laughed, embarrassed at what she was to say.
"I was scared, Kyoshi. I still am. It's everything I know, and the only thing I have to remember my people by."
Kyoshi listened to Eya's delicate words, hearing the sadness and angst rearing on every word.
"It's not like I left my family behind because I hated them. I just felt that leaving was the right thing to do. I only practice because it's the last connection to my heritage. I'm on the other side of the world, miles away from home. It keeps me sane! Aren't you scared of leaving the Earth State, Kyoshi? I know it holds some pretty bad things for you, but it's your home. Surely you're even a little nervous?"
Kyoshi stopped. She had never really thought about it. True, when she left Gao Lin she felt alone and frightened, but travelling through the Earth State she always felt a bit at home. The Fire State, though, was like an entirely different world. It was a completely different culture. All her life Kyoshi never thought she'd see it, and now she was, or was going to before General Hao Lang's border security had captured them. And right now it never seemed to daunting.
"I guess," she mumbled, feeling bad for ever being angry or rude to Eya.
The poor girl was just scared and homesick, and Kyoshi was just too impatient to take notice. What kind of Avatar did that make her?
"I'm really sorry, Eya," she said softly, an unknown, immense emotion rushing quickly to her eyes in the form of tears. "I had no idea. All this time I was just focusing on myself, and getting to the Fire State that I didn't even stop and think what anyone else was feeling."
There was a pause as Kyoshi held back the tears.
"I'm so sorry."
"It's alright, Kyoshi. You were doing the right thing; you were putting the world's needs before anyone else's. That's what is most important right now. The Avatar has to master fire. I need to stop holding onto my apprehension and start taking charge of my own actions! I'm going to get you to the Fire State!"
Eya's voice built up, echoing throughout the metal room.
"And that's not going to happen by just standing here!"
Through her cuffs Eya took hold of the chains that suspended her then, with one swift, gusty motion, she ran forward as much as possible before flipping backwards. As she turned in the air, keeping her arms stiff, she yanked down on the chains, snapping them from their hinges on the ceiling. Kyoshi laughed ecstatically.
"Eya! That was amazing!"
Suddenly the guard burst through the door, apparently disturbed by the loud crash from inside. Eya cupped her arms and scooped them over her left shoulder then right. With the motion a surge of air knocked the man off his footing and into the wall unconscious. Hastily the girl took the key from his belt and undid both her cuffs and Kyoshi's.
"You're a better fighter than I gave you credit for," Kyoshi grinned, rubbing her aching wrists.
"You're a better Avatar than I gave you credit for," Eya replied, sweat glistening on her arrow. "Let's go."
Quickly Eya led the way through the ship's prison, Kyoshi close behind her like a shadow. Together the two moved as one, defeating guards with precise attacks, defending each other from enemy hits. They had never worked so well together. And soon they had found the animals' cell.
Kyoshi sucked in a breath and felt it weigh down on her core. Planting her hands firmly on the locked door she tore it open. With the key she had snagged from the guard Eya unlocked Jin Jin and Tori from their chains and the team continued through in search of the boys.
By now the crew had realised something was wrong. Navy men and soldiers poured in from the levels above brandishing weapons and stones as the girls continued peering into the cells. Jin Jin fired her prickly tongue out steadfast at the soldiers, paralysing them with her toxins, while Tori pecked and scratched bravely at their heads.
"In here!" Eya shouted over the chaos, seeing Bako, Momzen and Gisgo talking muted in their cells. Ducking from a tossed boulder Kyoshi slammed her palms onto the door and ripped it open like before, only to find the three men scream in shock.
"What the hell is going on?" boomed Momzen, gasping for breath.
"We're getting out of here!" Kyoshi replied confidently as she ushered everyone out. Now all together the team pushed back Hao Lang's men until the crisp sea air met their nostrils and the bright, open sun stung their eyes. At the end of the deck was their boat. As if they all thought the same thing, they all went for it; sprinting across the ship's deck ignoring the soldiers running after them.
Suddenly a boulder came over their heads and exploded on the metal deck into a cloud of gravelly debris. Both Eya and Momzen turned around and fired air and flame aimlessly. They knew that the enemy was behind them, and that Hao Lang was coming from his post, so attacking in the one direction as hard as possible was the best bet for a distraction.
Bako slashed the ropes that held the boat, leading Jin Jin on first then the others.
"Hold on!" he screamed as he cut the final supporting rope.
Just as Kyoshi locked eyes with a furious General Hao Lang the boat plummeted down onto the saltwater, the great ship towering above them.
"Don't just stand there! Get in your boats!" they heard Hao Lang order.
Without a word of instruction Eya produced a strong wind and blew it through the main sail, while Momzen blasted fire into the water behind them to cloak their trail with steam. "We should head to land," Kyoshi uttered, looking ahead at an Earth State beach.
Everyone nodded in some degree, all a bit shaken by what had just happened. It was the first time they had acted as a functioning unit. Without saying a thing they had managed to swiftly escape Earth State border security and lose them. It kind of made them feel good, if not unstoppable. Of course that was not the case, and one still had to think and act realistically. There was still danger at hand. They had accepted that they were not ready for the sea, and that travelling on foot was the safer option to take.
"Hao Lang's forces a better trained for sea," exclaimed Gisgo, a forlorn look hidden under the shade of his hat. "We can easily lose them if we're fast."
"We've got the wind," replied Kyoshi, looking over at Eya.
The airbender smiled back, happy that things had settled between her and the Avatar, then turned back to concentrate on the sail.
Then, upon coming closer to the shore, with the thought of both the group's safety and her friendship with Eya on her mind, Kyoshi opened her mouth to speak. The words that came were genuine and confident.
"We're going to be okay." They were going to make it to the Fire State, one way or another, and as a team too.
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